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How to Balance a Washing Machine Drum?

This is an appliance that has been a staple in most American homes for decades now. One can safely say that our ears and minds have completely adjusted to that steady flat-line hum of the machine. This usually tells us that somewhere close by, a washer-dryer is steadily working its way through a pile of clothes.

Then again, there is no doubt that at some point or another, you have hoped for silence. At times, you could be worried about a sudden increase in the clangor or wondered how to minimize the noise.

balance a washing machine drum

The first step, of course, is to be able to differentiate between a normal degree of humming and sounds that can be a cause for alarm or internal malfunction. Now considering most of us are so used to our washers and dryers that the noise has faded into the background of our lives, it is pretty much taken for granted that a loose or unbalanced part inside will be noticeable to our ears.

Before getting down to how to fix such internal issues, it is important to know exhaustively about all that can go wrong to create audible noises and rattling sounds – it can be safely said that all the problems can be traced back to the washing drum of the machine.

Unbalanced Drums and Other Internal Controls

The only reason a washing machine starts to shake excessively or make unusual noises due to irregular movements is that its drum is imbalanced. There are several steps you can take to remedy this irregularity — starting with checking the internal parts for irregularities and the external parts of any damage or impact. It could also simply be because a load of clothes put in the drum is either not correctly filled in or are disproportionate in comparison to the drum space.

It is of utmost importance to look into the matter of excessive shaking or irregular sounds as soon as you notice an issue. Even if the problem is minor and concerned with trivial things such as the size of the load, a consistent period of shaking and unbalance can cause permanent damage to other internal and external parts. For example, when a washing machine tends to vibrate excessively, it tends to “walk”—and it sure can walk a great distance if you’re not paying attention. In such a situation, if by any chance, the machine is close to a wall or any other such hard object, it may cause irreparable damage to other parts of the machine.

Primary Reasons for Shaking and Unbalanced Washing Drums

1) Overloading

The most common and fundamental mistake made by the users is when they fill a washing machine to the brim and allow no breathing space. Also, if the load is “lopsided”, then the cleansing process does not take place as it should have. This usually happens in machines which have a top load feature with an agitator.

2) Poor Levelling

Usually, the reason a machine shakes is because of generic, common sense problems such as the machine not sitting on an even plain or leveled floor. External problems such as these can be very easily solved by adjusting a few knobs at the base of the external frame or just by adjusting the positioning of the machine.

3) Shipping Bolts Left Intact

Shipping bolts are external fasteners added only for safe shipping purposes of the appliance. These bolts keep the washing tub rigid while the appliance is in transit and are to be removed when the machine is installed and ready to use. If you can hear rattling noises that seem to be generated from inside the machine, or if you self-installed the washer and skipped a step or two by mistake, there’s a very good chance that the machine is shaking due to these bolts still being secured on the inside.

4) Damage of Internal Parts

Besides the above, smaller parts like belts, bolts, screws, and bearings which lie inside the machine and hold the drum in place can get damaged due to wear and tear, age and rigorous use. Even one such part malfunctioning can put the entire machine off balance, making them integral to the repair process even if they are the last elements to be checked.

How to Balance a Washing Machine Drum
Balance a washing machine drum

  • Check the Levelling of Your Unit
  • Control the Load of the Machine
  • Remove the Shipping Bolts
  • Internal Parts that May Cause the Drum to Agitate

1. Check the Levelling of Your Unit

All washing machines should be leveled and balanced—either according to the surface they are sitting on or according to the locknuts (adjustable knobs on the base of the legs of the machine) otherwise, they will tend to shake and vibrate unusually.

Stop the machine, re-level according to the instructions given. Then re-start the cycle and observe it for a few rounds to make sure it doesn’t shift off-base again.

Adjust the locknuts

This is a simple enough task, one that requires no tools or expertise. Start by placing a spirit leveler on top of the washer or worktop (this has to be a flat surface), in a way that it points left to right.

Then proceed to loosen the locknuts, which are placed under the machine’s legs, and adjust them by turning them counterclockwise. As you tighten and loosen the nuts, the bubble in the spirit leveler will eventually indicate that the unit is leveled.

Keep in mind, all four legs need to be in contact with the floor at all times. These can usually be adjusted just by twisting them around with our hands and fingers. If this doesn’t help, then you can always use a crowbar to prop-up the machine and move the locknuts with the help of a wrench.

Level the surface

The problem can sometimes be very basic. For example, if the very floor on which the machine is placed isn’t a flat surface and even, then you can you can insert a ply board underneath the appliance —propping the machine on secondary surface which is plain. Choose a ply that is at least three-fourth of an inch thick, so that it can carry the weight of a full load.

If the surface is tilted, slide a board, vinyl sheet or ply on the downward slope, levelling the tilt. You can make simple make-shift shims out of scrap plastic, rubber mats and even composite foam to place under the locknuts which are off-balance. You can use this method to level your unit even if the locknuts/screws have become unusable due to damage or wear and tear.

Unsure of the degree to which the floor is sloped? Use a spirit level to get it just right.

2. Control the Load of the Machine

Every machine has its limits and the same goes for your washing machines as well. If you own a front load washer, it is advised not to fill it to the brim with clothes, rather packing it loosely so that the water can move easily. By filling the drum of the machine completely with clothes, the load doesn’t spin and move properly, reducing the machine’s life.

While spinning, if the quantity of the clothes is correct, the machine still rattles, you need to stop the machine, open the drum and even out the formation of clothes. Try to get the clothes into a compact, leveled formation, then re-start the spin, and keep a close check on the drum.

During both the wash and dry cycle, heavy fabric like jeans and jackets tend to force the drum to lean on one side. Even a tilt because of heavy clothing can be the reason behind a rattling drum or a machine that ‘walks’. It’s important to club clothes of similar weight together so that the weight is evenly distributed, making sure that the drum is never in contact with the inner walls of the machine.


3. Removing the Shipping Bolts

Step 1

  • Before you try to find the location of the shipping bolt, you need to perform a simple test in order to be sure that the shipping bolts were not removed during installation.
  • Open the washer door and press the bottom edge of the stainless-steel basket while firmly applying pressure. If the basket moves about slightly downward and springs back on its own, then the shipping bolts have been removed. But, if there is zero flexibility and no movement, then the shipping bolts are intact and need to be dismantled.

Step 2

  • If the bolts have not been removed, then on the back wall of the unit you will see four to five bolts (depending on the model) with plastic spacers. These bolts have to be removed for proper installation and usage. You can use a wrench or a socket to twist and loosen the bolts and then remove them by pulling them out from the washer.
  • After removal, keep these safe since they can be reused if the unit needs to be shipped elsewhere. There are pre-attached white caps (right above the bolt holes) which can be used to cover-up the shipping bolt holes.
  • If you are not confident about removing the shipping bolts on your own, it is a good idea to get professional help.

4. Check Internal Parts that May Cause the Drum to Agitate for Damage

There are several parts of the machine that help regulate the movement of the drum. These are crucial to the functioning of the washing machine.

The components that you need to be a perfect fit if you need the unit to move flawlessly are as follows:

1) Shock Absorbers

If your machine is a front load, then it is most probably contains one or more shock absorbers. These shock absorbers are between the base frame and the outer tub. You need to keep checking these from time to time, making sure they are not leaking fluid. If even one of the shock absorbers malfunctions, it is advisable to have all of them replaced.

2) Suspension Springs

Both top and front loaders have several suspension springs. This holds the tub to the base or suspends the tub from the top. Make sure each of these is connected. None of the springs should be loose and if even one is damaged, all should be replaced.

3) Snubber Ring

Made up of either plastic or felt, these provide a cushiony base for the tub of a top loader. When these wear out, the tub starts touching the metal base below.  Dust on a plastic snubber or clumps on the snubber are signs that the ring is wearing out. You should replace it immediately. You will have to remove the suspension springs to replace the snubber, so it’s ideal to check both together.

4) Dampening Straps

Machines have four dampening straps, holding the washer tub to each of the four corners of the machine. If even one of them fails, the machine will start to wobble and vibrate. They need to be replaced even if one is damaged.

5) Driver Bearings

Some machines have ball bearings between the tub spindle and the motor shafts. If the casing wears out, the bearings become dislodged and the tub will vibrate. This is a major repair and will require a considerable amount of disassembly of the unit. It is better to replace the entire unit if the bearings are worn. Do not attempt a makeshift repair or replacement of just the bearings.

Several components in a washing machine are devoted to controlling the movement and vigor at which your washing machine moves. Peeping into a front-load washer will help determine the speed at which the drum inside is spinning. 

All of these components are the internal organs of the unit and are highly sensitive. It is advisable to try all the other options. These include a list of external and generic reasons for a drum vibrating. So before you try and fidget with it, you should consider replacing it with genuine parts.

How a Home Warranty Can Help You

A home warranty is a policy that covers the repair and replacement costs of a range of home systems and a list of everyday use home appliances, including washing machines. However, it does not include repair costs of damages that occur due to lack of maintenance. You can use a home maintenance calculator to compare the difference between the actual cost of maintaining all your appliances and systems against the cost of a home warranty policy. But there are certain things that you should know about a home warranty before you invest in one. Make sure to also read and do detailed research about the company before investing in a policy. Not only should you know the top companies in the home warranty industry, but it is also important to be aware of the companies that are out of business so that you don’t fall prey to a scam.


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