washing machine bearings
Appliances
12 min. read

What Causes Washing Machine Bearings to Fail?

Washing machine bearings are an essential part of the machine, allowing the drum to spin smoothly and efficiently. However, these bearings can fail over time, leading to a number of problems. In this post, we explore what causes washing machine bearings to fail, the most common signs and symptoms, how to carry out a diagnosis as well as how to prevent faulty bearings. Keep reading to discover more.

Common causes of faulty bearings

If you are wondering what is the most common cause of bearing failure, there are a number of things that can cause washing machine bearings to fail.

These include:

  • Overloading the machine: Overloading the machine is the top culprit, contributing to 40-50% of failures. Maxing out the load puts excessive strain on the bearings, which can lead to premature wear. The maximum load capacity of your washing machine is listed on the manufacturer’s label. Exceeding this limit can cause the bearings to become overloaded and rub against each other, leading to damage and failure.
  • Lack of lubrication: The bearings in your washing machine need to be lubricated regularly to keep them running smoothly. If they are not lubricated, they can become dry and worn out. To lubricate the bearings, you can use a special bearing lubricant or light machine oil. Simply apply a small amount of lubricant to the bearings and rotate the drum to spread it evenly.
  • Using abrasive detergents: Abrasive detergents can damage the bearings of your washing machine over time. Avoid detergents containing zeolites, phosphates, harsh enzymes or optical brighteners. These detergents contain harsh chemicals that can wear away at the protective coating on the bearings, making them more susceptible to damage. To prevent this, it’s best to avoid using abrasive detergents and opt for milder, more gentle detergents.
  • Not maintaining the machine regularly: Not cleaning your washing machine regularly can lead to buildup of dirt and debris, which can also damage the bearings. These deposits can cause friction and wear on the bearings, shortening their lifespan. To prevent this, it’s important to run a maintenance cycle on your washing machine regularly. This will help to remove dirt, debris, and hard water buildup.
  • Manufacturing defects: In some cases, faulty bearings can be caused by manufacturing defects. This is more common in older washing machines, as the manufacturing process may not have been as precise. If you suspect that your washing machine bearings are faulty due to a manufacturing defect, you should contact the manufacturer for warranty coverage.

How long do washing machine bearings last?

The lifespan of washing machine bearings can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Usage: More frequent use generally leads to faster wear and tear.
  • Load size: Regularly overloading the machine puts extra strain on the bearings.
  • Water quality: Hard water can contribute to bearing corrosion.
  • Maintenance: Proper lubrication and cleaning can extend bearing life.

With regular use and proper care, washing machine bearings can typically last 5-10 years, or around 1,000-2,000 wash cycles. However, this is just an estimate, and individual bearings may last longer or shorter, depending on the specific factors mentioned above.

What are the signs and symptoms of bad bearings?

washing machine drum bearings

There are a few common signs that your washing machine bearings may be faulty. These include:

  • Grinding, rattling, and knocking noises: The most telling sign of failing bearings is a symphony of unpleasant noises during the spin cycle. These sounds are caused by worn-out bearings rubbing against each other, indicating they’re nearing the end of their lifespan. The noise might start faint but will gradually worsen, becoming noticeable even from outside the house.
  • Unusual vibrations: Another common sign of faulty washing machine bearings is unusual vibrations during the spin cycle. The vibrations may feel like a shaking or rocking motion. The vibrations are caused by the worn-out bearings wobbling inside the drum.
    These vibrations may start out as subtle tremors that are only noticeable by placing a hand on the washing machine. However, as the bearings wear out, the vibrations will gradually become more noticeable. In extreme cases, the vibrations may even shake the washing machine off of its feet.
  • Difficulty spinning: The washing machine may struggle to spin, groaning and groaning like a wounded behemoth. This is because the worn-out bearings are unable to provide the necessary torque to rotate the drum effectively.
    If your washing machine is having difficulty spinning, you may notice that it takes longer to complete the spin cycle. In some cases, the washing machine may not spin at all.

In addition to these three common signs and symptoms, there are a few other less common signs that may indicate faulty washing machine bearings. These include:

  • Grease leaks: If you notice grease leaking from the washing machine, it’s a clear sign that the bearings are failing. The grease is meant to lubricate the bearings, but as they wear out, it can start to seep out.
  • Metal shavings in the drain: Metal shavings can sometimes be found in the drain after the washing machine has been used. These shavings are fragments from the damaged bearings, and their presence is a serious warning sign.
  • Unbalanced load: If the washer is unbalanced, it may cause the bearings to wear out prematurely. This can be caused by placing too much laundry in the washer or by loading the laundry unevenly.
  • Overheating: If the washing machine is overheating, it may be a sign that the bearings are rubbing against each other, generating excessive friction. This can also be caused by other problems, such as a clogged drain or a broken heating element.
  • Washing Machine Drum Loose: A loose washing machine drum can also be a sign of faulty bearings. If the drum is wobbling or shaking excessively.

How to diagnose faulty bearings?

If you suspect that your washing machine bearings are faulty, there are a few things you can do to diagnose the problem.

Listen for unusual noises

This is the most common way to diagnose faulty washing machine bearings. Start the washing machine and listen for any grinding, rattling or knocking noises during the spin cycle. If you hear any of these noises, it is a good indication that the bearings are faulty.

Check for vibrations

If you are unable to hear any unusual noises, you can still check for vibrations. Place your hand on top of the washing machine during the spin cycle. If you feel the machine vibrating more than usual, it could be a sign of faulty bearings.

Put your hand inside the drum

If you are still unsure whether or not the bearings are faulty, you can put your hand inside the drum and feel for the bearings. If you can feel the bearings rattling or grinding, this is a sure sign that they are faulty.

Check for grease leaks

If the bearings are leaking grease, it will be visible on the outside of the washing machine. This is a clear sign that the bearings are faulty and need to be replaced.
Look for metal shavings
Metal shavings can sometimes be found in the drain after the washing machine has been used. If you find metal shavings, it is a sign that the bearings are breaking down and sending metal shavings into the drain.

Check for overheating

If the washing machine is overheating, it may be a sign that the bearings are rubbing against each other and generating excessive friction. This can also be caused by other problems, such as a clogged drain or a broken heating element.

How to prevent faulty washing machine bearings?

The best way to prevent washing machine bearings from failing is to take steps to prevent them from being damaged in the first place. These steps include:

  1. Load the machine properly: The maximum load capacity of your washing machine is listed on the manufacturer’s label. Do not exceed this limit, as this can put excessive strain on the bearings and lead to premature wear. If you have a lot of laundry, consider washing it in two or more loads.
  2. Use mild detergents: Harsh detergents can damage the bearings of your washing machine. Opt for milder, more gentle detergents that are specifically designed for washing machines. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners as these can also damage the bearings.
  3. Clean the washing machine regularly: Dirt, debris and lint can build up in your washing machine over time and damage the bearings. Run a maintenance cycle on your washing machine regularly to remove these deposits. You can also clean the drum and the filter to prevent buildup.
  4. Lubricate the bearings regularly: The bearings in your washing machine need to be lubricated regularly to keep them running smoothly. Use a special bearing lubricant or a light machine oil to lubricate the bearings. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the bearings and rotate the drum to spread it evenly.
  5. Balance the load: An unbalanced load can put excessive strain on the bearings and lead to premature wear. Make sure to distribute the laundry evenly in the washing machine to prevent this. You can also use a laundry balancing sheet to help distribute the weight evenly.
  6. Check for leaks: If you notice a washing machine leak from underneath, it could be a sign of a faulty seal or gasket. These leaks can allow water to reach the bearings and cause them to rust and corrode. Have the leaks repaired as soon as possible to prevent damage to the bearings.
  7. Have the washing machine serviced regularly: Regular servicing can help to identify and repair any potential problems with your washing machine, including faulty bearings. Most appliance repair companies offer annual maintenance plans that can help to keep your washing machine running smoothly.

By taking these precautions, you can help to prevent faulty washing machine bearings and extend the lifespan of your appliance.

Can you still use your washing machine if the bearings have gone?

Is it safe to use a washing machine with damaged bearings? While it might seem alright to use your washing machine with worn-out bearings for a short while, it’s generally not advised due to several risks:

  • More wear and tear: Faulty bearings can make the drum wobble excessively, putting extra strain on other parts like the basket, shaft, outer drum, and even the motor. This can lead to these parts wearing out faster than usual, potentially causing them to break down sooner.
  • Safety risks: In extreme cases, the intense wear and tear can cause parts to break or come loose, posing a safety hazard.
  • Potential water damage: Increased vibrations might cause leaks in the tub or hoses, leading to water damage in your laundry area.

Therefore, although the machine might technically work for a short time, using it with faulty bearings is simply not worth the risk.

The best thing to do is stop using the machine immediately and call a qualified appliance repair technician. They can assess the situation, determine the extent of the damage, and advise whether to replace the bearings or the entire machine itself. Unsure if replacing washing machine bearings is worth it? Learn more about factors to consider before making a decision.

Can you replace washing machine bearings yourself or do you need a professional engineer?

Domex washing machine engineer

Replacing washing machine bearings is a complex task that requires some basic mechanical skills and knowledge. It is not recommended for DIYers who are not comfortable working with tools or who do not have experience with appliances. The process involves disassembling the washing machine, removing the old bearings, and installing new ones. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid damaging the machine.

It is important to note that the potential consequences of bearing failure extend beyond just noise and vibration. This excessive vibration can stress and even damage other crucial components like the drum, shaft and tub, leading to costly repairs further down the line. If you’re unsure about your skills or hesitant to tackle such a complex task, consider the potential for these secondary damages and the added costs they may incur.

In such cases, it’s best to call a qualified appliance repair technician. They have the experience and tools to safely and effectively replace the washing machine bearings. They will also be able to diagnose any other problems with the washing machine while they are working on it, potentially saving you time and money in the long run.

Here is a table summarizing the pros and cons of replacing washing machine bearings yourself:

ProsCons
Save money on labor costsMay damage the washing machine if not done properly
Learn new skillsTime-consuming and requires mechanical skills
Sense of accomplishmentNot recommended for DIYers who are not comfortable working with tools or who do not have experience with appliances

If you decide to replace washing machine bearings yourself, here are some tips:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Make sure you have all of the necessary tools and parts.
  • Work in a well-lit and well-ventilated area.
  • Take your time and be careful.

Conclusion

If you are not sure whether or not you can replace washing machine bearings yourself, it is always best to consult with a qualified washing machine repair engineer. At Domex, our certified and experienced technicians can assess the situation and provide you with the best course of action, irrespective of the make or model of washer you have. With a 12-month guarantee on the faults repaired and/or spare parts fitted, you can enjoy greater peace of mind knowing your appliance is in excellent hands.

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