This article is about removing the heating element from a front loading UK washing machine. Removing the heater can be very difficult. Don’t do it unless you are sure it needs replacing and you are proficient at repairing things. Very often you cannot get an old heater back in place once removed. This is because of the way they are designed (as described later).
If you’ve tested the heating element with a meter and found it to be faulty read on. Otherwise check this article first – not heating up the water – is heater faulty?.
Where is the heating element on a washing machine?
If you are lucky the heating element is on the back of the main drum and accessible from behind the back panel. More commonly though it’s right at the front of the main outer drum under the door seal (see pic above). This means the front panel has to be removed. How easy this is varies from model to model and brand to brand. So it’s impossible to give specific instructions. Some washing machines even have the front panel welded in so it can’t be removed meaning the entire drum has to come out of the cabinet to get access.
Essentially you should know what a heating element looks like. It can only be inserted in either the back of the main drum or the front. If you don’t have the skills to work out how to take something to pieces and put it back together get an appliance engineer.
How to remove the heater from a washing machine
Every washing machine heater I’ve ever seen is secured in place in exactly the same way. Underneath the terminals there is a thick rubber seal. Below that is a metal plate. The metal plate has a bolt in the centre which is threaded through the centre of the rubber seal and comes out in between the two electrical terminals.
You can see this bolt in the centre of the heater even when fitted in the machine. It has a nut on it. When the heater is slotted into the machine this nut is tightened down which draws the plate towards it and squashes the rubber seal. It squashes it quite a lot, and makes it jam inside the machine to be water tight.
If you look at the picture on the left you can see a brand new heater with the thick rubber seal. When new, the heater snugly slots into place. But after the bolt is tightened up and left for a few years the rubber can become bulbous and hard. This makes it very hard to get out, and sometimes impossible to fit back in. Some will come out easily enough and go back OK, but don’t remove one unless it needs replacing or you have to.
So, to remove a heater you need to undo this nut, unscrew it to the top of the thread but don’t remove it. Then push the bolt in to move the plate inside away from the seal. You may have to use a hammer and something to punch it with but not something which will damage it.
Once the plate is pushed back the heater can be levered out but again you have to be careful because most are fitted into only plastic tubs and you can easily break it.
Note that even with the nut and thread pushed right back the heater can be extremely difficult to get out if the rubber seal has gone hard. I’ve had some very tough struggles. You have to pull or lever the rubber seal out all the way round the heater. If the rubber seal has remained pliable and not gone too bulbous it may come out reasonably easily. If not you have to use a mix of screwdrivers, pliers and even pipe pliers to wrestle it out. Do not break the plastic around the heater!
What happens if heater gets Stuck
There’s a topic on my Forums with a great photo showing how a heater can get suck when trying to remove it. It also shows the damage to the surrounding that is so easily done trying to leaver it out. Finally there is advice on how to deal with the situation Heater change – major fail
How to fit a new heater
To fit a heater you need to slot it in place being careful to ensure you locate the end of the heater into the heater bracket at the bottom of the tub. This bracket is essential to stop the drum hitting the heater on spin with a heavy load inside. It should either be a little bracket sticking up or maybe there is a cover designed into the tub and the heater just fits underneath it.
Once slotted in place the nut in the centre needs tightening down to draw the metal plate up against the rubber. Don’t over tighten it, tighten it firmly enough to squash the rubber properly. If the metal on the heater starts to bend in you are over tightening. Try to pull it out with a firm tug to make sure it doesn’t come out.
Refitting an old element
If you’ve needed to use WD40 or similar to get the heater in (you shouldn’t need to with a new heater) you need to be especially careful it won’t come out. If it comes out it will create a serious flood. I once refitted an old heater and needed to use WD-40 to get it back in. It looked OK but it popped out halfway through a wash and flooded a kitchen. How tight you need to tighten it is something that engineers learn from trial and error. Unfortunately, doing something only once with no previous experience can go badly wrong. If the metal plate on the element is bending you are over-tightening it.