Last updated on February 7th, 2017
Appliance error codes are a mixed blessing. On the one hand they can give a good indication of what has gone wrong if a fault occurs, but on the other hand they are often kept secret from us, and even when you have a list of what they mean the explanations can be cryptic, contain multiple possible causes and at times can be next to useless. If trying to find out what an error code means take some time to read this page and links within it first.
Error codes aren’t always obvious
Not all appliances display a readable error code such as “E1” or “F10”. Many of the more basic models aren’t fitted with LCD displays so they will often indicate an error code by lighting up a certain sequence of option lights, or by flashing an LED a set number of times in a repeating sequence.
If one of the control panel lights is flashing count the number of flashes, which should run in a cycle with a one second pause in between. If the light just appears to flash continuously it’s not an error code.
If lights are constantly lit up instead (sometimes combined with a continuously flashing light), make a note of the exact LEDs that are lit and report this information to the engineer who may be able to bring the right parts. Don’t just report the names of the flashing lights because technical books rarely use names, they tend to say things like “LED 1 and LED 3” for example. So reporting that the economy light and extra rinse light are lit may mean nothing to an engineer unless he’s very familiar with the machine. If there are 4 option lights side by side, or one above the other, report that (for example) the first and third lights are lit as well as the names. If you aren’t sure of the numbers tell the engineer as reporting the wrong ones can result in expensive misdiagnosis.
Error codes are often secret
There are thousands of error codes for washing machines and other white goods. Most of them only give clues to an experienced engineer about where to look, or they implicate several different parts or causes to be investigated. Many of these error codes are confusing and unhelpful – even to engineers, some are genuinely useful, but most are useless to the general public.
Manufacturers do not make the majority of these error codes available to the public and in fact some manufacturers don’t even publish them to independent repairers in the trade, the legality of which is currently being debated. The pros and cons of these codes are discussed in my second article here appliance Error codes – friend or foe?
Example of error code explanations that are NOT useful to the public
Here’s an error code description from Zanussi –
“E34 = incongruency between level of electronic pressure switch and level of electronic pressure switch 2 (duration of fault at least 60 seconds) – possible causes – 1: Hydraulic circuit of pressure switches 2: Electronic pressure switch 3: Pressure switch 4: Wiring 5: Main PCB. ”
If your washing machine displayed the above error code and you received the explanation of it, I doubt it would be of any use because you still need to know how to diagnose the fault, and how to test individual parts. It could have too many different causes. It may even be necessary to speculatively change the main PCB (which an engineer can often do because he may have one available to try, which can removed if it does not cure the fault).
It wouldn’t even be useful to allow you to at least shrug your shoulders and say, “ah well, it’s obviously an expensive fault so I need a new washing machine”, because at least one of the possible causes is a wiring problem which might only be a poor connection somewhere. I would argue that being furnished with that error code would leave most people none the wiser. Many error code explanations are equally cryptic or cover too many possible causes to be any use to the public in general.
Even concise error code descriptions can be unhelpful
Having said all the above, there are examples where an error code description is much more precise, implicating a specific part, however, on more than one occasion I have experienced replacing the named part only to find that the fault remained. I’ve also had many cases where only a connection fault is implicated by the error code explanation but the fault was actually caused by a faulty part.
Some error codes also just give an obvious description of what has gone wrong such as, “motor not running” or, “not draining”. This type of error code explanation is also next to useless because they don’t contain any diagnostics and instead simply describe the fault which anyone can see for themselves.
Examples of error code explanations that CAN be useful to the public
Another example from Zanussi –
E11 = Problems with water fill in wash phase (maximum 10 minutes for each fill phase). Possible causes = 1: Tap closed 2: Mains water pressure insufficient 3: Solenoid valve 4: Hydraulic circuit of pressure switches 5: Pressure switches 6: Wiring 7: Main PCB ”
This error code explanation is more useful because two of the possible causes are simple things that most people can check, 1: Tap closed and 2: Mains water pressure insufficient – and they don’t even need to look inside the washing machine.
Some error codes may be totally wrong
A poor earth on the washing machine or in the wall socket can cause erroneous error codes. It’s possible for an error code to give a specific fault, yet be completely wrong. Here’s a great example from my Washerhelp forums of how two different brands of washing machine produced two different error codes when installed in the same place. One flagged up a motor fault, and the other flagged up a door lock fault – yet the owner eventually discovered (after buying a new washing machine) that the fault was actually a fault in the wall socket – Siemens wrong error codes washing Machine Problem . Admittedly this was in a UK washing machine take over to India, but it shows how a voltage problem could cause erroneous errors. However, here’s another example of an error code apparently being wrong Hotpoint Ultima Wt721 Fault Code F-08
A certain percentage of error code explanation is potentially useful to the public, a few are even mentioned in the instruction book because they refer to problems that a customer could potentially fix themselves such as blocked pump or filter, a kinked fill hose, or maybe a tap that has been accidentally turned off.
My first suggestion if you want an error code explanation is to check your instruction book as most of the codes that you can do something about are listed there. For other simple and straight forward error codes please check the links below and keep tabs on Whitegoodshelp as I keep adding new ones.
More on error codes and related topics
- Washing machine stops with lights flashing
- Program selector knob (dial) clicks round continuously
- Error code explanations (common ones)
- Error codes – friend or foe?
- Lost your instruction book? – Washing machine instruction books and user manuals
- Washing machine repairs (Main repair help section on includes section on choosing a repair engineer as well as DIY help)
- DIY repair safety and tips
- Research Washerhelp’s washing machine repair forum archive
- DIY Washing machine repair help (list of common faults)
- Hotpoint washing machine shows test in display
Find appliance repairs – Book washing machine (or other appliance) repair
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