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August 11, 2014

What Major Appliance Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:12 am

 When you read a manufacturer’s description of a major appliance’s features, everything sounds rosy. But when you read reviews of that very same appliance by consumers who have owned it for a while, used it, and learned its quirks, you sometimes get a totally different picture. Sometimes, they are horrifying, and they make you question the quality of major appliances today.

In 2012, we presented some excerpts of customer reviews of two expensive refrigerators, and the tales of woe and terrible problems described would make anyone afraid to buy any new frigerator. So, in advance of Halloween, we’d like to scare you again, this time by looking at some washing machine horror stories.

Here are edited excerpts of reviews written by (un)happy customers about a few front loading washers and one laundry center. (Obviously, we have taken note of the worst reviews. Often, some consumers will give the very same model five stars, which just adds to the confusion.)

*MOUSE PRINT:

washer “I could wash my clothes in a river and they would come out cleaner than when I wash them using the supposed sanitary cycle. Nothing ever rinses out of the clothes first wash, nothing ever washes off the clothing material, and it takes 4 or 5 washes for the items to be reasonably clean.”

Samsung Model #WF45H6300AW, $949, reviewed at HomeDepot.com. NOTE: At BestBuy.com this model has an average rating of 4.5 stars and is generally well-regarded. Sometimes a lemon gets by factory inspectors.

Frigidaire“I have the washer and dryer that are under a year old. The washer pauses its self around 5 times per cycle, it takes 12 hours to do a load of laundry and it comes out soaking wet. Problem started 6 months in.”

“This model is plagued by electronics issues. The first one we bought had a defective motherboard. It died right after the 1 year warranty ended. Since it cost almost as much to repair as to buy a new one, we bought a second of the same model. It just broke as well, this time the door switch burnt out.”

“We just got it delivered and installed and it won’t work. We put the first load of laundry in and pressed start. The lights flashed briefly, and then it turned off. It does this every time. Really disappointing.”

“Apparently, the washer eats socks which then fouls up the mechanics of the machine resulting in an expensive repair. This morning, for no reason at all the machine just began turning on.”

Frigidaire Model # FAFW3801LW, $699, reviewed at HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, Lowes (46 one-star reviews).

Kenmore“I am currently on my 2nd laundry center since Dec 2012. First one broke in under 90 days. This second one is now being repaired for the 3rd time since March of 2013. The cost of parts alone is almost the cost of the machine. Do not even consider this machine.”

“Stay away from this center! We had the unit replaced after the first was a lemon within 6mos of purchasing. The second is also a dud. … The washer, where to start… the technician is now on my Christmas list. This washer has been rebuilt 5 times. The seal at the base of the tub constantly detached and spilled gallons of water onto my wooden floors and into our subflooring. I now have not have a working unit since [two months ago].”

“I give it one star because I don’t believe the system will allow me to give it zero. Not only does the dryer rip buttons off my dress shirts with regularity (even on delicate setting), I’ve already had to put in two trouble calls for it. The second repair call came after the main, internal drain hose for the washer disconnected (apparently due to an inherent design flaw), spilling multiple gallons of water on our floor. The resulting flood ruined the carpet in two rooms, and forced us to have a number of oriental rugs professionally cleaned. Worse yet, both times we put in repair calls under our warranty service, it took almost two weeks for a technician to arrive.”

Sears Kenmore Laundry Center (made by GE), Model # 61532, $1052.

The lesson in all this is that the manufacturer is not going to tell you about all the problems that people report to them — the undisclosed mouse print, if you will. Why haven’t major appliance makers improved their products year after year much like the car industry? Instead, they seem to be producing more lemons than Sunkist, and some of the problems seem to be engineering and design flaws.

To protect yourself, you are going to have to search out reviews from real owners of these major appliances. Weigh the bad reviews against the good reviews and keep your fingers crossed.

• • •

10 Comments

  1. Having recently purchased a washer/dryer (about 6 months ago), I did a lot of research into the various products. What I discovered is that (just as for TVs) there was a time frame when manufacturers were using poorly made or underrated capacitors which caused most of the electrical issues (as those capacitors would fail earlier then planned). Since most field technicians only work at the board level (vs. component level) they would swap the whole board. This is why there were a lot of motherboard replacements. Note: I think this problem has been resolved in most of the newer model machines.

    The smell issues are related to keeping the washer door closed when not in use. The rubber seal will typically trap some water. When you close the door, the seal compresses which doesn’t allow the water to evaporate (which can cause some mold growth). Over time, this can cause the washer to smell. The solution is simple: 1) dry the seal when your done with the day’s washing and 2) leave the door open (we also leave the soap drawer open a little). This will allow the water that is still trapped in the rubber seal to evaporate.

    Anyway, I believe that the difference in reviews are based on the time the reviews were made. When you first purchased a machine, it worked great and you loved it which resulted in a good review. Over time, either due to failures or electronics or the way the machine is used (keeping the door closed when not in use), problems occur and a bad review would be written.

    I use the reviews (from several different sites) to see if there is a pattern. If there is a pattern I am now informed enough to decide if I want to purchase an extended warranty or not.

    Comment by Tim — August 11, 2014 @ 7:58 am
  2. I am baffled by how long these kinds of appliances have been on the market. One would think that manufacturers would stop producing a bunch of faulty models and rely more on fewer high quality models. I guess if people keep buying then there is less incentive? Modern appliance designs reek of engineers trying to over-justify their jobs. The mixed reviews on many of these products doesn’t help either.

    My solution to this problem has been to buy the simplest models for everything. Saves a lot of money in the long run. Instead of buying the $1000 washing machine, foolishly assuming higher quality because it has a lot of knobs and settings, I buy the simpler $400 washing machine. Because the $400 machine is simpler there are fewer things that can break and even if it does break I can replace it and still not pay more than the $1000 machine would have cost me.

    I don’t understand how appliance standards from decades ago seem better than they are today. My grandparents had appliances that lasted my entire childhood and were already in use before I was born. That’s capitalism for you.

    Comment by Wayne R — August 11, 2014 @ 8:18 am
  3. We just bought an old house with 40 year old appliances, so everything had to be replaced. I do my homework, researching everything. Here’s the problem: everything, even the highest rated appliances, had consumer reviews that would curl your hair. I cound not find one, not one, that didn’t have horrible consumer comments. So in the end, we just closed our eyes, got the best deal we could, and bought what we needed. One of the appliances, the front loading dryer (I am short and could not find a top loader washer that I could reach, so sprung for the fancy ones)worked exactly 2 times before it had to be replaced a month ago. We talked to the service guy who said “they don’t make them like they used to.” Boy was he right. We’re keeping our fingers crossed about everything.

    Comment by susan sherwin — August 11, 2014 @ 9:24 am
  4. I agree with Wayne. Long ago I interrupted the sales pitch that would attempt to sell me an appliance way above my needs. For the most part it has paid off. My French door fridge has no water/ice in the door and we disconnected the water filter [we have a whole house filter].
    The only issue was with our dishwasher; mechanically it works fine. However the interior parts are plastic and break continually. In the first year. the repair tech was out no less than 5 times. This seems to be a pattern with new machines and even sales people have told us that any appliance is made to last about 6-7 years.
    Be it known that I have been a Consumer Reports and Consumer World follower for more years than I can count but it doesn’t always help due to the quality, or lack thereof, of modern appliances.

    Comment by Kathleen — August 11, 2014 @ 9:40 am
  5. It is so difficult. It is hard to find any true review since so many people are now paid to write good reviews, companies write good reviews under the guise of being a consumer, or so many bad reviews are just removed.

    Plus, you now see people give things terrible reviews or just one star for the silliest thing. I’ve seen people completely bash a product because they didn’t like the color, or because it wouldn’t fit in their space or something.

    Comment by Max — August 11, 2014 @ 10:34 am
  6. @Tim I had the smell issue as well. I would wash the cloths and then set a timer so I remember to go get them out and leave all the doors open. I used 2-3 different kinds of ‘cleaners’ to get the funk out. I got kind of OCD about it. Even wiping down the surfaces after every wash. Nothing worked. Until I switched from liquid (that the manufacture recommends to powder, tide specifically). My sister had the same issue and her smell issue is gone as well after she tried what I did. I went as far as putting a dehumidifier in the same room.

    The liquids are based on petroleum. Once the perfume washes away all you have left is crude oil. Which has a nasty smell and something in them promotes mold growth.

    It was 1-2 weeks after using powder the smell went away.

    My wife is still pouting as the liquid was easier and less mess putting it in. I will however, not budge :)

    tl;dr All powder and dryer sheets cleaned up the smell issue.

    Comment by me — August 11, 2014 @ 12:04 pm
  7. Our 1930’s fridge finally died a year ago. I asked the owner of the appliance store which model would last the longest. He looked at me and said none of them will last more than 10 years. That is just the way all appliances are designed now. With that answer I chose a ding and dent model at a greatly reduced cost that still came with an in-house warranty. And before anyone says BUT look at the energy savings! Our electric consumption actually went up, slightly, but up….

    Comment by Nancy — August 11, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
  8. It is telling that this Mouse Print appears the week that Consumer World also links to a news story on how Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers are lobbying for a law that would prevent consumers from mounting class action lawsuits if an appliance maker lied about its claims for Energy Star certification. Sadly, it is difficult for the individual consumer to determine whether a manufacturer’s Energy Star claims are true and prohibitively expensive given the likely payback to initiate a single person lawsuit. Class action suits are the consumer’s only practical alternative, and at least some appliance companies want to take that away.

    Comment by JonK — August 11, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
  9. When my old washing machine did its last load and I was looking for a new one I lost count of how many stores I visited. I was looking for one with a mechanical timer rather than electronic. If you live in an area that gets thunderstorms I recommend you try to stick with mechanical timers on washers, dryers and dishwashers. I wasn’t able to find what I wanted, but I did locate and buy a supersize surge arrestor that I have my washer & dryer plugged into.
    Speaking of reviews, I was reading lawn mower reviews on one of the big home improvement stores’ web site. There were so many glowing reviews of at least one brand of mower I started reading the fine print. The reviews were posted by the product manufacturer, allegedly from unsolicited testimonials they received by mail. Sure.

    Comment by Tom Wyckoff — August 18, 2014 @ 5:59 pm
  10. I almost cried when my 25+ year old washer quit last year. I knew I would have to buy a washer not designed to clean clothes, but instead to save water and energy. Sure enough, it doesn’t clean the clothes anything like the old one. I have to be careful to scrub any spot before washing. Of course, I can’t open the lid to actually see what’s happening during the wash because of the safety lid. I can tell by the sound that it doesn’t agitate like the old one, and like one of the reviewers said, it pauses several times during the wash when it just sits and soaks. That, of course, increases the time for a load with no increased cleaning.

    Comment by mary defries — August 22, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

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