So… saw a deal on a used front-load washer (in need of repair – suspected bad bearings), figured I’ve replaced a zillion bearings on cars before, so thought I’d buy the washer and see if I can fix it.

Now technically, you’ll find that all the major Whirlpool parts outlets include these as part of a $400-500 rear tub. Yes, Whirlpool wants you to buy the big honking tub because 1 or 2 $10-20 bearings stopped working. Presumably you’re then supposed to throw your old tub away. If I ever start an “I hate the environment” club, Whirlpool’s the first company I’m asking to join.

 

So bearings are a bit of a pain to find. Well, maybe not that bad. These are the bearing numbers:
6205
6206

(I pulled the numbers from http://www.hometask.com/washerrepair.aspx where you can find bearing numbers for a number of Kenmore & Whirlpool Duet machines). It’s worth noting that you can buy seals or seals+bearings directly through their site as well.

Otherwise, you can find bearings online for anywhere from $3.50 up (depending on the quality of bearing you’re looking for – I doubt I’d opt for anything less than something made in Japan which is a good bit more, or a stainless steel bearing which starts at around $20), or find them at your local bearing shop. Now finding a new seal is a pain, though the site mentioned above carries them.

Installation:

I was going to write up a big massive guide with pictures, but as it turns out, others have already put together impressive YouTube videos. The one I’d recommend using as a guide is embedded below.

Again, to give credit where it’s due, this excellent video was created by Jerrod from http://www.hometask.com/washerrepair.aspx – and again, they sell the seals and bearings for the Whirlpool Duet WFW9200SQ02 as well as other models.

They also have a short version available on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd5NKbpVSRM

If you’re interested in getting a general idea as to the process, I’d suggest the short YouTube video. When you’re actually ready to buckle down and start disassembling, watch the long one.

In case you wanted some pictures anyway, I took a few during disassembly before I realized that my pictures were never going to compete with a video. Here they are if you want to see them anyway.

    

 

A few notes (watch the video first, or you won’t know what I’m referring to):

  • The 4 shocks that connect the tub to the bottom of the cage… In the short version of the video, he mentions that you just twist and they come out. I found that there’s a little clip/lock on opposite sides of each shock (not opposite as in top/bottom, opposite as in the side you can see and the side you can’t) and to release them you’ll have to put a little screwdriver in the slot and pry a little to open each one. Ideally you’d have 3 arms and do both clips while you twist – however since most of us aren’t that fortunate, I twisted as far as I could without snapping it, and while twisting, did 1 clip/lock, did the one on the opposite side, went back to the 1st side, etc. As long as you’re twisting, the clips/locks will catch a little each time, it’ll twist a little further, and eventually the whole thing will twist 90 degrees and come down.
  • the video doesn’t show every possible wire/connector/hose that you disconnect. They’re generally pretty easy to figure out, but make sure everything’s disconnected from the tub before you drop it – the thing’s heavy enough to rip/destroy anything you forgot to detach.
  • for the front drain pump – in the video, it’s a screw that comes out. On my model, there are no screws – just a big rubber “latch” on the front that pops out toward you (you can wiggle the pump assembly out from there).
  • the main nut on the shaft (15/16 “) was very tight on mine. He uses a ratchet with a pipe – I needed an impact gun.
  • he’s not kidding when he says lifting the tub isn’t for the feint-of-heart. I think I pulled 2 or 3 muscles. I’ll either have a helper for reinstallation, or I’ll remove the counter-weights.
  • the shaft was seized to the bearings on mine.Thus, I needed a small sledge hammer to pound the shaft through once the tub was split (a regular hammer didn’t cut it). If you do this, make sure you partly thread the bolt on (to protect the threads), put the socket on the bolt (to protect the bolt head), and hit the socket (preferably an impact socket, but wear gloves & eye protection regardless in case it shatters) with the hammer. If you just smack the shaft directly with the hammer, you’ll destroy the threads.
  • Take Pictures As You Go!!! Very important, and I can’t stress it enough. Particularly with the wiring, if it takes you a few days in total, you might not remember where everything went. Just about every cell phone has a camera nowadays, so even if you don’t have a regular camera, you should have an option. It’s a good idea to label things with tape (or write with a sharpie marker where appropriate) as well. A few extra minutes being careful in this area might save you hours troubleshooting later.
  • keep the screws separate. I like to take a piece of duct tape, and tape screws to whatever panel they came from. I duck-tape clamps to their respective hoses so they don’t get lost. As a side note, for some reason, my rear panel had a mix of fine/coarse threaded screws. By the time I realized it, I’d already pulled 5-6 out and had to guess which went where. Every time you pull a screw it might be worth checking to make sure it’s the same size/type as the other screws you just pulled.

 

My original bearings were… well… in bad shape. It’s clear why the previous owners couldn’t stand the noise from the unit anymore:

These are the inner bearings, and they’re obviously toast. Things got so bad that some of the bearings wore through the cage and fell out (there was a mess of rusted metal shavings left behind). What’s left of this bearing ws seized to the shaft, so I had to use a grinder/dremel to cut away until I was close enough to the shaft to snap it off.

You can see the seal behind the bearings (black, covered in rust) – upon removal, it actually looks to be in great shape, but obviously it didn’t do it’s job.

The outer bearings were in surprisingly good shape, but they’ll be replaced anyway.

Thoughts:

on The Process:
-Despite the many things that need to be disconnected/labelled, it’s a pretty quick process.
-Once I got to the shaft/bolt/bearings… let’s just say it took about 80% of the time I spent.
-While you could use a hex screwdriver for everything, the 7mm socket on a ratchet is probably a better idea where possible (easier on the wrists, and less chance of stripping). You WILL need the hex screw for a couple items though, so don’t go thinking you can do it all with the socket.
-Bearing replacement reminds me very much of bearing replacement on cars (the process, and the headaches I ran into). If you’ve ever swapped brake drum bearings, this should be comfortable territory for you.

on Whirlpool…
-Very disappointing that they don’t sell the bearings & seal separately.  Clearly a conscious effort on their part to rake customers for cash.
-Based on reviews I’ve seen around the web, bearing failures are very common. From the sounds of it, the bearings/seals that Whirlpool uses aren’t that great to begin with, and if you use non-HE detergent, it’ll suds up and quickly get in behind the seal and start wrecking the bearings. You HAVE to use the HE stuff.
-Another common issue on these washing machines (usually noticed when draining) is that either they won’t drain, or you’ll get a nasty noise from the pump.  There’s a “catch” by the pump (filter) which has usually picked up coins/socks/etc. I found a penny and a foam bra insert left by the previous owners in my washer. If you’re doing the bearings you’ll be pulling off the pump anyway, so you may as well open the catch and clean anything out of it.
-I wouldn’t buy another Whirlpool unless it were being sold used for cheap (in need of repair). Unless of course they change their ways (for starters, have the bearings as a serviceable item which they sell parts for).

on The Video (linked further up)…
-A fantastic video, and a big thanks to Jerrod from HomeTask for putting it out there to help people around the globe repair their own machines.
-Again, make sure everything’s disconnected from the tub before you drop it. The video isn’t quite as thorough when it comes to all the connectors.
-If the video helps you, by all means consider buying the seal (and possibly bearings) from his site. If for whatever reason that won’t work for you (need a specific method of international shipping that isn’t listed on the HomeTask site for example), it’s possible to find kits on eBay, though I suspect the quality of Jerrod’s seals is probably better than the average eBay kit (and cheaper too).
-As a reminder, the seals/bearings on the HomeTask site are located at http://www.hometask.com/washerrepair.aspx .

 

Finally, I’m not in any way associated with the HomeTask site. The video’s simply awesome, and I think HomeTask deserves some positive word-of-mouth for putting it up. If you find other videos that you believe are super-helpful in repairing/maintaining/etc a Whirlpool Duet WFW9200SQ02 Washer, have some tips of your own, or found additional places for bearings/seals/etc for these washing machines, feel free to post it in the comments below.