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Are Front-Load Washers Less Reliable?

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Keldawwg
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Gold
I got almost 15 years out of my Maytag Neptunes
Keldawwg   12/20/2011 2:24:36 PM
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I bought a Maytag Neptune washer and dryer back when they were fairly brand new. It was an article in Design News or Machine Design that prompted me to agree to the extra expense when our top loader quit... I was fairly impressed with the design. We do pay for our water here in California, but that was less a deciding factor than the fact that it was gentler on clothes, quiet and did a heck of a good job cleaning our clothes.

The washer bearing set went out, and I was surpised to discover that the bearings were not replaceable... You had to buy the entire drum/spider set, and it was a lot of money. There is a guy that makes a tool to replace the bearings that you can rent, but the hassle and down time was a huge bummer for my wife, so I decided not to fix it.

When Whirlpool bought Maytag, they replaced the Maytag designed Neptune with a Samsung washer and dryer and just re-badged them... I worked for Samsung, and had reviewed their washer design once, and was impressed with the commitment to quality the design team had. Samsung makes decent products all around, and many are genuinely world class or even best in the world... (I designed hard drives for them for almost 16 years, I left when Samsung decided to get out of that business...) Samsung is completely committed to quality, as they have seen that making anything less than the best quality is a money loser long term... (I wish more American companies had realized that fact... We'd have a lot more companies still in busiiness...)

We replaced the washer and dryer with a Samsung steam washer and dryer, and my wife is totally thrilled with them so far... She loves the steam feature on the dryer... We did look at the Lucky Goldstar sets as well, but I have a pretty deeply ingrained dislike of that company that goes way back... Of course, Lucky Goldstar and Samsung used to be very similar; they made crappy products but they were at least 20% cheaper than their competitors... (That was the official company strategy for Samsung anyway...) They changed philosophies in the mid 90's to make high quality products. Lucky Goldstar had such a bad reputation that they came up with "Life's Good" as their slogan, and most people don't even know that it is the same company that used to make stuff labeled "Goldstar" Some might remember Goldstar TV's... They were the ones filled with snow at the end of the display at KMart... Brand new they looked like a totally crappy product... And they were.

We've had the Samsung's for a year and a half so far, and they work perfectly so far... Time will tell, but I have the expectation that they will last at least 10 years. If we set the spin speed to "Very High", the clothes almost don't need to be dried... They are slightly damp at most... And even on "Very High", the washer is so quiet that you can't hear it spin up in the next room... The music it plays when it's done is at least twice as loud, and it's not loud at all.

Samsung's failure analysis and quality teams would quickly reject a design that failed prematurely, and in that company they have much more clout than the design engineers... (And both have more clout than the accountants as far as that goes... Another thing I can't stand about American companies sometimes) They truly do try to design products that are as good as they can be. Maybe they are not always succesfull, but I know they try...

Both the Maytag and the Samsung have the possibility of developing mold. No big deal; when we take the clothes out we close the door but don't push it all the way latched... My 15 year old Maytag had no mold, and we probably ran 12 or so loads a week... Another bonus is the comforter for our California King bed can be washed in the washer now, so a once a month trip to the dry cleaners is a thing of the past... (We have two pugs, and the boy likes to get muddy and run upstairs and sleep it off on our bed...)

By the way, my opinion of Whirlpool almost rivals that of Lucky Goldstar... I generally don't buy their products, no matter what brand is on the box. Amana, Maytag (With the exception of Samsung designed stuff :-) ), Kenmore... The exceptions are the occasional Jenn-Air products and some Kitchenaid appliances like mixers... I hope that eventually they get their heads out of their butts, or we might lose all our appliance manufacturing just like we did our TV's and radio's...

And think about it a minute... How can a manufacturer make a refrigerator on the other side of the planet, with a labor force that costs essentially the same as an American labor force, ship it to the other side of the planet and compete with success? By not making crap when their competition does make crap, that's how!

FinnickyFinn
User Rank
Silver
Re: The technical term for front loaders is "sucks"
FinnickyFinn   12/20/2011 10:19:55 AM
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I think you are a bit overreacting here. I spent a lot of time in Europe and there the upright tub top loaders are nowhere to be found. I can speak from experience that such misdesigned stuff wasn't offered for at least the past 40 years. And that was way before any government cared about energy or water usage.

That said, we had a FL washer that lasted over 20 years and eventually it got too difficult to get parts for it. I recall that we were lucky to find a used small motor that was used for the spinning cycle only. Eventually we got a new washer, which lasted not as long, but still did a great job for 10+ years. And no, neither one cost 100,000$.

The washers of the past had better quality and less fancy stuff that could break. If there were washers that had half a dozen programs and nothing else I'd prefer that. Our current Armana/Samsung has over 20 programs of which we use maybe two or three and that thing even plays music once it is done (Franz Schubert, "The trout"). Yea, it is funny the first time around, but I rather see money and effort spend on quality than useless features like that. Nevertheless, that washer works very well and made it through two challenging moves (basement stairs were just as wide as the washer). While it wasn't the cheapest one in the store, it also wasn't one of these foofoo washers for a thousand bucks. Time will tell how well it holds up, but the days of running the same load three times through the top loader to get it clean are over. And how could the top loader get stuff clean when cycles run for only 20 minutes or so. And I have to buy pants less often since the FL no longer twists them into a rope and tears them apart as the TL does.

If your washer breaks within the first few years it is a matter of production quality and material choice, but not due to the front loader design principle.

TOP
User Rank
Gold
Re: The technical term for front loaders is "sucks"
TOP   12/20/2011 9:23:29 AM
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I didn't buy one because of the guvmint. I bought it because I am on a well and then have to pump the grey water up to the septic outlet. The FL sips water.

My first FL had a bearing failure and then a suspension spring failure. It was a bottom of the line unit.

I checked user reviews before buying. Reading and submitting fair reviews is a good way to get these guys to fix what is important to the customer.

TOP
User Rank
Gold
Two front load experiences
TOP   12/20/2011 9:18:15 AM
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Bought  a GE FL some years back to save water. That it did. We have a well and then have to pump the water out of the basement sump into the septic. So halving the water usage over a top loader is good for the well and drain field and greatly drops electric costs. 

The GE was the quietest washer I have ever not heard.

We did have bearing problems with the GE after quite a few years with two kids in the house. We replaced the tub and bearings once. It was quite a job and parts ran about $500-$600. The drum was belt driven and the motor was controlled by a VFD. I never imagined that concrete could be part of an appliance, but it was used on that washer. I believe what killed it was a suspension spring that fatigued and dropped the tub onto the motor burning it up.

Bought an LG two years ago and it came with a warning not to load it overly full. The design advantage of the LG is that it has direct drive, no belt so no belt load on the drum bearings. It also allows a great deal of control over spin speed. If I load something heavy like a sleeping bag I slow down the spin. The LG uses even less water than the GE, cleans clothes better, especially whites and is reasonably quiet.The cycle time on the LG is much longer than the GE. The LG, because of direct drive can also spin dry clothes much better. So dryer time is greatly reduced. One would surmise that mechanically removing water is more energy efficient than heat drying.

The one problem we had with LG setup is that it is extremely sensitive to the adjustment of the height of the feet. Once adjusted it is smooth as silk, but if the feet are not properly adjusted it will walk all over the room. The adjustment is not difficult. Placing a cup of water on top of it helps in fine tuning this adjustment. This issue was noted on the website where I first investigated it before purchase.This is probably an issue with this machine because of the high speed drip dry cycle.

The amazing thing about the LG is that there is no water visible during the wash cycle. The only time it visibly fills with water is when doing a drum cleaning cycle.

LG provided special hoses to eliminate water hammer.

Given that the GE failed in the bearings  and the LG had a warning about not overloading it would seem that drum bearings (a high cost item on the BOM) are an area of compromise with the suspension second. Given the fact that potential for abuse in loading and the shortened warranties may mean that people don't follow directions. I suppose in a price competitive world on an expensive item something has to be compromised. You can't make a good washer if people won't buy it.

Note that bearing failure on the GE was preceded by a clicking sound as the bearing races pitted. Inspection of the bearings after disassembly showed water ingress past the seals. It could have been that the seals failed first or the bearings could have failed allowing the shaft wobble to exceed the capability of the seals. We'll never know.

A large part of the cost of repair on the GE was due to the fact that to change bearings the tub and some other integrated parts had to be changed. It was not made for servicing like a commercial washer might be.

Island_Al
User Rank
Gold
Re: The technical term for front loaders is "sucks"
Island_Al   12/20/2011 8:47:21 AM
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I am skeptical of the claim "quality in production" versus "design concept".  In my original response I mentioned I had problems with the tub bearing, controller circuit board, 3 phase motor controller, wax motor, and front water seal.  These are all isolated and unrelated failure items.  If there was a single quality in production issue all these parts would not have failed in such a short time.  Instead it is an overall quality in production issue based on partly a poor design concept.  The front loading, low water use concept is good.  But the selected design and materials is part of the manufacturing design concept.  Yes I could design a FL to last 1000 years, but would cost $100,000 or more!  Final price and manufacturing costs are, and should be part of the detailed design concept.  But if we think about it further the FL machines were pushed on us by the government.  Government employs lawyers, who think of themselves as engineers, are a large part of the problem.  Witness the CAFÉ gas mileage standards, toilet water capacity, non incandescent lights, alcohol fuel, etc.  The list is endless where these guys poke their noses.

 

FinnickyFinn
User Rank
Silver
Re: The technical term for front loaders is "sucks"
FinnickyFinn   12/20/2011 7:19:13 AM
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Again, this is a matter of quality in production, but not a matter of the design concept. Yes, the top loaders are easier to balance, but that is the only advantage to them. They never wash right and rip your clothes to shreds.

As for the hot water being a problem, see if you can get a European model. Most of them have a heating coil, because the washer hookups there typically have cold water only. Alternatively, reverse the hot and cold hose and see if the 'new' set of programs works out better. Last resort is to crank up the hot water boiler (also a design from Yurassic Park, the old world uses the tankless heaters for half a century now, here they are offered as the newest invention).

lognerd
User Rank
Iron
Front loader fan
lognerd   12/19/2011 5:21:05 PM
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We changed our Maytag TL to a Bosch FL to reduce the enormous water usage of the TL.

This was approx. 15 years ago and we have been happy ever since.

I grew up with FL in Europe and I guess that the North American manufacturers, once they hopped on the FL band wagon did not understand the FL machines sufficiently to produce a reliable unit. Regarding the extended washing time the following: My TL always did a load in about 20 minutes but my dryer at the time needed at least 45 minutes to finish that load. In other words the washer always had to wait for the dryer. With the FL machines the washer and the dryer are virtually perfectly matched in processing time and I save energy to boot as the water has been wrung from the clothes before I put them in the dryer.

The water temperature ramp up aids in removing stains instead of setting them and energy is saved once again by heating the water inside the tank instead of letting it cool in my hot water feed lines. (How many homes are actually kitted with insulated hot water feed lines??)

When I have to finally replace my machine I will wait for the North American reliability Engineers to figure out how to manufacture a good FL machine.

I will remain an FL fan.

Hal B
User Rank
Silver
Re: The technical term for front loaders is "sucks"
Hal B   12/19/2011 4:50:20 PM
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Absolutely they are getting worse and worse. I too have gone from 15 years to a GE Profile top loader that lasted about two years when the drum brake quit. (Family of four and machines run every day.) I replaced it four months ago with the current and same model which happens to now be one that has the "cut off agitator". This thing frequently becomes unbalanced (with not even a lot in it)and walks across the floor because there doesn't seem to be an unbalance sensor to shut it down. So if you want to know what a full size agitator does, one is it keeps the load from bunching up on the side of the drum. Maybe I'm crazy but I'm dreaming of installing a commercial front load washer and dryer like the laundromats have. At least they are not subject to government regulations and I can actually wash with hot water again plus they should last forever.

grand
User Rank
Iron
Broken Spider
grand   12/19/2011 4:38:13 PM
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I own a Sears Kenmore front load washer. The spiders are made of cast aluminum and they corrode over time. The "Fast" spin cycle works well and really dries out the clothing. Only problem is when the unit spins fast with a corroded spider - SNAP! I was able to buy a drum with spider and bearing attached for about $200. I was able to make the repair myself, but the labor was ridiculous.

jcassellia
User Rank
Iron
Re: Designing Down
jcassellia   12/19/2011 3:47:50 PM
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My washer faied after 4 years. After taking the washer apart, I found that the spider was not only cracked but was severly corroded (which is why it cracked). The spider is made from cast aluminum and is rivited to the stainless steel tub. My guess is, the spider cracked due to the loss of material from galvanic corrosion. Bad material choice from the designer.

 

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