How To Fix A Washer That Won't Agitate - Washing Machine Repair
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How To Repair A Washing Machine That Won't Agitate

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  • Rated as EASY
  • 5945 repair stories
  • 11 step by step video


The agitator, propelled by the transmission output shaft, is what moves the clothes in the mix of water and detergent to get them clean. The transmission output shaft is splined, which means that grooves in the shaft mate to grooves in the agitator so they fit tightly together. On some models, the agitator’s in one piece and in some models there are two pieces to it so that it has dual action. This is important because you can tell if the spline is damaged when the bottom part of a dual-action agitator or the whole of a single-action agitator fails to move while the machine is on a wash cycle. The spline is worn down if the agitator can be turned with your hands around the shaft: remember it is designed to be locked into place. You’ll need to disconnect the agitator off the shaft. Your machine may hold the agitator in position via a threaded bolt on the top of the shaft of the transmission, under the dispenser for the fabric softener or under the top cover. Or there may be a little screw connecting the agitator’s barrel to the transmission shaft, right above the base. Or you could see an O-ring made of rubber sealing the shaft and the agitator together.

Agitator Directional Cogs

When the washing machine is making a crunching or grinding noise, and the agitator’s upper part isn’t moving smoothly, or is actually frozen in place, it is a good idea to examine the agitator cogs (also known as dogs). These are hard plastic cogs, resembling cams. They click into a corresponding set of cogs to rotate the top of the agitator one way, and then release while the bottom half of the agitator turns in the opposite direction. This action causes the corkscrew shape of the top portion of the agitator to push the clothes down into the bottom of the tub which provides increased turnover of the clothes and better cleaning. The engagement and disengagement action of the cogs wears them smooth eventually, and then the upper half of your agitator won’t move any more. Unplug the washer and take the cover off the fabric softener dispenser. There will be a bolt there holding the top half of the agitator on. Undo the bolt, take off the agitator’s top portion, and look to see if the agitator cogs have worn smooth and need replacement. Check the bearing support, also made of plastic.

Agitator Coupler & Bolt

Depending on your model, the transmission shaft may be coupled to the agitator via a drive coupler, which is a circular or triangular part that’s grooved to fit between the agitator on one side and the transmission shaft on the other side. A symptom of a damaged coupler is a grinding sound during the wash cycle, and the agitator spins freely. Unplug the washer and use some strength to pull the agitator straight up because it’s generally tightly attached. Take off the bolt that holds the coupler onto the shaft of the transmission and pull that coupler off. While you are there, clean any dirt, rust, or residue off the transmission spline grooves, and make sure the grooves on the agitator splines are clean and undamaged too. The replacement coupling will come with a new gasket and bolt, which you ought to use.

Direct Drive Motor Coupling

If you have a top-load washer that won’t agitate and you’ve been hearing a vibration, there may be 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 and vibrate. 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.

Drive 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. 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 a 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


On a washing machine, the motor creates a rotating motion and the transmission is what transforms that circular motion into the push-and-pull of the agitator. The input shaft of the transmission receives power from the motor via a belt, or sometimes directly. The output shaft is what powers the agitator. Does the input shaft on your machine turn? If it does but the agitator isn’t moving, then the thing between the two of them – the transmission – is the problem. Rebuilding a transmission isn’t always practical here. It is often more practical to replace the complete unit if it is broken. Since the tub seal can be found where the transmission shaft enters the tub, you will probably need to get a new tub seal when you buy a new transmission.

Drive Motor

The drive motor is what powers the transmission that moves the agitator. A motor that hums or buzzes instead of agitating is one that’s defective in some way. Remove the belt or drive coupling and if the motor still just hums or buzzes, then it needs to be replaced. If the motor doesn’t make any sound at all, then it may not be getting any power to it. This is a job that involves testing for live voltage and is best left for an experienced technician.


The timer is one of the controls for starting the drive motor. Specifically, the timer sends the correct voltage to the motor for the agitation rotation. So if there isn’t any power at the drive motor for the wash cycle, it could be because of a damaged or broken timer. Unplug the washer, use your model’s wiring schematic to find the timer terminals that power the motor, and use your multi-meter to check the timer continuity at those terminals.

Lid Switch

When a washer’s top lid is open, the motor circuit will not operate. This safety feature is crucial to preventing serious injuries, and you ought not to bypass it. If your lid switch is broken, the machine won’t operate, and repair is in order. Start by finding the actuator for the lid switch: it will project from the lid and, when you close the lid, fit into a corresponding slot on the top of the body of the washer. Behind or below this opening will be the lid switch. Some models of washers may use a magnetic lid switch that does not use a mechanical actuator to trip it. These washers will have a magnet in the lid that will operate the switch when the lid is closed. Unplug the washer and see if the switch mechanism trips by a lever or actuator when the lid shuts. Remove the wires from the switch and use your multi-meter to check for electrical continuity. If the switch is not supplying power to the motor circuits then you will want to replace it. If the switch has continuity after all, then you’ll need to check the selector switch, the timer, and the rest of the motor circuitry to pinpoint the problem.

Selector Switch

Some washing machines control the speed of the drive motor via a selector switch. If yours does, and you suspect this switch is what’s preventing agitation, unplug the machine and check for continuity with your multi-meter. You can isolate the correct terminals to check by consulting your model’s wiring schematic.

Water Level Switch

The drive motor, which provides the power for agitation, receives the signal to start through contacts in water level switch. That signal comes when the tub has filled enough to trip the water level switch. So if your washer is filling with water but not agitating, it would be logical to make sure the water level switch is operating. You can unplug the washer and check the terminals of the water level switch for continuity, using a wiring schematic for your washer model and your multi-meter. Checking the power for the drive motor and the lid switch and timer requires a service technician, since live voltage is involved.

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