Top 5 Reasons Why Washer Smells Like Burning Rubber

When a washing machine is in good working order, the only smell that should come from it is the floral scent of your detergent. However, a washer that smells like burning rubber is a sign that the machine is facing a serious problem.

A common reason for washers smelling like burning rubber is that the drain pump is overheating or drum touching the door gasket on the high spin. Beyond that, the exact reasons for a washer smelling of burning rubber will differ between top-loading and front-loading machines. Top-loading machines could be experiencing an overheating drive motor, worn-out motor coupling, or loose motor belt. Front-loading washers might have overheating door gaskets or failed drum bearings.

In this article, we’ll explore the most likely reasons why your washer smells like burning rubber.

What Are The Reasons That A Washer Smells Like Burning Rubber?

The exact reasons for a washer smelling like burning rubber will depend on the type of washer it is. Here, we’ll look at the different reasons for front-load and top-load washing machines.

For Top Load Washing Machines

1. Loose or Jammed Motor Belt

The motor inside the washer is not always connected directly to the drum. Instead, these two parts are connected by a motor belt. When you begin the washing cycle, the motor will power up and turn the belt. The energy will transfer through the belt which will then turn the drum and tumble the clothes inside.

How it fails:

A motor belt must always be perfectly aligned and kept at the correct tension level to ensure that it works correctly. That’s why the belt travels through a system consisting of pulleys and tensioners.

A washing machine’s motor belt that’s not installed correctly could come loose or get jammed. That will happen even as the motor keeps trying to turn the belt, resulting in the smell of burning rubber.

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How to fix:

To fix this, the motor belt must be removed and reinstalled correctly. That will allow you to ensure that the belt is perfectly aligned. However, you’ll need to replace the belt entirely if it’s worn out or damaged.

2. Overheating Drain Pump

As the name suggests, the purpose of the drain pump is to help remove all of the water from the washer out through the drain pipe. Typically, this pump is located towards the rear of the washer, closer to the ground. The drain pipe location is a clear indicator of where you can find the pump on any particular washer model.

How it fails:

Draining water from a washer is a straightforward task. Still, several issues might complicate the process and make the drain pump work too hard. For example, there might be a clog preventing the pump from draining all of the water out of the machine.

Besides that, a faulty water inlet valve could continuously let water into the machine even as the drain pump is trying to drain it all out.

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When any of these issues occur, the drain pump will continue to work until it overheats. As that happens, the pump will start to smell like burning rubber.

How to fix:

In this case, the overheating drain pump is the symptom and not the root cause. Identifying the root cause will require you to troubleshoot the water inlet valve and check for any clogs that prevent the water inside the washer from draining out completely.

3. Worn-Out Drive Motor Coupling

Some washing machines use a direct drive motor instead of a motor that relies on a belt (described above). That motor coupling is made of rubber and acts as the connecting point between the washer’s motor and the transmission.

The rubber of the motor coupling will absorb the torque generated by the motor, which connects to the coupling with its drive forks.

How it fails:

After a long time of being in use, the drive motor coupling will begin to wear out. As that happens, the rubber parts will not hold the drive forks in place as they turn the coupling.

As a result, the drive forks will slip and cause excessive friction on the drive motor coupling, leading to an unmistakable burning rubber smell.

How to fix:

Seeing as how the drive motor coupling is already worn out, it will simply need to be replaced. That process involves removing the drive motor to gain access to the motor coupling.

4. Overheating Drive Motor

The drive motor is responsible for spinning the washer drum. It generates power that is then transferred to spin the drum in two ways: with a motor belt connecting the motor and the drum or directly through a motor coupling (on direct drive washers).

The drive motors on modern washing machines can alternate directions to agitate the clothes inside.

How it fails:

A drive motor overheats when the washing machine is constantly overloaded. When there are too many items in the drum, the drive motor is forced to exert as much power as possible to try and spin the drum until the end of the wash cycle.

As the drive motor continues doing the same thing, it’ll overheat and let out a smell that’s similar to that of burning rubber.

A second possibility is that the motor is faulty and is drawing too much power. That will also cause it to overheat.

How to fix:

Assuming the drive motor is still in good working order, you’ll need to lighten the loads you put into the washer. Be sure to refer to the user manual to understand the maximum load that your washer can handle.

If the motor is faulty or worn out, it’ll need to be replaced entirely.

For Front Load Washing Machines

1. Door Boot (Gasket) Touching Drum When It’s Spinning 

The door boot is a rubber gasket that wraps around the door section of the washing machine. Its purpose is to prevent water from splashing out of the washing machine while the drum is spinning behind the closed door.

How it fails:

Even when the drum is spinning at high speeds, it’s kept stable in place thanks to the drum bearings. However, when those bearings fail, the drum will lose stability and wobble around too much whenever it spins.

As that happens, there will be a lot of friction between the drum and the rubber gasket at the door. That friction will lead to the smell of burning rubber.

How to fix:

Here, the door gasket is the symptom, not the root cause. To solve it, you’ll need to replace the worn-out drum bearings. If the door gasket is damaged, you’ll want to replace that afterwards as well.

2. Overheating Drain Pump 

As mentioned in the previous section, the role of the drain pump is to help remove all of the water inside the washer and push it out through the drain hose

How it fails:

Once the drain pump turns on, it’ll only shut off once all of the water is drained out. If there’s a clog or a faulty inlet valve keeps letting water in, the pump will never stop working. That will lead to it overheating and smelling like burning rubber.

How to fix:

The solution here will depend on what’s causing the drain pump to run continuously. The troubleshooting process should start with the water inlet valve and then towards locating any possible clogs. If the drain pump itself is faulty, it needs to be replaced.

3. New Water Hoses

Whenever you attach a new water hose to your washer, you might sense a burning rubber smell coming from the machine. The smell is likely coming from the new hoses that have just been taken out from its packaging.

For safety reasons, it’s crucial to troubleshoot the smell and ensure that it’s coming from the new water hose and not another part of the washing machine.

How to troubleshoot:

To determine whether or not the smell is coming from the new water hose:

  • Set the washer to fill up with hot water.
  • Before it begins the washing cycle and turning the drum, stop the washer immediately.
  • If you notice the smell only while the washing machine is filling up with hot water, then what you’re smelling is coming from the new hoses. Since the washing cycle hasn’t started, that means the motor and pump aren’t running, and therefore aren’t the source of the smell.
  • However, if the burning rubber smell is noticeable only when the machine starts running, it’s being caused by the overheating motor or the pump.

4. Worn-Out and Overheating Drum Bearings

Washing machine drums spin at very high speeds. Those drums spin on metal rings called drum bearings, keeping everything stable and moving very smoothly, even at higher speeds.

How it fails:

Over time, drum bearings will get worn out. When that happens, the metal rings will not turn smoothly. As the motor keeps trying to turn the drum, the excessive friction will cause the drum bearings to overheat and generate a burning smell.

How to fix:

To fix this, you’ll need to replace the drum bearings. Removing the drum bearings is easy, though accessing them can be pretty challenging. You’ll need to take the washer apart to locate the worn-out drum bearings.

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