, this top load washer had been giving off an odor the customer described as an electrical burning smell, but because the unit was working properly, they weren't overly concerned. Then the smell changed to a burning plastic or rubber smell and it was time to get the unit looked at.
Smells can be hard to pinpoint in many appliances because they usually dissipate easily and move freely around the room. Often times, the cabinets will concentrate odors making them very pronounced when they occur, but with the panels removed, it is difficult to figure out where the smell is coming from. Anytime an unusual odor is detected from your appliance, it should be investigated because often times small things can turn into big expensive problems in no time. Sometimes small rodents like to find their way into our appliances because the interiors are usually warm and cozy, leaving their waste byproducts everywhere. If you walk into a room and identify an odor that is not normal and think your appliance is the source, it is time to do some sniffing around.
The odor described from this washer started as an electrical smell which many people will associate with a metallic taste. This is usually the result of ozone being created when electrical wires arc, and although it is harmless, most people do realize it is not normal. The second odor that prompted the call was the burning plastic smell which most of us are familiar with.
To get an idea of what was going on, and to get my own olfactory sensors in on the search, I started the washer in a spin cycle with the cabinet removed. The odor quickly arrived and the source was the motor. Being the component in the washer that is running most of the time, and generating a bit of heat in the process, hot smells are not entirely unusual, but the burning plastic was.
With the power removed, I pulled the pump off the motor shaft and then removed the two motor mounts to free it from the mounting plate. A close up inspection showed a burned connector leading to the thermal overload switch mounted to the motor frame. These overloads will open up the electrical circuit in the event the motor overheats for one reason or another. But the motor wasn't getting hot, only the connector. The connector itself was loose on the terminal resulting in some potential electrical arcing giving us the hot smell. This loose connection also increased the resistance in the circuit which results in heat being generated and the plastic connector cover melting. Which gave us the burning plastic smell.
Fortunately for the customer, they jumped on this problem quickly and the repair was easy enough to do by replacing the connector and cleaning up the terminal contact. If they had waited, the connector would have eventually damaged more of the wire and very possibly the overload switch requiring the entire motor
to be replaced. So if you do smell something out of the ordinary from your appliances, start sniffing around for the source. What your cooking in the oven doesn't count.