Today marks the tenth anniversary of that time I repaired my washing machine. Here's the story.
I had a load of laundry to do, like I usually do every weekend. That would have been no big deal, except that a few minutes after I turned on my 10-year-old Whirlpool washing machine, I heard this ticking (or clicking) noise. I went back to the laundry room to find that the agitator stopped working. Also, when it got to the spin cycle, it wouldn't spin, either, which meant that not only was my laundry still dirty, but it was soaking wet as well.
I called my mother about the problem. She suggested that the ticking noise might be a transmission problem and that I might have to get a new washer (since getting a transmission replaced usually costs more than it's worth).
I was pissed off, because getting a new washing machine was not in my budget, which was tight at that time. I was working a job that barely made ends meet, and I didn't have much money saved up.
Later on that day, I went to a couple different stores to search for a new washer. I thought I got a very good deal at the second store for an Estate by Whirlpool washer for $297, including taxes and delivery, after a talk with the store's manager about wanting to find something with a dent on either side (since the way my laundry room is set up, any dents would be easily hidden by the dryer to the left and the washtub to the right). According to the tag on the washer, its regular price was at $347.
Once I got back home, I went on the web to get some information on the washer I just ordered. It didn't retail for anywhere near $347—according to Whirlpool's own web site, the MSRP was $279, so the deal I had wasn't the good deal I thought I was getting. I wasn't saving $50--I was being overcharged by $18.
The idea that I might be getting ripped off gave me a newfound determination to see if that ticking sound was a transmission problem. The store manager had mentioned during our conversation that he had black goo leaking from a washing machine he had 25 years previously, as the result of a transmission problem, so I checked under my broken washing machine to see if there was any black or gray goo--nothing there. In retrospect, by telling that story, the salesman made a mistake that would work tremendously in my favor.
Another web search--something along the order of "Whirlpool washer making ticking noises"--revealed that I was too hasty in jumping to any conclusions about the transmission. At least two sites said the problem was much simpler: a motor-to-transmission coupler. It consists of two plastic parts and one rubber part, and is designed to break down so that neither the motor nor the transmission does. Above all, replacing it would be much cheaper than buying a new washer. Why I didn't do a web search like that _before_ going to any appliance stores, I'll never know.
I found a web site on how to replace that coupler, and armed with the pictures and instructions from that site, went back to the laundry room to take the washer apart. I had nothing to lose, after all--the washing machine was broken and would stay that way unless I did something about it. The process was much easier than I had expected--it didn't include any heavy lifting or disconnecting of hoses. Before long, I found the culprit--a broken motor-to-transmission coupler. I looked in amazement--I almost gave up on a washing machine over this over a small part like this?
I spent $20.70 on the replacement coupler I needed. (I could have gotten it for less, except that I needed them urgently--I needed to find out if I could successfully install it so I could make a decision on whether to cancel the order for the new washing machine.) A successful replacement job would save me over $276 ($296.99 saved by cancelling the new washer purchase, minus $20.70 for the replacement part order. Until the new parts arrived, however, my washing machine was in a partially disassembled state, with parts scattered over half of my laundry room floor.
Those new parts came on Wednesday, so that night, I went about the business of removing the broken coupler and installing the new one. It took me a while to everything back together (I had one part on backwards at one point, and later on, it took me three tries to put the exterior cabinet back on the machine), but after all that trial-and-error, I put in another load of laundry. The very task of doing the laundry had taken on the feel of an amusement park ride: The building anticipation as the washer filled up with water was somewhat like that you feel on a roller coaster slowing climbing that first uphill grade. Then the agitator kicked in--no ticking noises, no noises coming from the motor or the transmission sound just as good as they ever have, the agitator worked, and when it reached the first spin cycle, that was exhilarating. Imagine the relief of finding a long-lost item and the excitement of a roller coaster ride--I experienced both at the same time.
20 years previously, at age 13, I would have simply said, "Let's just get a new one!" without giving any thought to fixing it or having any interest in how the old one worked. It was easier back when I wasn't the one spending the big bucks. But in 2006, I found myself doing the 180-degree opposite, doing what I could to keep the washing machine running and save money.
The washing machine repair was successful, and I cancelled the order for the new washing machine.
To this day, I still have and use that Whirlpool washing machine. It is now over 20 years old.