How To Repair A Washer That Smells Like Burning
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How To Fix A Washing Machine Burning Smell

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  • Rated as EASY
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Drive Belt or Spin Belt

If you have a top-load washer, a drive belt may be connecting the transmission to the drive motor. A failure in the drive belt could keep the machine from agitating its load, and sometimes this problem will show itself with a burnt odor or an unusual noise. Your drive belt could be a rubber V-belt covered in fabric so that it can slip a bit. Or it could be a rubber belt aided by a tensioning device like an idler pulley, so that the motor doesn’t cause too much friction to the belt. For front-loaders, the drive belt goes between the drive motor and the wash basket. This type of washer usually features a belt with multiple ribs that’s more tightly stretched than the top-loading washing machine drive belt. Unplug your washer and find your model’s drive belt at the bottom of the machine, behind the cabinet or front panel. Here’s a checklist: -Make sure the pulley for the transmission drive rotates smoothly and easily -Clean any grease or oil off pulleys for the drive and motor -Make sure the belt tensioner or idler assembly moves easily and smoothly -Replace the belt if it is worn or damaged, using the precise same kind that your machine had previously -Follow the manufacturer instructions when adjusting and tightening the belt

Pump Belt

Symptoms that the pump belt is failing on a top-load belt-driven washer include an odor of burning rubber, a noisy drain or spin cycle, or water left standing at the end of the drain cycle. Check your owner’s manual to find the pump belt, generally a typical V-shaped belt driving the drain pump’s pulley. Unplug the machine and inspect the pump belt and pulley. Has the pump belt gotten frayed, abraded, overheated or cracked with age and use? Is the pump pulley turning unimpeded? Has oil or water been leaking into this area of the washer? If you need to replace either the pump belt or pulley, make sure you get the precise replacements and ensure that you adjust the belt to the degree of tension required by the manufacturer, since it may not be meant to be snug.

Motor Pulley

Has your washer has been thumping or squealing as well as making a burning smell when it is spinning, draining or agitating? If your model is belt-driven, there could be a problem with the belt apparatus. Sometimes the motor pulley that drives the pump belt or the drive belt can get gummed up with dirt, grease, or rubber compound. Or the pulley can rust or get worn out. Then there’s too much friction when the belt goes around it, which results in a burning smell. Unplug the washer and check the motor pulley, the transmission pulleys and the pump pulleys, too, for this problem. Replace any or all of these pulleys and belts if they are rough, rusted, dirty, worn, distorted, or damaged.

Drain Pump

Water is taken out of your washing machine when the wash and rinse cycles are over by a drain pump. This pump may be damaged or clogged if it smells burnt. There are three styles of washer pumps. If your washer model has a drain pump with a dedicated motor, the burning smell during or just after the spin cycle would be telling you that the motor or the pump itself may have seized. Unplug the machine, find the drain pump, and try turning the motor or the impeller by hand to see if it’s frozen in place and requires replacement. If you have a washer that is belt driven, unplug the washer and inspect the belts to see if the burning smell comes from a slipped, damaged, or dirty belt on the pump pulley. And finally if your washer uses an electric drain pump and you smell an electrical motor odor, unplug the washer and check the inlet, the impeller and the continuity of the electric pump.

Idler Pulley Wheel & Idler Pulley Arm

If you have a burnt pump belt or drive belt that needed replacement, it could have been because of an idler arm that’s lost its pivot action or because of a seized idler pulley. The idler arm and the idler pulley are features found on some models of top-loading washers. They provide tension on the pump belt or the drive belt, so if they are malfunctioning, then the belts are no longer pulled tight enough. When the belts slip, they gain friction and overheat. The final step in replacing damaged or burnt belts in your washer should be a check to make sure the idler pulley arm and pulley are providing correct tension on the new belt. Make sure the washer is unplugged before you reach in to make this check.

Direct Drive Motor Coupling

Top-loading washers that don’t have a belt drive, and are making a burning odor, may have a problem with the direct drive motor coupling between the transmission and the motor. This coupling is two drive forks made of plastic, one attached to the shaft of the drive motor, and one attached to the input shaft of the transmission. Then there is a rubber coupling between them that protects the forks by absorbing the torque. But over time, the coupling can wear out and allow those plastic forks to slide, creating a burning smell as they get abraded. The coupling can also get broken when the spin basket is impeded or the transmission seizes. You can enter your model number in the search engine here to find the exact location of this coupling, unplug the washer, and access the direct drive motor coupler behind the cabinet of your washing machine by removing the pump and the motor.

Clutch Assembly

In top-loading washers, some models have a clutch assembly to attach the wash basket to the input shaft of the transmission. A worn-out clutch may be causing your washer to make a scraping sound and a burning smell while the clothes basket is spinning. The clutch assembly is designed to latch the clothes basket to the transmission input shaft so that the clothes basket spins. The pads rub against the housing and, eventually, that wears them out. You will know the clutch is broken if it is making a scraping sound or a loud noise during the spin cycle, smelling burnt, or leaving brake dust—which looks like shavings—under the machine. You can unplug the washer, take off the cabinet, take out the drive motor then the transmission assembly, and usually find the clutch assembly under the outer tub, connected to the basket drive assembly. Wear safety glasses and have caution when removing the clutch, since it’s held under tension with springs. Replace a clutch assembly that appears worn or broken.

Glide & Spring

When the drive belt or pump belt of a clothes washer get overheated and makes a burning smell, sometimes it’s because of a worn out glide. Check if your washer has a spring and glide arrangement to provide tension to the belts of the drive motor. In general, this feature includes a pivot for the motor, mounted to the frame of the base, and a spring that brings tension to the belt. Under the motor will be a lubricated glide made of nylon or plastic, which lets the motor slide along the base frame of the washer. When the motor starts, the gliding action permits the pump belt or the drive belt to slip slightly, working the way a clutch would. When the glide isn’t working, the belts make too much friction and start to create a burnt smell. So if you have determined that your belts are the source of your washer’s burnt smell, and your model features this glide and spring, unplug the washer and remove the front panel to access the glide and spring for inspection. You’ll generally find this component of the washer on top of the base frame and under the motor. Check to ensure the motor can pivot. Make sure the glides and springs are clean and lubricated. Replace any glides that look worn or cracked and any springs that are stretched out. Replace any belt that’s gotten damaged or overheated.

Drive Motor

The drive motor is what spins and agitates the clothes basket. A motor that’s fighting a defect in one of its components can overheat and create a burning smell. When this occurs there can also be a hum or buzz when the motor starts up. If the motor has a severe problem it can seize or fail. If your washer’s motor is making a burning smell, unplug the washer and go through this checklist of parts to inspect. Make sure the transmission, the spin basket and the pump are not restricted or impeded, since that would strain the drive motor. If your washer model has a drive capacitor, check to be sure a defect there is not causing the overheating of the drive motor. Lastly, with your washer still unplugged, reach in with your hand and make sure the drive motor can turn freely on its own.

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