Why Won’t My Washing Machine Start?

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You’ve kept the whites and darks separate. You’ve been careful not to overload the tub. You’ve precisely measured the detergent and bleach. You’ve evaluated the proper water level and temperature and determined the specific cycle to optimally wash your laundry. But when you press the start button, the washing machine stubbornly refuses to begin its fill cycle.

Why has your dedicated preparation been rewarded with failure? Don’t take it personally; even the most fastidious homeowner can be confronted with a malfunctioning washing machine, usually at the most inopportune time. Whether you own a top-load or front-load washer, the likely causes for the appliance not starting are practically the same. Before we get to those, let’s go over what’s supposed to happen when that start button is pressed or that selector knob is pulled outward.

How the washer is supposed to start

For top-load washers, once the control or timer is set to the selected wash cycle, the control will send voltage to the appliance’s water inlet valve which opens, allowing water to fill the tub. The same is true for front-load washers, but the control will also electronically lock the washer door prior to sending the voltage to open the inlet valve. The appliance has a water level switch attached to a tube connected to the side of the tub. As the tub fills with water, air pressure increases in the tube. When a sufficient amount of water has filled the tub (8 to 18 gallons in a typical top-load washer; 2 to 5 gallons in a typical front-load washer), the pressure in the tube causes the water level switch to shut off the voltage to the inlet valve, closing it and stopping the water flow.

Next, the control or timer can advance to the wash or agitation cycle. For top-load models, the control will send voltage to a drive motor. Depending on the model, the motor may directly drive a transmission or use a belt to operate an agitator or wash plate to shift the laundry back-and-forth. For front-load models, the control will send voltage to a stator on the rear of the appliance or a motor control board, depending on the model. The stator is energized by the voltage and 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 to shift the laundry. Front-load models with a motor control board will use a drive motor, belt, and pulley to rotate the tub.

Top 5 reasons why the washer won’t start

Now, if you press that start button or pull the selector knob outward and the washer does not begin the fill cycle, here are the five most likely reasons why:

  1. Incoming power problem – Both top-load and front-load washers require 120 volts of alternating current to operate. Is the appliance’s power cord plugged into the electrical outlet? Okay, that’s an easy check. Next, you should confirm the outlet itself is receiving power. It’s possible the circuit breaker controlling that outlet has tripped, so make sure all breakers are in the “on” position. You can also use a multimeter set to “alternating current” to test the outlet for power. The smaller slot on the outlet is considered “hot” while the larger slot is neutral. Be careful not to touch the metal portion of the multimeter probes when inserting them into the slots in the outlet. A proper reading for the outlet should be close to 120 volts.
  2. Damaged power cord – If the outlet is providing sufficient voltage, it’s possible the washer’s power cord is damaged. The multimeter can be used to test the cord for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the cord. If the power cord tests “negative” for electrical continuity, the part is defective and will need to be replaced. Fortunately, washer power cords are relatively easy to install, so the average do-it-yourselfer should be able to complete this repair in under an hour.
  3. Defective lid switch or door lock – Depending on the model, a top-load washer’s lid switch may prevent the washer from starting if the lid is left open. Of course, all front-load models will require the door to be closed and locked before the washer will start (otherwise, your laundry room will be filling with water during the fill cycle). However, if the lid switch or door lock is defective, the washer may not start even when the lid and door are fully closed. Again, a multimeter can often be used to test lid switches and door locks for electrical continuity to help determine if the part is faulty. If the switch or lock tests “negative” for continuity, you will need to replace the component with a new one.
  4. Malfunctioning user control board – It’s also possible that the washer’s user control board is malfunctioning. If some of the display buttons work, but others don’t, you should replace the board.
  5. Faulty timer – On some models, a faulty timer may be responsible for the washer not starting, although this isn’t a common problem. You should confirm incoming power is present, the power cord is undamaged, and the switches, door lock, and user control board are all functioning properly before considering a timer replacement.

Repair Clinic can help you get your washer started

So, you’ve confirmed the washer’s lid switch or door lock is defective and causing your washer not to start. Where can you find the correct replacement part? 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, Maytag, GE, Kenmore, Bosch, and Frigidaire. To find the specific lid switch or door lock that work with 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” filter (“Switch”, “Latch”) and the “Part Title” filter (“Lid Switch Assembly”, “Door Lock”) to identify the exact part that matches your model.

In addition to millions of replacement parts, Repair Clinic also has thousands of “how-to” videos, diagrams, and articles to guide you, step-by-step, through the part replacement procedure, making it easy for you to fix your own appliances, outdoor power equipment, and heating and cooling products.

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