3 Top Reasons Why Kenmore HE Washer Is Stuck On Sensing

Washing machines have come a long way since they were first invented. While early models were simple with very few features, the same is not true for ones on the market today.

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In fact, washing machines can come with a wide variety of different features. This is great but can also lead to headaches when something goes wrong.

One common issue with Kenmore HE washers is that sometimes they become stuck on “sensing” and begin to malfunction.

When Kenmore HE Washer is stuck on Sensing Cycle and not proceed to the Wash cycle, most likely one of these 3 parts malfunction:

  • Failed Water Inlet Valve or Inlet Valve Tap is in OFF position
  • Shift Actuator not able to change position, before Wash cycle
  • Control Board malfunctioned

Though Kenmore washers are known to be reliable and easy to fix, it can be frustrating when you’re not sure why the machine is acting a certain way.

UPDATE: Service Manual for your washer is located at the bottom of this article.

First, What is the Sensing Cycle?

The auto-sensing function on your Kenmore HE washer is designed to conserve water and automate the entire washing process.

It helps ensure that just the right amount of water is used to wash your load of laundry. So, if you always do your best to save water, this is a great function to have!

So, how does it work?

When you press the “START” button on your Kenmore washer, the washer begins by performing a self-test on the lid lock.

This occurs when you hear the click and see the basket make a slight turn. You will also notice that the lid unlocks for a moment, before it locks again for good.

The washing machine will then use a few slow, short spins to determine how big the load of laundry is. These are what are known as “sensing spins”.

It then takes between two and three minutes for the washer to begin adding water to the load. The unit then moves the load quickly, and pauses to allow water to soak into the clothes.

More water is added periodically, until the machine senses the right amount of water is present.

If the machine thinks the water level is low or is not filled correctly, the sensing function will help the machine stabilize the amount of water required for use.

To put it simply, your Kenmore washer uses the sensing function to determine how large the load of laundry is, and just how much water will be needed to clean the clothes properly.

While you may notice that the wash load is not entirely submerged in water sometimes, this is normal and required for the clothes to move around as needed.

Just be sure to never add more water to the load because this can cause your laundry to float and will cause your clothes to not come out as clean as they should be.

Why is My Kenmore HE Washer Stuck on Sensing?

Sometimes, Kenmore HE washers become stuck on sensing. This usually occurs because there are some parts malfunctioned.

Failed Water Inlet Valve

The water inlet valve is the part that is used to connect the hot and cold water hoses to your washing machine. It controls the flow of water into the machine.

When this valve has failed it can cause your washer to not fill enough or even at all. The valve is not usually repairable, so when you find the part is bad it must be replaced.

However, depending on what’s wrong with the valve, you may be able to clean the two inlet ports and restore the flow of water.

The ports can become blocked by calcium deposits or debris which prevents water flow into the washing machine.

kenmore he washer inlet ports clogged
You Can Get A Water Inlet Valve HERE (affiliate link)

The valve can be tested to see if it has indeed failed. Replacing this part is easy but must be done with parts and procedures specific to the model of your Kenmore washer.

Here’s a look at the first steps you need to take:

  1. Disconnect the power supply to the washing machine
  2. Turn off both the hot and cold water supply
  3. Unscrew the supply hoses from your washer using pliers
  4. Beware water will leak from the supply hoses once they are disconnected – have a bucket ready
  5. Next, check the filter screens
  6. Here you are looking for debris on the filter screens inside the water inlet valve – this is a common reason for a valve malfunction
  7. Use a flashlight and make sure to look at the screens in both ports. Carefully clean them without causing damage because they cannot be replaced

If there are no blockages or calcium buildups present, you will need to test the solenoids on the water inlet valve for continuity using a multimeter.

Here’s how you do that:

  1. Depending on the specific model of your Kenmore washer you may need to remove the front or back access panel on the cabinet (check your owner’s manual)
  2. After you remove the appropriate access panel, you should see the valve
  3. There are two wires on the solenoid that needs to be disconnected – remember where they go
  4. Set your multimeter to the “OHM X1” setting to test for continuity
  5. Connect a probe to each terminal
  6. The reading should show at least some resistance
  7. If your reading is zero or infinity, the solenoid on the inlet valve has burnt out
  8. Test both solenoids independently, if either is faulty, replace the water inlet valve

Motor Shift Actuator Malfunction

Many top-load Kenmore washing machines using motor shift actuator to switching transmission rings between WASH and SPIN cycles.

Kenmore washer shift actuator
Shift Actuator You Can Get HERE (affiliate link)

At the very beginning of the WASH cycle, the control board checking position of the tub and to make sure shift actuator not been set to the SPIN cycle.

If for some reason shift actuator didn’t change position for the WASH cycle before SENSING or just unable to do it due to mechanical or electrical failure, the control board will keep trying to “fix” the position of the shift actuator.

After several attempts lid lock light starts blinking, telling you that there is something malfunctioned, in your case its shift actuator.


In order to fix this problem, first of all, you need to go to the diagnostic mode and look for an error code related to the shift actuator, in order to CONFIRM that its shift actuator failure indeed.

Below is the service manual for your top-load Kenmore washer and go to Page 2

Kenmore HE Washer Service Manual

Main Control Board Failed

Along with a shift actuator failure, there is a major problem that can occur, fortunately not very often, with the main control board.

Control board stop responding to commands due to electrical or wiring issues, or even worse corrupted software.

In this case, you have to check to make sure all connectors to the control board or to the shifter or to the motor are tight.

But if everything you checked seems like ok, so then its only one option is to replace the control board.

If you have any question related to this topic please ask in the comment section below.

6 thoughts on “3 Top Reasons Why Kenmore HE Washer Is Stuck On Sensing”

    • Unbalanced load, worn suspension rods. But you have to go through the diagnostic menu to see if any error codes stored in the control board memory

  1. Great article Eugene thanks!
    My Kenmore is stuck on ‘sensing’ for the Wash cycles, lid doesn’t lock and it keeps filling with water. However lid does lock and cycles properly on a ‘Rinse and Spin’ and ‘Drain and Spin’. Any thoughts on issue?

    • Keeps filling until overfilling? If yes, then check the water pressure sensor. Or enter diagnostic mode to see if any errors stored in the control board memory. Service manual is located on the inner side at front of the washer. Just push tub towards the back wall and you will see it.

  2. Hi. I have a kenmore 2130 I put it on Normal Super, because I was going to wash jeans and sweaters. I think it somebody moved it to regular in the process of washing and now it’s stuck. With water and it won’t do anything I unplugged and try to start again but it stays in Sensing and it won’t lock and star I took the clothes out and just left some and unplug and start but nothing it stays in Sensing please help

    • You need to run diagnostic mode and see what kind of error present. You can find service manual on the left inner side (between drum and the washer)


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