Model #FEX831CS0, the complaint on this laundry center (dryer on top, washer on bottom) was it started smoking so bad during a wash cycle that it actually set off the smoke detector in the laundry room. Because washers are not generally known for their ability to make smoke, I thought this might be a good one to see.
The Frigidaire top load washers (the washer part of this laundry center is the same as a free standing washer) are a pretty basic unit to work on due to there being no brake system, and the belt driven gearbox simply agitates in one direction, and spins in the other. The drain pump is not attached to the drive motor so a locked up pump will not prevent the washer from spinning. Knowing the simplicity of the mechanical system, a closer inspection was in order.
Looking for Smoke
After removing the front panel from the washer, it was quite evident the source of the smoke was a damaged drive belt where the drive motor pulley had been slipping resulting in the belt literally melting. Because the belt was damaged and melted in one place it appeared this may be the result of a locked up gearbox or a stuck spin basket. Always looking for the simple solution first, I tried to spin the basket by hand and noticed some noise and resistance that was preventing the basket from spinning freely. Thinking something must be stuck between the basket and the tub, I was going to pull the basket from the assembly, but then noticed one of the drain holes had what looked like a screw head sticking out of it. Using my pliers, I removed a 2" long screw that had found its way out of a pocket and into a drain hole.
Empty your Pockets
What had happened in this instance was with the screw stuck in the hole, it was long enough to contact the wash tub resulting in the noise and resistance I noticed earlier. When the washer was agitating, the basket is stationary so everything worked fine. But when it was time to spin, the screw was just long enough to hit the side of the sump wall within the tub and prevent it from spinning. The motor running along was slipping on the belt and making enough heat from friction to make the belt start smoking. I replaced the drive belt and made sure there was no tub damage from the screw that could result in a water leak, and now this washer is ready for clothes again. An expensive lesson for the customer, but they were glad to find the source of the smoke.
This turned out to be a good call because I was with a newer tech and was able to show him how fixing the symptom isn't always the solution to the problem. The complaint was the smoke and finding a damaged belt would explain it, but replacing the belt would have only resulting in more smoke and another damaged belt. In doing some further investigation, we were able to identify why the belt was damaged, and then fixed the actual problem leaving the customer with a functioning machine. The moral of the story, if you find a broken part, find out why it broke in the first place.