How to Fix a Jammed Washer Drum

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Washing machines function by spinning clothes inside a basket inside a tub full of soapy water. They agitate, rinse, and spin-wring the clothes before each load is ready for the dryer. Over time, slight imbalances form. The washer may shake or bump or rattle, but continue to function admirably through the years. Sometimes, however, a small item of clothing or a piece of loose hardware will get jammed in the space between the basket or behind the drum. When this happens, your washer becomes jammed.

If your washer basket or drum won’t turn and seems stuck, here’s what to try(steps can vary by model and brand): 

Slowly Turn the Drum Manually

You can tell a jammed washer by how it responds to a push. Normally, your washer basket will spin if you push in the right direction. You can wiggle the drum and twist it to test the mobility. You know a jammed washer when the basket won’t turn with a push. If it feels stuck on something or if you hear a strange sound when you push this important information. Turning the drum manually with your hand is the key troubleshooting option before enacting methods for repair. 

Check the Basket and Drum Gap

The most likely cause of a jammed washer is a small or thin piece of clothing getting caught between the basket and drum. In this way, the drum still does what it should but the basket cannot spin within the drum. It is also possible that something extremely small and hard, that could catch or do damage, has gotten stuck in the same region

In-Reach Extraction

Start with a flashlight and a pair of needle-nose pliers. Examine the gap between the basket and drum – you may need to remove the splash guard to see. Gently turn the basket and look for signs of either clothing or hardware stuck in the space. If you can see and reach it, pull the stuck item out gently with the needle-nose pliers. 

Wedged Clothing

Fine and small clothing can sometimes agitate out of the basket and into the drum itself during the cycle iN some models of washer without a splash guard, it’s even easier for some items to jump the basket edge and dive into the tub. Here, clothing is caught in the movement between the basket and drum, Items of clothing may twist around and wedge in the gap or even shimmy down underneath the basket or drum.

For clothing items you can reach with pliers, be careful not to rip the garment, leaving the wedged part behind.

Small Scraping Items

Another common problem is small hardware in your laundry that slips into this space between the basket and tub. Loose change, earbuds, or escaped bra underwires can all cause a dangerous catch or jam. If you can see these obstructions, extract them with a pair of pliers. If not, prepare to take things apart. 

Dissemble the Cabinet

For some models, the right answer is to take a few panels off of your washer cabinet. Front-loading washers, for example, can be repaired by taking off the front or back panel. The front panel allows you to better access the basket and tub, and to remove the basket. The back panel can help you retrieve anything that has fallen under the tub into the mechanisms.

With a top-loading washer, naturally, you want to remove the top panel to gain greater access to the basket and tub. From there, you can remove the splash guard and extract the basket to further reach whatever is jamming the system. Beyond that, removing the back and side panels can allow access to the inner mechanisms, including the pumps. 

Check the Sump Drain

We have found that sometimes a jam will be caused by a piece of clothing incorrectly pulling into the drain and getting stuck. This can prevent the drum or basket from moving separately from the drain. The clothing acts as a rope belaying your washer in place. It’s interesting, but problematic. Open your washer cabinet until you can access the pump. Of course, be sure that you have turned off the power and water valves before this.Open the pump and carefully extract the stuck article of clothing from the line. 

Basket or Drum Removal

If all else fails, you can remove the basket and drum of your washer. You will need to investigate the proper procedure for your make and model of washer. Front and top loading washers are different, and each brand design is unique. However, we can give you a quick run-down on how to remove the basket on a classic top-loading washer design to fix the most common problem: clothes stuck between the basket and drum. 

Remove Basket from Top Loading Washer

Remove the Agitator Column

Start by opening the lid and looking at the central column, the agitator. Pull the fabric softener cup to reveal the central bolt.Extract the central bolt to release the agitator. Pull out and set aside the agitator column.

Pull Off the Splash Guard

The lower splash guard is a ring that sits over the gap between the basket center and the tub center. There are likely clamps holding the splash guard in place. Release the clamps with your fingers or a flat-head screwdriver, then pull the splash guard off and set it aside.

Extract the Basket Locknut

At the bottom you will see a locknut holding the basket to the tub. Knock the locknut open, with care for the basket, and pull the locknut free.

Lift the Basket

Now shake the basket loose from the tub and pull it out. This should reveal any manner of items stuck between the two, allowing you to clear them out and reassemble the washer.—Is your washing machine stuck, unable to spin? Does your washer not nudge when you push it with your hand? Will it not enter the spin cycle? We can help. Repairing washing machines is only one of the many skills we are proud to share with the community.

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