Fixing a Slow-Draining Maytag Maxima Washer
Andrew left Friday for a week-long adventure with his brothers and a couple of uncles up to his uncle’s lake house. This is his first kid-free trip in a long time and my first time watching both Frugal kids alone for an extended period. 🙂
Before he left Andrew put a load of laundry into the washer so it’d be ready for the dryer by the time I got home from work, getting a jump start on the weekend chores. I walked into the house that afternoon and was greeted by the chirping of the washer. Unfortunately it wasn’t the happy “I’m done” kind of chirping. Nope, it was the “Houston, we have a problem” variety. After getting Frugal Boy’s dinner ready and making sure Frugal Girl was content I headed down to the basement to see what the problem was. E01 F09. The LED panel blinked flashed the error code over and over. We occasionally see E01 F08 – water supply problem – due to the undersized supply lines in the house (can’t run anything else while the washer is trying to fill) but this was something else – a drainage issue. The error had appeared a few days earlier but canceling out the cycle and restarting seemed to work fine. No such luck this time. After a couple cancels and a couple attempted restarts I was resigned to pull out sopping wet laundry and bail out the remaining water the best I could with a bucket.
As you may recall we use cloth diapers with Frugal Girl. One of the weekend tasks is to wash said diapers but a broken washer puts a damper on that job. What to do? My options were:
- Call a repair person ($$$)
- Leave the diapers sit, put Frugal Girl in disposables, wait for Andrew to get home in a week and have him fix it (no AC in the house means those diapers are going to get mighty stinky)
- Wash the diapers by hand (bucket and plunger oh boy!)
- Drag the diapers to the nearest laundromat and sit for 2+ hours with a fidgety 3 year old and a four month old (did I mention Andrew took our only vehicle with him? We’re walking or hailing an Uber this week)
- Beg to borrow a neighbor’s washer (regular clothes sure, diapers in the washer for whatever reason seems to make people squeamish)
- Fix it myself
We’re going with the last one.
Google indicated that the most likely culprit was a clogged coin trap. Like the name implies, this handy part catches all the coins, bobby pins, screws etc. that you do not want traveling to and damaging the drain pump. Some machines are conveniently designed to have an access door right by the trap for regular cleaning. Our Maytag Maxima does not have this nice feature; you have to take off the whole front panel instead. Thanks Maytag. Well, those diapers aren’t getting any fresher so let’s get cracking.***
The first step in any appliance diagnostic and repair job is to unplug the machine. Might seem like common sense but as Grandpa would say “common sense is a gift not a given.” Once no more power is flowing it was time to remove the top panel of the washer. Yes, you read that right – the top panel has to come off before the front panel. I didn’t take any photos but on the back of the machine there are 3 screws along the top edge. Undoing those let me slide the top towards the back of the machine and reveal two screws for the electronics console panel. These are the same type of screw on either side of the machine in the corners. Once those are out don’t try to tug off the console just yet as you have to remove the dispenser and reveal even more screws.
7 screws down and more to go! I was able to very gently lift off the electronics panel at this point and set it on top of the machine. It’s still connected to the main machine via wires so you can’t just rip it off or you’ll have a much more costly problem on your hands.
With the top and electronics panels removed I could now start tackling the front panel removal. But of course it’s not going to be that easy. The center of the front panel is connected to the tub of the machine by a rubber gasket/boot. This is held in place by tension using a wire and spring. There’s a tool that professionals use to extend the spring but I don’t have that. I made do by sliding pliers into the loops (being careful not to rip a hole in the rubber) and pulling in opposite directions. This extended the spring and loosened the wire just enough to be slipped off the gasket. I then unhooked the gasket from the front panel and shoved it towards the inside of the machine and out of the way.
9 more screws to go. There were four screws along the bottom edge of the front panel. Most tutorials on the web had you tilt the machine back or lay on the floor to access them. Our machines are on a custom made pedestal and with a rachet extender I was able to take them out without having to try and move the heavy machine myself.
There were three more easily accessible screws along the top of the panel (with a different head from either of the two previous types) that came out and I was able to start lifting the panel up and off the hooks holding it in place. I got the panel clear of the pedestal when I was stopped by more wires attached to the door latch. Two more screws and the front panel was off.
I was surprised how relatively empty it was inside. The white piece in the bottom center of the above photo is the coin trap and drain pump. Here’s a close up.
The parts are held in place by rubber feet that slipped into tabs. I removed the rubber feet to have more room to maneuver a bucket underneath the trap and started unscrewing the coin trap lid. Be happy that smells can’t be transmitted over the web yet as a gallon of foul smelling water poured out as well as the clogged trap.
Youtube and the like recommended sticking your finger into the drain pump and trying to spin impeller a bit to make sure there are no clogs there either. Ours was clear and I was free to clean out the trap and start putting the machine back together.
The reassembly was pretty much the reverse of the above and smooth sailing with two exceptions – both rubber boots. I made the stupid mistake of taking off the rubber boot that leads from the outer tub down to the coin trap. I had felt something in there and turned out to be an intentional hard plastic ball. The tough tension combined with a restricted work space and an odd angle resulted in numerous attempts to get the darn thing back on. Once it was back on I poured a couple gallons of water into the drum to make sure we weren’t going to have any leaks (and subsequently have to take the machine apart again).
The other problem came when trying to reattached the door gasket to the front panel. Remember that wire and spring? It’s a hard thing to put back on. If you happen to have an extra set of hands to hold it in place it’d probably make the job a lot easier. The tension in spring kept forcing the wire off. I ended up having to hold the gasket top in place with my shoulder, pull the spring as hard as I could using a pliers in one hand, use a putty knife in the other hand to work the wire back into place, and send Frugal Boy to watch Paw Patrol in the other room so he wouldn’t learn new words. An hour later an the machine was back together and ready to be tested out.
So what was the culprit?
Those heart shaped pieces of fabric are washable nursing pads. I had lost them when I was nursing Frugal Boy…18+ months ago. I thought they were somewhere in the sea of baby clothes. I guess not. I was tempted for a second to bleach them for use but my senses got the better of me and they were thrown into the trash instead (like I said only a second). Three wash cycles later and I’m happy to report the machine is draining well and no signs of leakage yet. Start to finish it took me about 5 hours split between Friday evening (researching and starting to disassemble the machine) and Saturday morning (cleaning everything out, reassembling and testing). If this happens again the fix should go much faster. The kids pretty much let me work in peace. Frugal Boy was happily entertained by Saturday morning cartoons and Frugal Girl thought the back of her eyelids were more interesting than watching me work.
Hopefully nothing else will break in the next few days until Andrew gets back. 🙂
***Note: I am not a professional appliance repair person. I am a software developer (aka professional googler). You follow what I did at your own risk. I am not responsible for any damage to your machine or you.