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Should You Repair Old Appliance or Buy a New One?

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Our seven 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 shredded plastic pieces it spewed out on the final spin marked the official death.  When we removed the wet clothes from the machine, it was clear that the stainless steel drum had broken off its axis. The drum was just sitting there 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 prior bad experience with appliance repair, we decided to buy a new washer.  At first, we were tempted to drive to Sears and 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 results.  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 the fraudulent online merchant before so I was wary about buying from an unknown merchant).  Fortunately, ConsumerReports.org also has 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 Rakuten to see if Rainbow Appliance is part of the network — jackpot…3% discount via Rakuten.  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 cashback reward card, which was good for another 1% cashback.

Update: This article was written in 2008. If I have to do this again today, I’d just check Amazon.com first to get a general idea of what’s available, get a baseline price, and see the reviews. After I identify the specific model, then I’ll price shop and check out Rakuten and search for coupon codes.

Also, you could search for imperfect appliances (aka “scratch & dent appliances”) or refurbished appliances. For example, I have a vendor in my area where I can get imperfect appliances at about 30% less than full price.

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 corrode and eventually fail slowly. 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 loose. 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 extra 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?

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Four Pillars
Guest

Very interesting post – too bad your washer died after only 3 years. I’m sure you paid good money for it so it would be disappointing to find out it was a piece of crap.

Probably made in Canada.. 🙂

Mike

Matt SF
Guest

I haven’t had a similar situation but I did upgrade to more ecofriendly appliances once I got my new home. But in regards to your GE product, I have seen repeated failures in every GE appliance I have purchased since the mid 90s. I’m talking everything from refrigerator, to cordless phone, to stove/oven… all of them needed major repairs within 2 to 5 years after purchase. I’m just not sold on GE products any longer, and the repair bills were outrageous. Took the guy 9 days to show up, and charged $120 for 20 minutes work. I’ll stick to other… Read more »

Suburban Wife
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Suburban Wife

Great post, Pinyo. It must have been so disappointing when your washer died. I still tend to think of my top-load GE washer and dryer set as practically brand new but when I sit down and actually figure it out they’re really 12 years old! We did have to pay for a minor repair on the dryer about 6 years ago, shortly after we moved. The ball bearings were worn out and the drum was squeaking loudly. I’d heard that moving can be really hard on washers and dryers so I wasn’t too surprised when it happened. Still, the repair… Read more »

Eric N.
Guest
Eric N.

Wasn’t it used for 7 years?

Anyhow, sounds like you made the wise decision. Personally, I would hesitate ordering large appliances online just because I like being able to see the unit in store and have less hassles with returns if necessary. However, since you did good research beforehand, I think it’s a good deal. Good luck with the new washer!

Steve
Guest
Steve

Wow, your research was admirable! Personally, what I take away from this is that I better start saving like mad! Our washer and dryer seem to be running on fumes 🙂

Tom F
Guest

We had a Frigidaire front loader that was about nine years old when it died. In the last year or so before that, it required multiple repairs, all covered under an extended warranty. The warranty service was OK at first, but declined in quality as time went on – they replaced the same components multiple times. Finally, they replaced the motor, only to determine that the replacement motor was defective! At that point, the appliance repair service persuaded the warranty provider to pay for a new machine. I know that extended warranties are generally not cost-effective, but in our case… Read more »

ctreit
Guest
ctreit

We just had some repairs done on our Whirlpool Duet. We did the second repair on the recommendation of the service man who told us to get a service contract which made the second repair cheaper – besides giving us another year of free service. Apparently the failures of our washing machine were due to wear and tear, but the machine has not outlived itself yet. We have to do a lot of laundry with five kids.

Clever Dude
Guest

Interesting as I was working on trying to fix my dryer for 2 hours last night. It’s a GE Profile Performance. Our other electric dryer died a year ago and I blew out the circuitry trying to replace the starter button (duh), but we got this “new” dryer for free from some friends. They needed a new washer and ended up buying a matching dryer as well. They didn’t need a new dryer, but spent the money anyway. Our win! But now this “new” dryer (the GE) is squeaking horribly and me and my FIL couldn’t get figure out how… Read more »

DrGail
Guest
DrGail

A great site for research is http://www.consumersearch.com. They provide “metareviews” (i.e., the consensus of various credible reviews) for a variety of products, including washing machines. Consumer Reports is, of course, one of their sources but they also compile information from other sources as well. In the case of washing machines, their article condenses information from 15 different sources.

This is always my first stop when researching products.

Dawn
Guest

I love how you did the research and made a conscious decision. That is what I am trying to do more of – weigh all the options and then look for the best price.

ctreit
Guest
ctreit

Our Duet is about 4 years old.

eSpares
Guest

You really did your research – that’s quite impressive! As an idea could you try putting the old washer on freecycle – but make sure to advertise that it’s broken and might need a repair? Your research would indicate that the repair could be quite expensive but if in the right hands it might be a lot easier and cheaper than you think and it would save the washer from going the way of the landfill. We get customer testimonials all the time regarding getting broken appliances on freecycle then spending a few quid for the spare parts or trip… Read more »

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

Another reason to tip the scales towards buying new: new appliances are often much much more energy-efficient than appliances even a few years old. Over time, you’ll probably save more buying new so long as you don’t go overboard.

plonkee
Guest
plonkee

I haven’t had a problem so far with my washing machine, which is about 3 or 4 years old. The only research I did was to find the cheapest white A-rated one, yours is so much more impressive.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I think it depnds upon the exact context but i’ve always been of the opinion that the world’s resources are precious and that we should repair rather than replace in the first instance. To some extent this has become even more important as the financial crisis as hit as some people are trying to make do rather than splash out on new products.

ctreit
Guest
ctreit

@Pinyo I have made this experience many times. Spare parts are hard to get and if you can actually get them, they are expensive. When we had some construction done in the house, a knob for the drier was broken accidentally. It cost us over $30 to have it replaced. We could get the part only on the internet. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Mark
Guest
Mark

Hello So the spider assembly is made of aluminum and the tub stainless steel? That’s very unfortunate but I suspect that most of the FL washers do this. I know the Kenmore FL washers and Duet FL washers use an aluminum spider. I wonder if LG does? Electrolux? Bosch? Another interesting note is they warranty the stainless steel tub but not the spider assembly, yet they don’t sell the spider assembly separately! YOU HAVE to buy the ENTIRE tub and SPIDER? How could they not warrant something that they sell as a whole? If the spider were sold individually I… Read more »

mike
Guest
mike

My Duet is 5 years old and broke the same arm or spider assembly. I am waiting for a repair guy to give me a list of parts required . I had bought 4 new shocks for it last night and then found the spider assembly issue and determined yes we have that problem. It is disappointing since the washer really has not had much of a workout. I am gathering numbers and might just buy a new one. Mine are currently stacked a smaller Frigidare has been suggested which will mean putting the dryer on a shelf in the… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

In the UK we have a magazine called “which”. When people are looking to buy a new washing machine, dishwasher, T.V, DVD etc, this is the magazine they all look at first.

Dave
Guest

We had an old washer from the 80’s that lasted for like 15 years. It was the best washer we’ve ever had. They make them to break nowadays. Its a shame.

Philips
Guest

It is usually best to go for a repair wherever possible. Spares and parts are available for even the oldest appliances in some cases, plus repairs not only save you money they are better for the environment.

Should You Repair Old Appliance or Buy a New One?

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 3 min
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