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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 the shredded plastic pieces it spewed out on the final spin.  When we removed the 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.

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 Ebates and search for coupon codes.

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?

35 thoughts on “Should You Repair Old Appliance or Buy a New One?”

  1. 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

  2. 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 brands.

  3. 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 was under $100 and the dryer has worked beautifully ever since, averaging 5 or 6 loads a week.

    I dread the thought of ever having to replace the washer or dryer but it was interesting to read how you went about it. I hope it will be years and years before I can benefit from your experience. 😉

  4. 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!

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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 the return exceeded the cumulative premiums that we paid. I got the warranty because at the time front-loaders were still relatively new and I was worried about defective designs. Not sure what I’d do today, but you were definitely wise to do plenty of research before buying.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 to gain entry to the belt, etc, even with diagrams we found online. It’s built like a fortress. So I might just Freecycle both dryer units and go get a new dryer (one that’s Energy Star this time). Or I might look on Craigslist for a used one.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. @Mike — It’s 7 years. I would be troubled and more upset if it’s only 3.

    @Matt — That’s not good since all my other appliance are also GE. Fortunately, the refrigerators, dish washers, dryer, boiler, and stoves are still all working…knock on wood.

    Anyway, I would not buy cordless phone from GE again — our old set was terrible.

    @Suburban Wife — I think top loaders are more reliable. They are also cheaper to buy. However, they use more water and electricity, and they don’t spin dry your clothes as well.

    Yeah, I think moving does hurt them. I recall older models come with brackets that you must install to safely move them.

    @Eric — Yes, 7 years. Yes, that’s a drawback of ordering online and sometimes it’s nice to be able to walk into a store before and after your purchase.

    @Steve — Thank you. Yes, start saving now, they are expensive.

    @Tom — I didn’t buy an extended warranty on the new unit. I hope I won’t be regretting that decision. I think it turned out well for you.

    @Vilkri — I was looking at the Duet too. I am surprised you already have two repairs. How long have you had it?

    @Clever Dude — Good deal on the free dryer. Mine almost died a few months ago. Fortunately, cleaning out the lints and helping the drum spin by hand helped; and it has been working okay since.

    I can understand your dilemma. When I tried to look inside mine, it was virtually impossible.

    @DrGail — I haven’t tried that site before, but will give it a look. Looks like Frigidaire made the list, but not the LG…hmmm.

    @Dawn — Thank you.

  12. 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 to the landfill and bingo – new appliance for someone who really needs it.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. @Vilkri — That’s not good. I am sorry.

    @eSpares — Thanks. I think Freecycle is a good idea, but I am not sure if my local one wants broken items to be listed. I am asking a few people to see if they are interested in getting it repaired.

    @Kyle — Yes, energy and water efficiencies were also part of the consideration. In fact, I was wondering the other day about using “Quick Wash” for most of our laundry since I don’t think we soil our clothes enough to justify “Full Cycle”. I also tried to have my family cut down on the detergent, using only half instead of the full recommended amount. I think clothes are actually cleaner when you use less detergent.

    @Plonkee — Our machines support 6 adults and a baby so it’s seeing a little bit more abuse. 🙂

  16. 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.

  17. @Make Friends – Unfortunately, the U.S. is a disposable society and it often costs more to repair something than simply go out and buy new. Very unfortunate.

  18. @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?

  19. 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 could understand but it’s not.

  20. @Mark, that’s exactly my point about the spider assembly. I think it’s a designed to fail type deal — and they know it!

  21. 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 cabinet. I think the Frigidare is about 600, another front loader. It seems ridiculous to fix this one but I will see what Whirlpool does for me on parts. The repair guy quoted 2 men, 200 bucks.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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 [email protected] 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.

    • @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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. I had the same problem with my lg front load machine. After taking it apart the bearings seam perfectly fine so the only replacement parts are the tub o ring and the spider assembly. total cost under $ 100.00. It took most of a day but I think the material costs above are a little high. Just saying.
    good luck all

  30. A lot of the front load washers have the “spider” rear tub mount design LG being one of them. There are many people online complaining of the LG and consumer reports listing g theirs as best. Many LG front loaders don’t make it past 7 years..ours included. Good luck with yours,but I for one will never buy another lg product,not a battery,phone,mp3 or anything. They will never get another dime from me.

  31. I just experienced the same issue. During a final spin cycle, something popped pretty loudly. After taking it apart, I saw that one of the shocks had busted. I thought this was my only issue, bought the replacement parts (for $55) and installed it. But when we did the next load of laundry, there was a loud squeaking noise in one direction, and when it turned the other direction there was a loud thud noise. Pretty sure at this point, it’s the spider assembly and from all the videos I’ve seen online, it’s just not worth the repair.

    So I’m out to buy a new one now.

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