Introduction: Extend the Life of a Washing Machine Timer

About: 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 posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

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

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

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

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

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

This is the comb of brass contact arms. 

Step 6: 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

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?

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

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

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.