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How a Washing Machine Works


How a Washer Cleans


The tub you load your clothes into has hundreds of little holes. These holes let water to flow through to an outer tub, which is solid and holds the water in. In the top-loading machines, there is usually an agitator in the middle. The agitator pivots back and forth three-fourths of a revolution – plunging clothes through water to wash them. Clothes keep moving from the top of the tub to the bottom and back again. This motion causes friction caused by clothes rubbing together, allows detergent and water to reach every part of your load and loosens soil.


Front-loading machines do not have an agitator. The drum rotates on a horizontal axis just like your dryer. With no agitator the clothes are pushed through a small amount of water in the bottom of the drum to get them clean. This effect, along with friction caused by clothes rubbing together, cleans the clothes. You can usually fit more clothes into front loaders because there’s no agitator in the drum, and washing is easier on your clothes.


Motor and Pump


The motor drives the spinning tub and agitator during wash, damp dry and spin cycles. The pump takes the water from the tub and pumps it to the drain. On some newer machines, the pump is a separate unit with its own drive motor, which is directed by the timer or control circuit board at the appropriate time to drain the machine.


In one direction, the motor works through a clutch and/or a transmission to spin the wash tub at speeds from 400 to 800 rpm in top loaders and 600 to 1500 rpm in front loaders. This spinning forces water, by centrifugal force, out of clothes and into the outer tub. This water is then pumped out to a drain. Most top loaders have a two direction or reversing motor.


In the opposite direction, the motor works through the same clutch and transmission to move the agitator back and forth during the wash cycle. Modern front loaders usually have a variable speed reversing motor but no clutch or transmission since there is no agitator to move back and forth. The spin and wash speeds are controlled through circuit boards, which speed up or slow down the frequency of the voltage supplied to the drive motor.




We stock many parts to repair washers. We can diagnose and quote repair prices using five major U.S. parts suppliers. We’ll check the available stock on parts to ensure a quick return to complete the repair.