GE / Electrolux Front Load Washer Tub Repair
Electrolux manufactures a great many of the front load washers we see in the major appliance stores under many labels such as GE, Gibson and others. Unfortunately they use what's commonly referred to as "pot metal" to support the basket and this can become a major failure point.
First let me start by saying that in general I am a real fan of Electrolux products from vacuum cleaners to their wonderful Wascomat commercial line of washers. Anyone owning a small front load washer, however, sold under any of the above Electrolux brands in the 16 to 17 pound sizes (3.1 to 3.5 CF) should be aware that there is a good chance that the pot metal "spider" can fail after 5 years or so. As a professional repairman and owner of these machines it has come to my attention that the main support or spider hiding behind that gorgeous stainless steel basket is made of white aluminum like metal which corrodes so badly that it will fail eventually with a horrendous crash. Typically there will be about a pint of nasty corrosion hiding behind the basket which has been mixing with your clothes all this time.
The "spider" or basket support is removable or separable from the basket and SHOULD cost around $100.00 or so but guess what. This is where it gets aggravating (forgetting for the moment that they should never have used "white metal" in the first place). You see they don't sell the shaft and spider by themselves even though it is easy to unbolt it from the basket. Oh no, you must buy the entire stainless steel basket along with the shaft and spider so now the price is over $470.00 under the GE brand and about $259.10 for the same exact part under the Frigidaire, Gibson and other labels!! Add to this the cost of labor to take the drum out of the cabinet and disassemble/reassemble the drum and you may have a potential repair bill over $600.00!
In other words, unless you are going to perform the labor yourself, they have relegated that $600.00 to $800.00 washer to the dump. No one in their right mind is going to spend that kind of money repairing one of these machines when for about the same money or another one to two hundred bucks they can purchase a new machine. It is a shame as they are otherwise a great machine. I would love to hear from others who have run into this same problem.
Rear Of Drum
Well I decided to take a few pictures of the spider drum support before I throw it in the dump. This GE labeled machine belonged to one of my customers who owned it for about 6 years. She lives alone and used it very lightly and claims she used the soap as directed. She is a very intelligent person and I have no reason to doubt her word.
Keep in mind as you view these that I already vacuumed up about a pint of slimy powdered corrosion before I took the pictures. As you can see the spider broke into 3 pieces during an extract which resulted in quite a startling bang as it broke at high speed. She said it sounded like a 2 car pile up. She ended up spending another $700.00 purchasing the same basic machine in the slightly larger Frigidaire model. I have since checked the manual and it sports the same white metal crappy spider which will more than likely fail in another 6 years. The really annoying part of all this to me is that I own one each of these exact same machines. One is five years old so I guess we are running on borrowed time on that one. She bought the Frigidaire on my recommendation as I had not torn down her old machine yet and discovered Electrolux's little secret. It would be forgivable if they would just make the spider/shaft assembly available at a reasonable cost rather than forcing you to buy a new perfectly good stainless steel basket as well. As you can see in the photos the spider/shaft is extremely easy to remove from the basket. There are 2 stainless steel bolts at the ends of the three vanes for a total of 6. Even on this very corroded spider they came right off. Unfortunately this won't do you any good as you can't order these items separately anyway. Other repair men may find this acceptable but I do not. You can order every other part of this machine as an individual part so why not the spider/shaft? The ss basket makes a great dry well!
These machines are sold under Electrolux, Wascomat (WE-16), Frigidaire 17#, Gibson, Tappan, White-Westinghouse, Kenmore and some GE (as in the machine pictured here). I will try to find out if there are any others out there and for that matter if there are any that actually use stainless steel rather than the dreaded "white metal" also known as "pot metal".
In my next entry I will give a blow by blow on how to perform this repair yourself as that is the only way that dollar wise it can possibly be worth it. Also I am finding better prices on the basket/spider/shaft and I will reveal under which brand names the best prices can be found. I can tell you right now GE's prices are ridiculous (almost $200.00 more) for the exact same part. I'll try to get lots of photos. I need to replace the tub bearings in my own Gibson (same exact machine as this GE with Electrolux on the label) so that will be another opportunity to get some photos as well.
I want to end this section by repeating that outside of this "pot metal" problem and forcing you to replace a perfectly good and very expensive SS basket on these smaller machines I am a real Wascomat and Electrolux fan. I have worked on the big commercial Wascomats for 20 years and can't say enough praise for these great machines. After all they are made in Sweden. That is one more reason why I find this on going problem all the more frustrating. Looking at the repair manuals I see no change in the current "under 20#" machines . They still use pot metal behind the SS basket and still only offer the replacement parts as one unit.
Replacing The Basket/Spider/Shaft on Electrolux Washers
I have decided to post this even though I have no pictures of this process at the moment. But I will supply you with a pretty good video at the end of this repair section. He is replacing the bearings and seal but it it pretty much the same procedure and if your tub bearings and seal are bad (noisy) you will need to do those as well. The fellow in the video can supply you with the bearings and/or seal as well as these are not available from the dealers without purchasing the whole rear tub shell as well.
Replacing the drum and spider and shaft on your Electrolux 16 and 17 pound washer under any of the following brand names: Electrolux, Wascomat (WE-16 & 17) Frigidaire 16 & 17#, Gibson, Tappan, White-Westinghouse, Kenmore and some GE's as well, is a similar process. The whole tub extraction should take from 15 to 30 minutes depending upon your skill level. The entire repair should take you between 2 - 4 hrs.
First off you will need a good philips #2 screwdriver. I use a Milwaukee 18v drill driver for speed but a standard screwdriver will do. You will also need a channel lock plier to squeeze hose clamps, a razor blade to dislodge the front door gasket, some wood blocks to aid in sliding out the drum. A second person to help when it's time to slide out the drum and lift it is highly recommended. I often put my wife to work at such times.
Personally I leave the motor and weights on the tub unlike some other online advise I have read. I have repaired the BIG rigs up to 200 pound (load weight) washers for years so to me this is just a baby anyway. I realize that for someone doing this kind of work for the first time it can be quite intimidating. Look at it this way: Your alternative is to throw it in the dump or part it out on Ebay. Don't laugh. That 3 phase motor and controller list for about $700.00! and the drain motor lists for $100.00. You should be able to get something near 1/3 to 1/2 that on Ebay. Personally I can't wait to have time to play with that 3 phase variable speed motor and controller on the bench and see what else it would be great on like a wood joiner. Having said that "Let's get er done"
First disconnect the motor wire harness plugs and all the hoses. About 5 - 10 Minutes. Next undo the front door gasket from the cabinet. You will probably need to scrape some stuck spots with the razor blade. Be careful not to damage the gasket.
The biggest pain is probably the soap box. I remove the 2 screws and pop it back a bit so I can get to the hose clamps. By getting the door gasket loose first you can get to the wire clamp that attaches the soap box to the door gasket and slide the filler tube out.
There is NO need to remove any of the control panel. One on line account I read had you removing knobs, weights, control panel and lots of stuff that you didn't have to. Why waste all that time. The more you do this kind of stuff professionally the better you get at NOT disassembling any more than necessary.
Next disconnect the lower shocks at the tub by squeezing the retainer clip and tapping or pulling out the pins. I found the bottom pins to be far less cooperative so I leave those alone and just push the shocks toward the cabinet out of the way. Next undo the upper suspension spring retainers and have someone steady the drum while you lift the springs one side at a time out of their slots and rehang them on the edge of the cabinet more toward the rear. This gives you a little breather while you reposition yourself for the big lift. Place some wood scraps beneath the tub to protect the computer and motor as you slide out the tub.
Now you're ready to gently lift the tub and keeping it upright, work it out the back and set it down on plywood or the like. I have my helper carry it by the rear pulley while I grab it by the door opening during the extraction process. Have your helper grab the pulley near the top for balance. Use wood blocks to steady the drum un the plywood. Now you're ready for the more fun stuff.
Now I remove the motor while it is easy to get to. 1/2" (13mm) socket should do the job. Now you are ready to pull the rear pulley. Start by running the bolt out about a half inch with a 9/16 (14mm) wrench or socket. I then use a small 3 jaw puller to extract the pulley. This is a bit tricky as the pulley is not divided into 2 or 3 spoke holes so you will be a bit to one side or the other but it works. Now using a LONG 24" x 3/8" extension, a universal joint and a 10mm socket (or whatever works for you as I use a 3/8" air impact) remove all the tub retainer bolts and lift off the front half of the tub exposing the ss basket. The basket should lift right out with a minimum of persuasion. Now you will see all the corrosion I am talking about. Try not to get any in the bearings. Vac it right out near the bearings and anywhere else.
Replace the bearings if they were noisy along with the seal. Keep in mind that the water level is almost never above the seal on a front load residential machine so if it looks good you should get away with reusing it. If you want to play it safe replace bearings and seals. Clean and inspect the center tub seal gasket. If all that is ok you are ready to put in the new basket and reassemble. I am writing this from memory so if I have left anything out I will add it to the post. All feedback is welcome. Also, great diagrams are available at the parts warehouse link on this page as well as great prices. I have done lots of business with these people and they are real pros. GE owners should use this part number PS418295 for the basket assembly and save a couple hundred bucks. Check it out! Good Luck!