My late father-in-law was immensely proud of the fact that he kept the family washing machine running for over 30 years. The machine was a small Westinghouse front-loader. Over the years he replaced belts, motors, rotors, knobs – all its guts. It was a family joke that he allowed the washer to “live” way past its expected life span.
My in-laws and my parents grew up in the Depression. Nothing was wasted—not food, not clothes, not cars, certainly not money. It was this mindset as well as a somewhat parsimonious nature that drove my father-in-law to never waste a penny. If he could, he would avoid buying “new,” preferring “used.”
My husband has inherited his dad’s reluctance to buy “new.” After all, it ain’t broke until it absolutely falls apart! For example, we currently have a 26-year-old Whirlpool washing machine (I found the charge slip from Cummins Appliance dated 1994). The area under the lid has rusted out, and sometimes chunks of rust end up in the drum during a wash.
If that isn’t bad enough, the machine needs “bypass surgery.” Since September it stops in the middle of a wash cycle, at no particular point. Sometimes it won’t rinse; other times it won’t spin. I’ll lift the lid and find a goopy, soapy mess. My “in-house appliance repairman” goes to the basement, presses or bangs on the lid, turns a knob or two and miraculously, another load finishes. Very aggravating.
I am spoiled. Except in college when I had to pay a quarter a wash and a dime for the dryer, I’ve always had access to my own washer and dryer. We lived in the Pickwick Apartments when we first got married. The rental office’s selling point was that each unit had its own washer and dryer! Two years later we moved into our house with a working washer. Our current laundry pair are the second ones we’ve bought in 44 years of marriage.
In late September my husband grudgingly admitted that it was time to replace this appliance. I gleefully began my new washer internet research in the beginning of October. I found three possible models with decent reviews and ratings.
Off we went to the appliance store on a Monday. Two of the models I liked were no longer available. The third one is still in production but due to COVID-19, tariffs, delays in shipping—whatever—it won’t be in stock for at least three weeks. This machine is assembled in the United States, but parts come from overseas. Much to my dismay we left the store without buying anything. My husband wanted to comparison shop. Yes, we found the washer $300 less online at a big box store, but the website doesn’t promise delivery until mid-November, maybe.
My wash day, Thursday, comes quickly. Nothing changed the week we went machine shopping. As usual, the first load went in and the washer started right up. However, the cycle stopped at spin, and the clothes were sopping wet. Hubby came downstairs, poked around, gave the lid a hard tap, reset the dial and got the machine running. I began the second load after the first was finished. This time the machine stopped at rinse. Again, he fiddled with the washer and got it working.
Later that afternoon, he said to me, “Whirlpool has the part we need for about $50.” What? Now, he’s going to fix it!? I thought we agreed on a new machine. How does he know what part it needs? “Well,” he continued, “just in case this one dies before we can get a new one, it’ll be good to have the part. Maybe it can even be returned if I don’t open the package.”
I replied, “You want to invest $50 in a 26-year-old washing machine?”
His answer: “I bet I can find a used part cheaper.”
The search was on. He checked Amazon and found the part, or something “similar,” for about $10. Free overnight shipping with my Amazon Prime account, too. Then, he began watching YouTube videos on how to replace the part. He’s “pretty sure” he can do it. Meanwhile, I have strict orders not to do any “extra” laundry – one load a week! That barely covers socks and underwear. Our dry-cleaning bill will skyrocket instead. Thank goodness a neighbor has two machines and has offered the use of her second one when my patience runs out.
Time will tell if he fixes the old washer or we get a new one.
I forgot to mention that when we bought the Whirlpool washer 26 years ago, my husband insisted that we keep the old Maytag. He figured he was going to “use it for parts.” That machine sat on a side wall in the basement gathering dust and cobwebs. Years later when the “real” appliance repairman came to fix our dryer and saw the Maytag, he asked if he could have it. You bet I let him haul it away. For free he got an old machine, but guess who fixed the dryer? Not him; my husband found a $3 part at Sears and installed it himself.
Like father, like son.
Read more by Eileen Creeger.