A washing machine story

On Thursday, my washer began to have an issue.

It filled with water, agitated the clothes, but then steadfastly refused to spin or drain. Rats.

I don’t like it when things are broken. I want them to be fixed.

Like, yesterday!

So instead of waiting for Mr. FG to get home, I did this to my washer.

I’ve never taken a washer apart before, but with the help of Google and a drill, I got it done.

The broken part was the lid switch (I think it’s called an actuator), but the design of our washer is such that the back panel has to be loosened and pushed back, then the whole side/top contraption pulls forward and only then can you unscrew the top.

This seems like a less-than-brilliant design to me, but what do I know?

On the upside, taking it all apart allowed me to see the pet hair/laundry soap build-up in the machine (it belonged to previous owners of our townhouse, who, judging by the amount of pet hair in that house, owned a very hairy dog.).

I took the opportunity to clean it up a little.

Still old and a little rusty, but much less disgusting.

When our dryer had an issue last year, I found this great website that sells replacement parts, called Dave’s Repair. It’s run by a guy who lives in PA, and the customer care and help he offers is fantastic. I emailed him the model number of my machine and within a few hours, he got back to me with the appropriate part information and we got our transaction wrapped up.

I’m not affiliated with him at all, but I would SO totally recommend him to you if you need replacement parts for any of your appliances. It’s so lovely to be able to talk to someone knowledgeable because then you feel much more sure that you’re actually getting the right part for your machine (he’d seen this problem zillions of times before so he knew exactly what I needed).

You just don’t get that by going to a big box store…the employees at those places often seem to know little more than I do, and that’s just not helpful.

Because of the weekend, my washing machine part didn’t arrive until yesterday (despite my obsessive stalking of the package via USPS tracking!).

When I came home from having dinner with my cousin, Mr. FG had already put the little switch in, and before we went to bed, we put the machine back together. Yay!

That little lid switch right there was the broken part, and I’m so thrilled to have it fixed.

Especially because the 4-day-old water in the machine was starting to give off a rank odor.

I may or may not have done a little happy dance when we shut the lid and the washer began to run.

And I may or may not have put my third load of laundry in before 7:00 am.

My washing machine is no beauty, but I kind of like that it’s an older machine. It was built before everything had electronic control panels, and so its innards are really simple. This means that fixing it is within the skill range of inexperienced people like Mr. FG and myself…$20 and an hour or so of actual labor, and my machine is back up and running.

Every time something like this breaks, I have a mini freak-out, and I seriously consider calling someone to come and fix it for me (I also sometimes entertain the idea of buying a new appliance.). But when we tackle the problem ourselves, I’m often surprised at how easy the fix is, and I’m always so glad we didn’t cop out and call a repairman for a simple task.

So, the next time one of your appliances has an issue, consider fixing it yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is, and you’ll probably save yourself a whole pile of money.


  1. says

    Good for you guys for fixing a washing machine yourselves! I don’t know that I would have been that brave. My husband would, but not me. We need to fix the soap dispenser on our dishwasher and I’m not looking forward to figuring that out. I’m afraid it’s going to cost $30 for the part and then $400 for a new dishwasher when my hubby can’t figure out how to get it back together.

    • Kristen says

      We’ve fixed our dishwasher before too….it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I thought it would be, thankfully.

  2. jestjack says

    Very impressive! It is no easy task taking these washers apart sometimes. I’m all for repairing appliances when you can but when our Maytag Neptune required repair (another story) we just opted for a new one. You may want to consider checking them out. Our new machine is huge over 1.5 times the capacity of the old one and uses a fraction of the water the old ones do. And water is getting no cheaper. In addition the spin cycle is so forceful the clothes come out of the washer …. about dry. Just a thought. But once again congrats….on a job well done!

    • Kristen says

      That is true…newer machines are more efficient. And a new machine would be really fun to own, I’m sure.

      But then again, I’d have to save a LOT of water to come out ahead after having spent $500+ for a new machine (both environmentally speaking and monetarily speaking).

      Plus, our home improvement/maintenance budget got sapped when we had our dead tree removed, so a new machine was definitely not in the budget for us right now.

      • Lee Anne says

        Very impressed with your repair and thanks for the link to Dave’s. I agree that the high efficiency washers are worth thinking about. Not only did we save water (and drying time) as the previous poster said, but also I saved a ton of money on detergent. One bottle lasts almost 2 months (I have 5 people in my family). I would say that the money we saved on detergent paid for the new washer within 2 years.

  3. Diane says

    Good job! Thanks for the tip on Dave’s Repair; he isn’t too far from us and it would indeed take the intimidation out of trying something ourselves.

  4. says

    I giggle at this because I had a new “high efficiency” washing machine and dryer for a while and we actually returned them to the store for a used set of older machines. Why? Because the quality wasn’t that great, and they started malfunctioning after only a few days – repairs that were quoted at almost as much as the machines themselves cost.

    Now we’ve got machines that look quite similar to yours and ya know what? They’re little laundry-doing work horses! I don’t think I’ll EVER own another computerized “high efficiency” machine again unless that’s all that becomes available (probably inevitable at some point).

  5. says

    My only small issue here is that my husband is a tv repair man… and I would add that there is nothing wrong with calling your local tv repair man for help (if you still have one in your town) instead of calling in the “geek” squad, or worse yet, trashing your tv for a newer model at your big box store (yuck!) Very frequently, we have customers attempt to fix their own sets and they end up creating a much more costly problem, and we wish they had just called us first instead, because we could have saved them money (and frustration). But at the same time – congrats to you for fixing your own problem! My husband frequently fixes our own appliances and such when we have issues, and I’m so thankful he can do that!

    • Kristen says

      Oh yes…we know better than to try to fix something that’s over our heads. We recently had our A/C die on us, and we called a repairman for that. It was just something that was too complicated for us.

      Thus far, though, our appliance problems have all been fairly simple fixes.

  6. Cheryl S. says

    I love the sense of accomplishment of fixing something myself…I feel it every time I go to use the item again…I had my son (about 12 at the time) replace the toilet flapper and handle once by reading the directions and he was proud for weeks!

  7. Jeanine says

    Good Job!

    We’ve had that similar problem before, and though we weren’t as through as you and Mr. FG, we got it fixed.

    Basicaly, the lip inside the lid broke off…the one that activates the switch. We just stuck a pen in there, and violia! It worked. It’s a little odd to see the clothes wash with the lid up, but no biggie.

    This weekend, I took my Shark steam mop apart because one of the heads, (the triangle one…love that) would not disperse the steam. I would keep pushing and pushing, and the steam build up kept violently seperating the head from the wand.

    The problem was someone….maybe or maybe not me….used bleach in the steam reservoir.


    • Kristen says

      I thought that’s what broke on mine, but it was the actual switch, not just the piece that depresses the switch. So, a pen wouldn’t fix mine. Boo.

    • Linda says

      The thingie that depresses the switch on my washere got bent somehow (still a mystery) so it wouldn’t fit into the hole. I was able to realign it by putting a couple of washers under the thingie, it has worked fine for the past couple of years with my make shift fix despite the prediction of the man at the repair store that it would eventually break off.

  8. says

    My mom’s washer and dryer are probably close to 20 years old. I told her she should update to high efficiency and she told me those still worked so why? I think I learned something that day.

    • Dipster says

      The most frugal choice is the appliance you already own. The time to buy the efficient machine is when you are looking to buy anyway.
      I often scratch my head when the price of gas goes up and many sell their gas guzzlers for fuel sippers because it cost $10 or $20 dollars more than it used to, to fill the tank. Spend how many thousands to save a few dollars each fill up? Only makes sene if you were looking to get rid of the older car anyway.

  9. says

    I can’t even remember the number of times my dad has fixed my parent’s washing machine, dryer or dishwasher. That washing machine/dryer set is older than me (and I’m almost 27!) and the best part is, I think the original washer/dryer was $100 used. It’s lasted a LONG time. The washer finally gave up the ghost a few years ago, but luckily someone else was upgrading so we got another old washer for free! Yay!
    They did finally just replace the old dishwasher. I guess they just got fed-up, and there was a no-sales-tax weekend so they just bit the bullet.
    Anyway, now that I own my own appliances (we have an excellent, relatively new, non-electronic display washer and dryer set that I picked up for $250 on craigslist when we moved into the house last summer) I’m really hoping that we can repair them ourselves too! Well, I’m actually hoping they don’t break, but that’s beside the point!

  10. jestjack says

    As crazy as it sounds, the washer we purchased will pay for itself in water savings in about 7 years based on today’s rates. The higher capacity and energy savings are a bonus. We pay right around .7 cents per gallon for water and we were just notified it’s going higher. This new unit is a top loader and has the largest capacity available and with rebates was around $450. And because it was Energy Star we paid no sales tax. I estimate it saves around 30 gallons per load….so if you just do 7 loads a week…that’s 210 gallons per week….10920 gallons per year…$76.44 per year. And if you do more laundry than a load a day?…. But it’s still cool that $20 fixed the problem.

    • Kristen says

      I wish I could have done that to mine, just to get it to empty, even. But the lever wasn’t broken…the actual switch was. Something inside of the little plastic box had cracked, so there was no fixing it.

  11. Elaine says

    I am so impressed! I am also a big chicken when it comes to taking things apart. (Maybe it goes back to my childhood when my brothers would take things apart “to see how they work” and then not be able to get them back together again.)

    I have energy efficient front load washer and dryer. The stupid company made the door latch PLASTIC and it just breaks every two years. I found out how common this is when I went online and did a search for “front load washer complaints”. Pages and pages of websites, and this was the most common complaint. The first time it happened, the machine was under warranty, so I had an authorized repair guy come out. His wife helps him, and they said most of his business is front load washers, either the door latch or the motherboard. The next time it happened, I went online and found a guy, like Dave, who has repair manuals. Then I found someone who sells the parts, bought one for $86 and my brother-in-law changed it out for me (I have arthritis in my hands, so I couldn’t budge the gasket).

    It is SO worth going online and trying to find out how we can do-it-ourselves!

    And I’ll never buy a front-load washer again. They make high efficiency top loaders, too, and they have far fewer problems.

    • Elaine says

      Plus, I was in no hurry to get my washer fixed. I live alone, so I usually only have one or two loads of laundry a week. We have nice laundromat in our town, and I enjoyed doing my two loads plus a load of dog pillows, blankets and towels in one hour! I still go there to do the doggie stuff – they can have all the dog hair in *their* machines!

  12. says

    I love this! I too hate calling a repairman and love having older models that are easier to fix (it’s why I held onto my 72 VW Superbeetle as long as I did-I could fix it with a bobby pin. Literally!). You are a woman after my own heart. I’d have done the same thing (I pulled a riding lawn mower apart once. It took time and research but I got that baby running again!). And @ Elaine-I hate front loaders too. We have one in the house we are renting and it’s pretty but I HATE the thing! Not practical at all!

    • Elaine says

      You know, Tara, I bought the front-loader because I wanted to be green (save water, detergent, electricity). Then the manufacturers all make them so darn CHEAP they don’t work well. Brand names aren’t worth anything any more.

      But, now I see ads for top loaders that use a lot less water, detergent, etc. They’re still junky, but you can still run a top loader if there’s something wrong with the lid (sometimes).

  13. says

    you are my hero,, lol.It makes me feel so proud of being a woman when I read a story like this,,, good for you!!!!To bad about the grundge left by otheres but thats life right,, it gets messy,,

  14. says

    It’s awesome that you took it apart yourself. Usually I take things apart and then tell my husband I can’t figure out what’s wrong and he is stuck trouble shooting it. I have newer appliances however, still old school top loading. I am fine using them until they break.

  15. Mary Kate says

    Awesome all the way around: fixing it your self, saving money, keeping the machine out of the landfill, not using resources for a new machine, etc.

  16. says

    It seems like our society likes to consume and purchase products. We forgot the value of fixing. Good to see that there are still forks who choose to fix their broken stuff.

  17. Vanessa says

    This happened to my washer too. I but instead of “fixing” it i rigged it to just think the lid was always down. Works for me :)

  18. SarahD says

    So true, so true. I do the same thing–that is, freak out when something breaks and quickly flip through all my options in my brain. I always feel bad asking my husband to fix things because he’s terribly busy with other, larger home-improvement projects when he’s not at work. But he’s a good handy-man, and he has salvaged our washing machine a couple of times. Just a few weeks ago my favorite ever dishwasher just stopped working mid-cycle and we could not get it to drain and none of the buttons (you guessed it—electronic) would light up at all. I held the flashlight while my hubby took apart the bottom panel and the door panel, checking for voltage and loose connections. Everything was fine, so I did a little research online and decided that the button console was fried. The thing cost $120, so we decided to get an entirely new dishwasher.

    Knowing that we will be redoing our kitchen in about 5 years, and the fact that our dishwashers get very heavy use, I got a very simple and old fashioned one without the fancy push buttons. It was the cheapest of all of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is our longest-lived.

  19. says

    I love this post!!! I repaired our old washing machine several times (and called the repairman several times for bigger fixes) and kept it going for almost 12 years. Finally, I called our local repairman and explained the washing machines “symptoms”; he told me that he couldn’t come make a house call “in good faith”, because the repair would cost $800.00. We have been such good customers for him he didn’t want to charge me to come to my house to tell me that my washer had finally died. I gave him the old washer for parts, and he gave me a credit to buy parts for other appliances (a.k.a. the dryer and dishwasher). I am a firm believer in wearing out appliances. We just replaced our fridge that finally went kaput after 26+ years. I wish new appliances would last like their older model cousins do.
    P.S. Dear Hubby’s grandmas freezer that we have in our garage is still going strong after 35 years.

  20. Jes says

    We had a washer/dryer attached/stacked combo in our apartment that was perfect because it was small and I loved having the dryer above our washer. When we bought our first house we brought that along with us when we moved since the space for our laundry was really limited. Then when we moved to our 2nd house we brought it with us again since they were still working fine. One day not too long after we moved in, it stopped working mid cycle like yours did. I opened the lid a ton of times, turned the dial a ton of times trying to start a new cycle again. I tried everything to get it to work. Instead of looking into how much it would be to fix it we just went out and bought the HE front loader washer and dryer since we now had the space for them and I wanted to make the upgrade to HE. I figured if we just got the HE washer I would have to dry one load as two since the old dryer was small. The night before our new set was to be delivered I decided to pull the clothes out of the washer and try to figure out a way to get the water out of the drum so we could move the set outside. I was so bummed about the situation I folded my arms on the lid to the washer and rested my head down on them. Sure enough, the washer start to spin and drain! I couldn’t believe we went out and bought a new set for something that could so easily have been fixed with a pen-cap!!! We ended up giving our old set away to a young guy that just got his first place, so at least it didn’t go to waste. After less than 3 years the new HE washer pump died and I had to buy a replacement (fixed it myself after doing some research online) for $160. I’m glad I fixed it, but I’m still unhappy with our purchase in the first place. I definitely think the quality in the newer machines is lacking. From what it seems, I can expect the same problem in another couple years. The whole rubber gasket is mildewy and it leaves my clothes smelly if I leave them in there for even an hour after they’ve been washed even when following the directions of leaving the door open when not in use. And the amount of extra rinse/spin cycles I have to do to wash diapers because I can’t soak them in the washer like you can do with an old style machine is killing the “high efficiency” of it.

    Way to go for fixing your old machine! I bet you saved yourself a lot of money and heartbreak!

    • Elaine says

      Jes, you mentioned the bad smell. There is a product specifically for cleaning the front loader washers. It’s in the grocery store by the laundry detergent. However, before spending money on that, you could try the much more inexpensive solution I use – white vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener. I use 1/4 cup in the dispenser. You clothes don’t get as soft, but they get a whole lot cleaner! (I have a light colored summer top that was getting pretty dingy and I was going to toss it. Instead, it came out of the laundry looking like new.) And the towels are much more absorbent. Of course, you could use dryer sheets if you like them.

      There is almost no smell in my machine, and my laundry doesn’t stink either. It does smell faintly of vinegar, but that goes away quickly.

  21. says

    You rock!! We have a much older washing machine, too. It works fine, except that the temperature knob broke off so that I can only wash in cold water. Now I’m debating about calling Dave’s Repair to see what it would take to fix. Then again, I’m sure I save money washing only in cold water.

    My hubby has figured out how to fix sooooo many things by looking stuff up online! He just fixed our outside faucet, in fact. :-) Love it!

  22. Mairsydoats says

    You GO girl!! You’re so brave taking the machine that far apart! I already posted about my semi-dead refrigerator, but my ego is still reeling a bit from fixing it myself, and my pocketbook is SO happy that my landlady is taking the price of a housecall from the repair guy off my rent… AND my food is now staying cold, including the fresh and happy new milk!!

    On so many levels, the internet is really the best thing ever!

  23. says

    We have a new washing machine now, but I can’t tell you how many times my husband and his dad took apart and fixed various old washers over the course of our (still young!) marriage. Sometimes it was definitely a pain in the butt for them, but they almost always knew they COULD fix it. I’m pretty terrified of what will happen when our washer eventually starts having issues.

  24. Diana R says

    I fixed our washing machine after diagnosing the problem with a google search then watching a YouTube video on how to actually replace the part. I fixed it for less than $5 myself. My labor is as cheap as it comes. Washing machine still works perfectly- a year later.

  25. Jean says

    Last winter I was having a problem with my washing machine. During a major snowstorm it stopped working. It was going to be difficult to get a new machine to our basement with 4 feet of snow in the backyard. My DH, who is trained in appliance repair, decided to give a try at replacing a belt. (He initially thought the transmission was gone). Well, the snow has melted and the machine is still working.

  26. Jen says

    I don’t really buy the argument that it’s a big money savings to upgrade your equipment when the old still works. It seems sinful to me to throw away an appliance that can be fixed cheaply or is still functioning. Also, those new washer/dryers seem really space age to me and look like they will not last long or cause problems. But, my mother still uses this stove every day:
    so what do I know?

  27. Karen says

    my washing machine has been doing the same thing for a couple of years now.

    i’ve found you can fix anything by kicking the crap out of it.

    when it stops at the spin cycle i get a jug and get about 10 litres of water out of the machine, then start it again while kicking it really hard.

    if i don’t aim the kick right it won’t work and i have to start again but it always gets there…show me a modern electric machine that would take that!

    (oh, an exception to the rule about fixing things with a kick is apparently printers…sensitive little crybabies.)

  28. Molly says

    So… I’m fine with playing around with stuff once that hits me as the option to do.
    But how do I change my default from going out and buying something to replace it, or calling somebody to fix it?

    • Kristen says

      Mr. FG helps me in that regard…I know he’ll think we should try to fix it ourselves, and that keeps me from calling the repairman!

      Maybe remind yourself that untrained me managed to take apart my washer and fix it?

    • Elaine says

      Molly, I just read in Consumer’s Reports that it’s usually time to replace something if the repair costs more than 1/2 the price of a new one. You should be able to get a general idea of the cost of the repair from whatever repair technician you call (or check the website Kristen mentioned to find out costs of parts, etc). If it’s more money than you want to spend on repairs, go ahead and try it yourself!

  29. Jenny says

    Kudos to you for not waiting for Mr. FG! Our dryer stopped working last fall and I took it upon myself to fix it. With some helpful tips online, I discovered the heating element had croaked, so I went to Sears, bought a replacement heating element, and fixed it. Now it works like new! (And I am still amazed at the amount of pet hair I had to vacuum out of the chamber; apparently the lint trap does not catch everything!)

    My husband works 3rd shift hours, and because he’s awake when we’re sleeping, it was actually better for me to fix it so any loud noises didn’t interrupt our precious sleep. When I told my coworkers that I had fixed our dryer, I was shocked at how many of my female coworkers were like “Why didn’t your husband do it?” I replied with “Why can’t I do it?”

  30. says

    You’re so right about the feeling of pride that comes from fixing something yourself – and that carries over into making you want to take better care, and valuing what you have even more. Also good points about knowing when to draw the line when a project is too difficult or specialized. As renters in a huge urban complex, we have learned to tackle smaller repairs on our own (usually for literally pennies) because our building’s maintenance guys are so overworked, and have more vulnerable tenants to attend to (seniors, etc.). After being stood up for so many maintenance appointments – toilet, drain, flicker-y lights – my husband and I have found that the internet and our local hardware store are the way to go. This place isn’t ours forever, but it’s ours for right now, and a few bucks or a 20-cent part can go a long way toward improving our quality of life and giving the handymen a break. It’s a good mini-practice round for future home-ownership!

  31. says

    I’m just soooo amazed you had the guts to start toying with it in the first place!! Anything remotely mechanical/electronic in our house and I just freeze up and start dialing up my male friends if my fiance is not at home!! Kudos to you…I would LOVE to learn a bit of home repair/maintenance skills and get one of those pretty pink tool kits for the girlies (J/K). And I would love to know a little bit about working on cars! I HATE not knowing how to do something for myself!

  32. says

    Thank you!! Our washer decided to break this week and since I had read this post I knew exactly what was wrong :) We saved a ton of money in fixing it ourselves!!!

  33. BethJ says

    That’s inspirational, and interesting. Today is the first time I’ve seen the inside of a washing machine. :)

    Having read your washing machine story, and some of the comments, I’d say ours has a problem with the part or process of activating a working switch. You have to kind of push down and back on the lid just a little to get it to start up sometimes. If it ever completely stops working, maybe we’ll have the courage to consider replacing a part… Thanks.

    • Kristen says

      The good news is that the switch was really quite an easy fix! Find a YouTube video for how to take apart your washer model, and from there it just involves some screws and plugging in some wire harnesses.

  34. josephine says

    I love the victory of diy fixes. I don’t do too many complicated repairs but I am slowly building my own experience. My father is the ultimate diy-er… my mother uses to get her hopes up whenever an appliance would break, thinking she could get a new one. But, my dad always fixes the problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *