How To Repair A Washer That Won't Start
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How To Repair A Washing Machine That Won't Start

About this repair:

  • Rated as EASY
  • 2013 repair stories
  • 6 step by step videos

Lid Switch & Actuator

When a top-loading washer’s lid is open, the motor circuit will not operate, and the water inlet valve may also not receive power. 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.

Door Switch & Strike

On most front-loading washing machines, the door needs to shut fully and the door lock needs to engage before the washer will operate. Open the door and examine the door switch, which is either in the door frame or is part of the lock of the door. Make sure the strike joins fully in the assembly for the lock and that the door’s secure when locked. Unplug the washer, take off the front panel, and use your multi-meter to find out whether the switch has electrical continuity.

Start Switch & Timer

Perhaps your top-load washer is not starting because of a broken start switch. This is the switch you engage when you pull out the knob, and it’s often part of the timer. Use your model’s wiring diagram to find which contacts of the timer constitute the start switch. If the switch is bad, you will have to replace the whole timer. If yours is an electronic washer, the control console might house the switch, and it could be a momentary-contact push button type. Unplug the washer, take at least one wire out of the switch, and use your multi-meter to check for electrical continuity. On electronic models you’ll need to be holding the push button in to get an accurate result.


Aside from the fix explained in the section titled “Start Switch & Timer” above, owners of top-loading washers should also make sure the knob itself on the timer is OK. Is it activating the switch by way of the shaft, the way it is supposed to? To answer this question, unplug the washer and look at the shaft of the timer. The knob shouldn’t slide on the shaft, it should trip the switch instead. Pull the knob in and out and watch the shaft to make sure the knob’s engaging.

Drive Motor

The drive motor is what spins and agitates the clothes basket. A motor that hums or buzzes instead of running is one that’s defective in some way. Try the following test to figure out the problem, but have caution. You’ll be running the machine live with the cover taken off and you don’t want to reach in and get shocked or catch your hand in the moving parts. If yours is a top-loading model, normally the motor turns one way to spin and drain the basket and the other way to turn the agitator. Take off the drive belt and pump belt and see if the motor runs without them. A direct-drive washer will require you to disconnect the pump and the coupling between the transmission and the motor to do this test. Should you find that your motor’s fine without those belts, try putting one back on, and then the other, to see whether the problem lies with the pump or the transmission. But if the motor won’t run even when the belts are both off, then you need a new motor. Front-load washers will use only one belt or be a direct drive type. On models that use a belt just take this belt off and see if the motor starts without it. If it does, then the motor isn’t the problem. The next test is to unplug the machine and try to turn the basket with your hand to check for an impediment to its spin, like debris caught between the clothes basket and the outer tub of the washer.

Main Control Board

A washer that has an electronic control board will not start if that control board isn’t properly sending signals to and from the door lock, fill valve, drive motor or drain motor. While you won’t be able to completely diagnose the complicated electronic control board unless you’re a trained technician, you can do a visual check to see if there’s been obvious damage. Look for evidence of burning, electrical arcing or other corruption. Remember that if the control board has stopped working, there may very well be a problem in the components that connect to it. Generally, a defective electronic control board needs the help of a service technician, who will have the right test equipment and will know how to test the control board functions.

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