Having a washing machine that won’t agitate can be incredibly frustrating. Without the agitation cycle, clothes won’t get properly clean, leaving you with wet, soapy clothes that need to be rewashed.
The good news is that in most cases, a lack of agitation can be fixed with some simple troubleshooting and repairs. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the most common reasons a washer won’t agitate and show you how to diagnose and fix the problem yourself.
- 1 How an Agitator Works
- 2 Troubleshooting a Washing Machine Agitator
- 3 Replacing Agitator Components
- 4 When to Call a Repair Professional
- 5 Preventing Agitator Problems
How an Agitator Works
Before we dive into troubleshooting, let’s quickly review how the agitator mechanism works on a washing machine:
- The agitator is the large pole in the middle of the wash tub that moves back and forth during the wash cycle. It is connected to the transmission and drive motor.
- During the agitation cycle, the motor rotates which turns the transmission. The transmission converts the rotation into an oscillating motion that moves the agitator back and forth rapidly.
- This oscillating motion is what creates the scrubbing action that cleans your clothes. Without it, clothes soak but don’t get cleaned.
- The timing and duration of the agitation cycle is controlled by the timer or control board.
Knowing the basics of how the agitator drive system works will help you pinpoint the problem. Now let’s look at the most common causes of a washer not agitating.
Troubleshooting a Washing Machine Agitator
Here are the steps I would recommend to diagnose and fix a washing machine agitator that won’t move:
1. Check the Water Level
The first thing to check is whether the washing machine is filling with the proper amount of water. Here’s how:
- Reset the washing machine by turning the power off, then back on.
- Set it for a small load wash cycle on the hottest water setting.
- Allow it to fill up and then turn the power back off once its full.
- The water level should be just above the top row of holes in the agitator.
If the water level is low, the washing machine may not agitate. This could be caused by a faulty water level pressure switch, inlet valve problem, or clog in the fill hoses. Check those components and repair as needed.
2. Test the Motor Coupler
The motor coupler is a small plastic piece that connects the drive motor to the gear case. Its purpose is to allow the motor to spin freely for the spin cycle.
To test the coupler:
- Unplug the washer.
- Take off the back service panel.
- Reach in and try to spin the coupler.
If the coupler is broken, the motor will just spin freely without turning the transmission. Replace the coupler if needed.
3. Assess the Drive Belt
The next thing to check is the condition of the drive belt. This rubber belt connects the motor to the pulley on the transmission.
To check it:
- Remove the service panel to access the belt.
- Inspect the belt for cracking, fraying, or excessive wear.
- Try to turn the pulley by hand – it should have tension on it from the belt.
If the belt is broken or loose, the transmission pulley won’t turn properly to agitate clothes. Replace a worn drive belt with the matching replacement part.
4. Test the Agitator Dogs
Agitator dogs are small plastic or metal teeth underneath the agitator that connect it to the transmission shaft. When they engage, it allows the shaft to spin the agitator back and forth.
To test them:
- Remove the cap from the bottom of the agitator.
- Spin the agitator by hand and watch the dogs.
- They should slide up and down and easily engage the transmission shaft.
If the agitator dogs are worn out or broken, they can’t grip the shaft to agitate. Inspect them and replace broken or worn parts.
5. Check the Transmission
Problems inside the transmission can also prevent the agitator from working properly. Here’s how to test it:
- Remove the agitator and top of the transmission to access the components.
- Try turning the transmission shaft by hand – it should spin freely both ways.
- Examine the transmission gears, bearings, and thrust washers for damage.
If the transmission is jammed or grinding, the cause could be a worn gear, faulty bearing, or damaged thrust washer. Replacement of the damaged transmission parts may be needed.
6. Inspect the Clutch
The clutch allows the transmission drive shaft to engage and spin the tub for the spin cycle.
To check it:
- Remove the transmission and engage the clutch.
- Try to turn it clockwise – the tub should turn freely.
- Then try counterclockwise – it shouldn’t turn more than 1/4 turn this way.
If the clutch isn’t engaging properly, the transmission can’t spin the tub for the spin cycle. Make sure the clutch isn’t worn out or damaged.
7. Test the Lid Switch
The lid switch is a safety device that prevents the washer from agitating when the lid is up. Here’s how to test it:
- Unplug the washer and bypass the lid switch by connecting the two wires together.
- Plug the washer back in and lift the lid.
- Set it to agitate and see if it works.
If it agitates with the lid up, the lid switch is faulty and should be replaced.
8. Check the Control Board
The timer or control board controls the agitation cycle. Before replacing it, you can test it:
- Unplug the washer and access the control board.
- Check for any burned spots or broken wires.
- Make sure all connections are secure.
If damage is found, or if all other parts check out okay, the control board may need replacement. Always make sure to get the correct replacement part number for your model.
Replacing Agitator Components
If your diagnosis leads you to a broken component like the coupler, belt, or lid switch, here are some tips for safely replacing agitator parts:
- Always unplug the washing machine before doing any repairs.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.
- Make sure replacement parts match your specific model.
- Take pictures before disassembling anything to help with reassembly.
- Use the proper tools and protect against sharp edges.
- Be gentle when removing stuck parts to avoid damaging components.
- Double check that all connections are secure before reassembling.
Replacement parts like couplers, belts, and switches are relatively inexpensive compared to transmission repairs. With the proper diagnosis and part replacements, you can often get an unagitating washer functioning again.
When to Call a Repair Professional
While many agitator problems are DIY fixable, there are some instances where it’s best to call a professional:
- If the transmission or clutch needs rebuilt or replaced, this is a complex job best left to a trained appliance repair technician.
- If the issue appears to be with the motor itself, electrical expertise is needed for diagnosis and repair.
- If the basket, tub, or inner drum is damaged and needs replaced, special tools and skills are required.
- For warranty service – most brands require an authorized servicer for parts coverage.
- If you are unable to diagnose the specific cause through troubleshooting steps.
- If you do not feel comfortable or capable completing repairs safely.
Our trained technicians have the skills, experience, and proper tools to efficiently diagnose and fix even complex washing machine problems. We always provide upfront estimates and guarantee our workmanship.
Preventing Agitator Problems
You can minimize the chance of agitator failure by following good washing machine maintenance practices:
- Clean the basket and inner tub monthly to prevent mildew and debris buildup.
- Leave the lid open after cycles to allow moisture to evaporate.
- Use the right amount of detergent – too much suds can cause agitation issues.
- Don’t overload – evenly distribute clothes for proper agitation.
- Clean the lid switch contacts every few months with rubbing alcohol.
- Listen for grinding noises which could indicate worn transmission parts.
- Replace hoses every 5 years to prevent leaks and pressure issues.
With proper care and maintenance, your washer’s agitator mechanism should provide years of dependable service. But when problems crop up, this troubleshooting guide will help you get the washer agitating again.
Our expert appliance repair technicians are always available if you need assistance diagnosing and repairing your broken washing machine. Contact Fix4U Repairs at (647) 363-5205 for affordable washer repairs in the GTA.