Why Is Washing Machine Agitator Not Working?

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Many washing machines rely on an agitator to make the cleaning process more effective. As the agitator turns back and forth, it helps to loosen and remove stains from your laundry to make them fresh and clean. So, what would cause the agitator to stop working?

When you find that your washing machine agitator is not working, start by checking the agitator assembly for damage. Then, inspect the drive block for excess wear and ensure that the drive belt isn’t loose or broken. Lastly, ensure that the motor coupling is still intact and that the transmission/gearcase isn’t faulty.

Troubleshooting your washing machine agitator can seem like an impossible task at first. But don’t worry! In this guide, you’ll learn all about the likely cause and how you can get the agitator working again.

What Causes An Agitator To Stop Working?

There are 5 likely causes why a washing machine agitator will stop working. Firstly, there is potential damage to the agitator assembly. Once you rule that out, you must also check for a worn-out drive block, loose or broken drive belt, a failed motor coupling, or faulty transmission.

Below, you’ll explore those likely causes and what you can do to resolve them.

#1 Damaged Agitator Assembly

Start the troubleshooting process by considering that the agitator assembly might have suffered damage. 

In particular, the part of the agitator that connects to the driveshaft might have become worn-out. Manufacturers make the agitator assembly using hard plastic, so parts of it can wear out or break off over time.

When that happens, the drive shaft will turn during the agitation cycle. But, the agitator won’t turn along with it.

You’ll have to remove the agitator assembly to inspect it for damage. Once you free the bolt that secures it to the drum, pull it out and check for visible signs of damage.

When you confirm that there’s damage to the agitator assembly, you’ll have to buy a replacement. Unfortunately, you can’t repair the agitator once it’s in that state.

Read: Why Are Clothes Wrapped Around An Agitator?

#2 Worn-Out Drive Block

Next, you’ll want to inspect the drive block on your washing machine for wear. That’s another component that connects the agitator to the washer transmission. 

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More specifically, the drive block ensures that the agitator moves perfectly with the transmission shaft when it turns back and forth.

Firstly, you must access the drive block to inspect it visually. To do that, you’ll have to remove the agitator the same way you did in #1 above.

Then, you’ll have to remove the washer drum before you can reach the drive block. When you remove the drive block, be sure to inspect it closely for:

  • Signs of wear.
  • Stripped parts that prevent a secure grip between the block and the agitator.
  • Visible damage.

When you find any of the above, you must replace the drive block with a new one. Only then will the agitator attach securely to the driveshaft and move back and forth correctly during the agitation cycle.

Read: Top Loading Washer Without Agitator. What Are Pros And Cons?

#3 Loose Or Broken Drive Belt

Let’s suppose your washer is a belt-driven model. That means the washer relies on a drive belt to transfer power from the motor to the transmission. The transmission then turns the agitator back and forth.

The drive belt must be in good condition for that process to work correctly. At the same time, the washer must keep the belt under tension using one or more pulleys and tensioners.

Unfortunately, none of that will happen correctly if the drive belt becomes loose or breaks entirely. Manufacturers use black rubber to make drive belts. That material loses its elasticity and becomes loose as you use it over many years.

When the drive belt is loose, your washer transmission won’t get all the power it needs. As a result, the agitator will not work correctly.

The same is also true if the drive belt breaks. Then, your washer transmission will receive no power at all. So not only will the agitator stop working, but the drum won’t turn, either. 

Read: Why Do My Clothes Smell Burnt After Washing?

#4 Failed Motor Coupling

Many washing machines on the market today have a direct drive transmission. So, instead of a drive belt like the one you saw in #3 above, the washer relies on a motor coupling.

The motor coupling is a flexible component on the drive shaft. As the name suggests, it’s the part that ‘couples’ or connects the motor to the washing machine’s transmission. 

In other words, the motor coupling is how the motor transfers energy to the transmission, which then turns the agitator during the agitation cycle.

Manufacturers design the motor coupling to break if the washer is overloaded. That’s a protective feature to ensure that the motor doesn’t overwork and burn itself out. But, besides that, the coupling can also break due to regular wear and tear.

No matter what the cause might be, a broken motor coupling means the transmission doesn’t receive any power. That will prevent the agitator from working.

The most straightforward solution for this problem is to replace the broken motor coupling with a new one. That will restore power to the transmission, which turns the agitator when necessary.

Read: Why Does My New Washing Machine Have Water In It?

#5 Faulty Transmission/Gearcase

Once you’ve finished troubleshooting items #1 to #4, you then focus your attention on the transmission. When everything else works but the agitator doesn’t, that’s a telltale sign that there’s a fault in the transmission instead.

The transmission, also known as the gearcase, is one of the most critical components in your washing machine. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the priciest parts to repair and replace. That’s why you should only troubleshoot it the last.

Firstly, the transmission is responsible for turning your washer drum safely, especially at high speeds. But, more importantly, it’s also responsible for turning the agitator in both directions, particularly during the agitation cycle.

So, when your washer agitator stops working, it’s likely because a gear or other part of the transmission has failed. That part might have suffered damage or excess wear and fails to turn the agitator.

This problem will cost you a significant amount of money either way. You could get a technician to repair the transmission. However, the repairs can often cost more than a brand new replacement.

At the same time, you should also consider the age of your washing machine. If it’s really old, you’re likely better off buying a new one instead of repairing or replacing the transmission.

Read: Why Is Washing Machine Spin Cycle Is Very Loud?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To clarify the troubleshooting process even more, here are answers to a few frequently asked questions that you might find helpful.

How Can You Tell If Your Agitator Is Broken?

The only way to be sure that your washer agitator is broken is to remove it from the drum. You can do that by unthreading the bolt that secures the agitator in place. Then, remove and inspect the agitator thoroughly, preferably under a lamp or with a flashlight to look for damage.

How Do You Fix A Washer That Won’t Agitate?

The solution to a washer that won’t agitate will depend on its root cause. So, you’ll have to troubleshoot the problem one step at a time, starting with the agitator assembly. Then, rule out the drive block, drive belt, and motor coupling. Lastly, check the transmission (or ‘gearcase’) for problems.

Can I Remove My Washers Agitator?

You can remove your washer’s agitator by unthreading the bolt that secures it to the washer drum. Depending on your washer model, the agitator might have a dust cap that conceals the bolt inside. Remove the cap, then use a socket wrench to remove the bolt so you can pull the agitator out.

How Do You Get Stuck Clothes Out Of An Agitator?

Before you try to free stuck clothes from the agitator, be sure to disconnect the washer’s power supply for safety reasons. Then, try to gently slide the clothes out from under the agitator. However, if the clothes are twisted too tightly, it’s best to remove the agitator entirely. That will help you avoid damaging your clothes as you remove them.

Are Agitators Necessary?

Yes, if your washing machine model uses an agitator, you must never remove it from the drum. Your clothes will get stuck around the drive shaft during the wash program without it. Worse still, those clothes will likely suffer damage as a result.

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