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Are Front-Load Washers Less Reliable?

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Matter of quality
FinnickyFinn   12/19/2011 3:26:05 PM
When I grew up all we ever had was front loaders. The American style top loaders with the upright tub were absolutely unknown. The old hand cranked washers operated like that and they as well as their current incarnations have a major design flaw: in order to force the clothes through the water some mechanical device has to move the clothes, be it a big paddle or the modern agitator. That wears out the clothes much quicker, is horribly inefficient, and uses a lot of water to work somewhat OK.

The front loaders do all the work through gravity and wash better with less water. There is a compromise, having a top loader with a horizontally spinning tub. My grandmother prefered that design and her washer lasted over twenty years.

In the end it is a matter of quality. In regards to design, the upright tub top loaders just don't wash right. We got one as a gift and were able to leave it behind for a fair price when we left the rental. We bought an Armana front loader, which is a relabeled Samsung. That thing weighs a ton, but it works great and without issues for years now.

William K.
User Rank
Front load washers
William K.   12/7/2011 11:51:14 PM
Old Curmudgeon has described one of the best washer-dryer sets to ever be made, the Westinghouse twins. They would indeed last a very long time, and itis true that much of the time they were replaced because of appearance issues. 

IT would be quite interesting to see how they would sell if somebody started making a similar machine with the same robust mechanism today. They would need to modernize the controls, and would definitely have to improve the cabinet life. But they might be the very best again.

What would you pay for a 20 year life washer-dryer set?

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Re: FRont load washers Vs top loaders
TJ McDermott   12/7/2011 4:36:16 PM
A single fast closure of the valve is not the problem.  The temperature controller seems to want to pulse the hot water valve at about 4 hertz.  WHY?  Slowing down the heating pulse demands would go a long way.

I'm not getting rid of the washer, so I'm headed out right now to get a $15 fix for the water hammer.

User Rank
OLD_CURMUDGEON   12/7/2011 8:30:30 AM
In the early to mid 1950s, WESTINGHOUSE marketed a "front" loader style clothes washer.  I know because we had one.  The tub was set on an angle of approx. 30º above the horizontal.  Of course the door had a positive latch, and a large rubber grommet seal around the periphery.  The door also featured a glass panel so one could observe the washing action, AND, it included a rudimentary scale, so the user could weigh the clothes going into the tub.

The outside sheetmetal cabinet rusted away BEFORE the machine failed.  Due to the forward-looking design of the house. the washer was located in an outside "utility" room adjacent to the kitchen door access.  Although it was heated for the winter months, it also was quite humid during the summer season.  Besides the washer, there was an upright freezer, a clothes dryer & the well pump mechanics. all of which contributed to the humid conditions.

This WESTINGHOUSE washer lasted through many years of family & frequent house guests.  I was in service for the better part of 15 years w/ virtually NO problems or failures to function.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Re: Designing Down
Charles Murray   12/6/2011 11:12:19 PM
This sounds like one of those products where the parts work fine but the assembly stinks. It's been said that the difference between high-reliability cars from Toyota and Honda, and low-reliability cars from other automakers, is the system, not the parts. North American automakers are notorious for a philosophy of "five perfect parts makes a perfect system." Whereas, Japanese automakers are known for using less-than-perfect components but creating more reliable systems.

User Rank
Designing Down
RobLewis   12/5/2011 1:45:17 PM
After a nearly trouble-free 19 years, our Kenmore top-loader wore out the ratcheting mechanism that allows the top part of the agitator to turn in only one direction. I went to Sears online parts site, and noticed that the part I needed had been replaced by an "equivalent".

I received the new part, and it works fine for now, but it seems much flimsier than the original: thinner plastic and overall less rugged.

Kudos to Sears for having parts available for a 19 year-old machine, but onions to them for scrimping on the quality. How much does the new design save them? A couple of pennies?

User Rank
Front-loading washers
btlbcc   12/4/2011 7:19:18 PM
While all the comments in favor of (and opposed to) FL washers are probably true - and I'll add that a friend - and also his son - both had Maytag Neptune washers which had problems - in each case, the electronic control circuit board failed. A thryristor was rated marginally - 200V - probably to save a few cents, and failed, more than likely due to line surges or inductive kickback during operation.  We replaced the thyristors with some 600 volt units that I had in my lab, and to my knowledge, the machines have been working since.

But the basic design challenge with a FL machine is the cantilever bearing for the drum.  Not only is that part subject to fairly high stresses, but the support structure (I assume that's the "spider" that was referred to) is subject to similar stresses, which can (did) lead to cracking.  One thing for sure: I wouldn't want to have the drum come totally loose inside there under full spin cycle!

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Re: Anecdotal account of reliability
Alexander Wolfe   12/4/2011 6:26:22 PM
The Asko story is interesting, but I would submit that quality in terms of long life and the design-for-repairability that can support long life simply isn't factored in the design equation anymore. The old phrase "new user servicable parts inside," which us engineers used to ignore in the vacuum tube days, now really is true. What the heck are you going to fix if your flat-panel TV goes bad? Nothing, because it's all one giant bump soldered mass. You either get a warranty replacement if it's new, or throw it out if it's old. The relatively low buy in cost supports this model. Washers and refrigerators aren't quite there yet, but they're definitely headed in that direction. Betting one year (day) soon, replacement bearings just won't be available.

User Rank
Modern Appliances
rdrod   12/3/2011 11:43:51 PM
Had an upright freezer fail after eleven years recently. The freezer it replaced is still working after more than forty years. The repairman said repairing the freezer would cost about $600, more than a new model. He volunteered the informaion that mcurrent appliances are designed to last about seven years. An economics course I attended stated  the high price of appliances was due to the expected  life of approximately twenty-five years. Appears that is no longer true, but prices continue to escalate.

Chuck Solid
User Rank
Front Loaders Si ! Top Loaders Never !
Chuck Solid   12/2/2011 9:32:09 PM
Re Front Loaders, my wife and I bought an old second-hand Bendix front loader, (US built) not long after our marriage in" 1970. It was "bulletproof" ...we used it for years without a hitch until the "spin windings" on the motor decided to die.  We opted for a new Bendix washer and drier combo. Washer below with drier on top and a slide-out drawer for stacking the folded clothes. Looked great but what a disappointment. No longer made in U.S...came from Italy. Began misbehaving not long after warranty expired. Parts and service costs horrendous. Gave up and bought a "Gorenge Pacific" made in eastern Europe. Worked a treat and at about a third of the price of most other makes...and still going.  My observations on front-loaders:  they wash better than top loaders, they use less water than T/L's, and they do not cover your clothes in "fluff".  (filter should be cleaned frequently). Because of the "cantilever" design of the drum and its support bearings, it is important not to exceed the reccommended load , or you may damage bearings and/or the Spider assembly. The occasional "water hammer" fron the solenoids is the only negative i have encountered.          I could NEVER go back to top loaders

R. Jackman

Melbourne Australia


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