How to Change the Belt on a Washing Machine

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Washing machines are as essential in the American home as a refrigerator or microwave oven, maybe moreso. We throw the laundry in, add some soap and those magic machines deliver clean laundry about thirty minutes later. One day we toss the laundry in, add the soap, turn the dial and pull and nothing happens. The water goes in, but the machine does not go around and clean the clothes. So there we are with a machine full of dirty clothes and water and a problem somewhere. Maybe it's a belt that is broken.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Short pry bar
  • Crescent wrenches to size
  • New belt
  • Move the washer out from the wall so you can remove the back. You may need another person to help move it because it is full of clothes and water. It would be easier to take the wet clothes out and put them in a pail or nearby laundry sink and then try to bail or pump the water out. It will be a messy operation, but easier in the long run.

  • Remove the back of the washer. Use screw drivers, nut drivers or hex head wrenches to remove the screws or fasteners on the back casing of the washer. Don't forget to unplug the washer from the electrical socket first. If it is a gas dryer, remove the hose from the gas line and temporarily cap off the line at the wall. Be very careful with gas lines and be sure they are capped off securely.

  • Find the belt. Belts are usually easy to find. They look much like fan belts in cars or belts in vacuum cleaners. A damaged one will be easy to spot. It will be broken altogether or so loose from wear that it does not grab the pulley and turn the washer drum.

  • Loosen the bolt on the motor bracket. Use a crescent wrench for this job. In a pinch a pair of pliers may do. Move the motor to put slack in the belt. Even if the belt is broken, you will still need to move the motor to install the new belt.

  • Remove the old belt. Stretch a new one into place on the pulleys.

  • Put tension on the new belt by using a hammer handle or a short pry bar to push the motor into position while you tighten the bolt in the adjustable bracket. Leave about 1/2-inch of slack when you press it in the center. If it is too loose, it will slip on the pulleys. If it is too tight, it wears quickly and may start to smoke or burn.

  • While you are in there tighten the pulleys by checking and tightening set screws all around the pulley hub. You may forestall another problem in the future by taking care of pulleys now while it is convenient.

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