GLENDALE, Ariz. — Unless you are a real hands-on operator, a lot of your equipment failures will come from one simple source: lack of maintenance. This month, I’m offering some repair and maintenance tips that cost little or nothing. Always remember to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines and take care not to do anything that could void the warranty.
Whenever possible, shut down power first. When working behind a row of washers, I also shut down the two adjoining machines to make a nice row, in case I accidentally hit a water hose while behind the equipment.
Do the same for dryers. Customers often are not aware you are back there, so put two BIG signs on each dryer. I know someone who lost a finger even though he shut off the power! A customer decided to manually turn the basket of the dryer he was working on. Duct-tape the dryer door closed if you have to.
You can save some money if you change the diaphragms, springs and plunger tips instead of buying a whole new water valve. Most valves can handle one or two diaphragm changes before you have to ditch ’em.
If one diaphragm goes bad, another one will surely fail within a few months, so change them all, including the diaphragms in the other valves, while you are back there behind the washer. Nobody wants to be climbing behind the machines all the time. More work for you, but you’ll get a more immediate cure right away.
Cost: About half the price of a new valve
A noisy motor bearing is usually caused by heat and the load on the motor. This is why the bearing near the pulley always goes first in washers, and the bearing closest to the heat goes first in dryers. The head and load will cause the bearing’s grease to eventually dry out. In washers, you’ll get a “tinkle” noise. In dryers, the main tub bearings will start seizing up and the basket will start to wobble.
You can spray washer motors with WD-40 and lithium spray grease along the motor’s axle while it’s in the machine, but keep the spray out of the windings. Only spray the bearing. Yes, bearings have shields on them, but the spray will work past them to rehydrate the grease. It’s not a permanent fix but it can buy you time to fix it; I quieted motors for over six months using this method.
Dryer main drum bearings are a little different. Some manufacturers put grease nipples (Zerk fittings) on the main bearings. If you pump a couple of shots in with a grease gun once a year, it will be a very long time before one fails.
Washer tub bearing jobs can be reduced by simply cutting out a rinse and spin. The extracts put a lot of stress on washer tub bearings. Plus, you save water.
Cost: Price of WD-40 and lithium spray grease, and your labor
Hose Clamp Pliers
These can come in handy when working on a drain valve to squeeze the hose shut from the tub to the drain on some washers. You can also use it to shut a water hose if you fold the hose in half and then pinch it shut. Look for “radiator hose pinch-off pliers” at the auto supply store. Also, consider getting a pair of 11-inch long-reach pliers. They come in handy to grab and pull items from inside drain valves and hoses.
Cost: About $15 for either
Rubber Gaskets and Lids
Make your gray rubber door gaskets and/or rubber lid doors look like new again. Soak them overnight in a 50/50 chlorine bleach solution.
Cost: Price of bleach
In closing, before going on a wild goose chase in trying to diagnose an equipment issue, start simple and work your way up to complicated. There were many times in my career when I spent too much time hunting down an elaborate cause, only to discover a fuse had blown. Look for a simple explanation first—clogged drains, a broken wire, etc.—before searching for the complex.