Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to Repair a Washing Machine

Sunday evening, I didn’t know how to fix my washing machine, much less that I was going to have to fix it. The operation is very simple. The time it took for the actual repair was approximately 20 minutes, including the test. Every good repairman tests his repairs before proclaiming victory. The cost, as well, was minimal. The drain hose (culprit) was only $23 and change, American. The right front tire was only $28; £13.716 British Pounds Sterling.

The notification of the need for these things is rarely at a convenient time, but this one coincided with the Sunday Night Curse. You know, when you need to get some quality sleep before the workweek begins, it is nearly impossible. One of the kids gets sick, your shoulders knot up, your legs get twitchy, you develop a cough or your spouse snores loud all night. Not that I have experienced the last one, I have heard of things like that. From other people.

I was on the threshold of a beautiful sleep, my body relaxing into slumber, when the hall light flicked on, the door to the bedroom opens and my wife’s usually melodious and song-like voice transformed into an exhausted snarl, “There’s water pouring out from under the washing machine.”

Adios to Dreamland. I stumbled out of bed, clawed for my glasses and “dashed” in a controlled fall through the living room into the kitchen. My first vision was a battle line of extremely wet towels and other clothes extending a third of the way across the floor stretching from the laundry room toward my unsteady feet. My wife was looking from me to the floor to the washing machine, standing atop a mound of soaked towels and shirts and socks. As I drew near to the breach in the levee, I heard the unmistakable sound of a babbling brook. Which is much less soothing than you would expect, especially since it was inside my castle. There were no finches and wrens singing in the trees.

Still shaking what would have been blissful sleep from my head, I tried to make sense of the situation. I leaned on the twenty-year-old Kenmore and tried to determine the most likely and easiest way to staunch the flow. I finally snapped to the fact that it was actually off, and the water was draining out on its own. I reached around to the back where the drain hose is attached, and noticed that it was wet there, which was a good sign for me; it could be a simple fix.

As I became fully awake, due in part to the cold water I was standing in, the thought that the ten-gallon wet/dry shop vac might be able to benefit us at that moment. I sloshed out and grabbed it, dragged it nearby and commenced to vacuum out the flood. First I lowered the nozzle into the tub to take care of the headwaters. I then turned my full attention to the shoreline. This was fairly uneventful, just time consuming. The angle was funny (“funny”, “OW”, not funny, “Ha ha”) and my back sort of wanted to spasm. Mainly because of having to drag out a shop vac full of water and Pomeranian hair. When I took it outside to dump it, I noticed we had enough hair to make a whole ‘nother dog. Nice. As the TV struck eleven, I trudged off to bed, leaving a wet pile of clothes on the laundry room. It would stay until tomorrow, I was sure.

Monday dawned warm and muggy, and after I took my sixteen-year-old to school, I went dutifully off to work with the Kenmore on my mind. I stayed until just past the Staph meeting, printed out an important phase of a big, fire-breathing project, and got out at nearly eleven o’clock. I arrived at home, changed clothes and launched into the cleanup that precedes the repair.

While there are typically a large number of clothes in the laundry room, when that same number of articles of clothing are wet, the weight becomes quite different. If everybody wore white t-shirts and khaki work pants we wouldn’t have a problem. And of course, with a dryer, you’re always behind, with the lag time between the washer cycle and the dryer being at least thirty minutes. You would need a dryer the size of a cement truck’s mixer to keep pace.

The clothes all moved, I wrestled the washer out of its usual place. Being a narrow nook more than a room, the 34 inch-wide laundry closet is not ideal for a machine that is 26 inches wide to maneuver around. When I completed my Dancing With the Kenmore moves, I marveled at the ten years worth of guk under the machine. There was dust, lint balls, 137 bobby pins, broken and unbroken coat hangers, a wrapping paper tube, Armor All wipes, Gain detergent bottles, Gain laundry sheets, gum wrappers and quite a few other unidentifiable objects, all in various stages of sopping wet. At that point, I got to slide behind the washer that was pulled out and angled to the side, with just enough clearance for me to get back there, but not much room to maneuver in a crouch. For anyone who hasn’t ever seen me, just imagine a grizzly bear trying to get in and turn around in a 55-gallon drum. Tight fit, to say the least. And if getting into a crouch was comical enough, the inverse was pitiful to be sure.

The space cleaned and dried completely, I turned to the task of finding and eliminating the leak. That was simple; I touched the drain tube, and water came out of the side. I squeezed the clip and pulled it out. Couldn’t be easier. I measured it and then called the Sears Parts Center. Found out the part would be around $22 (American) and decided to jet down to Dickinson to pick it up. No Problem.

Until I got on the road. I noticed the steering wheel twitching like a toad on a hot plate. The farther down the road I got, the worse it became. When I stopped at the Sears store, I checked my tires. Sure enough, there was a huge bump on the right front tire. I limped back to Alvin and straight to Lozano’s Tire for a cheapo tire to get me through. When the workman removed the wheel, I could see the steel belt beginning to fray and slow-motion explode out of the tread. A few more miles and it would have been a blowout of epic proportions.

On arrival back at my home, I quickly replaced the drain hose and repositioned the appliance. I made the test, and proclaimed victory to the dog, and she rejoiced with me in my handyman-ness.

When I started the first load of clothes, the sound of the water reverberated in the newly cleaned and emptied laundry cubby, and made a little panic feeling rise in my liver. I checked about four times, and satisfied that it had been successfully repaired, I closed out the ticket.


the photoSmith said...

This reminds me of when I was in 5th grade and our dishwasher flooded our entire house! Being that I was in 5th grade I don't really remember why it flooded so bad, but I do remember having concrete (as opposed to carpet) floors for quite some time...

invigilator_tex said...

Congratulations, aA! I fully understand that sense of accomplishment one gets after repairing a vital piece of one’s domicile. I too have rejoiced in the salvation of an ancient washing machine, actually replacing an electric module of some sort. I am sincerely proud of your accomplishment.

What is a shame is the fact that not too long ago the former Maytag repair man was replaced by a strapping, young actor who probably has never even operated a washing machine let alone repaired one. Had the old fellow held on a few more months you might have had a shot at the auditions. A good-looking and naturally lonely guy like you would have been a shoe in.

Such is life.

I read that Mr. Whipple finally went to that big grocery store in the sky. How are you at squeezing toilet paper?

invigilator_tex said...

By the way...hang on to all that dog hair. I read an article in Mother Earth News showing how to turn dog hair into fuel for your car.

aA said...

dang, i need to bag it up! then i'll squeeze it.

the repair ain't usually the problem, it's the set-up that is time/patience intensive. i can figure out parts, i can't figure out how a wrapping paper tube gets behind the washing machine!

Stepsistaahhh said...

Only you could tell a story that good. Sorry, but I don't have any input for washing machine repairs...I'm not the 'repair-person' type. However, I may need you to come over and see why my microwave stopped in the middle of timing pie crust baking last night. It was showing the 8888 symbol this morning but now I know that I will not leave anything to the last minute knowing that it may go out again. LuVu&YrStuf