Using a washing machine at home is typically a set-it-and-forget-it type of process. We load the machine with our laundry, choose our settings, then let the washer get the job done. But why is it that in some cases, the washing machine keeps tripping our home’s circuit breakers?
The top reasons why a washing machine may trip your circuit breaker include a bad door latch assembly, a bad timer, or a faulty water level control switch. The motor brushes or motor control board could cause your circuit breaker to trip, as well.
In this article, we’re going to explore each of these reasons in detail. Then, we’ll also look at why a washer may trip a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), and what amperage your GFCI should be for your washer.
Let’s get started.
Top Reasons Why Washing Machine Keeps Tripping Breaker
Door Latch Assembly
What is it: Like any other door, the one on your washing machine has a latch inside to keep it closed.
The thing is, that’s not any standard latch. It locks itself automatically at the beginning of a washing cycle to ensure that the door stays shut through to the end.
Suppose you have a front-loading washing machine. If someone were to open the door halfway through a cycle, accidentally or on purpose, all of the water would come gushing out and flooding your laundry room floor.
Thankfully, that’ll never happen thanks to the door latch which locks automatically when the washer is filling up and unlocks when all the cycles are complete.
Remember: the door latch assembly is a component with moving parts and electrical connections, just like any other inside your washing machine.
Among other problems, a faulty door latch could trip your circuit breaker. Perhaps there’s a problem with the door switch.
Besides that, a loose or exposed electrical connection could also cause the same outcome.
But probably the most common issue related to the door latch is when door latch wires exposed and shorted to the ground. Or there was an internal short circuit inside the door latch assembly.
How to fix: To fix this problem, the door latch assembly must be replaced.
That is a relatively simple process that begins with disconnecting the power supply to the washing machine.
It’s also a good idea to refer to your washer’s user manual for any special instructions to the model you have.
The good thing about this is that the door latch assembly is located right behind the door, so you won’t need to open any panels or dive too deep into the machine’s workings to do this.
However, you’ll probably have to move part of the rubber gasket that hides the assembly.
The assembly is usually held in place with two screws. Remove them, and you’ll be able to disconnect and remove the old door latch assembly.
Fitting the new assembly is relatively straightforward. Replace the connector, put the assembly in place, and replace the screws that you took out earlier.
Remember: don’t tighten those screws too much. They’re going into plastic, so you don’t want to overtighten the screws and break anything.
What is it: While many manufacturers have switched to using control boards, some still use timers on their washing machines instead.
To be sure, you can check the user manual to see if your washing machine uses a timer.
Timers act as the brain of your entire washing machine by controlling each cycle that happens whenever you do a load of laundry.
The timer is mechanical, so there are springs and small moving parts inside.
Those also include moving electrical contacts that power different systems in your washing machine to do their job right when they need to.
Why it fails: As mentioned before, timers have lots of moving parts and electrical connections in them. Since we’re talking about tripping circuit breakers, our concern will be on the electrical connections instead.
Sometimes, those connections might overheat and become welded together. That may happen if the timer is drawing too much power for some reason.
As a result, those electrical connections may become welded to one another, creating a short circuit in your washing machine.
A short circuit like that could cause your circuit breaker to trip so that it prevents any further damage or injury.
How to fix: Timers are easy to buy and just as easy to replace. As usual, you’ll want to disconnect the power to your washing machine and refer to the user manual for any special instructions to the unit you have.
The process starts with taking apart the washing machine’s console. Behind it, you’ll see that the timer is mounted to the console with screws and has plenty of connections going into it.
On the front of the console, you may see knobs attached to it as well.
Remove the knobs, connections, and screws before gently removing the timer unit. Place the new unit in the same way. When you replace the connections, you’ll want to do it firmly until they lock back in place.
Water Level Control Switch Failed (less Likely)
What is it: Washing machines also have what’s known as a water level control switch.
This component monitors the water level inside the washer’s drum with the help of an air tube connected to it.
As water fills up the drum, the air inside that tube will compress and let the switch know that there’s enough water to begin the next cycle.
Suppose there isn’t enough water in the drum. The switch will then signal the water inlet valve to let more water into the drum, stopping it when it’s full.
The switch’s exact location depends on the brand and model of the washing machine you have.
Typically, it’s located behind the central console of the washer. You’ll be glad to know that the water level switch is straightforward to identify, thanks to the air tube connected directly to the component.
Why it fails: The water level switch coordinates several different functions, and it does so by sending power to wherever it’s needed at the time.
A faulty switch could cause various problems, but tripping the circuit breaker could mean that it’s trying to send power to too many places simultaneously.
Circuit breakers are designed to trip when there’s an excessive load. A faulty water level switch trying to power too many things at once could be the reason that happens.
How to fix: Water level control switches are somewhat easy to replace, and they’re even easier to identify. As always, start by disconnecting the power to the washing machine and referring to your user manual.
Don’t worry if you’ve lost it, you can always download another copy online, either from the manufacturer or a third-party website.
The manual will come in very handy to help you locate the water level control switch. Usually, they’re behind the main control panel, and you’ll notice that they’ve got an air hose attached to them.
To be sure, take a few photos of the unit before taking it out. That way, you’ll have a reference photo to make sure everything goes back in the same way before taking them out.
To make things easier, start by removing the air hose. That’ll make it much easier to remove the connections, and then the switch itself.
After that, work your way backwards. Attach the water level control switch, then the electrical connections, and lastly the air hose.
Motor or Motor Control Board
What is it: The motor is the workhorse of your washing machine. The motor is responsible for spinning the washing machine’s drum through all of its cycles, whether it’s to agitate all the dirt out of your clothes or to spin them dry.
Working closely with the motor is the motor control unit (MCU) or motor control board.
That is the component with all the circuits that coordinate the motor’s actions, such as its speed and direction. It sends power to the motor at the correct amounts and at precisely the right times.
Together, they work as the heart of the washing machine where most of the work gets done.
Why it fails: There are several ways a motor or its control unit can start to fail.
Suppose the motor is worn out from overuse or after many years of being in service. The motor may lose its efficiency and draw way too much power just to do its job.
That excessive draw of power could cause the circuit breaker to trip as a protective measure.
On the other hand, the motor control board might have a faulty component on it, like a resistor, for example.
A power surge or exposure to heat could cause one of those resistors to burn and malfunction, leading to a tripping circuit breaker.
How to fix: To fix this, you’ll need to replace either the motor or the motor control unit, whichever one is at fault. For both, you’ll want to disconnect all the water and electrical connections to the washing machine before you begin. You’ll need to remove the panels on the washer to gain access to either of these parts.
The motor control unit is relatively easy to replace. After all, the unit is small and light, so you’ll just have to take it out and replace it with a new one.
Replacing the motor isn’t so easy. That’ll involve removing the belt, any mounting bolts, and of course the wiring. The motor itself is also relatively heavy compared to any of the other components.
If you choose to replace the motor yourself, it’s best to refer to the user manual as different models are built differently from each other.
You’ll also want to take pictures of all the bolts and wiring to ensure that you replace them in the same ways when you put the new motor in.
Washer Trips GFCI On Spin Cycle
Some people use a ground-fault circuit interrupter or GFCI receptacle in their laundry rooms to power their washing machines.
If you do this and the washer trips particularly on the spin cycle, the fault could be in the motor capacitor or motor brushes.
What it is: The motor capacitor stores power and helps the motor to start. When it starts the motor, it’ll deliver a lot of power to bring it up to speed.
But once the motor is running, the capacitor will disconnect and allow it to continue doing its job.
Why it fails: A damaged or burnt capacitor will not be able to draw or store energy correctly. When that happens, the GFCI may trip as a way to protect the rest of the house’s electrical system.
Worn motor brushes may cause a lot of sparks, during a spin. CFGI may sense sparks and shut the receptacle down.
How to fix: Replacing a damaged motor capacitor or brushes is not an easy process, but with some skills, you can make it. The process begins with unplugging the washer’s power supply before opening up the electrical panel to locate the capacitor or brushes.
All you’d have to do is remove the connectors from the damaged capacitor and replace it the same way on the new one.
What Amp GFCI For Washing Machine
If you’re using a ground-fault circuit interrupter for your washing machine, it should be a 20 amp GFCI receptacle. Please refer to your local regulations to make sure that your GFCI is according to code.
You can perform all of these repairs yourself, but if you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to call in an expert to do it for you.