If you are going to buy a new washing machine there is something that you should know before you buy one that is very important.
Many manufacturers have started to use what we called "“sealed tank or tubs" which is a tub that you cannot replace bearing, drum, spider or anything else on as well as having to be replaced for having items of clothing etc. trapped in them. They cannot be split, opened or any spare part replaced inside them.
You may be thinking you still don't care but a sealed tank unit is far from cheap. For example to replace a set of bearings in a Zanussi washing machine that you can, about £80. To replace a sealed tank unit, about £200! That's some difference.
When these units go faulty they are almost sure to write the machine off due to the cost of replacing them.
You may also be thinking that the machine you are buying is a good quality brand and they wouldn't do that. Think again, the culprits include, Hoover, Hotpoint, Zanussi, Electrolux, AEG, Tricity Bendix, Indesit, Ariston, CDA, Servis, Candy and we now hear that Bosch has started using these on their low-cost Spanish produced machines as well!
But this is just the tip of the iceberg, a whole load of other well known names are also going down this path as well. So don't think you're safe just because you buy a supposed "quality" name as, in many cases, a name is largely all you are buying into.
We are seeing an increasing trend for these sealed tanks to be failing at just over a year old and this means that if you haven't bought an extended warranty or the appliance didn't come with one, then you can be facing a repair bill of well over £100 at the very least.
To we repairers, this is disgraceful. So wasteful, so environmentally unfriendly and so expensive for people. And this is a case where we do side with the consumer as you aren't told this when you buy one of these machines, most salespeople wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about to be honest.
Worse still insurers are just writing them off so, if you don't have a "new for old"Â policy you may well get only 50% or less of the cost of a replacement washing machine back. Pretty rough isn't it?
It gets worse though as if you happen to take out a policy on the phone and someone calls and finds it's such an expensive repair then in all likelihood you will get back the instalment you paid and that's it. Oh, and a bill for the callout.
Some of these units are, as stated, failing under warranty, many under 18 months old, it's a real problem that you will, without our help, know nothing about until it's too late and you're faced with either repairing what is an inherently bad design in our opinion or replacing the machine.
In any event, it's going to cost you money, time and a whole lot of hassle you don't want or need.
Quite simple really, like many machines these days, they are produced to a price so you can buy a nice cheap washing machine or washer dryer. Only trouble is that the initial low price comes at a longer term cost.
How it's done is by reducing the bearing quality and size and, importantly, the quality of the bearing's water seal. If water gets past that then it's only a matter of time before the bearings fail.
Just look at the picture above. It shows bearings on the left fitted to a circa 1990-3 AEG (a real German one, not the current Italian or whatever ones) 1200rpm washer. As you can see they're pretty chunky affairs with the front bearing, which takes a large degree of the strain, being bigger than the rear bearing. Interestingly the rear bearing on the old machine, with the same spin speed, is larger than the new machine's front bearing and has a larger front bearing again.
The ones on the right however are from a 2007 Tricity Bendix sealed tank unit. As you can see they are considerably smaller in physical size as shown in this photograph but, they are also slimmer. These bearings and this sealed tank are used on a range of machines from Electrolux including various Tricity Bendix machines, Zanussi, Electrolux branded and a few others.
Is it any wonder the new Tricity Bendix bearings collapsed in a year and a half? We think, not really as it's engineered to a price, not a standard.
In order to cut costs, we have to assume, Electrolux largely no longer uses the recyclable Carboran tubs instead moving to cheap plastic welded tanks.
It also saves on the metal and weight of the metal screws to hold the tub halves together and, therefore, saves the manufacturer money on their WEEE responsibility. Yes, that's right, the cheaper and lighter that you make a washing machine (or any other appliance) the less you have to pay for WEEE. Crazy isn't it, the manufacturer that produces good quality, heavy, machines pays more!
Thank Brussels for this, another brilliant idea from Europe.
But as you will see from the photograph above the mounting points are there for the screws or bolts to fasten the two halves of the drum together, they're just blanked off. And, you can clearly see that the seam has been effectively welded meaning that there is no way into the tank.
A couple of the engineers in the forums and now a couple of members of the public have tried to rescue these machines when they have failed, to our knowledge no-one has succeeded in repairing a sealed drum unit to date. Even if it were possible, it wouldn't be easy and would likely require professional help for most people but then, is the cost of the time trying to correct a bad design worth the time, hassle and money? We don't think it is.
It's interesting that a really common fault we get is that the washing machine has become noisy, often a rattling sound and it is all too often just a bra wire stuck in the drum. Nice simple fault for us to cure, simply get access, pull out the wire and job done. Sum total of a labour charge in most cases...
Now we have a situation where, if we can't access the drum or fish out the offending article then we've no choice but to replace a whole tub unit. For a little bit of metal stuck in there? It's insanity, a £200 or more repair for a bra wire that SHOULD be easy to remove quickly and cheaply?
On quality machines, such as the ISE10, you can take the drum paddles off and reach these yourself without even calling an engineer to do it for you. But, when you start cutting the costs.
Okay so a lot of people end up paying a labour charge to get this problem solved which is usually reasonable but do you really want a £200 bill for a simple error?
But on the subject of drum paddles, the plastic bits that are fixed to the inside of the drum to lift the washing up (also called drum lifters), we've recently had a case where a Bosch machine was scrapped because a couple were broken. So, for the sake of a few quid's worth of plastic a machine that was little over two years old was scrapped as they are not available as a separate spare part. And, you guessed it, the complete tank assembly is listed at £197.14 plus VAT and fitting (15/09/08).
The paddles cannot be changed without opening the tub unit and, since it is sealed, they can't be changed.
There is another little gem hiding here however. The new sealed tank from Hoover/Candy has also got what we call the pressure chamber built into the sealed tank. Okay, so I know a lot of people will be thinking, "so what?" but you really do want to know about this as, if that gets blocked (as they often do) with limescale, general gunk or whatever else then it's, again, a £200 repair for what should be a simple blockage clearance and a £30-70 cost of labour to clear it. Not on one of these puppies, think £200 to replace the tank.
But then, if you happen to be in the business of selling washing machines cheaply and as many as you can this is ideal really as, almost without fail, the people that haven't a warranty will simply scrap it and buy another one, often unwittingly from the same stable.
A lot of people think that buying a cheap machine and just replacing it after a few years is a good idea and that it's economically sound, how wrong that is. Asides from being wrong there and costing you more money, think of the effect of producing, shipping and all the rest of the costs involved in delivering a new machine every couple of years or so. Now think how wasteful that attitude is.
Whether or not you believe in or consider any sort of environmental aspect to this waste it's cost you £2-300 every two or three years! How is that financially sensible when you can buy a quality machine for about £800 with a 20+ year design life that is fully serviceable?
You don't have the same hassles with early breakdowns or this nonsense of having to replace the guts of the washing machine for a simple fault. You don't have to sit about waiting on engineers visiting, you don't have to shop for a new machine every couple of years and you don't have to hang about waiting on new machines being delivered.
As repairers we don't want to have to explain this to people, they think that we are the ones driving up repair costs when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. And, this is part of the reason that ISE (iseappliances.co.uk) exists as we got fed up being unable to recommend something that was cheap and easily repairable if it did go wrong so, we did something about it.
Good reliable appliances are an investment. The game isn't to get one as cheaply as possible, itÃ's to get one as good as possible as buying as cheap as you can is just asking for trouble, heartache and grief you don't want.
An old AEG washing machine tank unit compared to a new one from Electrolux, in this case fitted to a Tricity Bendix, less than 18 months old that has failed bearings. Note that the old machine is a stainless steel, not plastic tank and the additional proper crosspiece, sound deadening and metal counterweight and motor mounting points. Basically, the old one is far, far better engineered.Â
The old German made AEG (the new ones aren't) lasted more than ten times that of the new Electrolux unit.
The old bearing in situ with the rule for scale.
And the new unit, with it's failed bearings.
This picture shows the welding of the tank.
This picture shows the welding of the tank again, both the above showing how unserviceable these machines are.