Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Mr. Fixit (and Mr. Broke-it!)

Turns out, washing machines don't like nails going through the pump.  Funny, that.

Mark got some new sleepware on sale at Walmart and decided to wash them first.  He put them in our Maytag front-loader and halfway through the cycle, it beeps and gives a dreaded error code - E1 F9.

I look online and find this helpful video on how to clean the pump inlet filter.  It ain't hard to do, so I did it.  Found nothing but a shiny Roosevelt dime and some bits of debris - not a full-on clog like in the video.

Problem is, the door was locked, so our new clothes are being held hostage.  So I plug it back in and play around and it unlocks.  Whoo-wee!  So I decide to re-start the cycle and it gives a new error code - E1 F9.  Is it the pressure sensor?  Clogged pressure sensor tube?  Bad control board?  Oh, and the door is locked again and our laundry held hostage.

Once again, to the Internets and we find another helpful video regarding this code.  Something is preventing the machine from pumping out water!  Bad pump?  Clogged filter?  Clogged discharge line?  I play around with the "diagnostic mode" and find this helpful document on how to enter diagnostic mode as well as how to run the C0 tests.  Intersting stuff, but my machine balks at going beyond C0.  Then I notice the pump is so hot it burns my hand.  And it buzzes instead of pumping.

Four screws, two plugs and one hose and the whole thing pops out!

Mr. See suggests removing the entire pump assembly as it is held in place with four screws.  Once removed, I take it to the workbench and remove six screws holding the impeller and motor assembly to the housing.  By the way, this stuff is all plastic and the motor is laughably tiny - with two thin wires feeding it power!.  I pull the pump apart and...

...the tiny nail shown above pops out.


A couple of months ago I was on the roof of the studio pressure washing the trim and I found a few trim nails had "popped."  So I put a handful in my pocket and replaced them.  Later, I put the jeans in the wash and forgot about the nails until it started clanking.  In horror, I opened the door and found a few nails in the drum and more under the "seal" by the door.  Dodged a bullet there, right?

Well, yea, except for this one nail!  It went right through the "filter" (which is more of a coarse screen of 1/4" holes in a plastic dingus).  We put the whole thing back together and - knock wood - it works! I put some silicone on the rubber seals and it doesn't appear to be leaking.  I put a towel down just in case,  I ran it for one cycle - now to reinstall the back cover and put the laundry room back together!

 An hour or so of my time was all it cost.  A service call would be at least $125 to come out, plus $125 and hour, plus parts (and no doubt they would have replaced the entire pump assembly).  For a washing machine that cost $900 (with pedestals), spending a few hundred to fix it seems dumb.  You might as well buy a new one.

What was scary is how much of the thing is made of plastic.  Now, as an Engineer, I am not anti-plastic.  It can work well.  But I assumed the water pump was this big metal thing with ten-gauge wires feeding it, not some tiny thing the size of a two decks of cards, with 18 gauge (maybe 20!) feeding it.

I suspect this will not be the last time I have to take this apart.

It pays to be handy!  Particularly when you are prone to breaking things.

UPDATE:  Some have chastised me for criticizing Whirlpool quality.  Far from it!  While everything is made of plastic these days, that is not always a bad thing.  This washer was very easy to service and the entire pump assembly can be removed with four screws.  I feel confident that if I break it again, I can take it apart and fix it.  And our KitchenAid (Whirlpool) refrigerator is going strong after 18 years - with a new (used) control board from eBay (that took two minutes to install!).  18 years is three years longer than design life!