How to Fix Washer That Won't Agitate | Washing Machine Repair
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How to Fix A Washer That Won't Agitate

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  • Rated as EASY
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Agitator

In top loading washing machines, the agitator is responsible for moving the clothes through the water and detergent and is driven by the output shaft of the transmission. The output shaft is normally splined, and the center of the plastic agitator will have a matching spline to ensure a tight fit. Depending on the brand, the agitator may be a single piece unit or a two-piece dual action agitator.

How to inspect the agitator in a washing machine:

  1. Disconnect your washing machine from the power source.
  2. Remove the fabric softener dispenser or top cover, depending on your model, in order to access the agitator. Attempt to manually turn the agitator. As it is splined, you should experience some resistance.
  3. Remove the agitator from the appliance to inspect it more closely. Most agitators are held in place with a bolt that threads into the top of the transmission shaft. Some models use a small set screw in the barrel of the agitator just above the base to secure the agitator to the shaft, while some will use a rubber O-ring to provide a tight fit.
  4. If your agitator is worn or damaged on any part of it, particularly on the splines, or if you experience little to no resistance when turning it manually, you will need a replacement agitator.

Agitator Directional Cogs

On top loading washers that use a dual action agitator, it is possible for the upper portion of the agitator to become disengaged from the bottom portion. The upper part is driven by directional cogs or "dogs" that are made of hard plastic and can wear out from hard use. If the upper portion of your agitator will turn in either direction or makes a grating sound during the wash cycle, then the directional cogs may need to be replaced.

How to inspect the directional cogs in a washing machine:

  1. Unplug your washing machine and remove the fabric softener dispenser or top cover, depending on your model.
  2. Locate your agitator cogs. You may need to remove the agitator cap, top, or base, depending on your model, to access the cogs.
  3. Visually inspect the cogs for discoloration, wear, or damage. You should also look to see if any cogs are missing.
  4. If your cogs have any of the symptoms described above, you will need a set of replacement directional cogs.

Agitator Coupler & Cap & Bolt

Some models of top loading washers use a coupler between the transmission shaft and the agitator. The drive coupler is splined on the inside to match the transmission and splined on the outside to match the agitator. If your washer is making a grinding noise during the wash cycle and the agitator turns freely then the drive coupling may be damaged.

How to inspect the agitator coupler in a washing machine:

  1. Before beginning, disconnect your washer from the power source.
  2. In order to access the agitator coupler, you will first need to remove the fabric softener dispenser or top cover, depending on your model, and you will then need to remove the agitator.
  3. Remove the coupler from the appliance by unthreading the bolt securing it to the transmission shaft. Inspect the coupler for any signs of cracking, damage, burning, rust, or wear.
  4. If you find any of the above, you will need a replacement agitator coupler.

Direct Drive Motor Coupling

Some top load washers use a direct drive motor coupling to transfer power from the motor to the transmission. The drive coupling connects the motor to the transmission and consists of 2 plastic drive forks with a rubber coupling between them. One of the drive forks is attached to the drive motor shaft and the other is attached to the transmission input shaft. As the motor shaft rotates, the rubber coupling between the drive forks absorbs the torque to prevent the forks from breaking. Normal use will create wear on the coupling and eventually, the drive forks may slip and not engage the transmission and clutch. A common symptom of a failing motor coupling is that the washing machine fills and drains normally but will not agitate or spin.

How to inspect the direct drive motor coupling in a washing machine:

  1. Before beginning, disconnect your appliance from the power source.
  2. Locate and remove the motor coupling to inspect it. To access it, you will need to open your washer’s cabinet, and you may also need to remove the drain pump and/or motor depending on your model.
  3. Once you have removed it, inspect your coupling for any signs or damage, wear, or cracking.
  4. If you find any of the symptoms above, you will need a replacement direct drive motor coupling.

Drive Belt

Some models of top loading washers use a belt to drive the transmission. If the washing machine stops agitating, then the belt may be at fault.

How to tell if the drive belt in a washing machine needs replacing:

  1. After unplugging your washer, remove the cabinet or access panel in order to locate the drive belt.
  2. The drive belt will be connected to the drive motor and can be removed by disconnecting the clamps holding it in place.
  3. Visually inspect your drive belt. You are looking for signs of damage, wear, fraying, or burning.
  4. If your belt has any of the symptoms described above, you need a replacement drive belt.

Transmission

The transmission in a top load washer is responsible for converting the rotating motion of the motor to the back and forth motion for the agitator. The transmission has an input shaft that is driven by the motor either directly or by a belt, as well as an output shaft to drive the agitator. If your agitator drive shaft does not oscillate then you should first, ensure that the input shaft is being driven. If the input shaft is turning but the agitator shaft does not turn, then the transmission is at fault. Most manufacturers do not supply internal parts and the complete transmission would be required. You should also be prepared to replace any tub seal that is located where the shaft enters the tub.

How to inspect the transmission in a washing machine:

  1. Before conducting inspections on your transmission, first ensure that your issue is not stemming from the agitator or any of its components. If you have ruled out the agitator, unplug your washer, remove the cabinet, and locate your transmission.
  2. Once you have located the transmission, plug your washing machine back in and run a wash cycle to determine if the transmission is the source of the problem. A faulty transmission will make strange noises during operation. Use caution when performing this step as the internal components of your dryer are exposed.
  3. If the transmission is noisy during this test, you need a replacement transmission.

Drive Motor

All top load washers use a motor to drive the transmission for agitating. Many washing machine brands use a reversing motor, which means the motor rotates in one direction for agitating and the opposite for spinning and draining. The motor may operate correctly in the spin direction but not in the agitation direction.

How to test the drive motor in a washing machine:

  1. Disconnect the power source from your appliance before beginning as you will be handling electrical components.
  2. Remove the cabinet of your washer in order to locate and remove the drive motor. You will need to disconnect the wires attached to the motor in order to remove it from the appliance, do this by pulling on the metal connectors and not the wires.
  3. Set your multi-meter to the Rx1 setting. Test for continuity by placing the probes onto the terminals of the motor. You should receive a reading of zero or nearly zero.
  4. To test the ground connection, leave one probe on the terminal and place the other on the metal housing of the drive motor. You should not receive any reading from this test.
  5. If your readings differ from those described above, you need a replacement drive motor.

Timer

The drive motor is controlled by the timer, lid switch, water level switch and sometimes the selector switch. The function of the timer is to supply the correct power to turn the motor on in the right direction. If the drive motor on your washer does not receive power during the wash portion of the cycle, then the timer may be at fault.

How to test the timer in a washing machine with a multi-meter:

  1. As with most repairs, begin by disconnecting your washer from the power source.
  2. Remove the control panel and the rear panel of your appliance in order to locate the timer.
  3. Carefully disconnect the wires connected to the timer by pulling on the metal connectors and not the wires themselves, and remove the timer from the washer in order to test it.
  4. Using a multi-meter on the Rx1 setting, touch the probes to the terminals that control the motor (refer to your wiring diagram) to test for continuity. You should receive a reading of zero or nearly zero.
  5. If you do not receive this reading, you will need a replacement timer.

Lid Switch

A safety feature found in top load washing machines is the lid switch. The lid switch is normally located beneath the main top and is in series with the motor circuit and must be activated for the motor to operate. When the lid is closed a pin or projection on the lid pushes against the lid switch lever and closes the switch. If your washer does not agitate and the motor is not getting any power, you should check the lid switch.

How to inspect the lid switch in a washing machine:

  1. Begin by unplugging your washing machine, and then remove the top panel or cabinet.
  2. Locate the switch and verify that it is being activated when the lid is closed. If it is, remove the switch in order to test it.
  3. Set your multi-meter to the Rx1 setting, touch the probes to the terminals, and press and hold the switch button down. The multi-meter should show a reading zero or nearly zero.
  4. If your test produces different results, you will need a replacement lid switch.

Selector Switch

The selector switch is used on some models to control the drive motor speed. If the switch is defective it may stop the motor from operating.

How to test the selector switch in a washing machine with a multi-meter:

  1. Unplug your washing machine before beginning as you will be handling electrical components.
  2. Locate and remove the selector switch from your appliance. It likely will be secured to the frame of the washing machine. You will need to remove all or part of your washer’s cabinet to access it.
  3. Using a multi-meter on the Rx1 setting, you are going to test one button at a time for continuity. Touch the probes to the terminals and press in on the first button, the reading should change from infinity to zero. Keeping the probes connected to the terminals, press in on another button, the reading should go back to infinity.
  4. If your test results differ from those above, you will need a replacement selector switch.

Water Level Switch

The water level switch on a top load washer is used to select the correct water level. The switch is also used to supply power to the drive motor. When the correct water level is reached, the switch will remove power from the water inlet valve and supply power to the drive motor circuit. If your washer fills but does not agitate then the pressure switch may be at fault.

How to test the water level switch in a washing machine:

  1. Disconnect your washing machine from the power source.
  2. The water level switch is usually found behind the control panel but can also be found at the sump area below the tubs.
  3. Before replacing the switch, first eliminate the air dome hose as the problem. Remove the hose and submerge it in water, seal one end, blow air into the other and look for bubbles. You should also check for obstructions in the hose and look for signs of cracks or wearing.
  4. If no issues are found with the air dome hose, you may need a replacement water level switch.

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