Washing machines: Some disassembly required.

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A Look Under the Hood: Disassembling the Washer

For most repairs and maintenance, the washer cabinet usually requires disassembly. The washer cabinet is where the magic happens, and houses all of the electrical components of the washer. Location varies by manufacturer, but typically this can be found on the top of the machine behind the control panel. This can be relatively simple based on the make and model, but be sure to consult the owner's manual to find out how to disassemble your particular machine properly. Caution: Make sure the power cord and water hoses are disconnected before you disassemble the cabinet or tip it over for service.

Here are three steps for basic washer disassembly:

Step 1: Removing the control panel, typically located on top of the machine, usually requires loosening and/or removing a set of retaining screws. These may be located under a piece of molding or trim that needs to be removed in order to see them. Knobs on the control panel are usually friction-fit and will pull off, while others are held by small setscrews, which do not have heads like a typical slotted screw, at the base of the knob. Loosen the setscrews with a screwdriver or Allen wrench and pull the knobs straight off the shafts.

Step 2: To remove the service panel, you also need to remove the retaining screws. First, make sure the machine and the hoses are drained of water. Tip the washer over on its front or side to gain access through the bottom of the machine, which is generally open and doesn't have a service panel.

Step 3: To remove the top of the cabinet, insert a stiff-bladed putty knife into the joint between the top and side panels and give the knife a rap with your fist. This should release the spring clips so that the top can be removed.

Part of what makes washers so hard to repair is that they have so many control devices (components that control other functions, such as switches and timers). Now things start to get a bit more complicated, but don't give up yet. In the next section we will walk you through servicing these slightly more sophisticated parts.