, this top load washer began making a ratcheting or grinding noise during the agitation portion of a wash cycle. The clothes were still getting washed and there didn't seem to be anything consistent with the noise, but it was getting more frequent according to the customer.
As I have mentioned before, noises in appliances can occur and when they do, it is usually a matter of using your ears to get you looking in the right direction. Knowing when they occur and specifics about the mode of operation, or what kind of load was being washed at the time can go a long way when it comes to tracking down the more intermittent of sounds. Noises are rarely consistent on appliances so it is difficult for someone to describe a sound and expect a solution from a technician without being able to listen to it ourselves. Often hearing the sound myself goes a long way toward finding a solution.
The noise that was coming from this washer was one of the more frequent noises that come from a failing component. These Whirlpool washers utilize a split agitator to improve the quality of the wash cycle by forcing clothes to tumble in the wash water. To do this, the lower portion of the agitator rotates counter-clockwise, while the top half will turn along with it causing the entire agitator to move. Then when the the lower portion rotates clockwise, the top half is allowed to move freely from the bottom half. This movement is controlled by a set of 4 agitator dogs that spread out and catch a set of teeth on the inside of the upper half of the agitator. This creates a type of ratcheting mechanism that makes the whole agitator work.
But with age, the dogs will no longer grab the teeth securely with each rotation resulting in the remaining dogs slipping giving us a noticeable ratchet sound. The noise can get worse over time as each dog continues to wear and fail, and the frequency may change with the size and weight of the load. But by the time the noise has become noticeable, it is time for a part replacement.
A quick test of this washer with the agitator cap removed allowed me to wash the dogs slip and ratchet across the teeth. I removed the top half of the agitator by removing the bolt holding it to the top of the gearbox shaft. Then I installed the parts from an agitator repair kit and then put everything back together. Now it washes as quietly as ever, and it may even work better for the customer.