Of Washing Machines…

Posted on August 27th, 2008 in Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

I have a strong disinterest in handyman work.


Not for me, painting walls or fixing woodwork. Gardening, hanging doors, putting up shelves, making a new letterbox – nope, nope, nope.


So when the washing machine started producing dreadful noises, I feigned great interest in working at the keyboard.


This keyboard.


And, anyway, was the washing machine really making any more noise than normal? I dunno. Didn’t it always fill the street with the sound of a steam roller crossed with a jet engine?


In fact, when it went on to make clunking noises (still mixed with a steam roller and a jet engine), I figured that maybe there were just some coins floating around in the mix, coins that had come out of pockets.


Even if it did sound like the coins were as big as billiard balls….


But then the edifice came crashing down: the washing machine stopped working.


A five year old Korean-made LG front-loader, it no longer rotated, no matter what was done with the switches. In fact, as my beloved wife Georgina pointed out, there were also signs that the stainless steel drum had been rubbing on the outer plastic drum: abrasions were apparent.


So I got out the tools.


Much to my surprise (and, significantly, much like the Korean cars I pore over at the wreckers), the LG was very well made. It was logical, it had good production design written all over it (tabs that fitted into slots, instructions [in English!] in the plastic injection mouldings), good earthing, colour-coded plugs and sockets in the wiring loom and, well, a feel of quality.


But it soon looked as I suspected: the bearings supporting the main drum were stuffed.


So how to get at them?


I disassembled bit by bit, until there were parts of washing machine spread far and wide. I admired the fully-potted electronics board, the thought that had been given to potential component misalignment, and the sophisticated spring and damping system that supported the drum. And then, after a few hours of careful work, the drum was out.


And so were the bearings – well, at least the front one, that came out in dozens of pieces… Never before have I seen a bearing so destroyed, to the extent that the individual balls were not even remotely round. The cage? It was a twisted piece of metal looking more like surreal sculpture than a precision component.  


The rear bearing was at least still in one piece, but it had massive movement in directions where movement was never intended!


In fact the drum had become so misaligned the drive belt had come off its flat pulley – and then the machine had finally stopped.


Now, how to get the bearings out of their housing? I used a punch and a big hammer, and much to my surprise, the remnant inner race (front bearing) and complete assembly (rear bearing) came out without too much effort.


The local bearing shop had replacements ($23.10 for the pair) and a couple of hours later, the machine was re-assembled and working.


Over the years I have pulled apart quite a few washing machines – but not to repair them. Instead, I’ve been after the pressure switches (all machines) and the motor and shaft assemblies and 12V solenoid valves (Fisher and Paykel), the latter having motors that can be turned into very good wind generators.


And I have to say that I was impressed by the LG. Looking at the design, I don’t think it is one of those ‘disposable’ machines so common in today’s consumer world. The fact that I could replace the bearings (and that the shaft was still in good enough condition to be equipped with new bearings) is a great positive. In short, it probably saved me something like $600.


But hold on, the bearings were destroyed after only five years! How does that stack up with engineering quality?


Well, I think it’s a case of user abuse.


A couple of months ago, I took a load out of the washer and I couldn’t believe how much Georgina had jammed in through the door – at least double the washing load I ever put on.


So I am not all that surprised that the LG gave up the ghost….


Moral of the story?


I learned two things.


The first is that Korean manufacturing is something in which I have increasing faith. I haven’t yet bought a Korean car, but I think that I’ll continue the trend I’ve had for a while of buying Korean consumer goods (he says, looking at his LG monitor).


And the other thing is that it is always worth getting out the spanners and having a go. I fully expected to have to give up half way through – to have broken things getting it apart, or to have found that the damage was irreparable. But I didn’t – and now we have a washing machine that should last another five years.


In fact, much longer than that if Georgina doesn’t stuff it full like a Christmas stocking…

16 Responses to 'Of Washing Machines…'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. jackherer said,

    on August 27th, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    You may already have other stuff made by LG but badged with more famous names. For example ten years ago I worked for Apple Computer and the original iMacs produced then were made for Apple by LG.

  2. Luke Konynenburg said,

    on August 28th, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    You truly are an incredibly brave man Julian….
    I expect you’ll get your wish, and be able to load the washing machine yourself ALL the time from now on…

  3. Samiur Rahman SHAH said,

    on August 29th, 2008 at 3:02 am

    It’s quite a breath of fresh air when you realise that the machine that was supposed to be dead comes back to life with a few inexpensive repairs. What the heck, if it’s dead, it’s dead eh? At least you can salvage a few components. If not, well, you have an almost-new machine. At least next time you can tell what went wrong and what to do with it.

  4. Martin said,

    on August 29th, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    While the parts were cheap, it sounds like it took you quite a few hours to pull it apart, and then put it back together.
    In today’s disposable society, it’s probably cost-prohibitive for the washing machine to be repaired commercially, so I guess most people in a similar situation would have just replaced it with a new machine, and the broken machine would have been disposed of.
    However, as you’ve shown, if you’re prepared to get your hands dirty and spend some time on it, it can often be relatively easy to repair items such as a washing machine.

  5. BG said,

    on September 1st, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Wouldn’t all that rust have been caused by a water+ detergent leak, not overloading?

  6. Julian Edgar said,

    on September 1st, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    The seal looked all right – and in fact I re-used it. It wasn’t rust that made the balls flattened and distorted (they’re not inthe pic I used above) but sure, some water had got in – I assume when the shaft was flailing around 10mm or more!

  7. azi said,

    on September 1st, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Yes, you’ve saved yourself a few dollars, but what a shit way to spend your weekend.

  8. Julian Edgar said,

    on September 2nd, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Actually, I spent an enjoyable and interesting morning, learning and achieving in a field new to me.

    But perhaps notions like that are beyond some people.

  9. azi said,

    on September 2nd, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Fixing old things can be a bit of a gamble. Time is also valuable when several hours of your day could be spent with family, friends, or doing other tasks. I think you have been lucky that several hours of effort dismantling a broken washing machine led to a win. It could very well have meant several hours turning a broken washing machine in one piece into a broken washing machine in several pieces – in which case you have wasted several hours, and still need to spend $600 on a new machine. Some people are willing to write off that chance and go ahead and get a pro to fix it / buy a new machine, and not have a weekend spent alone themselves fiddling with scrap metal.

    The same goes for car problems etc.

    That’s what I meant by my previous comment – horses for courses.

  10. Julian Edgar said,

    on September 2nd, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Um, I don’t think you know me very well…

    As I said in the post, I often pull washing machines apart to salvage the parts from within them. So to me it was never going to be a waste of time, whatever the outcome.

    My reluctance to get started was because I was supposed to FIX the machine, not just pull it apart.

  11. Boris said,

    on September 4th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Nice to know that you didn’t give up on something “ah, rubbish” throw it out and get another – which is the default mode for so much these days. Also tend to agree with you about the significant improvements in quality coming from Korea. There is a reason that Honda and Toyota are worried about Hyundai. Finally have to mention that although there is less “oooh, crazy Australian motorhead” content on the site (ex: Subaru Brat with a WRX STI engine in it) the current direction is far more realistic, applicable, and forward thinking – the days of cheap and plentiful petrol (gas) are waning. The urge to fix/tinker/modify will continue to be as human as breathing, and learning about the new tech before it becomes mysterious will enable us to pop the bonnet and replace a relay and be back in business, as opposed to hearing a fearful racket, saying “Ah, rubbish” and disposing of it to buy another (or take to a local specialist for a wallet reaming operation). Thanks Julian

  12. LG Owner said,

    on January 14th, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I don’t suppose you remember the specs of the bearings at all?? (Mine currently sounds like a jumbo taking off … could only be a few loads in it before it ‘goes’ I reckon …!)

  13. Julian Edgar said,

    on January 14th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Sorry, I don’t. Bearing shop measured remains of them and selected correct replacements for me.

  14. LG Owner said,

    on January 15th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    No worries – I ended up having a crack at mine too 🙂 As you say, nicely put together. Not suprisingly, my rear bearing was almost identical ….

    For future passers by, the part numbers are

    [WhichOne] => LG Part # => Generic Bearing Part #

    Rear => LG4280FR4048C = 6205ZZC3
    Inner => LG4280FR4048B = 6206ZZC3

    Good luck to others …

  15. Julian Edgar said,

    on January 15th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Wonderful to hear!

  16. on September 2nd, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I did not notice whether or not you said whether it was a front loader or a top loader… I’m assuming it is a top loader? Yea, the new front loaders have their problems too and if this one holds up a bit longer I’m sure you’ll get your chance to work on one of them in the near future. Good luck.