Don't panic when the washing machine starts leaking water all over the floor! You can usually fix the problem yourself within and hour or two at a fraction of the cost of calling a service technician. And only rarely will you have to purchase a new machine.
This article will help you avoid the expensive service call by showing you how to diagnose and fix the most common washing machine leaks.
These are the six most-commons places for washing machine leaks.
Figure A shows where the most common washer leaks occur. We cover hose, pump and tub leaks, but there may be additional problem areas specific to your brand of machine. There are two types of washing machines: belt drive and direct drive. If you open up the cabinet and don't find any belts, then you've got a direct-drive machine. Repairs are similar for both machines, but generally easier on the direct-drive unit. The following photos are from a belt-drive washing machine. If you have a direct drive, refer to your owner's manual or diagrams (see “Buying Parts”) for brand-specific details.
Tip: Make sure the water on the floor isn't the result of a plugged floor drain. It happens!
Turn off the water main or shutoff valve and unscrew the supply hoses from the back of the machine with an adjustable pliers. Pry out the old hose washers with a flat-blade screwdriver. Install new gaskets in both hoses and reconnect the supply lines.
You'll need new hoses and washers.
The first step is to locate the source of the leak. Empty the washing machine, move it away from the wall and start the fill cycle. Look for drips around the water supply hose connection at the back of the machine while it fills with water. Shut off the water and replace any old, heavily corroded or rusted hoses with new ones (photo). If the hoses are in good shape, replace the internal washers only. Special no-burst hoses, regular hoses and new hose washers are available at home centers and hardware stores.
Unplug the machine before performing any repairs.
Unscrew the access panel from the back of the machine or open the cabinet. Look for leaks while the machine fills with water. If you don't see any, advance the machine to the agitate cycle and check again.
Squeeze the hose clamp together, slide it down the hose and pull off the hose. Keep a bucket or pan handy so you can catch any residual water left in the hoses. Replace the hose with an identical part and new worm-drive clamps.
You'll need a new clamp.
If the supply hoses aren't leaking, open the cabinet and inspect the internal components. Belt-drive machines typically have a rear access panel that unscrews. Access direct drive machines by removing the two screws on the outside of the control panel and flipping up the lid. Then pry up the cabinet clips and pull off the entire cabinet. With the cabinet open, restart the fill cycle to check for internal leaks (Photo 1). Look for additional clues like rust and calcium deposits. Most often you'll find the leaks in the spots we show in Figure A.
Hoses tend to leak around a worn-out spring clamp. First try to remove the spring clamp with an adjustable pliers. If you can't get it, you'll need a special hose clamp pliers (Photo 2) available from your local parts supplier. Replace the old spring clamp with a new worm-drive clamp (photo below). If the hose itself is cracked and leaking, remove it and take it to the appliance parts supplier for a replacement.
Loosen the two motor mounting bolts to relieve tension on the belt. One will be at the rear of the cabinet and the other is nearby.
Disconnect the pump hoses. Then unscrew the pump mounting bolts, tip the pump pulley away from the belt and wiggle the pump loose. Direct-drive pumps will simply unscrew or unclip.
Install the new pump by sliding the pump lever into the agitator slot and aligning the belt with the pump pulley. Line up the bolt holes and firmly tighten the mounting bolts. Reconnect all hoses and clamps.
Pull against the motor to tension the belt and then tighten the rear motor mounting bolt. The belt should deflect about 1/2 in. when you push against it. Then tighten the mounting bolt located on the opposite side of the motor.
The pump usually leaks around the pulley seal (see Photo 3). If you spot water leaking from this spot, the pump is shot and will have to be replaced.
To replace the pump, work from underneath the machine. Unplug the machine and tip it up against the wall. Block up the front with a car jack or 2x4s so it can't tip over while you reach underneath. Replace the pump as shown in Photos 1 – 4. If the belt is darkened from burning or is worn down to the threads, replace it, too.
Slide a small putty knife between the washer lid and the cabinet. Push the putty knife against the spring catch while lifting up on the lid. Release both catches and fold the lid back.
Pop off the tub ring clips, lift the tub ring out of the cabinet and set it aside.
Twist or pry the cap off the agitator. Then unscrew the attachment nut and pull the agitator up and off the drive shaft.
Hold the inner tub tight to the outer tub. Rap the special spanner wrench to break the spanner nut free. Remove the spanner nut.
Lift the inner tub up and off the drive shaft. You might have to wiggle it back and forth to help work it loose.
Unscrew the old leaky tub seals from the outer tub. Later, install the new tub seals, making sure the metal washer is on top of the rubber washer.
Tap up on the drive block with a hammer to break it loose from the drive shaft. Pull off the drive block and set it aside. Lift the outer tub from the cabinet, twisting it back and forth to work it loose.
Twist the air dome a quarter turn and pull it free from the outer tub. Pry off the old air dome seal and replace it with a new one.
You'll need a new air dome seal.
Squeeze the center post gasket together and pull it from the bottom of the outer tub. Install a new center post gasket and reassemble the machine.
The most challenging repair is fixing a leaking tub fitting, whether it's the air dome seal, the center post gasket or the tub seals. (See Figure A and photos for locations.) Before proceeding, make sure that telltale drips are coming from around the tub. The details of this repair vary by brand and model. The details we show are for most Whirlpool and Kenmore belt drives. Study a schematic drawing or consult a parts specialist if your machine is different from what we show.
You'll need a special spanner wrench (Photo 4) to remove the tub and replace the tub fittings on this type of machine. It's available at your local appliance parts supplier. Follow Photos 1 – 5 to access the tub fittings. You can open the top of many machines by releasing the spring catches (Photo 1). However, on others you have to unscrew several screws and lift off the entire cabinet. Look in your owner's manual or at a parts diagram. (See the manufacturer's Web site or one of the sites listed in “Buying Parts.”) You'll have to unscrew the water inlet and the tub snubber (Photo 1) before unclipping the ring (Photo 2). Fastening systems for these vary by brand, as do attachment methods for the agitator (Photo 3) and inner tub (Photo 4).
There are four tub seals that secure the outer tub to the cabinet, each consisting of a bolt with a rubber and metal washer. Rust often develops around one of the tub seals, causing a tub leak. A new tub seal kit will come with four new bolts and oversized rubber and metal washers that will seal small leaks (Photo 6). But if the tub is completely rusted through around the bolt, it's time to buy a new washing machine. Replace all four tub seals as shown in Photo 6.
If the leaking occurs only when the machine is agitating, a bad center post gasket (“doughnut”) is the culprit. Remove the outer tub to replace the center post gasket (Photos 8 and 9). While you're at it, replace the air dome seal as well (Photo 8). Reassemble the washing machine and run a test cycle.
Washing machine parts are available at appliance parts distributors. (Look in the Yellow Pages under “Appliance Parts.”) Try to find a parts supplier with well-informed staff, ideally ex–repair technicians, who can provide diagrams and help diagnose any problems specific to your brand of machine. A great Internet source is www.searspartsdirect.com. Enter your model number to access exploded-view diagrams and a thorough parts list for easy on-line ordering.
You'll need the brand and model number for proper part identification. Model numbers are usually stamped on a small metal plate located under the tub lid or on the side or back of the machine. Copy down all the plate information and take it along to the parts distributor.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Special tools: Hose clamp pliers, Spanner wrench
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.