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Thursday, August 28, 2008

There goes my Saturday night, I go without a fight

Our Maytag Neptune washing machine died in its sleep last week. It was approaching its 10th birthday.

We called Sears repair, and their guy came out today with the news. Apparently something called a motor control panel went out, and the only way he could fix it was to replace that panel, the motor itself, and some other doohickey whose name I didn't catch -- my eyes had glazed over by that point in his spiel. The repair job would cost north of 500 bucks, and we'd have to wait six to eight days for parts. The end.

If the control panel is bad, why must we replace the whole motor? Why doesn't Sears have the parts nearby? Why did I have to talk to someone in Asia to have a local repair man come to the house? Forget it, Jake -- it's Chinatown.

I never liked this washing machine. It was conveniently front-loading, water-efficient, and energy-efficient -- but man, it wrinkled everything that came out of it, and I mean badly. At times it was impossible to tell which type of clean clothing article you were withdrawing from the chamber until you shook out some major creases. Whatever energy we saved with the washer, we used in ironing. Ironing jeans. Ironing sheets and pillowcases. Ironing synthetic garments that shouldn't need ironing, ever. The Maytag Neptune was a serious wrinkle machine. Not only did the ironing burn energy, but it also burned time, which at our place is even more valuable. We will not be reliving that experience if we can at all help it.

What we're trying to determine now, as we shop for a new machine, is what aspect or aspects of the Neptune caused all the wrinkling. Was it the "high efficiency" water features, the fact that it was front loading, the size of the drum? We are willing to pay for more water if it saves us time, and we'd rather use energy washing than ironing.

We're inclined to stay away from Sears now, and the Neptune experience has killed off whatever cachet the Maytag name might have had around our place. Recommendations are welcome -- and we'll be asking Jake at the Appliance Blog to chime in as well.

Comments (29)

We've been happy with a front loader from LG that we got at Home Depot last Fall when our old, used washer was on its last legs. And it's not the fancy kind with the steam option. That one is very expensive.

My spouse won a Frigidaire front loader in a drawing at Fred Meyer stadium nine years ago. It also gave up the ghost this year, but not in a benign way. Its way of saying goodbye was to deposit polka-dot patterns of transmission grease on our linens. Its replacement is a Maytag MFW9700SQ1 purchased from Home Depot. They delivered and took away the remains, which is a big deal for us because we live above ground level. It's quietly powerful and competent. I think the front-loaders do wrinkle things in the process of wringing them out. But it makes for a nice, casual look. And they qualify for all manner of incentives and rebates. Check Consumer Reports, too. Good luck.

I gave up on Sears years ago. Time was, they sold quality stuff. Those times are long gone.

We've been very happy (thank you very much) with our standard top-loader. It can handle the clothes of a family, the stuff gets clean, and we don't have to waste a whole lot of time and energy untangling clothes and ironing.

"Energy efficient" means different things to different people. For me, the term means "I don't have to waste a lot of time to get the job done".

If we had to do a lot of ironing, though, I wonder which would be rated more "energy efficient" - using an electric iron or a couple of old-style flatirons heated in the fireplace?

Having once worked on the Energy Star program, I can tell you those first-gen Neptunes were notorious lemons. Don't give up on front-loaders, they're much better these days.

As far as the wrinkles are concerned, get a bigger drum. Ditto for the dryer. When transferring clothes from the washer to dryer, give everything a hard shake to loosen wrinkled wads because they don't fully come undone in the drying cycle.

Also, when buying a new front loader, don't fall for the salesman trap... when buying a front loader, you don't need to buy the expensive matching dryer. Energy-efficient dryers don't exist...

We bought our Whirpool "Duet" frontloader at Standard TV & Appliance, but they're cheaper at Costco.

After the high speed spin cycle, it does a few slow rolls (in both directions) to unfurl the clothes. That said, it probably wrinkles clothes more than a top loader (but they're much cleaner).

Ours is 4 years old, and has never required any repairs. My only complaint: while the door on the dryer can be reconfigured to open in either direction, the door on the washer only opens on the right hand side.

My landlords replaced my old toploading Kenmore (sears) about a year ago with a new Kenmore. Seems to work fine and I don't have wrinkling issues.

In my homeowner days, I tended to stick with mid-level Whirlpools. They always worked fine and I never had to call a repairman.

Some friends have a frontloading Miele set that's pretty quiet and works well.

At another friend's house, however, they have a frontloading Asko (swedish, I think) set that takes DAYS to wash a load of sheets and another couple of days to dry them. I'm only slightly exaggerating. They're supposed to be very energy efficient but who has days to wash sheets?

For what it's worth, Maytag Neptune is not a Sears brand item. That'd be something in the Kenmore line.

In all honesty, I don't think the Maytag's mechanical problems can be attributed to Sears, since Maytag is sold by a number of dealers.

After reviewing Consumer Reports, I splurged last year and got the pretty red LG front loader with the steam option (was highes rated at the time). Haven't noticed wrinkling, but have noticed that my clothes are in much better shape. Seriously, my old top-loading Kenmore was putting holes in my clothes and ruining them. The steam feature is really cool for freshening-up clothes too... can't tell you how much I have saved on dry cleaning/ironing time by throwing pants & suit jackets in the steam cycle for a quick tumble (despite the instructions not to steam wool). Yes, they still need dry cleaning every now and then, but not nearly as much. The only downside is that the wash cycle is like twice as long as what I was used to. I tried the "Quick Wash" option a couple of times and it's just not as good.

Oh, and I went to George Smith Appliance Warehouse to get them--I guess they are affiliated with Standard TV & Appliance and whatever service needs to be done will be done through Standard. With all of the rebates (manufacturer and energy credits), it was a pretty good deal! Just beware if you go there that I think they work on commission.

We got a Maytag Neptune last year from Sears and have been quite happy with it. The Sears salesperson was not so happy with our choice and when we indicated that we had researched our options on consumer reports and this was the best deal for us, actually tried to convince us that Consumer Reports had poorly ranked the set and had only highly ranked a set that was about $800 more/piece. (Which, overall CR DID rank more highly, but given where our laundry room is we could care less if our washer and dryer score poorly on the noisiness factor). Research on your own and just go wherever the price is right.

I realize that Maytag is not part of Sears. I'm more turned off by Maytag than by Sears at this point. But we did buy the thing at Sears.

Maytag used to be a name. Now it's a Whirlpool brand.

While having my dryer repaired last year, I talked to the repairman about the front loading washers, since my washer is nearing 20 years of age. He said one thing to consider with the front-loaders is that they have a lot of electronics to them, are very expensive to repair, and it can be hard to find parts after only a few years. When considering total life-cycle costs, one does need to look at how often an item will be repaired/replaced, in additon to operating costs.

I always buy the old Borg-Warner conglomerate washers and dryers from a refurb shop, because it's all solid state and totally reliable. Much cheaper, too.

The only thing I don't like about Borg-Warner is their building facade overlooking Grant Park on Michigan Avenue. It just doesn't add to the architectural continuity of that storied street.

....But that was built back in the days when the MC5 caused a riot at the Democratic National Convention. "Kick out the Jams, Motherf.... Yeah!"

Early Neptunes did have a wrinkle problem, yes.

The question is, did the service tech give you a business card of someone that sells new washers cheap?

Oh yes, Maytag, Whirlpool and the like all come from China today and the quality is
slipping fast.

I haven't bought a washing machine yet, but I've bought a dryer and a gas stove/oven from Sears. I like the fairly inexpensive service contract/warranty they have, where they come out every year, check out the appliances and service them on the spot. I couldn't believe the amount of loose change the guy found in my dryer.

When I bought the gas stove last year, the salesman was an old guy who actually warned me away from models with certain features (such as self-cleaning ovens--when the self-cleaning feature comes on, the heat generated is so high that it frequently fries the electric control panel, because it vents right next to the panel) He said most appliances made 20 years ago or more lasted longer because of better materials and workmanship. Now, each brand tries to pack in all kinds of high-tech bells and whistles to substitute for dependability.

Avoid the front loaders unless you want to fund your repairman's house on the coast. Frontloaders fail after a couple of years and are hard to fix, therefore they cost a lot to fix compared to top loaders. Also, google "frontloader mold". 'nuff said

We bought a washer from a brand we have never heard of before...Fisher & Paykel. We got it from Standard. I believe they are from New Zealand.
We have gone through a lot of washers in our time, and this one is hands down the best one we have ever owned. The coolest part is it has a direct-drive motor. No transmission. That was a big selling point for us, as the transmission is always what gave up for us.
Give'em a looksie.

Oh, and another thing, the Fisher & Paykel model we have has a 1000 rpm spin cycle! So drying takes less time too...and we dont have any wrinkle problems either.

Our Frigidaire front load washer and dryer have been going on for 6 years now - no problems. The wrinkles aren't a problem, because as Mister Tee noted, the washer rolls back and forth a few cycles at the end of the spin cycle to loosen things from the drum.

One thing to watch out for if you have cats in the house, though - front loads make it a lot easier for them to climb into, and they're a temptation when warm from just finishing a cycle. Always look first before you put in new clothes, slam the door, and start it up. Trust me on this one - once we realized what had happened and let him out, it took us half a day to find where the cat hid himself.

There are a few LG models that have a steam feature that I have heard nothing but awesome reviews about-- they are on the pricy side though, especially if you want the stainless steel finish and matching pedestals.

Im not sure what you have powering your dryer but natural gas is about 1/3 the cost of an electric dryer per load and doesn't add much to the cost of the unit (provided you have a gas hookup installed and ready to go).

And some food for thought: excess wrinkles are usually caused from overloading, over-drying, and overheating. Try smaller loads, cooler temperatures, and ALWAYS use the automatic setting.

After the high speed spin cycle, it does a few slow rolls (in both directions) to unfurl the clothes.

The Neptune did that, too. Everything was still pretty badly wrinkled.

I have an Amana washer & dryer, bought from Reigelman in Gresham. Never had a problem with either and they must be almost 15 years old now. Top loader washer, no wrinkles and even hanging tee shirts on hangars straight from the washer they don't take long to dry. Drying outside the clothes look like they've been ironed. Using homemade laundry cleaner and white vinegar in the rinse means clothes are real clean and rarely need ironing.

Use the webforce, Luke ... uh, I mean, Jack.

I googled that: laundry+washing+machine+eco+low+water
and got this:

among others. Try this at home. Your results may vary.

Spun-hard set-in wrinkles doesn't appear on the web to be a prevalent issue. I got a hunch the scrunch of the wrinkles is inversely proportional to the volume of the water used.

Our Maytag duo worked 20 years -- including 6 when average DAILY loads was never less than 3.0, the cloth diapers years -- and fell apart together a decade ago. Not replaced.

Both units broke down from time to time. I did all repairs. Which gets to my first recommendation: Go see the Maytag store and parts depot out on Division, (I think, about 20th or so). The floor units, and parts-counter free advice, are both abundant.

In particular there's an 'antique' Maytag washer with the swing-away wringer over the tub -- just like the model in our home where I entered consciousness. (However, I'm not quite into being consciously 'antique' ... yet.) As you fetched clothes out of the water to feed them through the wringer, you adjusted the lay of the fabric, smoothed, flat, to half do the later ironing.

We never had a dryer. In eastern Oregon desert air, clothes dried outdoors in summer, and winter, too, then ended up frozen stiff. We'd stand the Levi's by the woodstove and bet each other when they'd thaw to collapse.

My experience over the old washer, reaching in for clothes, inspecting each piece to see if was done, clean, or was going back for agitation; and experience with the top-loading Maytag which left something to be desired of some things' cleanliness, dispelled a lot of mystery about what goes on in there when the lid is closed and motors whirr.

Maybe mystery is inversely proportional to bravery. In situations a few times, I filled the bath tub and did a 'load' by hand, and even once used the corrogated washboard I have with my drum set, [ba-da-bdth-th-th skritcha-chooka]. Once I did some laundry in a river, on a rock.

Which gets to my second recommendation: By my results, 'automatic washing machines' don't do much. Most clothes come out just as clean if you plunge them in a bath and out, and in, and out, and work some shaking underwater with a drummer's hand-motion. Further, you can concentrate on stain spots.

One 'load' of water cleans more clothes, manually. Clothes don't fray and tear and shred as much. Hand-wringing doesn't set stubborn wrinkles. And then proceed as usual, drying in the air or in a dryer. The process only takes a bit more time. Which is more onhand the less family is underfoot.

But if you get your druthers, lose time, choose family.

Hi Jack,

10 years old? Yours made it further than most!

We have many, many threads/posts on the Maytag Neptune issues in our Maytag washer forum:

These Neptune's have had multiple issues and recalls with the mold smell - New Boot Kit, A new motor conversion kit, main motherboard failures left and right, door switch failures the same.

Its not even worth it to have yours fixed.

I recommend the Kenmore HE3/HE4/HE5 or Whirlpool Duet or Maytag Epic - Now made by Whirlpool.

I have to agree with Kristen about the LG front loaders. I would have been happy with the front loaders from Costco, but the wife wanted the cool red ones. They do a great job on our clothes and wrinkling is not an issue. As a disclaimer, I work at Costco. We have not heard of issues with the front loaders that we sell. As you know, we have a great return policy, but we haven't experienced many returns on these sets. If you don't mind white, they are a great value.

The older Neptunes, such as the 2000 Stackers, MAH3000, MAH4000 and the MAH5500A series had some issues which I am sure Maytag has corrected these issues in the newer machines...

There are thousands who have been burnt by the door latch wax motor failure. What happens is the machine will stop spinning because the door latch will fail to lock. Deep inside it is caused by the mechanism that locks the door. The wax motor will draw too much current and damage the control board by burning a resistor (R11) and a triac (Q6).

However, if Neptune owners know to replace the door latch wax motor they can prevent the control board failure from happening. Please tell everyone you know about this important fact.

The older Neptune’s also have a couple additional issues such as the moldy door boot and the reliability of the motor / motor control board. All three of these issues were involved in the class action lawsuit a couple of years ago. See http://www.neptunewaxmotor.com for more Neptune information.

In addition, I just now started offering a bearing and seal kit for the Neptunes because when the bearings fail Maytag wants you to replace the whole outer tub for a service quote of around $900 or so. Why replace the whole outer tub? Just replace the worn bearings and 12002022 seal… See http://www.neptunebearing.com for the Neptune bearing kit information.

The older Neptunes run great once you take care of some small details...

Too late for mine, but thanks for the input anyway.

Serious Wrinkle Machine.

As Dave Barry might say, that's an awesome name for a rock band.

As said by Abe "Oh yes, Maytag, Whirlpool and the like all come from China today and the quality is
slipping fast"

Actually they manufacture very little in China (about 2% of their total). Whirlpool has most of its plants in the US and in Europe.

That being said, I too have heard that the quality of the Maytag line has been in decline. The machine I have is less than 5 years old and had to be repaired at considerable cost. It too wrinkles cloths alot.

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