Washer repair in the age of
With 20/20 hindsight, the decision to repair this washer was worth it,
both in financial terms and the satisfaction that a reasonably well
made product has been kept out of the landfill for another 10 years or
so. Still, it was a lot of work. If I had been time-pressed
like the majority, with more money than time, I can understand
perfectly the throw-away culture that has developed for very good
reasons. More on this below.
The washer is apparently quite rare. A Kenmore
portable/compact/apartment-sized top-loader, model 11094572200 whose
parts list and diagrams can be found here.
It was bought in April 1996 for $482. This was quite a bit more
than the standard washers at the time.
Today's (early 2008) replacement would have cost $650. The option
to have Sears send a repairman was quickly discarded as the minimum
service fee was (if I remember correctly) about $250.
There were 2 problems: a leak that got progressively worse, until I had
to mop up the floor every 5 minutes or so while the washer was
operating, and erratic behavior, such as the cycle (any cycle) stopping
when it shouldn't, not spinning and leaving the washer full, refusing
to spin when put into spin-only cycle and other randomness that really
put scientific observation and troubleshooting to the test.
While observing the different cycles it occurred to me to wiggle the
cycle selector switch when it seemed the washer was supposed to spin,
which it did sometimes on its own and sometimes not. Lo and
behold, pushing down on the knob made it spin. Problem 2
identified: worn switch contacts.
Since this washer has no front/side/back panel that can be open while
it is operating, I had to find a way to look into the innards from
below. The first attempt: placing a small camera and light under
it looking up didn't work as it was not possible to point the camera
properly. The space was too small. The second attempt
worked: raising the whole washer on 4x4s and using a mirror revealed
that the leak was on the main shaft that goes into the tub.
The search for information
Now I knew I needed a switch and a seal, so obviously I called
Sears. It was a frustrating experience as the model number
printed on the washer didn't match anything the customer service people
could get at. A few calls later, I happened to connect with
someone a little more knowledgeable who told me that I had to add the
"110" to the front of the model number. With that information I
could order the cycle selector switch ($53) and the tub seal ($35).
Then I had to find how to disassemble the machine to get at those
parts. Getting the top off was not that difficult as the
procedure was clearly explained in a service pamphlet that I found in a
zip-lock bag glued to the inside of the machine. It was the
procedure to get to the seal that kept me searching for information for
Nothing I found via google applied to this particular model.
There was one question (and no answer) about how to remove the agitator
in a Whirlpool compact washer. It turns out that this model was
really manufactured by Whirlpool. The parts had that name on
them. I read multiple articles about how hard it was to remove
agitators and how some professional repairmen had broken specialized
tools while trying to pull them. Not very encouraging. I
still had no idea at that time if the agitator came out by pulling
straight up or if it was screwed. No amount of pulling or
unscrewing would make it budge. Of course I did remove the small
screw on the side of it, the only removable part to be seen from inside
Finally, buried in a long thread about agitator removal for a compact
Whirlpool washer, was a posting by a professional appliance repairman
that pointed to a link in a Whirlpool site. There I found the
service manual for a very similar product. This is it.
In the end, when I was reasonably confident that the agitator should
come out vertically, I had to figure out how to apply sufficient force
to overcome the corrosion and friction of 12 years of use.
As no amount of manual pulling, shaking or banging would make the
agitator budge, and remembering that professional repairmen had broken
specialized tools attempting this, I had to come up with something that
would apply sufficient force without breaking the agitator or anything
The agitator has a rounded opening at the bottom of every vane. I
passed a #10 wire (the largest that would fit) through all 4 and tied
both ends together, then I tied 2 pieces of rope to opposing sides of
the wire and passed the ropes over the 4x4. Then, with a stick, I
twisted the ropes. This first attempt grossly deformed the
agitator (not permanently) until the ropes broke.
In attempt #2, I placed a scissor-type car jack on the 4x4 and passed 2
much stronger, braided lines from the wire, above the jack and back
down to the opposite side of the wire. Then I started raising the
jack. The braided line got more and more taut until I was afraid
that something was going to break catastrophically, then a small tap to
the side of the agitator made it pop up!
Trying to remove the motor assembly from below was impossible. It
moved about 4" and then something stopped it. It became obvious
that I also had to remove the basket. There was only one hex-head
bolt (quite small) under the agitator, so obviously I removed it.
It was screwed into a small metal piece whose purpose was obviously to
immobilize the basket against the shaft. It didn't move at
all. After liberal application of penetrating oil for a couple of
days, that piece got loose, but the basket wouldn't budge. On the
metal piece at the bottom of the basket, there is a slot like an
old-style key-hole. It was apparent that the purpose was to slide
in a bolt head through the round part and then slide the bolt to the
slot part. After grinding down the head of a bolt so it would fit
and adding enough hardware at the other end to tie the braided line to
it, I used the same 4x4 and the car jack to put pressure on the
basket. Same story. The line was taut as a wire and no
amount of tapping would make it budge. Then, it occurred to me to
"play drums" with my fists on alternate sides of the basket, and it
I then could remove the motor assembly from below and could see the
seal. No amount of tapping, banging or cutting it would get it
out, so I had to completely disassemble everything. The tub had
to come out. Then the seal could be pried out, revealing a very
rusted bearing. Aarrgghh! More disassembly. The
suspension rods had to be separated from the washer shell and the tub
support frame. Once the X-shape frame was out it was apparent
that the bearing would have to be pressed out. Back to the Sears
web page and diagrams. No part number for the bearing. They
wanted me to buy the whole aluminum frame for more than $100. No
So I had to find a way to press the bearing out. A friend with a
wood shop turned a piece of wood of the right diameter and a large
clamp eventually popped it out. Now it was time to find a
replacement. Luckily a place called trans-bearing co. had it:
FAG-62 / 6006 2RS. A metric sealed bearing made in Germany.
Everything in this washer seems to be metric.
After cleaning out the rust and oiling, installation of the new bearing
went smoothly with the round piece of wood and a hammer. Then the
seal went in. The tub frame was re-installed in the suspension
rods, the motor assembly was re-attached to the frame, the tub was
re-installed, then the basket and the agitator.
A couple of empty test runs revealed no leaks and consistent
cycles. The machine runs like new. Much quieter than with
the old rusted bearing.
Comments on manufacturing,
commerce, greed and the culture of waste
This washer is actually quite well designed. If I had had the
information and procedures to disassemble it, it would have been very
quick. Once the new bearing was in place, it took about an hour
to put everything back together. The switch replacement had been
The circuit board was encased in epoxy. The switches were all
sealed. All plugs were rubber-encased. The main connector
from the panel to the back of the machine was protected by a splash
guard as were other electrical parts.
The transmission has a double shaft: inner for the agitator and outer
for the basket. The seal that failed (after 11 years or so) only
moves relative to the outside shaft when spinning, when there is no
water pressure. There is a balance ring at the top of the basket
with some water in it. Having never looked at how washers were
designed, I thought this was a neat idea. Now I know where all
that sloshing comes from when I move it.
It is true that top-loading washers with agitators are not very kind to
clothes and they use a lot more water than front loaders. The
future is horizontal-axis washers. While I wasn't sure if I could
fix this one, I was also researching the possibility of a new
washer. The only washer I would buy now is the staber (http://www.staber.com). Not
only is it extremely energy and water efficient, it is designed to be
user-serviceable. And the very strange (and patented) design
apparently washes clothes extremely well.
Besides bad/cheap designs, which this washer is obviously not, it is
unfortunate that the lack of information has made this repair exercise
much more difficult than it should have been. So why was the
information so hard to come by? As I found eventually, a manual
actually exists. So, why not make it public? could it be to
protect the profits of the "authorized" repair people?
From the comments I got from the Sears parts people, it appears that
quite a lot of people buy parts that they eventually can't install
themselves. They pointed out repeatedly that in case I decided
not to install the products, they could be returned for a full refund
(minus the shipping). I suppose that pressing a bearing is beyond
the capability of 99.9% of the parts-buying public. Maybe that's
why Sears wants you to buy the whole frame. They were also
pushing the replacement of all the hoses, which turned out to be in
And then, it's even easier to discard and buy a new one. While
this might make sense with a standard washer that these days (I read)
is designed to fail in 3 years or so (according to appliance
repairmen), I'm glad I went through this exercise. For about $110
in parts (and free labor) I now have a well built washer that can
probably go on for another 10 years. Compare that to the $650 for
today's replacement, especially if the lack of current quality is true.
I hope this helps someone. Comments can be sent to: eclectic @
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