|Washing machine woes
||[Jul. 16th, 2011|11:04 pm]
We've had our Maytag Neptune MAH8700AWW washing machine for just over 5 years now, long enough for the extended warranty to expire. Today, it had its first major failure.
The washer's internal hot water valve jammed, in the wide open position. I'm lucky to have noticed it: the water was just pouring into the washing basin, and the machine had the undocumented "OE" error code flashing. I looked it up, and this meant "overflow error", where the sensor had detected too much water.
To their credit, Maytag has implemented 2 rather cool features, to deal with this:
1) When the overflow error triggers, the washer goes into something I call "panic drain mode". It stops whatever it's doing in the regular cycle, and simply tries to drain out the water as fast as it fills in. In this case, the washer basically turned itself into a hose: water came in, water drained out, almost nothing in the path to stop it. I'm glad the washer used its internal draining system as much as possible, avoiding the catastrophic failure of the water overflowing the internal washing basin itself, which would have spilled water all into the guts of the machine.
2) If the washer breaks and is unable to complete its cycle normally, it still lets the user select "spin only" mode, to simply spin and drain the water out of the basin as much as possible. I was able to run this mode to completion, so the washer then let me open the door handle and get the clothing out. That is one of the major risks of front-loader washing machines: when they fail, they tend to fail in the locked position, and your sopping wet clothes are then physically stuck in there until you can manually release the door mechanism somehow. So, I'm lucky I was able to use this mode to achieve a cycle completion and thus convince the machine to please unlock the door.
Our utility sink was almost overflowing, when I first noticed the problem. I'm really glad that subconsciously I realized something was wrong, the washing machine cycle was taking a lot longer than it normally does, and went in there to check! I quickly opened the garage door, grabbed our 5 gallon bucket, and started bailing out the sink, running buckets to the storm drain in the street. I was then able to use a plunger to convince the rest of the water to go down the drain, which had gotten overloaded by the huge amount of water that it was being asked to deal with.
Once the sink level was lowered, water was still coming in, even though I had already turned off the washer, so I knew it was a physical problem. I then closed the faucets behind the washing machine as hard as I safely could. This slowed the flow of water to a steady drip. I couldn't shut off the water completely. This is a typical failure mode of a washing machine faucet, which is typically left wide open for the lifetime of the machine. Because the valve is never closed, when it comes time to actually close it, the failure manifests itself. Who knows what sand/crud over the years has gotten in there.
The hot water at this point was merely lukewarm, because our 25-year-old water heater (another ticking time bomb in this house, but that's another story) obviously couldn't keep up with a wide open hot water valve. This was a blessing in disguise, because it also meant I didn't have to worry about burning myself on the hot water while dealing with the problem.
I have now stabilized the situation, and the only remaining problem is the steady drip of water that comes through the washing machine. Both of the valves that should stop this drip are failed: the faucet (only a trickle), and the washing machine's internal valve (stuck wide open). So, I need to go bail out the washing basin every so often. I have the door open, in order to get a little help from evaporation, but it's still enough to start overflowing onto the floor of the garage if I leave it unattended for too long. It will create a puddle there, looking similar to the other puddle that's created whenever it rains (yet another story).
So, I'm in need of an appliance repair person (to repair the hot water valve inside of the washing machine, and anything else that it took with it), and a plumber (to redo the faucets behind the washing machine so they can actually shut off, and also fix the utility sink so it stops leaking and snake the drain so it has a chance of keeping up with the water should this happen again). Ah, money. No new ham radio for me this month!
So, it's Saturday, and I have my pocket stuffed full of quarters. Off to play the new Tron machine at the Pacific Pinball Museum, right? Nope, today, it's off to the laundromat....