What Causes a Washing Machine To Not Spin or Drain?

Opening the washing machine lid or door after the end of the wash cycle and discovering your clothes are still submerged underwater can really dampen your spirits. Before you invest in a vintage hand-cranked laundry wringer to squeeze out that water, you should troubleshoot the likely causes of the washer failing to drain or spin (hint: the two can be related). The solution to the problem can be quite simple, and the appliance replacement part you need can be relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

The reasons a washer will fail to drain, or spin, will differ depending on whether you own a top-load model or a front-load model. Let’s examine how each washer type handles these two cycles…

How a top-load washer drains the tub

Once the agitation cycle is complete, the water will need to be drained from the tub. The washer control sends voltage to the drain pump which pumps the water out the drain hose to a free-standing laundry tub or standpipe. The pump may be driven by a belt attached to a motor drive pulley or the motor may direct drive the pump. On some top-load washer models, the motor will drive the pump by spinning in the opposite direction than it did during the agitation cycle.

Drive systems that assist in draining and spinning the tub can vary, even within top-load washer models. During the drain cycle, or immediately after, a brake releases and the motor spins the tub using a drive coupler, a belt, or a direct drive stator/rotor system. A variable speed control board will signal the motor to gradually increase the spinning speed. The faster the tub spins, the more effectively the water is removed from the clothing or linens.

How does a front-load washer spin and drain?

Front-load washing machines will also send voltage to a drain pump that drains the water from the tub and forces it through the drain hose to a laundry tub or standpipe. One thing that differentiates a front-load washer from a top-load washer is the presence of a “coin trap” attached to the drain pump. This feature is designed to catch coins, keys, or other debris that may have been inadvertently left in pants’ pockets (most of the time, it’s trapping lint from clothing). A trap with too much debris can prevent the drain pump from successfully draining the water from the tub, so you should clean out the trap periodically.

Many front-load washer models use a direct drive system, with a stator located on the rear of the appliance, to spin the tub. The stator, energized by the voltage sent by the control, becomes an electromagnet which interacts with a rotor on the tub. The rotor has permanent magnets built into it, so the two components create a magnetic field which rotates the tub in each direction. Other front-load models use a motor, belt, and pulley to rotate the tub. A motor control board will regulate the amount and polarity of the voltage sent to the motor in order to affect speed and direction.

During the spin cycle, the speed of the rotation is increased dramatically. At the beginning of the spin cycle, the tub is rotated more slowly to allow the laundry to be evenly distributed, but as the cycle advances, the voltage is increased which results in a high-speed spin. Generally, front-load washers will spin faster than top-load models, a key factor in reducing drying time.

Top reasons washers won’t spin or drain

So why doesn’t your washer spin or drain properly? Here are the top reasons:

Washer Won’t Spin

  1. Worn drive coupler or broken belt – A top-load washer drive coupler connects the motor to the washer transmission. The coupler can wear out over time or fail, especially if the tub is consistently overloaded. Similarly, a drive belt can wear out, break, or slip on the pulleys. In both cases, the tub won’t spin until the worn coupler or damaged belt is replaced.
  2. Defective lid switch or door lock – On most washers, the lid switch or door lock will prevent the tub from spinning if the lid or door are left open. However, if the switch or lock is defective, the tub may not spin even when the lid and door are closed. You can often use a multimeter to test lid switches and door locks for continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the part. If the component tests negative for continuity, it is considered defective and you will need to replace the switch or lock with a new one.
  3. Damaged stator or rotor assembly – If the stator windings or rotor magnets are damaged, the tub may not spin or agitate until one or both of the components are replaced.
  4. Worn clutch – On washer models that use a transmission, the clutch can wear out over time, resulting in the tub failing to spin.
  5. Failed drive motor – Although it’s not a common problem, the washer’s drive motor can fail as well. If the motor hums, but doesn’t run, runs noisily, or the motor shaft doesn’t turn freely, you should replace the motor with a new one.
  6. Defective motor control board – If the washer uses a drive motor, belt, and pulley to rotate the tub, a defective motor control board could prevent the tub from spinning. While the control board cannot be easily tested, you should inspect the board for signs of burning or a shorted-out component.

Washer Won’t Drain

  1. Malfunctioning drain pump – A small object or article of clothing may have created an obstruction in the drain pump, or a damaged impeller could cause the pump to fail mechanically. If the pump doesn’t appear to be damaged and is free of obstructions, it’s possible the pump has failed electrically. As with washer lid switches and door locks, you can use a multimeter to test the pump for electrical continuity to determine if the part is faulty.
  2. Obstructed drain hose – The drain hose may be twisted, pinched, or obstructed by a small object. If you are unable to straighten the hose or clear an obstruction, you should consider replacing the old hose with a new one.
  3. Defective lid switch or door lock – In the same way a defective lid switch or door lock can prevent the tub from spinning, these components can cause the washer not to drain by making the control board think the lid has been left open or door has not been properly locked. Test the part for electrical continuity using a multimeter. If the part tests negative for continuity, it will need to be replaced.

Keep your washer spinning and draining with parts from Repair Clinic

Whether you need to replace a damaged pump or hose for the washer to properly drain, or you need a new stator or belt to keep the tub spinning, Repair Clinic stocks original manufacturer parts that match the most popular top-load and front-load washer models, including those built by Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, Maytag, GE, Kenmore, Bosch, and Frigidaire. To find the right rotor, drive coupler, lid switch, clutch, or motor that fit your particular washer, enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic website search bar. You can then use the part category and part title filters to refine your search to identify the exact part you need.

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