My victory over the washing machine

The day before Christmas Eve, Kate noticed a strange smell coming from the washing machine. I went to take a look, noticed the smell, and some smoke too. The washing machine appeared to be cooking our clothes rather than washing them.

Of course our first instinct was to call out an engineer, but the last chap we called out three or so years ago said something to me which made me stop and think this time round.

He said: “Washing machines aren’t complicated. Once you poke your nose around inside, you can see that a lot of the stuff is pretty easy to take apart. You could have fixed this yourself, if you’d known what to do.”

So he showed me what to do.

Three years later, his words came back to me and I decided that I would at least try to fix the machine myself.

First step was to grab a torch (it’s dark inside the washing machine) and have a good look inside. I suspected the motor, and I was right. Dark smoky stains were visible on the armature, the central column that spins inside the motor and drives the belt that turns the drum around.

My first thought was that perhaps the brushes inside the motor needed replacing. That was when I went online, and to my delight found some instructive videos on YouTube showing me exactly how to remove the motor, and offering tips on brush replacement. So far, so good.

By this time, though, it was already Christmas Eve and no-one was going to sell me a new brush, or a new motor, for at least two weeks. That’s why we ended up visiting relatives over the festive holiday with a suitcase or two full of dirty washing. Barney’s various grandparents did a super job of keeping him in clean underwear for the duration.

When all the useful shops re-opened, I headed to one in a quiet alley in Trowbridge. At the end of it was a small shop. It was like something out of the 1970s, complete with a man in blue overalls behind a counter. He was terribly helpful, and could tell from a single glance that I was not the kind of person with lots of experience inside a washing machine. He gave me more useful advice on the fitting of brushes, so I went home and fitted them.

Turned back on again, the machine’s motor made ominous clicking noises. As it started a spin, sparks began to zap around inside it. Clearly the brushes, while worn and due for replacement anyway, had not been the cause of this problem.

I called the helpful man in Trowbridge again. “Bring the motor here then,” he said, “We can fit a new armature in it for you.” Which he did, for just a tenner’s worth of labour charge (the armature itself cost 40 squids).

The most rewarding part of the whole adventure was the re-assembly. Having dismantled and re-mantled the motor’s fixings several times, putting everything back together with a shiny new armature fitted inside the motor was amazingly easy. It really did take just a few minutes. I called Barney and Kate to admire the Grand Switching On, and stood back feeling pleased with myself.

This Further Adventure in the Realm of Real Man-dom was brought to you by a cup of tea and a large adjustable spanner.

(17th January 2007)