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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Pinyo Bhulipongsanon is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance and a Realtor® licensed in Virginia and Maryland. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, financial literacy author, and Realtor®.