I worked on the old Maytag units when I was in high school. I suspect that the profitability pressures got the designers to go to less expensive construction. I expect the dryer construction of the bearing in back that supported the drum and it's contents was more expensive than having the front of the drum supported on the felt pads. Labor and damage in production for the old heating element was likely greater than for the current heating element design.
The old Maytag washers were service friendly. Most problems that resulted in a tub full of water could be repaired from the front of the washer. Had a belt break? One could replace belts with a #2 phillips screwdriver, a 4x4 block of wool and a pry bar. The screwsdriver was to remove two screws to open the front of the washer and the block and bar was to liftthe front a couple of inches to be able to reach under the machine to install new belts. The motor and water pump were accessed in the same manner. I repaired a water pump that had ingested a sock by removeing the front, removing the pump belt, clampingthe tub to pump hose to stop water from draining, removing hose from the pump, and pulling the sock out of the pump with needle nose pliers. When reassembled, the machine worked fine for several more years. I doubt any current machine is so service friendly.
Having worked as a plastic supplier to the appliance industry, I can tell you that from about 1985 to 1995 that most of the appliances were moving rapidly to incorporate plastic into just about everything, including the main pumps, transmissions, and enclosures. The quality was still OK as these parts were manufactured in the USA. However, in the 90's and beyond we started to move the manufacturing to Mexico and Asia. Then I had to deal with many root cause analysis for field failures.It was a combination of manufacturing expertise (lack of knowledge) and continued path of designing for least cost.
As many point out, look for the older models and learn to fix these appliances on your own. I had to repair my Wirlpool washer recently, it cost me about $75 for a new control board. When my wife and I initially purchased this model she wanted the fancy touchscreen and bubble buttons. This is why the control board is expensive. Shortly after this, the motor starting making noise. Pricing a new motor at over $250 prompted me to simply buy a new unit. It pained me, but the economics eventually force you to succumb to the new product. This time I opted for a basic unit with knobs and real buttons. I still wonder if I should have pulled the motor and had it rebuilt for about half the cost of new?
Another concept that the commercials showed was a manufacturer driven service department. When Sears only sold Kenmore appliances, Sears sold a lot of product based on servicing what they sold. You could rely on a Sears service tech showing up if you needed service. Now you seem to get random tech from companies that you haven't heard of.
Does anyone know the details of why there was a suspected cultural shift away from quality at Maytag? (change of ownership or managment? profitability issues?). Many times a company with an older, respected brand will fall on hard times and the new owners or shareholders do not value the inherent quality policy that previously made their brand a house-hold name.
Maytag is following the trend of "throw-away electronics." No one expects anything to last past 5 years anymore...I miss those old commercials but even more, I miss the concept of quality that was behind them.
Up until `98 I had a 1967 Maytag dryer. I got it in `79, I could still get parts for it, and the only thing it ever needed was a belt and an occasional bearing. When I moved the house buyer demanded that the dryer stay with the house and that was the end of my Maytag. The replacement dryer needs to be repaired every couple of years to replace the skid pads that he drum rides on because it doesn't use rollers. It's an easy fix, but the Maytag certainly didn't have parts that were DESIGNED to wear out.
Many years ago, there was truth behind the old "lonely repairman" commercials. Maytag products really were reliable. One year, Design News even gave Maytag its annual quality award, and the engineering team actually showed up with the "repairman" from the commercials. Over the years, though, it seems like that has changed. I hear a lot of complaints these days about Maytag products.
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