What Happens When a Belt Breaks on a Washing Machine?

You open the washer lid or door after running your washer only to discover the items in the wash load don’t appear to have moved and are soaking wet; or worse, the items are still sitting in several inches of water. Why is this happening? If your washing machine model utilizes a drive belt, it’s very likely the belt has worn out or has broken.

What does a washing machine belt do?

Not all washing machine drive systems are the same. Some top-load models are considered “direct drive”, meaning the motor will use a drive coupler to agitate or spin the tub and operate the drain pump, or the washer will use a stator and rotor to accomplish this. The use of a stator and rotor is the most common drive system for front-load washer models. Still, there are many top-load and front-load models that rely on a drive belt to rotate the tub and operate the drain pump.

The belt is looped around a motor drive pulley and a tub pulley or an agitator drive shaft. To begin the agitation cycle, the control will send voltage to the drive motor which drives the belt which, in turn, rotates the tub or oscillates the agitator. For some front-load washers, a motor control board will regulate the amount and polarity of the voltage sent to the motor in order to affect the speed and direction of the tub. Once the agitation cycle is complete, the water will need to be drained from the tub. To accomplish this, 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. Depending on the model, the drain pump may also be driven by a belt attached to a motor drive pulley. 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. During the drain cycle, or immediately after, a brake releases and the motor and belt will spin the washer tub. The faster the tub spins, the more effectively the water is removed from the clothes or linens.

So, as you can see, belt-driven washers depend on the belt throughout the wash, rinse, drain, and spin cycles. Over time, the drive belt can wear out, break, or slip on the pulleys, resulting in a washer tub that won’t agitate or spin, and, potentially, a drain pump that will be unable to pump water out of the tub.

How to replace a washing machine belt

Fortunately, replacing a washing machine belt is not that complicated once you know how to access the area where the belt is located. While the disassembly procedure will differ depending on the washer model, here are some general steps you can follow if you need to replace a belt on a top-load washer or a front-load washer:

Top-load washer belt replacement

  • Before you begin any disassembly, unplug the washer’s power cord.
  • You may also need to shut off the water supply to the appliance and remove the water inlet hoses if you need to move the washer.
  • Some models will require you to lift up the washer’s main top. You should secure the lid with tape before doing this. You can insert a putty knife into the gap between the main top and the front panel to release the spring clips securing the top. Lift up the main top and support it.
  • Next, you will need to remove the front panel. On some models, the panel is held in place with spring clips, but you will often need to unthread mounting screws securing the panel. Fully detach the panel.
  • If your model has two front panels, you should be able to just remove the lower panel since the drive belt is located at the bottom of the tub.
  • For some models, you can access the drive belt by tipping the washer forward (resting the front of the appliance on a towel or blanket – this is why you would have detached the water supply hoses earlier) and removing a belt cover.
  • Reaching under the tub, depress the idler pulley, if applicable, to release the tension on the old belt, if still intact, and remove the old belt from the pulleys. Or rotate the drive pulley as you pull off the belt.
  • When installing a new washer belt, keep the grooved-side facing inward as you loop the belt on the motor shaft or pulley and then onto the drive pulley. Rotate the drive pulley to fully align the belt.
  • If applicable to your model, replace the belt cover and return the washer to its upright position.
  • Otherwise, replace the front panel or the lower front panel and secure with the spring clips or screws.
  • If required, lower the main top, and snap it into position.
  • Reattach the water supply hoses, if applicable.
  • Plug the washer’s power cord back in.

Front-load washer belt replacement

  • As with the top-load washer, unplug the front-load washer’s power cord before any disassembly.
  • Since virtually all front-load washer belts are located behind a rear access panel, have an assistant help you to move the appliance away from the way.
  • You may need to shut off the water supply and detach the inlet hoses before you can remove the rear panel.
  • Unthread the mounting screws securing the rear access panel and remove the panel.
  • Rotate the tub drive pulley while pulling the old belt up and out. You may want to notate the exact position of the belt on the motor shaft pulley, if still intact, before removing.
  • Keeping the grooved-side facing inward, align the belt on the motor shaft pulley then loop it onto the tub drive pulley. Rotate the tub drive pulley to fully align the belt.
  • Reposition the rear access panel and secure it with the mounting screws.
  • Reattach the water inlet hoses, if applicable, and turn the water supply back on.
  • Move the appliance back against the wall.
  • Plug the washer’s power cord back in.
Electrolux Front-Load Washer Tub Belt Replacement

Where can I buy a belt for my washing machine?

Since Repair Clinic.com stocks original manufacturer parts that match the most popular top-load and front-load washer models, including those built by Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, Hotpoint, Maytag, GE, Kenmore, Amana, Bosch, and Frigidaire, the website is an excellent resource for acquiring a replacement washer belt. Importantly, you will need to identify the exact belt that fits your particular washing machine. To do this, enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic website search bar. You can then select “Belt” from the “Part Category” filter and the specific kind of belt you need using the “Part Title” filter (if more than one is available). By using the full model number for your search, you’ll be able to locate the right belt for your washer, along with every other matching part including pumps, agitators, lid switches, water inlet valves, drive motors, and much more.

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