How to Troubleshoot an Unresponsive Washing Machine

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Your washing machine is a crucial part of the daily routine. You need it to get the household clothes done and maintain the cycle on which all clean laundry occurs.

When your washing machine doesn’t work, there are many things you can do to fix it, especially if you know how to troubleshoot. A little investigative prodding around the machine can give you many of the insights you need. If your problem can be solved quickly without a screwdriver, handiness, or mechanical training, we’ll help you take care of it without calling a technician. Start by taking a close look at your washer settings. Your settings can give you a clue as to where the washer was and what it was doing when it failed, and maybe why it’s not working now.  

Inspect the Settings of Your Washer

Mechanical

This is a quirk of older washers: If you have a mechanical dial for your washer settings, a slight off-set can cause your washer to completely fail to start. This is because the dial is a gear and the teeth are in “no” setting when it stops between the marked lines. Your lines might be off-set, but you’ll know a full setting by the firm click when you spin the dial.

Similar problems can occur with washers that have push-button settings in which the button physically clicks in and out of the slot or toggles back and forth. Make sure all mechanical controls are locked firmly into the correct place. Then try to start the washer again.

Digital

For washers with digital panels and less mechanical controls, try simply resetting your software. If the control panel is responsive at all, try to turn off the washer and turn it back on. Restore all settings to whatever the ‘default’ is. Look up in your user manual how to reset the control software, if you’re feeling bold. 

Secure the Plug

So if your washer doesn’t respond to the controls at all, or adjusting your dial doesn’t help, check for power. No response means no electricity is flowing through the control panel. This could easily be why your washer isn’t starting. The easiest and most logical place to start is the wall plug. Look behind or beside the washer to find where the washer plugs into the wall. Dryer plugs are huge, but the washer’s plug is usually normal-sized.

Make sure the plug is seated firmly in the outlet. Do this by pressing directly on the plastic back of the plug. Do not grip the sides or risk touching the prongs. 

Check the Breaker

Next, check to see if the washer’s breaker has flipped. If so, then the outlet won’t be getting any power and neither will your washer.

Find your home’s breaker box and open it up. All the breaker-switches should be pointing in the same direction. You might also see two columns pointing opposite directions, this is also normal as long as all the switches are lined up together.

If a breaker blows, the switch clicks to the center or to the opposite “off” position. Look for a breaker that is not lined up. Push it all the way to “off” then back to “on” to reset the breaker and restore power to any related outlets.

Now check on your washer. If it’s working again, then the breaker was your problem. 

Take the Washer’s Temperature 

When your washer stops working, place your hand on the top, sides, and back if you can reach. A washing machine running load after load can actually overheat just like any machinery. Keep track of how hot your washer feels to the touch, especially the back and bottom where the motors are generally located. If your washer is hot to the touch, give it an hour and touch it again before running another load. If your washer works after a break with no apparent further problems, then overheating may have been your initial problem.

When the temperature is an issue, we also advise that you keep your nose on the issue. Literally. The smell of scorching components and sometimes an unpleasant sound are often all the warning we get before wires short out, rubber burns through, or a motor smokes out. If something in or near your washer starts to smell scorchy, it’s time to call a technician. 

Open and Close the Lid

One interesting and common complication is the lid switch. This is an essential safety feature that detects when the lid is closed, locks the lid, and signals that it’s safe to start the washer. This feature prevents people from sticking their arms in high-speed heavy spinning laundry and prevents children from falling into full tubs of laundry water.

But if the door switch does not trigger fully, the washer might not start. Try opening and closing your washer lid. Listen for the click of the switch when you close it again. If you have a front-loading washer, open and close the door. You may be able to see the lid switch inside the door pocket. 

Check for Leaks and Clogs

Your washer may have stopped responding because it detects a problem with the water lines or pump system. Check underneath and around your washer for signs of a leak. Check your drains and consider inspecting the washer drain inside the back housing to discover if there is small laundry somehow stopping the flow.

If there is a leak, you may be able to repair or reseal it at home. Clogs may be removed or broken up in the usual household fashion. 

Problems a Technician can Find

Everything else that might be causing your washer not to start involves opening up the housing and testing wires with a multi-meter. There are a number of internal components like the pump, drum, lid switch and latch assembly, and main control panel that might be preventing your washer from starting. But if you aren’t confident with DIY appliance repairs, now is the time to team up with a local appliance technician.

A technician can more easily locate the source of your problem, test and confirm, and quickly replace the malfunctioning component. If you need appliance repair assistance, contact us today and we’d be happy to help. And if the previous steps solved your washer problem, then congratulations and enjoy your working washer. Contact us for more helpful appliance repair guides or professional technician service.

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