Model #GHW9100LW0, this front load washer had been making a terrible noise for weeks now, and the customer was about ready to toss it out into the yard. The problem started just over a month ago and a technician came out to have a look, then returned a few days later to complete the repair. The washer seemed to work for a few loads, but the noise started up again and progressively got worse ever since. I came out have have a look and after seeing the condition of the washer, I decided to turn this into a learning experience.
The original service call was for noise and the diagnosis was bad rear tub bearings. This isn’t a real common problem as most front load washers these days work very well. But if you are someone that hasn’t yet made the switch to he detergents, it is likely something you will be experiencing in the future. But I digress. The technician had returned with parts to replace the rear bearings, which is the entire rear tub in this case, and proceeded to spend the next two hours doing the work. All was well, until the noise from before started happening again.
When I arrived, the complaint was noise and banging during the wash cycle. Knowing what I do about front load washers, I proceeded to check out the common items that could cause this noise. Most notably a broken shock. But with the access panel remove, all four shocks were intact and right where they should be. There seemed to be good resistance in the support springs and nothing apparently loose. Then I decided to check the spin basket for excessive play and bingo, I found the problem.
Front load washers use a tub and spin basket just like top load washers, only the front load washer is tilted toward, well the front. Different makes and models use slightly different methods to drive the basket, but with very few exceptions, the basket is mounted to a shaft which passes through a seal and bearing in the back of the tub. This shaft is machined to some very tight tolerances so it fits quite snugly inside the bearings, and is able to support the weight of the clothes during the wash cycles.
If you are a current owner of a front loader, open the door and try to move the front of the spin basket top to bottom and side to side to see what I mean. When something goes wrong with the bearing such as it locks up, it will begin to damage the basket shaft and eventually the entire thing will be loose. The result is usually chirping sounds during spin, groaning noises during agitation, and plenty of banging around as it gets progressively worse.
The most likely reason for bearing failure is exactly the reason I mentioned not using he detergent above. The rear bearing is not designed to be in contact with water, go figure it’s in a washer, but because of it’s position, the small amount of water used, and a rubber seal, this isn’t a problem. But when detergents are used that create suds, these suds will get up to the bearing and bring water with it. This soapy mess will dry the bearings out and eventually they will stop working. But that is only the beginning as it usually takes some time before a noticeable deflection in the spin basket can be seen.
This customer was using the proper detergent and had been for several years. I don’t have an answer for every failure, but the original bearing most likely just failed. But this one had just been replaced which doesn’t make much sense. Now remember I mentioned the tight machining of these parts. The last tech replaced the rear bearing, but used the original spin basket. Once the original bearing locked up, it began to wear on the shaft so they were both very loose. Then when the old shaft was installed in the new bearing, everything probably seemed OK, but it didn’t take long for the less than smooth shaft to start to cause some damage to the new bearings.
And the evidence of this can be seen all over the inside of this washer from the groove cut into the rear tub by the spin pulley, to the metal shavings scattered about the floor of the chassis. To get this washer back up and running, it was going to take a few parts, and a little bit of time.
I installed a new rear tub, and inside of it a new spin basket. Because the front half of the tub had been damaged by the old basket, I put one of them on too. An hour later and cut or two, I had this washer sounding like a new washer. The lesson to be learned on this call? Pay attention to the mechanical components that have failed, and then look at one ones that they connect to just to be safe.
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