Introduction: Fixing a Direct Drive Washing Machine
How to repair a dead washing machine by replacing the direct drive coupler.
Step 1: Starting the Project
Washing machines seem to last for years, but when they break you quickly realize how much you depend on them. Our ten year old machine died on Saturday, and with the poopy kid's pants piling up I knew something needed to happen quickly. The Sears repair man couldn't make it out for at least a week and wanted 75 bucks just to show up. Luckily, I had internet access and the delusion that I could fix my own stuff.
Our machine would fill with water, make noises for a while without moving, then drain and repeat. Because the same motor that pumps water out of the tub runs the agitator and spin cycle, I knew that the motor was working but that the link between the motor and tub had been lost. In older belt drive machines this is usually a sign of a broken or loose belt, in direct drive machines like mine it's a broken motor coupling.
The motor coupling is a collection of plastic and rubber parts between the motor and the transmission who's job it is to fail before any damage is done to a more expensive part. It works like a circuit breaker, shutting down operations before the motor seizes. We had over stressed this part with some big blankets and towels, now it needed to be replaced.
Step 2: Opening Up the Machine
The hardest part about replacing a motor coupling is figuring out the secret of opening up the machine. I always thought you took off the back of the washer, but it turns out the front and sides lift off, and without any need for the jaws of life. First, carefully pop off the right and left trim pieces on the control panel, then remove the 2 screws that you find.
Step 3: Remove the Panel
Rotate the control panel back to expose the two retaining clips that hold the washer body. These are easily pried up with a flat screwdriver and before you can say 'dirty laundry' the machine surround can be tipped forward and lifted away. Be careful of the safety switch that is wired into the top of the machine body, this can be temporarily unplugged if needed
Step 4: The Insides...
Once you reveal the insides of your machine, you'll notice that there's not that much to it. A control panel and some electronics at the top, and a big drum sitting over some mechanics below. The drum rests on a springy base that allows it to tilt and adjust. This self adjusting action is especially important when washing sacks of used brick.
Step 5: Pump and Motor Location
Underneath the tub is where all the action is. Get down on the damp, smelly floor of your basement and take a look. You'll see a plastic thing with two hoses attached (the pump), followed by a motor and finally the transmission. The part we're replacing is between the motor and transmission, so first we need to get some things out of the way.
Step 6: Detaching the Motor
Two retaining clips hold the pump to the front of the motor. Pop them off and you can pull the pump off of it's axle and rotate it out of your way. Don't take the hoses off, there's no need and if there's any water left in your washer tub you'll soon be sitting in a puddle.
Step 7: Removing the Motor
Now remove the two bolts holding the motor brackets on and pop them out of the way. Unplug the motor and remove it from the machine. Your efforts will be awarded with the sight of the holy grail- the failed motor coupling. Try not to hyperventilate as you take in the view.
The coupling is in three parts: a rubber shock absorbing disk and two white gears with three prongs each. One of the gears is on the shaft of the motor, the other on the transmission. The rubber disk lives in between like the soft filling of an oreo cookie.
Step 8: Remove the Coupling
Pop off the rubber disk and both white gears, If they have been on there for a while they will likely slide off with little resistance.
Step 9: New and Old Couplings
If the motor coupling is the culprit, you'll notice some telltale signs once you remove it from the motor and transmission axles. It may be missing gear teeth, or the oblong hole that holds the motor axle might be so worn away that it can no longer grip.
Here are the two assemblies- the old worn one at top and the new one below. New assemblies will run you around $15 from an appliance parts shop, $50 from the repair man. This is a very common problem and most parts stores will have them on hand. If you're not in a hurry and are intimidated by appliance parts stores, check Ebay.
Step 10: Install the New Gears
Put the new gears on the motor and axle shafts by lining up the holes and pressing. The new parts will likely be a tight fit and need persuading. The very best tool for this is a 1/2" socket with an extension arm. Place it over the gear hole and tap lightly with a hammer to seat the gear just right. Don't sink it too far, you don't want the back of the gear rubbing against anything.
Step 11: Close Up the Machine and Test!
Now assemble everything in reverse and close up the machine for a test run. You should be pleasantly surprised with some fine washer agitation and cleaning excellence. You'll also sleep well knowing that you saved yourself about $150 and the aggravation of waiting for the repairman.
At this point, I recommend teaching a small child how to give the 'thumbs up' sign and taking a photo for posterity.
Thanks to Instructables for the inspiration to tackle this repair. Clean pants for everyone!
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