How do I know if my washing machine agitator is bad?

Stationary agitator

As a homeowner, it’s essential to keep an eye on the functionality of household appliances, including the washing machine agitator. The agitator plays a crucial role in the cleaning process, ensuring that your laundry is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Like any other mechanical part, the agitator can become faulty or damaged over time, leading to various issues. Here, we will discuss the signs of a bad washing machine agitator to help you take the necessary steps to address the problem.

Key Takeaways:

  • Identifying a faulty washing machine agitator is crucial for maintaining clean and spotless laundry.
  • Keep an eye out for unusual noises, weak cleaning performance, lack of movement, and visible damage.
  • If you suspect a bad agitator, seek professional help to inspect and repair your washing machine.

Understanding the washing machine agitator function

Before we delve into identifying a bad agitator, let’s first understand how the washing machine agitator works.

The agitator is a spindle that extends from the center of the washing machine’s wash drum. It is responsible for creating a continuous, robust water flow that lifts and drops the clothing in the water. This motion mimics the motion of hand washing and ensures that all clothing items are thoroughly cleaned.

The agitator is typically equipped with fins or vanes that help distribute water and soap onto the clothes, maximizing the cleaning performance. The agitator’s rotational speed and direction can also vary, depending on the washing cycle and the washing machine’s model.

Without a functional agitator, the washing machine’s cleaning performance will be significantly reduced. Clothes will not be adequately cleaned, leading to unpleasant odors, stains, and overall unsatisfactory washing results.

The agitator’s role in deep cleaning

The agitator plays a crucial role in ensuring that your laundry is thoroughly cleaned. Its unique motion effectively reaches every part of the clothing, including the hard-to-reach spots, and agitates the water and soap mixture to extract even the most stubborn stains and dirt particles.

In summary, a functional washing machine agitator is essential for obtaining the desired cleaning results in every wash cycle. Next, we will discuss the signs that indicate a faulty or failing washing machine agitator.

Unusual noises during the wash cycle

If you hear strange noises coming from your washing machine during a cycle, it could indicate a problem with the agitator. These washing machine noises can range from mild clicking or grinding sounds to loud banging or thumping noises that can be heard throughout your home.

Tip: Take note of the type of sound you hear and when it occurs during the cycle. This information will help you diagnose and resolve the issue.

The following are some of the unusual sounds that could be related to agitator problems:

Noise Description
Clicking or grinding Can be a sign of a loose or worn agitator belt or worn out agitator dogs.
Banging or thumping May indicate a loose or damaged agitator or a problem with the agitator coupling.
Squealing or squeaking Can be caused by a worn out or damaged motor coupling or a problem with the transmission or clutch assembly.

Note: These sounds may also be caused by other washing machine components, so it’s best to have a professional diagnose the problem if you’re unsure.

If you notice any of these washing machine noises, it’s important to address the issue before it causes further damage to your appliance and affects its performance. Ignoring the problem may result in higher repair costs in the long run.

Weak or Ineffective Cleaning Performance

If you’ve noticed that your washing machine is not cleaning your clothes as effectively as it used to, it could be due to a bad agitator. A poorly functioning agitator can result in a weak wash, leaving behind dirt, stains, and residue on your clothes.

When your agitator fails to agitate the clothes properly, it can lead to ineffective cleaning. The agitator’s back-and-forth motion is essential for removing dirt and grime from the clothes. Without this movement, your laundry will not be properly cleaned.

If you suspect that your agitator is causing poor cleaning performance, you can try running your washing machine on a small load without any clothes. Observe the agitator while it’s running to see if it’s moving correctly. If it’s not moving as it should, it’s time to take action.

How to Improve Cleaning Performance

First, make sure the agitator is clean of any debris or build-up as this can cause it to work less effectively. Several cleaning solutions are available that can help you clean the agitator and the washing machine. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully to ensure the cleaning solution is safe for your washing machine.

You can also try adjusting the water level in the washing machine. If there’s not enough water, the clothes may not move around enough to allow the agitator to clean them properly. Similarly, too much water can lead to ineffective cleaning by diluting the detergent and not allowing the clothes to move around enough.

Finally, if none of these solutions works, it may be time to replace your agitator or seek professional help. A new agitator can vastly improve your washing machine’s cleaning performance, ensuring your clothes are always clean and spotless.

Agitator not moving or spinning

If you’ve noticed that your washing machine agitator isn’t moving or spinning during the wash cycle, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. A stationary agitator can result in laundry that isn’t thoroughly cleaned, leaving behind dirt, stains, and odors.

The most common cause of an agitator not spinning or moving is a worn-out or damaged agitator directional cogs, also known as dog ears. These dog ears are responsible for the agitator’s back-and-forth movement. If they’re worn out or broken, the agitator won’t rotate as it’s supposed to.

Another possible culprit is a broken drive belt, which connects the agitator to the washing machine’s motor. If the belt is worn or broken, the agitator won’t function properly.

It’s crucial to address this issue promptly, as delaying repairs can lead to further damage to your washing machine. A simple DIY solution is to replace the worn-out or broken parts yourself. However, if you aren’t comfortable doing this, you should seek the help of a professional.

Replacing the agitator directional cogs

If the agitator directional cogs are worn or broken, replacing them is a straightforward process that you can do yourself. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Remove the fabric softener dispenser from the top of the agitator to expose the bolt that holds it in place.
  2. Using a socket wrench, remove the bolt and lift the agitator out of the washing machine.
  3. Separate the agitator’s top and bottom sections by unsnapping them.
  4. Remove the agitator directional cogs by gently prying them out.
  5. Insert the new agitator directional cogs and snap the two sections of the agitator back together.
  6. Reinsert the agitator into the washing machine and secure it into place with the bolt.

Your agitator should now function properly, and your laundry will be thoroughly cleaned.

Agitator movement out of sync

If you notice that your washing machine is not agitating clothes evenly, it could be a sign that the agitator movement is out of sync. This means that the agitator is not moving uniformly, causing clothes to clump together in one area and not allowing for proper cleaning.

Uneven agitation can occur for a variety of reasons, including a worn out or damaged agitator, a loose agitator bolt, or an obstruction in the agitator’s movement. If left unchecked, this can lead to poor cleaning performance and even further damage to your washing machine.

One way to troubleshoot this issue is to visually inspect the agitator for any visible signs of damage or wear. Additionally, check that the agitator bolt is tight and that there are no obstructions in the agitator’s path.

If these steps do not resolve the issue, it may be necessary to call a professional for further inspection and repair. A skilled technician will be able to diagnose the root cause of the agitator movement issue and provide an effective solution.

Agitator damaged or worn out

If you’ve noticed visible damage to your agitator, it’s likely it is in need of immediate attention. Damage that goes unchecked could lead to more severe problems down the line, such as leaking water or excessive noise. Additionally, if your washing machine is an older model, it’s possible that the agitator has worn out over time and is no longer functioning as it should.

Signs of a damaged or worn-out agitator include chipped or broken blades, cracks or holes in the agitator body, or the agitator no longer fitting securely on the agitator shaft. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to stop using the washing machine and take immediate action.

If you are unsure whether your agitator is damaged or worn out, you can refer back to our previous sections to identify other symptoms that could be indicative of a bad agitator. Alternatively, you could contact a professional to diagnose and repair the issue.

Depending on the severity of the damage or wear, repair options can range from simple parts replacement to a complete agitator replacement. A professional technician can provide you with the best course of action and ensure your washing machine is fully restored to its optimal condition.

Remember, ignoring a damaged or worn-out agitator can lead to more severe washing machine problems in the future. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action.

Professional Inspection and Repair Options

If you have identified any signs of a bad washing machine agitator, it might be necessary to seek professional help. An experienced technician can inspect the agitator and diagnose the issue to determine if a repair or replacement is necessary.

Professional inspection and repair options can ensure the longevity and efficiency of your washing machine and ensure it is working optimally. Some benefits of seeking professional help include:

  • Accurate diagnosis: A professional technician can diagnose the issue accurately and provide optimal solutions.
  • Expertise: Experienced professionals have the knowledge and expertise necessary to handle any washing machine issues and ensure they are resolved correctly.
  • Time-saving: Instead of trying to diagnose and fix the issue yourself, seeking professional help can save time by quickly identifying the root cause of the problem.

When looking for a professional service to inspect or repair your washing machine agitator, it is essential to choose one with the necessary qualifications and expertise. Look for a service with a good reputation, license, and certification to ensure that you are getting quality service.

Some repair options that a professional may suggest include replacing the agitator, repairing or replacing the gearbox, or replacing the motor coupling. These options will depend on the severity of the issue and the type of washing machine you have.

“By enlisting the help of a professional, you can rest assured that your washing machine agitator will be inspected, repaired, or replaced correctly, ensuring your laundry is clean and spotless.”


Identifying a bad washing machine agitator is crucial for maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of your laundry. By paying attention to the signs we’ve discussed, including unusual noises, weak cleaning performance, lack of movement or synchronization, and visible damage, you can take appropriate action to resolve the issue.

If you suspect that your washing machine agitator is failing, seeking professional help for inspection and repair is always an option. A trained technician can provide a detailed assessment of the problem and recommend the best course of action, which may include agitator repair or replacement.

Remember, regular maintenance and timely repair can significantly extend the life of your washing machine and prevent costly replacement or repair bills down the road.

Max Appliance Repair

Written by Max | An appliance repair technician with more than 15 years experience in appliance repair services in Toronto and the GTA.

Disclaimer: This post "How do I know if my washing machine agitator is bad?" is for information purposes only. If you need specific help, please contact Max Appliance Repair at