A burnt rubber smell is a fairly common problem with washing machine that I’ve personally experienced a couple of times over the years.
If you notice a burnt rubber smell coming from your washer, turn it off immediately while you diagnose the problem. Typically the smell is caused by:
- Drive belt wear or slippage
- Drive motor overheating
- Drain pump issues
- Worn-out tub bearing
- Transmission issues
- Loose rubber door seal rubbing
- Stuck brake assembly
- Worn rubber hoses
- Electrical malfunctions
Read on to learn more about these causes along with step-by-step instructions for how to fix them!
8 reasons your washing machine might have a burnt rubber smell
Safety First: Ensure that the washing machine is unplugged from the electrical outlet before starting any inspections or repairs. This step is essential for preventing electrical shock.
Drive belt wear or slippage
The drive belt in a washing machine connects the motor to the drum if there is no drive motor coupling. The primary role of belts is to transfer power from the motor to the drum, enabling the drum to spin during wash and spin cycles.
Over time, due to constant use and friction, the belt can wear out, stretch, or become misaligned. When this happens, the belt might not sit properly on the pulleys and can slip while the motor is running. This slippage creates additional friction, which in turn produces heat.
The combination of heat and the friction between the slipping belt and the pulleys is what often results in a burnt rubber smell.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Drive Belt Issues:
- Access the Belt:
- Most washing machines have a back or front panel that can be removed to access the internal components.
- Using a screwdriver or appropriate tool, remove the back (or front) panel of the washing machine to expose the drive belt.
- Inspect the Belt:
- Look for signs of wear, such as cracks, fraying, or stretching.
- Check if the belt is sitting properly on the pulleys or if it’s misaligned.
- While you’re there, check the tension on the idler pulley wheel.
- Check for Slippage:
- Try turning the drum manually. If the belt slips easily or doesn’t turn the drum smoothly, there’s likely an issue.
- Replace the Belt if Necessary:
- If the belt shows significant signs of wear or damage, it needs to be replaced.
- Remove the old belt by gently sliding it off the motor and drum pulleys. Depending on your washing machine model, you might need to loosen the motor bracket to create slack.
- Position the new belt around the drum pulley, then around the motor pulley. Ensure it’s seated correctly and has proper tension.
If the problem persists or if you’re unsure about any of these steps, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional appliance technician.
Drive motor overheating
The motor in a washing machine drives the drum, allowing it to agitate during the wash cycle and spin to wring out water. Continuous usage, bearing issues, or blockages can cause the motor to work harder than usual, leading to overheating.
Overheated motors can produce a distinctive smell, often described as a burnt or acrid scent, similar to burning rubber. Over time, if left unchecked, an overheating motor can cause damage to other components and even become a potential fire hazard.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Motor Overheating Issues:
- Access the Motor:
- Open the back or bottom panel of the washing machine using a screwdriver or the appropriate tool. This action will expose the motor and other internal components.
- Inspect the Motor:
- By touch (ensuring it’s cool), feel if the motor seems excessively hot even after a reasonable cooling down period post-wash.
- Check for any visible signs of damage, burning, or blackened areas.
- Check for Blockages:
- Ensure that nothing is obstructing the motor or the drum, making them harder to turn. Sometimes, small items like coins, hairpins, or lint can get trapped, causing resistance.
- Examine the Motor Capacitor:
- The capacitor helps the motor run efficiently. If it’s faulty, it might cause the motor to overwork. A swollen or leaky capacitor can be a sign it’s defective and may need replacement.
- Listen to the Motor:
- Reconnect the washing machine to the power source and run a short cycle, listening to the motor. If it sounds strained or louder than usual, there may be an internal issue causing it to overheat.
- Replace or Repair the Motor if Necessary:
- If you’ve determined that the motor is the cause of the overheating, it might need repair or replacement.
- For repairs, it’s usually best to consult a professional appliance technician, as motors contain intricate parts that require expertise.
In many cases, diagnosing and repairing motor issues requires expertise. If you’re unsure about any steps or the problem persists, it’s advisable to seek assistance from a professional washing machine repair technician.
Drain pump issues
The drain pump in a washing machine has the essential function of evacuating used water at the end of the wash and rinse cycles. If this pump plumbing faces blockages, is failing, or is misaligned, it may have to work harder than usual. This added strain can generate heat and, in some cases, emit a burnt rubber smell.
Objects like coins, small clothing items, or debris might get trapped in the pump pipes, while worn-out bearings or a damaged pump impeller could also cause operational problems.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Drain Pump Issues:
- Access the Drain Pump:
- The location of the drain pump varies between washing machine models. Generally, it’s at the bottom front or rear of the machine.
- Many machines have a separate lower access panel or door that can be removed to access the pump.
- Check for Blockages:
- Begin by examining the pump filter (if your machine has one). This filter traps larger debris to prevent it from getting into the pump. Remove, clean, and replace it if necessary.
- Remove the coupling and check the pump’s inlet and outlet hoses for obstructions. Objects like coins, socks, or lint can get trapped and hinder the pump’s function.
- Inspect the Pump motor:
- Visually check the pump motor for any signs of damage, like cracks or leaks in the plastic.
- Manually rotate the pump impeller (it should turn freely). If it’s stiff or doesn’t move, there might be something stuck inside, or the pump itself might be faulty.
- If your machine has been particularly noisy during the drain cycle, the pump’s bearings may be worn out.
- Clean or Replace the Drain Pump:
- If there are blockages, clean them out thoroughly.
- If the pump shows signs of damage, wear, or doesn’t function properly when tested (many machines will let you run a separate drain/spin cycle), consider replacing it.
Worn-out tub bearing
The tub bearing is a crucial component that supports the inner tub of the washing machine. This bearing ensures that the washer tub can rotate smoothly during a wash or spin cycle.
Over time, due to constant use and water exposure, the bearing can wear out or corrode. When it does, it can create added friction, leading to a burnt rubber smell. Additionally, a faulty bearing can make the machine operation noisy, often described as a grinding, roaring, or a repetitive thudding sound.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Worn-Out Tub Bearing Issues:
- Confirm the Issue:
- Spin the drum manually with your hand. If it doesn’t move smoothly or produces a grinding sound as a symptom, the bearing might be the issue.
- Check for any visible signs of leakage around the bearing area, as water leaks can often lead to bearing damage.
- Access the Tub Bearing:
- Generally, it involves removing the top and front panels of the machine, followed by taking out the drum.
- To start, remove the washing machine’s back or front panel, depending on your model.
- Remove the Inner Tub:
- Once you’ve accessed the inner components, detach the drive belt from the drum (if present).
- Take off the drum pulley, which is typically secured with a bolt. You might need to stabilize the drum from spinning as you do this.
- Carefully lift out the inner tub.
- Replace the Tub Bearing:
- Once the inner tub is out, you should be able to see the tub bearing assembly at the back.
- Carefully remove the old bearing. This might require some force or the use of a bearing puller tool.
- Clean the area, ensuring there’s no residue or rust.
- Install the new bearing. It’s often advisable to replace both the bearing and the seal together, as a faulty seal can cause premature bearing wear.
Loose rubber door seal rubbing
The rubber door seal, also known as the gasket or boot, is designed to prevent water leaks between the washing machine’s tub and door.
Over time, with constant exposure to water, detergents, and other elements, the rubber door seal can deteriorate, become loose, or develop deposits. When it gets loose, it may rub against the drum or other parts of the washing machine during a cycle, producing a burnt rubber smell due to the friction.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address a Loose Rubber Door Seal:
- Inspect the Door Seal:
- Open the washing machine door and visually inspect the rubber seal.
- Feel around the entire circumference of the seal to identify any loose sections or areas where the seal may be deteriorating.
- Clean the Door Seal:
- Wipe down the entire seal using a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar or a mild detergent. This can help remove any deposits or unpleasant smells.
- Ensure you clean the folds and crevices, where water or residue can easily accumulate.
- Tighten or Adjust the Door Seal:
- If the seal is simply out of place, gently push it back into its proper position.
- Some washing machine models may have clips or retaining rings that help hold the gasket in place. Ensure these are secure. If they’re loose, tighten or replace them.
- Replace the Door Seal (if necessary):
- If the door seal is damaged or too worn out, you may need to replace it.
- Begin by removing any retaining clips or rings that hold the seal in place.
- Carefully pull the old seal off from around the door opening and the drum.
- Position the new door seal, ensuring it fits snugly and aligns properly with the drum and door opening.
- Secure the seal with the retaining clips or rings.
Stuck brake assembly
In some older washing machine models, particularly top-loaders, there’s a brake assembly that stops the tub from spinning when the washing cycle is over. This system ensures the tub doesn’t continue to spin indefinitely once the cycle is completed.
Over time, this brake assembly can wear out, get dirty, or become stuck, and when it tries to engage while the tub is spinning, it can create a burning rubber smell due to the friction.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address a Stuck Brake Assembly:
- Access the Brake Assembly:
- Remove the washing machine’s front or rear panel, depending on your model. This typically involves unscrewing several screws.
- Locate the brake assembly. It’s generally located at the bottom of the tub assembly.
- Inspect the Brake Assembly:
- Check for signs of wear, damage, brake dust, or excessive dirt.
- Ensure that the brake is moving freely and isn’t stuck.
- Clean and Lubricate:
- Clean any dirt, lint, or debris that might be causing the brake to stick.
- Apply a small amount of high-temperature grease or lubricant to the moving parts of the brake assembly. Ensure you use a lubricant that’s safe for washing machines.
- Check the Brake Pads:
- Just like car brakes, the brake assembly will have pads that can wear out over time.
- If they appear thin or worn, they’ll need to be replaced.
- Replace Damaged Parts (if necessary):
- If any parts of the brake assembly are damaged or excessively worn, replace them with manufacturer-approved parts. This might include springs, pads, or the entire assembly depending on the severity of the wear.
- Reassemble the Washing Machine:
- Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments or replacements, reattach the washing machine panel you removed earlier.
- Ensure everything is secured tightly.
Worn rubber hoses
Rubber hoses connect the washing machine to the water supply, and there might also be internal hoses that manage water flow within the machine itself.
Over time, these hoses can deteriorate due to constant water pressure, temperature changes, and general wear and tear. A deteriorating hose can cause leaks and, in some cases, emit a burnt rubber smell, especially if the hose is rubbing against a moving part or if it’s close to an overheating component.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Worn Rubber Hoses:
- Inspect External Hoses:
- Pull the washing machine away from the wall to gain access to the rear.
- Check the fill hoses that connect the washing machine to the hot and cold water supplies. Look for cracks, bulges, leaks, or signs of wear.
- Replace External Hoses (if necessary):
- If any of the hoses show signs of damage, they should be replaced.
- Detach the old hoses by unscrewing them from both the washing machine and the wall.
- Screw on the new hoses, ensuring a snug but not overly tight connection. Be cautious to not cross-thread the fittings.
- Inspect Internal Hoses:
- Open the washing machine’s rear or front panel. This typically involves unscrewing several screws.
- Examine the internal hoses. Look for any signs of wear, cracks, or other damage. Check if they’re securely attached and aren’t rubbing against any moving parts.
- Replace Internal Hoses (if necessary):
- Detach the damaged or worn-out hose by loosening its clamps or fittings.
- Attach the new hose, securing it with the clamps or fittings. Ensure it’s properly routed and not kinked or twisted.
Electrical issues in a washing machine can lead to a variety of problems, one of which could be a burnt smell. This odor might emanate from overheated wires, faulty connections, or short circuits.
If the smell is accompanied by a loss of function, flickering lights, or unusual sounds, it might further suggest an electrical problem. Ignoring electrical malfunctions can be hazardous and might lead to more severe issues or even fires.
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions to Address Electrical Malfunctions:
- Visual Inspection:
- Remove the rear or front panel of the washing machine, usually held in place with screws.
- Inspect the internal components, looking for any obvious signs of damage like burnt areas, frayed wires, or loose connections.
- Check for Loose Connections:
- Ensure that all electrical connectors are snug and securely attached. Loose connections can cause intermittent issues and might produce a burnt smell.
- Inspect the Wiring:
- Check all the wires running throughout the machine. Look for any signs of wear, fraying, or damage. If you find damaged wires, they’ll need to be replaced.
- Inspect the Control Board:
- The control board is the “brain” of the washing machine and manages all its operations. Look for signs of burnt areas, damaged capacitors, or other components. If the control board is damaged, it will typically need replacement.
- Check Other Electrical Components:
- Inspect components like motors, pumps, and switches for signs of overheating or damage. Replace any component that appears damaged or burnt.
A few extra helpful tips
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you troubleshoot your washing machine:
- Consult your user manual: Always start by checking the recommended troubleshooting steps in your user manual.
- Turn off and unplug your machine: Before troubleshooting or attempting to fix any issues, make sure to turn off and unplug your washer for safety reasons.
- Identify the problematic component: Determine if your washer has a motor belt, spin belt, or pump belt that could be causing the burnt rubber smell.
- Replace or fix the part: Follow your user manual’s instructions to replace or fix the problematic component. In some cases, it may be best to consult a professional technician for assistance.
As you follow the troubleshooting steps outlined in your user manual, you’ll likely find a solution for the burnt rubber smell. However, if the problem persists or you’re unsure how to fix it, it’s wise to consult a professional technician for help. In the meantime, continue caring for your washing machine by regularly cleaning and maintaining its components.
When to consult a professional about a washing machine with a burning smell
In some cases, you can handle the issue yourself, but it’s always a good idea to consult a professional if you’re unsure.
- One instance when you should consider calling a professional is if you’ve checked the usual suspects and still can’t find the source of the smell.
- Another reason to seek professional help is if the issue seems potentially hazardous.
- If your washer is still under warranty, it’s advisable to contact the manufacturer or seller to check if the repair or replacement is covered.
- Lastly, if your washing machine is old and has been giving you trouble regularly, you might want to consider investing in a new washer.
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