How to Repair a Washing Machine

Belts and Pulleys and Motors, Oh My!

Hmm, maybe it's time to replace that old motor?
Hmm, maybe it's time to replace that old motor?

The drive belt (or belts) of a washing machine may become worn or damaged, causing noisy operation or stopping the washer entirely. Fortunately, a damaged drive belt is easy to replace. Remove the back panel of the washer to gain access to the belt and then follow these steps to remove it:

Step 1: Loosen the bolt on the motor bracket and move the motor to put slack in the belt. The motor bracket is a simple metal brace that holds the motor housing in place.

Step 2: Remove the old belt and stretch a new one into place on the pulleys.

Step 3: To put tension on the new belt, use a hammer handle or a short pry bar to push the motor into position while you tighten the bolt in the adjustable bracket. The belt should have about 1/2 inch deflection, or give, when you press on it at the center point, midway between the pulleys. If the belt is too loose, it will slip on the pulleys, causing the machine to malfunction. If the belt is too tight, it will wear very quickly and will probably become so hot that it will start to smoke or smell.

Loose pulleys can also cause problems. Most pulleys are fastened to shafts with setscrews around the hub of the pulley. Remember, setscrews do not have heads so you might have to look closely to see them. These screws must be tight, or else the pulley or belt will slip. The resulting malfunction may seem to be caused by a faulty motor, but it can be corrected by tightening the pulleys and adjusting the belt. For this reason, always check the belts and pulleys before working on the motor.

In most cases, motor malfunctions should be handled by a professional; do not try to fix the motor yourself. If the motor is a universal model, however, you can change worn carbon brushes when sparking occurs, as detailed in How to Repair Appliances. To save yourself the expense of a service call, remove the motor from the washer and take it to a professional service person, then reinstall the repaired or new motor yourself. To access the motor, remove the back panel of the washer. The motor is mounted on an adjustable bracket.

As you can see, washing machines are complicated appliances with lots of moving parts. However, washers typically last around 12 years, which is not too shabby [source:]. With the troubleshooting tips in this article, you should be able to squeeze a few more years out of your machine and get cranking out loads of clean laundry in no time.

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More Great Links


  • "Appliance Maintenance Tips and Lifespan Estimates." March 27, 2008.
  • Carter, Maureen. "Washing Machine Hygiene." DIY Life. July 25, 2007.
  • Citizens Concerned About Chloramine. "Chloramine Facts." Sept. 11, 2006.
  • Consumer Manual. "Repairing Leaks in Washing Machine."
  • Kenmore. "Product Catalog."
  • Repair Clinic. "Washing Machine Parts."
  • Rosling, Hans. TED Talks "Hans Rosling and The Magic Washing Machine." March 2011
  • Williams, Martyn. PC World. "Surf Among the Suds with Web-Enabled Washing Machines." Oct. 17, 2000