The time remaining display on a washing machine, dishwasher or tumble dryer is very useful. However, it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it appears to jump back and forth and many people want to know why.
Time remaining is an estimate
The time remaining indicator is ultimately only an estimate of how long the chosen cycle is likely to take. But it’s not a fixed time because it clearly keeps adjusting during the cycle.
It should be a reasonably educated guess, and in many cases pretty accurate, but the following things can cause the display to be inaccurate or to jump back and forth.
I’ll be giving examples mostly related to washing machines because there are more factors that can affect the time, but most of the principles apply equally to a dishwasher or tumble dryer.
Why is display not accurate?
On a washing machine for example each wash cycle will have been timed in a laboratory to get the wash cycle times.
How long it takes to heat the water up to each specific temperature, how long each rinse takes, and finally how long each final spin cycle takes. This will allow them to predetermine how long any specific wash cycle should take. However, all the elements in these timings are very variable. So any specific wash cycle can take a different amount of time to complete in a different house. Even in the same house on different days, different times of the year, or even with different wash loads.
Sticking with washing machines, how long it takes to fill with water will vary depending on the water pressure at that specific house. Water pressure can even vary at different times of the day or evening. The difference in time over the full cycle if water pressure drops or is quite low could add several minutes.
How long a washing machine takes to heat water up will vary depending on the temperature of the water going into the drum. During different times of the year the water temperature could either be extremely cold or even bordering on lukewarm. Another variable that can affect heating times is how much (if any) limescale is covering the heating element. Many washing machines are affected by limescale, and when it gets onto the heating element it can adversely impact how hot the element gets. The limescale acts as an insulator.
The last thing that can throw out the time estimate is balancing the laundry. Washing machines used to allow a specific amount of time to balance the laundry before going into a spin. After this time (usually just a couple of minutes) a washing machine would go in to spin even if the load was badly balanced. These days the software in the wash cycle program monitors the balance of the laundry.
If after a set time it detects the load is not balanced well enough to spin safely it will usually stop the drum from rotating and try again. So if a load is difficult to balance it can take twice the amount of time before it kicks into a spin. This could add several minutes to the spin cycle.
But if the load fails to be balanced properly after a second attempt many washing machines will try a third time. Depending on how the washing machine is programmed it’s possible for as long as 15 minutes or more to be added to the spin cycle whilst the washing machine tries to balance the load (if it’s an awkward one). If it eventually manages it the washing machine will carry out a full spin, but if not it may well abandon the spin cycle and just jump to the end and turn off. For more information and help on balancing wash loads read this article Loading a washing machine drum
Time remaining stuck on 1 minute
There is a known fault where the time remaining display can stick on the last minute. This fault only seems to affect some brands. The cause can be difficult to find and may need an engineer. But one possible cause is if the heating element goes open circuit or maybe has a faulty connection somewhere.