Signs & Symptoms of Bad Washing Machine Transmission

The washing machine transmission turns the drum of the washer and helps transition the washer through its cycles. Removing the transmission can be a daunting task, and the repairs can be as expensive as buying a new washing machine. Signs and symptoms signal that the transmission in the washing machine is going bad, so look for these discrepancies before throwing out the washer.

A washing machine transmission turns the drum of the washer.


The washing machine makes a whining noise when at work. The noise is a good indicator that the transmission is going bad. The transmission is an assembly of gears and pulleys that operate in direct movement with the motor. Any type of noise coming from the washing machine drum can be a symptom that the transmission is bad.


A burning odor will come from the washing machine as it is being operated when the transmission is bad. The belt that controls the pulley on the transmission can also cause this same problem. Once the bearings in the transmission fail, the turning motion of the motor and drum creates friction in the transmission. Friction builds up heat, creating a burning smell.


The agitator is the device in the center of the drum that moves the clothes back and forth during the wash or rinse cycle. When the motor will engage, but the agitator will not work is another sign that the transmission is bad. You can determine if the agitator is not working by filling up the washing machine and turning it to the wash cycle. Look through the front of the washer if you have a front-loading washing machine or raise the lid on a top-loading washing machine and see if the agitator is moving as you hear the motor running.

Spin Cycle

Another symptom of a washing machine transmission going bad appears during the spin cycle. The water doesn't drain from the clothes after the machine runs through the spin cycle. The machine should pump water out of the drum just before the spin cycle begins. The spin cycle turns the drum very fast, using centrifugal force to remove the water from the clothes. The motor engages, but you do not hear the drum begin to turn during the spin cycle. The problem is most likely the transmission.