Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer: Tub Teardown 1

The discussion following that post prompted me to take a closer look at the corroded spider. I planned to pull the spider off the back of the drum and examine the pieces, but a week of dribbling thread lube around the bolts left two of them firmly affixed.

While I don’t have it completely apart yet, some observations are in order…

Spider mounting bolts through drum
Spider mounting bolts through drum

The bolts are stainless steel and utterly immovable with the usual screwdriver-handle-mounted Torx bit. I got the first two bolts out by putting a T30 bit in a 1/4-inch socket in a ratchet wrench and applying brute force.

A few days of thread lube (the incomparable PB B’Laster) persuaded two more out of their lairs. The remaining bolts may require even more brute force, but I’ll give the lube a few more days to work its magic.

Despite that, the bolts and holes are not corroded. They may have some thread locker down in there, but I see little evidence of that. I think it’s just a case of being torqued down hard, then set adrift in ionic water for half a decade.

The outer third of each arm has a covering of corrosion products, but the metal below that (now dried and flaking) gunk seems undamaged. The arms have severe corrosion and cracking throughout the inner two-thirds of their length.

Spider corrosion
Spider corrosion

If this were chemical corrosion, I’d expect it to apply evenly throughout the length of the arm, because the presence of corrosion products over the entire arm indicates pretty good distribution.

However, galvanic corrosion should follow the same pattern, so I’m not sure what to make of this.

The fact that an oxidation layer on the stainless steel tends to passivate it may not really matter. Compare the surface areas of the drum and the spider: there’s a whole lot more drum than spider, so even a passivated drum could provide enough current to rot the spider.

The ends of the spider spend their lives whipping through the water inside the tub at a pretty good clip. That could dislodge most of the crud and leave them reasonably clean, at least compared to the hub that moves more slowly (same rotational speed, smaller radius). It’s also true that the water level never reaches the hub, remaining below the level of the door seal.

Thus, the hub probably gets splashed, but never immersed, and thus has no way to remove any contaminants. The corrosion products simply build up there, keeping it wet throughout its life.

I maintain there’s little drying going on, even with the door open, in the relatively short intervals between washings. The hub region would be least likely to dry, however, because there’s absolutely no ventilation back there.

All that notwithstanding, this corrosion should not happen.

I’d very much like to see some measurements: we’re all obviously guessing at the conditions. The plastic tub surrounding the drum has a port for the rear vent near the perimeter, so it’s possible to get a (cramped, inconvenient) look in there without tearing the washer apart.

More later, after I get the mumble thing apart…

20 thoughts on “Sears Kenmore HE3 Washer: Tub Teardown 1

  1. I trust you realize you never did tell us the story of why you had to buy a new drum despite the purported warranty…

  2. Once the bolts had steeped in penetrating lubricant for a bit longer (Kroil, anybody?), I’d have at ’em with a heat gun or even a propane torch, then the usual hammer tapping and brute force.

    1. have at ‘em with a heat gun or even a propane torch

      I’m hoping just the threat of a torch will force a confession…

  3. Given that the spider material is a major design flaw in most/all frontload washers, would it be possible to machine / cast/ otherwise make a replacement out of a more suitable material?

    1. It’s one single humongous chunk of molded alloy, with a pretty fancy shaft stuck in the middle and the screw holes tapped in the ends. Likely done on a special-purpose machine.

      I’d like to watch somebody else make one of ’em, for sure!

  4. Just last week we heard that disasterous ‘clunk’ which I hoped was the belt and recently found slivers of molten plastic in the tub and in the dryer screen. The belt was fine so I’m convinced its this aluminum spider on the back of the SS tub. What ever happened to the lifetime warrenty restitution for the tub? does everything pull out of the back or do things slide out of the from once the pulley and shaft nut are removed?

    Thanks W.T.

    1. What ever happened to the lifetime warrenty restitution for the tub?

      Basically, you’re screwed.

      Their Indian “Customer Service” supervisor was willing to spend as much time with me as it took to convince me that the “Limited Lifetime Warranty” on the Drum had expired.

      Suggestion: look up the CEO’s number, call him, and agree to talk to the Executive Customer Service rep. Get a problem number and do not stop until they agree to eat the labor charge. There may be additional charges; my story is not yet complete.

      does everything pull out of the back

      This is why they want to charge you labor: you must dismantle everything to extract the stainless Drum. There’s nothing terribly difficult about it, but you’re looking at probably two hours of labor in each direction, at which point it’ll be cheaper to buy a new washer.

      Compare prices at (link to Drum); the Drum was about half the price of the Sears version (link to Basket, note there’s no picture). The plastic Tub (you’ll almost certainly need the front half) was about the same price. I think the Sears price is carefully calculated to provide more motivation to buy a new washer…

      Good luck… you’ll need it!

  5. I had a similar experience. Sears covered the service call (flat rate all labor included, pay only parts).

    The point at which I gave up:
    * technician says there are a ton of things wrong with the machine: need a new circuit board because there was water in the bottom of the machine, need new bearings, need a new tub because there are (very few, shallow) scratches in it.
    * service says I can *not* get only some of the items fixed as that would “leave the machine in a non-working state”.

    My advice: make sure the tech does not put anything in the “need to fix” list that you do not want there. Higher-ups in customer service will use that report as the bible of what is wrong with your machine. At least they did for me.

    Good luck!

    1. They control the game and you get to play by their rules. As soon as you get Sears involved, you lose.

      You can fix it yourself for somewhat less than a new washer, but they still win: no warranty payout.

      need a new circuit board because there was water in the bottom of the machine

      That’s ingenious. All the control circuitry is in the top of the cabinet, with only the motor driver near the bottom, in a well-protected case…

  6. While I’m bugging you about year-old posts, per #2 “the story is not yet finished”… :)

    1. I must swallow hard and finish that, having just hauled the tub to the town’s bulk disposal site…

  7. I have a rule for Pb’laster and similar: let them do their work for 24 hours max. If it’s still stuck, I get out the MAPP torch. If I’m impatient, I get the torch out right away. My bet is that those screws would pop right out had you done two things:

    1. Applied heat to the cast part. I use a thermocouple on the other side (if accessible), let it go up to 250-300F.
    2. Used an impact driver (my favourite is blue Makita LXT).

  8. Hmmmm… I love the debate about the cause of this failure. A little bit about me, I’m an engineer by trade with a bachelors in chemical engineering. So, from an engineers point of view, the “Spider Bracket” as it has been called is actually over engineered for the task at hand…However, there is a serious flaw. You have 2 different metals (Stainless and aluminum) which cause bi-metal corrosion. In essence you are creating a battery. Two unlike metals and a dilute acid. Any battery is made up up two unlike metals and a dilute acid…Ni-Cad (Nickle-Cadmium), Lead-Copper (this is your car battery) This is why you get an unpleasant feeling when you bite down on a piece of metal if you have fillings. Your fillings are tin based. When you bite down on something i.e. tin foil which is actually aluminum, you have two unlike metals (Tin and aluminum) and a dilute acid (your saliva) you’ve created a battery. Enough about that. I’ve actually run into this problem and solved it by building a new spider bracket out of 1/4″ plate steel. I made a 4″ circle with an 1 3/8 hole in the middle. (This is 1/4″ plate steel) Believe it or not, if you chip away the aluminum, there’s a 1 3/8″ steel shaft in the middle. This is no easy task…I have pictures and measurements if you would like them. Anyway, after doing so I made 3-3 inch wide legs by 10 3/8″, welded them to the circle and tapped them with 1/4 28 NF threads. IT WORKS FAMOUSLY! Now, critics will say “There’s still a bi-metal issue”, they are correct. There is. However, the new spider bracket I made was Galvanized at a local chrome shop. As you know, water, given time, will conquer any barrier. I figure with this design….my barrier is 10 years plus…it still beats paying SEARS $400!!!!!! I win!

    1. there’s a 1 3/8″ steel shaft in the middle

      I looked long and hard at that thing and simply gave up: congratulations on a heroic repair!

      There’s no way of telling which stainless steel they used for the drum, but it should be closer to plain old steel on the corrosion scale than aluminum; if you’re lucky, the two will be right next to each other and both will outlast the electronics.

      The original spider might even be die-cast zinc alloy (or some such), which is a great way to mass-produce a lightweight and complex metal shape with near-net dimensions. The fact that the final product corrodes like crazy against stainless is just, well, one of those side effects…

    2. Bud:

      I would like to see the pictures. Was that leg 3 1/3 X 10 3/8″?? Maybe stainless plate would work without the plating?? I’m an engineer too and would like to tackle this when mine goes south Kenmore Elite HE3

      1. If you catch the failure immediately at the first odd sound, you’ll save yourself the cost of the plastic tub around the drum. Otherwise, things get spendy rather quickly!

        Go for it…

  9. Do you think it’d be useful to check for this deficiency on any modern washer? I have Electrolux – for all I know, it can have the same issue lurking there! I’d much rather be proactive – it’ll save me a lot of grief if I can simply measure the original spider and have a replacement machined at my leisure. Especially that I need to ask around for access to a machine shop…

    1. check for this deficiency

      If you’re willing to tear the washer down before the spider fails, it’d be a useful exercise; the only catch would be merging the new spider with the old shaft. However, with a new assembly in hand, I’d be sorely tempted to tear the washer down again, install the upgrade, mount the old one on a spike by the portcullis as a warning to others of its ilk, and live happily ever after…

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