Friday, January 25, 2008

The Washing Machine Blues

If your automatic washing machine's instruction manual says to be sure to "remove the cotter pins," take my advice and be sure to.

Have you ever thought you were doing everything right and later realize you hadn't done anything right at all and had one of those head-smacking "DUH!" moments? Well I have, and it was just yesterday...

For the past several weeks, well months perhaps, my washing machine had been making some strange sounds - some clanking, clunking, and chugging sounds to be exact. And since I love to live in the surreal reality of Denial, I heartily did my best to ignore it. As the days went by I noticed that every time I put a load in the washer I winced, cringed, or otherwise jammed my fingers in my ears and singsonged, "I can't hear you! La!La!La!" as I skipped away as fast as I could.

Friday, when I went down to take a load out, lo and behold, the clothes were sopping wet and soapy. Of course I fiddled with the machine and set the dial to "spin," forcing myself to believe that the power had gone out, hence the reason why the clothes hadn't finished washing. Ah, the Power of Denial!

Instead of the usual mystery sounds emanating from the machine, I heard the overwrought sounds of the motor as it struggled to kick into gear, replaced by a horrid buzzing, and then, nothing at all. The washer had finally given up the ghost.

"Aw, great!" I muttered. "What else can go wrong?"

Most decidedly, I was being very unfair. My poor old washer had given me twelve faithful years of service - it hadn't failed me once. How could I complain? At the time, I think I had a reason to grumble as in the span of a few months the dryer had died, the furnace blower had clunked out, and the car had needed several repairs and new tires... I just couldn't help myself but wonder, "What could possibly break next?"

I had to rinse and wring out the clothes by hand and this pleasant task forced me to remember the good old days when I worked as a turn-of-the-19th-Century washer woman. I picked up the phone and direct dialed my hubby.

"We're buying a new washer this weekend!" I threatened.

He had a more practical approach. "Let's see if we can fix it first," he said.

I reluctantly agreed. After all, we're not millionaires and if we could save a few hundred bucks by doing a homeowner repair, why not?

On Saturday, after consulting with a few friends, we replaced the belt, but even with the new belt we found that the problem was the motor, it just couldn't do it anymore. We ended up buying a new washing machine online - the mate to the dryer we had purchased a few months before - and we picked it up on Sunday morning.

It was a pain hauling the old machine out to the curb and bringing in the new one, well, I wouldn't know as hubby and a friend were the ones who did the heavy-work, but they sweat and swore a lot, so I suppose it was difficult. After the new machine was installed, we did our best to get it level, and then, thrill of my day, I would be the first one to try it!

By this time, hubby had wanted to go out for a bit. I didn't mind. I was going to wash skool clothes and get the kids ready for bed, no big deal. What happened when he was gone? I heard the worst rumbling I had ever listened to in my life. At first I thought it was a snow plow. The dog barked ferociously. Then I thought it was an earth quake, but those are few and far between in this area of the country. And then I knew what it was...the washer.

I ran down the stairs to find the washer "walking" all over the place, most specifically "spinning" and ready to rip the hoses from the pipes. Needless to say, my first thought was that the machine wasn't leveled properly, so I spent the next hour or so fiddling with that and trying to finish only the necessary laundry.

At the time I didn't think too much about it and decided that I'd take care of the machine later. When I returned to the machine in preparation to wash I started from zero, re-leveling the machine from square one and liberally referring to the instruction manual. I washed some more clothes but, when it came time for the final spin, was still having troubles.

I was covered with lint and spider webs and my knees were aching from lifting and tugging at the machine, to say I was a little bit upset was an understatement. I had been over and over the instructions and could find nothing in the troubleshooting that was helpful. There was a brief mention of washer walk, but nothing more.

I called my hubby to complain and he promised that we would fix the problem as soon as he came home from work.

After dinner and dishes we went downstairs to try again. He leveled the washer from zero and we put a load to wash. The Walking Washer Syndrome persisted and we didn't know what to do. Call the manufacturer? Return it to the appliance store? Beat it with a monkey wrench? We didn't know.

Finally, with a flood light at hand and the instruction manual, we propped up the machine and looked underneath, feeling the undercarriage with our hands to see if something was amiss. Then I saw it.

A long silver pin attached to a plastic strap in which the electrical plug had come encased.

What did the manual say? "Make sure the cotter pins have been removed," and nothing more.

I gave the strap a hearty tug and pulled it out. We put the washer on its feet, checked for level, and commenced to spinning the last load of clothes.

What happened?

The machine worked perfectly. Actually, it worked like a dream.

If that wasn't the biggest "DUH!" moment, I don't know what was.

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