The 6 Common Reasons Why Your Washing Machine Won’t Start

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Whether you wash clothes every day or once a week, having that washer in your home is an essential luxury of home. No laundromat, no laundry service. You can throw in a load of clothes and enjoy the dryer-fresh result in a couple of hours. Until your washer stops working. Few things are more inconvenient than a malfunctioning washing machine. Especially when you really need a towel or your favorite outfit pronto.

You might already know a few daily washer maintenance tips. You know how to use the right detergent, wipe the door seal, and maybe even level the feet. But what do you do when the washer just won’t start at all? Naturally, your solution depends on what’s gone wrong.

So today, we’ll help you explore the six most common reasons why washing machines stop starting, and what you can do about it. 

Check the Power Plug and Breaker

The number one reason why your washer suddenly stops working is that it has no power. This can happen for a few different reasons, but there are only two solutions. Start by checking behind the washer for the power plug. It is surprisingly common for the washer’s shaking to pull its own power plug out of the wall. That will stop it from running pretty quickly, and is more likely to be the case if your washer stops partway through a cycle. The plug might just be loose in the wall, so look closely and push the plugin firmly just to be sure.

The other option for sudden power loss to your washer is a flipped breaker. A breaker flips when one circuit is overloaded either with supply or demand. For example, running two appliances off the same circuit can flip a breaker. As can a lightning strike or a power surge. Locate your breaker box and open it up. All the breakers should be flipped in the same direction (sometimes two columns are direction-opposite). If one breaker is in the center or pointing to the wrong side, flip it to the “off” position, then the “on” position to restore the power. 

Look for Broken Knobs and Shafts

If your washer knobs are not creating the effect you’re looking for (like turning on the washer), take a closer look. Especially with older top-loading washers, those knobs are made of aging and brittle plastic. If a knob cracks on the switch shaft, then turning the knob may no longer actuate the switch.

Pull the knobs off of your washer control panel and flip them over. Start by cleaning the knobs, as those things can get really dirty from food splatter and they are never cleaned. They might just be gummy. Next, look closely for cracks or missing pieces that might keep the knob from locking onto the switch shaft. 

Test the Lid Switch / Door Switch

The washer won’t start if it thinks the door is open. Washers throw around a lot of water, whether you’ve got a top-load or front-loading model. To do this safely, the washer locks its lid or door when the cycles are running. Naturally, it can’t do this if the door is open, so the washer won’t start. The washer knows the door is open with the lid/door switch, which has a pressure tab that senses when the door is closed and it’s safe to start the wash cycle.

If the lid/door switch is broken, then it never sends the “closed” signal and your washer never thinks it’s safe to start. This issue is more likely if you’re seeing lights and responsiveness, but the washer never starts or gives you an error message. 

Faulty Start Switch or Timer

One of the more challenging problems would be a faulty start switch or a malfunctioning timer. The start switch, as you might have guessed, is the button you press to tell the washer to start. The timer is what controls which cycle is running and when your washer stops and starts each cycle.

The start switch can be tested and replaced with a fairly simple process for top-loading washers and is part of the computer for front-load washers. For older top-load washers, the start switch (and often the timer) can be replaced by removing the backplate of the top control panel. 

Broken Washer Motor

The washer motor will require professional repair. But you can often tell if the motor is the issue just by listening. Motors tend to hum, whir, whine, and buzz when they start to fail. A washer that has grown increasingly loud or with irregular motor sounds is one with a failing motor. If you hear your washer try to start and then fail, then your motor has failed.

If you are apt or confident at appliance repair, you can find a guide for your specific make and model of washing machine to access the washer motor. From here, you can test the motor with a multimeter or choose to replace it. Replacing your washer motor is a serious repair and should be done with extreme care or by a professional. 

Shorted Main Control Board

Finally, there’s the main control board. This is the computer brain of your washing machine. Older washers have fairly simple main control boards while newer washers are small computers in their own right. The main control board is what receives all the wires from the various components and controls the washer accordingly.

If your main control board has shorted out, the washer will be completely dead or light up with no other response. If the board is faulty, you might notice irregular responses and failure to run. Old top-load washers tend to keep the main control board in the top control panel. Modern front-load washers tend to keep the main control board behind the control pad on the front. 

Why Won’t Your Washer Start?

If your washing machine won’t start, now is the time to investigate. Perform regular maintenance, check out the usual suspects, and arm yourself with a multimeter. If the issue is deeper than you’re ready to DIY, don’t worry. You can find a helpful appliance repair technician in every town across the country. Contact us today for more appliance repair insights or to call for a washer repair service.

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