You toss a load of laundry into the washer, turn the dial to the proper load setting and walk away, assuming the washing machine will take care of the rest.
Most of the time it will do exactly that; however, almost every homeowner will face the hassle of having their washer break-down at some point. Keeping a list of common washing machine problems and learning how to troubleshoot them can help you prepare for that day when the washer goes kaput without warning.
Check the obvious first; repair techs always have a few dozen stories about the time they were called out to repair a washing machine only to find that it wasn't plugged in. Make sure the plug hasn't been jostled loose. Also be sure the lid has been closed all the way, as some models won't start unless the lid is down.
If the machine is plugged in and the lid is closed but still won't start, you can use a VOM (volt-ohm-meter) to check the lid switch and timer switch. You should refer to your washing machine's manual for proper instructions on how to locate both the lid switch and the timer before testing.
A lid switch should read "infinity" when the lid to the washing machine is open, and should read "0" when it is closed. To test the timer, you should set your VOM to RX100. The timer should read between about 1,100 and 3,000 ohms; if any of these readings are off, you will need to replace the proper switch.
This is a very common problem. Many people actually use too much detergent in their washing machines which can lead to a build up of residue and mildew. Be sure to read the directions on how much laundry detergent to use; remember, most of the detergents on the market are highly concentrated and you'll likely find you don't need to use very much.
Fortunately, it's fairly easy to get rid of bad smells. Clean the detergent dispensers frequently by washing them with a solution of vinegar and water. Also, clean out the inner tub with hot water. If there are stains or residue build-up you can use bleach to remove these. Some newer models even have a self-cleaning cycle; if yours has one of these options available, use it!
A leaky washing machine typically means one of two things: a clogged pump or a leaking hose. Be sure to check all hoses and make sure they are tightened correctly. Look carefully for any damage. All it takes is a very small hole in the hose to cause a very big leak!
If the hoses are attached correctly and do not seem to have any leaks, you will need to check the pump. Refer to your washing machine's manual to locate the pump; in most models the pump is near the motor. To do this, you will have to remove it and look for wear or for any clogs.
Depending on how handy you are at DIY projects, you may or may not need to call a repair tech if a bad pump is the problem.