Noisy Washing Machine: Causes and How to Fix

Whether old or new, top or front loading, washing machines make some noise as they cycle through cleaning loads of dirty laundry. However, when a once quiet machine becomes a noisy washing machine, there’s something wrong. The type of noise and when in the cycle it occurs often indicates what the problem may be, so listen carefully to determine the cause of the noise.

If you hear a high pitched, whining, grinding, rumbling, scraping, squeaking, crackling, rattle, bang, or vibration and can narrow down where it happens during a cycle, you’re on your way to isolating the cause. Identifying noise that happens when filling, spinning, or even draining will help determine what may be loose, worn, or damaged.

Different parts may cause noise. Our goal is to help you troubleshoot and isolate the problem, so you can repair it, or have it repaired more quickly and easily. In this guide, we’ll identify the common washing machine noises, what may cause the sounds, and how to fix the noise. We’ll also give you some maintenance tips that will hopefully help extend the lifespan of your machine.

Noisy Washing Machine

Is It Safe To Use A Noisy Washing Machine?

Is it safe to operate a noisy washing machine? Well, yes and no. The machine isn’t likely to blow up, but it will cause further wear and possibly damage other parts, making repairs more expensive. The machine may spring a leak, causing water damage too. However, the worst that is likely to happen is damaging the machine to the point where it’s cheaper to replace than fix.

Some machines will continue to work and the noise just continues or gets worse. Be aware though, that a noisy machine is warning you of worse to come. The Russian Roulette of which load will stop in mid-cycle and won’t start again until repaired often happen when least expected, or convenient.

Many modern or smart washing machines flash error messages and warnings at you on their display, and won’t work until repaired or reset. The onboard logics and electronics help identify problems with the washing machines, limiting potential damage. However, as with many such electronics, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to identify the problem or cheapen the repair costs.

Most Common Washing Machine Noises: Causes and Fixes

A modern washer is a convenience many of us take for granted. Toss a load in whenever required, walk away to do something else, and return to clean clothes ready to dry. So, when it starts making unusual or disturbing noises, it’s trying to get your attention that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

The level of difficulty for a DIY repair depends on the skill level of the DIYer, and the type of machine. Many repairs require removing the appliance housing to access the failing components, so although the repair itself may be easy, access may not be. The Troubleshooting 101 table will help identify the cause of the noise, and repair difficulty.

Troubleshooting 101
Noise When Cause Fix Difficulty Level
Whistle or squeal Filling Water faucet is not fully open Easy
Water pressure too high Easy to High
Clogged water filter on intake valves Easy
Squeal Spinning New washer needs to be broken-in Easy
Tub bearing requires lubricating Medium
Worn or damaged tub bearing High
Worn or slipping drive belt Easy
Grinding Agitating Agitator dogs worn or slipping Easy
Stator assembly malfunction Medium to High
U-joint in agitator mechanism failing Replace Washer
A & S Worn motor coupling High
Spinning Bearing needs lubricating or replacing Medium to High
Worn or damaged drive pulley Medium
Draining Debris in drain pump Medium
Whining Spinning Pocket items in tub drain holes or basket Easy
Worn or failing motor bearings Medium to High
Rumbling Spinning Washer load too heavy or unbalanced Easy
Crackling A & S Worn brushes in motor arcing High
Draining Debris in drain pump Medium
Rattling Spinning Loose pocket items in the tub or door seal Easy
Loose or worn pulley Medium
Draining Material trapped in the lint filter Easy
Debris in drain pump Medium
Items resting against or on the washer Easy
Banging A & S Load is uneven or too heavy Easy
Spinning Loose counterweights or support brackets Medium to High
Failing shock absorbers Easy to Medium
Worn suspension rods Medium
Torn damping straps Easy to Medium
Cracked or broken spider arm Medium to High
Rear bearing defective Medium to High
Vibrating A & S Failing drive motor – often with burning smell High
Spinning Drive coupling failing High
Helicopter Spinning One or both concrete weights loose Medium to high
Scraping A & S Loose pocket items or bra wire Easy
Worn drive coupler High
Hand Turn Tub bearing is failing Medium to High
Squeaks A & S New washer sounds, should go away Easy
Loose pocket items or bra wire Easy
Loose or worn drive belt, drive pulley, or pully Medium
Draining Drain pump impeller or pump worn/damaged Medium

Noise When Filling With Water

A whistle, squeal, or similar noise when the washing machine is filling with water may be caused by a water feed line faucet needing adjustment, too much water pressure into the tub, or a clogged water filter. A quick fix is to ensure the water faucets to the washer are fully open. If that doesn’t work, slowly close the feeds to see if the noise diminishes or stops. If it stops with a minor adjustment, then it’s probably a water pressure issue and can be fixed by adding a pressure valve to the household intake line. If the noise only stops when the faucet is fully off, then check for clogged intake filters.

A clogged filter will often decrease flow into the tub and can make noise. Many washers have a screen filter at the opening of the hot and cold-water intakes to catch microscopic material. Leave the water shut off, remove the feed hoses – have a towel handy to catch any water spillage. It is easy to remove and clean the screen once the filling hose is disconnected. Some washers have an additional filter just inside the intake fitting which is more difficult to clean. Remove the outer filter screen, insert and rotate a dry cloth or paper towel into the intake and remove. Repeat with a clean section until there is no material on the cleaning surface. Put everything back together and turn the water back on. Check for any leaks to ensure the hose attachments are tight.

Loud Noises During the Spin Cycle

Washing machine making loud noise

A loud noise during the spin cycle may be caused by an unbalanced load. Shut the power off, open the lid, and redistribute the load so it is evenly distributed around the sides of the tub. Turn the machine back on and listen. If the sound occurs again, it may not be the load. Turn the washer off again, remove the clothes from the tub, turn it on and again listen for the noise. If the sound persists, it could be caused by the drive pulley, clutch, belt, bearings, motor coupling, shock absorbers, or the drain pump.

Drive Pulley

A loud, strained sound as the washer works up into its spin cycle, or even during the spin cycle, may mean the load is too heavy, or the plastic or metal pulley is worn or damaged. The drive pulley moves the washer belt which spins the tub. Removing some of the load from the washer may quiet the noise, but if it doesn’t, the pulley probably needs replacing. A medium repair for an experienced DIYer.

Belt

A washer belt, like the serpentine or fan belt in an automobile, can become worn or damaged, and result in a loud squeal during the spin cycle. If the wear is deep enough, it can cause the belt to slip on the drive pulley, preventing or interfering with the washer tub spinning properly. In the worst case, the belt will break, however, it can also cause damage to other components. Replacing the washer belt is a fairly easy DIY repair once the washer cabinet is removed.

Clutch

The clutch in the washing machine controls the speed at which the washer spins. It connects the drive system or transmission, whether direct drive or belt drive, with the tub. A worn or failing clutch commonly makes a loud noise as the tub spins. The easiest fix is to replace the clutch before it damages other machine parts.

Bearing

The drum of the washer rests and rotates on a bearing so it can spin freely. Over time, the lubricant can thin out causing a squeal or squeak. Lubricating the bearing will extend its life. If the squeal turns into a grinding noise, the bearing needs replacing. A medium to high level DIY repair.

Motor Coupling

The motor coupling joins the washing machine motor to the transmission on direct drive washers. It is often made of plastic or a synthetic polymer and is designed to break if the washer is overloaded, which helps prevent damage to the motor and transmission. A broken coupling may result in noise during the spin cycle, but also means the washer won’t agitate or spin. Replacing the coupling is the only way to fix this problem and is a medium to high level of difficulty for a DIYer.

Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers connect the washing machine frame to the outer tub and help keep the tub centered in the frame when it spins. A loud noise and vibration commonly mean one or more shocks have failed, or are failing. Commonly viewed as an easy fix.

Drain Pump

The drain pump removes the water from the washer prior to and during the spin cycle. If it becomes clogged or damaged the washer will emit loud noises, and may not drain properly. A failing drain pump can also cause damage to other parts of the machine. Removing and cleaning the pump should solve the problem.

High Pitched Noise

A washing machine that makes a high-pitched noise when filling often indicates that the supply valves aren’t fully open. The noise should stop when they are. If the valve screens on the washer are blocked with silt, the water flow will be restricted, so the tub takes longer to fill. Plus, the water may hum or squeal as it forces its way through the debris.

New machines can make a high-pitched noise during their break-in period too. The sound usually goes away after 5 or 6 loads of laundry, however, also make sure the water feed valves are fully open. If the noise doesn’t go away, contact the retail location it was purchased at and have them repair or replace it.

A high-pitched sound during the spin cycle may indicate that the tub bearing needs to be lubricated or replaced. If there is also water leakage, the culprit is likely the bearing and tub seal. The repair commonly recommends replacing the bearing, tub seal, and the outer tub.

Whining Noise

Washer making loud noise

A high-pitched whining sound or squeal when the washer is operating is most likely caused by worn motor bearings. An easy way to check is to remove the belt from the drive pulley, turn to a spin cycle, switch on the power, and listen for the sound. If you hear the noise, it’s the motor bearings.

If you don’t hear the noise, check the drain holes in the drum for foreign material such as screws, nails, paper clips, and bra underwires. Metal objects sticking through the tub can scratch on the outer drum as the tub moves, causing the noise. Some items can even fall through the holes and get lodged between the tub and drum, so use a flashlight and do a thorough check.

Loud Noise at End of Spin Cycle

A loud noise at the end of the spin cycle, possibly accompanied by a knocking sound, may be caused by a shock absorber binding. Check for the absorbers for the one that doesn’t work smoothly, and lubricate or replace it. Another culprit could be due to a damaged or cracked support arm on the inner basket, which isn’t an easy or inexpensive repair.

Washing machines have counterweights to help control the movement and vibration of the machine during different cycles. The weights are concrete, metal, or plastic and help keep the drum balanced as it moves. A loud banging, especially towards the end of the spin cycle when the speeds reach or exceed 1000 rpm, commonly indicates a weight is loose or damaged. Check the counterweights and their support brackets are undamaged and tight and replace them if necessary.

Grinding or Rumbling Noise

A grinding or rumbling noise is common with many GE washers when they begin moving, as will washers with too heavy a load. However, if the machine isn’t a GE, or the noise is getting worse or changes, it could be the agitator dogs slipping due to wear. The dogs are located in the top of the agitator column and reasonably easy to replace once the agitator is removed.

A grinding can indicate a worn drive pulley. Cracks, tears, or glazing on the belt or pulley commonly result in the replacement of both the belt and pulley. The tub bearing can also cause a grinding noise, which may necessitate the replacement of the bearing and outer tub. A worn motor coupling can also grind during operation. It also results in slow noisy agitation or no agitation at all.

A malfunctioning stator assembly can also cause a grinding noise during agitation. The stator creates an electromagnetic contact with the tub, so a cracked or damaged one could be responsible for the noise. Repair or replace the stator if cracked or the magnets are damaged.

There is a U-joint in the agitator mechanism that begins the agitator movement. If it becomes worn or damaged, it too can cause a grinding noise. Repair is DIY possible, however, buying a replacement is costly, so purchasing a new machine may be more logical.

Grinding Noise and Won’t Spin

Washer loud when spinning

A washing machine that fills and drains but won’t spin or agitate and makes a grinding noise commonly is the result of a damaged or broken motor coupler on direct drive washers. The coupler, similar to the belt, connects the transmission to the tub so that it spins or agitates. Replacing the part should fix the noise and have the washer spinning and agitating like new.

A faulty drive pulley and slipping or worn belt can also prevent the tub from spinning and create a grinding noise, as can a faulty motor bearing. The problem may be the result of too many heavy or unbalanced loads too. Replacing the drive pulley, and belt or worn motor bearing should end the noise and get the tub spinning again.

Crackling Noise

A crackling or grating noise during agitation or spin cycles may be caused by worn brushes in the motor arching with the commutator, which can damage the motor. If the noise occurs when the washer drains, it could be caused by debris caught in the drain pump. Clearing debris from the drain filter or pump should solve the problem.

Rattling Noise

A rattling sound can be caused by debris in the lint filter, so cleaning it may solve the noise issue. Rattling could be caused by items ricocheting around the tub as it spins too. Use a flashlight to check for buttons, coins, nails, screws, paper clips, and other free-falling objects. There may also be items trapped between the outer and inner tubs that are rattling as the washer spins or agitates.

Rattling may be caused by a loose and worn pulley. Many parts aren’t as well made today and wear too quickly and easily. A worn pulley can slide back and forth on the drive shaft causing a rattle. Debris caught in the drain pump may also rattle as the tub empties. Removing and disassembling the pump, and clearing debris, should stop the noise.

The rattle may be caused by loose water pipes moving as water flows through them. Ensure water pipes are supported and secure to prevent pipe noise. Also, check that nothing is leaning against or sitting on the washer and causing the rattle.

Banging Sounds

A banging noise as the washer starts to spin is usually caused by too heavy a load or an unevenly distributed load. Removing or shifting some items in the load should stop the banging. Other causes could be damaged counterweights, failing shock absorbers, worn suspension rods or torn damping straps on top-loading machines, or a spider arm on a front-loading washer being cracked or broken.

Check the counterweights are intact and ensure they and their support brackets are securely fastened. A broken or damaged shock absorber allows the tub to wobble as it speeds up, and can bang against the washer during the spin cycle. Four suspension rods keep the tub of a top-loader balanced, so when one or more breaks, a banging noise often occurs. If the tub wobbles excessively, even when empty and idle, it usually means the spider arm is cracked or broken.

Tub dampening straps in many top-loading washers help support the tub and keep it centered in the appliance. The rubber straps decrease vibration when the tub spins or agitates. Over time, and with oversized loads, the straps can become stretched, worn, or even torn. Weak or damaged dampening straps can allow the tub to bang against the inside of the cabinet.

Another banging sound caused with front-loading machines could be the rear bearing which helps the drum or tub to spin freely. Located at the rear of the tub and protected from moisture by the bearing seal, a defective bearing can cause the washer to bang, and damage other components. Replacing the bearing is recommended if it is faulty.

Vibrating Sounds

A vibrating sound may be caused by a failing drive motor, direct drive coupling, spin basket, or transmission. A failing drive motor causing a vibrating sound is often accompanied by a burning smell. Motor trouble may be caused by other components, so inspect the capacitor next to the motor for signs of arcing or corrosion, and that the pump, transmission, and wash basket work properly. If the motor stops working, it will need to be replaced.

A failing direct drive coupling can also produce a vibrating or buzz noise. The coupling transfers power to the transmission from the motor using opposing two or three-prong drive forks with a rubber connector. As the fork on the motor shaft rotates and applies pressure to the forks on the transmission, the rubber piece absorbs the torque, preventing damage to the forks. Over time, the parts can become worn, resulting in slippage which causes a vibrating noise. Replacing the coupling should stop the vibrating or buzzing sound.

Washing Machine Sound Like a Helicopter

A helicopter or airplane sound commonly means a concrete weight in the washer has become loose. Most washers have two 55lb (25kg) weights to balance the motor and weigh down the drum as it tries to lift off during the spin cycle. Tightening the fasteners on the weights should end the helicopter sound.

Scraping Noises

A scraping noise could be caused by loose pocket items, buttons, or bra underwires moving in the tub, or trapped between the inner and outer tubs. Removing the loose pieces should stop the noise. If it doesn’t, then it could be caused by a worn direct drive coupler. Check the coupler and replace if excessively worn.

Scraping Noise When Turning the Drum by Hand

A scraping sound in a front-loading washer could be due to a failing tub bearing. The small metal balls inside the bearings become worn and can fall out, leading to a scraping noise. To check, open the door of the front loader and turn the drum by hand. If you hear the scraping noise or the drum doesn’t turn evenly, the main tub bearing probably should be replaced. This isn’t an easy DIY repair, and often requires the replacement of the inner or outer tub too.

Squeaks

A new washing machine will commonly squeak for the first 3 to 6 loads as the parts adjust to use and each other. With use, the sound usually disappears. Machines that begin squeaking when they haven’t since new, may have a button, coin, bra wire, nail, screw, or other loose pocket item caught between the inner and outer tubs. If there aren’t any items visible, lift the agitator and check under it for trapped items.

Squeaks that occur when the washer is draining or removing excess water usually mean the water pump needs servicing. Check for debris and cracks or other damage in the impeller and pump. Replace a worn or cracked impeller only or the whole pump if it has cracks too.

A loose, worn, or cracked drive belt, drive pulley, or pulley can also cause a squeaking noise when the washer is agitating or spinning. Check each for wear or damage, and replace if necessary.

Grinding Noise When Draining

A grinding or gravelly sound when the washer is draining is often due to hard debris being caught inside the drain pump. Remove and clean the drain pump, and check the impeller and pump for damage. If the noise persists after checking and clearing the pump, consider replacing the pump.

Washing Machine Maintenance Tips

A washing machine is one of the most useful home appliances, so keeping it in working order is important. An easy preventative practice is to not overload the machine. A heavy or unbalanced load can damage washer components. Additionally, always check pockets for loose items and tissues before tossing them into the load. Here are some other tips to keep your washer working properly.

  • Ensure the washer is level to prevent it from vibrating and walking during the spin cycle.
  • Clean the lint filter or collector after each use.
  • Use the recommended amount or less of detergent.
  • Wash out soap reservoirs regularly.
  • Every 10 or so loads, run an empty hot water wash with 2 cups of vinegar, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda halfway through the wash cycle. This will clean soap scum off the tub sides and out of the drain components.
  • Regularly check the feed hoses for kinks, wear, or bulges, and replace as required.
  • Check that the drain hose is in good condition and isn’t pinched or kinked, and clean the spout of lint build-up.
  • Keeping the washer at least 4-inches from the wall to prevent hoses from being kinked and pinched.
  • Wash heavy items in smaller loads with appropriate water levels to prevent overloading the machine or creating an unbalanced load. Too much water can allow the load to shift to one side, creating an unbalanced load.
  • Clean the door gasket with a water and vinegar solution to kill the smell causing bacteria. Also, leave the lid up or door open to allow the wet components to dry.
  • Clean the drain pump filter monthly if it has an accessible filter.
  • If you hear unusual sounds coming from the washer, investigate and repair it before it becomes a major issue.

Conclusion

Maintaining your washing machine won’t prevent parts from wearing and causing noise, but it will extend the life of the machine and minimize repairs. A noisy washing machine is telling you something isn’t working right, and the sooner the problem is fixed, the better.

Identifying in which cycle the noise occurs will assist in determining the cause. However, some components may make different noises depending on what is wrong. Plus, the noise coming from one part may be caused by another part that is failing.

Isolating the noisy culprit may take some time. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with the information to identify the cause of the noise, and what to do to quiet it. If you’re not mechanically inclined or don’t have the time, you may want to give a service specialist a call.

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