There are three basic types of domestic washing machine. The single tub is purely a washing machine, with possibly a wringer to extract excess moisture from the clothes; the twin tub is a combined washing machine and spin dryer; the automatic carries out washing and spinning in a single drum.
Thee are two main types of washing action — the central spindle agitator and the impeller or rotating wheel positioned at the side or bottom of the tub; the impeller provides a rather shorter washing time. Some machines have a tumble action, caused by horizontal drum rotation, and modern machines have a reversing tumble action in both directions.
The majority of machines have a 2-3kW heater positioned under the agitator on the floor of the tub; don’t attempt to repair these elements.
Single tub machines
The servicing you can perform on this type of machine is limited. Inspect hoses and hose clips at least twice a year for wear and deterioration ; they should be tightly fastened. Inspect the pump assembly for hose blockage, water leaks and excess wear; it should move freely, however. Some types of pump have an aluminium base and this may corrode through soapy water leaking. If there is a leak, you should replace the pump base. Leaks can also cause electrical faults; if water seeps out onto a moving part it will spray around the inside of the machine, damaging electrical components.
Single tub machines which have a gearbox-driven washing action — usually identified by a large oscillating paddle inside the tub — need little or no maintenance. The gearbox will be a sealed unit; if a fault develops, you can have an exchange gearbox fitted. Check for oil leaks and excess wear on the moving driving parts; it may be possible to replace faulty oil seals and gyrator drive components. Remove the paddle frequently and clean the mounting surfaces.
If your single tub machine has an impeller which provides the washing action, maintenance is important. A belt-driven pulley provides power to the impeller, which is supported on its shaft by a phosphor bronze bearing. This bearing must be lubricated fairly regularly with light machine oil through the oil hole near the bearing. If this bearing is not oiled, the impeller shaft may seize; this could halt the motor and cause expensive and needless repair.
Twin tub machines
Twin tub washing machines have a spin dryer attached to the washing machine; its features and the servicing are basically similar to the single tub. The spinner side is usually belt-driven by its own motor; in this case the spinner is independent of the washing machine. Some spinners have a slipping clutch arrangement to offset the extra load imposed on the motor by wet clothing, which is spun at up to 3000 rpm.
The clutch for the spinner may take the form of two fibre shoes which move out at speed and grip the housing of the spinner assembly. Wear is inevitable, so you should periodically inspect the shoes and ensure the spinner assembly bearings are well lubricated at all times.
Brake shoes and cables for the spinner should be checked for wear and adjustments should be made if necessary. As the cables stretch, the brake arm or band will engage; this will result in a lack of spinning speed and cause strain on the motor. Cable adjustments can be made via either a threaded portion of cable or a nut positioned at the end of the brake cable; if you turn this component to add tension, you should release the brake. But, for safety, repairs should be left to a specialist.
You should check suspension mounting rubbers and spinner drive belts for deterioration and cracking. Vee-section drive belts should have reasonable tension — 13mm (½ in) of play between the furthest pulleys. If the belt is stretched and there is no method of retensioning it, you should renew the belt ; if it is not replaced, the belt will slip.
The spinner may not have belts to drive the drum; if it has a motor giving direct drive, there is little maintenance possible. You can only check suspension mountings and adjust the brake cable if necessary.
Spin dryer pumps are usually similar to those fitted to the washing machine. Inspect them for water leaks, loose hose clips, wear and tightness in the bearings. The pump belt is normally made of an elasticated material and deterioration of this will indicate a fault developing within the pump; this could be either a blockage or a dry bearing.
These washing machines may be top-loading but front-loading versions are more common. Most people think of automatic washing machines as highly complex, sophisticated and expensive to maintain; there are however, several servicing jobs you can easily carry out if you are electrically minded and thorough.
The effect of a broken drive belt on a front-loading automatic will be obvious; the machine will fill with water, heat and pump out, but the drum will not turn — even though you can hear the motor running. To replace the broken or worn belt. Make sure you unplug the machine (as when working on any electrical appliance) and remove the back plate; you will now be able to see the belt. If you can turn the motor and drum pulley, you will be able to renew the belt. If, however, the drum is noisy and stiff to turn, it is likely the bearings have seized and the machine will require major repairs by a specialist.
The rubbers which seal the door may split and begin to leak water; you can replace a defective door rubber. Remove the top of the machine, loosen the rubber from round the door and push the drum back into the machine; use a small piece of timber to wedge the drum away from the door of the machine. This should give you enough room to reach the thin band clamp which is normally held together by a nut and bolt. Once the nut and bolt have been loosened you can remove both the clamp and the rubber. The replacement rubber simply slots round the doorway and is clamped in the reverse order of removal.
The water pump will have a separate electric motor; you should inspect the pump from time to time for leakages, loose hose clips and dry bearings. Remove materials such as fluff from behind the impeller since it will collect there. To replace a defective pump, first drain water from the hoses and remove them. Note the positions of the wires (two or three) on the pump and remove them; once you have undone the bolts securing the pump to the base of the machine, you can lift out the pump for inspection. Remove the pump cover, which is secured with clips or screws, and inspect the impeller inside. The impeller is normally screwed onto the rotor shaft — and could have a left-hand thread so check before you force it. With the impeller removed, you can lightly oil and check the bearings for wear; they are positioned at each end of the pump body.
The hoses will deteriorate with age; inspect them regularly and replace them when necessary to avoid a flooded kitchen or laundry. All water leaks should be thoroughly checked because water could damage electrical components inside the machine. Warning Electrical faults should be left to a specialist; never attempt to diagnose and repair them yourself.