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Commercial Washer and Dryer Problems

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Tech. Checks

This is a list of some common problems.



In all the years that we have done service, by far the most common problem with washer failure is in the drain system. Either the valve fails, or there is blockage in the line somewhere.

Here's how to check:

Run a standard wash cycle (preferably empty); the water should begin filling, and there should be no water running out the drain.
This is easy to check on an open sump type drain, all you have to do is follow the drain line going into the sump (a little bit of water is normal).

For a closed drain system, you would simply look in the drum to see if the water level is rising.

The water should shut off once it reaches wash level, if it doesn't, and water level hasn't risen inside the drum, then chances are you either have a bad drain valve, or some things jammed in the valve holding it open, in which case you will need to check the line(s).

If the water level rises and the water does not shut off (make sure your not running a flush cycle) the water level switch(es) could be bad (or it could be the air-line(s) going to the switch(es) sometimes they get plugged or cracked).

Another thing that will cause the water to run continually is if the water valve sticks on (this being second most common problem) usually the water will continue to run even when the machine is turned off.

Just about any size washer should drain in a 30-40 Seconds. So as it goes into a drain count how many seconds it takes for the drum to empty. If it goes beyond a minute, chances are you have something caught in the drain line or drain valve.

Water Valves:

  • If you have a water valve stuck on chances are it needs a rebuild kit.
  • Sometimes you can get away with taking it apart and clearing any debris that might be causing it to hang open.
  • Before ordering a new rebuild kit make sure the seat inside the valve body is not cracked (if it is, then the whole valve will need to be replaced).
  • Sometimes you can free up a valve just by tapping on it.
  • If that doesn't work you can try turning off the water valve. (The problem with this is, if it's a hot valve, you will only be able to run cold cycles) some machine have more than one hot, and more than one cold valve. (I've seen housekeeping staff run a garden hose to the hot water heater and fill it manually too.)

Machine won't start (nothing comes on: display or lights)

First step, check that the breaker or disconnect is on (or that the line fuses are OK - even though line fuses shouldn’t be used. . .) If that's ok, check for power where it goes into the machine (j-box) you'll have to use a volt-meter for that one.

If power going into the machine is there, check the control fuses (these are the glass type fuses) be sure to turn power off before checking them. If you look hard enough you'll find one or two control fuses (usually on the outside of the machine - Milnors hide there's inside. . .Wascomats hide there's in the back, Uniwash UW's are on the side, UniMac UF's are in the front inside the cover-plate, and UC's, SC's, HC's & AT's are under the top cover).

It may also be that the on/off switch is no good.

Machine won't start (Display and/or lights do come on)

Even though the display lights up, and lights come on, the circuit breaker or line fuse(s) may still be bad. Most machines run on a 3 phase system (that's 3 separate 120V lines) the motors use all three lines, however, the controls (lights, display, water valves, drain valves, computer) only use one or two of these 120V lines. So a bad circuit breaker may only be giving two of the 120V lines instead of three. And likewise, if one of the line fuses (these are the big copper ones) has blown, the controls will work, but the motors won't turn. So be sure to check these first. If they check out OK, then it may be in the door interlock switch(es) (this would be the switch(es) located somewhere close to where the door closes) sometimes the switch hangs up or goes bad.

It may also be the start switch (more usually the case with UC's, HC's, AT's & SC'c, Wascomats and Milnors. (This would be a good low-cost spare part to have on hand (see the rec. spare parts list) because it's a whole lot easier to replace it that it is to test it)

If the machine is a newer Uniwash UW series; they install a magnet where the door handle is, this magnet trips the door interlock switch. Most people do not even know it's there (until they get hit with the service call) this magnet breaks off sometimes so be sure to check it.

Drum won't turn

This is usually just a broken belt (and most of the time, you can hear the motor turning even though the belt is broken).

  • Motor contactors going bad is a common service call. Most of the time though, they give you some warning because they get noisy before they fail.
  • To check open the cover to the motor contactors (usually the top cover),
  • start the machine and
  • watch the contactors to see if they are pulling in, if they are, it still may be a contactor (there are two parts to a contactor: the coil and the contacts. The coil pulls the contactor in, and the contacts provide power to the motor) you will need to use a voltmeter to check voltage going into the contactor (I've had more that a few wires come loose from a contactor) and the voltage going out.
  • If you have the voltage in, but not out, it's the contactor.
  • If you have voltage out, it may be a bad motor, see the motor tech. check page.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you determine that it is a bad motor and it's an 'Elmo' motor, and you are going to try and have it rewound at a motor rewind shop: be sure that the shop is familiar with that procedure (Elmo motors are European motors... they use a metric winding (not S.A.E.) and they have to be wound by hand, not by a machine) if a shop tries to do otherwise the motor will only last 2-3 months at best.

Alarms on the Uniwash UW's & UF's

The Uniwash UW's and UF's have alarm codes. Below is a list of these alarms and what they mean.

Fill Alarm:

This alarm sounds when the machine doesn't fill with water in a certain amount of time (usually 5 Min.) This could be a faulty drain valve (see above) or water valve turned off, or a water fill hose (the one that comes from the wall) is plugged causing reduced water flow (most water hoses have screens - they plug up over time). It may also be a faulty level switch or plugged air-line (read the drain section above)

Empty Alarm:

This alarm sounds when the machine hasn't emptied in the correct amount of time (usually 1 min.) this is usually the drain valve (see the above drain section).

Water Alarm:

This alarm sound when water is trapped in the machine, it won't let you open the door to prevent flooding the room. This is caused by a faulty or plugged drain. If you don't see any water in the machine then it's most likely a level switch or the air line that goes to it plugging up.

Over-temp Alarm:

This alarm sounds when the computer is getting faulty readings from the temperature sensor. It needs to be replaced. It's located in the sump; 2 wires go to it; red and black - to get to it you will need to remove the front panel.


No Heat (Drum Turns)

This is by far the most common dryer problem of all-time. It's usually a bad glow-bar or ignition cable, depending upon the type of ignition system that you have.

Glow-Bar Type Ignitions

The glow-bar system sends electric current through a heating type of element until it glows hot enough to light the gas (this is used on most older style dryers) An I.R. sensor (infrared sensor) determines when the glow-bar is hot enough to light the gas, it then sends a signal to the gas valve to turn on.

To test this system,

  • open the front cover where the burners are; start the dryer in the heat cycle; you should see the glow bar getting red hot (the glow-bar sits inside the burner box just above the burner tubes - there are two types; a round one that has spirals, and a flat one that looks like half of a coat hanger except smaller. If you have a hard time identifying them go look at the pictures of them in the store section)
  • If nothing glows you will need to take a voltage reading across the glow-bar leads (there are 2) as you first start the dryer.
  • No voltage means it's something else. Voltage means replace the bar (a replacement glow-bar should be kept in stock).
  • If the glow-bar lights and does not go off then the I.R. Sensor has failed. (I usually replace the glow-bar along with the I.R. sensor because one will take the other out, and it's just good maint. procedure to do as such.)
  • If the glow-bar lights for about a minute then goes off and you do not hear a click sound come from the gas valve (this click sound is the coil in the gas valve opening) then it's probably a bad gas valve coil.
  • If the glow-bar lights, then turns off (in about a minute) and the gas valve clicks on (and you can hear and/or smell that the gas valve is open) the burner tube holes are plugged and/or the glow-bar needs to be adjusted closer to the burner tube.
  • To clean the burner tubes, you can either shoot compressed air into them, or remove them and run water through them.
  • If it's an older dryer it's best to remove them and run water through them so as to get all the compressed lint completely out.

Spark Ignition Type

  • If you have a spark ignition (looks like a spark plug wire from a fact it is.) The way that this system works is, instead of lighting the gas with a glow-bar, it lights it with a spark.
  • To test the system, open the burner cover, turn the dryer on in heat mode, you should hear the gas valve click, and the spark igniter sparking, (in fact, it may even light the gas, but then goes right back off.)
  • If this is the case then most likely the ignition cable is bad.
  • Most people think that just because they can hear the spark, and see the gas light that the cable is OK, however, the ignition module sends a small amount of voltage the opposite direction through ground, through the fire, and through the high voltage ignition cable back to the ignition unit to let it know that the gas has lit.
  • If the ignition cable has a even the slightest crack in the carbon core cable; that small amount of voltage cannot jump that crack like the higher voltage.... So replace the cable. (if it's a weekend and your faced with a downed dryer; either buy one from an auto parts store, or borrow one from someone's car...)
  • The other thing that it may be is plugged burner tubes, if it looks like there is a lot of lint in the burner compartment you may want to try blowing out the burner tubes or removing them and rinsing them out with water.

Gas Valve Coil

  • If you do not hear the gas valve click (as mentioned above) and you do have spark or the glow-bar is cycling on and off, then odds are that the coil on the gas valve is bad (most gas valves have 2 coils as a redundant safety feature) in all my years of service I've only replaced a couple of entire gas valves, it's always been the coils that sits on top of it.
  • The coil can be replaced as a unit (4 -screws hold it on) it usually has 2 or 4 wires going to it.
  • (It's rec. that this be one of the parts you keep on hand because alot of times repair techs get back ordered on them).
  • Be sure to shut off power and gas before replaced and mark your wires.


  • The other common problem associated with a no heat condition is when the sail switch fails to pull in.
  • The sail switch pulls in when the dryer is started via the air circulation.
  • If the circulation gets reduced either from heavy lint build up on the lint filter or a blocked exhaust vent the sail switch won't close all the way and the heat circuit will shut down. (I use to work in San Francisco, CA and the homeless people would dry their clothes over the exhaust vents on the roof or in the alleys which caused these sail switches to open and shut off the heat circuit...i.e. service call)
  • Another thing that happens a lot is the maids would either clean behind the dryers or store stuff behind them knocking the sail switch out of alignment without knowing it (alot of sail switches are behind the dryer about a foot above the ground).
  • There is an adjustable weight on the sail switch, the proper way to adjust it is: with the dryer off, move the weight just enough so that the slightest movement will cause the switch to click on (switch should not be tripped when dryer is off).
  • Test it by running the dryer, the air circulation should pull it closed.

High Limit Switch

  • For years American Dryers put these high limit switches in their machines that had reset buttons on them (look inside the lint compartment - just under the basket) If the dryer got too hot the switch would trip. If this is the case be sure to check the temp. (I would always replace the temp. sensor whenever there was any doubt just to be safe.)
  • The other thing with American and Cissell dryers was that the connections would always come loose inside the lint compartment (housekeeping staff would knock them loose actually when they would go to clean them) so be sure to check them.


  • Thermodisks are heat sensors that are about the size of a nickel or quarter with two screws. They are placed in lint compartments, burner boxes, and exhaust vents. When they heat up to a preset temp. they will open up (electricity won't flow through them) when the dryer is cold you can check them with a continuity meter (turn power off).

Ignition Modules

  • I have had a fair amount of ignition modules fail. All you have to do is take a voltage reading on them when the dryer is first started in the heat cycle.
  • Voltage will be displayed on ignition module tag (24VAC, 120VAC, 220VAC)
  • If there isn't any voltage to the module follow the circuit to see if there is a transformer in the it (Cissell dryers actually put fuses on their transformers for years)
  • I've had a lot of transformers go bad (especially 24V)

Dryer In-Op (Nothing comes on)

  • Check circuit breaker. If it's a 220V machine be sure you have all legs of your power.
  • Check your neutral leads (I can't tell you how many times I've seen wire nuts come loose...) I've also had alot of power cords (especially 120V) go bad; check them.
  • Check control fuses, there's usually more than one. Sometimes they put them in the computer control board.
  • If there is a transformer in the main circuit (There may be two-one for the heat circuit, the other for the control circuit) be sure to make sure you have incoming and out going voltage according to the schematic voltage or it should say on the transformer

Dryer In-op (Lights come on, Basket won't turn)

  • Make sure door switch is adjusted properly or hasn't failed.
  • Check belt or chain.
  • Check the conduit going into the motor, sometimes older motors get hot and the mount fails causing them to rotate in their craddle and pulling out the conduit and wires. After repairing the wires you can run a large hose clamp around the motor so as to secure it. This will keep you going long enough until it's replaced.
  • If the dryer works only while you hold the start button on, it means the start circuit in the motor has failed (120V - 220V single phase system) I've seen people put tape over the button, however this should only be a temp. fix...replace the motor. For a three phase system, it's most likely the start relay is bad.
  • Be sure to check the main start contactor, these seem to fail quite frequently, they are usually located behind the dryer in the rear control panel.

Commercial Washer Repair and Coin Laundry Repair Company in Los Angeles. We repair: Speed Queen washer, IPSO washer, Milnor washer, UniMac washing machines

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