Sunday, November 30, 2008

Washing Machine Saga

The long awaited post about how I fixed the washing machine. Too bad I'm not cool like Stimey - she could have drawn little lines and arrows pointing out the relevant parts on the photos.

A couple weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, the washing machine stopped spinning. We've got a Maytag Neptune front load washer and it's 8 years old. That's really, really old for this model - it's had all sorts of mold and mildew problems and there was even a class action lawsuit. Some people consider it to be a lemon in the washing machine world. But we haven't really had any problems with it. Until it stopped spinning. It would drain, so there wasn't any standing water but the clothes were sopping wet and we were fairly sure that all the soap wasn't coming out either.

I spent a lot of time on the internet that weekend and was fairly certain that I had figured out that the problem was a clogged drain line. Unfortunately, it wasn't just a simple fix of unplugging the drain line from the back and cleaning it out with a wire hanger (okay, lie, I had a fork I was going to use). I couldn't unplug the drain line from the back of the machine. I would have had to go in through the front, take out the drum, move aside the mother board, and then get to the drain line. I pride myself on being pretty handy, and I even started in trying to remove the drum, but we didn't have the proper size allen wrench (but we had 8 others that were either too big or too small - I know you all know that story!!!) So I gave up.

I searched old messages from our town listserv and called a guy. He couldn't come out for 2 weeks, but recommended his brother who also repairs appliances. I talked to the brother on a Monday and he could come out on Thursday. We tend to do laundry in a marathon session. We won't do any for a week or two (yes, we can go that long - buy a lot of underwear) and then do 7 loads in a weekend. That weekend was "the" laundry marathon weekend - but luckily I had successfully done a load of whites that morning, so at least we all had clean underwear. Still, by the time Thursday rolled around we had laundry EVERYWHERE.

The guy came out around 4pm and didn't even check the drain line, although I told him several times that I had researched it on the Internet, and I was pretty handy, and I was pretty sure it was a clogged drain line. He stared at me for a long second, and proceeded to continue taking off the top cover of the place on the washing machine where all the control buttons are. He said that since it takes about 2 seconds to get access to the motor board, then he always checks that first.

Sure enough, it was a burned out part on the motor board. He said that he didn't have a spare with him and that he wouldn't be able to get back to me until Tuesday. TUESDAY?!?!!?! He then said, "Well, you said you were handy - it's pretty easy to fix yourself." Oh, well, (shuffle, shuffle) yes I am handy - but I don't think I'm MOTOR BOARD handy - that sounds hard core. He offered to show me what to do, which took all of 60 seconds and told me where the appliance parts store is located. He charged us $55 for the call and then spent a few minutes leveling the machine, laughing at the cardboard we had stuffed under one leg. I ushered him out of there and high-tailed it all the way up Route 1 in "just barely making it before rush hour" traffic and got to the appliance parts store 10 minutes before it closed.

I just about lost it when the guy rang up the new motor board and it was ... wait for it, wait for it...two hundred and thirty-five dollars!!! I was afraid to carry it to the car for fear of breaking it, much less installing it in a machine!

But I carried that baby home safely and here's what I did!!!

Step 1.
I had to remove the top front cover of the washing machine. No problem there, 3 tiny little screws. It was complicated by the hot water supply there, but us DIY-ers can work around that. You can see the old decrepit motor board there on the right. It's got about 76 wires attached to it.

Step 2.
I had to unplug the 76 wires (okay it was maybe 20 wires and they were kind of housed together in these plastic things, so it wasn't that hard. I had to unscrew the old motor board from the machine - this sounds easy but it was hard because I had to hold the teensy-tiny screw still with one hand while I turned the teensy-tiny nut with the wrench in the other hand. THANK GAWD I had the right size wrench. I scraped my knuckles a few times on the cement wall.
David was busy dealing with Ruthie so Esther took these pictures for me.

Step 3.
Then I had to dry fit the wires in the new motor board. This was also hard because they were really hard to get in and there was nothing to really brace them against while pushing because I didn't want to break the $235 motor board!

Step 4.
Last but not least, I had to reattach those annoying little nuts with my tiny little wrench. Here's a picture of the reattached motor board with all the wires in the right places.
Lest you think David was not an integral part of this - he was. He was keeping Ruthie out of my hair and dealing with Esther when she wanted to help too much. I'm all for kids helping (she's a pro at helping me sort laundry) but I draw the line at helping with parts that are $235!!!

I'm totally dying to know how much I saved on labor from them installing the part. I figure they would have upcharged me a certain percentage (any ideas anyone?) and they could have probably charged another $55 fee for the service call. So, I'm going to tell myself that I saved my family an even 100 smackers!

While I've dreamed for several years of starting a couple different businesses (helping college students adjust to college; post-partum doula) perhaps I should try and join an appliance repair business instead!!!


Laurie said...

Well done Ellen! A perfect cap to Nablopomo too!Kudos too to Esther for taking the photos. Great technical team.

Fiona said...

Oh girl, you totally ROCK! Lance will be soooo impressed - we once spent 6 months with a chopstick propped in our washer to make it work each time as we were too afraid of the electronics (although I did try soldering the part back into place first).

My hero!

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

WOW! I'm calling you next time my washer breaks! I'll even watch your kids while you fix it!

Very impressive!

Thrift Store Mama said...

Sue, I have a feeling that my kids would be SOOOO entertained by yours that there would be very little supervision needed!

Rachel et Natalie said...

I am still speechless - great job Ellen

Sandy said...

WOW! I am so impressed by your determination and skills. I would never attempt such a task. Great job!

Nice pictures Esther.

Stimey said...

Awesome. Can you come tune up my furnace? I'll even Photoshop the photos I'll take.

See, the difference between you and me is that you get to write a post about how you fixed your washer. I would have written a post with little lines and arrows detailing how I further BROKE the washer.

dc604 said...

such a smart girl!!!
kind of reminds me of the time you made me help you take out part of your basement in yo' old hood - i was so scared to use the "retractable saw?" but you had a vision and made me do it! and i still have the "leaning" bar of the bar in my classroom - we use it as a balance beam...

Jeff said...

Hi, I hope you changed the door latch wax motor or the new Neptune control board will fail too! See asap if you own a Neptune. Every Neptune that shipped with the defective door latch wax motor will fail.

In addition, when your Neptune gets loud in spin cycle you can replace your bearings yourself. See where they sell the bearings and the 12002022 seal kit and they rent a special tool designed for changing the bearings which includes a DVD that shows you how to correctly disassemble machine, replace bearings and install the seal kit. You can easily save over $700 and keep that Neptune spinning another 10 years.

vickie2005 said...


Now let's hope there's no need for an encore at least at your house.

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