I just got back from vacation and right before I left my washing machine broke down.  It wouldn't pump the water out of the tub (it was doing a constant beeping...and then when I unplugged it, let it set for 90 seconds and then plugged it back in, the pump would try to pump but you just heard the motor straining).  This is a Fisher Paykel EcoSmart washer which we have had someone come out to repair too many times already and usually they are gone in less than 10 minutes or so after I spend 5 of the 10 minutes writing a $200 check.

So I decided to try and tackle the problem myself.  The first thing I did was throw all the clothes in the washing room sink next to it and shucked all the water out with a big cup.  After I did this I remembered one problem I had previously where a big plastic bag managed to slip underneath the washer and got caught around the big spinning motor until it eventually wouldn't spin.  So I managed to tip it back so I could look underneath it but everything looked fine.

Then I pulled off the soap dispenser top, reached down the middle of the agitator and unscrewed the plastic winged nut that holds the agitator in place.  Then I lifted the agitator out. Nothing seemed unusual.  Nothing wrapped around the agitator gears or anything like that (of course if you are an appliance repair person then you are probably already yelling....IT'S THE PUMP!  IT'S THE PUMP!).

But I'm not an appliance repair person.

So now I figured that it was time to open the cover.  I couldn't figure out how to open the top.  There are clips on the back that I thought you might have to unhook but there was something holding the front together and the clips in back looked suspiciously like a hinge mechanism.  I finally gave up and went to my friend, the Internet...only really looking to find out how to open the top cover.

That is when I found this.

This was exactly the solution to my problem!  And it was so easy to follow.  So just in case the link dies for some reason, here is the fantastic information that saved me $200 along with my own notes inserted in italics.

  1. Turn off the water supply at the tap where the hose is connected and siphon out the water in the machine with a hose. I didn't turn off the water supply and I used a cup to scoop out the water instead of a siphon.
  2. Take off the lid by putting it in the upright position and pulling it straight up and out.
  3. You will now see two screw plugs at the front top of the machine. Remove the plugs to reveal the two screws which you will also need to remove. Once the screws have been removed you can lift the top of the machine up and tilt it toward the back. The back needs to stay attached to the base of the machine. This is the info I was looking for to begin with.  In retrospect this seems really obvious.  My cupboard happened to nicely hold the top close to vertical and out of the way.  I think the repair people that have come out before had a wire or something to hold the top up.  A spouse's hand can also work.  The screws are Phillips.
  4. Now inside the machine take off the top soap holder and put your arm down the tube to unscrew the the locking device that holds the assembly together. Now you can pull the assembly out and put it to one side. I had actually already done this before I propped the top up.
  5. The silver inner bowl needs to come out. The top cover of the bowl is clipped on by about six plastic clips which can break if you try too hard so be careful when unclasping these. Once unclipped you will be able to lift the plastic cover off but don't undo the attached spring. Just put the cover to the side that the spring is attached to and leave it there for now. There was a lot of gunk and lint over all the clips so it wasn't easy for me to tell how to properly unclasp (and yes this plastic does seem very fragile after having the machine for about 8 years).  Pull the relatively thin cover plastic out past the underlying plastic hook.  All six clips unclasp one by one nicely without the awkwardness of undoing more than one at a time.
  6. Lift the silver bowl that usually holds the clothes out of the machine. It might need some force but it should slide straight up and out. Careful, the holes in the metal are sharp on the outside.
  7. You can now see (probably under some water) a red plastic cover with one screw holding it on. The pump cover on my machine was translucent white. Remove the screw and take the cover out. You might now be able to see the offending item. It could be rusted by now. What is it? A hair clip or something? Show it to your wife with an all knowing look!  In my case this was a zipper handle...I think from a sleeping bag that we had washed.  I was now done and put the whole thing back together.
  8. If the item has deteriorated you might need to take the next plastic cover underneath out. It should pull straight out and has a rubber seal that might fall off. Do not be alarmed! It fits snuggly back around the base of the cover. You will work it out when you go to put it back together.
  9. You might want to syphon the rest of the water out. Point to note: it doesn't taste very nice! It is a good idea to give everything a clean with hot water as you go along.
  10. Once you have removed all foreign objects you can put the machine back in the reverse order. If this does not resolve your problem, sorry, it's time to open the wallet and call a technician. Good luck!

Thanks James and howtomendit.com.  I definitely ran an empty hot water load since there was water that sat there for almost a week and was quite foul smelling by the time I got to work on this.

But now everything is working like a dream!  I'm on a hardware high!

[Update!  Well, I thought everything was running just fine.  I'm pretty sure at one point water was pumped out of the machine, but then I ran into the same problem.  So I did everything again to open her up and had to do step 8 this time...low and behold I found a rubber band.  This time, it did work like a dream after removing the rubber band]

   -Matt