Thread Number: 78548  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
A suds-saver saga - the "rebuilding" of the 1957 GE suds system
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Post# 1025585   2/25/2019 at 09:46 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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So it only took me 6 years to get around to restoring the lovely 1957 GE Filter-Flo automatic washer - and as usual, I had a fairly major "do-over" not long after the initial restoration. Well, the washer has been running fine since the transmission fix (and it seems to have outlived it's GE dryer mate...). Everything was hunky-dory, but you know me - I can't leave well enough alone!

This washer model is WA857 (Canadian equivalent of a WA855), so that means this is one of the first suds-saving models made by the good folks at Appliance Park in Louisville.

Recall that the washer was in regular use until about 1980, then sat undisturbed in a Guelph, Ontario basement until Phil and I rescued it in October of 2012.

Time took it's toll on the suds-saver....

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Post# 1025586 , Reply# 1   2/25/2019 at 09:52 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Most of the components were shot. The valve plate gasket was dried up, the maze of hoses was beyond salvage, and the valve control solenoid went POW when I tried to power it up...

On a positive note, I managed to get the return pump running!

I was lucky enough to have a brand-new replacement valve plate gasket (somewhere in washer heaven, Larry Olmo was no doubt grinning) but I had to find a replacement solenoid.

Finding a solenoid was not a big issue but the mounting bracket on the original solenoid was not something that you see on a typical replacement.
So I improvised! I cut the triangular brackets off the the dead solenoid and re-attached them with JB Weld.

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Post# 1025587 , Reply# 2   2/25/2019 at 09:55 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Putting in the new valve plate gasket was a snap. Needless to say, I was very, very careful not to tear anything when re-inserting those levers and valve caps!

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Post# 1025588 , Reply# 3   2/25/2019 at 09:58 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I studied the GE manual until my head hurt trying to figure out how to replace the original hoses. It took a couple of tries before I came up with this monstrosity.

I will never win a prize for prettiest plumbing.... LOL

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Post# 1025589 , Reply# 4   2/25/2019 at 10:01 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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And being paranoid, I tried running water through the valve and hoses. I even tried running the pump and powering up the solenoid to direct the water through the return hose port.

Sure, there were a couple of drips, but nothing the turn of a screw didn't solve. It was looking good, so I popped the the valve assembly back into the washer.
I say 'popped' as it if was easy... LOL It isn't!

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Post# 1025591 , Reply# 5   2/25/2019 at 10:06 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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What next? Well, the danged thing dripped...

The drip was coming from the valve plate where the base and cover joined. So, out came the assembly and my first attempt was to tighten the plate cover screws. I realized a couple were not tightening. I started to sweat at this point, panicked a little, then eventually came up with the idea of using a nut and bolt to hold the cover closed. Phil agreed that this was a good solution (I wanted to run this by another washer person, what can I say). So, off to the hardware store for the nuts and bolts I went.

When I got back I also decided to give the plates a coat of non-hardening liquid gasket before I tightened anything. It looked good and there seemed to be no further leakage.

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Post# 1025592 , Reply# 6   2/25/2019 at 10:11 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Naturally, when you install and remove something that you did a half-assed repair on, you can be guaranteed that something else will break...

My solenoid mounting solution went to hell in the proverbial handbasket. After a lenghty flurry of obscenities, I devised an alternate bracket to hold the solenoid in place. It was actually WAY better than my first solution!

Also, when I observed the dripping water from between the valve plate sections, I saw that water was hitting the danged solenoid. No wonder the old one went POW (and it was a 1966 replacement of the original...). I didn't show it here, but I added a shield just above the solenoid to keep water off. I figured I had all the bases covered now!

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Post# 1025594 , Reply# 7   2/25/2019 at 10:15 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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The valve was back in place, hoses all hooked up, and the water supply hoses reconnected. I wisely did not move the washer back into the suds-saver slot in the laundry room, but I still managed to rig up a suds-return hose.

First part of the test - set the washer to a normal cycle start, with the suds-saver control in the 'SAVE' position. That all looked good and the wash water drained out of the suds return hose into the laundry tub!

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Post# 1025595 , Reply# 8   2/25/2019 at 10:18 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
The moment of truth....

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I stopped the washer after the wash-spin had completed, and set the machine to start a new cycle.

The washer started filling and I toggled the suds switch to the 'RETURN' position.

The Suds Return indicator light lit!! And the water started flowing back into the tub.

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Post# 1025596 , Reply# 9   2/25/2019 at 10:19 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Yeah, you just knew that was coming...

There was a trickle of water on the floor...

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Post# 1025598 , Reply# 10   2/25/2019 at 10:25 (260 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
The offender

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Is the pressure dome on the suds-return hose into the tub... I didn't notice this when I tested the return hose because I was too busy looking for leaks where the hose squeezes through an opening at the top of the tub.

So... I'm not sure how I may be able repair this; perhaps some 'liquid rubber' type coating may do the trick. However I am not going to get back to this now for a while so I put the washer back in place with the suds-valve assembly removed. I'll probably have to pull the top of the washer off to get to that suds-return hose and that always stresses me out, given how easy it is to snap the fill flume or flub up the filter-flo hose...

I'm a little disappointed, but wow, did I ever learn a lot about the early GE suds-saver systems! Complicated like you wouldn't believe... LOL

The Inglis is still the suds-saving machine of choice. For now....

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Post# 1025602 , Reply# 11   2/25/2019 at 11:05 (260 days old) by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

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Good story!  And thanks for sharing.  Always good to see an old GE brought back to life - and I love the indicator light on the console!


Be patient and go back to it when you're ready, and know that you've made more steps forward than backward.



Post# 1025608 , Reply# 12   2/25/2019 at 12:46 (260 days old) by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        
You said it Paul...

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and as usual, I had a fairly major "do-over" not long after the initial restoration

Boy is that ever a fact of life with vintage washer restorations!

Post# 1025612 , Reply# 13   2/25/2019 at 15:34 (260 days old) by ozzie908 (Lincoln UK)        
@ turquoisedude

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Its so true when fixing these retro washers that " Necessity " Is the mother of invention and well done for coming up with an ingenious method of repairing the solenoid bracket.


Post# 1025688 , Reply# 14   2/26/2019 at 07:58 (259 days old) by swestoyz (Cedar Falls, IA)        

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Paul - you are a saint. I can't say I'd go to all of this trouble... look at that rats nest!

Is the flow switch used to "sense" when the machine is receiving suds from the suds system?

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Post# 1025691 , Reply# 15   2/26/2019 at 08:16 (259 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Is the flow switch used to "sense" ....

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Ben, yes, that's how it works. I really studied the electrical schmatics for this (especially after the miswiring and Water Saver button incident...) and it's marvel of overenGEneering for sure!

I got a little worried when I first tried the suds return system and found I couldn't keep the retrun pump running unless I held the switch, but once there was water in the pressure chamber it worked.

Post# 1025701 , Reply# 16   2/26/2019 at 09:45 (259 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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kudos for your improvisations.....

I know some boast that it has to be all original, but sometimes that is not a given choice, so we have to come up with our own ideas....if it works, who cares? one really knows but you...

then again, ideas need to be shared, as it may help someone else down the road with a similar issue...

Post# 1036361 , Reply# 17   6/25/2019 at 13:45 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Time for an update....

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I was bouyed by my recent successes with the repairs to my 2 fave dryers (the 59 Frigidaire Imperial and the 57 GE) so I thought I was ready to take a run at the '57 GE WA857 suds-saver system.

Last time round, I got the suds save/return system to work, but a leak from the suds return hose/pressure dome area put the kibosh on that... I went back through my notes and found, much to my amazement, that I had noted that when removing the tub in order to repair the snubber band brake pad I damaged the suds-return nozzle.

So on the weekend, I popped the top of the 57 again (never something I like doing as there are lots of things that can be damaged in doing so and I am plumb out of spare fill flumes...LOL). I was anxious to try out a brush-on rubber coating that PhilR had told me about (he used it on some dried up wiring and a turntable idler wheel); I gave the suds nozzle a generous coating.

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Post# 1036362 , Reply# 18   6/25/2019 at 13:48 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I reassembled the washer and (extremely carefully) matched up the loose wires from the timer/control panel to the patch panel at the back of the machine.
I tried a dry test first - no blown fuses, no smoke, and all regular machine functions worked. So for the sheer thrills of it, I tried to activate the suds saver solenoid. It worked. I tried the suds-return pump. It worked.

So I added water....

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Post# 1036364 , Reply# 19   6/25/2019 at 13:59 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Forgive me that I don't have pictures of each 'thing' that happened next.

I set the suds-saver switch to 'Save'; when the wash cycle water drained, it was draining out of the suds-return hose AND the regular drain hose. Both were draining into the same set tub anyway, so I tried to return the water to the washer. Nothing happened... Nothing at all...

I drained out the washer and triple checked my connections. All seemed good. I tested the suds-valve solenoid by connecting it directly to AC house power. It worked. The pump? Not so much. It buzzed but would no longer turn. FFFFFFFffine.... be that way!

So, it seems that I'll have to pull out that rat's nest of piping and the suds-saver valve again however, I'm not sure how to replace the suds return pump. A new washer drain pump will probably work just fine with some more jiggery-pokery to the valve piping but I am not sure I have the desire to keep at this.
I have 2 suds-saving machines already and although it would be cool to have one of the first GE suds-savers working again, it will be a very marked departure from the original system. Now where's a Time Lord when you need them? I want to go back to 1958 and get a couple of boxes of those Gorman-Rupp electric pumps dammit...

I am more than likely going to just leave the GE washer alone for a spell now; I will, of course, bring the matching '57 dryer back into service so I'll be able to enjoy both machines. Some interesting stuff should be finding it's way to Ogden in the next little while, so my dance card is going to be fairly full anyway.

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Post# 1036428 , Reply# 20   6/26/2019 at 13:05 by Ultramatic (New York City)        

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Paul is the "MacGyver" of Automatic Washer.

Post# 1036457 , Reply# 21   6/26/2019 at 20:40 by Washerlover (Lake County, California: Wines With Altitude)        

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Paul, I must say you are the King (or Queen) of perseverance! I applaud your stick-to-it attitude and sharing your triumphs and frustrations. Very informative thread heck, I didnt know GE ever produced any suds-saver machines so very interesting and educational for me. Thank you for sharing and best of luck on this project!

Post# 1036458 , Reply# 22   6/26/2019 at 21:18 by swestoyz (Cedar Falls, IA)        

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Paul, you should be applauded for your efforts. *rapid clapping from the croud*

A few MFGs used that pump in their suds return system. Later SQ, Maytag (140S), Frigidaire even? Might be worth doing some part number searching...


Post# 1036462 , Reply# 23   6/26/2019 at 23:04 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

Paul, If anyone can fix this, it is you!
Now do you work on Ampico reproducing pianos?

Post# 1036507 , Reply# 24   6/27/2019 at 14:57 by swestoyz (Cedar Falls, IA)        

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Paul - how about something like this?

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Post# 1036508 , Reply# 25   6/27/2019 at 15:12 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I'm way ahead of you Ben... Ordered a WH23X10030 pump today. Oh, crap, I just gave away the next step for the GE! Delivery due July 2nd. Hee hee hee!

Post# 1036619 , Reply# 26   6/28/2019 at 22:58 by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
1950s Suds-Saver Washers

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It was always more completed to build a solid-tub SS washer, but every manufacturer had to build SS washers to try to compete with WP-KMs simple effective SS washers. 


Sears only charged $10 extra for a SS model, in just a 10 year life time for a SS machine you could easily save $300 making you Automatic Washer FREE to own compaired to your neighbors washer.


The electric return pumps used in these early SS washers are easy to replace today with one of many different electric drain pumps around today, the bigger challenge is the old pot-metal distribution valves etc.


Paul it will be neat to see this SS working on this old GE washer, I have never seen one of these working.


John L.

Post# 1047075 , Reply# 27   10/7/2019 at 14:01 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
And now, nearly 3 months later....

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I know I said I'd leave the 57 GE suds-saver system alone for a while, however I didn't expect it to be this long! Life (well, all right, other appliance acquistions, disasters, and triumphs) got in the way but I still did some tinkering with the valve unit and pump in my spare moments.

I didn't think to take pictures of every tweak that I did, alas, but here's what wound up happening:
- The issue I had noted with water draining out of both the suds save/return hose and the regular drain hose was entirely due to the higgeldy-piggely bracket I concocted to hold a new solenoid to the valve distribution plate. I improved the brackets and supports; this now allowed the valve to open and close access to drain or save/return ports
- Although I bought a replacement pump, just in case, I managed to lubricate the original pump motor shaft so that it would start up immediately. It was probably the wrong choice, but I put the original pump back on the valve
- I did a series of tests of the save and return functions with the valve out of the washer. They went amazingly well!
- When I was ready to re-install the valve, I used a kind of 'extension' from the valve plate for the suds save/return and drain hoses. This made for a lot less of struggle when re-installing the valve. The messing around in previous installations and removals while trying to manipulate the longer hoses is probably how I managed to dislodge the first set of brackets holding the distribution valve solenoid.
** Pearl of wisdom gained: if you have to work on one of these early GE suds-saver valves, re-install it from underneath the washer. I tilted the 57 forward and supported the rear with a couple of large woodden blocks; the valve and pump assembly was then brought up into the cabinet and was a heck of a lot easier to reposition from below.

I got the suds saver valve assembly back into the machine on September 29th. It worked and it didn't leak!! I tried the first real load of laundry in the machine this past Saturday, October 5th. I successfully saved and returned a tubload of water. And there were no leaks! WOOHOO!

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Post# 1047076 , Reply# 28   10/7/2019 at 14:04 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Video proof!

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Here's a walk-through video I shot on the weekend showing the whole process.

Make popcorn. It's about 15 minutes!

So now back to tearing my hair out trying to find timers for the '57 GE and '56 Whirlpool dryers....

Post# 1047078 , Reply# 29   10/7/2019 at 14:35 by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

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That's a beautiful washer.  Congratulations on getting the save function to work!



Post# 1047090 , Reply# 30   10/7/2019 at 17:42 by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

Awesome, Paul! I grew up with a suds-saving 1960 Kenmore Model 80, so I was surprised to see that there is no agitation during the suds return; its filling just like it would for a normal fill. This, to me, is a much better idea than the Kenmore version. You are able to load the machine, set the controls and walk away.

I think the Kenmore manual advised letting all the water return before adding clothes, which makes sense because theyd get yanked around pretty aggressively as the water returned during high speed agitation. Later Kenmore models agitated and pumped at slow speed during the return, but ours created quite a splashy ruckus. Wed usually let a few inches of water return into the tub, then gradually add the load a few pieces at a time as the water level increased.

As always, Im amazed at the blood, sweat, and tears AW members put into bringing these wonderful vintage machines back to life. Congratulations!

Post# 1047104 , Reply# 31   10/7/2019 at 20:45 by Riverrat (SPRINGFIELD MO)        

Awesome story of man over machine!

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