So, you hear this horrid knocking noise, and you think to yourself, "Who is trying to knock down the house with a sledgehammer?" Your first thought is to check on the seven year old, who has a tendency to find the ODDEST ways to create mischief. HE, however is happily gathering up all the laundry in the house, dirty OR clean. You ask him what he is doing, and he says, "I'm washing the laundry!" with that look that says, "Are you STUPID? What does it LOOK like I am doing." That's when it hits you, that noise you are hearing is the WASHING machine, and it sounds like it is tearing itself apart. You rush out to the garage and find that the machine has walked itself away from the wall with the violence of the spin cycle. It sits there jitterbugging as you watch it. You reach out in panic to shut it off. You open the lid to find that the machine is FULL. Even after the wash and spin cycle, the machine looks like you could not shove one more item in, and you wonder to yourself, "How on Earth did the boy shove all this stuff in?" You try to balance the load but when you put the lid back down and restart the machine, the sledgehammer starts up again. So you open the machine and drag out not one, but TWO quilted bed spreads. That leaves a REGULAR load of clothes in the machine. You try again. This time, there is no knocking. Instead, there is a grinding noise coming out of the washer. Then there is one coming out of your mouth as you grind your teeth in frustration.
Out comes the regular size load of clothing. You reach down under the agitator to see if a quarter has wedged itself between the agitator and the drum. You can't see anything, but the water has gotten murky from all the trash that managed to get trapped under there, so you turn the machine back on in the hopes that it was the popcorn kernel that you pulled from the drum after checking the agitator. You turn the machine back on, and sure as the sun shines during the day in the desert, you have the grinding again. You go to your truck after turning the machine on to Rinse and Spin. You grab the tool set that you keep under the seat and get back to the garage in time to hear the tortured screams of the washer halt as it sucks all the water out. You open the lid and the brake kicks in to stop the spinning. You grab an old speaker that is sitting on a shelf (everyone has one of THOSE, right?). You take the speaker and place it on top of the hall effect switch to simulate a closed lid (the new washers use a magnetic switch instead of contact points to turn the safety on), and you WATCH. While the machine is EMPTY, it makes no noise. As it fills with water, it starts spinning. Eventually, the machine starts growling. It starts first with the agitation cycle. You watch as the drum bounces from side to side and rotates slightly. If you push down gently on the agitator while it is in motion, the sound worsens. Pull up on the drum with both hands, and the sound stops. Time to get out the sockets. You switch the machine over to Rinse and Spin and as soon as the water is out, you pull the magnet.
Now, I know that most folks are aware of safety, but just to be sure, I have to say UNPLUG the washer before you work on it. Even if you are not working on the electrical parts, you could accidently turn the machine ON (or the seven year old could decide it was time to do MORE laundry) and get yourself caught on something or otherwise seriously hurt. Having unplugged the machine, you try to get at the bolt for the agitator but you cannot for your life figure out how. Your first thought is to grab a regular screw driver. DON'T! All you have to do is open the top of the agitator where you put in the liquid detergent (or in my case NOT open the top because the top is GONE), grab onto the two little knobs sticking out from the inside, and TWIST counter clockwise about an eigth of a turn. Then pull up. Inside the shaft of the agitator you will see the head of the bolt. If I recall correctly, a 7/16ths socket fits nicely on the head. Unbolt using standard rules ("righty tighty, lefty loosey," or clockwise to tighten, counter clockwise to loosen for those who can never figure that out). Pull the agitator out and you will see a gear-like nylon spline. Pull that off and there will be a nice shiny washer under it. Pull that too. NOW you test to see if it was indeed the agitator. Plug it back in and try the wash cycle again. Unfortunately, you discover that your problem was NOT the agitator. Now YOU are agitated. Rinse and Spin. Unplug the washer. Grab your putty knife (everyone has one of those, right?). You decide to see what is going on UNDER the machine. Under the top panel there are two metal clips that hold the front panel of the washer in place. These clips are about 4 inches in from each side. Pick a side, put the putty knife against the clip and give it a sharp rap with the palm of your hand. The front panel should come loose on that side. Go to the other side and do the same thing. Then gently pull the front panel away and up and you have exposed the workings inside the machine.
Plug the machine back in again. Turn it on to wash. Watch the pulley at the bottom of the machine. Does it look like it is hanging too low? Sure does! Pick up on the drum (being careful to keep away from moving parts) and the grinding noise goes away. Rinse and Spin. Unplug. Try to figure out how to RAISE the tub. There are TWO long metal rods at the front of the machine. They go from the TOP of the washer to the bottom of the barrel. At the bottom they have what looks like shock absorbers. Actually, that is what they are. As you sit on your 5 gallon plastic pail (everyone has one of those, right?) you hook your booted toe under the barrel and lift it up until the shocks are VERY loose. There is a little plastic cup that stays attached to the metal tabs on the barrel. You take the putty knife and pry that cup out of the tab. There is a slot so that the cup can be removed from the rod. Remove the cup and the shock slides right through the tab on the tub. Check the action of those shocks by putting your finger into the bottom of the shock barrel. If they both come down to the bottom of the barrel when you play with them, then they are likely good. What else can make the wash tub drop? You take the TOP of the machine off (after checking to make sure that it is unplugged). There are three little screws at the back of the machine that need to be removed, and two in the front. The three are at the very top where the plastic from the control section meets the metal from the back. One in the center, and one to either side. The front has two screws on either side on what looks like metal clips. After all the screws are removed, you will have to unclip the wiring for the hall effect switch from the frame of the machine. The harness is attached with a little plastic spear. Just pinch the tabs on the spear together with your fingers (or a pair of needle nose pliers--everyone has those, right?)and push it through the hole in the metal. You will want to keep that spear intact so you can re-attach the harness upon assembly.
The top cover is off. You look at the front of the machine and notice something odd. The sides are a little pulled in at the front, and the front support where those long rods come through SAGS. THAT ain't right. It is supposed to be STRAIGHT! Stupid GE peice of CRAP. They did not make the braket strong enough to support the weigh of the barrel under severe overload. NOW you need a new bracket. Apron bracket Part for GE, Model # WHRE5550K0WW (Models whre5550kww, whre5550k0ww, whre5550k1ww, whre5550k2ww, whre5550k3ww are all essentially the same with the same part number for the bracket) Part Number: WH16X10117 at Sears. Price: $25.99 plus tax and shipping. A temporary fix is to place some sort of washer UNDER the shocks at the bottom, but you WILL want to get that top bracket fixed. If you have access to a wire feed welder, you could straigthen it out yourself and weld some metal to stiffen the unit (which may or may not work). It is best to start out with a NEW unbent bracket and stiffen THAT. In order to create spacers to put under the shocks (for a temporary fix) you will need to either grind some flat steel washers (about a dozen will do) or get some kind of Nylon or rubber spacers and CUT them with a wire cutter. Do not cut them in half, just cut on one edge so it looks like a lock washer (make a cut that looks like the radius of a circle). The spacers that I used were hard rubber from some old VW running boards (everyone has THOSE laying around, right?). I used six total, but they were kind of thick. Nylon and metal washers should be thinner. You want enough to make up about half an inch. Once you have the washers prepped, you take the rods that I mentioned earlier and you slide the shock up on the shaft. You place the spacers on the shaft BETWEEN the metal cap washer and the body of the shock. Install the rods back on to the drum by sliding them through the hole, putting the cup back into place, and sliding the shock back into the cup. If you are using metal washers with a groove cut into them (so that they slide into the shaft) you may want to install the washers so that the grooves all point in different directions and then TAPE the washers together with something like electrical tape or duct tape (keeping in mind that this is a TEMPORARY fix). Re-install the top cover by first sliding the spear from the wiring harness into place, then placing the top cover back in place (by putting the tabs into the slots and sliding the top back) and then screwing all five screws back into place. Two in front, and three in back. Put the front cover on by sliding it into place and then giving it a sharp rap with your palm right in front of the clips. Re-install the agitator. It is re-installed in reverse order from removal with the shiny metal washer installed first (shiny side down), the nylon spline second, and then the agitator then is placed on the spline and bolted in. Put the dispenser in last by placing the groves over the pins, pushing down and twisting clockwise (righty tighty).
Plug the machine back in and try it out. It SHOULD work, but then, no guarantees. You may have other problems not covered in this post.
Watch my videos to see how the top bar is replaced, and to see how to remove the agitator. There are 3 parts to the video, and I go into detail on how to repair the machine.
Handyman Hugh's Washer Repair Video for GE Washer part 1
Handyman Hugh's Washer Repair Video for GE Washer part 2
Handyman Hugh's Washer Repair Video for GE Washer part 3
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