How to Troubleshoot a Washing Machine That Will Not Drain or Spin

A stalled washing machine -- with a tub full of water -- has several possible causes, and you can check most of them yourself. You may even feel comfortable performing many of the repairs. However, if any of the solutions feel too daunting, a repair person is typically just a phone call away.

Isolated Automatic Washing Machine with WHite Background
credit: Luis-Kuthe/iStock/Getty Images
Washing machine problems are frustrating, but you can correct many of them yourself.

The Easiest Fixes First

Check the circuit breaker that protects the washer. If it tripped, the machine will stop running no matter where it is in its cycle. The breaker is located in the home's main electrical panel. Check the washing machine's plug where it connects to the outlet. Sometimes, as washing machines vibrate and rock, the plug may become loose or pull away from the wall. Plug it back in and the cycle should continue right where it left off. Unplug it before you begin troubleshooting other possibilities if that wasn't the problem.

Check the Lid Switch

The lid switch is a safety device designed to shut off the machine if someone lifts the lid during certain parts of the washing cycle. If the switch has failed electrically, or if the part has pieces broken, it may send a false signal that the washer must be shut down. Look for a broken tab where the switch inserts into the washing machine cabinet. You can also check the switch's continuity with a multitester. If it fails the test or shows signs of breakage or excessive wear, replace the switch.

Drive Belts and Idlers

Many washing machines use drive belts that transfer mechanical power from the motor to the agitator and the pump. Idlers positioned along the belt supply tension that prevents the belts from slipping. Check to see if a belt has jumped off an idler or the belt has broken. A frayed or damaged belt might be stretched too far to adequately drive the washer's mechanical systems. Put slipped belts back into place, and replace any that are aged, broken or worn.

Motor and Pump

The motor drives the agitator, and the pump draws water out of the tub. While it is unlikely that both devices failed at the same time, the possibility does exist. Before replacing either or both, check the motor coupling -- a plastic device installed between the motor and the washer's transmission box. Check the pump for any obstructions that may have lodged in the intake or outtake hoses, blocking water from passing through.

Timer Controls

The timer signals when each part of the cycle occurs, and it controls how all the internal parts work together to make the washing machine function properly. Timers last a long time and do not fail often. However, if one should break down, the machine will stop in mid-cycle and may not advance to the next washing stage. Troubleshooting and replacing the timer mechanism is complicated enough that you may wish to call a repair service rather than tackle the job yourself.