True Story No 36


I really hate repairing white goods

I promised to say what happened to our washing machine so here goes.
The thing had got noisier and noisier over the last few months until even Victor our pet vole, who lives in a hamster cage in the utility room, kept popping out to see what was going on.
As I've fixed a few itinerant washing machines with duff bearings over the last 35 years I'd already bought a set of bearings and seals and a new spider in case things went wrong. Our first machine was gas powered and had an agitator which you turned by hand. It never went wrong.

Modern machines are really unreliable...
The first problem with this one was working out whether the securing nut for the main pulley was right or left-hand threaded.

After bashing it with a chisel in both directions in turn I found it was an ordinary right-hand thread.
Next I found I couldn't pull off the pulley.

I puzzled over this for some time after the mightiest blows with a huge hammer with a big puller straining its utmost failed to budge it one iota.
Of course it was screwed onto the shaft.
The penny dropped when I noticed the absence of a key. The ones that are pressed on have a hardened steel key fitted in a slot and there was no sign of either here.
After severely denting the pulley, but thankfully not having rendered it unserviceable I got it off and then removed the door, door seal and the front of the machine. I was then able to remove the stainless steel drum.

I left Jeremy my number two son to detach the spider and fit the new one.

The bearings pressed out reasonably easily although one needs to be a contortionist to get into the right position to wield a hammer to bash them out.
Everything went together and the machine was soon completed and the drum revolving sweetly without accompanying rumble.

What had we forgotten to do?
The machine was always one for leaping up and down when spinning but it was now especially awful.
I'm sure it would have been better if we'd spent a couple of minutes getting the new spider central.
As it was it was probably off-centre and of course horribly unbalanced.
To compensate I tightened up the springs holding the top of the drum but it still makes horrendous banging noises as the whole assembly moves several inches in all directions at peak revs.
It'll have to wait until the bearing seals fail again.

A couple of weeks later the drum wouldn't rotate because the motor had stopped working...

I took off the top of the machine and poked at the motor wiring with a stick.

There were lots of sparks and it suddenly started spinning.

Years ago I'd had to fit a strain relief system consisting of bits of string and black tape.

This was because the drum and motor move around a lot and the wiring is fastened to the side of the machine and is stationary.

The resultant fatigue in the wiring meant that bits kept breaking and the continual to and fro movement caused the various fastons to keep falling apart.

The latest problem was a faston clip on one of the brushes which had opened up allowing the circuit to open.

I detached the clip, squeezed it with pliers then reconnected it.

Now the machine works OK again

... at least until next time.

Well it went wrong again.

This was not too long and I reckon to have only been resting on my laurels about 3 weeks when the motor stopped turning the drum.

Poking at the motor with a stick brought it back to life and a set of new brushes fixed the problem. Despite the fact that the thing is getting on in years the new parts were made to a new design. Perhaps after 15 years a design fault had finally been picked up?

Another few weeks and it went wrong again. This time the confounded thing had filled up with water... literally.

A large puddle had collected in front of the machine and a little later it was about to float out the door when my better half noticed and set it to "Spin".

She's had years of experience with faulty washing machines and was able to get the thing empty, knowing that the pump operated during the spin cycle.

It didn't entirely empty itself and we couldn't get the door open. The reason for this is a small pipe carrying a little pressure from the water level in the drum which is a safety feature preventing one from opening the machine when its full of water.

Having seen this fault before in another make of washing machine I disconnected the tube at the bottom of the pressure operated switch. This is a round pancake affair with lots of fastons grouped round its flat surface and handles the switching of the incoming water for filling the drum. I blew down the tube and I heard air coming out somewhere in the bowels of the machinery. "At least it wasn't blocked with gunge", I thought, and reconnected it. I checked the little fastons on the sensor. Most were loose and flopped around. I removed each in turn and tightened them with pliers before refitting.

I plugged everything in and refitted the top. I didn't fit the rear panel because, firstly the nut on the back of the drum has a habit of banging it when spinning wildly and secondly its now so loose it makes a dreadful rattling noise and keeps Victor from enjoying his snooze.

I switched on and the machine filled with water.....

There had been two clues which I figured out over the next couple of days.

First... why was the sensing tube free to allow me to blow down it when the drum had a lot of water in it? There had been sufficient water present to prevent me opening the door so I should have heard bubbling not air escaping.

Second... there had been a continuously growing puddle in front of the machine from the start of filling with water, not just when it was overflowing.

I pulled the machine out, tilted it forwards and lay underneath with a torch. At last I found a small plastic cylinder fitted under the drum and having two vertical inlet pipes. One connected to a pipe going to the door lock and the second.... didn't have anything connected.

After groping around the innards I retrieved the end of a plastic tube which with some difficulty managed to push onto the spare inlet pipe.

All was well till next time.The motor stopped.

I took off the top of the machine and poked at it with a stick.

It started again so I peered at it.

One of the plastic brush holders had melted.

I bought some new brushes and fitted them.

It was OK again....

The end of the story is nigh.

A friend offered me his old washing machine.

It had just flooded the kitchen when it wouldn't stop filling and his wife insisted he went out and bought a new one.

He said it was alright the next day but the ultimatum had stood so it was now mine if I collected it.

I did.............

We've been using it for a month or so and it has it's little foibles. It often stops before the wash cycle is complete and flashes one of its dozens of lamps. Scrutiny of the instruction book tells us to fish out a special drain tube at the front and empty water from the pump compartment. It says the pump has stopped because of a piece of debris.

Remove the panel, fish out the drain tube, spend ages draining into a container 0.5 inches in height and sometimes it starts to work again. Usually it doesn't.

Despite it's weight... if you rock it backwards and forwards it sometimes starts to work.

The pump isn't jammed and there's no debris visible but it still doesn't work.

I thought about it for a while..

Maybe the circuit that detects there's no water left after the drain cycle isn't working?

I removed the top and the back and peered inside.

In our old machine the pressure sensor was always failing. The end of the plastic tube was always getting blocked. When this happened the machine filled and filled and filled until it nearly exploded with the pressure of water inside.

Maybe this one is different.

It's a Siemens. Inside is beautifully designed. Compared with the old Hotpoint this one is a Rolls Royce of washing machines!

The pressure sensor is at the top of the machine and connects with a rubber tube to a funny plastic box at the bottom of the drum.

I positioned the machine so I could get at the box and found it could be detached quite easily.

As I removed it I discovered the entry to the box was completely bunged up with a thick gungy whitish paste.

After removing and cleaning the box, I put it all back together and now I'm waiting to see if the next wash works OK.....


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