Washing Machines You Can't Repair
Almost all the machines now currently on sale you cannot replace the bearings when they fail
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, Beko, Candy and we now hear that Bosch has started using these on their 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.
Update for 2017 on
Many people find this article after discovering that the machine that they have cannot be repaired or, cannot be repaired economically as it required a whole new tub often costing almost as much as a new machine and sometimes more, we know it's crazy, rather than a set of bearings costing less than £20 and they don't want that to happen to them again.
Well, bad news we’re afraid as almost all washing machines sold in the UK and most of Europe now have sealed tanks in them.
Yes, we know it’s an environmental disaster zone, utterly despicable in some ways and completely puts to shame any claims about “energy savings” that are made but, almost all major manufacturers have gone down this path now. It also means that the life of a washing machine is effectively fixed to the life of the bearings now.
But nobody cares.
Or at least it seems that way. Nobody has bothered to look at the environmental impact of this and nobody appears to care that it’s costing consumers millions of pounds in the UK alone let alone if you consider the global economic impact.
So much so that in the space of little over a decade the UK is set to double it’s consumption of washing machine, almost none of which are produced in the UK from about 1.4 million units a year to a projected greater than 3 million a year.
Even at the lowest level, that’s another £300 million a year UK consumers are stumping up and about an additional 60 million kilos of waste.
Failing At Just Over A Year Old
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 £150 at the very least but in many cases it will exceed the cost of a new machine.
To 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" policy you may well get only 50% or less of the cost of a replacement washing machine back.
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 a bad design in our opinion as it prohibits repair 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.
Why Washing Machine Bearings Fail
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. But it is also critical to keep in mind that bearings are a wear and tear item in that, they will wear out eventually on all machines wihout any doubt whatsoever, all that is debatable is the length of time that they might last and that will be determined largely by the level of use the machine is given in most instances coupled with the general quality of them.
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. How recyclable they are however is open to debate for any make as they use glass polypropolene that recyclers do not want as there is little to no value in it.
Using a sealed drum unit 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 is correct, 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 as do the people that buy them! In effect both the manufacturer and the customer are penilised for doing the right thing.
As you can 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 work around the design to repair it worth the time, hassle and money? We don't think it is.
Bra Wires And Other Stuff In The Machine
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 some better machines you can remove the drum paddles to remove trapped items.
A lot of people will 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?
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 are gems hiding here however as manufacturers continue down this road.
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 machines, think £200 to replace the tank.
Now Beko are doing the same.
As are Indesit, Hotpoint and more.
We have now seen Zanussi machines with the drain pump and filter integrated into the tank and, you need to call an engineer to clear the filter!
But, 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.
Conclusion On Sealed Tubs
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, we beleive this to be misguided at best. 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 was started as the engineers 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. Sadly that closed down late in 2014 as quite simply there was not enough people willing to pay for better quality products.
Good reliable appliances are an investment. The game isn't to get one as cheaply as possible, it'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.
More Pictures Of The Washing Machine Bearings And Tub Units
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.
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.
It Can Be Done
In the comments below you will see that bearings can be replaced in these machines and we've little reason to doubt that, it probably is possible.
We don't think it's as easy as is perhaps being made out nor will you be able to order up bearings and a seal for these machines as, quite simply, they will not be shown as a spare part. So, if you happen to have a pile of bearings and seals to hand and, you happen to have the correct ones required and, you don't have a damaged drum support and you have the time to mess around as well as the tools etc needed, then maybe it can be done.
Is it economically viable for most repairers or owners, probably not, if not most certainly not.
Who's To Blame?
It's oh so easy to blame the corporate folks that run these large companies but it's also not entirely their fault.
There are bits of legislation that affect it, in one or two cases it is our opinion that so-called "green" legislation has actually proved to be counterproductive and led to stuff like this happening but, that's another debate.
There is, of course, some culpability on the part of the companies that produce the products, there's not any doubt and no getting away from that but you have to ask, is it because they want to in order to improve profitability or, are they forced to do so by market conditions?
We'd argue that in large part, it's probably the latter.
There is no sense to them making sealed units for a lot of items, it only hacks off customers further down the track, erodes brand loyalty and decimates repeat sales so, it really isn't in their interest to do this.
Sure, there are probably some cases where it makes sense but for a lot of the time, it just doesn't.
But what they do need to do as, people buying a new machine won't care to look and see if it's got a sealed tank, door or whatever is to compete on price! All these companies are just sucked into that particular black hole and must compete or, they will go bust.
That means that this is driven by the lowest common denominator, the customers that buy the machines wanting the lowest possible price for the most bang per buck they can get. The fastest spin, biggest load and lowest price when buying are all, often as not, of far greater concern to buyers.
Manufacturers just give people what they want, however, they can do that.
One way is to pare costs to the bone and, this is but one way that they do that and deliver all these features at such staggeringly low prices.
Problem is, at some point, the buyer has to pay for that and, this is one such way.
Mythical greedy execs sipping champagne and eating caviar for lunch is the easy thing to direct your anger at but, it's almost certainly not the case and the wrong place to direct your anger towards.