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

How to Fix A Washer That Won't Agitate

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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 of washing machine, the agitator may be a single piece unit or a two piece dual action agitator. If the single piece agitator or the lower portion of a dual agitator does not oscillate back and forth during the wash cycle, or if the agitator can be turned on the transmission shaft, then the spline may be damaged and the agitator may need to be replaced. Most agitators are held in place with a bolt that threads into the top of the transmission shaft and is located below the softener dispenser or top cover. 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. When the retaining device is removed you should be able to lift the agitator from the shaft.

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. Remove the softener dispenser cover to access the retaining bolt securing the top portion of the agitator. With this removed you will be able to replace the directional cogs and the plastic bearing support.

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. Remove the agitator by pulling it straight up. Use caution as the fit is usually tight and force may be required to release the bond. With the agitator removed you can then unthread the bolt that secures the coupling to the transmission shaft and remove the coupling. Before replacing the coupling, ensure that the splines on the transmission shaft are clean and free of rust. Use the new bolt and gasket that come with the coupling and inspect the agitator spline for damage as well.

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. Most models will require you to remove the cabinet to access the drive assembly. Remove the pump and the motor to access the coupler. Disconnect power from the appliance before attempting any repairs.

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. Remove the front panel or cabinet to inspect the belts to see if they are worn out or broken. The belts are normally located at the bottom of the washing machine and if they are worn will typically cause a burning smell or create a noise when the washer is running. Ensure that the transmission drive pulley turns freely and that both the motor and drive pulleys are clean and free of oil or grease. Verify that any idler assembly or belt tensioner is free moving and operating properly before replacing a defective belt. Always use the exact replacement belt and tighten to the manufacturer’s specifications. Remove power from the appliance before attempting this repair and use appropriate safety wear.


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.

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. If the motor on your washer does not rotate in the agitation direction you should first determine that the power is being supplied to the correct motor terminals before replacing the motor. You will need to consult the wiring diagram for the washer to verify the correct terminals. This is a live voltage test and should only be performed by a qualified person. The motor will need to be replaced if it fails to move in either direction.


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. You can check the timer contacts for continuity with a multi-meter. You will need to determine the correct terminals that control the motor with the aid of the wiring diagram. Remove power from the appliance before attempting this repair.

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. Remove power from the appliance and check the switch for continuity with a multi-meter. If the lid switch has continuity then you will need to look at the rest of the motor circuit including the timer and the selector 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. You can check the switch for continuity with a multi-meter. Use the wiring diagram to determine which terminals to check and always remove power to the appliance before performing this repair.

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. Verify that the drive motor is not receiving power and that the lid switch and timer contacts are operating properly. Live voltage checks and should only be performed by a qualified person. Remove power from the appliance and then check the pressure switch for continuity with a multi-meter. Locate the proper terminals with the aid of the wiring diagram.

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