Introduction: Extend the Life of a Washing Machine Timer

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.

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

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. 

Step 6: Examine the Contacts

Picture of Examine the Contacts

All functions on our washing machine, except for the spin cycle work just fine.  Most contact points appear only mildly pitted when the arms are lifted for examination.  The third contact from the bottom left of the photo is badly pitted and worn away from high current arcing.  Notice also the black soot on the white plastic.  If so much of the contact were not just gone, filing a clean surface onto the contact points would help.  But the contact point needs to be built up. 

Step 7: Build Up the Contact

Picture of Build Up the Contact

I decided to try a very low heat setting on my wire feed welder to add just a little weld material to the old contact with just a short burst or two.  Notice I have a small piece of steel clamped to the back of the contact arm to take away extra heat before it can damage the brass arm.  I know that some artists in metal weld copper pieces with copper welding wire in their wire feed welders.  I do not have any copper wire for welding, but I decided to make do with steel, and it worked well enough. 

Step 8: What Could Go Wrong?

Picture of What Could Go Wrong?

I should have replaced the copper tip on my welder before attempting this.  The hole in the end was worn a bit.  When I squeezed the trigger on my welder, the arc began a little off to one side of where I aimed.  Some of the brass arm was eaten away.  I attempted to build up the contact a little more.  I built it up, but also caused the end of the arm to fall away.  So, I soldered a thin piece of brass tubing to the arm for an extension.

I might have done better with my welding if I had kept the stick out of the wire shorter.  Resting the end of the nozzle on something so I did not accidentally move the nozzle when I pulled the trigger would help, too.  

Step 9: Reassembly

Picture of Reassembly

Two paws need to be held back so the white plastic wheel with the cams and teeth on it can be fully inserted into the timer frame.  The file on my PST Leatherman tool is pointing at the paws.  I used it to hold the paws back. 

Step 10: Something to Watch During Assembly

Picture of Something to Watch During Assembly

The red arrow points to the cam for the on/off switch.  Slide this back and forth to help the timer halves fit together.  Make certain the switch moves freely when the shaft is pulled in and out.  Do this before bending the tabs to hold the halves together.  See step 4.

Attach the wiring harness.  Fasten the timer to the control panel with its two screws.  Attach the knob and indicator plate.  Secure the control panel to the washing machine again. 

This fix worked perfectly on one wash load, but faltered on the second load.  After trying again, it worked a third time.  This is not a perfect fix, but we now have enough clean clothes until the new timer comes, and my wife did not need to spend time waiting in a laundromat.  I could also try adding a little more weld material to the contact points, but there is always the risk I will burn away too much of a contact arm.

UPDATE: The new timer arrived.  I removed and examined the old timer.  The contacts I built up with my welder had fused together from the heat of arcing under use.  We did a total of four loads of wash while the modified old timer was in place.  On the last three loads I had to shut the washer off and then turn it back on at the beginning of the spin cycle.  When I did this, the washer left the rinse cycle and entered the spin cycle.      


JohnN323 (author)2017-12-15

My Kenmore washer has a timer identical to yours but has 2 banks of leaf switches. Disassembly reassembly went well except for: How do I sync the main timer dial to the motor cam gear that (by lever) moves several of the switch leaves? All thoughts greatly appreciated.

Phil B (author)JohnN3232017-12-16

I am having difficulty visualizing your problem. Could you include a photo or two? Even then, I have not looked at one of these in a while. I am not sure how much help I can be. Thanks.

ried jacobsen (author)2015-10-20


Out of curiousity, when you had the contact block out, do you recall of the individual contacts could be disassembled and replaced? I will soon have two of these timers with a burned contact ,and I am wondering if they can be combined into one working timer.


Phil B (author)ried jacobsen2015-10-21

I did not see a way. I know sometimes things like that can be pinched in the right place and slip out of the plastic block. That did not appear to be a viable option.

JohnD26 (author)2015-02-09

Thanks!!! This was the exact same problem I had, for the same model, and all I needed to do was follow most of these instructions to disassemble the timer. I didn't need to build up the contacts for mine, all I had to do was file down the corrosion on several contacts then reassemble.

ried jacobsen (author)JohnD262015-10-20

How is the timer working now?

omnibot (author)2011-01-10

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)omnibot2011-01-11

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.

Henry Stoltz (author)Phil B2014-06-29

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

keglasser (author)2013-08-30

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)keglasser2013-08-30

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.

roberte1342 (author)2012-02-26

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.

frollard (author)2011-01-11

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)frollard2011-01-11

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 (author)Phil B2011-01-11

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)frollard2011-01-11

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 (author)Phil B2011-01-12

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)frollard2011-01-12

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.

PATSY001 (author)2011-01-11

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)PATSY0012011-01-11

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.

ArtieTech (author)2011-01-11

Could you have used solder? With a solder gun?

Phil B (author)ArtieTech2011-01-11

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.

GTex (author)2011-01-11

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)GTex2011-01-11

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.

rimar2000 (author)2011-01-10

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)rimar20002011-01-11

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.

rimar2000 (author)Phil B2011-01-11

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)rimar20002011-01-11

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.

Tape-structable (author)2011-01-10

I'm glad to see someone else using a Leatherman PST!

Phil B (author)Tape-structable2011-01-11

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.

About This Instructable




Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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