Washer Not Spinning? Try This First!

Updated on April 4, 2016

As befits someone with a series of Hubs called "How (Not) To...", I must start by disclaiming any particular expertise with washers. But I seem to have stumbled onto something worthwhile in this area. Perhaps it can help you out, too, if your washer is sitting there, mocking you with a tubfull of water and almost-clean clothes, doing exactly nothing.

I was recently faced with this situation not once, but twice, and was fortunate enough to be able to fix the problem both times, for about $40 each time.

It turns out that a common reason for the failure of the spin cycle is the failure of what is called a "lid switch." You probably already know that washing machines are designed to stop during the spin cycle if the washer lid is raised. It's an obvious safety precaution, and a universal design feature.

But if you think about it, this means a switch is needed to 'tell' the machine that the lid is open. This is the lid switch. It usually 'lives' just under the washer's top, where it can be activated by a small rod on the washer lid, which pushes the switch when the lid is down.

If you think about it a little more, you realize that this switch takes a lot of abuse. And that makes it prone to fail. If it does, when the machine reaches the spin cycle nothing will happen, since the machine 'thinks' that the lid is open.

It seems to be a common problem; logically, because of the abuse the switch must absorb, and statistically, because both washers that I own suffered the same failure. (Then there's the way the young lady at the appliance store said "Lid switch!" and located the one I needed in about 30 seconds flat. Perhaps that counts as indirect evidence too!)

So if your washer won't finish the load you started, check the lid switch. With the lid open, find the opening through which the rod on the lid will protrude to operate the switch. It will be small, oblong, and located toward the back of the top--toward the part where the lid hinges, but along the side.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

The switch should be flush with the bottom of the washer top panel, held there by an internal spring. If it sags down from this flush position, it has failed. Even if it is in the correct position, it may not be working. Push down the switch gently. Can you feel the slight resistance of the spring? Does it spring back crisply into position when you let it go? If not, it has failed.

This mechanical failure of the switch occurred with both my washers. They are both brands manufactured by Whirlpool (I believe!) and have very similar switches. In each case, the body of the switch split in two.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
At last--the elusive lid switch.  The two halves of the plastic body should fit tightly together, rather than pivoting apart, as in this photo.The whole switch assembly, as it comes from the dealer.  Many washers also include a schematic diagram, tucked helpfully inside.
At last--the elusive lid switch.  The two halves of the plastic body should fit tightly together, rather than pivoting apart, as in this photo.
At last--the elusive lid switch. The two halves of the plastic body should fit tightly together, rather than pivoting apart, as in this photo.
The whole switch assembly, as it comes from the dealer.  Many washers also include a schematic diagram, tucked helpfully inside.
The whole switch assembly, as it comes from the dealer. Many washers also include a schematic diagram, tucked helpfully inside.

However, it could happen that the switch fails electrically, without the obvious breakage that I saw. This takes only a bit more technical savvy to check--that, and a bit more daring. (Fear not--it's not that bad. Besides, you'll need to do this anyway, if you want to do the repair.)

First (and as a safety precaution) unplug the washer. This will ensure that there is no possibility that you will shock yourself. Next--and here we are venturing into the realm of instructions specific to Whirlpool-type machines; with other corporate 'families' the details will presumably vary--next, open the top console. It is secured by two screws at the outer corners, as shown. (The arrangement shown is for the ultra-cheap "Galaxy" washer; it was slightly different on the "Roper" machine at home, though not greatly so.)

Once these screws are removed, the console can be lifted and pivoted back to expose the controls and wiring:

You'll find a plastic connector with three wires near the center of the exposed area. This is the connector to the lid switch; you can use it to check the switch operation if you have a multimeter or continuity tester of some sort. Disconnect the connector, exposing the connector terminals in the bottom part of the connector.

Now put the probes of your continuity checker, or multimeter--select the lowest 'Ohms' setting, if applicable--on the outer two connector terminals from above, taking care to contact the metal inside the connector body. (The center connector is a ground--as is normal, it is a green wire, as shown in the photo below.)

With the probes in this position, you should be able to see the switch 'make and break' as you operate it. That is, the meter will indicate continuity when you are not pressing the switch down, and show an open circuit when you let it up again. If it does not do this, then the switch has failed.

(But be careful to check that you are getting true readings! Your probes must stay in contact with metal, and you must have appropriate settings selected on your meter. You must also push the switch down far enough to operate it properly.)

If the switch is bad, you are in luck, because you will be able to replace it yourself and save a service call! But to do so, some more disassembly is needed. The cabinet body is secured to the back of the washer by two stout, brass-colored metal springs, one at each side of the machine:

Using a small slot screwdriver, carefully disengage the near end of the spring from the cabinet's top, lift it clear, and remove the spring, setting it aside. Repeat for the other side.

Now--and my inner teenager thought this next part was unbearably cool, perhaps because I never suspected that it worked this way--the entire washer cabinet is free to pivot forward, giving great access to the inside of the washer. (See photo below.)

But you may want to postpone that for one more step, because it is convenient at this point to remove the two screws that secure the body of the lid switch to the cabinet top.

Finally, we are ready for the nitty-gritty: the removal of the lid switch. You've already removed the screws holding it to the cabinet top, but the wiring is clipped to the cabinet top in two places. It's best to gently lift the clip with a slot screwdriver, just enough to slide the wires free. That way you don't have to finagle the clips back into place again later.

The only other thing you must do is to remove the grounding screw to free the green ground wire. This done, the switch can be pulled free, and you are halfway home.

A good feature of Whirlpool parts--or so I was told at the appliance store--is that they are good about printing part numbers on parts. Certainly both switches that I replaced had the part numbers clearly printed on them--simple numeric codes, seven digits if I remember correctly.

If you are buying the parts retail you may not need to know these numbers, since the person at the parts counter will. But if it is desirable to order online, you'll be glad to have that number--it is searchable on the company website, saving you much potential trouble finding the right part.

Once you have the part, installing it is pretty much the reverse of the disassembly process. I'd suggest that it's easier to screw the switch body to the top after you route and secure the wires, as otherwise you may be forced to maneuver them past the switch body, but that is a small point.

The lid switch installed.  The green-yellow grounding wire is shown with its screw, and the wiring harness is just visible inside the under lip of the lid.
The lid switch installed. The green-yellow grounding wire is shown with its screw, and the wiring harness is just visible inside the under lip of the lid.

One slightly larger one: be sure when you re-install the cabinet to the back that the flange on the front lower edge of the cabinet is securely *underneath* the matching flange on the bottom frame. The cabinet is secured by its position under the front part of the frame, but on top of the side rails of the frame. If you muff this--as I did, when reassembling the "Galaxy"--you'll go to move the machine and the front part of the cabinet will lift off the frame in a way that will let you know unequivocally that you did it wrong!

It won't break anything--but you'll feel rather foolish, if you are like me. And of course you'll have to go back and correct the problem.

But other than those two small tricks, the process is very straightforward.

Once the machine is re-assembled, plug it back in and see if your problem is solved. Odds are, it will be, if you did your diagnosing carefully, since it's quite unlikely to have two simultaneous part failures. If not so, enjoy the feeling of self-sufficiency and the money that you saved.

If not, I'm afraid I can be of no further service--as I said, I have no expertise with washers beyond the experiences I've shared here. You can try user's forums online, where there are discussions in depth on such issues, or you can decide that it's time to bring in a professional. If you do, at least you can tell him that the lid switch is new!

Either way, good luck--and let me know about your adventures in washing machine DIY!

Questions & Answers

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      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 25 hours ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Hi, Stephen--

        I'm not at all familiar with that machine--and, as mentioned in the article, I'm not even a real washing machine technician--I've just learned one good trick to try.

        That said, you could try to use trouble-shooting logic. I take it that the indicator lights you mention were not on at this point in the cycle previously, when the machine was working correctly?

        If so, then they may offer a clue to the trouble. It is at least possible that there is a switch indicating that the front door is closed, just as in the top-loading machines I've dealt with there is such a switch.

        If that switch fails, the machine will 'think' that the door is open, and then it will not fill. It's a safety measure, to avoid flooding your house. See if you can find that switch and verify that it is working correctly, by the same methods mentioned in the article.

        Good luck!

      • profile image

        Stephen 2 days ago

        From Ghana

        My eleka washing machine 6800 front open is not washing .

        One the water is not coming into it machine.

        Two the lights at the front only door and light are active .

        Prewash light is not lighting .what could be possible solution?

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 4 weeks ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Sorry, Eric, that one is beyond my knowledge--as stated in the article, I'm pretty much a one-trick pony when it comes to washer repairs.

        However, as a general statement, the fact that you can see it 'try' to spin means that it's not a control issue, but a mechanical issue--something like a part out of alignment that's preventing the basket from rotating, even as the motor 'tries.' You can try disassembly to see if you can spot anything like that, but it's quite possible that the blockage is internal to something (like, say, the motor itself).

        You have two basic options: call the Maytag guy (we know he's always lonely, right?) or dive in and see if you can figure it out. (You're already clearly making use of internet resources to see what you can learn that way--a sensible thing to do.) The first is the quickest way back to a functioning washer, the second has the dual advantages of potentially saving money and being interesting to do.

        (There's also a compromise, in which you buy a new washer to get up and running right away, move the old one to the garage and dive in there, with the idea that you try to sell it later and recoup a bit of money.)

        If you do choose to dive in, do exercise caution. Dishwasher repair is not terribly dangerous on the scale of things, but there are opportunities to inflict on yourself electric shock, cuts, or crush or pinch injuries to various body parts, if you act thoughtlessly. Good luck, whatever option you pick!

      • profile image

        Eric 4 weeks ago

        My maytag bravo washer want spin. I can see it trying but it just moves back and forth. Do you have any suggestions?

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 5 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Sorry, Cindy, I don't have much for you on that. It can't be the lid switch, as that would not lead to the overfilling that you describe, and that's the only thing I really know how to fix.

        However, logic says that there must be some sort of switch that sets when the water level hits its predetermined level (or, often, levels). That switch could take various technological forms, but it would send a signal to the system to do two things: 1) stop filling the unit, and 2) start agitating.

        So that is where I'd start looking. If you know how to read schematic diagrams, you can locate the model number for your washer and almost certainly download a schematic for it. Then you could open the unit up and try to locate the fault, which might or might not be findable by visual inspection. (And ditto for simple voltage checks.)

        The great majority of folks would call an appliance technician. They can be found online, or you can ask friends and acquaintances or at a local appliance parts store. (Most towns of any size have at least one.) I pulled up a few likely sources with the Google search "appliance parts in calgary alberta".

        Good luck!

      • cindy240 profile image

        Cindy Biring 6 months ago from Calgary, AB,Canada

        Hello, My GE top-load washer just keep filling with water and the washer just won't kick in i.e. start spinning like it will usually do. Now the washer just keep filling with water non-stop and the water will start leaking because of overfilling and won't start spinning/agitating at all, then I just have to manually turn off the water supply, I am just perplexed that what can be wrong here in this case. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank You.

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 10 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Trevor, I can't quite follow your description, but if the switch has come apart then yes, you can get a replacement for it. There are 'universal' replacements; you could try asking the good folks at a local parts supplier. There are several of them in any typical town of any size. Google them up. (If you've saved the bits of the plastic casing, you may be able to find a part number that you can take to the store.)

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 10 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Dave, glad that helped! Thanks for sharing your experience--and it sounds like you may be just a tad more patient and/or dextrous than I am...

      • profile image

        Trevor 10 months ago

        I have the exact same washer you do and it used to belong to my aunt many many years ago and I've had it ever since, somehow she was able to have that entire lid switch pulled out only she had it duct taped like crazy and held up out of the washer as far as she can without it bouncing around when it was on spin! Well the duct tape had failed and I went to go read duct tape it and the whole plastic part was coming apart and now there's a little tiny spring on the inside and a little metal piece that's not connected to something but I don't know how to fix this.. Can you tell me if the whole switch piece can be replaced somehow without me having the trash this washer?

      • profile image

        Dave 10 months ago

        I just replaced my lid switch based largely on these instructions. Thanks for posting. On my old Kenmore (whose innards look much like your Galaxy), I was able to do the job without tilting back the cabinet; I needed only to get under the control panel to unplug the wire from the old switch and plug in the new. The rest of the work I did tediously up around the rim of the tub with the cabinet in place. It's not easy but it was doable, and my washer is in very tight quarters where tilting the cabinet back would've required partly dismembering a closet...

      • profile image

        Rita Simpson 12 months ago

        Washer not spinning

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 5 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Thanks, searchme! Appreciate you taking the time to comment.

        It's such a comparatively simple thing to look at, I think it will be worth it for many folks.

      • Searchmedeals profile image

        Searchmedeals 5 years ago

        Good details it will really help fix someone who has this kind of problem.

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 5 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Just that word, "transmission," gives me a bad feeling...

      • xanzacow profile image

        Cynthia 5 years ago from North Myrtle Beach, SC

        Lol. They said it was the transmission. But they would say that, wouldn't they?!!!

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 5 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

        So sorry, xanzacow! Though there's always the possibility that yours had some other sort of problem, I suppose. They can't ALL fail because of bad lid switches!

      • xanzacow profile image

        Cynthia 5 years ago from North Myrtle Beach, SC

        Great! I only wish you had written it sooner. About 2 months ago I purchased a new washer for this very reason!

      • Doc Snow profile image
        Author

        Doc Snow 5 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

        Thanks for coming by to check out this Hub; I'd love to hear what you thought about it!

        I think...

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