Do I need to change washing machine carbon brushes?

Diagnostics Washing machine carbon brushes are one of the most common parts to wear out. Each time the washing machine is in use they are physically wearing away. This page gives free diagnostic help and advice for competent repairers who may want to confirm and check a few things before replacing carbon brushes in a washing machine motor.

Note that not all modern washing machines even have carbon brushes in their motors.

The principles of diagnosing carbon brush faults, and deciding if they need replacing are exactly the same as for any motor with carbon brushes fitted across all brands.

How do I know if I need to fit new carbon brushes?

I often see where people have fitted new brushes and the motor still doesn’t work. Don’t fit them speculatively. It’s common for people to see that brushes are worn, and probably need replacing – but this doesn’t mean it will get your motor running again.

If a motor stops running, it can also be caused by many other faults. So unless you know the brushes need replacing don’t waste your time and money.

If you observe lots of sparking from inside the motor then this may also a symptom. However, very small sparks are usually normal and not necessarily a fault.

You should be competent enough to be able to diagnose and repair this type of fault because other faults could be present. You should always test a motor’s insulation with a suitable insulation test meter to ensure electrical safety using 500V DC. Low insulation on a motor could blow electronic parts inside a PCB.

Worn Carbon brushes

hotpoint-brushes-compare Here is a picture of a pair of worn Hotpoint carbon brushes. Both carbon brushes are approximately 80% worn but the carbon brush on the left is still making good contact with the armature.

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The difference between the two is that the faulty one on the right is charred and sooty at the tip. It’s taken on a charcoal-like appearance and there is evidence of burning present. The good carbon brush on the left is smooth and shiny at the tip which shows no sparking has been occurring.

Worn Carbon brushes

hotpoint-brushes-compare Here is a picture of a pair of worn Hotpoint carbon brushes. Both carbon brushes are approximately 80% worn but the carbon brush on the left is still making good contact with the armature.

If both brushes are smooth like the one on the left, then they are still making good contact and are not likely to be causing any symptoms. However, if they are as worn down as this they clearly still need replacing. It’s just that maybe the fault you currently have is caused by something else.

This carbon brush is OK

hotpoint-brushes-ok This Hotpoint (or Creda) carbon brush is about 20% worn. The tip of the brush (that runs against the armature) is shiny and smooth, with no evidence of burning. It is therefore perfectly alright.

It is possible for a carbon brush that is not worn down significantly to stick inside the holder (which is spring loaded) If this happens, then as the brush surface wears through normal usage, the brush doesn’t get moved up and stops making contact with the armature.

If this happens, then the tip of the carbon brush will look charred like the 80% worn one above.

Complications on carbon brushes

hotpoint-brushes-flashed This carbon brush is approximately 50% worn but something has gone seriously wrong. If yours looks like this then there could be problems with the other parts inside the motor.

The tip of the carbon brush is charred but note the arcing damage to the brass holder which has been caused by excessive sparking and flashing inside the motor.

If the tip of the carbon brush is damaged to the extent that there is a chunk broken off, (not shown here) then there is a good chance that a raised commutator bar on the armature has caused the fault. This would require a new motor. A raised or loose comm bar can be felt by placing a finger on the copper segments and slowly turning the armature.

If the washing machine has also fused, then this is evidence of electrical shorting inside the motor which you need an insulation test meter and electrical knowledge to diagnose and repair.

Also, if there is damage like this on the brass holder (and especially if the washing machine fused) then the TOC could have blown also. This is then not a simple case of replacing the worn carbon brushes and no longer a straight forward DIY repair job.

Potential Complications

Fitting new brushes in a motor is relatively simple. However, it can also come with complications and you may ultimately just be wasting your time if you haven’t got experience working with motors and you don’t have proper test equipment. See the extra information in related articles below but give serious consideration to getting a proper repair engineer to look at it.

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29 thoughts on “Do I need to change washing machine carbon brushes?”

  1. My machine stops and starts and goes through cycle water coming in and draining but not much happening with drum rotating.Seems stuck on wash light- It it possible its the bushes or it more likely to be the module Only had it 15 mth but used every days… its indesit IWD 61450 model washing machine .

  2. It would be unusual for them to be worn out so soon Terry even washing once a day. It’s possible for one to stick though. If you are checking the brushes you will be able to tell from my article above if there is a problem with them. However, the motor not running can be caused by many things so also check out my main article here for further possible causes of motor not running or as it appears to users washing machine drum not turning

  3. Indesit Washing-Machine IWC6105UK Motor help

    when its spins white and blue sparks comes from the motor is this the carbon brushes need replaceing as not sure then the washing machine stops mid spin and go on pause


  4. Hello Chris. Apologies for such a late reply. You’ve probably got it sorted by now but please post back your experience for others to see. White and blue sparks coming from the motor sound fairly serious. Worn carbon brushes will cause sparking but they usually cause the motor to run slower than usual or erratically because it’s not getting full power. So if the water is coughing and spluttering at the same time it could just be one brushes.

    However, if it appears to be running at full speed unabated with lots of flashing and sparking this implies that the brushes are making reasonable contact but there may be something wrong with the armature which would usually require a replacement motor these days.

    A motor that has flashed so much that the washing machine stops spinning (presumably because the electronics have detected something wrong) would ideally need testing with a proper insulation test meter to make sure there is no leakage to earth which can happen when carbon dust builds up and the power tracks down to the casing.

  5. hello please help. I have a indesit washer dryer that is only 12 month old and as my partner tuned off the light in the utility room he noticed blue white sparks under the washing machine. Is it possible to be the brushes and can this cause an explosion?

  6. Hello Laura. This isn’t necessarily anything to worry about. I’ve seen it lots of times on shiny reflective tiles. It depends on how big the sparks are and if there is any noise with them like a crackling or grating sound. It’s not unusual for a motor to have minute sparks when turning but if they get larger, are making a noise or they actually flash and change in intensity I’d get them checked out. If they are very small and uniform in size just keep an eye on them to make sure they don;t get any worse which would indicate one or both of them may be sticking or worn out but at 12 months old that would be unusual.

  7. Hello Please help me, i have 7KG Semi Automatic washing machine from last week my washing machine is not working, issue i am facing here is i can hear the motor sound but the washer drum is not rotating, please help me in this issue what might have gone wrong


  8. Hi Andy,

    Motor belt is in good condition, i cannot figure out what is issue please help

  9. Hi, I don’t think we have semi automatic washing machines here, it doesn’t sound like a UKfront loading machine which is what I deal with. On a front loading machine if the motor is running and the belt is on the drum must turn unless the belt is so loose it’s slipping. If there are some gears they could be an issue there.

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