Here I am again talking about how to repair my appliances that are starting to fail. This time it’s my Maytag front-load washer that stopped draining water mid cycle. The error code ‘SUDS’ is displayed after the machine stops, followed by ‘F21’. The ‘SUDS’ code simply means there is an excessive amount of suds in the washer during its cycle. This can be caused by too much detergent, or because HE detergent is not being used. Another cause could be due to the pump not draining the water correctly, which is directly related to error code ‘F21’.
The ‘F21’ code means that the draining cycle lasts longer than eight minutes. This can be caused by a few different problems, which include drain pump malfunction and door switch malfunction. The most common cause however is foreign objects clogging the drain hose, pump filter, or the pump itself. Now before I dive in on how to go about troubleshooting this error I must mention one thing.
Note: I am not a certified technician, nor do I claim to be a professional of any kind. If you are uncomfortable attempting this repair on your own, contact a qualified professional for help. Do not proceed until you are confident that you can complete the task and clearly understand all the steps. See Disclaimer
The First Steps
If the washer stops mid cycle and leaves the tub full of water you will need to drain the water. With some machines you can simply cancel the cycle and restart which should trigger it to drain. However, if the pump is defective you will need to bail the water out manually. I wouldn’t suggest opening the door unless you feel like getting wet and mopping up a lot of water though. There is a better way.
Start by unplugging the washer and moving it a few feet away from the wall. You are going to need a couple buckets and something to securely prop the washer up on. This could be a few 2 x 4 blocks, or a paint can, which is what I used. The washer is rather heavy so make sure you get help if needed. Also, once the washer is propped up make sure it is secure enough not to fall on you when working on it.
Remove the three screws holding the toe panel in place and gently pull down and out, being careful not to damage the toe panel pins at the top. This should give plenty of space to get access to the pump filter.
The Gross Part
This is where it’s going to get a little messy. Be sure to have the buckets and a few towels ready. My washer was already drained when starting this task, but if yours is still full be aware that you will fill more than one bucket and the water will come out fairly fast. Turn the pump filter handle counter-clockwise to remove.
As you can see it didn’t take long for me to figure out what the problem may be. I mean, one can only assume that black liquid pouring out from the filter is probably a not a good thing. I had a fairly good idea as to why it was black once I got the filter removed. There was a build up of a gritty substance and knowing that work clothes from a shot blasting job have been washed with this machine, it made sense. I highly doubt the water will be this colour for you, but don’t expect it to be very clean either.
Take a look in the filter for any obstructions. Many things can get caught in there including small pieces of clothing like socks and unmentionables. Clear any debris from the filter and check that the pump propeller is not damaged or clogged. In most cases this will be all you need to do. However, if there was no debris found then you will need to take further steps to determine what the problem is.
Start by first checking the pump for continuity. Unplug the pump and use a multi-meter set to ohms Ω to test. If the reading is infinity then the pump will need to be replaced. The pump can be replaced without any further disassembly, however it will be easier to reach by removing the front door panel. To do this you will first need to remove the top panel. There will be three screws at the back of the washer. Once removed, slide the top panel back and up. There may be some sharp edges so be careful.
Remove the detergent dispenser by pressing the tab at the back and pull the dispenser free.
Locate the screw near the dispenser holding the control panel in place. Once the screw is removed carefully detach the control panel. It should be held on by plastic clips and fairly easy to remove. You can either unplug the control panel and set it off to the side, or place it on top of the washer being careful not to damage any wiring. If it doesn’t easily come off, have a look for other screws that may be holding it in place.
Next remove the spring and retaining ring around the door seal. Then peel the seal away from the door panel.
Remove the two screws holding the door latch and switch to the front panel. You should also test continuity on the switch if the pump tested good. This can be done after the front panel is removed. When testing the switch remember there will only be a reading when the switch is in the on position.
To remove the door panel you will need to remove the four screws at each corner of the panel. Then slide the panel down and out to release. Set the panel aside and prop the washer up on blocks if not done already.
The Pump Cleaning
If the drain pump needs to be replaced, or for a more thorough cleaning, you will need to first remove the pump. To do this, remove the two screws from underneath the washer and unplug the pump.
Remove the drain hose and the tub hose from the pump housing. You will need to cut the drain hose clamp with a pair of side cutters. Make sure you have another hose clamp to replace it as you will not be able to reuse the original. Use channel locks or pliers to release the tub hose clamp from the pump housing.
To remove the filter housing from the drain pump, depress locking tab on yellow ring and turn housing counter-clockwise. Check the pump propeller for any damage and make sure it turns. Clean both the housing and the pump seals, or replace motor if defective.
Check for any clogs or kinks in the drain hose using either water or an air compressor. Remove the tub hose by releasing the clamp from the tub drain. Then cut zip tie around hose and air chamber being careful not to cut the hose. You are now ready to clean the tub drain hose. Take note of the ball inside as it can sometimes get stuck and be the cause for the washer not draining. The ball can be removed, however it’s purpose is to block larger items from getting clogged in the pump motor.
Once everything is thoroughly cleaned and all blockages removed you should be ready to reassemble the washer. Make sure all clamps are properly installed and a new zip tie is securing the air chamber to the tub hose.
Remount the pump motor and plug it back in. Put the pump filter back into the housing by aligning the notches and twisting the cap tight.
Install the front door panel by sliding it up and in behind the tabs making sure all the pins are in the correct slots. Tighten the screws in each corner of the panel and don’t forget to reinstall the door latch and switch. Then place the door seal around the door and wrap the spring and retaining ring back in place. Be sure not to damage the seal and that the ring is correctly in place to avoid leaks.
Double check all of your work to be sure all the seals are in place. Continue reassembly by carefully clipping control panel back into place and screwing it secure. Slide the detergent dispenser back in and secure the top panel and toe panel.
After everything is back in place you can plug the machine back in. I ran a clean cycle right away with some liquid bleach to make sure everything worked. I would suggest doing the same or at least running a quick cycle with the machine empty. Keep an eye for any leaks.
This should fix the draining issues and error code ‘F21’.