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Repair & Maintenance

How to Tackle 10 Common Washer and Dryer Problems

Washing machine overflowing with soap

Washer or dryer problems are never good news. Most units can cost a bundle to repair or replace, but who wants to get struck dragging your family’s dirty clothes, towels and bed linens to the laundromat?

You might be able to get your washer or dryer repaired or replaced under your home warranty. Or in some cases it makes sense to purchase a home appliance warranty as well. But first, you should know a thing or two about diagnosing washer and dryer problems. If you know what kind of problem you’re facing, you’ll know whether it’s something you can easily fix yourself – or whether it’s time to call in the pros.

Washer Problems

1. The Washer Won’t Power On

If your washer won’t power on at all, the problem could be with the power supply to the washer, as well as with the lid switch, timer knob or the washer’s motor. The first thing you should do if your washer won’t power on is check your home’s electrical panel for a tripped circuit breaker.

If it’s not a tripped breaker, the problem could be with the outlet itself; it may need replaced by a qualified electrician. Alternatively, the washer motor could have overheated. If this is the case, it will need to cool before the washer will start again.

You should also check the lid switch, which should be made of plastic and located under the lid, to see if it is functioning properly. The lid switch allows the washer to know that the lid is closed, and it won’t work if the lid switch has gone out. On some washers, the cycle won’t run if the timer knob isn’t lined up right with the graphics on the control panel. You can fix this by advancing the timer and trying again.

2. The Washer Won’t Drain Completely

Poor drainage could be the result of a clogged drain hose or a faulty drain pump. While you may be able to unclog a blocked drain hose yourself by flushing it with a garden hose, a seized, jammed or otherwise broken pump will need to be replaced by a repairman. Sometimes, foreign objects like missing socks, pens, lip balm tubes, stray toys or coins become lodged between the tub and the basket, preventing drainage. This, too, is a job for a repairman.

However, poor drainage could be the result of using too much detergent. If there are a lot of suds in your washer, try using less soap and see if that resolves the problem.

Contractor helping homeowner with dryer

3. The Washer Drum Doesn’t Agitate

If your washer’s drum won’t agitate, you could be overloading it, or loading it improperly. Make sure you’re not putting too many clothes in the washer and that you’re distributing them evenly around the agitator.

But what if you’re not overloading the washer? Chances are it’s a problem with your lid switch, belts, drain pump or motor. You may need to call a repairman. First, however, ensure that your speed setting isn’t stuck positioned between two speeds.

4. The Washer Leaks

Too much detergent can also cause your washer to leak, so, again, make sure you’re not putting in too much soap. Otherwise, you could have a problem with your drain or fill hose, water inlet valve, drain pump, tub or tub seal or even with your bleach dispenser. If you’re getting leaking from the drain hose, check to make sure they’re properly connected and not clogged. If these hoses are damaged, you may be able to replace them yourself. Otherwise, call a repairman.

5. The Washer Moves or Shakes during the Cycle

A washer that dances across the room during the cycle may have an unbalanced load. If not, check to make sure your floor is level. You can use a piece of ¾-inch plywood and some shims to create a level base for your washer, if necessary. You may also be able to level your washer by adjusting its feet.

Dryer Problems

1. The Dryer Doesn’t Get Hot

If your dryer isn’t getting hot but is tumbling, you probably need to call a repairman. The problem could be the thermal fuse, the thermostat, the heating element, the temperature switch, the timer or the power cord. On gas dryers, problems with the burner or igniter could cause cold tumbling.

2. The Motor Runs, but the Dryer Doesn’t Tumble

This could be the result of a worn or broken belt, a seized motor or worn drum support rollers. You’ll need to call in a repairman for this problem.

3. The Dryer Won’t Power On at All

As with washers, the problem could be the power supply – check your electrical panel and the outlet. A faulty door switch could also be to blame, as could a bad thermal fuse, terminal block, thermostat, or start switch. Call a repairman.

4. Clothes Take a Long Time to Dry

If your clothes aren’t drying as fast as they used to, clean your lint filter. You should also check your dryer’s vent hose for blockages. A build-up of lint, foreign objects or even a bird’s nest could block your vent hose and extend drying time.

5. The Dryer Gets Too Hot

A dryer that gets too hot presents a hazardous situation. The problem could be obstruction in the vent, which you may be able to fix yourself, or problems with the heating coils or thermostats, which would require a repairman. In any case, don’t use the dryer until the problem has been resolved. Exercise caution and wait for the dryer to cool before touching it.

A washer or dryer that isn’t working properly can put a real damper on your daily routine. Learn what problems you can fix yourself, and which require a repairman, so that you can get your washer or dryer working again as quickly as possible.

Check Your Warranty

If you use these tips and are still having problems with your washer or dryer, it might be time to get help from professionals. But before you spend any amount of unnecessary money, check to see if you’re covered through a warranty. If you don’t have a warranty on your appliances, it might be a good idea to look into purchasing one so that you’re covered.

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