Avoid a Malfunction With These 9 Washing Machine Maintenance Tasks

by Team HomeServe
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As a homeowner, washing machine maintenance should be a top priority. And if your home is like most, a working washing machine is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, washing machines break down, and when they do, the whole family suddenly begins to appreciate just how hard this household essential works.

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To keep your washer up and running, there are a few things you can do. Avoiding problems that cause your washing machine to malfunction ensures that the never-ending flow of laundry in your home remains uninterrupted.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most common issues washers face so you can avoid the pitfalls that lead to machine breakdowns and failures.

What Are Some Common Reasons Washing Machines Fail?

Thankfully, most washers last for years, but sometimes, they require major repairs, the price of which sometimes makes replacement more appealing than repair. Complete failure of your washing machine may boil down to a spent motor.

The sounds a washer makes prior to failure can clue you into the fact that it is experiencing trouble. You may hear humming, whining, whirring or buzzing, or the motor may become increasingly louder. If the washer tries to start but cannot, the motor has likely gone bad.

In addition, a shorted main control board can also cause washing machine failure. A faulty board is sometimes the case, and replacing it may be a fix recommended by a pro appliance repairman.

A faulty timer or start switch can also result in washing machine failure. The start switch, as the name suggests, is the switch that turns the washer on, and the timer is the mechanism that operates each cycle of the wash. This is a repairable problem.

Regular Maintenance Tasks You Can Do to Avoid Malfunctions

When it comes to keeping your washing machine working as it should, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Some regular washing machine maintenance goes a long way toward staving off repairs and preventing premature failure of your washer.

A human hand checks a refrigerator hose connected to the water source in the wall behind the fridge, where an electrical cord is also plugged in.

1. Maintain the Hoses

Examine the machine’s hoses on a regular basis. Look for cracks, frayed areas, bulges and leaks. Be proactive in your efforts by replacing hoses — even those that are not damaged — every five years or so.

2. Clean the Drain

Keeping the washing machine’s drain clean helps overall with the efficiency of your machine.

3. Place the Machine Properly

Washing machines may move slightly over time due to unbalanced loads. There needs to be about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of space between the machine and the wall. This prevents kinking of the machine’s hoses. If your machine is further or closer than that, move it to the proper distance.

A level sits atop a white front loader clothes washing machine in a laundry closet

4. Balance and Level the Machine

One big part of washing machine maintenance that needs to be done regularly is leveling and balancing the machine. Machines that are improperly balanced can vibrate, walk or rock themselves out of position while spinning, and this can damage the machine (or even your floor) over time. Turn the machine’s legs in a clockwise fashion to lower the machine; reverse the motion to raise the machine up.

5. Clean the Lint Filter

Similar to the lint filter on your dryer, your washing machine has a lint filter. Check for it near the agitator tube (in the center of the machine) on most washers.

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6. Keep the Machine Clean

A mixture of hot water, baking soda and vinegar or a store-bought washing machine cleaner can go a long way toward keeping the washer clean.

unloading washing machine

7. Avoid Overloads

Avoid bulky, heavy loads when possible because they are harder on the machine than smaller loads. Make sure you choose the right setting so that the amount of water needed is used for each load.

8. Don’t Go Overboard on Detergent

Use the right amount of laundry detergent. Excess laundry soap can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the machine.

9. Watch for Leaks

Be proactive about leaks. Position a drip pan beneath the washer to handle small leaks before they become big problems.

When Should You Call a Pro for Washing Machine Repair?

A washing machine on the fritz doesn’t have to be destined for the landfill right away. And sometimes, despite all the washing machine maintenance and the best of intentions on behalf of an appliance owner, repairs are necessary. It may be true that some folks have the DIY chops to handle repairs on their own — but that's usually the exception, not the rule.

If your washing machine fails to properly clean appropriately sized loads, is leaving water in the drum after the wash completes or is making funny noises, you may need to seek professional help from a qualified repairman. The same holds true for washers that start then stop or that have issues with spinning clothes out completely. Moreover, newer generation washers may throw an error code when something is amiss, which is a general indicator that a problem is afoot.