Sorry, toaster: You aren't as complex as your old buddy the washing machine.

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Which Switch to Fix?

Washing machines run through elaborate cycles with multiple settings, which makes them different from your typical household appliance, a toaster for instance, that may perform just one or two functions. Here's how to repair some of the common switches and timers.

Lid Switch

The lid switch on a washer often serves as a safety switch, and if it's not working, or if the switch opening in the lid is clogged with detergent, the machine will not run. To check and repair the lid switch:

Step 1: Unplug the machine. You can clean out the lid switch port using a wooden manicure stick or even a chopstick.

Step 2: If cleaning doesn't help, remove the top of the cabinet to access the switch itself. With the switch exposed, check to make sure the screws have not become loose. Loose screws can cause the switch to move when the lid is closed or as the machine goes through its cycles. Check the terminals of the switch to make sure they're tight.

Temperature Selector Switch

This control panel switch regulates the temperature of the water in the tub. It also plays a role in controlling the fill cycle. If you suspect this switch is faulty, remove it and take it to a professional service person for testing because this takes special equipment.

If there's a problem with both water temperature and tub filling cycles, both the temperature switch and the timer may be faulty. Procedures for testing the timer can be found on the following page.

Water Level Control Switch

This is another control panel switch, usually located next to the temperature switch. There should be a small hose connected to this switch, and sometimes, this hose becomes loose and falls off the connection. When this happens, the water in the tub usually overflows. To solve this problem, cut about 1/2 inch off the end of the hose and use a push fit to reconnect it to the switch. A push fit is a simple metal fitting that fastens into place by a row of small teeth that grip the tubing. The switch itself can also malfunction, resulting in tub overflow and other water-level trouble in the tub. If you suspect this switch is faulty, remove it by backing out the screws holding it in place and take it to a professional service person for testing.

If you've gotten this far and your washer is still broken, don't give up now. We're only getting started, and your laundry isn't going anywhere. Keep reading because in the next section we'll discuss why it may just be bad timing.