Agitation is the principal advantage of using a washing machine instead of a tub of hot water to clean your laundry. As convenient as having the washer automatically fill with water and, eventually, drain that water, the agitation cycle is where the appliance really earns its keep by shifting the laundry back-and-forth and up-and-down within the tub to ensure the dirt and stains are effectively removed from the clothes and linens. If your top-load washer is not agitating as it’s supposed to, you’re left with not much more than a big tub of hot water. There are six probable causes for why your washer isn’t agitating as expected. Repair Clinic takes you through that troubleshooting process right after a brief overview of agitator operation…
The basics of top-load washer agitator operation
If your top-load washing machine is a standard model, the laundry will be agitated by a traditional agitator assembly, the one or two-piece tower which rises up from the base of the inner tub and will often have a fabric softener dispenser attached on top of it. If your top-loader is a high-efficiency model, the agitation is created by an impeller which is commonly referred to as a “wash plate”.
The agitation cycle begins when the top-load washer’s control board or timer sends voltage to the drive motor after the washer’s inner tub has filled with water. On some top-load models, the motor may directly drive a transmission. For other models, a belt will be used to operate the agitator drive shaft, or a stator and rotor will interact to create a strong magnetic field to agitate the tub. On washers using a transmission, the inner tub may move a little during the agitation cycle, but most models will use a brake that holds the inner tub in place to prevent it from rotating (that will come later during the spin cycle). The drive shaft will oscillate the agitator assembly on standard top-load models and the wash plate on high-efficiency models to both circulate the water and move the clothing, towels, or linens around the tub.
Two-part agitators use directional cogs to rotate
Some standard top-load washer models utilize a two-part agitator. Directional cogs (commonly-referred to as “dog ears”) cause the upper portion of the agitator to rotate in one direction only, forcing the laundry to the bottom of the tub. The lower part of the agitator will then force the laundry back up.
While some washing machine models require the washer lid to be closed for the agitation cycle to proceed, other models will continue to agitate even when the lid is fully open. This design allows for additional items or detergent to be added after the cycle begins without interrupting operation.
Agitator not agitating? 6 likely reasons why
Now that you know a little more about how a top-load washer’s agitation cycle works, here are the six likely causes of the agitation cycle failing:
1) Worn agitator components – The cog and cam components inside a traditional top-load washer agitator assembly will definitely wear out over time and prevent the agitator from working. The good news is that you can replace these components using the appropriate agitator repair kit for your washer model. For two-part agitators, the upper or lower portions of the agitator itself can potentially strip. You can often replace the defective section to solve the problem or replace both sections as part of an assembly. This article provides more information on how to uninstall an agitator, replace the cogs, and reinstall the assembly.
2) Damaged transmission drive block – If your top-load washer has a transmission, the drive block which connects the transmission to the agitator may be worn out. You can inspect the drive block for signs of wear or damage to determine if it needs to be replaced with a new one.
3) Worn motor coupler – For some top-loader models, a motor coupler connects the drive motor to the washer transmission. The coupler can wear out over time or fail if the tub is overloaded, preventing proper agitation. The coupler is fairly inexpensive and relatively easy to replace.
4) Broken or worn drive belt – If your washer uses a belt to agitate the tub, the belt may have broken or be so worn or stretched that it’s slipping on the pulleys. Replacing the belt with a new one should fix the problem.
5) Damaged stator/rotor – As mentioned earlier, some top-load washer models have a stator and rotor that interact to create a strong magnetic field which causes the tub to agitate. If the stator windings or rotor magnets are damaged, the tub may not agitate or spin until one or both of the components are replaced.
6) Defective drive motor – The washer drive motor may be defective as well although this is a less common problem. If the drive motor hums but fails to run, runs noisily, or the motor shaft doesn’t turn freely, it’s likely the motor bearings have worn out and the old motor will need to be replaced with a new one.
Fix broken washer agitator components with help from Repair Clinic
As your repair partner, Repair Clinic provides you with the know-how to fix your washing machine yourself. Enter the full model number of your top-load washer in the website’s “Videos & Articles” search bar to discover thousands of troubleshooting and procedural videos, model-specific step-by-step guides, diagrams, and schematics, all designed to save you time and money on your washer repair. Need a washing machine repair kit to replace the agitator directional cogs? There’s a video to show you how. Need to replace a damaged stator on a Whirlpool top-load washer (Model WTW7120HW0)? Repair Clinic has a video for that procedure as well.
Repair Clinic stocks genuine OEM washer replacement parts
To fix your top-load washer’s agitation problem, you’re going to need to find the correct replacement part that matches your model. Again, Repair Clinic has the solution. Enter the full model number of the washer in the website’s “Shop Parts & Get Answers” search bar, then use the “Part Category” and “Part Title” navigation filters to narrow the resulting list of replacement parts down to the exact component you’ll need for the repair, from one-piece or two-piece agitators to individual directional cogs, drive blocks, drive belts, drive motors, stators, rotors, and more. Importantly, Repair Clinic stocks genuine OEM parts direct from all the major brands of washers, including Kenmore, Hotpoint, Frigidaire, Maytag, GE, Samsung, and Whirlpool, so you can be assured you’ll always receive the best quality parts available.