probably noticed the tub you load your clothes into has hundreds of small holes. These holes allow water to flow through to an outer tub, which is solid and holds the water. In top-loading
machines, there is usually an agitator in the middle. The agitator pivots clockwise and counterclockwise - about three-fourths of a revolution - plunging clothes through water to wash them.
Clothes keep moving from the top of the tub down to the bottom and back again. This motion, along with friction caused by clothes rubbing together, allows detergent and water to reach
every nook and cranny of your load and loosens soil.
Front-loading machines do not have an agitator. Instead, the drum rotates on a horizontal axis just like your dryer. With no agitator, clothes are pushed through a small amount of water
in the bottom of the drum to get them clean. This waving effect, along with friction caused by clothes rubbing together, cleans the clothes. You can usually fit more clothes into
front loaders since there's no agitator in the drum, and washing is easier on your clothes.
motor drives the spinning tub and agitator during wash, damp dry and spin cycles. The pump removes water from the tub and lifts it out to a drain or laundry tub. The pump may
be attached to the drum drive motor directly or with a separate pump belt. On some newer machines, the pump is a separate unit with its own drive motor, which is directed by the timer
or control circuit board at the appropriate time to drain the machine. Most pumps have a limit of how high or at what volume they can push water from the machine.
In one direction, the motor works through a clutch and/or a transmission to spin the wash tub at speeds from 400 to 800 rpm in top loaders and 600 to 1500 rpm in front loaders.
This spinning forces water, by centrifugal force, out of clothes and into the outer tub. This water is then pumped out to a drain. Most top loaders have
a two direction or reversing motor.
the opposite direction, the motor works through the same clutch and
transmission to move the agitator
back and forth during the wash cycle.
Modern front loaders usually have
a variable speed reversing motor but
no clutch or transmission since there
is no agitator to move back and forth.
The spin and wash speeds are controlled
through circuit boards, which speed
up or slow down the frequency of the
voltage supplied to the drive motor.
most common fill valve - sometimes
called a water inlet valve - is about
the size of a coffee cup. It controls
the entry of hot and cold water into
The valve has three major components:
- hot-water solenoid
- cold-water solenoid
- mixing valve body
The fill valve has three hoses connected
- hot water hose from the house
- cold water hose from the house
- fill hose that directs water into
the inner tub
When electricity flows to one or both
solenoids, water flows through the
valve into the washing machine's inner
tub. When electricity stops, the water
On many newer machines the fill valve
may be much larger than a coffee cup.
It may also have several solenoids
and hoses attached to it because the
valve is used to divert water to dispense
soap, bleach and fabric softeners.
and selector switches:
timer switch is usually behind the
largest dial on the main control panel.
It can be either a mechanical device,
much like a simple clock, or completely
electronic with a digital readout.
The timer runs the washing machine
in a pre-determined pattern. It provides
electricity to all washing machine
components at the correct time and
for the correct length of time.
Selector switches or knobs vary from
machine to machine. Most washers have
one or several switches or knobs on
the control panel in addition to the
timer/start switch. These enable you
to adjust certain settings, such as
water temperature, spin speed and
coupler and/or belt:
washers use a coupler to connect the
motor directly to the transmission
so there's no need for a belt. The
coupler is a rubber disc that is ½
and inch thick and 1-½ inches in
diameter, sandwiched between two plastic
Many washers use belts to connect
the motor to the transmission or pump.
A belt is usually a black, rubber
rope-like component that is usually
a loop of about 24 to 30 inches. It
looks much like a belt you'd find
on a car engine. The belt or coupler
provides a desirable "weak link"
in a washing machine. If the tub or
agitator becomes stuck or jammed,
the belt or coupler will fail first,
which helps protect the transmission
and other critical components. Replacing
a belt or coupler is a much simpler
and cheaper repair than replacing
a transmission or motor.
learn more, check out our washing
machine repair help section.
In addition to information about how
washers work, you'll find detailed
appliance illustrations, troubleshooting
information and maintenance tips to
help you keep your machine in tip-top
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