I figured that the washing machine may have shut itself down due to an imbalanced load (not to mention a load that looked far to heavy for our basic residential unit), so I removed the pillow and attempted to restart it. Nothing but a loud hum coming from some indeterminate location. Crap.
I bailed a few gallons of water from the tub and again attempted to restart the machine. Again with the same loud hum from some mysterious location in the depths of the machine. I didn't like where this was going, but I knew what had to be done - I pulled out my least favorite (but most useful) book, the one about fixing your own appliances.
That book has helped me out of many a jam involving the self-same washing machine, its errant mate the dryer, and my gas stove, as well. I haven't had to deal with the refrigerators or the freezer chest yet (knock wood), but I'm sure that book'll help me figure them out.
I referred to the section at the top of the clothes washer section's first page: "Washer won't start". I hate starting at that one, because the very first suggestion is "Is the washing machine plugged in?" and I always have to smack my head and exclaim "Now, why the heck did I not think of that?!" Then I start in with the real fun stuff. I went through checking the electrical connections throughout, then tested the resistance on the timer and the timer motor, and checked for bubbles in the water level tube.
Then I fast forwarded to where I had a very bad feeling the problem really lay. I followed the instructions in the book about checking the continuity of circuits between the various leads going into the motor, and discovered that there was one pair of leads that didn't seem quite right. "Aha!" thought I, "they're a great band from Norway who had that cool hit song from 1985 with the really awesomely artsy pencil-drawn video!" Then I remembered that I was supposed to be solving this motor mystery.
I concluded that the motor was likely burned out from the heavy load, so I looked up new motors on line. Hoo boy - the three or four places I found dealing with this kind of motor wanted anywhere from $120 to $145 for a new one. Then I remembered to try eBay, and found a used one for $25 (plus $25 for shipping). I couldn't justify dropping a new motor into a 15-year old machine (let alone a machine that's seen us through two adults' and six kids' worth of laundry day in and day out for all that time), so I bought the eBay motor.
When the new-used motor arrived Thursday, I eagerly got into the job of replacing the old one with this one. Of course, that meant dismantling the washing machine again (but by now I could do it blindfolded), then put everything back together again with the new-used motor. I hit the start button with high hopes, only to be met by that same frustrating hum again. I used a few words I'll not repeat in a family-friendly account of the proceedings, then took to the book again.
Among the many pages in the book dealing with washing machines, I finally found a small little paragraph going through the best steps by which to perform troubleshooting of this nature, and just before checking the motor itself was something about checking the pump. Ohhh, the pump. That part that would normally be able to pull the water out of the tub of the washer when you're otherwise hearing the electric hum of the motor along with it.
So I pulled the plastic pump off the new-used motor (which didn't seem to quite fit right either), and peeked inside. And that's where I discovered The $50 Sock.
It's the attack of The $50 Sock
After wrestling for another 20 minutes trying to pull the stinking sock out of the pump because it was wrapped entirely around the impeller (and you can't take the pump apart because it's a solid body unit), I finally got the sock out, put the pump back on the washing machine (after putting the old motor back on because there probably wasn't anything wrong with it after all - and when confronted with a choice between two evils, one should always go with the evil they're more familiar with anyway), and hit the start button again.
Yay! This time there was success (and much rejoicing)! So now we can do the laundry again, which when I spell it out and look at it like this, isn't really all that exciting. And of course there's the extra spare motor I've got sitting in a box out in the garage. But hey, it was something to do, right...?