Many important questions have plagued mankind since the dawn of time. Questions such as, "Why am I here?", "Who is God?", and, most importantly, "What causes SUDs and SD error codes in high-efficiency front-load and top-load washers?" Here now to guide us into the truth and understanding of this important epistemological question is Brother Delawaredrew:
Suds errors are often detergent related. It's not so much that the pump doesn't pump suds (although it doesn't) but that the pressure switch can't tell the difference between suds and liquid. So the computer doesn't see an empty tub.
An easy explanation of when computers generate a suds error is that the program has a set time allowed for the drain part of the cycle. For instance many whirlpool front loaders allow 4 minutes. After that time if the cpu has not seen a change in the pressure switch reading the SD or Suds or whatever error is displayed (this is why clogged or bad pumps show Suds) ... some machines will have some sort of suds killing routine that is initiated and some will just stop. If the CPU still doesn't see a change in water level after continued pumping you usually see a long drain code like LD or F01 or F21.
When I see repeat drain errors I first try to tell if it actually is draining at a good rate... if so I will check the pressure hose for clogs by first blowing into it at the switch end. If that is okay test the switch itself (if no fill errors are happening this is less likely) then the wiring. On models with integrated pressure sensors obviously you can skip testing the switch.
About the Cabrio/Bravos/Oasis models - lint, socks and other items sometimes gather at the sump cover and block the pump intake. Also coins and other items can damage the plastic impellors of the pump; decreasing pump rates yet still moving water.
I only get about 30 minutes per call so I have a pretty set method of diagnosis for problems to eliminate common issues. It works for me but we all think differently. In general I go for simplest solution first unless I know that a certain component is likely; like the analog pressure switches and F35 error.
First, lemme start off by saying I love front load washers. I think they offer the best clothes washing technology out there combining low water use with a gentle tumble wash that's easy on the fabrics, making your clothes last longer, and does a very thorough job of cleaning the clothes compared to the high efficiency (HE) top load washers.
We're a family of five with dogs and cats. We've used a front load washer for over 16 years at our house and, aside from routine repairs, have never had any washability or odor complaints. You'll hear some people complain about these issues with their front loader but, in almost every case I've seen during service calls, it's been due to user error-- usually using too much or the wrong type of detergent.
The Economics of a Repair
Okay, so front load washers: rah-rah, go team go. Why have a special post dedicated to front load washer drum bearing and inner basket failures?
Because these failures are usually considered a "total" event (as in "Dude, I totalled my car last night") by professional Appliantologists due of the huge cost of the repair. Not only are the parts expensive (sometimes more than $500) but the job itself can take more than three hours (depending on the particular nightmares you run into) and usually require a second man... or one with a very strong back, though it may not be after completing one of these repairs solo!
Everything is repairable. The question is: does it make economic sense to do the repair?
There are two circumstances where it may make economic sense to repair a failed drum bearing or inner basket support spider:
1. You are going to do the repair yourself, so you're only paying for parts. 2. The machine is still under full or partial manufacturer's warranty and some or all of the cost of the repair will be covered.
So, if you're in a situation where neither of the above conditions apply, wouldn't it be nice if you could positively diagnose a bearing or basket failure on your own and at least save yourself the cost of a service call? Ya sure, ya betcha! And hence, the raison d'être for this post.
How to Tell if Your Washer has Bad Drum Bearings or a Broken Inner Basket
Okay, enough talk. Let's do some basic watching and listening.
1. Broken Inner Basket
The inner basket is supported in the back by a special metal structure called a "spider." The spider has three support members that extend from the basket hub to the outer perimeter. A common failure is for the support members to corrode by galvanic corrosion, eventually weakening the metal to the point that it breaks. Here's an example of what that looks like, this particular washer is a Frigidaire but this is typical regardless of brand:
Here's another example, but this is from a GE front loader:
What you see in these photos is called galvanic corrosion. Various theories abound as to whence cometh this galvanic doo-doo. Some of the more plausible ones include:
- Dissimilar metals used in the support members vs. the basket metal itself. - Certain combinations of hard water and detergents. - Running the washer on a non-grounded or improperly grounded outlet.
Regardless of the cause, which is a whole separate and interesting engineering discussion, if this happens to your washer, your immediate tasks are to 1) properly and positively identify this failure and 2) decide whether to repair or replace based on the economics of the situation.
2. Bad Drum Bearings
This failure usually manifests as a roaring noise during the spin cycle. This first video demonstrates the tell-tale sound of bad drum bearings:
In advanced stages of this failure, you can also diagnose bad bearings manually using this technique:
Ruh-row, trouble in washer-land! These drum bearings are factory-pressed into the back half of the drum. So it's not like you can buy a set of OEM bearings, pop 'em in and off you go. You have to replace the whole drum, at least the back half, with the factory-installed bearings. Problem is that you'll usually find the drive shaft on the inner basket so corroded that you'll need to replace the inner basket at the same time. Double whammy!
If you look around the Internet, you'll find third-party bearings that claim to be a drop-in replacement for the factory-installed bearings. I've not heard of a single case of this repair lasting more than a few months. If you've done this repair and have gotten longer than a year out of it, send me proof and you'll be a rock star.
The reason these third-party bearings have such a dismal reliability record is because the tolerance on these bearings is astonishingly tight. When you consider the pressure and speeds that these bearings need to work in, it's amazing they last as long as they do. These bearings are actually a precision-machined piece and that's why they have to be installed at the factory for maximum reliability.
The F35 / Sud error code is one of the more common codes to pop up in the display of the late-model Whirlpool Duet front load washers. There's a lot of urban mythology out there on the Internet about these codes, their causes, and how to fix them. I'm going to deal with the two most prevalent myths out there and inoculate you against their error.
Urban Myth Number 1: "The F35 / Sud error code is caused by a clogged drain pump and to fix it, you have to clean out the drain pump cleanout port."
Reality: The drain pump and its cleanout port have absolutely nothing to do with this particular error code. The control board is programmed to display completely different error codes pertaining to the drain pump such as:
- F01 Pump driver error - F21 Long drain time - F27 Overflow condition
You can find these yourself on the tech sheet located inside the washer, either under the top panel or behind the bottom front panel. On that tech sheet, you'll see over six pages of very specific error codes-- 30 in all! -- dealing with distinct, specific aspects on the machine's function and operation.
The F35 error code specifically deals with faults related to the Analog Pressure Sensor (APS). The Sud error code pertains to excess suds detection in the machine. When these two codes occur together (and they don't always), it leads you to a very specific diagnosis but one which has nothing to do with the drain pump.
I know there's a video out on Youtube with a lot of views where the guy claims this fixed it but I assure you that was purely coincidental. He was a DIYer who was just guessing. Saying that a poor drain caused the F35 / Sud error combo is like saying a flat tire caused your car engine to quit starting.
Urban Myth Number 2: "To clear the F35 error code, try pulling the rubber tube off the APS and blowing hard into the tube nipple on the APS to reset it."
Reality: Blowing into the APS does absolutely nothing good. But it does ruin an APS that was already good. These are not like the old bellows pressure switches. Analog pressure sensors are digital transducers that convert an analog pressure into a digital information stream for the CCU. Telling people to blow into the APS is simply going to make them ruin a hundred+ dollar part.
There is some merit, however, to pulling the black rubber tube off the APS and blowing into it back toward the drum (NOT into the APS) to clear any gookus that may have gotten lodged in there and is interfering with the changes in air pressure being sent up the tube to the APS.
The Light of Truth
Let's take a walk through a Whirlpool Duet washer with the F35 / Sud error code combo and investigate its real cause and how to fix it:
As mentioned in the video, a defective APS is the single-most common cause for the F35 / Sud error code combo. There are at least two variations on the APS theme, so be sure to look up the correct sensor based on your complete model number and buy it here. That way, in the off chance that the APS doesn't fix it, you can return it for a refund and buy either the CCU or the Steamer board.
The dreaded “serial communications error” in Whirlpool-built front-load washers appears as various codes, depending on the particular model. On the Old-Skool Duet washers, the most common communications error code was F-11: communications error between the Central Control Unit (CCU) and Motor Control Unit (MCU). On the new model Duet washers, this same error has been re-labelled as F-28. On some Maytag front loaders (all built by Whirlpool, in case you didn’t already know that), you may see an F6E2 fault code, which is a communications error between the CCU and the User Interface (UI) boards.
Many a fine battle-hardened appliance warrior has been befuddled by these error codes and have needlessly soiled their undergarments throwing every control board in the box at it.
But these serial communications error codes all have one big thing in common:
They are almost NEVER caused by a bad circuit board! Instead, they are exactly as the error code description says: a COMMUNICATIONS error between two boards. In other words, a bad connection.
Oh, I know— you’ll hear some guys swear it was a bad board because they replaced the such-and-such board and it fixed the problem, so it had to be a bad board. But I’m here to show you that in 99.9999% of these cases, the board itself is perfectly functional but the real problem is the CONNECTIONS to the board.
“Uhh, howzzat, Samurai Smart-ass Guy?”
Ahh, Grasshoppah, make still your mind and the Samurai shall reveal the truth unto thee. And the truth shall make you free. Come with me now on a journey of Total Appliance Enlightenment™…
Let's think about the modern front loading washer and the average laundry room for a minute. In these front loaders, you have at least two (CCU and MCU) sometimes four (CCU, MCU, UI, and Steam Board) different boards that all need to talk to each other and pass data back and forth: digital data, voltages. How do they do this?
Since they haven’t incorporated internal Wi-Fi into appliances yet, all these boards are connected to each other by special wire harnesses called serial communications cables. All this data exchange is fact-checked and verified by a process called “handshaking” (yes, that’s what it’s really called). If, at any time during this continuous process of passing data back and forth an error is discovered during the handshaking, the CCU throws a serial communications error. The closest it can get in the error code is by telling you which two boards had trouble talking. But that’s close enough!
So what causes these handshaking errors? Lots of things! In fact, given the conditions that these washing machines have to work in— lots of vibration, moisture, humidity, heat, etc.— it’s amazing they work as well as they do. But all it takes is a loose connection at a molex connector on a wire harness or an oxidized pad on the control board to disrupt that handshaking. It doesn’t even need to be a totally broken connection, just one with low enough signal-to-noise ratio that the CCU can’t tell which is signal and which is noise.
Okay, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: the Silver Bullet Fix for these elusive and mysterious serial communications errors in Whirlpool-built front-load washers.
The harness itself can (and usually does) check good. That's not usually the problem. The problem is at the harness connection points where the molex connector on the harness connects to the boards at either end. The tines can become loose or the pads on the board may become oxidized. Here's a technique that I've used with great success in these types of problems. BTW, all modern front loaders work the same way and use pretty much the same basic technology so this solution concept for serial communications errors applies to all brands of front load washers, not just Whirlpool:
One of the most common complaints I hear people make about front-load washers is about odor: stinky basket, stinky door gasket, stinky towels, stinky underwear... okay, I'll stop there.
In almost every case, when I see (smell) this problem on service calls, they all invariably have the same cause: incorrect detergent usage, either too much or the wrong kind.
For front-load washers (and HE top-loaders), you should only be using HE detergent.
And, no, using less of the regular stuff is not the same thing because washing clothes in a low water environment requires a special chemistry, which is what the HE detergents are engineered to do. I don't understand why someone would spend over $1,000 for a front-load washer and then try to shave shekels buying cheap detergent. That's what we call penny-wise and dollar-dumb.
I'll hear some Appliantologists say that you should only use powdered detergent, sometimes they'll even recommend a specific brand, like Tide. This is well-meaning but misguided misinformation. Using powdered or liquid HE detergent is not the issue because the chemistry is the same. What does matter is using the correct amount of HE detergent for your water hardness quality. The general guidelines are:
HE detergent: 2 tablespoons
HEx2 (double concentrated): 1 tablespoon
HEx3: 1 teaspoon
Unless you know for a fact that you have very hard water where you live (defined as > 10.5 gpg, more details in this post), then the most HE detergent you should ever use, powder or liquid, is 2 tablespoons.
The number one problem that people don't seem to get is that they are using too much detergent, whether powdered or liquid. Even if it is HE, too much will cause odor problems.
FWIW, we've been using liquid HE detergent in our front loaders for the past 15 years and never had even a whiff of an odor or mildew issue. But we have always implemented the 9 odor-beating techniques AND always remove the clothes from the washer as soon as they're done.
It's also important that your detergent is fresh, and if you use powdered, it must be kept completely dry. If the powder gets damp while in storage, it loses most of its punch.
Q. What's the biggest single difference between HE and non-HE detergents? Give up?
A. HE detergent has additives specifically designed to suppress sudsing because sudsing interferes with the mechanical action of removing soils from fabrics.
Okay, here's another one:
Q. What do most people like to see when they do laundry?
A. SUDS! Lots and lots of suds. They open the lid or look through the glass and don't see suds, what do they do? Yep: add more detergent until they see suds. Then they wonder why their clothes stink.
Fun Fact to Know and Tell (FFTKAT): Detergent contains most of the necessary ingredients to support microbial life. In other words, it's bug food. What do bacteria do as they grow? Like all life forms, they produce waste products. Sometimes, this is a good thing, like in the case of making beer. But other times, it's a bad thing, like in the case of making stinky laundry.
The detergent manufacturers are partly to blame here, too. They put idiot directions on the label instructing the customer to use too much. Supposedly, the usage instructions are based on a North American average of water hardness. I'm not sure I believe that. The amount they say to use would be appropriate for areas with extreme hard water. For most areas, the amount on the label is three to four times too much and causes all kinds of problems, including odors and the infamous F35/sud error code in Whirlpool steam washers...
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