Should You Repair Old Appliance or Buy a New One?

Our 7 years old GE Profile front load washer finally died on Saturday night.  Everything was working fine until the last two loads when it starts to make loud knocking noise during the spin cycle.  At first I thought it was a load balance issue but the noise persists.  The official death was marked by mound of shredded plastic it spewed out on the final spin.  When we removed wet clothes from the machine, it was clear that the stainless steel drum had broken off its axis and is just sitting inside the plastic outer tub.

My family and I talked about the broken washer to see if we want to repair it or buy a new one.  Since none of us are that handy and we also had a prior bad experience with appliance repair, we decided to buy a new washer.  At first, we were tempted to drive to Sears and just pick out a new washer; however, my desire to do some online research won out and we didn’t go.

The Quest For A New Washer

I tried Google search for “best washers and dryers” but didn’t get any good result.  In the end, I decided to spend $5.95 on a monthly subscription to ConsumerReports.org.  The site reported the LG WM0642HW as “Recommended” and Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940FS as “Best Buy”.  I tried Google Product Search to find the best price, but Sears was the only recognizable name (I had a problem with fraudulent online merchant before so I was wary about buying from an unknown merchant).  Fortunately, ConsumerReports.org also have a “Compare Prices” feature, which recommends a couple of online merchants.

After reading several reviews on the merchants, I finally settled on Rainbow Appliance.  Next, I headed to Ebates to see if Rainbow Appliance is part of the network — jackpot…3% discount via Ebates.  My next stop was RetailMeNot.com — double jackpot with a $25 off coupon code.  In the end, I bought the LG WM0642H[W] for $874 (free shipping).  The purchase was made on my cash back reward card, which is good for another 1% cash back.

Hopefully, the washer will arrive soon.

Why The Old One Died

I did some more research and found this interesting blog article with YouTube video about why Kenmore Front Load Washers Fail.  It appears that my GE was made by Frigidaire, which is also sold under the Kenmore brand. Here’s the video:

It seems that there are three, possibly intentional, design flaws.

  1. The stainless steel drum is held in place by an aluminum bracket called the spider assembly. However, stainless steel and aluminum will react in dirty detergent water in a process known as Galvanic Corrosion.  This causes the aluminum to slowly corrode and eventually fail. This sounds like how my unit failed. The loud knocking noise during the spin cycle was probably due to the damaged spider assembly. To replace this assembly, I would have to remove the entire tub/drum combination from the washer, and the parts would cost about $200-300.
  2. The stainless steel drum also has three protruding screws that can scratch the outer plastic tub if the inner stainless steel drum comes lose. In the final load, the washer spewed out a handful of shredded white plastic bits. I assume this came from the scratched outer plastic tub when the spider assembly broke.  If the outer tub leaks, it would cost another $300 to replace it.
  3. The washer also comes with substandard ball bearings that put additional pressure on the drum while it spins inside the tub. This additional pressure eventually weakens the spider assembly causing it to fail prematurely. The ball bearings cost $50 or more depending on where I get them.

All in all, this repair could cost over $600 in parts, plus time and/or labor for the repairman.  I think I made the right choice to simply buy a new machine.  The parts I needed to repair the old machine would cost more than half what I spent originally, and it could cost more than a new machine!  On top of that, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be successful at repairing the darn thing.

Have you ever run into a similar situation before?  What did you decide to do and were you satisfied with the outcome?

About the Author

By , on Nov 30, 2008
Pinyo
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo have enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

Leave Your Comment (30 Comments)

  1. Adam says:

    This exact thing just happened to my Samsung P801 washer. I took the entire thing apart, took over an hour – what a pain! Same issue with the spider bracket on the back…totally disintegrated. One thing I read was that you absolutely need to use High Efficiency (HE) detergent in a front load washer or the suds will build up and eventually cause damage.

  2. rebecca says:

    Thanks for this article!!!! My 7 year old washer stopped in the spin cycle last week after making terrible noises. I was debating the repair vs. buying question today and you helped me out! Thanks.

  3. brina black says:

    My 7 year old GE front loader also made a loud noise in the final spin and the tech said I should buy a new one. Have not yet done so, is it worth to fix for $500 will it be like new, or buy a new one for $800. Also if the dryer is the same age, should that also be replaced at the same although it works? Please answer at brinadoris@yahoo.ca as I have to decide this week as I have no washer and am afraid to use it with the big noise and am uncertain if it will remove water during the final spin. Thank you.

    • Pinyo says:

      @Brina – Here’s my personal opinion. At these price points, I would buy a new washer. Having a matching dryer is not important to me, so I would just keep using the old one until it dies. Also, I would probably put the old one up on sale for Craigslist and explain what’s wrong with it. Some people might be willing to uninstall and take it for $50 — you never know. Otherwise, some people will offer free disposal of your old machine when you buy a new washer from them.

  4. Geri says:

    We’re looking to upgrade out 14-year-old top loader washing machine with a Kenmore branded front loader. Unfortunately, the issue with the spider assembly keeps rearing it’s ugly head.

    Our machine has been fairly reliable, although my husband has had to fix several issues. It always comes down to is it worth spending money on an old machine or to buy new. Unfortunately, it appears the the new machines are not built with longevity in mind.

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