Washing Machine Bearings
We are often asked how to access the bearings on a washing machine with many people thinking that the bearings in their washing machine can be replaced without stripping the washing machine down completely and, sadly, in most modern washing machines there is no alternative to taking the machine apart.
How To Access The Bearings
The first hurdle that you have when having to replace bearings in a washing machine is working out how to get to them and remove the old faulty bearings. If you can do this then the chances are that putting the washing machine back together again probably won't be too difficult, assuming you remember where everything went. This is why, unless you know what you're doing, take notes and photos of what you're doing so that you can get it all back together again.
There are however three basic flavours that are used and therefore three ways that you access the bearings in a front loading washing machine but, it must be stressed, the methods employed do vary and you have to adapt to each particular range of washing machine.
- Outer tanks with the bearings mounted in the rear section of the tank itself
- Bearing "spiders" where you can remove the spider to replace the bearings
- Sealed tanks where you cannot replace the bearings, they are not serviceable at all
Nowadays the most common types are number 1 and number 3 mentioned in the list above and this is especially so on low cost washing machines under about £500 at the time of writing. The reason being that option 2 is much more expensive to produce, even though it tends to be both more reliable and also far, far easier to service.
For most bearing replacement jobs we would advice using a washing machine repairer from our engineer search as it is not an easy job if you don't know what you're doing and it's easy to go wrong.
Sealed Outer Drum Type
Option 3 on our list above, if you find this in your washing machine, you may as well throw it away and buy another one as they are completely unserviceable and you need to replace the complete inner drum and outer tank assembly which will ordinarily cost more than the machine is worth. You can read much more about these sealed tanks in this article which also shows you how to identify this type if you have one used in your washing machine.
What this means in a good many cases is that a cheap washing machine really isn't that cheap after all.
Split Outer Tank Type
This is probably the most common type of drum configuration on the market until the rise of cheap washing machines with throwaway internals which are becoming increasingly popular at the lower end of the market.
In this type the outer tank splits in two, hence the name, allowing you to remove the inner drum of the washing machine and replace the bearings. Of course the downside here is that in almost all instances the entire assembly has to be removed from the outer casing of the washing machine to get the whole assembly out to work on it.
Usually there will be torx type screws or clips, like the example below, that hold the two halves of the outer tank together. In between the two halves is a seal which we also advice replacing when you replace the bearings.
The inside of a typical modern washing machine with a split drum will usually look something like this:
What you see there is a modern washing machine outer tank, this particular example made by a Chinese company that we happened to have for training, that shows the outer tank, which is the white/cream plastic part and the inner stainless steel drum is contained within that.
To split the tank apart you MUST remove it, there is no option. That means that all electrics, hoses and suspension has to be taken off to allow you to get the entire assembly out in order to split the tank and get the drum out so you can access the bearings.
Below we've shown a couple of images (which you can again click to get a better look at) that show why in part that you have to strip it all out to get to the bearings in a washing machine.
Since there is a larger bearing and a water seal to prevent water getting back into the drum bearings to the front, the inner drum must be removed in order to replace the bearings, there is no way on this type to replace the bearings from the rear without the tank coming out.
Then you have the problem on plastic washing machine tanks where the sleeve that holds the bearings in place wil often pop out when you try to hammer out the bearings leaving you with no option but to buy an expensive rear tank assembly. This is especially so where the problem of noise has either been ignored or not realised until the bearings collapse completely and the outer race of the bearing or bearings can almost become welded into the sleeve.
This is why, when your washing machine gets a bit noisy or starts rumbling, don't ignore it as it could well cost you more if you put off the inevitable. It could even cost you a new machine.
This is why many washing machine repairers will order up a rear tank for cheap washing machines, it's less hassle and less labour cost than the time spent trying to get the bearings out. Wasteful, but sometimes more efficient depending on the costs involved.
Removable Bearing Spiders
On older washing machines and more expensive ones, there is sometimes a way to get to the bearings in the washing machine and replace them without taking the whole tank out but, these are rare these days and will only be found on much more expensive washing machines.
Normally these will be cast iron rear spiders which you can also knock lumps out of to remove the old bearings with little danger of breaking something inadvertently, not so with cheap plastic tanks as we explained above.
The moral of the story, as it often turns out to be, is to save loads of grief and buy a decent washing machine that next time you need to replace yours.
Once you understand all this then we'd advise that you also read out article on how to replace washing machine bearings.