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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