An unbalanced washer tends to vibrate excessively and cause a lot of unwanted noise during the spin cycle. Even worse, it could potentially break down unexpectedly. The vibrations could cause internal parts to wear out, and you’d have to call a repair technician unless you’re capable of repairing it yourself. Fortunately, the most common causes are easily identified and could be fixed with little to no technical knowledge.
Typical causes of washers being off balance include:
- Shipping bolts accidentally left in place
- Improper leveling
- An overloaded drum
- Large sheets mixed with small items
- A few large items washed on their own
- Items caught below the tub
- Unstable pedestal
- Defective/worn internal parts
More often than not you’ll be able to fix these issues yourself, but if something turns out to be broken you’ll have to check your warranty and/or call a professional.
Known causes of washers being off balance during the spin cycle
We searched for answers across a multiple variety of sites, and asked the professionals for their opinions on the best known causes for excessive vibration in a washer. We saw a couple of causes being mentioned again and again, and since washing machines have a somewhat similar layout you might be able to solve the issue easily without having to call a professional or take the entire machine apart.
#1 Shipping bolts accidentally left in place
If you just bought a new washer and installed it properly, the issue could be caused by shipping bolts accidentally left in place. Shipping bolts and -materials are designed to keep the tub in place during transport, as it could otherwise damage the internal parts.
Different washers may have shipping materials installed at different locations, but they’re most commonly found at the back of the machine or at the bottom.
How to fix – Read through the installation instructions, in order to learn whether the shipping bolts have been left in place or not. The installation instructions provide specific descriptions and illustrations of the shipping materials and their locations, so make sure everything is removed properly prior to the first use.
#2 Improper leveling
Your washer has been designed to automatically distribute the laundry inside the tub, in order to properly balance the load. However, if you decide to move your washer to another location, you may have to relevel it manually. If the machine isn’t level it will cause it to be off balance, which eventually could cause excessive vibration during the spin cycle.
How to fix – Start by checking that your washer is level across the front, back, and sides. Also check that all legs are in firm contact with a solid floor, preferably a concrete or tiled floor. Consider getting a set of Rubber Isolation Feet, as they could reduce vibration on a solid floor as well as protect the surface.
You may have to relevel your washer as well. With a front-loading washer you’ll have to turn the legs to raise or lower them. Check the manual for directions on proper releveling. Top-loading machines can be releveled by tipping them forward, and then placing them back on the floor.
If your washer only seems to be off balance occasionally, the issue might be caused by an overload. If you fill the washer beyond capacity, it may be unable to balance the load properly. Some materials are also heavier than others, so if you’re washing heavy materials you may have to reduce the load significantly to keep the washer balanced during the spin cycle.
How to fix – First, check if overloading is the cause: Run a few small/half loads, and see if the washer continues to vibrate. If it remains in balance with no vibration, it’s most likely getting off balance due to an overloaded tub.
#4 Large sheets mixed with small items
We found this answer by LadyTech on iFixit, who claims the following: “Washing sheets with towels will always create an off balance load. Wash them separate.”
This is true. If sheets are mixed with smaller items, for example towels and clothing, it may create an off balance load. This is usually caused by the sheets getting wrapped around smaller items, which then creates a ball that your washer can’t distribute evenly. If your washer is unable to distribute weight evenly during the spin cycle, it will cause excessive vibration. Some washers bypass the spin cycle if it’s unable to balance the load, but others would start vibrating excessively and potentially cause damage to the machine.
How to fix – This is another easy fix. If you’ve observed that your washer is only off balance when you’re washing sheets along with smaller items, wash your sheets separately. We recommend washing 2-3 pieces at a time, but this highly depends on size and weight as well as the capacity of your washer.
#5 A few large items washed on their own
Washing just one or two items at a time makes it impossible for your washer to balance the load. If you want to wash a jacket for example, the washer may not even be able to start the spin cycle since it remains off balance. Or else it may start the spin cycle despite being off balance, resulting in excessive noise and vibration.
How to fix – You need to add something else to the tub in order for it to balance the load properly prior to the spin cycle. If you want to wash your jacket, consider washing another jacket at the same time. If this could cause an overload, we recommend making use of a local laundromat instead. Laundromats usually have washers with very high capacity, which enables you to wash everything from regular clothing to blankets and curtains.
#6 Items caught below the tub
Sometimes small items manage to get caught below the tub, and this could cause problems with your washer being off balance during the spin cycle. Small items include everything from socks to coins, and anything in between. You may not be able to see this problem right away, as trapped items are hidden below/behind the inner tub – and therefore completely out of sight.
How to fix – This fix requires a bit of disassembly, but it depends on your specific washing machine. We recommend checking the manual first, as there could be an easy way to inspect your washer for any trapped items. You may have to either remove the agitator or a front/top panel, in order to reach behind the inner tub.
#7 Unstable pedestal
We’ve seen this mentioned across multiple sites, including this one, and we fully agree that this could cause issues. Many people like to place their washing machine on a pedestal, especially if it’s a front-loading machine, in order to elevate the location of the door to a more comfortable height that reduces the strain to your back.
If the pedestal is unstable and your washer is off balance, it could potentially amplify the shifting back and forth. This may eventually cause even bigger vibrations and more noise then if the machine was placed directly on a solid floor.
How to fix – Since this is usually a stability issue, consider replacing the pedestal or strengthening the existing pedestal. You may have to take the pedestal apart for this, which is why a new pedestal could be worth getting instead. Removing the pedestal and placing your washer back onto the solid floor could also solve the issue. Remember to relevel your washer if you remove or replace the pedestal.
#8 Something could be broken
If you have no luck solving the issue yourself, there may be a defective part inside your washer. For troubleshooting, we recommend first checking the manual for specific ideas as to what could be wrong with your washer. You’re most likely looking at a broken screw, belt, bolt, or perhaps the internal shock absorbers. This could happen over time, as some parts simply wear out and require a replacement.
How to fix – Unless you know your way around washers and their mechanical parts, we recommend that you first check the warranty and call the manufacturer for advice. They may be able to solve the issue for you. Otherwise, you may want to call a local repair company and request a quote.