Across modern homes and condos, the front-load washer machine model now reigns supreme. More stylish than its top-loader counterpart, it also provides you the possibility to pile up several appliances (such as a tumble dryer) and save space.
On the other hand, front-load washer machines, with their complex button pads and sleek edges, often have much more complex internal mechanisms. On a quality washer, the programming and the casing may be very resilient – but this will not compensate by the dangers of mere gravity.
Unfortunately, front-load washers have one weak spot: they are relatively prone to leaking. Whenever any malfunction develops in a front-load washer, the first sign of trouble might be a suspicious trickle of water around your basement.
When this happens, your first reflex may be to run and call your seller for tech support. If your warranty has already expired, you may end up paying too much for a home visit. So should you try to just repair it yourself? How can you determine when to risk it?
Front Load Washer Basics
Before you take a chance with your new toolkit, it is important to understand the basics concepts that allow your front-load washer to operate. Because of this, you should identify the major components of your washer.
The drum is the main tub in the front of your washer. This inner drum usually has a series of holes around it, which allow the water to be pushed in during the washing cycle.
The water pump is responsible for moving the water around inside the main chamber or drum. This means that it will both push the water in at the start of the cycle, push it out during draining, and move it around in the middle.
Water Inlet Control Valve
Right next to the water inlet point, this valve closes itself automatically when you open the washer’s door to load it.
Behind the inner drum, your washer has a series of rotating paddles that help the drum move around. This will provide the movement that will be washing your clothes, letting soapy water access every button and corner.
As its name indicates, the drain pipe lets the water out back into your pipes after the washing cycle is done.
The Front Door
Usually equipped with a layer of glass, the door lets you load the clothes inside the machine. It is usually equipped with a lining of water-proof rubber to ensure the water doesn’t spill out (at least when everything is working right).
If you have a semi-automatic washer, you will probably have a separate timer dial as part of your control pad. This will allow you to set the timer of each part of the cycle. On automatic washers, the time will not be visible – but it will still be there, setting your pace.
Common Causes of a Front-Load Washer Leaking
So what is happening inside your washer when water starts spilling where it shouldn’t? Keep the parts and mechanisms discussed above to determine what’s happening. Once you have the right diagnosis, you will be able to determine the right solution.
Upon noticing a leak, the first thing you should check for is the origin of the water. Is it coming from the back, the front, or from underneath the washer?
Water Coming from the Back of the Washer
If the water is coming from the back, the sources of the problem may be:
The drain hose may not be properly attached to the drainpipe
If you can trace the water to your drain pipe or nearby standing pipe, then you’re in luck: this is a relatively easy problem to fix. Simply remove the pipe and re-attach it. Most of the time, the drainpipe has a threaded joiner that attaches it to your standpipe. Make sure this is properly closed and aligned.
The drain hose may be clogged
Sometimes, hairballs or small objects can also block this same hose. If the water keeps running, it won’t be able to drain – and eventually, it will have to drain somewhere. To assess this, unhook the hose and blow through it.
If it sounds like there is something blocking the way, try using a drain snake to check the inside of the pipe. If you don’t have one, you can also try with a coat hanger – just be very careful! If your washer has a plastic hose, the coat hanger may accidentally rupture it.
The back overflow area may be blocked
This can happen due to an accumulation of detergent scum and lint. Make sure to clean it and the nearby pipes once a month by letting the washing machine run empty (with no clothes and no detergent).
Water Coming from the Front of the Washer
If water is coming out from the front of the washer, then the culprit is likely to be the door. However, this may be caused by three different problems:
A worn-out rubber seal
The most common cause behind a leak coming from the front of the washer is if the door is not closing properly. This may happen if the rubber seal around the door has worn out.
In order to assess this, grab a piece of paper and try to close the door over it. Then, try to pull the paper away. If you find that the paper can just slide out the door without tearing, then the rubber is worn out. Since most doors are round, you may need to replace this test across several points around the door.
So what to do in these cases? Essentially, you will just need to replace the rubber. However, this is not something that you will be able to do by yourself easily. Just call the technician and tell him what happened. At the very least, this will ensure he brings all the necessary parts and tools along!
The gasket is dirty
The gasket between the door and the drum can get dirty and develop a slippery layer made up mostly of detergent residue. In turn, this will prevent the rubber from attaching properly and cause water to escape during the middle of the washing cycle.
This is easy to clean – anything very acidic, such as a solution made from equal parts water and vinegar, should get rid of it. Just spray it around the area and wipe it clean.
The hinges are loose
A washer’s front door is usually very heavy, so it needs a strong set of tight hinges in order to remain in place. However, hinges can become loose with time, and the screws around it can move due to the washer’s own movements and vibrations.
If this happens, the door may not close properly, and water will start leaking from it. Open the washer’s door, and hold the top of the machine firmly with one hand. Then, with your other hand, try to shake or wiggle the door up and down. If you can move it up or down, then the hinges are loose. Simply readjust them with a screwdriver.
Water Coming From Under the Washer
Front-load washers don’t leak from underneath very often. However, when they do, it can be difficult to identify the cause of the problem, as it may look like the water is coming from the front or the back.
When water is coming from under the washer, it’s usually because the joinings of the drum are loose and letting water escape. This is not something that you will be able to repair on your own: the drum will need to be completely replaced or welded together.
If you notice water coming from under the washer, call your technician and avoid using the machine until it has been fixed.
Modern washers come with a lot of safety features, but if any water were to come into contact with the inner wiring or electrical connections inside the washer, it could create a short circuit. Better safe than sorry!
Front-load washers rarely overflow, and technically speaking, overflowing is not a leak. It will most likely not look like a leak, but like a massive puddle all over your laundry room!
When this happens, expect water to come out from the entire door and the back. Overflowing is usually caused by a problem in the inlet valve. This valve will probably need to be replaced. Unless you have experience in electrical repairs, we do not recommend you try to replace this valve by yourself. Time to call the technician and let them handle it!
Washers are not simple machines – and their complexity is only multiplied if you have a newer, automatic, front-loading model. However, this doesn’t mean that you should feel completely powerless when a malfunction occurs.
Some types of leaks can be easily repaired at home without needing to wait for a technician. The key is to be able to diagnose the problem properly. Start by taking a good look at your machine and the source of any leaking water. Then, try to identify what the problem is – and use this knowledge to decide your next step.
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