Print Story Malfunctioning Washing Machine Incident Report
By LoppEar (Fri Nov 10, 2023 at 01:22:06 PM EST) (all tags)
Status: resolved by repair.

Our washing machine started acting erratically nearly two weeks ago. This morning I washed a lot of clothes. I enjoyed the process of diagnosing the problems, and talking through the saga with some friends here (and my FiL). Thanks, volunteer appliance repair investigators!

The machine is ten years old, a simple top-loader with knob controls and status lights for each washing step. By the second load that didn't finish leaving wet clothes, it was clear that turning it off and on again nor a sharp kick would be the fix this time. So, initial symptoms: mid-wash or mid-rinse stall, but after visually checking for obvious problems, it would continue when set on "drain & spin". Since this sometimes required pulling it out from the wall and manual draining to get started, and the washer's smarts would take minutes of unplugged time to reset from its stalled state, I started disassembling and asking around.

Immediate discussion led to the control board - it seemed like each of the individual functions was working, intermittently, and so a sensor or relay or miscellaneous circuit component failure? Let's take an aside here for the vast number of part numbers on this device. Looking on the back for a model number led to W102 this, W104 that, soon to realize that each piece of metal or plastic is stamped for easy replacement. (Days later I would find the not-actually-very-useful model number behind the lid.) And so the apparent control board has at least three part numbers you can find it listed under on Ebay: the plastic case that holds it, the assembled control board, and the printed circuit board. Initial searches led to the wrong things, and an estimate of $70 for the few listings.

While this was promising, the variety of internet searches for the symptoms suggested that perhaps the lid lock mechanism was the intermittent failure, with its safety feature pausing the wash randomly mid-cycle. This felt right too, work our way in from the periphery, as the lid latch had been slightly misaligned and required a slam to close for the last year, and well, now that I've taken the whole thing apart I know that's easy to adjust should it happen again. So we waited a couple days for a new $20 lid lock assembly to arrive in the mail.

And the first load completed, what a victory. Celebrated too soon, as the second load stalled again.

Discussion also centered around the frustration of this large mostly-functioning appliance possibly not being worth fixing - calling an appliance repair person out for a housecall could easily cost as much as a new similar low-end washer, especially if they too were wrong on the first attempt. Every time I go to our recycling/dump station there are newish washers newly dumped for metal recycling. Some combination of orneriness and an expectation that any newer washer might only give me five years next kept me at it.

While replacing the lid lock I had learned that the service technician's manual was stored in a little pouch beneath the washer top all this time, which jump started further troubleshooting - since this washer doesn't have a display screen to flash "E0XXX" at me from the start, I'd assumed that error codes or other diagnostics required some expensive tool to attach to the control board. Instead, I now knew that a konami-esque combination of twists of the control knob would put the machine in diagnostic mode, where I could read out error codes in flashing binary from the lights, and run various automated test and calibration modes.

Error codes included a lid lock error (now presumed fixed, but error codes won't clear for 10 successful wash cycles) and a pressure sensing error for slow drain issues, again pointing to the control board. The test cycle was very helpful, running through each of the functions of the washer in a few minutes. Again, everything except intermittent draining issues seemed to work in isolation. The next day I caught up with our week of laundry and found that I could get it to run to completion by manually draining at the expected cycle moments - a tedious babysitting, but confidence for locating the problem. The service manual also included diagnosis steps for each component with a multimeter, testing continuity for the drain wiring harness and expected resistance across the drain motor. It too pointed its finger at the control board.

With the full suite of part numbers, used "pulled from working machine" (so many taken to the dump, a steady stream of recycled components) control boards were abundant for $25 on eBay. Since I'd set a mental limit on spending for questionable fixes of up to $100, I also went ahead and ordered a replacement drain pump for $25 too.

The frustration of repair uncertainty and cost had by now swung 180 degrees, with this washing machine now representing the ideal we might aim for in right-to-repair of more of our electronics: every part easy to remove, well-labeled, in common with many manufacturers, with a thorough ecosystem of aftermarket and recycled parts and a distributed network of independent repair techs for those who couldn't rely as I had on an hour or two of volunteer advice or access to common tools.

Another few days wait for the mail, the control board arrived yesterday, shoddily packaged in a cut-up reused assortment of shipping materials but as described. Disassembly to replace the board was a familiar process by now, and soon everything was back together for a test run. Which failed to drain at the end with a dull hum of the drain pump impeller definitely doing nothing.

And so, with a new drain pump in from the next mail delivery, everything is back to working. I do need to re-open the washer to slip that service manual back in for next time, and I've got a probably-good spare control board on hand. I now feel intimately committed to keeping this washer running for the rest of my life.

< cam wrote a novel | A sad update >
Malfunctioning Washing Machine Incident Report | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
yeah ... by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Nov 12, 2023 at 12:50:13 PM EST
was chatting with blixco on the book of faces about this.. I gave up on our oven when the "next" board to replace was $600 or $800 -- that was totally in "new oven cost" territory (after 2 boards and a lot of my time.. )

For our washer, I've replaced the cold water inlet control valve twice, and the hot water valve once .. Finding puddles of water under the washer is the clue.  Cold water one is about $40 (because it's 3 bolted together) and the hot is about $15-20. Fun times.

exactly mundane by LoppEar (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Nov 13, 2023 at 07:36:12 AM EST
A little sharing of what might be manageable, a little griping about what could be pointless. I'm getting curmudgeonly about older things, but I probably won't try to find a twenty year old stove when this one goes etc?

[ Parent ]
Our dishwasher is so old by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Nov 13, 2023 at 12:13:35 PM EST
it has a printed wiring diagram under one of the decorative panels. It's got to be at least 25 years old.

Our venerable washing machine was leaking a few years back. I find a small hole in the plastic tub. A few minutes with JB Weld and it leaks no longer.

It also has to be at least 25 years old, some of the supports are rotted away, but it keeps going.

Planned obsolescence by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Nov 21, 2023 at 09:17:59 PM EST
I'm grateful that our washer lasted 11 years, but I don't see the new washer lasting even half that long.
I'm jealous of your 25 yr old washer.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
Super late to this party but.... by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Nov 30, 2023 at 12:23:51 PM EST
I've had excellent luck obtaining parts and help from over the years.

I have a 2002 Kenmore Dryer that I figure is due to have a part die some point soon.  It was one of the last manufactured before control boards were standard, so I figure I can keep it going another 20 years.

Malfunctioning Washing Machine Incident Report | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)