Fixing a Direct Drive Washing Machine




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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    17 Discussions

    I know this ible is old, but you saved me a ton of money. I was about to call the repair guy, but stumbled upon this just while browsing the site. I opened it up my washer and found pieces of my coupler! $4 on amazon and the parts are on the way.


    1 reply

    Nice! Thanks for the note, you made my day. I make a habit an coupler on hand for the next time it breaks, I've done this repair 3-4 times now. With three kids in the house a broken washer is a critical repair...

    Our 15 year old Sears direct drive machine stopped working on the spin cycle. I began checking appliance repair web sites. This coupler was not the problem. First, the timer's contact points for the spin cycle were completely burned away. A new timer helped for a few loads, but then the machine began to show its age in other areas. I found there are half-of-a-dozen different reasons why one of these washers may not work on the spin cycle: dragging brake shoes, worn or broken tabs connecting the transmission shaft to the tub, problems inside the transmission, broken or worn clutch, and probably one or two more. As best I can tell, ours failed because of a worn pawl inside the transmission. Gears for the transmission are available, but other transmission parts are not. New transmissions are available, but the cost is too much compared to the cost of a new machine. Some will need to remove the tub nut, and that can be difficult. I did just publish an Instructable on removing the tub nut.

    You don't need to remove the cabinet. All you need to do is lay it on its back and access the motor through the bottom. I have the same model and it was a quick thirty minute job, without disassembling the entire machine.

    1 reply

    you are correct about not having to remove the cabinet, but it does make it easier to do the job if you do.  some laundry rooms do not have enough room to lay the unit on it's back.  I've seen units jammed in a closet in a hallway where I being an experienced technician has a hard time doing this job.   Mobile homes are the worst for space. 

    Nice instructable.  I am a repair man for a small company, and I do about 3 of these a week!  and you're right about the $150. Service call, part, and labor are usually some where close to that.   A Normal homeowner will probably  take about an hour too do this repair while following this Ible.  With practice you can get it down to about 15 minuets. 

    I have the coupling replaced and motor back on with top bracket attached. I can't get the bottom bracket to snap in place - any suggestions?

    1 reply

    Check to make sure that the bracket is seated correctly on the other end. Also, make sure the coupling parts are pressed down far enough on the motor axle.

    IMPORTANT :---Replace the cabinet---. Look at the base of the washer on the sides. You will see two extrusions or metal tabs that mate with slots in the bottom of the cabinet. The cabinet has a lip on the bottom front that goes under the bottom frame of the washer. Place the lip under the base, let the cabinet down to mate to the extrusions on the base. Line the back up to the cabinet and replace the brass colored clips that hold the back of the washer to the cabinet. Plug the lid switch back in. Put console back in place and install the screws holding console. MAKE SURE THE FRONT OF CABINET IS UNDER THE LIP!!!

    Mark any single wires outside of wiring harness. I had three separate wires attached to other gizmos and experience taught me to record what goes where when putting the wires back on.

    I used a 1/2" drive extension (6") to tap on the gears. The 1/2" socket on the extension did not work well for me. Also, spend a little time cleaning up old black rubber material on shafts and housings before installing gears.

    Two people can make this step go a lot smoother. both sides need to align properly, hence a person to each side.

    I just set the gear hole edge flush to front edge of shaft. If someone knows a better alingment, please post.

    I put some blocks under the front of the cabinent frame which tilted the unit backwards and off the floor. This made for easier acess. You need to do it properly so it won't slip off when tapping on coupling gears.

    You may not need to remove the pump. I left the pump attached to the motor and was able to move the pump/motor assembly out of the way together. If there are any other wires attached to the motor assembly besides the main harness, such as a condensor on the side as with my Kitchen-Aid, mark them as to what goes where. (top/bottom or left/right)

    You may not need to remove the pump. I left the pump attached to the motor and was able to move the pump/motor assembly out of the way together. If there are any other wires attached to the motor assembly besides the main harness, such as a condensor on the side as with my Kitchen-Aid, mark them as to what goes where. (top/bottom or left/right)

    OMG... OK I have the exact same washer and i broke today so i lugged it out sided when to my computer to look for a new one. My home page is "igoogle" and i have the Instructables tab and it was the same problem. Thank a lot for and excellent Instructable!!!