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Extend the Life of a Washing Machine Timer

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Picture of Extend the Life of a Washing Machine Timer
After a dozen years of use, our washing machine no longer works during what should be the spin cycle.  The timer will need replacement, but can be given a temporary extension of life to get us through a few more loads until the timer I ordered on-line arrives.
 
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Step 1: Remove control knob

Picture of Remove control knob
The black arrow points to the control knob.  Push it inward as you would to turn the machine "off."  You can turn the push/pull knob counter-clockwise and it will unscrew from the timer shaft (red arrow).  Pull the round indicator plate behind it off, too. 

Step 2: Access the timer

Picture of Access the timer
The timer is behind the control panel.  Our machine is a Sears Kenmore.  Grasp the plastic end caps at the top and pull forward.

Step 3: Remove screws

Picture of Remove screws
Two screws, one on each side of the control panel, must be removed.  The one on the right side of the machine is shown here.  Lift and pull the control panel forward from the rest of the washing machine.

Two screws hold the timer against the front of the control panel.  They were visible after removing the control knob and indicator in the last step.  Remove these screws, too.  Disconnect the wiring harness from the timer and remove the timer.

Step 4: Taking the timer apart

Picture of Taking the timer apart
2nd side of timer b.JPG
The timer consists of a plastic wheel with numerous cams on it, a comb of brass contact arms, and a motor.  All of these are mounted in a metal frame.  The metal frame is pressed from two pieces of sheet metal.  It is held together with three bent metal tabs.  See the red arrows in both photos.  Straighten these so they can slide through the slots below them.

Step 5: Contact arms

Picture of Contact arms
This is the comb of brass contact arms. 
omnibot3 years ago
Nice job.
I'm thinking it looks like the brass pins breaks the whole current for their functions, makes sense that spin cycle would be the one to go since that involves running a motor at high rpm for a long time, just the motor freewheling must give some arcing feedback. I think you could extend the life further by letting it break a proper relay instead. That way the relay would take the arcings and feedback from the motor coils. Relays are usually better at it due to faster switching.
Phil B (author)  omnibot3 years ago
The relay is a good idea, certainly in theory. You would need to cut into the wiring harness, as well as provide a low voltage to energize the relay. After a new timer was installed, you would need to restore the wiring harness. Thank you for looking at this and for your comment.

And, I have decided part of the reason my aim with the arc from my welder was inaccurate is that the wire comes out of the nozzle with a curve from the spool on which it comes.

Good Day I am living in South Africa. Lesser third World. First you keep the Contact blade file the back of the contact point slightly take small drill bit the size of the contact metal clean till there is a hole, get n silver rod half thicker than the hole file the 4mm piece of rod the one side to fit thro the hole of the blade, fit piece in hole remember to fit it correct way around gently tap the non contact side a ballpoint hammer till it is secured, then make sure the tension on the blade is similar as the other good blades and there you are you saved yourself a lot of money. Sorry no images done the work and then realiase the pottencial of putting it on

keglasser10 months ago
Hi my husband took apart the timer as described above but now he cannot put back together. Can you please help explain how to reassemble timer. Thank you.
Phil B (author)  keglasser10 months ago
There are a couple of spring-loaded things that need to be held back out of the way while the cam wheel is inserted, and the switch needs to be lined up properly as things go together so it works properly when finished. Otherwise, it is pretty much a reverse of taking it apart. We eventually got a new washing machine because this machine had a new problem each time we fixed an old problem. Finally, we decided it was simply time to replace the machine. I no longer have access to a timer or a washing machine. I wish I could be of more help to you.
roberte13422 years ago
Thank you for your instructions. My washer had the same symptoms and sure enough there was no continuity on the third contact arm.
I don't have a welder and after reading the advice about why solder won't work I decided to slightly bend the tip of the arm up as to allow the worn contact to rest more firmly against the receiving contact.
So far so good. I don't expect it to last too long, hopefully long enough to track down a cheap replacement.
frollard3 years ago
Great ible! Only thing I'd suggest is adding photo annotations in addition to describing it in plain text. Mine is still going strong - but when the day comes I'll be on it!
Phil B (author)  frollard3 years ago
Thank you for your comment. I have to confess I was able to make photo annotations when I first joined Instructables, but something changed and I no longer know how to do it, or am not able to find the right button on which to click. If you would, please tell me how you do it.

Again, what I did is only a temporary fix, although it would be tempting to see how long I could nurse this timer along before it was irretrievably useless. I am not sure I can get my spousal unit to agree. She likes things "from the factory." But, the price of these timers is astronomical. The first of these timers I bought back in the 1970s shocked me at around $37 US. The second was somewhat higher, maybe around $70. The local store price for this timer is about $185. I got a new one on-line for $112. I wish someone sold the contacts array as a separate item.

frollard Phil B3 years ago
That would be my first course of action (as I lack a welder) to fabricate new contacts -- or use the existing 'poor' contacts to drive relays such to shoulder the burden as it were...

As for annotations, while in edit mode, simply clicking and dragging on a picture sets one, no button needed to start. Simply hit save when you're done typing to store the annotation :)
Phil B (author)  frollard3 years ago
Thanks for the annotation information. I will have to try it. Unfortunately, the old contacts on the spin cycle were so eaten away that I doubt a relay would have worked without building up the contacts a little with something, perhaps a little sheet brass cut to fit and soldered in place. Whenever you can, start a cash jar for the purchase of a welder. You will not regret it.
frollard Phil B3 years ago
There was a mig welder on sale from 600 down to 300 with a decent duty cycle at a local shop and I didn't bite under the idea that I barely have a shop, and I move, I have no shop.
Phil B (author)  frollard3 years ago
Although the gas shielding of a MIG produces excellent welds, I decided a flux core welder suits my needs. When I bought it, I mistakenly thought my unit could be upgraded with a gas attachment kit, but I was confusing it with a similar MIG capable model by the same maker. Mine is factory reconditioned and produces 125 amps. I have welded much heavier steel with it by preheating with a common MAPP gas torch. Because it is a factory reconditioned unit, the price was about 40% less than retail ($239 delivered in the lower 48 states of the USA).  It weighs only 50 pounds and could be stored in a bedroom closet.  It runs on 125 volt AC power, so you can use it just about anywhere you can carry it.  Because it is factory reconditioned, the company that handles them is sometimes out of stock on them.
PATSY0013 years ago
Perhaps you could also have "swapped" a lesser used , or less important contact arm to the spin cycle position, or re wired to accomplish the same. I am only suggesting this on my assumption that not every contact arm would be utilized on all the different cycles (ie. heavy soil, medium, gentle, perm. press, etc)

however I could be wrong...
Phil B (author)  PATSY0013 years ago
This was never intended to be a semi-permanent restoration of the timer, but a way to make the washer function until a new replacement timer could be obtained. The wiring harness is complicated and I would not want to reconfigure it in any way, lest I have trouble getting it back where it belongs when the new timer arrives. I did consider shunting the bad contat points with a toggle switch. That would mean watching the washing machine's progress and flipping the toggle switch to begin or stop the spin cycle at the proper time.
ArtieTech3 years ago
Could you have used solder? With a solder gun?
Phil B (author)  ArtieTech3 years ago
I do not believe solder would have worked. What was left of the old contact points was copper coated, but was not copper. It may have been steel. I doubt solder would have adhered to it. Even if solder had adhered to what was left of the old contacts, the arcing from the current would soon have burned away the solder or have melted the solder covered points together. You know it is a high demand situation when all of the other contacts around it are mildly pitted, but it is burned away. I just do not believe solder would hold up as a replacement surface.
GTex3 years ago
Good job, I don't think I would have the skill with the welder to do that!
I once repaired at sending unit in a car's gas tank that had its contact worn down from sliding across the windings on the rheostat. The wires on the rheostat act like a file over time, and on my 22 year old car the nub of a contact didn't contact. My method was to strip all the insulation off a fine stranded coper wire, it may have been a section of old Christmas light wire, then wrap as many of the fine strands around the contact. It is still giving a proper fuel reading and that fix was at least 5 years ago.
Phil B (author)  GTex3 years ago
Congratulations on your gas tank sender unit. If I were doing this again, I would make a couple of minor adjustments. I discovered the wire retains a bit of a curve from having been rolled around the spool in the welder. That is a big part of why the arc does not always begin precisely where it should.
rimar20003 years ago
Phil, you have done a fine work with a gross tool. That is very difficult, only a skilfull person can do it.

I have done some similar repairs, not for lack of time but of money. Here at "3rd world" that is normal. That I did was to solder over the old contact a thin brass sheet using tin, and I was successfull. Sometimes the new contact is too thick, and you must file all the old contact.

Your instructable warn me about the matter, our washing machine is some years old and possibly soon it will fail. I will be alert, thanks.
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. All of these timers eventually fail. Your solution is more gentle than mine. You make me wish I had thought of it and tried it. I think it is probably good that I had the accidental burning off of the contact arm, because that will surely happen for someone and soldering the brass tube proved to be a good fix for that problem. Thinking about it now, I could also have fitted a new contact to the brass tubing before soldering it onto the old arm. That would be a marriage of your solution and mine.
Yes, it would be a good idea, I didn't thik it.

I keep in a compartment of my toolbox all contacts, are copper or bronze, when destroyed an electrical appliance, like a plug, switch, etc.
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Good idea. They become spare parts for you for the future. I would have too much junk to keep. I try to follow the rule that says if you do not use it in five years, get rid of it.
I'm glad to see someone else using a Leatherman PST!
Phil B (author)  Tape-structable3 years ago
My poor PST does not get the use it deserves. A couple of years ago I got a really good deal on a Juice S2 that fits into my pants pocket so nicely! Thanks for looking at this.
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