Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Repair: End of the Story

Our story so far:

So here’s the Rest of the Story, reconstructed from my notes…

Having already torn the thing apart and discovered that the repair would include both the drum+spider assembly (not available separately, which may actually make sense given high-speed spin balancing) and the front half of the plastic tub, I priced them at RepairClinic and Sears Parts Direct. In round numbers, this adventure would cost $300-400 just for the parts, a bit less than half the cost of the washer.

As I recall, the Sears price for the drum was roughly twice that for RepairClinic, while the tub was about the same. I suspect Sears deliberately inflates the drum price to make sure nobody actually buys the thing and to pad out the tech’s time to replace it.

The warranty in the front of the Owner’s Manual seemed promising:

Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Warranty

Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer Warranty

So I called the Sears Parts & Warranty line, walked the menu tree, explained the situation, asked for a new drum, and was told that they must dispatch a tech to diagnose the problem. Despite the warranty, there would be a labor fee and an additional fee to process the parts order. There was no way to determine those fees before dispatching the tech.

I pointed out that I’d already dismantled the washer, knew exactly what the problem was, and just needed the replacement drum as described in the warranty. I was put on hold to “process my request”, eventually being transferred to a “tech specialist department for further assistance”.

The “tech specialist” was willing to spend as much time as required to convince me that the Lifetime Warranty had expired, based on a deliberate misreading of the terms. As far as they were concerned, the sentence “After the first year, you will be charged for labor” meant that the warranty had expired on a five-year-old washer and that the drum was no longer covered. They would not, under any circumstances, send me the drum. Yes, I asked for a supervisor and, no, I doubt that she really was one; handing the call to the next cubicle is standard call-center subterfuge to placate irate customers.

I eventually decided that this was not a language-barrier issue, but a carefully planned & executed part of their standard script: letting their Indian-subcontinent call center take the heat works wonderfully well for the purpose of getting rid of warranty claims.

So I looked up the phone number of the “interim CEO/President” (I assume he’s long gone by now) at Sears Holding Corporation and gave him a call. Of course, I didn’t expect to actually reach the CEO, but I figured I’d shake the dice a bit to see if a better combination came up.

It turns out that they expect this sort of behavior and immediately connected me to their “Executive Customer Service” department, which was described as “the highest they can go”. So I told my tale, asked her to ship me a drum, and was told that wasn’t possible. What she could do, as a “one time offer”, was to “waive the labor fee” when they dispatched the tech.

I asked if there were any other fees. She refused to answer that question. I asked if there was a charge to order the parts. She refused to answer that question. It being a Friday, I asked when the tech could arrive; she said that they would attempt to schedule it for Monday, but Tuesday was more likely. I asked if he’d arrive with the drum. She said the tech would assess the problem and order the necessary parts, requiring a second appointment later in the week.

I told her that it was obvious Sears had no intention of honoring their warranty. She repeated that this was a one-time offer. We did not part on good terms.

So I ordered the drum & tub from RepairClinic, two huge boxes arrived on Tuesday, I installed everything, buttoned up the machinery, and the washer has worked fine ever since.

Every time I looked at that big drum, I got mad all over again. I never mustered the enthusiasm to take the spider off the back for a post-mortem, which is why there’s no Part 2 after that post. Eventually I hauled the carcasses to the town’s disposal site and bid them good riddance.

Obviously, Sears won: they got rid of me without spending a dime on the warranty. It cost them maybe two hours of phone time, but I doubt the pleasant voice in the “Executive Customer Service” department makes much more than minimum wage and Indian-subcontinent personnel are basically free compared to that.

I’m doing a bunch of appliance repair right now and wonder just how much we’d be spending if we had to go through the Official Channels for repairs. I’m definitely earning my keep… and having much more fun than being jerked around by that corporate structure.

And that’s the end of that story…

,

  1. #1 by Mark Stanley on 2012-04-21 - 08:26

    So when you say Sears won and it only cost them two hours of phone time, is that really the extent of what it cost them?

    • #2 by Ed on 2012-04-21 - 09:26

      is that really the extent of what it cost them?

      Pretty much.

      It seems all the major retailers have engaged in a race to the bottom, so I don’t know how you’d pick a retailer or manufacturer that offers demonstrably better support / warranty / ethics based on historical data. Remember that past performance is no guarantee of future behavior.

      That certainly applies to Sears, which has become part of a financial conglomerate with some retail outlets.

    • #3 by Luke on 2013-12-02 - 11:25

      The warranty is completely meaningless, they provide warranty parts only to their authorized service rep, and provide the drum and spider as a single unit. You are completely at the mercy of who they send as a service rep. And, you cannot send Sears a picture or take the machine or parts to the local repair center (just a few miles away). The service rep I have been put in contact with refuses to order parts for me to fix it myself – he is ‘completely by the book’ and insists that since I opened the machine up, I voided the drum warranty anyway (that’s not what the warranty text says, by the way). The ‘Fix It’ amount is more than the purchase of a new machine (nice LG model 452012 is $599.00 today at Lowes). I doubt I will be a purchaser of Sears or Kenmore or Whirlpool appliances again.

      Exact problem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VmU7_wBz0o

      Limited Lifetime Warranty on Stainless Steel Drum: For the lifetime of the washer from the date of purchase, Sears will replace the Stainless Steel wash drum due to defective material or workmanship. After the first year, you will be charged for labor. (What a line of BS)

      • #4 by Ed on 2013-12-02 - 12:47

        After the first year, you will be charged for labor

        There should be a very large emphasis tag around “will be charged”, because they will charge you enough to make it worth your while to Go Away. Translation: they win.

        that’s not what the warranty text says, by the way

        I take it you’ve conversed with someone who doesn’t understand Plain English, too… [sigh]

  2. #5 by madbodger on 2012-04-21 - 08:57

    Ouch. That is the very definition of frustrating. I do like RepairClinic, however. I’m currently trying to figure out which of the huge variety of fan motors they offer will fit in my distiller (the STP fix didn’t work for my fan either). If that doesn’t work, I’ll simply copy your fix and bolt a big case fan on top.

    • #6 by Ed on 2012-04-21 - 09:28

      bolt a big case fan on top

      At least you won’t have problems with frost on the blades, which eventually killed the PC fan concept stone cold dead. More details on that misadventure in a bit…

  3. #7 by mslizvt on 2012-04-21 - 11:42

    Ed,

    You probably know this already, but I don’t know of any Sears front load washers that have made it through to ten years of life. The spider in mine corroded to nothing in the first seven years.

    It’s my understanding that the material the spider is made of, can’t stand up to the chemicals in the various laundry soaps. I know it’s suggested to use front load specific laundry detergent, but what the heck? Can’t Sears change the material they make the spider out of?

    Am I misunderstanding all that, or is this a good case of planned obsolescence?

    Liz

    • #8 by Ed on 2012-04-21 - 12:02

      I know it’s suggested to use front load specific laundry detergent

      Which we’ve been doing since Day Zero, evidently to no avail. The discussions around various posts of this saga (search for HE3 to find them) indicate that nothing works: the spider simply disintegrates after a few years. Faster under some conditions, slower in others, but much faster than anything else in the washer.

      Given the number of these washers in the field, the number of manufacturers involved, and the long-standing nature of the problem, this cannot be happening by simple ignorance. I’m willing to believe the original engineering design was inadvertently wrong (such mistakes happen), but the refusal to properly correct it smacks of a cost-saving business model: it’s not planned obsolescence, just contempt for the customer.

      Given the Sears’ flat-out refusal to honor the clear wording of the warranty, I suspect following the money would be fruitful: the less they spend on warranty repairs, the fatter the CEO bonus becomes. But that requires a different skill set than mine…

      [grumble]

    • #10 by Ed on 2012-04-21 - 21:31

      Well, the drum started out full of holes…

    • #11 by Aki on 2012-04-22 - 05:41

      Looks too good to be true…

      “Kineserna Kommer”

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1754016/

      • #12 by Ed on 2012-04-22 - 09:48

        As has always been true: “Beware of strangers bearing gifts!”

        • #13 by Aki on 2012-04-23 - 03:29

          • #14 by Ed on 2012-04-23 - 06:39

            Well, not quite. In that case, it seems the stranger moved into the village, rather than having the village put on a false front.

            But I admit to not watching the film… [grin]

  4. #15 by david on 2012-04-22 - 00:11

    Ugh. Scumbags, the lot of them. Sorry to make you revisit the sore subject, but thanks for posting it. :)

    • #16 by Ed on 2012-04-22 - 11:18

      I feel better now… [sigh]

  5. #17 by Rob on 2012-04-23 - 20:07

    try Dugger’s laundry detergent… homemade laundry soap! $10.00 per YEAR’S SUPPLY
    works great for our front loader, reduces odors inherent in the HE models.
    Great article, just got our set from Best Buy (Frigidaire) hope it lasts………..
    RepairClinic you say?

    PS: It’s great to see actual computer/geeky folk who can actually do other things than madkeyboardingskillz LOL!

    • #18 by Ed on 2012-04-24 - 07:54

      homemade laundry soap!

      It can’t possibly be any worse than commercial detergent, which obviously doesn’t preserve those spiders. Thanks for the tip!

      who can actually do other things

      Early on, I fell under the influence of folks who were good with their hands and expected me to do things with my hands…

  6. #19 by Hrap on 2012-04-24 - 21:02

    Our Kenmore (made by Frigidare) lasted 7 years. The spider failed just like yours. That’s the end of Kenmore appliances for us… not that I expect Sears to be alive much longer.

    • #20 by Ed on 2012-04-24 - 21:48

      the end of Kenmore appliances for us

      As nearly as I can tell, there aren’t any good alternatives: all the other manufacturers seem to have exactly the same problem. Exceedingly high end machines may be different, but it’s not clear they’re overwhelmingly better cost performers.

      Maybe we just expect too much from white goods these days?

      • #21 by madbodger on 2012-04-25 - 00:02

        I had considered getting a $2000 Miele, but ended up getting a $900 Asko six years ago. It’s a compact European design, wants 240V at 20A, and doesn’t have the leakomatic seal design of the Neptune style frontloaders. The thing has run like a charm for six years, gets clothes clean, doesn’t smell funky, there’s a little front door to get at the button trap, and when I left a pen in my pocket, discovered one of the drum baffles is removable for just such incidents. I don’t really think it’s “exceedingly high end”, but it seems a solid design and in the same price range as the other frontloaders.

        • #22 by Aki on 2012-04-25 - 00:24

          ASKO kitchen and laundry appliances in USA? Their repertoire is different here in Finland.

          http://www.asko.fi/etusivu

        • #23 by madbodger on 2012-04-25 - 00:28

          Interesting. They’re based in Sweden: http://www.asko.se/

        • #24 by Aki on 2012-04-25 - 02:00

          “Gorenje och UPO
          Asko Appliances är en del av Gorenje Group, en betydande och välkänd aktör på den globala vitvarumarkanden med en omsättning på 1382 miljoner Euro (2010) och omkring 11,000 anställda (2010). Gorenje Group finns representerade i mer än 70 länder världen över. För mer information om Gorenje besök även http://www.gorenje.se.”

          OK. It is UPO in Finland.

          http://www.upo.fi/pyykinkasittely/pesukoneet/

        • #25 by Ed on 2012-04-25 - 08:36

          The former is on the low end of crazy high (by our standards, anyway), the latter isn’t… and it would make Aki happy, too!

          The Consumer Reports ratings put them well down on the list; we can quibble about CU’s validity, but it’s the only time products actually go through reasonably well-controlled tests. CU doesn’t have enough data for reliability ratings, but comments on public forums seem scathing, even after derating for “only the grumpy complain”.

          Still looks like a crapshoot. If you ever get to tear that thing down (a task I wish on nobody), let me know what’s inside.

          • #26 by madbodger on 2012-05-07 - 08:38

            At some point, I’ll get to do a light teardown, as the motor brushes won’t last forever (I bought a set ahead of time). Apparently a lot of the earlier failures were due to a previous design that used a different moter.

      • #27 by hexley ball on 2012-04-25 - 11:48

        Sometimes Miele washers show up for a song on Craigslist; perhaps because the owner is moving and can’t take it or some such reason.

        I have been a fan of Miele ever since opening up our old Miele vacuum cleaner for a minor repair and discovering electronic parts ***that I could recognize*** inside. Stuff like FR-4 epoxy laminate printed circuit boards and Molex connectors, for example. Better quality than some PC innards; and a night-and-day difference when compared to the absolute schlock inside most of our generic appliances.

        I’d say Miele is definitely worth checking out. If you have a local dealer, there might be a stripped-down demo washer on display, so you can see all the goodies inside for yourself.

        • #28 by Ed on 2012-04-25 - 12:39

          discovering electronic parts ***that I could recognize*** inside

          Well, no wonder they’re crazy expensive: they haven’t been subjected to the usual ruthless cost reduction!

          No biscuit for their CEO, I suppose, but, just maybe, he thinks differently about that, too?

          Just checked the local Craigslist and found a one: “the brain of the machine, called Novotronic, which is Miele’s surface mounted design (SMD) microprocessor.”

          So it goes…

        • #29 by Aki on 2012-04-25 - 13:58

          What about a vacuum cleaner? Just 2 grand…
          “Our unique Lux service supplies dust bags, filter packs and filters for air cleaners directly to your home. No service or postal charges.”

          http://www.hedengrendirect.fi/product_list_direct?kategoria=11000

          • #30 by Ed on 2012-04-25 - 15:34

            Having outlived far too many lifetime warranties, I’m reluctant to sign up…

        • #31 by madbodger on 2012-05-07 - 08:41

          I have a Miele vacuum as well. It’s a lot more powerful (in both CFM and ultimate vacuum) and quieter than any other vacuum I’ve owned. It’s trivial to take the entire hose apart, which is great if something gets stuck in there. I got the inexpensive Solaris, which comes with the nice HEPA seals but not the filter, then swapped in the filter. I don’t get sneezy when I use it, so I assume it actually is sealed and works. I’ve only had one breakage, when the cord retract reel broke. Vacuum still worked, just the cord didn’t retract with any enthusiasm. The repair parts had been redesigned and are an obvious improvement – I don’t think that reel is going to break again anytime soon.

          • #32 by Ed on 2012-05-07 - 10:09

            quieter than any other vacuum

            Once upon a time, we lived in a house with a central vacuum system: a hideously noisy monster in the garage, with jacks scattered in most of the right places. Lift the lid, plug in the hose, and all you hear is the swish of air vanishing overboard.

            It worked really, really well until a wren family set up housekeeping in the exhaust duct…

        • #33 by Ed on 2012-07-09 - 15:42

          This just appeared as an incoming search term: miele drum spider corroded.

          It might indicate that somebody had the usual problem or perhaps it indicates that somebody was looking to find out whether anybody else had a problem. One hopes they went away happy, either way.

          Definitely not a statistically valid sample. Your mileage may vary. Enlarged to show texture. Etc.

  7. #34 by joe on 2012-12-31 - 12:53

    Thanks for posting this!! I did almost exactly what you did (but didn’t tear it apart) paid $50 fee when the diagnosis tech came out to order the parts. He diagnosed just a bad bearing but ordered a new stainless drum along with the rear tub assembly which houses the bearings and seal. I call and complained to the ECS and they waived the labor charge ;-). I had one year left on the tub warranty so for $50 I got a New rear tub and New drum installed! I asked to keep the old drum and rear tub which the tech was happy to oblige cause he didn’t have to haul it away. i removed the old bearings, seal and replaced them with new ones. The old Stainless tub was in great shape so now I have replacement parts ready to go cause by the time I need them my warranty will have expired.

    • #35 by Ed on 2012-12-31 - 13:03

      diagnosed just a bad bearing

      But ordered the other parts Just To Be Sure, I suppose.

      Make sure the spider on the back of the old drum hasn’t corroded, because that’s what killed our washer. You’ve had the other failure, where the bearing seals fail first.

      Keep those parts in the attic (or wherever) and tear down the washer at the first sound of a problem, because a cracked spider will let the tub take out the front tub assembly.

      Happy New Year… and may you never see the inside of that washer again!

  8. #36 by Jo Rey on 2013-07-29 - 17:08

    Have you reported them to the BBB, as far as i know if enough claims are made on the same issue, they look into the problem, i might however be mistaken but it is unlawfull to place false advertising.