I read a couple of articles recently on how to repair broken household goods and just how bloody difficult it can be.
I myself have a love/hate relationship with my washing machine and yet strangely the bond between us is stronger than I’ve ever had with any other appliance in my life.
I’ve had TVs that were more elegant, speakers that were cooler, my current toaster is actually pretty sexy compared to everything else in my kitchen and of course there’s been countless phones I’ve enjoyed more and been much prouder of, though I’m loathe to admit it … I think handset worship is way out of hand already for large chunks of the western world.
My machine is actually a washer-dryer.
It was made by Hotpoint about fifteen years ago.
It’s big and clunky and white. It’s also very stubborn. Just like its owner, you might say ?
Well, yeah … it’s temperamental to say the least. But then it’s been through a lot. I’ve caned it down the years – almost literally a couple of times – and yet it’s still going.
About a year ago I opened the door thinking the damn thing had finished its drying cycle after a wash, only for dirty water to piss out all over the kitchen floor.
Nothing stinks like dirty washing machine water.
I couldn’t work out what was wrong with it: it just refused to drain.
In the end I dug out a copy of the manual online and tried to find out where the filter was located. Most machines have a flap on the front and all you do is put a shallow baking tray on the floor, open it up, remove the fluff from the filter, slam it back in and you’re away. But not so with the zombie. This badass doesn’t even have a filter … or, rather, it does but it’s not exactly accessible. I had to pull the machine out, unscrew about thirty seven tiny screws on the back plate to remove it, taking great care to avoid losing a finger or three in the process, only to find that the filter itself was housed inside a thick rubber hose that was fed from the base of the drum. To remove that bit I had to cut a heavy-duty cable-tie – the kind used by terrorists on 24 – and that’s something that always feels rather final in a situation like this. If the manufacturer could only use a cable-tie for holding something in place, cutting it off represents the point of no return: once you snip that bad boy, there’s no going back. You can’t just screw it together again and hope for the best – you absolutely need to be certain of two things: firstly that you can handle it from that point onwards; secondly that you’ve got a matching cable-tie in your toolbox.
The rubber hose was L-shaped and heavily ribbed, like some weird sex aid to enable you to play with someone round the corner …
I soon discovered I was as good with this piece of rubber as I had been with every other encounter I’d experienced with the substance down the years: all fingers and thumbs and never quite able to get to grips with it in the way that I want to. In the end, due to the shape, I got a long pair of pliers from the toolbox and painstakingly pulled out large balls of fluff from within. I know why it was blocked: I foolishly washed an old blanket and forty years worth of accumulated dust and fibers had decided to make a break for it and find a new home. You know that smell you get from an old blanket you find in the bottom of a cupboard ?
Well, I thought I could deal with it.
Eventually I managed to get the tube clear, re-fit it complete with industrial cable-tie and the machine was as good as … well, a fifteen year old washing machine, I suppose.
About a month later it stopped spinning.
The same thing happened with the water as it renewed its relationship with my kitchen floor. They were like long lost lovers …
This time I knew it was more serious, so I did some extensive research online before breaking out the screwdrivers. It turns out that the drum is built like a giant Scalextric car, with a couple of carbon blocks acting in the same way that the brushes do on the little racers and – just like on your favourite mini-Ferrari – they can wear out and they need replacing. I looked up the model number and matched it to the appropriate spares from the excellent eSpares site and found to my utter joy they’d only set me back about nine quid.
The parts arrived a couple of days later and once again I undid the back plate of the machine. There were a few less screws this time – seriously, you don’t need that many, do you ? It was then that I realised I was in over my head. To get to the blocks, I had to remove the motor itself and this needed at least three hands as well as a better set of tools. The project was put back another day or two as I sought out an appropriate wrench: small enough for me to get at the nuts I needed to reach, yet also with enough leverage to actually undo them once I got there.
It was a tough, long and dirty job … but supremely rewarding when the drum began spinning again. I felt quite smug. I even gave the front of the machine a bit of a polish. It only looked thirteen years old now …
… then the door stopped working.
I mean, it still opened and closed and everything, but something had changed. The “tooth” had fallen out with the hole and they were no longer communicating. The only way I could get the damned thing to work at all was by repeatedly slamming it shut – and I mean ten to twenty times from subtly different angles – until it finally got the message and kicked in again …
I took the top panel off this time and – don’t ask me how – managed to unscrew the little electronic circuit board inside the door that presumably starts the entire program of cleaning. I dropped it a couple of times, but eventually I managed to put it back on, despite being none the wiser.
The door dance was back on the agenda.
Any time I wanted to do some washing, I’d have to seduce the zombie into co-operating. It actually felt like a stale marriage by this point: fifteen years, neither of us particularly fussed about the other, just reluctantly going through the motions. You know you need to do it about once a week so you just close your eyes and get on with it …
I thought the end had finally come last week when I actually slammed the door so hard that part of the locking mechanism was dislodged. I forlornly got my stubby Phillips screwdriver out and took it apart, part of me fearing the worst, while the rest of me looked forward to accepting delivery of a newer, sexier model …
Insert your own joke about marriage here.
Anyway, I put the door lock back together and weirdly it worked first time. Could it be that all along I’d been using the wrong method ? She just wanted a bit of a fiddle first, a slight re-positioning and then she’d be good to go ?
Well … um … no, actually: it was most definitely a one-off. The magic between us has gone for good and I’m now back to the repetitive slam.
It’s getting me down.
I don’t think she’s enjoying it either.
I think it’s time to bite the bullet and call it a day.
We had some fun together, especially in the early days, but for at least ten years it’s all been a bit of a chore. I’ve had my head turned but resisted. I’ve done everything I could to rekindle the love between us but now both she and I are beginning to resemble loveless husks, slowly festering in our own pools of resentment … pools of dirty washing machine water, in fact.
I don’t love her anymore.
I don’t like beating her every time I want to do anything with her.
One of us has to go.
… and it ain’t gonna be me.