Garrett (garote) wrote,

Adventures in Spin Cycle

It’s been a little bit over a year since I purchased my home. I can summarize how it’s been going in one short phrase: By the seat of my pants!


I’m not an electrician; I’m not a plumber; I’m not a landscaper or a builder or a repairman. But somehow I’ve been dealing with things as they come up, and also dealing with the increased financial pressure by pushing my comfort zone.

Of course, the risk with that is, you can try a new thing and fail, and end up wasting precious money and time.

About a month ago my washing machine - a stackable Kenmore unit with a matching dryer anchored on top - started making a really loud banging sound every time it hit the spin cycle, like it was trying to jackhammer a hole in itself from the inside out. I tried rebalancing the washer and running it through a few more loads just in case the noise was temporary, but I had to cancel it each time before the final rinse, and squeeze the clothes out by hand and run them in the dryer for hours to finish my laundry. On top of that, the washer developed a slow leak, and a dark patch began spreading on the basement floor.


I peeled off the front panel and looked around, and discovered that one of the shock absorbers on the side of the drum was broken. Well gee, it seems a shame to discard an entire washing machine if that little thing is the problem…


I noted the model number on the inside of the door and dashed to the internet, and discovered that Sears stopped making this particular model almost ten years ago. Very discouraging. Then I found a number of websites where you could order replacement parts, including one from Sears itself, with numbered schematics and diagrams for each model they made. Amazing! This internet thing is really catching on.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 3.24.36 AM

So I ordered a new pair of shock absorbers. Only about 20 bucks plus shipping, very affordable for an experiment in machine repair. When the package arrived, I found some printed step-by-step instructions inside.


The shock absorbers have a plastic loop on each end, and they attach with big plastic pins stuck through the loops. The pins are a serious hassle to remove, especially in the cramped area underneath the tub inside the washing machine. You have to hold down a plastic tooth on one side of the pin, then pull it hard from the other side to get it out. I discovered that it was possible to hold the tooth down by putting a socket wrench over the end of the pin, but there wasn’t enough room on the other side to for anything but my hand, and I couldn’t grip the pin hard enough to pull on it.

So I assembled pulling tools out of zipties. One loop was kept large, so I could put it over my thumb. The other was tightened just under the head of the pin, so I could push forward with my hand, and it would pull up on the head.


I tried a whole bunch of different tools, but the little ziptie gadgets were the only thing that worked. Eventually I had both old shock absorbers out, and all the stupid white pins as well.


Installing the new shock absorbers was much easier than removing the old ones. The pins can be shoved into place with a chisel and a hammer.


And that, I thought, was the end of it. I’ve replaced the visibly broken part; the washing machine should be fixed, right?

Wrong. The fixed set of shock absorbers did absolutely nothing to deter that hideous jackhammer sound. With the front cover off I could see the drum smashing against the sides of the machine. It was scary just how much force was involved.

At that point I said, "Okay, I tried. Now it’s time to call in some experts."

(Continued in Part 2)
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