Revving Up The Washer For A Spin

SATURDAY'S HERO

November 03, 1990|By Rob Kasper

Keeping the washing machine happy is my responsibility.

I care about its innards and its outards. Lately I've even had flashes of interest in its product, clean clothes. My curiosity in the clean-clothes area has been confined to strategic theories of fighting lint.

I was recently introduced to the concept of classifying laundry either as "lint giving" or "lint receiving." These two groups must be kept apart.

This concept has given me a whole new way of viewing the world. And it keeps me amused in my many idle moments. I sit there and rate the lint potential of passing garments.

"Corduroy, a big lint receiver," I tell myself as I eye a passing pair of slacks. "But over there, that chenille sweater, that is a notorious lint giver."

Most of my washing-machine work, however, has involved innards. It began about 10 years ago, with the spin camshaft incident.

The spin camshaft is the washing machine part that allows the washtub to fly around as if it were about to go into orbit, without really taking flight. One day, ours broke.

It happened after my wife and I had returned from a week at the beach with an enormous pile of dirty towels and an exaggerated sense of well-being. We thought we could whip any washing machine problem.

Eventually we put in a new spin camshaft. It took two days of joint effort. I poked wrenches at the machine's idler arm, while my wife sat next to me reassuring me that I was doing the right thing. In front of her she held the washing machine repair book. Before any action was undertaken, she read and reread the book's instructions.

This dogged reading was essential because, while these washing machine service manuals appear to be amazingly thorough, once things get greasy, you realize the books tend to leave out verbs, antecedents and common sense. The service manuals, which I bought at a washing machine parts stores are written for full-time repairmen, not rookies like me.

So it took a while for me just to locate the dead spin camshaft. But after a siege that lasted about 48 hours, the defective part had been ousted and a fresh one put in its place. Later, reviewing my tactics, I realized I had removed the part the hard way. Essentially I attacked from the west, when the southern route would have been more appropriate. General Lee had similar trouble at Gettysburg.

For weeks, every time the washing machine went into the spin cycle, I cocked an ear and listened. At first it was a worried ear. But later, when it became apparent that the repair had taken hold, I listened in triumph.

The sound of the machine working at high speed reminded me of the whine of a Ferrari sprinting down a straightaway. I've always wanted a Ferrari. I never have bought one. But I have owned three washing machines.

About a year after I gave it a new spin camshaft, the born-again washing machine gave up the ghost. "Fatigue," was the diagnosis of the repairman. I had summoned the repairman only after several of attempts to revive the engine had failed. I had mixed feelings as I paid the guy. I was miffed that I had to fork over money to a repairman for telling me he couldn't make a repair. But I was relieved that in his autopsy of the machine, he had not blamed the spin camshaft. The old washing machine was replaced by a new one that worked for about four years until it was brought down by a kamikaze penny. That was the diagnosis of the next repairman. Somehow, he said, a penny had worked its way between the outer and inner washtubs. (Yes, there are two, I'm not sure why, but I know when you take off the cabinet you are supposed to see two tubs.) The killer penny had long since vanished. But before it escaped, it had, according to the repairman, done a lot of bad stuff. Stuff like "breaking the seal" and "corroding the gears" and "ruining the transmission."

I didn't entirely believe this guy. He didn't have the I-can-save-this-machine gleam in his eye that the zealots of washing-machine repair are known for.

But I was stuck. I couldn't fix the machine. According to my washing-machine service manual, I needed special tools to proceed with repairs. I needed the "bell tool" for "the installation and removal of drive bell to transmission shaft." I needed the "seal tool, used to install the seal seat and the seal head."

I didn't need the "agitator puller," but I wanted it.

But even if I had had these tools, I wasn't sure I could repair thhavoc that the penny had wrought. After all, this serviceman had d dTC all those tools in his truck, and he recommended buying a new machine. Which I did.

That was about two years ago. Since the new machine arrived I have patrolled the pockets of soiled pants for terrorist coins. And I have learned to recognize the machine's distinct sounds of distress.

Like the splashing sound it makes when it kicks the plastic drain hose loose from the laundry tub and squirts dirty water all over the laundry room floor.

The machine and I are working out this little problem. I have threatened it with a brick. A big red brick is now holding the hose down. If that doesn't work, I am thinking of bending the stiff, rebellious hose into submission by blasting it with a portable hair dryer.

But I can't get too mad at the machine. It may act up once in a while, but it does its job. It works without supervision, which is rare these days.

And when it is carrying a full load of towels and it hits that spin cycle . . . Man, it sounds awesome! At least to someone without a Ferrari.

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