/ Home & Energy

Is your washing machine built to fail?

washing machine error

Washing machines aren’t lasting as long as you expect, and in recent years we’ve heard from customers and repairman about models that can’t be repaired. We found that a change in design has had big consequences.

Let me set the scene.

It’s 1985. Madonna’s ‘Into the Groove’ is top of the charts but, over the clamour, you hear the washing machine that you bought for £314 is making a worrying noise. You call out the engineer who confirms the bearings have gone. It will take an hour or so to fix, but not to worry – the machine will live on.

Fast forward to today. Madonna’s still into the groove  – despite the occasional problem with stairs. But the modern washing machine you bought a few years back for £395 is making a worrying sound. But this time when the engineer tells you the bearings have gone, he says you may as well buy a new machine.

What on earth has happened?

The culprit: the washing machine’s sealed drum

Sealed drums shotWe found that washing machines have changed in a crucial way. The metal drum of your machine, which rotates on the bearings, used to sit in a metal tub and everything could be stripped down. This meant your engineer could get to the bearings – bearing failure is one of the top five issues reported in our annual reliability survey.

But today, a huge number of washing machines have sealed drums. That means the metal tub surrounding the drum has been replaced by a plastic one – welded shut.

So the bearings are now inaccessible and if they become faulty, the entire assembly needs to be replaced.

It also means that if a small metal item (£1 coins and bra wire being the oft-quoted examples) falls between the drum and tub and gets stuck, you again have to replace the entire drum assembly. Just for a £1 coin.

Why make sealed drums?

So why are machines designed like this now? Ask manufacturers and the common answer is it improves reliability.

But it’s also likely linked to cost. As customers, we want cheaper machines. That £314 machine in 1985 sounds cheaper than the £393 machine bought in 2012/13 – but if we adjust the 1985 figure for inflation, it comes out at £672.

If sealed drums are cheaper to make, this could be a way companies are meeting demand.

Have you found something that can’t be fixed?

Have you had a washing machine where the repair bill outweighs the cost of a new one? What about other products – for example not being able to fix a broken headlight bulb in your car, as the design means you’d have to remove the battery first.

Comments

John Lewis whitegoods have had poor reviews as have Marks and Spencer TVs, as examples. Using a reputable brand name to hide poor quality goods is, to my mind, deceitful. Whilst own brands are clearly made largely by third parties I think in the case of capital items they should show the origin of the appliance for example. If I don’t believe Hotpoint to be a good brand to buy, I don’t want to be sold it under another name that I respect.
I used to be a John Lewis fan but recently have decided they are overpriced, sell a lot of mediocre goods and have diluted their “not knowingly undersold” pledge to the point where it is almost misrepresentation.

I agree with you there, Malcolm.

When it comes to mainstream brands sold by John Lewis, I presume they come to some sort of arrangement with the manufacturer over the longer warranty; I can’t believe JL don’t expect the manufacturer to take some or all of the cost of this benefit on board in return for promotion of the product. It must put them in a tricky situation when the original manufacturer’s appliance is on the shop floor alongside the John Lewis own-label version.

Charles Shields says:
5 August 2015

As a subscriber of WHICH?, how appropriate last month’s mag covered washing machine reliability. Just had my INDESIT IWDC 6105UK (washer/dryer) fail after 13 months. As the machine is in an apartment that we use for holidays in UK, it has had much less than the average usage of a normal machine.

The problem appears to be electrical- tripping the circuit MCB & RCD. On closer inspection, I noticed sparking on the drum during running.

Contacted INDESIT to be offered £109.99 for a call-out & 3 month warranty if the machine could be repaired, otherwise only £54 & left with a damaged machine. The alternative was service plan for repair or replace for £11.49 per month for 12 months (total £137.88).
I live in Norway & consumer protection is much better- at least 2 year warranty on all items and 5/10 years on items that are expected to last!

I’m awaiting the visit of the service engineer in 5 days- couldn’t be given a time of the visit as the computerised system only texts to UK mobile numbers ( which I don’t have) the night before the visit.

This conversation often talks about reliability. I cannot see Which?’s calculations for reliability – must have missed it. Just how do they give a product a % rating? Is it based on no breakdowns, or a certain number, over a period of time?

Reliability is not the same as what I think matters as much – durability. Something can be reliable for a year and fail; to be durable it must last a “reasonable” time (without failure presumably) – no doubt the vagueness of this gives the difficulty. However with Which?’s history of surveys, and no doubt similar information from its Continental counterparts, surely we can put numbers to the durability of different?

Why is this important? Because when I spend significant money on something (I don’t think I’m alone) I want it to last; not only to be “reliable” but to be durable – reliable for a decent length of time. And, preferably, also sensibly repairable. As wavechange says a decent warranty will help, partly protecting the purchaser from costs but also driving up manufacturing and design standards.

Where I differ is that I don’t see 10 year warranties becoming standard anytime soon. So an assessment of “durability” is then important. It gives grounds to pursue the retailer of a defective product, one that is out of guarantee, under the Sale of Goods Act (soon to be replaced by the Consumer Rights Act), threatening the small claims court if necessary This gives consumers rights for up to 6 years. Were we encouraged to use the provisions of this act, and were consumer groups more active in helping such cases, we might wake retailers up to their responsibilities. Hopefully we could then resolve issues without recourse to the courts.

It is nonsensical that we allow the likes of Currys to attempt to deny customers with product problems their legal rights. It’s time we put a stop to it and gave consumers the protection they deserve.

Malcolm – I had great hopes for the new Consumer Rights Act but even following progress of the Bill it became clear that it would not help us pursue our rights for products that fail outside the warranty period. As it stands, people are turned away by retailers including Currys and John Lewis, as Which? undercover investigations have shown.

There certainly is a distinction between between reliability and durability in my eyes too. Which is more important may depend on whether the owner is a light or heavy user, but both classes of user deserve fair protection from premature failure.

Thinking back, it was common for some goods to have a longer warranty on expensive parts, such as the compressor in fridges and freezers and the tube in the days of CRT TVs. My own washing machine came with a ten year warranty on the polypropylene tub. If manufacturers want to use integrated assemblies such as sealed tanks to cut their production costs then at least give a decent warranty on that component. I suggest ten years.

Problem is Malcolm that a lot of things on appliances are wear and tear items. They will fail beyond any doubt whatsoever at some point.

How does the owner, the retailer, the manufacturer or a judge determine what’s “reasonable” in that regard?

The answer is that it will normally come down to an opinion on one or more of the parties or, evidence from the producer of the item, be that a part or the product whole.

In this conversation a good example is bearings in a washing machine, they will wear out and fail without a shadow of doubt but a number of factors will determine the time that they may last. Loading, detergent use, spin speeds used, wash programs used and so on to the point where it is almost infinitely variable.

Meanwhile they could be tested to last on average in normal average and proper use for say 2000 hours.

So for a court or a producer you need to have reliable information that shows that the machine has been used correctly and the component/s have failed sooner than expected and, in most cases this is not available. In fact I’d argue from experience that in virtually every dispute of this kind of nature that no party has the information.

But it comes down to the claimant having to prove their case.

So, the claimant has to prove that the failure is premature and that the retailer or manufacturer is liable at their cost. This takes time and is not easy to do.

Then you’ve the court procedure, that also takes time.

Meanwhile there’s a bust washing machine with a retail value of less than a week’s wages from mot people causing a family dilemma that is probably a few years old and worth £10-50 at best.

In essence in practical terms, it’s not worth pursuing.

You are correct as is wavechange on longer warranties in this respect but I can tell you that, from first hand experience, where a claim is rejected as wear and tear, abuse etc the customer goes off on one usually threatening all manners of retribution but, they are back into that system at the start of this post. No net gain really if this is the case but all parties involved get a headache from it.

Every decent retailer and manufacturer is all too aware of this and, the best you can hope for if they choose to write the machine off which will often be a condition of longer warranty, is a repayment of the current market value. Well, the current market value of a used washing machine that’s busted and beyond economical repair is not a lot at all. Trade value would be £10-15 roughly at best, if you don’t have to pay to have it removed. In short, it’s pretty much worthless.

Like cars, appliances lose value and depreciate hugely, far worse than cars.

In this where we have sealed tanks, if the tank goes obsolete or the cost simply too great then you might get a token payment back and have to dispose of the old machine.

I wholeheartedly agree that this only serves to exacerbate the problem as it will often make what should be a perfectly serviceable machine a worthless hunk of junk.

K.

Of course they gave a ten year warranty on the tank wavechange but, just on that one part.

As do LG on motor stators that rarely, if ever fail.

A poly tub will not fail other than something punching through it or perhaps the motor mounts snapping but, well enough made there’s never an issue with them apart from smells.

The impression given is that the product is great design and so on but, is that true?

I can cite one example on a machine just like yours owned by my former accountant. One or two weeks out of warranty the bearings failed and he was refused any assistance on repair, I ended up doing it at a fraction of the price Philips or Whirlpool (I forget which at the time) wanted to do it.

The parts, as with most Whirlpool stuff, were a horrific price.

I recall it due to the circumstance but also that the bearing set was about £70.

It is my experience and what I can see is that long warranties on specific components are given on components that are both highly unlikely to fail in normal use and that cannot be user replaced so, you have to pay an over the odds cost often to have it done “free of charge” at any rate.

You’d also be amazed at how many people assume, wrongly, that the entire product carries the same warranty as a single component as well.

Another example of good marketing winning out over practicality.

K.

Kenneth, earlier you say “Everyone should buy a Miele then if that is what is wanted. Long warranty, good enough build, sorted.” Durability need not be expensive – decent design and good quality components. I|f Miele can do it, why can’t others – and cheaper. Bearings, for example, of good quality cost not much more than rubbish ones.

I agree it is all a problem. I don’t want to see us having to pursue retailers through the courts, just for them to accept that a washing machine sold at a decent price that fails not long after its short warranty is unacceptable. Durability is tricky, but if we look at what consumers actually experience on average on different brands of appliance in different price brackets we might get a handle on what we should normally expect.

Wear and tear should be the user’s responsibility – providing they get reasonable use from the wearing item, and providing it is sensibly replaceable. If a manufacturer regards bearings as likely to wear well before the rest of the machine is going to fail then they should design them to be easily changed. This happens in industrial situations where they are far less tolerant of poor performance.

There can be progress in the consumer’s favour as long as we address it. At present it seems to me consumer groups avoid it.

When I started and for some time in the industry I didn’t understand it all either Malcolm, things like why can’t they just use something of a bit better quality or, make it more repairable but over time I’ve come to understand that a lot of it boils down to hitting retail pricing points. Or, making the business profitable.

I get totally what you say about industrial applications but even in our industry there’s a massive difference between say a commercial washer and a domestic one.

A commercial will be at least, if not more, than double the cost of the most top end domestic washers as they are engineered to take more wear, tear and abuse and will also lack many of the features found on domestics.

Yet again, you can have the quality, durability and repairability but it comes at a significant cost.

K.

I think the term ‘reliable’ is not much use on its own. ‘Reliability’ is really a sub-state of ‘durability’. A machine can be relied on to underperform! A durable machine will not let you down and will keep going for a long time because it is well-made from good components and materials and is precision-engineered for a specified standard of service over a given duration. The length of the warranty might be a clue to that duration.

I was going to make the same point Ken, they only give long guarantees on parts that virtually never fail and the guarantee is only against manufacturing defects, not wear and tear. So in effect the guarantee is a gimmick.

I think that’s a bit harsh Andy. 😉

No warranty covers wear and tear and most all exclude accidental as well.

You are right though, it’s warranty on things that are almost never seen to fail or rarely other than through misuse or they wear out.

But, case in point, LG according to feedback I’ve had from customers will charge about £115 to come out to determine if a stator is faulty and would be replaced in warranty, they warranty that part for 10 years.

But, they rarely fail and it’s likely to be something else, often the hall sensor or something completely unrelated. A hall sensor is about £13.

The kicker is though, a new stator runs around £60 to £80 roughly. Retail.

Cost to LG is likely to be a lot lower.

So, free warranty is it?

K.

Geoff.Burford says:
25 August 2015

Washing machines are not the only culprit here. I converted to digital cameras some years ago and find that they are as reliable as 1970’s British cars.

My first digital camera was a Fuji of some sort which cost about £500. The light sensor failed after about 5 years and I was informed that it would be uneconomic to repair. I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix TZ30 on which the zoom mechanism failed very shortly after 3 years. Again, I was informed that the camera would be uneconomic to repair.

These are Japanese cameras and one expects the Japanese to know how to build reliable equipment. After all, they taught us how to build reliable motor cars – which we now do exceedingly well.

It is perhaps worth noting that the MGB GT that we bought new in 1981 still goes and the camera (a Kodak 66 Model III) that I was given for passing the 11+ in 1959 or 1960 also still works!

Regarding cameras. I have/had four digital cameras and the increase in capability over the last decade has been amazing and understandably the concept of repairing a camera with limited functions must be a very niche area.

My digital cameras have all been reliable from my Kodak digital in 2004 to the latest pair an Olympus Super-Zoom [36x] bought in January 2012 and a Canon SuperZoom [50x] bought in December 2013.

I have taken in excess of 10,000 photos with the Olympus and over 25,000 with the Canon. They have worked in sub-zero temperatures, and high humidity at temperatures of 40C. They have been dropped and banged and still have worked without problem.

I am pretty convinced my mechanical cameras would not have been so trouble free. The Canon has worked out at roughly a penny per photo – so far.

As for mechanical cameras of which I had three over decades there is the costs of servicing:

Service (CLA) of a mechanical camera body: £129 + VAT
Service (CLA) of a manual focus lens: £79 + VAT
Service (CLA) of a pair of binoculars: £79 + VAT
6 bit coding of rangefinder lenses: £99 + VAT
Sensor cleaning (in store): £39 + VAT
Estimation for cost of repair (other than servicing) £25 inc VAT

Digital cameras are remarkable value.

Sue Heath says:
9 October 2015

I am a Which subscriber and following a washing machine review bought the LG1256QD. 2 years and 8 months down the line the control board has failed and getting the correct part seems to be eluding the engineers. As it was out of warranty LG service centre referred me to their Out of Warranty repairs. Engineer arrived diagnosed the problem and ordered the part. One week later he arrived with the part containing the serial number but it was not the correct part. It transpires that several parts have the same serial number. He then said he would order the other 5 parts with the same serial number and return a week later. One week on he returned with 2 of the 5 parts he had ordered and neither of them fitted. He then took a photo of the part to sent to LG and said he would return. Another week passed so we rang the service centre to be told they did not know when they could get the part so where happy to refund the fee we had paid up front for the repair. We have now been told the only thing we can do is take out an extended warranty for another engineer to come out. Is this machine already obsolete?

This is really quite shocking in the seeming incompetence in parts numbering and also the life span of the product.

The German testing organisation run washing machines solidly for 6 months to replicate a working life of 9 years plus. It might not necessarily have shown your problem but I have far more confidence in its recommendations than I have in Which?’s where no long term testing is carried out.

Which? have no plans to test for “durability”. I have asked Which? why they do not collaborate on this sort of testing so all consumers get the benefit and the cost is sensibly shared. I am waiting for a response.

If I could read German (unless they do a translated magazine) I might be better off joining them.

Hi Malcolm, durability is of interest to us too, but we currently approach this research from a different angle. We use the findings from our annual reliability survey as well as more in-depth investigations, such as this convo and linked magazine article. The research team is currently scoping out how best to address the issue of durability in our reviews and I have passed on your comments and feedback to the team responsible for this.

Thanks Lauren, as you see from one or two other comments the German consumers’ association does test durability of some products. I have separately asked Which? why they cannot cooperate with other organisations to share such useful (even essential to some) information.

I do not know how you assess reliability. Perhaps someone could explain in detail. Nor do I see the value of star ratings; durability is about time. 🙂 i’d like to see specific information.

Yes, and I know that it’s come up before too. The feedback is with the research team and they’re looking at what they can do going forward. We do collaborate on testing and share information, but I understand that this doesn’t extend to washing machines.

I’m not sure how the data from the reliability survey is used, but I can certainly request that we get some further information on this.

For something to have a serial number that machine has to have a parts traceability as such and the serial number should generate the correct part

For LG to market a machine with a serial number that generates 5 different PCBs is to have produced something without traceability and will be outside of near all Standards as such
I’m surprise Malcolm has not been on this one already and I’d welcome his input

I was involved a few times in later life with Standards and every one we had to deal with had us use a system that recorded everything and every spec for every machine we made
This is the point of Standards and the likes of ISO etc

It may be possible that what is being referred to as a serial number is actually the model number which could generate many differing parts or combinations of parts

Then there is the possibility that the replacement may look entirely different to the original but will still do the same job or more likely in these cases actually be better as that is mostly the reason for changing a part mid way

What has happened to the people who can look at the board and fix the thing. . Most of these problems are in the “power electronics” components parts and very seldom are the chips/drivers damaged

It’s this lack of service that is driving the throwaway society and the guys who are the repair men are shooting themselves in their own feet by their apparent lack of knowledge. . .
If I were a repair man I’d jump through hoops to find out all I could to keep me in business or job because this behaviour does not keep one in a job
Telling everyone that things are getting too complicated is no answer
Its only a couple of years ago that we had a new machine go wrong within weeks of it being new and a man came around and I’m not kidding everyone I knew more about it once the covers were off than he did
He was sent out to a machine he had never seen the insides of
He hadn’t a clue how to test a thermocouple??. . His normal method would have been to go get one and substitute it and see if it worked
That says nothing for Hotpoint’s attitude to training

End of day Sue Heath has a machine that has failed well before a reasonable time span and the law should be used. Failing that a well-known consumer organisation should take specific cases [and if members] document the process of being passed pillar to post with mp3 recordings and video and whatever else comes to hand.

This should be made a most embarrassing experience for the vendor and the manufacturer. Which? has to be SEEN to be active in these cases and use real circumstances and names of the companies involved.

I really find it disturbing that 14 years ago we we go to the wall on cases and now it seems that the onus is – go and copy a letter from our files.

Some people can handle it and , as Which? knows I can be fairly relentless regarding sloppiness and ill-advised acts. These last 3 days we have recovered over £300 from our bank for their faults, a £10 voucher from Sainsburys, and a refund and replacement from Waitrose.

However we are not typical in our knowledge base and the vast majority of people need some very good stories to get them into the mood. Even we do not chase everything as life is too short and sometimes goin with the flow is acceptable. Unfortunately businesses in the UK rely on this laziness/meekness/lack of knowledge to get away with poor service.

@malcolm-r – I have been looking at the AMDEA website and found this document about the Sale of Goods Act, which I thought might be of interest: http://www.amdea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Sale-of-goods-act_July09.pdf

There’s no mention about the Consumer Rights Act, introduced last October, but I am not aware of any difference from the Sale of Goods Act regarding the issue of durability. To quote:
4. The Product Does Not have to be Fault-Free for Six Years
Six years is the period during which the consumer has rights (golden rule – if the fault was present at the time of sale).
There is no durability period and decisions on whether a product should have lasted longer without service or repair will be taken on a case-by-case basis by you and the consumer in the same ways as they always have been.

The AMDEA guide goes on to say:
7. Extract from the UK Government Guide
Conforming to contract
”””””’
• The quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following
………….
o Durability.

SoGA and its replacement, the Consumer Rights Act, both include “durability” as a reason to get redress if a product fails earlier than expected. In my view “durability” is not the same as a pre-existing fault (the other main method of getting redress).

The governments guide for retailers says:

“A customer has legal rights if the goods they purchased do not conform to contract (are faulty). The Act says that to conform to contract goods should……….
• be of satisfactory quality
quality of goods includes
– appearance and finish
– freedom from minor defects (such as marks or holes)
– safe to use
– in good working order
– durability

durability – the durability requirement is that the item should work or last for a reasonable time but it does not have to remain of satisfactory quality. For example, a pair of wellington boots should stay waterproof but does not have to keep its brand new appearance.

reasonable time – this depends on the item and the circumstances. What is reasonable is determined by taking everything into account and considering what an impartial person would think is reasonable.”

A fault-free product (no pre-existing fault) may eventually fail earlier than the price paid warrants if, for example, poor quality component(s) have been specified, the design includes a badly thought out feature such as wiring that might eventually abrade, a poor assembly process that eventually causes a failure, a material used that may well last longer than a year but eventually fails through embrittlement for example….and so on.

I have asked Which? several times why it does not feature durability and the ways consumers can gain redress when their products fail because of lack of it – for example appliances that just survive their guarantee period but then give up. Their response is they are not tackling it as an issue. Why is this? Is it too difficult a problem? Can they not cooperate with European consumer groups, particularly since BEUC and the EC are very keen on promoting product durability?

I thought you might like to take this up with AMDEA. It is a pity that the legislation on durability is so nebulous. Where I do support AMDEA is over the need to make a decision on a case-by-case basis. It is essential to examine faulty equipment to determine why it has failed. That could be poor design or use of substandard components, it could be wear & tear, it could be random failure of a good quality component, or it could be abuse. No impartial person could make a judgement without an examination.

Why should I take it up with AMDEA? Of course durability, like any failure, would (should) be taken on a case by case basis. However, like recalls, it may be shown that a particular product – or batch – fails the durability test more frequently, and for common common (s), than is reasonable. This sort of intelligence will help consumers if they find the need to make a claim.

The law (SoGA and CRA) cover all products and, therefore, are like much legislation general in their application, but not “nebulous”. What needs to be done is then establish specific failures in relation to different products, and different groups within a product range – say cheap. middle and high prices domestic appliances’ so potential claimants and adjudicators have benchmarks against which to judge the extent of the claim. Otherwise what help is there when your £500 washing machine, used normally, fails a month after its one year guarantee runs out? No one says it is easy but not tackling it at all is, in my view, of no service to consumers.

I have asked Which? whether this view is reasonable, and they have to date avoided the issue. What is Which? for if not to protect consumers?

I suggested this because you have mentioned contacting trade associations before.

I stand by my claim that the legislation on durability is nebulous. The example of wellington boots has been posted many times on these pages but that does not help with washing machines or other products.

“What needs to be done is then establish specific failures in relation to different products, and different groups within a product range – say cheap. middle and high prices domestic appliances’ so potential claimants and adjudicators have benchmarks against which to judge the extent of the claim. Otherwise what help is there when your £500 washing machine, used normally, fails a month after its one year guarantee runs out? ” Anyone with experience of repairing washing machines will know that there are very many possible faults, so I don’t understand how your suggestion might work in practice.

It would be helpful if manufacturers published a list of common faults that qualify for free repairs, as Apple has done for years. I presume that this information is generally known only to the trade.

It would be very helpful if Which? could offer us advice on how to proceed with a claim under the Consumer Rights Act for an expensive washing machine that has failed just outside the guarantee period.

When a product you’ve paid good money for stops working earlier than what should be a reasonable life, even just after the guarantee has run out in extreme cases, do you expect redress, or should you just roll over and pay for another one, or fork out for an expensive repair? The Consumer Rights Act includes durability as a requirement, and lack of it as a reason for redress. Why are we not helped to use that provision in law?

We need legislation that is fair to both parties.

There is ample evidence that retailers often turn consumers away, either referring them to the manufacturer (who has no responsibility unless there is a safety recall), or saying that there is nothing that can be done about goods outside the guarantee period. It’s about time this was stopped for good. The retailer should inform the customer of their legal rights, or face legal action for making a false claim.

There is legislation. The Consumer Rights Act is such. It IS illegal to deny consumers their rights. Where has fairness to both sides been under dispute?

The legislation is not working. As I said above, we are routinely turned away be retailers. That is not fair.

Companies are being treated unfairly by anyone who expects the Consumer Rights Act to behave like an extended warranty. It is not. As you agreed above, faults must be judged on a case by case basis.

Legislation only works if we use it. We need help and advice if we are to make effective use of the Consumer Rights Act (and the Sale of Goods Act if you bought anything before last October).

I have never suggested treating the CRA (or SoGA) as an extended warranty. Why suggest that? At present the supplier has, as we have seen with some major retailers, attempted often successfully to put customers off by telling them they had no claim outside the guarantee or to go to the manufacturer. Without knowledge many will simply give up. That is what is unfair. If it is necessary to use the law that will decide “fairness”; but until consumers get some support on the grounds on which to make valid claims we will continue with the consumer being the underdog. I think that is unfair, don’t you?

Extended warranties? Great – but when will we get them. And they are different from CRA. A warranty, at some cost to the consumer, is an insurance that will, for example, often pay for the full repair or replacement cost. A durability claim would almost certainly, if justified, make redress based upon the use of the product to date versus its expected normal life, so it would be a partial redress. A different result but, in my mind, an equitable one.

However, our consumer champion, Which?, have, they say, no plans to look at durability so that’s hard luck on consumers generally. Nor have I seen any plans to try to get generally fairer warranties. So when you get a product that doesn’t last, throw it away and buy a new one. Is that good for the environment? Or just good for the producers?

Why insist that retailers should inform customers of their legal rights and then go on to say that legislation is not working? I see no logic in that. We need to get legislation working.

If retailers did inform customers of their legal rights then we might make a start to get legislation working. I’d be happy to work together I will leave you to this topic for the time being.

Hi, as has been spotted by Wavechange, we have published a new Convo which talks about how we worked with Richer Sounds to get ‘Your consumer rights’ booklets at their checkouts: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/car-dealers-insurance-trains-richer-sounds/ We’d like other retailers to follow.

Darron Gibbs says:
7 December 2016

We have a Hotpoint Aquarius that we only purchased a few years ago and the bearings have failed. (Extremely noisy on the spin cycle). Having taken off the top we can see we have the dreaded sealed drum but it does not stop there as to remove the drum (sealed or not) you also have to remove the front of the machine. In our case the front is also welded to the rest of the casing and therefore making it impossible to remove unless you were able to lift it (along with the lower concrete lump) out of the top of the machine.

So what should have been a repair costing around £20 (cost for the bearings as I am more than capable to replace myself) ends up costing us just under £500 for a new machine.

Not to mention the impact this has on the environment as 90% of the machine is working absolutely fine, including the motor. All of which now goes to scrap.

In my view this is just a way for the manufactures to ensure we keep buying new machines as it is not possible to repair your machine when anything goes wrong.

I see that hotpoint now offer a 10 year parts warranty, but not labour. Will be interested to learn if this includes the bearings and what they plan to charge for the labour to repair bearings when they fail. My guess is that the labour cost will be super excessive and make it uneconomical to repair so we end up buying a new machine anyway. Therefore the 10 year parts warranty is more a marketing gimmick than having anything of value.

If Which? want to help consumers they should campaign, along with the European consumer groups, for appliances that are repairable at sensible prices and, moreover, that are durable. This is a policy of the umbrella group BEUC, but we need actions as well as policies. Nothing wrong with cheap, throwaway products providing we are told this before we buy. Equally, products that can be sensibly repaired should also be publicised so we can make an informed choice.

Along with this of course we will benefit if there were long repair or replace warranties, either as part of the initial price or as an extra, at realistic prices.

“Nothing wrong with cheap, throwaway products providing we are told this before we buy.” I disagree, on environmental grounds. A smartphone is likely to be outdated in two years but major appliances don’t change that much. BEUC has the right ideas but it is difficult to see how to take on the might of industry that continues to move towards products that are not economically repairable.

Darron – Parts-only guarantees have been with us for many years. I have not made a claim but believe that you are right about high labour charges and have seen the advice that it can be cheaper to use an independent service engineer. Sadly, the companies will not provide the spares free of charge and let you fit them. 🙁

I would like to see repairable goods publicised, as Malcolm suggests, but the first requirement would be for manufacturers to hold spares for a reasonable period – perhaps at least ten years in the case of a major appliance.

There are people who, for their own reasons, would buy a £200 washing machine expecting it to last 2 or 3 years years and then replace it. We might think they are wrong environmentally but I don’t think we can impose our views on others – there are so many products bought that we either throw away or don’t use that consume resources that we could also condemn on environmental grounds. Another candidate would be gas-guzzling cars.

What is wrong is when people are not made aware of the consequences of what they are buying, which is why repairability, and a measure of durability, should be declared up front. How many might still buy the cheap washing machine if told that when the bearings fail in 2 or 3 years it cannot be repaired?

From memory, BEUC’s position paper on appliance durability and repairabilty recognises the need to hold spares for the likely life of the product.

I suspect that there are also people who will buy a £200 washing machine and get 5 – 10 years life out of it.

In my family we have two such machines that are both about 5 years old now. I doubt that either of them is used heavily but I know that both of them are in regular use.

If someone who ought to spend much more than £200 for a heavy duty machine only buys a £200 machine, then they may only get 2 or 3 years use from it – buy they still might prefer having a sequence of cheap new machines to the bother of getting a better made one repaired periodically.

In my house, I use a medium priced Zanussi that I bought almost 30 years ago. It has only ever needed one or two very minor repairs, which I was able to do myself. When I bought it from my local Co-op, it cost £120. At the time, that was 50% more than the price of the cheapest machine that they sold.

I have a long standing interest in how long household products last and why they fail. Historically at least, Derek is absolutely right that inexpensive washing machines can last a long time if the owner is able to carry out repairs and they are not in heavy use. Whether this still applies to the budget machines on sale in 2016, I do not know. In general, more expensive machines will be more reliable but I know of many cases where people have scrapped expensive appliances because they cannot be economically repaired.

Longer parts and labour guarantees and affordable warranties are becoming more common and I believe that if the public is prepared to look for them, durability could improve. Since the company has to pay for repair/replacement, the manufacturer cannot afford to produce products with poor durability. It has certainly worked for cars and we have moved on a lot since cars came with a one year guarantee.

ghostinthemachine says:
22 May 2017

Here in America, it’s not any better. LG/Samsung/Whirlpool/Maytag/Kenmore are designed to fail intentionally within 5-6 years due to using an aluminium spider arm which will degrade after 5-6 years of normal use. As for repairs, the expense outways the cost of a new unit, probably also by design.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYKLPpBhPo0&t=40s

or google: “washer spider arm failure”

Can people from the US join this debate? I think my first post was deleted commenting here.

I dont see why not , I cant speak on behalf of Which but if you read my posts what I believe in is Freedom I dont care what politics , country etc only getting at the truth. I am on US websites a lot because they are much more open to giving out information and the majority of Freedom websites I get emails from are-believe it or not-American . I spend some time communicating with Americans and have done so for years , maybe not the ones the government likes but although I criticise america on some issues it does have very positives ones defending the US public . That does not mean I dislike Americans -NO !! its the government I dont like very much. Going by polls in the USA neither do its citizens I would hate to think ANYBODY is blocking you, an American from Which – I hope I am right Which ? But if you have a lot of browser blockers you will have to stop them for Which website. If I can talk on American websites its only fair you can talk on British ones and I am sure TM would agree.

Thanks Duncan!

It looks like on European models, washers are designed to fail with sealed drums / bearings, but in the US, Frigidaire, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool and Kenmore/Maytag seem to have jointly colluded together in planned obsolescence of washing machines, by purposely designed a spider arm that will fail in 5-6 years…this has been going on for over a decade with this intentional faulty design. My Frigidaire Affinity of 6 years broke down because of the same reason. Sadly, it’s cheaper to replace then repair.

Just google: “washer spider arm failure” — doesn’t matter how much money the machine cost, whether it’s $400 or $1300, it’s designed to fail. It seems like Speed Queen in the US offers models that are as reliable before these disposable units came on the market, but you’ll never find them in retail stores like BestBuy/Sears in the US; you really have to do research on washing machines to find them, usually, only commercial laundry mats use them.

However, let’s say manufactures are sued and they fix the spider arm, I’m sure they’ll find another way to compromise the machines to only last 5-6 years.

Here are some examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYKLPpBhPo0&

https://www.applianceblog.com/mainforums/threads/2077-Tub-spider-corrosion-breakage/page3?s=9cddef0a69f27e50f1e13cf11c9fe11e

http://www.automaticwasher.org/cgi-bin/TD/TD-VIEWTHREAD.cgi?49740

Ghostinthemachine after a bit of thought I have come across you before in more than one website in the USA , are you the original one ?

Hi Duncan,

I just created that nick today, so sorry, it wouldn’t be me. I was searching online for washing machine issues and found a lot, esp. intentional failures by manufactures. I just created a post about 2 hours ago with my experience and what I’ve found, but it’s still awaiting moderation.

Just heard about the Ariana Grande concert explosions in the UK, good grief, when is this going to end.

I guess if you include links in your post, it goes to review…so here’s my reply without links based on my experience here:

Thanks Duncan!

It looks like on European models, washers are designed to fail with sealed drums / bearings, but in the US, Frigidaire, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool and Kenmore/Maytag seem to have jointly colluded together in planned obsolescence of washing machines, by purposely designed a spider arm that will fail in 5-6 years…this has been going on for over a decade with this intentional faulty design. My Frigidaire Affinity of 6 years broke down because of the same reason. Sadly, it’s cheaper to replace then repair.

Just google: “washer spider arm failure” — doesn’t matter how much money the machine cost, whether it’s $400 or $1300, it’s designed to fail. It seems like Speed Queen in the US offers models that are as reliable before these disposable units came on the market, but you’ll never find them in retail stores like BestBuy/Sears in the US; you really have to do research on washing machines to find them, usually, only commercial laundry mats use them.

However, let’s say manufactures are sued and they fix the spider arm, I’m sure they’ll find another way to compromise the machines to only last 5-6 years.

Here are some examples:
[Links waiting moderation in a previous post]

Hi ghostinthemachine. You are very welcome here. I’m glad you are referring to front-loading machines because most of us know little about the top-loaders that are common in the US.

Aluminium is quite a reactive metal that is well protected by a thin layer of oxide. In moist conditions it can corrode, especially at high or low pH (alkaline or acid, respectively). I was surprised to learn that aluminium is used for the spider (the part that holds the drum onto the rotating shaft) of front-loading machines, since laundry detergents are likely to be alkaline. Titanium would be better than aluminium but that would make the machine more expensive.

My guess is that it’s important to make sure that the machine is rinsing well and not leaving detergent. It should help to leave the door open when the machine is not in use – if it is safe to do so. Once aluminium starts to corrode, the loose oxide layer will retain moisture, allowing corrosion to continue.

It is important to do a regular maintenance wash at high temperature if the machine is mainly used for washing at temperatures below 60°C. That prevents the insides becoming coated with a ‘biofilm’ containing bacteria and fungi that can cause a bad smell. Some of these bugs could speed up corrosion of aluminium.

How long an aluminium spider will last will depend on the formulation of the laundry detergent, so unless the failures are confined to certain models, it might be the detergent to blame. I would be wary of using chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite plus sodium hydroxide) and washing soda (sodium carbonate) because these are highly alkaline and will not do aluminium components any good.

We see this in the field a lot.

To dumb it right down and avoid conspiracy theories as, honestly, manufacturers can’t organise a barbecue most often let alone hatch a plan as nefarious as that…

The stock advice is, dose correctly, use the correct programs and detergents and leave the door open after use. Overloading won’t help it much either.

This is, from what we can all gather, largely a result of build up of bacteria, leftover detergent and so on that congeals on the alloy spiders and eats them away.

It’s nothing new, I saw this when starting in the industry in the late eighties as we all used to replace Hotpoint, Hoover and so on spiders all the time for the same thing. usually around the same time the bearings were on the way out.

What has changed is that it used to be a fairly cost effective thing to change but now, it’s often a full drum assembly only that’s the best part of £100 here at least, if you can get to that at all these days. More often now it’s a full tank assembly at going on for £200 or more so the big change is that these days, as you can’t get to or get the parts, it’s not cost effective to repair it.

Price you pay is no guide, I’ve seen £700+ BSH product (Bosch/Neff/Siemens) with sealed tanks among other gems, Whirlpool do it, Electrolux and more so in the US it’ll be Frigidaire’s, Kenmore etc that will probably be more or less the same deal. Almost all are effected I’m afraid and they all use similar design, that’s just the way it is to be competitive.

The manufacturers will be dismissive as, in their eyes, the lifespan is now 5-8 years for most the way they see it so by the time these fail they’re often beyond that age therefore they could care less.

K.

Aluminium is normally alloyed and used in a wide variety of demanding applications, with the appropriate alloy being chosen. LM6 alloy is designed, for example, for marine applications where it is constantly subject to the corrosive environment.

In a marine environment, zinc sacrificial anodes are used to protect aluminium and alloys from corrosion, but that only works where an item (e.g. an outboard motor) is immersed. It’s quite possible that different ‘spiders’ are made from different materials but unless the manufacturer provides this information, we have no way of knowing.

I would be interested to know if any machines do use titanium rather than aluminium.

LM6 alloy does not use sacrificial anodes. It is used, for example, in seawater pumps as well as static items. Design is about choosing the right material for the application, and making it structurally suitable.

You can’t say that an alloy does not use anodes, but it’s irrelevant in this application because the ‘spider’ is not submerged. Certain stainless steels might do the job but might be at risk of fracturing due to vibration, which is why I suggested titanium. Good anodisation of aluminium alloys can help improve corrosion resistance. I think the priority is to look at how machines are used to minimise the risk of damage. It would be interesting to explore whether users with failed ‘spiders’ are keeping their machines free from bugs and to find out if they are using highly alkaline products. Kenneth has pointed out the danger of detergent residues.

I used aluminium alloys for marine applications – a potentially corrosive environment – and no anodes were involved. Certain alloys are more suitable than others for standard or hard anodising and for different applications.

We do not have (yet) substantiating evidence to show US manufacturers collude in producing a spider arm designed to fail, nor the mode of failure. If it fails it may well be through stress points, vibration, insufficient factor of safety, or it may not be a deliberate failure at all. I rather thought the US were hot on such collusion if there were incontrovertible evidence.

Without knowledge of the materials used the the machines that have failed prematurely and what chemicals and misuse they might have been subjected to, I don’t think we can make much progress.

I am certainly not accusing manufacturers of colluding to sell products with a limited life and I suspect the problem lies mainly with the chemicals we put in machines and how they are used.

I’ve had plenty of experience working with materials used in corrosive environments too.

I have said several times that I no longer buy domestic goods sold to the public only trade products , no flashy controls/ gadgets/ no fancy designs / etc just solidly built usuallyhigh grade heavy SS that are used in restaurants/cafe,s/ clothes cleaning companies /etc with long guarantees and call-outs to your home . They are made with high quality ,long lasting components , I have spent a good time over the past year or more checking up on the parts situation , seemingly a lot come from China BUT as I have been saying for a while – its the Land of Built to a Price ,and guess what ? they have a high quality commercial range of spares in the 1000,s of factories in China so they can build to a satisfactory quality its just the importers wont pay for quality for the public . A lot of the well known makes in the USA get parts from China , this is what the Donald is going to change by made in the USA meaning just that some US factories are just assembly lines, like here .

It would seem a service to consumers if the whole issue of guarantees/warranties/ durability/ length of warranties/repairability and how we might get to a better place were properly looked at by Which? and BEUC. What are the chances?

“What are the chances?”

Low I expect. 🙁

K.

PHILLIP DODD says:
16 November 2017

Just found that i cant replace the bearings in My Hotpoint WMFUG842GUKC washing machine. Only 14months of use and bearings are very noisy, Im cabable of replacing the bearings but Hotpoint have sold me a sealed drum which means they can not be replaced, Drum costs £149 plus my time. may as well wait until they fail completely and buy new washer- Wont be a Hotpoint thou!
Not very green i know but Hotpoint caused this waste.

This is one of the “features” I think Which? should report on – repairability – as well as likely durability and quality of construction. No good having an efficient w/m that effectively dies after 2 years – just a waste of money and resources.
We had a Hotpoint product with a 10 year parts warranty. Great 🙂 . However, when a part fails they don’t provide the part for you, or your repairer, to fit. Only they can fit it – at an extortionate cost. I’d like to see this outlawed – a bit like when having your car maintained only by a manufacturer’s agent was necessary to maintain the warranty.