Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023
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Suspicious that a faulty heater is behind your washer’s inability to clean clothes? Here’s how to test the washer.
When a faulty heater strikes, one needs to test the heater, temperature sensors, the control board of the washing machine, and the wiring of the appliance. Any of these areas could prevent a washer from heating water.
Without variable temperature, your laundry options are limited. If you like to use hot water to wash your clothes, this is how you can check to see if your washer can sufficiently heat water.
Laundry can be washed in colder temperatures but sometimes, you need hotter water to deal with certain stains or dirt. If that option is gone, it can be very frustrating. So what causes a washing machine to stop heating water? There are 4 main reasons and we will look at each one in some detail today. Here they are.
This method is unfortunately only effective with top loaders. But you will know something is off with your front loader if the clothes are not clean or feel as warm as they should once you remove them from the washing machine.
Take a cooking thermometer and test the water during a cold wash and a hot wash. If the thermometer’s reading does not match the temperature setting on your washing machine, this could indicate that the appliance is not heating the water properly.
It is time to check the four most common causes of heating failures in washing machines. But before we begin, remember that attempting to test a large appliance is always dangerous. If you do not want to let a professional look at your washing machine, always switch off the power before you fiddle with the washer. Also, make sure that the water is completely drained as well.
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To test the heater, you need to get a reading from the heating element. Some washing machines have an element in the back but it can also be located elsewhere, like inside the base of the appliance.
Step 1: Make sure that the electricity is switched off and keep a multimeter handy.
Step 2: Once you gain access to the element, remove all the connections (from the terminals of the element).
Step 3: Set the multimeter to a low resistance setting.
Step 4: Touch the multimeter’s probes against the terminals.
Step 5: A reading of 20 to 50 ohms is normal.
Thermal sensors control the heating of the water in the washing machine’s drum. Once the appliance reaches the correct temperature, the sensor switches off the element. It is usually located near the element.
Step 1: Set the multimeter to higher resistance.
Step 2: Remove the thermal sensor from its plug.
Step 3: Insert the multimeter’s probes within the sensor to take a reading. A normal reading should not exceed 6,000 ohms. Ideally, it should be between 20,000 and 50,000 ohms.
Step 4: You can also lower the sensor in water. If the reading on the multimeter drops, then the sensor is working.
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Should you find the thermal sensor and heater are both in fine order, the next thing to consider would be the washing machine’s wiring. The wiring on your appliance will differ from brand to brand but it is crucial that you understand the basics of correct wiring and its layout in your washing machine.
At this point, you need to do some research to make sure that you can recognize the correct wiring inside your washer. The best option is to find a wiring diagram and use it as a guide. Most of the time it should be fine as it is and you do not need to do anything. However, if there is clear damage, loose wiring or scorch marks on the wiring, then you need to call an electrician.
If everything else seems to be in working order, you might want to look at the control board of your washing machine.
Think of the control board as your washer’s brain. Everything your appliance is capable of and every action it performs is controlled by the board’s programs. When it no longer functions properly, a lot of things can go wrong with the appliance apart from a failing heater.
The control board is easy to recognize if you are familiar with electronics. Have a look at the sheet for any signs of scorched, melted or otherwise damaged components. You can use the multimeter to check if the main fuse is working. If there is no response from the multimeter, then the board is faulty or broken.
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If you have tinkered with electronics your entire life and you know control boards - especially how to repair them yourself - then there is no reason why you cannot attempt to fix this. However, most people prefer to replace the control board. This switch is quicker, safer, and ensures that the washing machine will work afterwards. Repairing a board yourself always leaves a tiny margin for errors that might prevent the washer from being fixed after the first try.
Washing machines that are under warranty can be fixed by the manufacturer. If faults are small and you are qualified, then you can deal with those. Not to sound like an echo, but once you diagnose a problem, most times it is better to get an experienced electrician to have a look at your machine. They will be able to confirm your suspicions and ensure that the problem is fixed. They might even find issues that you were not aware of!
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