repairing broken washing machine

Over 30 years as an appliance repair technician, the repair I’ve seen the most is a washer that won’t spin. Let’s learn how to quickly diagnose and fix your washing machine.

Every repair begins with understanding the problem. The first thing to do is listen. When your washer is supposed to spin, do you hear anything? Is there any mechanical sound or just silence?

Check Your Power Outlet First

Before starting to diagnose the washer, check the power outlet. You may simply need to reset a tripped circuit breaker or the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plug on the wall. Plugging a lamp into the outlet you plug your washer into can allow you to confirm that the outlet has power.

ground fault circuit interrupter
If your GFCI is tripped, pressing the RESET button should restore power to the outlet. Image credit:

If you have power and the washing machine makes no noise, you face the most common problem that keeps a washer from spinning, a failed door or lid lock. The lock is a safety device that prevents the washer from beginning the cycle if the door is open or can be opened.

You can test the lock by inserting a screwdriver in the slot on the inside rim of the lid or door. If you don’t feel resistance that gives way, the lock is probably broken. Fortunately, door locks are usually cheap and easy to install.

There are several fixes, depending on the type of washer you have.

The Zip-Tie Fix for Top-Loading Washers

The $15 Front-Loading Washer Fix

On front-loading washers, the most common reason for a failed door lock is the wax motor. It’s a trigger that controls the spin cycle. It’s easy to replace.

Different brands may require their own steps when fixing the lid lock. If you have a General Electric washer that won’t spin due to a faulty lid sensor, check out this video for additional details.

Noisy Problems

If your washer doesn’t spin but does make noise, you need to track down what’s keeping it from spinning. If you hear a humming noise — even if it’s faint — then the motor is trying to spin the basket but can’t. That means the door lock is working.

The culprit may be a worn or broken drive belt that can’t turn the basket. You may also smell burning rubber, which can indicate a belt that’s so worn that it will no longer spin the basket. Replacing the drive belt is a more complicated fix, but most DIYers can manage it.

Replacing the Drive Belt

Drive belt replacement steps vary by brand. Visit the Scott the Fix-It Guy Green Appliance Repair channel to learn how to repair a Frigidaire washer or other washers.

Fixing your own appliances is rewarding in several ways. In addition to saving you money, by keeping your appliances running efficiently, you lower your family’s carbon footprint. Plus, there’s nothing better than the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

This article was originally published on September 17, 2021.

By Scott Flint

Scott Flint, known on YouTube as Scott the Fix-It Guy, is a licensed California appliance tech who believes we can save the Earth one appliance at a time. He has 30 years of experience repairing home appliances and has taught self-defense and biology for decades. Please consider donating to support his ongoing project to create video guides that help people do their own appliance repairs.