Belt Keeps Coming Off Washing Machine

Drive belt

Sometimes the washing machine belt comes off. You can hear the motor spinning away, but the drum isn’t moving. You can also feel that when you spin the drum by hand, it has less resistance than normal. If this has happened and you’ve put it back on, but it has come off again, there is a fault that needs fixing.

7 causes of belt coming off

1: The belt could be worn, or has become stretched and is too loose. I’ve also known belts to get thrown off during a particularly heavy or out of balanced load but stay on when refitted. Examine the belt for excessive fraying or wear. If it’s a belt with several track grooves in it, check they are clear and not worn down badly or covered in bits of rubber. The belt might need replacing (buy new washing machine drive belt).

Loose drum pulley

2: A loose drum pulley is another common cause. The drum pulley is a large wheel at the back of the drum that the belt fits on to. It should be bolted firmly to the drum shaft. If the drum pulley bolt has worked loose, the pulley will wobble as it turns around, and the belt will not stay on.

Worn drum pulley

3: Sometimes the drum pulley can be worn where it fits over the drum spider. With the drum pulley bolt is off, you can see movement when you rock the pulley side-to-side. In this case, even if the drum bolt is properly tightened, it will work loose and start to wobble during spin, throwing the belt off. You can a buy drum pulley (price-match guarantee).

Don’t overtighten drum pulley bolt

Do not over tighten the drum pulley bolt. It needs to be tight, but if it shears off, you are in trouble. If this happens, unless you can remove it with special tapping tools, or other methods, you would need to buy a complete new drum — or even entire tub — as some manufacturers only make sealed tubs.

Stopping the pulley bolt coming loose

A drum pulley bolt always uses some method of preventing the bolt from coming loose. Once tightened, some bolts may be held in place by a metal locking tab. If one is fitted but worn or broken, it will need replacing. Some use special spring-loaded locking washers. Most use a special glue-like substance called Loctite. You will recognise it because you should be able to see it on the shaft of the bolt. It is commonly blue. If Loctite has been used, you need to use some more or the bolt will never stay tightened.

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How tight should the drive belt be on a washing machine?

You always used to tighten a belt by slackening off the motor bolts and adjusting the motor to create the desired tension. But most modern washing machine belts are not adjustable. If they are too slack, they have to be replaced. You should be able to pluck the belt and get a nice resounding “ping”. The belt shouldn’t be over tightened, though.

Roughly speaking, there should be some sideways play, you should be able to move the belt from side to side roughly a quarter of an inch. If a belt is adjustable, there should be one motor bolt at the front that is fitted on a slot instead of a fixed hole.

How to fit a new belt

Fitting a drive belt onto the drum pulley should be very easy, it’s just a matter of placing the belt under the motor pulley and winding it slowly over the drum pulley until it winds all the way on. Some washing machines however do not have a back panel that can be removed. This makes it much more difficult. If there is no back panel to take off, or there is just a pathetic little inspection panel, you will have to try to fit the belt from the top.

Ensure the washer is disconnected from the mains and remove the lid. Try to hook the belt onto the motor pulley and then feed the belt onto the drum pulley whilst slowly turning it. You may find this very difficult to do without the belt constantly coming off. In difficult cases, I used to use a cable tie to hold the belt onto the pulley to act as a third hand. Obviously don’t forget to remove it after if you do.

More causes of drive belt coming off

4: The motor could be loose, or even have one of its bolts come off altogether.

5: One of the alloy fixing arms on the motor could be cracked or broken, causing the motor to not be fixed securely to the tub. It’s rare, but even hairline cracks can do it.

6: A bracket on the outer drum itself could be broken, causing the motor to be not fixed securely to the tub and move during spin. See – motor bracket on drum is broken.

7: The drum bearings have worn, or even collapsed so that you can lift the drum up and down from the front near the door seal. If there is excessive up and downplay there, it will cause the drum pulley to move and not run true. You should be able to observe with one person checking the pulley at the back as the other lifts the drum. We aren’t looking for minute movement, only obvious movement. You would expect excessive noise on spin though if this was the case. (What do worn drum bearings sound like?)

Buy new washing machine belt or drum pulley

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2 thoughts on “Belt Keeps Coming Off Washing Machine”

  1. I have a belt that keeps coming off as described. There is some movement in the drum when I lift it from the front, but I am not sure how much movement would be considered “excessive”.
    If the bearings have worn out, does that mean we need a new machine?

  2. There should hardly be any movement. If there’s enough movement to cause the pulley at the back to run untrue and throw the belt off either there’s a problem with the drum spider or bearings have started to collapse. It’s commonly not worth repairing with most washers these days because if bearings have collapsed they often seize onto the drum shaft. If bearings have collapsed it should have been making a rumbling noise for a while.

    Sometimes one of the spider arms gets a crack in it which may be able to be replaced but it’s a big job stripping it down and not all washers have them available as spare parts.

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