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I have an old washing machine from the 90s, likely to be ~25 years old (make and model: Zoppas Pratica PTX43).

The machine has been working fine up to about two months ago. More recently, however, I noticed that every wash cycle seems to be taking longer and longer.

The average wash cycle duration used to be 2 hours, now it exceed 3+ hours and seems on the increase.

None of the searches attempted such as this or this yielded helpful results.

Most of the queries in the search seem to be about recently purchased machines or suggest problems that likely do not apply to my situation.

Symptoms

  • Cycles get stuck at intermediate areas (between one letter and the other, or at the start of one letter)
  • Machine emits a humming noise for the duration of the 'stuck' phase
  • If left unmanaged, this situation can go on for 30+ minutes

What I checked

  • Ensured that the washing machine filter is clean
  • Checked that both water intake and waste pipes are not bent
  • I don't believe water intake is not getting water as the clothes are being washed
  • Similarly the water is being drained so I do not believe the waste pipe is clogged
  • The soap drawer is relatively clean/unclogged

What I do as workaround (i.e. to speed up the machine)

When I notice that the machine is stuck, I just manually move the program dial forward a notch, so that the machine moves on to the next action. This is despite the instruction manual advises never to do that. This manual action allows me to get a cycle duration down to a more acceptable time (i.e. 2-2.5 hours)

My questions

  • Is this symptom linked to a known/predictable cause that a repairer can reasonably fix or am I better off getting a new machine?
  • Is there any danger that this issue, combined with my disregarding the manual instructions not to manually move the program dial, is likely to lead to unexpected outcomes (e.g. some electrical short-circuit)?
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    Is it one of those where the program dial turns by itself during the cycle until it arrives back at the stop position? – AndreKR Jun 29 at 20:06
  • @AndreKR Yes. I assume nowadays you also have more modern products, i.e. with electronic programs where no dial needs turning? – Dave White Jun 30 at 10:00
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    Yes, with most modern washing machines you set the dial to the program you want, press start and it will run the whole program internally, turning the dial during the program does nothing. – AndreKR Jun 30 at 10:52
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    Just wanted to shout before you get in there and take anything apart: it could simply be a case of "de-gunking" the dial. If it's an old electro-cam model (where the dial turns and closes electrical contacts for parts of the programme) just a bit of crud behind it can get it stuck when it needs to tick over onto the next step. They normally pull straight off with a bit of force and you can clean it out. I'd give it a shot before getting any tools out. – Rab Jun 30 at 21:12
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    @Rab I think the behaviour you described would be consistent with the dial always getting stuck at the same places. I'm not saying this does not happen, but it seems more random. Plus, I just tried rotating the dial manually a couple of times fully and it does not feel like it provides more resistance at specific points. – Dave White Jul 1 at 11:33
27

If moving the programmer forward a notch fixes it, it's most likely simply a failing stepper-motor on the programmer. I've fixed a similar vintage machine with a similar fault.

It's not terribly hard to fix, but the programmer can be fiddly to disassemble (in a "re-assemble-able" manner) because they have lots of gears. If you can get to the end-shafts of the steppers you can see which is failing by attaching a 'flag' or marking it, to see which isn't moving.

I believe these items are fairly generic; When mine failed, I went into our local appliance-repair store with the old one in my hand, not really expecting that they would have one, and would have to order it in. I'd barely opened my mouth, when the guy at the counter reached behind him without really looking and put a new one on the counter!

Obviously, the usual caveats apply; be careful when operating the machine with exposed mains, and rotating parts which can trap unwary fingers. It goes without saying that it should be unplugged before any repairs are attempted.

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    A great way to avoid getting shocked by the mains is to unplug the thing first. In fact, that's pretty much "Repair 101". – computercarguy Jun 30 at 22:47
  • @computercarguy True, but it's tricky to see which of the steppers isn't working then. There's nothing wrong with working on live equipment, provided you are careful. I'm not talking about probing around in the electrics, here, but in a case like this, if you want to see what's broke, then you're going to need to run the machine with the top off. – SiHa Jul 1 at 6:14
  • True, but you shouldn't be sticking your fingers in too many places with it running. Nor should you be actively fixing it with it plugged in. – computercarguy Jul 1 at 15:56
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    Well, of course not, I wasn't suggesting that you should, simply stating where the fault is most likely to be. I've edited the answer just to make this abundantly clear for the hard-of-thinking, I trust this is satisfactory? – SiHa Jul 1 at 19:08
  • With as minimally DIY people of most generations are today, you can never be too safe to add in the "standard" safety warnings. Sort of like the Jeff Foxworthy skit about warnings on packages, specifically auto fan belts. "It's like a machine or something!" :-) – computercarguy Jul 1 at 19:50

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