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How long should your washing machine last?

Wrecked washing machine

How long your washing machine lasts is one of the main considerations when shopping for a new model – so how about putting expected lifetimes on washing machines?

According to research by WRAP, the average consumer expects a washing machine to last six years before it needs replacing.

It has also found that a product’s lifetime is one of the highest buying considerations, just behind reliability and quality, but more important than price. It’s something that the Which? Convo community has been discussing at length on this faulty washing machines debate.

Manufacturer warranties too short?

While washing machines do not currently come with lifetimes, they do have manufacturer warranties. However, these often cover just a one or two year period. Would you feel hard done by if your machine broke just outside this warranty period?

I would. Two years seems a much shorter time than a washing machine should last, even if I’d paid a relatively small amount of money for it, say less than £250.

Lifetimes for washing machines

One solution could be to decree that all washing machines should have a minimum lifetime, perhaps three or four years, ideally with a manufacturer warranty to match?

Or perhaps it would be better for manufacturers to apply expected minimum lifetimes to their own machines – and have the freedom to give different life expectancies to different machines?

That means if I’m in the shop, I might see a cheap washing machine for £250 that the manufacturer expects to last a minimum of two years. But next to it could be a near identical machine that costs £450 and has an expected minimum lifetime of five years. That would give me a clear basis to consider paying more for the pricier model, or to save some money but lower my expectation as to how long it will last.

Manufacturers on lifetimes

So why are lifetimes not already in place? We asked LG, Bosch, AEG, Miele and Indesit how long they would expect their own washing machines to last.

The responses vary but almost all mention the same problem – there are a lot of factors that affect the potential lifetime of a washing machine, making it very difficult to predict. Such factors include:

• Correct installation.
• Where in the house washing machine is installed (a machine may not last as long as it could do if placed in a garage without central heating).
• Over/under loading.
• Frequency of use.
• Detergent usage.

Of those that provided a figure, Miele came back with the strongest answer, saying that all their machines are tested to last 20 years. But Miele does not offer a free 20 year warranty. Instead, a small handful of models have a free 10 year warranty. Five year warranties are more common, but the remaining machines have the standard two year Miele warranty.

Indesit, which also owns Hotpoint, came back to say they’d expect their washing machines to last seven to eight years, with consumers looking to replace within five to six years to pre-empt the need to replace. The standard warranty for an Indesit/Hotpoint model is one year.

When I asked why the warranty length was so much shorter than the expected lifetime, a spokesperson from the company said that warranty length is an ongoing discussion, ‘but there are some retail outlets who like to sell their own extended warranty’. Of course, a documented expected lifetime will be very helpful when exercising your rights under the Sale of Goods Act once the warranty has expired.

Do you think that all washing machines should have a minimum lifespan, or that manufacturers should be able to set their own life expectancy? Or both?

Do you think manufacturers should give minimum lifespans to their washing machines?

Yes - manufacturers should provide minimum lifespans for their own machines (85%, 1,741 Votes)

All washing machines should have the same minimum lifespan (11%, 228 Votes)

No - manufacturers should not have to prescribe a product lifespan at all (3%, 70 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,039

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Comments

The introduction from Adrian Porter has a summary of manufacturers’ reasons for not quoting minimum lifetimes.

I don’t really accept their arguments. There are plenty of markets where goods are designed for long lifetimes. Take power tools. Your average Black and Decker drill would be designed for around 10 hours use in total before a component fails. But the company’s professional brand ‘De Walt’ makes drills that builders can use very day without breaking down.

There is a lot known about the reliability and failure of components. In electronics, lifetime is strongly affected by temperature. Some components such as capacitors are even specified with an expected lifetime at a designated temperature.

Manufacturers will certainly know about the failure modes of their washing machines. They will know that there are particular components that tend to fail earlier than others. What they do not see, however, is sufficient payback for the marginal increase in cost for building-in greater resilience for those particular components.

What is needed is a suite of standardised tests so that testing houses can certify white goods for their lifetimes, and a standardised way of reporting results. For example, washing machines could be quoted as providing x number of washes where x is the number at which 90% of machines have not suffered a fault. Hours of use is another possible measure but is less intuitive I think.

Even if the tests were voluntary rather than compulsory, the better quality brands would start to get their machines certified and consumers would be more likely to pay for that quality. The essential thing is to have a set of standards concerning white goods lifetime measurement and consumer communication.

I bought my Philco W451 washing machine in July 1982, so it is about to celebrate its 32nd birthday. Apart from replacement door seals, which I regard as fair wear and tear, it has only needed a new thermostat and pump during its life. It is still going strong.

I agree with jak. “The essential thing is to have a set of standards concerning white goods lifetime measurement and consumer communication.”

If washing machines are manufactured abroad then it is a matter for the OFT and DEFRA to investigate. I accept this is not a ‘one man band’ operation but enough consumer pressure could persuade govt bodies to take necessary measures to crack down on the importation of shoddy inferior goods into the UK by the application of certain standards and to include more consumer information and communication. Consumer pressure was instrumental in the implementation of investigation into the UK energy market by Ofgem and now the CMA, so again I believe consumer pressure is capable of comparable results with regard to inferior goods that lack an acceptable warrantee period.

I don’t accept Kenneth’s Private Frazers “we’re all doomed” approach, in as much as all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable or that the fatalistic analogy this provides is somewhat predictable but thoroughly enjoyable. And just for the record even Einstein was capable of getting it wrong on occasion in his theory that the expansion of the universe created an opportunity for matter to just pop up and fill in the empty spaces! The solution [as all history demonstrates] often requires determination and perseverence.

Philippa Russell says:
12 July 2014

Our Hoover washing machine is about 23 years old and still going strong!

In engineering there is a term called “Mean Time Between Failure” which is arrived at by taking a sample of failed components, and then arriving at a statistical elapsed time to failure for that component. Therefore the failure of the component is determined by the number of hours (time) the component is in use (once per day, once per week, and so on). The washing machine comprises a number of components; thus there will be an MTBF for the washing machine. It is unreasonable therefore to argue for a ‘flat’ warranty say 5 or 10 years since, clearly, a component failure depends upon the total running time of the washing machine). Any warranty, after a statutory period, should be related to the MTBF in terms of hours run by the machine. It would not be too difficult to get the washing machine electronics to record total time used.

setter12, many agree with this. It removes the problem of heavy vs light user. However, there may need to be an overall years limit – someone above uses their machine once every 2 months! Standing idle will maybe affect other parts.
Hours run meters are very cheap so no reason not to incorporate them – I think some do already.

Like cars, planes, domestic boilers, alarm systems etc., the option of an annual service would not go amiss as I once learned from a service engineer friend that machines will run for longer if regularly maintained irrespective of the number of hours, weeks or months of usage, although machines, provided they are regularity serviced run better with regular use. I hear you saying how could this be arranged as not everyone would want or even agree to this? It could be a requirement of the T & C’s of the warrantee. Manufacturers, as has already been posted above have a good idea of the quality of their components enabling them to hazard a good guess or estimate of their lifespan capability. My domestic boiler which has been regularly serviced every year is 19 years old and still going with almost constant usage during the winter months. My energy bill works out at about the average cost according to energy companies estimates.

Of course it is inevitable for breakdowns to occur occasionally, but in a well made durable product this should not pose too much of a serious problem for manufacturers and would provide reassurance for consumers, the compromise being the cost of an annual service [which if you shop around doesn’t cost that much]. This would in theory lessen the chances of a sudden breakdown with all the inconvenience that follows and the time it takes an engineer to appear.

I’d love to see that come back Beryl, it would save many issues from becoming real problems but I don’t see it happening I’m afraid.

Hoover and Hotpoint used to do that years ago and dropped it as people went to other (mostly then Italian) brands that did not require ongoing maintenance or inspection and were therefore considerably cheaper over the ownership period.

They then switched to maintenance agreements to replace that, covering faults as well as maintenance and, again this got canned as people complained about the cost of it.

Realistically it will cost most companies these days (in field service) £33 excluding VAT just to ring a doorbell, that is the raw cost of getting a technician to a persons door on average. By the time you do a few checks and so on then it’s you’re more or less at about £50.

Four of those can buy you a washing machine easy, often with a two year warranty.

People do not like to be tied in like that where the warranty cover is dependent on ongoing cost either.

It isn’t that I’m doom and gloom, I just know how these things go and importantly, have gone before as most have been tried in one form or another. If you can come up with something fresh, great but, if not then all that anyone will do is look back, see why it was dropped and not bother to try, certainly not invest any money into it.

K.

The initial question as posed talked about washing machine lifetimes. Maybe we need to think more about what we mean by “lifetime”. I think this should mean the time before a repair becomes uneconomic. Kenneth’s comments about the inherent cost of home visits is important here. For a cheap machine there are probably not many repairs that can be done that are economic – maybe just things like replacing the drain pump. For more expensive machines I’d imagine that there are more repairs that are economic to do.

Several people here have reported machines that are still going after 15 years or more. As xopher says, there are repairs that are necessary every now and again.

Which all raises the question, how much do washing machines get thrown out when a relatively cheap repair would give several years of extra life?

“Which all raises the question, how much do washing machines get thrown out when a relatively cheap repair would give several years of extra life?”

The evidence that has been collated would suggest, a lot.

I think I posted it on the other thread but, roughly 25-30% returned, no fault.

A further 25-30% or so, repaired using less than £10 worth of parts.

The rest, more expensive or large value of spares needed therefore most probably either uneconomic to repair or rework or either not possible.

K.

Kenneth, can you give us an idea of the sorts of failure one gets in washing machines and the issues involved in reliability engineering or repair of different types of component? I’m not sure what the best way to categorise them would be but I think there might be –

(i) low cost sensors and solenoid valves – always made by third party suppliers and are often common across brands
(ii) low cost mechanical components such as door mechanisms and seals – model or brand specific and the better manufacturers probably know how to make them last
(iii) drain pump – always made by third party suppliers and are often common across brands,
(iv) timer, switches, electronics – probably a major cause of machines being irreparable because they tend to be model-specific and therefore costly to hold spares of.
(v) main drive motor and associated power electronics – really shouldn’t fail if a machine is designed properly, but expensive if they do
(vi) drum assembly – may experience gradual chronic failure due to corrosion and will rarely be cost effective to repair,
(vii) heater elements – should always be worth repairing provided access and dismantling is easy enough.

If we decompose a machine into its parts like this – and if my guesses are anywhere near right – then it suggests that the solutions to longer lived machines are different according to the parts that fail. For example, greater standardisation in the electronics would lower the cost of replacement boards and extend lifetimes.

Also, from your experience, where do the more reliable brands differ most from the less reliable ones? Is it only to do with better components or is it also design-related like making sure that one doesn’t have a pipe connection that could leak sitting directly above the main circuit board?

I’m going to have to take this apart a bit and, I will simplify as best I can. I don’t wish to get too technical here.

(i) low cost sensors and solenoid valves – always made by third party suppliers and are often common across brands

Not always.

Both can be somewhat “generic” but often are not. There are a number of reasons for this some good, some not so much.

(ii) low cost mechanical components such as door mechanisms and seals – model or brand specific and the better manufacturers probably know how to make them last

Not really.

These things have been honed over the decades so as not to give too many issues, those that are tend to be user generated failures.

There are exceptions of course but they do tend to be rare.

(iii) drain pump – always made by third party suppliers and are often common across brands,

Not at all and at the same time, to a degree true.

There are major manufacturers of these components, Plaset, Coprecci, Askoll and so on but they are specified to a particular range or even model depending on the need.

There are many that are common to many ranges and, we save people a fortune on the likes of those but, this does not always hold true. In other words, I cannot tell you that this is a given as, it is not.

(iv) timer, switches, electronics – probably a major cause of machines being irreparable because they tend to be model-specific and therefore costly to hold spares of.

To a degree, depends largely on the volume sold.

It also largely hinges on the particular attitude of the manufacturer or brand.

(v) main drive motor and associated power electronics – really shouldn’t fail if a machine is designed properly, but expensive if they do

A false premise.

Motor PSUs, inverters or whatever you want to call them rarely fail without some sort of outside influence. Often environment, condensation or leaks which across mains power is a death sentence for them.

Ditto motors. Aside that the motor bearings often wear out before the motor actually fails.

Carbon brush motors are subject to brush wear but, again, this is a wear and tear issue and not one with design or construction.

(vi) drum assembly – may experience gradual chronic failure due to corrosion and will rarely be cost effective to repair,

Yes.

Often down to incorrect detergent use, poor quality detergent and so on that corrodes the alloy drum carrier or spider.

Outside that, wear and tear.

(vii) heater elements – should always be worth repairing provided access and dismantling is easy enough.

Like a light bulb, you cannot accurately predict longevity other than in ideal conditions.

Limescale (usually due to improper dosing) is a rare issue but can be seen more in hard to very hard water areas. Items in the drum such as coins etc can rest on the heater and cause a hot spot causing them to fail and so on.

“If we decompose a machine into its parts like this – and if my guesses are anywhere near right – then it suggests that the solutions to longer lived machines are different according to the parts that fail. For example, greater standardisation in the electronics would lower the cost of replacement boards and extend lifetimes.”

If you standardise then you also remove the ability to innovate aside from removal of consumer choice and therefore, I would argue, not really a practical option and, importantly therefore, not in the interest of customers.

“Also, from your experience, where do the more reliable brands differ most from the less reliable ones? Is it only to do with better components or is it also design-related like making sure that one doesn’t have a pipe connection that could leak sitting directly above the main circuit board?”

There are a number of clever design elements that help to prevent early demise but, they are no infallible, nothing is.

Using quality elements in construction is the best that you can do to try to get around the most common problems. So, better built elements with a thicker insulation, steel or enamelled tanks, better vibration absorption, smarter software and so on.

You also test performance under ideal and, less than ideal conditions as best you can. You need to ensure reliable performance and constant results, usually better than the competition and especially so at the lower price points which, to be blunt, isn’t exactly a challenge.

It is however important to bear in mind that, regardless of how hardened you make the product as I am fond of saying, people come up with new and ever more interesting ways to break them that you could possibly imagine. You can design to some degree the ability to account for this but, sadly you don’t always win. The reason being that you cannot test with every possible combination of load, detergent, water and so forth. All you can do is test with a wide spread and hope that you get it right 9/10 or better.

With cheap product, it’s largely not worth the trouble or expense.

K.

A warrantee would depend on the declaration by manufacturers of the lifespan of a particular model which would always favour the manufacturer and not the consumer.

Kenneth seems to have missed the point entirely. A durable machine with a 10 year warrantee would (a) force manufacturers to produce a more durable machine and (b) would stop the influx of cheap foreign machines entering the UK market and (c) would do away with the unfair extended warrantee which consumers are expected to pay for to protect the interests of retailers and letting the manufacturers completely off the hook. Entirely a matter for the OFT or DEFRA and not something that could be achieved single handedly by Kenneth & Co.

It is bound to be a long drawn out and difficult procedure. Kenneth’s efforts it would seem have all proved in vain so he has more or less given up because “it’s never going to happen”, looking for someone else to come up with fresh ideas. All the evidence produced by responses here so far demonstrates that people expect durability with a fair warrantee. My own w/machine is coming up to its12th year with only a blocked hose so far, which I fixed myself. That’s durability. It has cost me zero £’s so far saving me a lot of money, which I am extremely grateful for. The only problem I have which has recently come to light through engaging with Which! Convo is its inability to rinse properly, a common problem with 97% of machines.

I am still waiting for some concrete evidence that the market is flooded with cheap machines with little or no warrantee in response to preferential consumer demand. I predict It’s going to be quite a long wait!

Beryl, you may not want to believe me but, I have access to market data that you do not and, probably never will have.

I can tell you that Beko accounts for approximately 15% of the home laundry market. I can tell you Indesit is 28%. I can tell you Electrolux is sat about 10%-ish. BSH not far above that.

Machines over £700 account for about 7% of the entire market.

Given that a long warranty of 5 years or more is extremely rare below that price point, there is sufficient evidence to support that most are sold with a one or two year warranty at best.

So it’s not a case of guesswork at all on my part, this is cold hard fact.

You might not like that but that does not mean you get to shoot the messenger.

K.

Beryl, I do not think we will see all washing machines, by a long chalk, with a 10 year guarantee. It will cost more money than some people are prepared to pay. People will want a range of prices, depending upon their finances and the amount of work they expect the machines to do.
I would like to see manufacturers publish minimum expected hours of life (or cycles) and longer guaranteers commensurate, so we can weigh up the different factors to make a considered buying decosion. I would like to see most machines easily repairable, declared by the manufacturer, with spares available, so we can extend their life. I would like to see fault codes of some sort incorporated so we do not necessarily have to spend £60 to call an engineer to tell us whether or not it is worth repairing, and to allow those who are handy to do it for themselves.
There will always be imported machines – we do not seem able to gear up to this kind of manufacturing.
I would also like the Consumers Association to help with this.

Largely what myself, the WTA and others have campaigned for Malcolm.

Fault codes however, I feel compelled to point out, are not a magic bullet. They are a diagnostic aid, they are not a replacement for diagnostic skills.

All they will do is give you a general idea where the problem lies.

David is correct, many manufacturers now do have machines that can only be reset or repaired and so on using specialist equipment which, I have in the strongest possible manner made abundantly clear to the OFT, DEFRA and others is not in the interest of consumers at all. In fact, I abhor the practice on every possible level.

There is a block exemption for the car industry in this regard where manufacturers are forced to supply all technical data, equipment and diagnostics to independent dealers and repairers. This is not the case with appliances (for sure) or any other products to my knowledge.

That means, in effect, if it goes wrong you may have no choice whatsoever but to pay the ransom demanded to repair it and, I liken it to a ransom, or to scrap the product. This is completely unfair in my opinion to the customer.

Few people realise how ingrained this is in the appliance industry.

The OFT elected not to address this issue despite the body evidence of this widespread practice being provided.

K.

You only have to visit the tip to see how many young washing machines are scrapped – A LOT!

As prices have fallen, the cost of repairs has risen. Unless you can get cheap spares AND you know how to fix washing machines, it’s fair to say that most people will not pay for repairs that cost almost as much as the washing machine itself. Even if you can fix washing machines, I’m aware that some problems with the electronics can only be fixed by the manufacturer with special equipment!

Most washing machines are sold far too cheaply and the manufacturers have had to cut costs in every way possible to supply the public with cheap washing machines. It’s not possible to build durable washing machines and sell them cheap. Apparently Miele washing machines are built well and are generally reliable, but Miele washing machines cost more than most people are willing to pay, but even Miele washing machines can go wrong in under 10 years and I hope the cost of repairs are not too high, otherwise we’re back to square one.

Beekay says:
12 July 2014

Mine is Bosch and I am using it since Oct-2004. So far working perfect even with an average of 2 loads per week.

I’m sure that washing at 60C most of the time will avoid a nasty buildup of bacteria and “gel-like” stuff that makes machines smell really bad, and reduce breakdowns. I’m sure many machines are scrapped because the owner has only done low temperature washes (e.g. 30C) and the washing machine has become really smelly inside, with mould! Surely this nasty gel-like stuff can block the inner workings?

David – In my experience, washing at 60ºC at least once a week has kept my machine clean and free from smells for many years, but the 60 setting on a modern machine relates to cleaning performance rather than temperature. Which? reported that most machines don’t reach 60ºC on the 60 setting, and one only managed 43ºC.

Using a washing powder might avoid the problem you describe (technically referred to as a microbial biofilm) because powders generally contain a bleach, which is absent from liquids and gels. Alternatively you could do a wash at the highest temperature. That may be labelled 90 or 95. I have no idea if these figures still relate to temperature in modern machines. There is no need to run the machine empty, so you could wash white cotton or anything that will stand high temperatures.

I am hoping Which? will tell us more about this in the future.

I wash at 60C as much as possible. I’m aware that cottons don’t get cleaned properly unless washed at 60C. I also leave the door and soap drawer ajar after using the washing machine, to remove dampness, which avoids mould. Yes, Which? did report that most washing machines don’t even reach 60C, let alone hold that temperature. Did people used to wash at 60C all the time?

Despite the slightly increased electricity use, it would surely work-out cheaper to wash at 60C than suffer breakdowns, bad smells and clothing full of bacteria and not cleaned properly?

For darks and colours I use Ariel powder in the blue box and for whites I use Ariel powder in the green box – which has oxygen bleach included (which would quickly fade colours).

The point I’m making is that low temperature washes all the time are bad for the machine and cottons. Most people don’t know this and use the 30C cycle (and lower temperatures) to try and save energy and money, but it’s not doing their washing machines and clothes any good. If this leads to premature breakdowns, then more money has to be spent on a new washing machine when the breakdown can’t be fixed for a reasonable cost.

“There is no need to run the machine empty, so you could wash white cotton or anything that will stand high temperatures.”

That isn’t correct.

If you do that on a maintenance wash many of the elements you want to clean the machine will instead clean the clothing in it, degrading the maintenance wash to the point where it may become ineffectual.

K.

David, “Which? did report that most washing machines don’t even reach 60C,”. But some do – we (Mrs R) has a Bosch that Which? reported as reaching, from memory, 57C. As the programmes are all labelled in degrees C (as opposed to just 60, say) I asked Bosch whether they were temperatures actually achieved. I was assured they were. Does anyone know differently?

I’ve tried that and the powder just foams too much, unless a tiny amount is used, which I don’t think is enough to do the job properly.

Instead I use a washing machine cleaner, was called Affresh, but now it’s a different name. It’s used to clean the inside of a washing machine on the maintenance wash. One tablet is added to the drum and the machine is run empty with just that tablet on the hottest wash.

Kenneth – If microbial biofilm is surviving a periodic maximum temperature wash because clothing is present, it is worth submitting a paper to the journal Extremophiles. It is a respectable but expensive journal published by Springer, but is available at a discount to members of ISE (the International Society for Extremophiles).

I write enough and, I am not qualified for that.

It is common sense however.

The detergent is designed to clean clothing and the gunk that gets on the laundry.

That same gunk is what clings to the tank of the machine.

The elements in the detergent cannot selectively target that in the clothing versus that clinging to the tank therefore, if you carry out a maintenance wash with clothing in the machine the effectiveness will be reduced as those ingredients will blindly try to attack all.

I should think this is a simple mechanical problem, not a chemical one.

K.

David – From looking at MSDS information, Affresh Washer Cleaner contains (among other components) sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate, which is often referred to as sodium percarbonate. It is what is sometimes known as an oxygen bleach to distinguish it from the more commonly used chlorine bleaches.

Google ‘MSDS Affresh washer cleaner’ for more information. Unless Affresh contains some expensive chemicals (not all are listed in an MSDS) I cannot see any justification for the price. 🙁

It does, just like detergents and manufacturers will do whatever they can to not reveal the ingredients in order to try to protect the IP of the commercial product otherwise, some bright spark would just mimic it. Mainly competitors essentially stealing trade secrets.

I was not kidding when I said that security around this stuff is unbelievable.

So you’ll hardly find them openly publishing the recipe online.

K.

I am well aware of the efforts to protect commercial secrecy, Kenneth. I’m afraid they are not much match for the armoury of analytical methods in routine use by chemists. In the same way that electronic circuitry etc can be reverse engineered, I doubt that a laundry detergent would be much of a challenge for a small team of technicians led by a someone with knowledge of the subject.

I think your contacts in the detergent industry may be exaggerating with claims of 100-200 components and scores of enzymes. The enzymes that are likely to be present in a biological detergent are protease (the original enzyme in biological detergents, which breaks down proteins), lipase (for fats and oils), α-amylase and cellulase (both for carbohydrates). Which ones are used in a particular laundry detergent is not common knowledge (that would be easy to check), but I would be surprised if there are other enzymes in current use. When I was working with industry they were very protective of information and very keen to impress. Ask for the evidence and form your own judgement is my advice.

I realise that we are well off-topic with this Conversation and I know Patrick is keen to keep recent Conversations reasonably focused, so we should get back to discussing the life expectancy of washing machines, warranties, build quality, Sale of Goods Act, etc.

Well, I can only go by what three completely independent companies tell me and, given that they all tell me the same things tends to say, to me at least, that there is substance there. And, I’ve no reason to doubt it given that.

They’ve also little reason to lie, about that at least.

If you like I can go through the major base constituents of a detergent, they are fairly well known. Within those, you have various elements so, it’s not going to be hard to get close to the figure quoted I shouldn’t think.

To me though it’s like the almost any cologne or perfume you care to name, KFC’s Colonel’s recipe or McDonalds secret sauce, sure you’ll get close perhaps but, you’ll never quite crack the secret of it.

Such is the power of a commercial secret and, why you will most probably never be able to emulate it perfectly.

If you can though and you are so confident, good luck to you, you stand to make a small fortune for yourself in accomplishing what labs full of very clever people have failed to do. In fact, I’d bet there were any number of people that have tried and, failed.

I get that you know the field to a degree or at least a loosely related one but, I very much doubt that you could reverse engineer this stuff as it is, to me at least, hugely complex. But, what do I know, I’ve just watched them cook this stuff up, test it and seen the sheer effort involved. I suppose the wool was perhaps pulled over my eyes and it was all a big magic show.

But, I don’t think so as my own research backs up what I know and, have witnessed.

What I can tell you 100% for sure, without doubt is what I and other FSEs see in the field. That real world experience across tens of thousands of service calls spanning decades tells me that what I know is correct. Without hard evidence to the contrary, I will trust in that thanks along with the amassed industry knowledge.

I acknowledge that you may well be an expert in your field, please acknowledge that I am also expert in my own. At the very least, consider it professional courtesy as I don’t think I am a complete idiot and, I don’t like to be treated or spoken to as one.

This does have a direct bearing on longevity however as, used incorrectly, detergent can cause massive damage to the machine.

I see (too often) claims made under the SoGA about how that the machine is at fault when people dose and use the machine incorrectly.

So, there is a link there, quite probably more than people might imagine.

K.

I think it is very valuable that we have here people with professional expertise related to the topic. I would hope that the different perspectives help Which make progress on a deceptively complex area.

Kenneth – In this and the earlier Conversation you have pointed out that service calls are commonly made as a result of user error and that incorrect detergent dosages can cause damage as well as impacting on washing and rinsing performance.

I wonder if we are anywhere near using reservoirs of liquid detergent etc and controlling dosage according to load and programme, perhaps with a manual setting to compensate for local water hardness that could be set at the time of commissioning. Obviously the cost of a metering pump or other system to control dosage would add to cost but I wonder if this would be a cost effective way forward for high end machines.

I’m sorry if I have not been courteous but you have repeatedly claimed that you are right and I’m wrong and others are wrong, even where I know this is not true. A simple and non-technical example is use of 084x numbers for customer services. Have a look at the Conversation ‘Are all companies abiding by new costly call rules?’ and see my question posted on 15 June, together with the prompt replies from Convo regulars William and Ian. I have thanked you for help and sometimes apologised for some of my errors. Your industrial contacts may have always told the truth but some of mine did not. One even fabricated a claim in a patent because it seemed plausible (which it did, but we found him out).

Meanwhile back on topic, I am very keen to look further at the protection afforded to purchasers via the Sale of Goods Act, particularly in relation to durability. Which? and Trading Standards encourage us to make claims yet most retailers will turn us away as soon as the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. Some Which? members have had some success with claims but it is not easy. I was taken aback by what you told us (in the previous Conversation) about how companies interpret the Sale of Goods Act and that our expectations are unrealistic, but that fits in with what evidence I have seen and what I have learned from others.

I am keen on decent manufacturers’ warranties because I believe that the Sale of Goods Act is unfit for its purpose, and always has been. Paying for extended warranties is to be avoided because in most cases they are poor value for money. Which? has been advising us of this for years.

You have told us that manufacturers have an idea of the number of cycles that a washing machine can be expected to last for. Anyone other than a low user needs to know this information, so why is that information not on the label with the energy rating, capacity and performance ratings?

“I wonder if we are anywhere near using reservoirs of liquid detergent etc and controlling dosage according to load and programme, perhaps with a manual setting to compensate for local water hardness that could be set at the time of commissioning. Obviously the cost of a metering pump or other system to control dosage would add to cost but I wonder if this would be a cost effective way forward for high end machines.”

You can get this now from Miele and Siemens I think.

Tends to be a fad for a while then dropped as, whilst widely used in commercial settings to try to prevent user error, it is expensive to do, at least limits the detergents that can be used (only liquids) and prone to being able to only use the manufacturer produced detergent.

Keep in mind that the dose cannot be preset as you need to account for different fabrics, soiling level and load size even if the actual mechanical elements are fixed.

In short, it’s not really practical in a domestic setting and something I would not advise.

“You have told us that manufacturers have an idea of the number of cycles that a washing machine can be expected to last for. Anyone other than a low user needs to know this information, so why is that information not on the label with the energy rating, capacity and performance ratings?”

Ask UK government or the EU. Only they can implement that.

There’s no practical reason that this cannot be done and I have made my feelings clear that I think it should be as it offers the customer a much clearer picture of what they are buying.

K.

I accept that detergent dosing is going to cost more and have already acknowledged the need for varying this according to load. If a machine has some sort of display there is the opportunity to ask the user about the fabrics, load size and degree of soiling and adjust the dosing appropriately. My research involved use of various equipment that delivered liquids and gases according to requirement and the technology works very well indeed, as it has done for decades.

As an everyday example of detergent dosing we could think about an automatic car wash. I expect that they use detergent reservoirs because I have never seen anyone add powders, tablets or capsules.

I don’t like the idea of having to use the manufacturer’s detergent because that is the opportunity for profiteering. We don’t have to take cars to the main dealer to be serviced to preserve the warranty, just to use approved parts and ensure that the work is done according to the service schedule. I presume that we have the EU to thank for that.

Perhaps we could all work together to push for manufacturers to declare the number of cycles that a washing machine can reasonably be expected to last for if not abused. Maybe a quick win campaign for Which?

I would accept that but look at the difference in cost between a calibrated and maintained device such as you cite as examples of and the cost of a domestic washing machine. I doubt many people would be willing to pay for that degree of accuracy or, indeed, even the feature as it’s always been very niche outside of commercial and, even there, it’s not hugely commonplace at least on anything under a 15kg machine. Most systems I’ve seen are retro-fitted.

So you can do it, it’s just expensive and I wouldn’t recommend it.

I can also see the downsides, such as an invalid warranty if you use anything other than the “recommended” products which could give more cost issues for the owner. I can see that there might be a case for that, for example if a “substitute” product gunked up the system and caused a fault etc.

To me, it’s just something else that can break.

In the end though, you can do this retrospectively and you can buy new with it built in. It’s just expensive and on balance not a very good idea for most people I shouldn’t think.

Just my opinion though.

K.

Detergent dosing does not have to be highly accurate, it just has to be better than a user measuring out some powder or liquid. I expect that most users don’t even put in a measured amount unless they use tablets or capsules. A car fuel gauge is an example of something that is not very accurate but cheap and adequate for the purpose.

I agree that the manufacturer should not be responsible for a warranty claim if use of a non-recommended detergent was the cause of the failure, in the interest of fairness, manufacturers should not be able to avoid a claim for failure of an unrelated part unless perhaps the detergent caused leakage or suds lock.

You have knocked down most of my suggestions or said that you agree but have failed to persuade others in your industry. What positive changes do you think we can look forward to in the next five years?

“What positive changes do you think we can look forward to in the next five years?”

With current events and some that may come to pass, none really.

Both retailers and manufacturers have been vanishing, merging or being snapped up in another round similar to that seen at the end of the 80’s into the 90’s due to the shift to online and the decrease in profitability. I don’t see any sign of that ending in the short term.

As that happens consumers will have an ever decreasing choice in the market of both retail outlets and actual producers.

To highlight that, in the past year alone we’ve lost Baumatic to Candy, Fagor Brandt to some Algerian company and now Indesit to Whirlpool. The two latter being two of the largest appliance producers in Europe and among the biggest globally.

Meanwhile, service is an ever looming issue as it’s in a state of flux as well given it follows the lead of all other events.

It is not a happy industry and there’s little cause for cheer sadly.

It of course is not all gloom and doom. Just mostly.

K.

mikes says:
14 July 2014

I believe in this campaign very strongly but I also believe we are missing a major opportunity to make “all” stuff last longer. Some years ago my machine broke down at 5 years old, a new motor on my AEG machine cost £300 pounds. A new machine, same spec cost me £320. Clearly not worth the “bother”. But to change the motor would have taken less than 40 minutes and I am sure the machine would still be running today. My point being that “all” manufacturers massively hike the price of spare parts. The normal mark up is 10 times factory costs. When are we going to wake up and stop filling our word with junk !!!

mikes, manufacturers traditionally make a lot of money from spares for two reasons: they need to finance the carrying of stocks for a long time, and they like you to think you can only buy from them, so a kind of monopoly blackmail. My Miele dishwasher circulating pump would have cost around £400 – just a motor, impellor, and gasketted housing; I used a (still pricey) repair kit consisting of a plastic housing and seals instead. It happens in industry and commercial life, just as much as in domestic products and can be a way of subsidising the initial product. The culture with domestic appliances seems to be, as your example, it is more economic to replace than repair. We need to have easily repairable products, generic parts where sensible, and access to fault finding – as we have with cars. Then we might see appliances lasting for more reasonable times.
Not in the manufacturers’ interests, so maybe only EU waste legislation could prompt it.
Incidentally, it is often economic to have motors rebuilt by local specialists – just in case your new one fails!

Mikes makes a valid point re the cost of spares. I am assuming the £300 for a new motor for his AEG machine included the cost of labour and VAT.

I must be a manufacturers and service engineers idea of a most unpopular customer with a 12 year old faultless machine (notwithstanding the fact that it doesn’t rinse properly, an inherent fault that seemingly can’t be rectified.)

If you built a washing machine or a car from spare parts it would cost silly money. I can see some justification but the way round this is not to use manufacturers’ parts. Some non-manufacturers parts are not as good as originals, but that is not always the case. The replacement motor and drain pump in my machine have both lasted over 20 years, about twice the time that the originals did.

Nowadays I would have a motor repaired or rebuilt by a motor specialist. They are primarily used by trade customers but usually happy to take money from anyone, and this can save a fortune. When I was working I had numerous motors repaired and I’ve encouraged friends to get this done. The only disadvantage is that it could take a bit longer than a new motor off the shelf.

You are largely correct Malcolm.

A part like a motor for example can usually only be ordered in batches of fifty or more, the highest I’ve seen as a minimum order quantity being a hundred, the lowest, ten.

The cost to stock a lot of parts is astronomical with some minimum order values, especially on small items, into the hundreds easily. So it is a large upfront investment.

After any product exits warranty and/or extended warranty the use on spares drops, all the more so on expensive components so most will keep a few in case they are required but they won’t stock them forever if they don’t sell. No point, it’s just dead money sat on a shelf costing in the investment and wasted space.

As I often remind people in the trade as well as outside it, spare parts are utterly and completely worthless and are in fact a cost: unless someone wants them.

Ironically what that means is that the more that get scrapped or the less that people use spares, the more difficult they become to obtain as the usage numbers drop and the stockholding reduced in line with that. Then, when or if they get reordered the price gets hiked to account for the large upfront costs. It’s a bit of a vicious circle really.

Also the more variance people require, different features, colours and so on, the more expensive it is to stock for spares.

K.

On the topic of motor repairs, a bearing in my Miele vacuum went. Our local Miele-approved repair shop said that Miele motors cannot be dismantled and that a new motor would cost more than a replacement vacuum. I found that it was easy enough to dismantle the motor but I didn’t have much success in changing the bearing unfortunately.

I do wonder whether Which could look specifically at ‘repairability’ and any differences between manufacturers in this regard. (Miele do not seem to come out very well in my limited experience). It seems a shame that consumer goods in the £150-£300 range are effectively irreparable because the combination of an hour’s labour and a highly-priced spare part will take the cost close to the total cost of a new unit. This cannot make sense on environmental grounds.

Motor bearings are best removed with a puller to avoid damage, and you might need circlip pliers too. Anyone with a mechanical workshop can change bearings and you will have done the labour intensive jobs of extricating and replacing the motor.

Bear in mind that service engineers have to make a living and there are plenty of overheads including insurance, training and no doubt much that I don’t know about.

Mary says:
14 July 2014

I don’t see how you can vote on this a machine that is used once a week next to one that is used every day, maybe they should be fitted with a gauge that records every cycle ie like the mileage on a car, as I don’t see how else you would be able to tell its use other than ware and tear and a cheap machine you would not expect to last as long as with anything else.

Merlin says:
14 July 2014

My wife has a Miele W3514 washing machine, bought on the recommendation of a friend. It is around 9 years old, and it is used at least 6 times every week. There have been no faults at all. Cost new was around £750-00 from an internet supplier. We have had a multitude of washing machines previously, all of which produced endless faults by the 2 year point.

Miele’s reliability comes from high quality materials, good design and good quality control. This comes at a price, and it has been well worth paying that price. Miele is the only manufacturer whose advertising claims are absolutely true, in our experience.

Whilst out and about this morning I say an array of white goods in a compound near an ACR lorry – Appliance Care Recycling. Looking at their website they collect WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) as required by legislation, but then refurbish it or recycle it – none to landfill it is claimed. Suitable items are then sold through an ebay shop. They are not extraordinarily cheap, with a 3 month warranty (purchaser pays return transport if faulty) so it seems a bit of a gamble. However, it does address some of the issues raised – reuse rather burying. Probably worth more to people living near their base in Essex, avoiding heavy transport costs.
I wonder how much white goods goes into similar enterprises? Anyone had any experience of buying recycled white goods?

Yes Malcolm, that was once a thriving area of the trade but, no more.

I have written and researched this extensively and, I cannot post the link but, every week I will get at least one or two traders looking for what we call “raw product” in the form of either warranty returns or used machines. You can’t get them.

Just Google for raw appliances as that’s how they are referred to in the trade and you will see what I mean.

There are various reasons for this but suffice to say that the WEEE Directive is actually (again) counter productive on that score.

The machines are worth more in scrap value or as spares in essence.

It is far more complex than that of course but that’s the nuts and bolts of it.

K.

Kenneth, WEEE affects industry as well as private consumers, and its effect was to ensure that waste (end of life) products were now collected in a controlled way, not just sent to landfill. Specialist companies collect the waste, and this gives much more scope for recycling – either the raw materials or, in other cases, repairing and reusing. Whether it is worthwhile to repair and reuse white goods I don’t know, but the company I refer to seems to be making a business out of it. Many on this conversation seem to think that their appliances would have lasted longer had a repair been effected – probably not done because of fear of labour costs, and uncertainty about a diagnosis.
If we want to move away from a throw-away society we need to address some of these issues. It is probably an area for legislation if it is to be achieved. Although, having said that, cars last much longer than they ever used to and the manufacturers survive, with a broad spread of prices.

In part, the WEEE Directive achieved that. In part, it did not.

Phones to Africa or China etc spring to mind. Along with fridges and a plethora of other items often to be stripped down in less than suitable conditions.

The big thing that they all dodged there was what’s called IPR, Individual Producer Responsibility which would have made each brand responsible for the cost of its own waste in effect. As things stand, they are not, they are merely effectively taxed on what weight they sell to market.

So if you make a washing machine for example that weighs 40kg you can, for the same cost in terms of WEEE sell double the volume of one weighing 80kg.

Or, if you’re a retailer who also happens to be a brand owner you can offset tonnage in some very interesting ways. All perfectly legal and in compliance but, stop to think, is that it is being done for the good of the planet or the customer or the business?

Or, if you make machines that only last eighteen months, so what? You only pay for why you sell, not what gets junked.

And, if you switch over to another brand, happy days, reset and start again.

The intent is laudable, no doubt about that.

In practical terms however I feel it somewhat flawed and open to abuse, more than illustrated above.

K.

Irena says:
14 July 2014

My Hoover washing machine lasted over 10 years & never faulted in all that time. Recently, possibly due to overloading, the drive belt was damaged. Due to the machines age it was more economically viable to purchase a new Hoover rather than have the old machine repaired.

wavechange, you say “I am keen on decent manufacturers’ warranties because I believe that the Sale of Goods Act is unfit for its purpose,”. However, we are where we are – guarantees that are too short, extended warranties that are poor value. So, as far as I can see, only the Sale of Goods Act is there to fall back on. This is quite explicit that durability is a requirement. The issue we need to address is what reasonable life should be for the Act to be employed, and then get pressure and help to use it to achieve fairness for consumers.
Guarantees created by manufacturers will always be in their better interests; the only protection consumers can have that acts in thier interests is decent legislation.
I have repeatedly asked Which?, in conversations and by email, to either explain why the durability requirement of SoGA is not promoted by them, whether they have discussed durability when making submissions to the forthcoming Consumer Protection legislation, or why nothing can be done. I have had no response, other than acknowledgements.
My view is that the Consumers’ Association should be working to protect consumers in this area, an area that clearly at present is heavily biassed against the consumer. I would like to know what it is seeking to achieve on our behalf.

Malcolm – This is a point that we have had in other Conversations but here’s my thoughts for the benefit of others in this discussion.

1. If you take a faulty product that is just out of warranty back to the retailer they will almost certainly say that they have no responsibility or that you should take it up with the manufacturer. Recall the recent Which? investigation where John Lewis performed even worse than Currys. I have no idea why Which? chooses to use actors rather than doing secret filming of real people with genuine broken products. If Which? had used real people their legal team could have supported legal action against the companies that break the law. That would be interesting to read about in the press and might encourage a few more people to join us in the fight for consumer rights.

2. I accept that the Sale of Goods Act is what we have at present and most household products still only have a one year warranty. The car industry has led the way, and nowadays a three year warranty is often seen as a minimum. Cars are far more complicated than kitchen appliances. Car manufacturers protect themselves against unreasonable claims by high mileage users by limiting the warranty to a specified mileage if that occurs before the time period has expired.

3. We are seeing longer warranties in some sectors, whether this is from manufacturers or (as with John Lewis) retailers. It is reasonable that these should exclude abuse and fair wear & tear. Manufacturers deserve protection too, but any unfair terms & conditions deserve to be challenged.

4. I believe that we should move from the retailer to the manufacturer being legally responsible for remedies that are currently covered by the Sale of Goods Act. Andy of Whitegoodshelp has said the same. There are various reasons. Firstly, retailers have failed us miserably. Secondly, the move to online sales has resulted in numerous small retailers, some of which may not last very long. I think most of us would rather deal direct with the manufacturer in event of a problem than with an online company. A counter argument might be that we should deal with trusted retailers but I believe that everyone deserves legal protection against unfair treatment, whoever they buy from.

5. I believe that Which? should be using the warranty period in compiling scores for products it tests and as a factor in selecting Best Buys. I make no apology for saying this repeatedly. I recall that Which? would not give Best Buy status to Dyson cleaners because of the poor reliability of the products. That changed when Dyson provided longer warranties. I believe that Dyson has had to improve its quality because it could not afford to provide free repairs for large numbers of cleaners.

The reason I may have seemed unsupportive of pushing the durability issue is because Kenneth has confirmed what I had suspected concerning the business view of the Sale of Goods Act. I have heard similar information from other sources, albeit not as starkly. I will support any reasonable measures that might help the consumer get a fairer deal under the current legislation, but I believe that decent warranties must be the long-term goal.

“The car industry has led the way, and nowadays a three year warranty is often seen as a minimum. Cars are far more complicated than kitchen appliances. Car manufacturers protect themselves against unreasonable claims by high mileage users by limiting the warranty to a specified mileage if that occurs before the time period has expired.”

You are correct.

However people spend a lot of money on a car, second most expensive purchase after a home usually and, due to that, they get looked after and pampered (privately owned anyway). People understand that if they bounce it off things it will break, that if they fill it with bricks, it’ll break or they drive like a lunatic they will break it, guzzle fuel and so on.

Importantly though, they are desirable and subject to mammoth scrutiny.

Domestic appliances are often treated with a degree contempt.

They are intended to complete chores that most people don’t want to do. Get mistreated. Are little cared for in many cases. Get overloaded. Get used with sub-standard cleaning and other products. Often the very principals of use are not understood.

They are neither desirable nor subject to scrutiny.

I’m sure you can see where this is going by now. 😉

Where they are treated well, they last hugely longer then when they are not, as you prove with your own machine as, to last that time, it’s been cared for.

K.

We have no disagreement on the wish for (much) longer guarantees, but it is not happening, and Which? seem very reticent on their participation in achieving them.
SoGA has nothing to do with manufacturers – they have no contract with you, the retailer has. Manufacturers may also be inaccessible – e.g overseas. We need someone we can approach when there is a problem. It may well be that we should deal with reputable stable retailers rather than smaller ones who may not stay around.
Retailers have a big part to play – they can choose only to sell appliances that are reliable, and they can for their part have an agreement with their supplier or manufacturer to cover defective products. They do not have to sell cheap junk – unless they tell us so.
Retailers need to be fully aware of their legal responsibilities under SoGA. It seems many are not. Which? represents consumers. What is it doing to help here? Information would be most welcome.

Why not make washing machines repairable again?

Instead of cheap throwaway washing machines, why not make them repairable in a way that avoids massively overpriced spares? This is how it used to be. I guess 20 years ago and before, the manufacturers made money on spares over the (longer) lifespan of their machines?

Surely someone can start up a new company making washing machines with increased reliability and affordable spare parts, even if the price of the washing machines starts at £700 for the basic model and more for advanced models.

In the current situation, the prices of many new washing machines are too cheap (£300 and below) to be made reliable and affordable to repair. Hopefully one day someone will create a new company which makes good washing machines which last longer and are affordable to repair. That day can’t come soon enough.

“In the current situation, the prices of many new washing machines are too cheap (£300 and below) to be made reliable and affordable to repair.”

That is precisely the problem.

Most people sadly seem not to realise this.

“Hopefully one day someone will create a new company which makes good washing machines which last longer and are affordable to repair.”

There are already a few out there but they are lost in the mass of other machines and to most people, it’s just another white box with a big hole in it that cleans clothes.

K.

Can we start to pull this thread together into conclusions – a ‘manifesto’ for longer lasting white goods? For example:

– white goods to be independently tested for lifetimes in terms of meaningful units for the item in question (hours, number of washes)

– usage indicators to be built-in (eg hours-meters)

– white goods to be sold with these lifetime measures on the label alongside eg energy ratings

– unbiased indications by white goods manufacturers of the things that users should do which extend life and should not do which shorten life

– intelligent systems to help people prolong life eg detergent dosage systems

– guarantees as to the availability and cost of replacement parts for a specified period ahead

– designs optimised for repair-ability rather than encouraging premature and unnecessary disposal

– encouragement of recycling of white goods through repair and resale rather than scrappage

– longer warranty periods to be encouraged as per automobiles as a way of encouraging both higher consumer expectations and also higher intrinsic product quality.

I fear I may not have got all the important points but I thought it would be worth a start, given that this has been a rather active thread.

It’s good to have you onboard jak. I don’t know why this Conversation is not as popular as the ones about mobile phone contracts. I can appreciate that not everyone is interested in environmental issues but having to replace appliances due to premature failure is costing people a great deal of money.

The same could be said about printers and how ink cartridges are so expensive. The brand new printer is sold too cheap, so the manufacturer has to make money by selling overpriced ink cartridges. I have heard that some printers have electronics which detect 3rd party cartridges and some will tell you that the cartridges need replacing before they’re empty.

It does appear that more ‘expensive’ products are more reliable, which would explain why Miele washing machines are considered to be the most reliable and some have 5 year or even 10 year guarantees included. Why not give them ALL at least a 5 year guarantee – given how much extra they cost?