Today’s distraction came courtesy of aging appliance. Specifically, the 20+ years-old Maytag top-loading clothes washer stopped working this morning. It has just started doing a load of heavy laundry that was out of balance and shut down when the tub started shaking. This itself has occurred before, we just had to redistribute the load and restart. Except this time pulling the knob failed to restart the machine. There was no sign of life, not even the power “ON” light.
Given that the machine acted as if it had no power, I first checked the house circuit breaker, verified the machine was plugged in, the easy things. After the simple checks were out-of-the-way, I started looking for a circuit breaker or a fuse built into the machine. A web search turned up several mentions of the lid switch which I initially ignored. During normal operation, an open lid would prevent the wash cycle from starting, but the power “ON” light would still be on. Since that light was dark, I had decided the lid switch couldn’t have been the problem.
That was the wrong decision.
The lid switch is actually a module that included the switch and a fuse. This fact didn’t sink in until I found this page, which described how to test continuity with a multimeter and cautioning that improper switch module installation may blow the fuse inside the module.
I removed the lid switch module from my washing machine, tested with my multimeter, and confirmed it was not behaving as it should. I am annoyed that Maytag did not design the fuse to be easily replaced. The whole module had to be replaced as a single unit: it was held together by fasteners that were clearly not intended to be removed. While I had the tools to remove them, it is a permanent removal.
Once opened, the fuse was quickly found. The red arrow in the picture below points to a black piece (now broken in two pieces) that looks and feels like plastic but is electrically conductive.
When intact, this piece of fuse material holds the “LINE” terminal always in contact with the “MACHINE” terminal. When the washer lid is open, there is continuity between “NEUT”(RAL) to “MOTOR”. When the washer lid is closed, “NEUT” loses its connection to all other terminals, but “MOTOR” is put in contact with “LINE” and “MACHINE”.
The narrow neck of the fuse material is now broken, which also broke the usually always-on contact between “LINE” and “MACHINE”. When the washer lid is open, none of the terminals have continuity with any other terminal. When the lid is closed, “MACHINE” is in contact with “MOTOR” but that doesn’t do any good as “LINE” is disconnected.
Now that I know how the module incorporates a fuse in addition to the lid switch, it was easy to rig up a quick test to see if the rest of the machine works. A successful test gives me the confidence a replacement module will bring the washing machine back up and running safely.
The next question is why the black piece broke. Was it from old age (innocent) or because there was a problem causing excessive amperage flow (worrisome)? The multimeter found no obvious short on the washing machine. And since the machine has been working for more than two decades, age is a plausible explanation. I’ll try the replacement module first. If the fuse blows again, I’ll have to dig deeper.
[2021 UPDATE: the washing machine has been running well for years after this replacement.]