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    How Does Your Washing Machine Really Work?

    July 13, 2015

    If you are looking for a new washing machine or you are just interested in knowing how your washing machine works, you are going to find the following information very helpful. We are going to go over how your washing machine works and what is involved in the parts of a washing machine so that you can understand your washing machine better.

    The washing machines of today come in two major mechanical styles. The two styles are front loading and top loading. Front loading is also sometimes known as horizontal access.

    The ways that the washing machines are designed vary based on the manufacturer. However, their general principles are basically the same. These are split into two potions – the washing machine’s mechanical system and its control system.

    Here are the parts of the mechanical system:

    ·        Motor

    ·        Clutch

    ·        Transmission

    ·        Outer wash tub

    ·        Inner wash tub

    ·        Suspension

    ·        Agitator

    ·        Pumps

    ·        Water valve

    ·        Motor coupling or belt

    The parts of the control system are the following:

    ·        Timer

    ·        Control boards

    ·        Pressure switch

    ·        Selector of water temperature

    ·        Lid switch

    Washing machines are able to clean your clothing by forcing a mixture of detergent and water through the fabrics. When you force water that is infused with detergent through fabric, this enables it to loosen up the dirt that is in your clothing. This has come a long way from the times when people had to beat wet clothing against rocks so that they could wash them.

    When you are using a top loading machine, there’s an agitator which goes back and forth to drag the clothing to the washer tub’s bottom. The clothes are then going to move back to its top where they are grabbed by the agitator once again. In the front loading machine, clothes tumble through the water in the washer tub’s base again and again. Once the water’s pumped out, this inner drum applies centrifugal force for squeezing water from the clothes and fabrics when it spins anywhere from 500-120 RPM, based on the model of the washing machine.


    There are two tubs in every washing machine. The tub on the inside is where your clothing goes and has a lot of holes inside it, which allow the water to go freely through to the tub on the outside, which contains your water. Through the washing machine’s spin cycle, the interior tub spins approximately 500 RPM in the top loading machines, and front loaders and the washers that are energy savers spin a lot faster at approximately 1000 RPM. This process is what squeezes out most of the water from your clothing, and it reduces your drying time greatly. Then the washer’s drain pump removes the dirty water from its outer tub.

    Suspension System

    The modern machines have their own suspension system made of slide plates, pads for load bearing, and springs so that the wash tub’s held in the right position and for controlling the forces needed for spinning as well as stopping the interior tub and reducing the level of noise that the washing machine makes.


    The timer of your washing machine’s the brain of all the functions of the washing machine. It has a lot of little contact switches which close and open as they’re activated by the rotating cam, a lot like a player piano or music box. As those switches close, the different components in the washing machine get energized so they’re able to do the work they need to do at the right time.

    When a washer malfunctions, this timer’s usually the thing that is blamed first.  But it’s usually not the case. Timers often fail in these ways. The motor of the timer doesn’t rotate its internal cam, some switch contacts are welded closed and can’t open, or a few of its switch contacts have carbon deposits which build up and don’t close so that they aren’t making contact so that the washer components aren’t getting the necessary electricity for working. You shouldn’t open the timer on your washing machine since they can’t be reused once they have been opened. A problem with a washer timer has to be diagnosed with the symptoms and checks for voltage need to be done with a voltmeter.

    Control Boards

    There are some of the washing machines which have control boards rather than timers so that you control your washer’s functions more accurately.  The control board’s purpose is mostly the same as a timer’s, to energize the components of a washing machine at the correct time. In order for this to happen, it monitors the sensors all through the machine to regulate the temperature of the water, spin and wash speeds, filling and draining time, and the user commands. The control boards of washing machines are computerized, so they’re harder to correctly diagnose. They are also very expensive when they need to be replaced. The good news is that most of the washers which are operated by control boards come with diagnosed modes which are helpful for diagnosing and fixing washer problems.

    Lid Switch

    The lid switch of your washing machine indicates whether the lid’s closed or open and is going to interrupt some or even all of the operations of your washing machine. A washing machine’s lid switch indicates whether the lid is open or closed, and will interrupt some or all of the washing machine operations.  This mechanism is for safety and it’s greatly reduced the amount of injuries related to washing machines. The timer generally will let a washing machine fill up with water when its load’s open. But most of the newer washers won’t let any type of mechanical functions if it’s open. Some of the older models are going to allow it to agitate while it’s open, but none of the machines should go through the spin cycle when it’s open or broken. This lid switch is the reason that most washers aren’t spinning, and some of the newer machines are going to fill but aren’t going to agitate.

    Water Valve

    All of the washing machines come with internal valves which connect to your home’s water supply and controls cold and hot water flow automatically into its tub by opening its internal gate using a few electromagnetic solenoids, which are also known as coils. There’s a single solenoid that is responsible for the water valve’s cold side and one for the hot. Some of the washing machines might have more solenoids for controlling water flow to bleach, detergent, or fabric softener cups. As time passes, the screens for the water valve may clog up due to different kinds of debris, reducing the amount of water that’s flowing through the water valve into the tub. Because of this, your washer may take an extended amount of time to become full. Sometimes this valve may not close totally which could make water dribble in the tub when it shouldn’t be.

    Pressure Switch

    Many times washing machines use a switch that senses pressure to control how much water is released by a water valve into the tub of the washing machine. This switch is connected to the outer tub’s based using a rubber tube which carries air which keeps increasing in pressure with the increase in the water level in the tub.  When the pressure gets to a certain level, this switch is going to open and halt the water flow. Any holes or pinching in the tubing won’t let the switch to sense the tub’s water pressure and therefore the washer may overflow. That’s because the switch thinks the tub’s empty and won’t close the water valve of the washer.


    The agitator’s the arm of your washing machine. When the wash cycle’s going on, this rotates so that the clothes are pulled through its water, enabling your detergent to loosen up the dirt and the soil. The agitator’s attached directly to the washer’s drive system which alternates between counter clockwise and clockwise rotation. There are also agitators that are in two parts with a top portion that is separate which ratchets using the cam mechanism. Little cams in the top of the agitator control the movement and they’re often referred to as the agitator dogs. These dogs may get worn down because of overloading, and this means your agitator isn’t going to move.

    Some of the brands of washing machines like GE brands use plastic hubs known as agitator couplings. These transfer the power from its drive system and gives it to its agitator. It can become stripped out as time goes by and that means it won’t drive your agitator, meaning it won’t move.


    All of the washing machines have drain pumps so that they can force dirty water from their washer tubs. Some of the washer styles also have recirculation pumps which recycle that water that’s in its tub back on top of clothing to encourage the movement of clothing and lower the water amount that’s needed for completing the wash cycle. These pumps either are attached directly to the motor of the washer, driven by the motor’s belt, or there is an internal motor in the pump itself. All of the pumps have somewhat small paddle wheels known as impellers which spins and pushes water in the rotation direction. Pumps may become clogged or internally break.  These can cause problems such as washing machines that aren’t draining. Most of the problems with the washing machine pump can be fixed fairly easily. You just have to make sure any water in your washer’s under control before the pump’s removed or you’re going to have a really big mess.


    The washing machine’s motor drives its pump, inner tub, and agitator. Some of the washing machines have direct drive, and this means that the motor’s directly connected to its transmission and pump. Other types of washing machines use a system that’s belt drive where the motor is applying force to its drive system and sometimes the pump using pulley and belt. On some of the washing machines that are belt driven, it may be that the pump has its own motor inside which is separately powered using a timer. There are even some washing machines with direct driving motors driven magnetically with a rotor and stator.


    The majority of washing machines use clutches in order to absorb a portion of the force that’s generated by the motors that start fast. This clutch lets the transmission grab the agitator or tub gradually instead of doing it immediately. Some of the washers use clutch mechanisms and others use the slippage as well as gradual tension of a pulley and belt. A clutch that is worn out often is responsible when a washing machine’s not spinning at an apt speed or when the clothes are still wet when the spin cycle ends.


    The belt’s used for transferring energy in between mechanical components belts also can be used in clutches for reducing the strain that’s applied by motors that are fast starting in washing machines. The surface of a belt may become slightly burned or glazed, which reduces the ability of the belt to hold the pulley. This inability to hold in the surface of the belt results in slipping and creating additional heat and burning of the surface of the belt

    Motor Coupling

    Washing machines that are direct drive use parts known as motor coupling rather than belts for transferring motion energy from the motor of the washer to transmission of the washer. The coupling’s made from plastic and rubber and can often break when you are overloading your washer. This creates a loud noise. The good news is that this coupling’s cheap and easy to replace.


    The transmission of the washing machine drives the inner tub’s spinning and the agitator’s ratcheting motion. The washer either has a motor that is single direction or that will reverse. With the single direction, the solenoid controls whether the agitator or inner tub is driven by the transmission.  The reversing motors will engage the tub when they’re going in a certain direction and an agitator when they’re going in the other direction.

    So that is how your washing machine works. The next time you do a load of laundry, think about all that goes into washing your clothes.  Make sure that you are keeping your washing machine going well so that you are able to have clean clothes every day.

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    Titanz Plumbings home office is located in Charlotte County. Kenny and Rachael Lowe grew up in Charlotte County and are raising their family here in Port Charlotte. Titanz Plumbing has service technicians dedicated to the Charlotte County, Lee County and Sarasota County area, from Englewood to North Fort Myers.

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