Thread Number: 73577  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
What designs last?
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Post# 971563   12/4/2017 at 20:07 (290 days old) by joemac (Thurmont Maryland)        

It seems these days appliances aren't really built like they used to be. It is my understanding, that things used to larger margins of error, but also were built in perhaps ways that were more labour intensive than modern conventions. So I'm genuinely curious what kinds of mechanisms work so well, or otherwise were designed to be serviced that they have indeed stood the test of time.
Some machines I know work well because they were designed with extremely straightforward mechanics and hardly any complex electronics whatsoever, like the maytag wringer washer units. While others performed well because their electromechanical timer units, relays, pushbutton switches and so forth were of a robust construction or were so common that replacement is a non issue.
Clearly some things wear and will age and deteriorate. Natural rubber and and some synthetics dry rot. Appliance baked on paint fades with UV exposure. Nylon gets brittle with age.
So what is your experience? What breaks more? What tends to last?

Post# 971573 , Reply# 1   12/4/2017 at 20:41 (290 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

speedqueen's profile picture
Of all older machines I think most here would have agree that the most long lived/durable machines would have to be center dial Maytags.

My model A207 is from June of 1976, 41 years old currently, and has likely seen daily service for most of that. Everything looks original, it even has (quite obviously) seen time in a damp basement but on it still goes. I wouldn't be surprised if it outlived our new Speed Queen.

Post# 971576 , Reply# 2   12/4/2017 at 21:02 (290 days old) by johnrk (BP TX)        
Industrial Design

changed so radically with the influence of computers. The traditional way, at least with the car industry with which I'm much more familiar, was to design a part and then abuse the crap out of a prototype in testing. So very often, this resulted in part/component manufacture that was more robust than the minimum necessary. Because the only way to know the minimum was through empirical testing! Of course, some times it didn't work out--witness the early 1956 Hydra-Matics, or those famous incidents with 1960 Falcon front ends collapsing while driving.

I can only assume that washers and dryers were designed and built the same say. I've seen some 'torture testing' of machines and I'm guessing that every manufacturer used it to one extent or another to ensure that their machines were purchase-worthy. After all, though they didn't have the web, they had small town word-of-mouth back then, which was probably even more powerful!

Though I never owned one, I'd agree that the center-dial Maytags are indeed a classic design. My GE's, which I love, somehow ended up being restyled every few years into the 80's. Though I think GM/Frigidaire washers are amazing, and my mama owned one, the control panels never appealed to me. Same for Whirlpool and Kenmore was all over the place. But Maytag was rock-steady.

Unfortunately, today with CAD, parts can be designed for EXACTLY the amount of stress, durability and reliability that the accountants want. In all phases of our manufactured products, it's resulted in machines that aren't designed for any stress at all.

In addition, CAD has made it easier for the designer(s) to optimize manufacture with least labor and least expense. This has resulted in machines where the durability is often the stepchild.

Also, CAD has made it easier for the designer(s) to prioritize cost of manufacture at the expense of cost of repair. I've had to ditch two front loaders whose repair cost would've been damn near the cost of a new machine, which I then purchased.

It's a paradigm change that people made--perhaps not just here in the US but abroad also. The desire to have new as opposed to fixed; and of course the poor service for repairs now has aided this way of thinking. We see this constantly in the auto industry. And then, as I stated the other day, going by that delightful 1954 distributor's catalogue tha I bought on here, extrapolating their washer price into today's money here means ours would cost, on average, $2700!

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