Fixed The Washer, What’s Next?

Within less than three weeks of our daughter being born, our otherwise reliable front-loading washing machine started having some problems. The washer wouldn’t spin the clothes – leaving us to hand-wring out large piles of slopping wet laundry. However, with some investigation and help, the washer I was able to fix the washer myself (as in: not the Sears repairman).

The Problem

During my mom’s visit with us a couple of weeks ago, she explained to me that she was having to hand-wring out all the laundry before putting it in the dryer. It seems that the washer wouldn’t go into the spin cycle. Our washer and dryer are about seven years old, but were top-‘o-the-line Maytag Neptune models when we purchased them. There is no reason they should stop working now. However, nothing I could do (at first) seemed to have any effect on the washing machine. Angela and I decided to call the Maytag repair man to have to have him come take a look at it (who was actually a contractor for Sears, but whatever). Within literally seconds of taking off the face panel he stated that the R11 resistor was burned out. I asked if this was something he could just re-solder onto the otherwise healthy looking printed circuit board. “No, I’ll have to replace the entire control board.” he said.

“So what causes this sort of thing to happen?” I asked.

“Usually lightening damage or some other sort of power fluctuation.” he stated very matter-of-factly.

Burned Resistor

Damage caused by the burned out R-11 resistor (removed) on our Maytag Neptune’s control board. The Q6 triac to the right also must be replaced.

As it turns out, that’s a $300 part and it costs around $160 in labor to replace it. I realize that not everyone is familiar with the cost of electronics and labor, so let me explain my shock at this. A resistor that costs less than 1¢ each at Radio Shack (or at least before they just became a cell phone reseller…) burns out and I now have to replace the entire control board assembly? Further, I have to pay someone $160 to spend 5 minutes disconnecting and re-attaching some wiring harnesses? I have never in my entire adult life heard of something more ridiculous, although that didn’t occur to me as much at the time as it does now.

Well, in the end, Angela and I decided that at worst we could just purchase the new version of our old washer for only a bit more than the $460 repair bill. We paid the repairman his $59 service fee and he gave us a $65 coupon toward a new washer at Sears, which didn’t seem like too bad of a deal.

The Solution

Still, it really kept bugging me that it was such a common, cheap thing that was damaged and that was going to cost me so much money to fix or replace. Why can’t I just replace the resistor with a component part I buy myself at the local electronics supply store? I figured that my friend Jason Johnson (someone I consider to be quite handy with fixing things) could help me diagnose the problem better when he visited the following weekend.

We didn’t get much of a chance to look at it during Jason and Stacie’s visit (there are things in this world more fun that fixing a washer, you know) until the morning they had to leave. We quickly determined that the resistor was so badly burned up that we wouldn’t be able to read it’s component color code value. In a last ditch effort, Jason suggested we look online for a control board diagram since the wiring schematic in the washer didn’t detail the control board at all. Well, a search for Maytag Neptune R11 returned some very surprising results. As it turns out, this isn’t an isolated problem and it has nothing to do with lightening or power surges. Rather, it is a direct result of Maytag using shoddy parts for it’s door locking mechanism which, in turn, result in damage to the control board.

What’s more, fixing it is something that Maytag knows a great deal about, as they had a very large class-action settlement against them on this very failure. Of course, the failure had to occur prior to 2006 for them to do anything about. Just the same, we were able to find someone who advocates just repairing the problem yourself.

Well, this past weekend, that is exactly what I and my brother Stephen did. Our washer now works just like new. Further, I believe that the root cause of the problem (the door lock motor, commonly called the wax motor) has been corrected so it won’t happen again. This apparently is something that the repairman we had visit wasn’t going to fix for that rather large quoted price. Of course, why should I expect anything like that from someone who either doesn’t know or wasn’t willing to tell me the actual cause of the problem?

Stephen Soldering

Stephen works at getting the leads to the Q6 soldered onto the control board.

The Big Complaint

So, to anyone who owns a Maytag Neptune washer which will not spin your clothes dry or the door lock light no longer comes on, warm up your soldering irons. The repair is as simple and straightforward as you could hope for. Set aside about an hour and get another person to help you out (not that it’s hard, just that a second pair of eyes and hands to get off the washer door is a good idea). I ordered my parts from Neptune Wax Motor.com. The owner (?) of that site, Jeff, has some great instructions as well as links to some videos of how to disassemble the washer and make the repairs. He seems like a very helpful and honest person and I’d highly recommend buying the parts (approx. $35 for the entire kit, including shipping) from him. He even has some suggestions if you don’t want to solder the components yourself.

Neptune Wax Motor

The old, damaged parts. The wax-motor with the brown actuator is the problem. The damaged resistor and triac are the result.

Lastly, I think that Maytag/Sears should be ashamed of themselves for ripping off customers like this. I’ve read several defenses of the service technicians online and they all seem rather weak to me. Maytag’s ads for decades have been about ‘Ol Lonely, who’s got nothing to do because Maytag is so dependable. However, when something really is going wrong, people have to sue due to faulty design. Worse, even for those who didn’t (like us), the repairmen just take the easy (and extremely expensive) way out rather than actually fixing the appliance. Taking an hour to do it right and charging (what I figure) around $150-$200 is much better than taking 15-minutes and charging 2-3 times that much is the only right thing to do. I don’t solely blame the technicians, although I do believe they have a certain amount of discretion in the method of repairs they make. It’s bad business and, as a result, Angela and I have come to the decision that neither Maytag nor Sears are going to be another penny out of us (and, yes, we have done quite a bit of business with them). If they had at least been open and honest about the issue, that may have been different. However, they treated us like a bank account to just take money out off.

Here’s a parts list:

  • R11 resistor (3.9k Ohm, 1/4 Watt or better, 5% carbon film) – about 20¢
  • Q6 (NTE5657) – $3.63 at Wholesale Electronics
  • Whirlpool wax motor with black actuator – $13.72 at PartStap.com

Some additional links:

6 thoughts on “Fixed The Washer, What’s Next?”

  1. I guess the Maytag repairman in the commercials is actually lonely because everybody has to repair their own Maytag appliances due to the poor quality/high cost of service. I don’t like that guy anymore. ;)

  2. I got a new motor control board for my neptune washer but I can not find the wire union that joins the large motor connector wire to the motorcontrol board I must have misplaced it or something…….PLease help

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