Thread Number: 74416  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
Capacitor question -55 Frigidaire Pulsamatic washer
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Post# 982157   2/10/2018 at 13:20 (248 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I am striving to clear up a wee backlog of washer repairs before spring so that I can devote some time to the 57 GE.  No, really...


Anyway, I wanted to investigate an issue I am having with the WV-35 Frigidaire Pulsamatic.  It does not always kick into spin by itself - in this case I can hear the motor buzzing and if I give the tub a spin by hand or if I click the timer switch on and off again a couple of times, the washer will spin.  The washer starts up in agitation just fine.


A buzzing motor could be due to a couple of things that I've run across before: a bad capacitor or a bad starting switch.  I thought I'd be smart and check the capacitor first (it is accessible without having to do too much disassembly).  The capacitor looks fairly new - certainly not the original!  One of y'all who had this machine before it fled North must have changed it.  


However, when I checked my Frigidaire doctrine, the original capacitor was rated at 210-260 MFD. The one in the machine is rated at 189-227 MFD.  Could this cause the inconsistent spin startup issue I have observed?


If not, I will take out the motor and clean the start switch. That did wonders for the 57 GE and getting the Pulsamatic motor out does not appear to be as big a pain as the GE was!


However, I thought it might be prudent to ask first.  Geez, that's so unlike me... LOL 

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This post was last edited 02/10/2018 at 20:00

Post# 982173 , Reply# 1   2/10/2018 at 15:33 (248 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
That is at the low end, but OK to provide the phase shift

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Still, after you clean the starter contacts, I'd (cautiously, it's going to pack a wham even after being unplugged) put in one closer to factory spec's. 

After the last two times the North American grid collapse started in your *ahem* neck of the woods, I think I speak for all but the Imperial Queens when I say:

Thank You for asking!

Post# 982327 , Reply# 2   2/11/2018 at 15:06 (247 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Right then, I'll get the motor out and clean the start switch contacts...hopefully next weekend.

And as for power outages...nobody ever proved I had anything to do with the 2003 blackout. I still maintain it was simply a coincidence that I was in Ontario (where the blackout originated) that day/moment....  LOL 

Post# 982473 , Reply# 3   2/12/2018 at 13:02 (246 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Replacement capacitor

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I haven't gotten the motor out yet however I've started hunting for replacement capacitors.  I haven't found an exact match yet - the closest I can get is a Dayton capacitor rated at 216-259 MFD (110-125V).  


Would that be a better match for the this motor?  I will freely admit that I do not understand how the capacitor's capacity can affect a motor's performance; I just don't want to make the motor go *poof* with an incorrect one!

Post# 982480 , Reply# 4   2/12/2018 at 13:45 (246 days old) by swestoyz (Cedar Falls, Iowa)        

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Interesting! I cannot claim to be the one who installed the capacitor but I can suggest to get one higher up in the scale. The OEM capacitor had quite the swing compared to what is available today. Normally it's pretty easy to find a replacement made today where the required range falls within the new capacitors specs, but that is not the case with this little guy! The 216-259 is much closer to 210-260 than anything else I've seen. And, if a new cap doesn't seem to cure the issue the start switch probably needs some help.

For reference, this guy was looking for a replacement 210-260 MFD for his Sears branded grinder, and the Sears Parts Direct website had the replacement as the 216-259.

And, here's the shorter in length 110v Grainger/Dayton branded capacitor -


Post# 982492 , Reply# 5   2/12/2018 at 15:13 (246 days old) by sfh074 ( )        
Replacement capacitor

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Paul, the replacement Dayton cap you found will work just fine. The start switch you should clean "adds" the cap to the motor circuit until the motor spins up to a certain rpm ..... then the switch kicks out and the motor runs on its own, minus the starting cap. If you are having intermittent starting issues .... and the cap that came with the washer does indeed start the motor .... on the times the motor actually starts, most likely points to the start switch back at the motor. But replacing the cap with the Dayton model you found is a good idea and a cheap investment. Besides it has a little more "kick" since it has a slightly larger capacitance value than the one you have in there now and returning to "spec" values is always better. Starting capacitors tend to get weaker with use/age making the actual value lower than labeled value. Another little known secret is to get caps with a bigger voltage rating. Instead of a cap rated at 110V, find one rated at 220VAC. Think of it as a heavy duty version and the likelihood of it ever going bad in a 110V circuit is next to nill.

Post# 982597 , Reply# 6   2/13/2018 at 07:52 (245 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
Poor starting FD washer

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Hi Paul, as others have suggested it sounds more like a motor switch, A quick way to find out is to simply put a second similar motor start capacitor in parallel and see if the motor starts consistently, if so you need a new or slightly larger capacitor.


On WP DD washers that have starting problems in spin we often add a 2nd capacitor, it works every time.


John L.

Post# 986073 , Reply# 7   3/10/2018 at 14:02 (220 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Update on the 55 Pulsamatic

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As fate would have it, the new capacitor was delivered the day we left for Mexico. We got back last Sunday but I spent the week in St-Lib (rescuing a 1963ish Flair wall oven among other things). Today I made darn sure I could mess with the Frigidaire.

Bottom line: the beefier capacitor seems to have resolved the sluggish spin start-up!  I shot some video one my phone and will try to upload to YouTube at some point. I tried the washer in agitate and spin, then I tried a couple of cycle simulations letting the machine progress from pulsate to pause to spin.  In all cases the motor started right up!

My next dilemma will be how to mount the capacitor... it is a wee bit bigger than the casing. I thought about a cable clamp but I am afraid it may not be secure.  Would it be ok if the capacitor was mounted away from the motor?  The 1950 Westy I once owned had a setup like that.

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Post# 986100 , Reply# 8   3/10/2018 at 17:16 (220 days old) by sfh074 ( )        
Away from motor

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is perfectly fine. At least you didn't have to mess with the start switch! But still a good idea to inspect and clean contacts.

Post# 986132 , Reply# 9   3/10/2018 at 22:03 (220 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
You can mount the capacitor

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Anywhere dry and as vibration free as possible. Cable length here is not relevant. Remember, it carries enough current to kill you even unplugged. Best to dischArge it across a resistive load before handling.

Post# 986253 , Reply# 10   3/12/2018 at 09:18 (218 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Panthera, thanks for the advice about the capacitor - the phrase goes 'live better electrically' not 'die better electrically'!   I managed to not fry myself in my quest to find a suitable spot for the new one.  My solution is ugly but it seems to work - I used pipe strapping to hold the new capacitor in place.  


And here's proof that it works.  At least so far! 



Post# 986254 , Reply# 11   3/12/2018 at 09:34 (218 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        

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Who cares what the holder looks like as long as it works? One of the things which always make me cringe is seeing people short big electrolytics with a screwdriver across the contacts. Not good for the life-expectancy of the capacitors. A simple resistance load will do just as well.

Glad you got her up and running again! Just out of curiousity, what were the specs. on the capacitor you ended up using?

Post# 986255 , Reply# 12   3/12/2018 at 09:39 (218 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I went with  the 216-259 mfd, 230 volt one from Dayton.  It was a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it.  I think I am going to try this technique in my poor-spinning '58 Dominion (which the Pulsamatic has been staring at for the past few months... LOL). 



Post# 986278 , Reply# 13   3/12/2018 at 12:02 (218 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        

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For reasons we need not go into here, capacitors see about 170VAC in normal use, so the higher the voltage rating, the better. Not capacitance, of course, but at least double voltage is always a much better idea.

Post# 986280 , Reply# 14   3/12/2018 at 12:27 (218 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Well, I have to do a shout out to Bud (sfh074) to thank him for this one.  I followed his suggestion about the higher voltage capacitor.  

Post# 986335 , Reply# 15   3/12/2018 at 19:04 (218 days old) by sfh074 ( )        
Double the voltage

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Living in Atlanta, we have a lot of brown outs in the summer time which reek havoc on the starting caps of HVAC systems. After having to replace the starting cap in every house and rental property I have ever owned here, I started replacing them with double the voltage rating. Haven't had to replace any of those to date. Helped a friend in the neighborhood with his that got hot and resembled more like a balloon than a can. We replaced his with spec 220volt and a couple of years later, had another brown out which took out the cap we replaced. This time we replaced it with a 440volt cap and 7 years later with a few more brown outs, still running just fine.

A buddy at work called one day and said he would be late coming in having to wait for the HVAC guy to stop by to fix the AC. (Middle of summer). I said to myself probably the starting cap. When he finally got to work, I asked and he said they changed out a toasted starting capacitor ...... $130. Moral of my story? If you live in an area where you have to run the AC most of the summer, go look at the starting cap in your outside AC unit and jot down the specs. Then double the voltage rating and on ebay order the cheapest one you can find. Normally between $9-15 with free shipping. When it arrives, either swap it out then or keep it as a spare. On the one hot day you come home to a hot house, you'll thank me. I swear in the last 30 years I have had at least 5 of them go bad. Literally takes 10 mins to change out. I wonder how much $$ toasted starting caps make for the average HVAC repair company here in the South?

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