Me vs Maytag – An Idiot’s Guide To Washing Machine Repair

The following post is from Neal of WealthPilgrim.com. After reading the article, be sure to sign up for free at Wealth Pilgrim to receive more from Neal.

You might be a very handy person but I’m not.

The mere thought of putting a pair of pliers or screw driver in my hand is enough to raise my body temperature 4 degrees.

So when my wife announced that the cold water wasn’t flowing in the washing machine this morning, fixing it myself wasn’t my first thought. In fact, even while I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, let me tell you what was going through my mind at first:

1. “Let’s call the repair person. I’m too busy to try to fix it. I’m right in the middle of writing a post!”
2. My wife is better at fixing things than I am. “Honey, let me get you the tool kit.”
3. “Isn’t it time to replace that 15 year old washing machine anyway?”

Within 45 seconds, I had dismissed all three alternatives.

Free Washing Machine by willsfca

First, it was New Years Day and it would be impossible to find a repair company. Also, I would have felt like a complete buffoon had the person spent 15 seconds on the problem and presented me with that ugly $60 bill.

Second, while my wife really is better at this kind of thing than I am, I just couldn’t pass the wrench this time. I had the time and she didn’t. Time to put the big-boy repair shoes on.

Third, this seemed like a minor problem so I couldn’t justify buying a new machine. I was half-way kidding myself when I tried to weasel out of the job with that one.

I resigned to tackle the problem head on.

The first thing I did was consider the downsides to doing the repair. If I failed, we’d be no worse off than before and at least I’d have given it the ol’ college try. Maybe, I’d even score some points with my wife. So in my estimation, it was a win-win – even if the clothes remained dirty.

Next, I assessed the problem – no cold water flow to the machine.

OK. I disassembled the water hose going to and from the machine. I checked it and the flow was perfect. This was what I feared…..it meant the problem lay deep in the bowels of the Maytag monster.

I cleared my workspace and started taking off the hoses and the cover to the inner workings of my foe. There, I was pleased to find, one simple part through which the water had to flow. The problem had to be there. But this looked like a specialty part and since it also had electronics attached to it, I figured we needed a new one. I decided to take a few pictures of it, write down the serial numbers and put my Maytag back together. I figured I’d order the part the next day.

Before I did so, I cleaned out the lines as best I could and prayed for a miracle….just in case.

Sure enough, when we hooked her back up, the water flow was back to normal.

I had become, if you will…..the Maytag Man!

I’m not sharing this story with you because I think I’m G-d’s gift to the washing machine. Far from it. I am still the least handy person you will ever meet. Outside of one good experience with a toilet and door lock, my history in the “fix it” department is dismal.

Do I think my stroll down Maytag Lane saved my money and marriage? Well….it did save a little cabbage. But outside of a few fleeting moments of admiration, I think my wife has forgotten about the entire episode.

And I’m not entirely convinced the repair will solve the long-term problem.

And as I write, the cold water is flowing to the machine, but as it works, it’s howling at me like a very sick wolf. I may have done more harm than good – violating the Maytag Man’s oath.

No, I’ll never be handy guy – but at least I’m not going to be intimidated anymore.
That’s why I’m sharing this story with you.

I’m going to try to fix things even if I don’t know how. It’s OK to learn as you go….right?

Are you intimidated by repairs, or reconciling your check book or something else? What experiences have you encountered when you pushed the envelope of your comfort zone?

Find thousands of unbiased ratings on services for home improvements, car repairs, and more. Try Angie’s List.

Comments

  1. Repairs have got to be at the top of my pet peeve list. Many don’t pass the repair vs replace calculation.

    I had a similar experience, except the washer needed new ball bearings. Simple right? Well, no because you can’t just buy the ball bearings, the spare part includes the entire tub assembly, a $300 part.

    Example #2, the flash drive on my computer broke. You can’t just take it apart and put in a new flash drive in because it’s welded to the motherboard.

    I hope your repair is a simple one. Good luck.

  2. HAHA This so reminds me of exactly what happened to us last spring. I was so looking forward to a new washer and dryer set, even though I knew we didnt have the money. When one of the cycles stopped working and the water flow was down, I secretly wished to “have” to get a new one. A repairman offered no help and said, sight-unseen “it will cost more to fix then it is worth” Pulled the hoses all apart, and found a clog, put it back together, still nothing. Then the rest of the house started acting funny too. No water flow, toilets barely flushing, etc.

    In the end, it turned out to be the well pump, the washer was just the first sign of disaster. So, here I am, nearly a year later, with the same washer that works well, dreaming of a day that I have saved up the money we need to get one….after this one dies of course! :)

    Nice work “fixing” yours!

  3. I’m not the first to jump at repairing major appliances, but when it’s something that I know (through research on the web) can be fixed, hand me a tool. :) Most recently, I repaired the feed dogs on my washer agitator ($8.95!!!) and the heating element on my oven ($24). Was it easy? No, but the satisfaction of saving money and learning that it’s not all “rocket science” was worth it!

  4. Two years ago I got caught up in the “keep up with the Joneses” scenario. My friend got a really nice new high efficiency washer. Then my other friend did. I was still clunking along with a washing machine that I got 10 years go when we were first married. It worked fine. But it wasn’t cool. I wanted a new cool washer too. But of course mine worked fine, and my husband has an ongoing mantra. Two mantras in fact. 1. If it ain’t broke there is no reason to get a new one, even if the new one is prettier and better. 2. New computerized stuff breaks and it is not easy to fix when it does.

    So I was putzing along with my old washer. Until, one day the washer finally broke. Now you would think I would NOT be happy that my washer broke. But I was! Now was my chance to join the elite crowd and get a new washer! And I did! I got the coolest washer EVER — a Sears/Kenmore Oasis HE washer. And even though our old dryer worked just fine I just had to have the matching dryer. And oooohhhhh it’s all computerized, all I have to do is push a button and it figures everything out for me! Yippeeee! In blue even! Specialty colors that cost extra. I am very, very embarrassed to say how much I spend on those two items. Suffice it to say that it was ridiculous and I literally get sick to my stomach when I think of it today.

    So here I sat with my new washer and dryer that was supposed to be so much better! (they weren’t). And they were that designer blue color that nobody EVER SAW because my laundry room is upstairs in my bedroom behind closed doors.

    Boy was I an idiot.

    So guess what happened About a month after the warranty ran out? The new Sears Kenmore Oasis Elite BROKE! It broke with a full load of laundry sitting inside. And guess what? The lid locks so I can’t open it. My laundry is stuck inside. I can’t get it out. The washer will not power on. It is dead. The lid is locked. I call Sears service. They can’t come for TWO WEEKS. Two weeks for my laundry to sit inside the washer and ROT. My husband, who can fix anything, can’t fix this because it is all computerized and needs special computerized parts. Parts I can’t get for TWO WEEKS until the guy comes out to see what was wrong. And he will charge me $65 plus mileage for the service call just to give me an estimate on what is wrong. NO WAY.

    So I look it up online. Turns out lots of people are having problems with the Kenmore Oasis Elite and it is a controller problem that they are aware of but will not go ahead and issue a recall. Pretty much it is too bad so sad, you were a sucker for buying the washer in the first place.

    So yeah. Now, I have a nice $1200.00 washer (that’s just the washer) with a known issue that Sears will not fix without charging me an arm and a leg. All while my clothes are rotting under the locked lid.

    So here is what I did. I pried open the lid with a screw driver, breaking the latch. Got my soaking clothes out and rung them out in the tub. Then I called Sam’s Club and told them my sob story. They have a cheapo basic washer for $299.99. That will cost me LESS than having Sears come out and look at this one to try and fix it. And I can get my clothes washed today. And if this one breaks, as long as I save my receipt, Sams will take it back and replace it. Even if it breaks 5 years from now they will replace it.

    So yeah, even I can get caught up in the “new car smell” of a pretty shiny washer. Learned my lesson. Never again.

  5. Thanks for the story…just 8 days ago we laid out $237.00 to unplug a sink drain. My husband had attacked it to no avail. Yesterday the toilet started leaking…we were so fortunate. $20.00 worth of parts and a few swear words from him and it is up and running. Perhaps there is hope after all. LOL.

  6. I’ve always been one of those “handy” people,ever since I was old enough to hold a screwdriver.
    I would always try to repair first,but for many items,repair parts are either not cost effective or simply unavailable!
    Electronic items are the worst…things used to be built to last,now they are built to be cheap and seldom last more than 3-4 years.
    I think it is a sad testimony that we live in a “throw-away” world.

  7. I need to replace a sink drain cup on the kitchen sink last year. My brother, the home inspector and self-made handyman told me it was no problem — just disconnect the sink pipes underneath, unscrew the collar of the old sink drain and pop it off, and install the new one. 20 minute deal tops. Well, after hours of contorting my body and cursing under the sink and not being able to get the collar off, I finally had to call a real handyman in. He had the same problem as me, and eventually had to break out the saws-all and cut the collar and sink drain off because it had been installed with Lock-tite, and there was no humanly way it could be unscrewed with normal a wrench. $90 later the new drain was installed. Made me feel a little better that it was not as straightforward as originally thought, but still so frustrating that I wish I’d called the handyman in the first place.

  8. I think possibly the part you took out and is working again but still complaining…..I do not know its technical name ….but is for the mixing of the hot and cold (warm, cold, hot) settings and may just be still going out. YOu may try to price just that part. That happened to me once a long time ago.

    PS I still have a very old refrigerator..(on my back porch as a 2nd refrigerator for extra stuff).
    It has the hang down freezer compartment which needs defrosting every so often. It has never given ANY trouble in all of these years. I am 67 and it belonged to a woman who was old enough to be my mother. THINGS USED TO BE BUILT TO LAST.

    As you know….we are burying ourselves with all of this toxic waste.

  9. Many washers have a strainer where the hose connects to them. That is where I have always found my water flow problems. It seems silt builds up there due to the strainer doing its job.
    I only wish all repairs were that easy.

  10. When I got a bedbug infestation right after graduating, I didn’t have enough money for an exterminator, not after I paid my downpayment on a room.

    Just as well, because if I’d had it I probably would have spent it. I ended up doing some research and taking care of it myself. It took two days of work, and did require a bit of spending for supplies, but I was able to eliminate the problem myself. Now if only I’d known it was the landlord’s responsibility…

    You fixed it yourself, and resisted temptation to blow money to outsource the problem on someone else. Good job.

  11. Well….here is what happened….

    The next day I woke up AND FOUND WATER ALL OVER THE FLOOR. It was like I was walking on the Dead Sea!!!!

    So, I cleaned it up, tightened up the connections and all is well. The satisfaction of getting ‘er done myself is tremendous.

  12. I seem to have two paths I take on such matters for devices & tasks over $50:
    1 – I take it apart, replace or glue/tape what broke , put it back together & repeat until it works.
    2- I hem haw because I’m worried I’ll screw it up. I then contract it out. I watch the contractor do the repair. After they leave it isn’t fixed or it’s not to my specifications so I do it myself based upon what I observed them doing.

    For appliance repair instructions i use fixitnow.com I’m not associated with the person that runs it in anyway – just been using that site for 6 years to keep my washer, dryer & dishwasher, etc running. Although I think the washer is going to pass away by next fall. The advice is accurate enough i keep going back to it.

  13. I feel that same way as you do Neal!

    For the last few years, I’ve been forcing myself to try to repair things (washer: twice, dryer: once, car: numerous times). Most of the time the repairs take an hour or less and can save you hundreds of dollars!

    The trick is to google it first (even watching a few videos if available), then after you’re comfortable with the machine, then jumping in.

    I still don’t mess with really expensive or dangerous items (no TV or Air Conditioning repairs for me…)

  14. Regarding the water all over the floor…I had replaced the internals to an upstairs toilet. I always worry about over-tightening the nuts that seat the bowl to the seat (2 piece toilet) and cracking the porcelain, so I got it tight ‘enough’. I didn’t know that jr. thought it was cool to wiggle the bowl back and forth. DW saw some water on the floor later but just wiped it up. The next morning, the ceiling of the downstairs bath was bowed and dripping. So my home plumber work cost me a new drywall ceiling and repainting of the downstairs bath (still not done!).

  15. As someone who has spent considerable time and energy “doing it myself” to solve numerous IT problems in our small biz (not only can’t we afford outside help, but frankly, I don’t know who I’d trust to work on our computers and network. The one guy we used for years retired to France…), I applaud the effort to see if you can do things yourself. It’s not just about money, it’s about trying to be self-reliant.

    But the fact is, some repairs on things like refrigerators and washers and dish washers only seem simple. We had a neighbor who pretty much sounded like you as he prepared to “man up” and tackle what he considered minimal problems. But here’s the thing, sometimes a little bit of information is just way too little.

    To make a long story short, it took three separate incidents where not only did his “fixes” not work but he 1/Invalidated a warranty and 2/seriously exacerbated what had been a small problem. And oh, yes, there was the issue of the damage done to the rest of the home when his fixes didn’t work.

    In the end, he ended up paying about 3X what it would have cost originally for what had been minor repairs. His wife was NOT pleased. And this cost was on top of the many hours he spent “researching” the problem and doing the actual repairs.

    Most people we know who attempt repairs, while conscious of cost, do so because they do not have a reliable repair person—not to necessarily save money.

    The wisest among them soon realize that you really do have to be willing to take the risk of exacerbating a problem–and risking the wrath of your spouse/companion/roommates– and that sometimes it really makes sense and will save $ to get a competent professional.

    Glad to hear you won’t touch the TV or AC.

    FYI: As consultants, we tend to want to hire other experts to work on problems. We’ve used that web site (can’t remember the name) that charges a membership fee but has great information on local repair people, construction, etc. to find people we can trust locally. A great investment.

  16. I have found the Internet to be a tremendous resource for DIY repair. I have saved quite a bit of money this way. For instance, using instructions I found on a Hyundai forum, I was able to replace the fuel filter in my car. It was a bit of a PITA, but saved me $100 or so in labor costs (not to mention other problems the service center may have “found”). If you are new to this DIY thing, start with the easy stuff, though!

    Another untapped resource: your children! I say this tongue in cheek, but in one particular instance, it actually fixed the problem. In my previous home, the water spigot next to my porch had stopped flowing. I tried to fix it several times over a number of months, with no joy. Well, my then-2-year-old son happened to be watching me on my most recent, unsuccessful attempt. After I had yet again given up, he wandered over to the spigot and began playing with the knob. Suddenly, there was this big WHOOSH and water began spewing from the spigot. I yelled, “You fixed it, Alex! You fixed it!!!” He couldn’t stop giggling.

  17. My Amana washer’s cold water line clogs up from sediment since we have a spring house. It either won’t fill up, or won’t stop filling up. Once I dismantled the washer – it took 3 hours!! – and took out that gadget where the hoses hook into in the back. I was very careful to sketch a diagram of the wiring (and to make sure the washer was unplugged!)

    I cleaned it out and it worked fine, until a few weeks ago, and now it’s acting up again. I’ll have to make time to do this again because I REFUSE to pay someone hundreds of dollars to do this when I can manage it on my own.

    Good luck!

  18. Stella, I believe you are referring to Angie’s List as the website with contractor reviews and rankings.

    Personally, I’ve got a good track record for both DIY and knowing when to call in an expert. If the problem is not “obvious”, and/or covered in my Home Repair reference book, the item’s owners manual, or a thorough online search to see if others have the same problem, then I generally call in an “expert”. I haven’t had to make very many phone calls.

  19. RE: High-efficiency washers

    We live in the city and our apartment building replaced its ancient top-loading washers last summer with the so-called “high-efficiency” units.
    Talk about an oxymoron.

    I truly do not understand (or believe) the hype about these machines.

    We now spend more because you have to use special detergent, etc. designed for these units. Plus, the units themselves cost more per use.

    But worst of all: They simply do not clean clothes as well as the old machines.

    I’ve read all the science behind high-efficiency. And it literally does not wash.

    Our clothes no longer smell fresh and no matter how much we now spend on various “softeners” (we also use vinegar for our non-white items), clothes remain ‘hard” –an indication that there is not enough water being used to rinse them out.

    Quite a few of our friends have purchased these pretty new things. And yes, there are some bells and whistles that actually work.

    But the majority report that they don’t clean better and most don’t clean even as well.

    Every new thing is NOT an improvement.

    FYI: We’re the kind of folks that are still bemoaning the death of our old toaster a few years ago. A simple model that worked. When we replaced it, the newer models had tons of bells and whistles, but did not do a good job with the basic feature: Toasting.

    And regardless of how much money we have, etc., I want things to last. I hate the mentality that now exists (and that you are forced into because of the high cost of repairs) that you just “throw it out” if it stops working.

    That, of course, is being questioned more and more as people simply cannot afford to replace stuff. But DIY repairs, again, not always the answer.

    It’s too bad there is no such thing as service repair co-ops. THAT’s what we need, for sure. It’d be worth a small yearly fee to know that a few trusted service folks would fix anything as needed.

    Meanwhile, the biggest rip-off is the way that repairs are handled even when under warranty.

    Two weeks for a washer repair part? Come on. Those things should be in stock in the U.S. somewhere for overnight shipment.

    What are you supposed to do when your fridge breaks down?

    And good luck to the poster with the washer with the stuck door. Something tells me that they will tell you that you voided warranty when you broke open the door and end up charging you a bundle more.

    That’s the way the warranty rip-off works.

  20. We bought a house last year and the relatively new Fridge came with the house. We soon found out why – the ice maker/water dispenser didn’t work. Fortunately, I happen to know a real Maytag man and described the problem, he told me a few things to try which narrowed the problem down to the right part and he ordered it for me. I then installed the part and it works like a charm.

  21. About 6 months ago I went to take a shower and the water was BURNING hot. I forgot about it during the day. The next morning the water wouldn’t heat up…hmmm. Looked online and found out that hot water heaters have heating elements and thermostats. I called a plumber and was quoted $350 to replace them and flush the water heater. Decided to buy the parts at Home Depot intead…$28.15 and 4 hours later (it took me a while since I had to do a little wire-lengthening as well…yes I wrapped them in electrical tape when I was done), the water heater was fixed and has been working fine ever since.

    My husband was so impressed and I felt uber-empowered. :) Sadly my husband now has me take a look at everything that’s broken…I think it might have bit me in the bottom…

  22. it’s decidedly uncanny how often i’ve read people’s posts on their appliances giving them trouble over the holidays. if i didn’t know better, i’d wonder if the appliances were suffering from some sort of pandemic. so many of them manage to break at the same times–the most inopportune times, as well.

    anyway, yeah, sometimes the simple solution is the correct one. keep your appliances clean, maintained frequently, etc., and they’ll last a long time.

  23. I’m pretty much the same. I shun opening up a washing machine, dryer, electrical appliance because I’m afraid of what I’ll find.

    But when money was tight, I had to resist the urge to call a repairer for the same reasons – a 15 second repair job would cost a lot of money anyway parts would be expensive.

    So I researched the problem (the cold water flow on the washer, like yours) foudn it was a common problem on a machine that age, found the serial number of the part I needed, purchased it on eBay for a fraction of what I’d get from a professional and screwdrived my way into the wife’s good books.

    I did the same with the dryer last year, but it turned out more economical to purchase a much younger replacement. I pinpointed the problem but I wasn’t confident of installing a new motor OR putting the thing back together again afterwards (it was in a hard-to-get-to spot in the machine), so eBay to the rescue for a 2yo machine.

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