For all of their advantages, washing machines have their own set of unique problems. One of those problems is when the door refuses to open.
It doesn’t matter if the washer is top loading or front loading. When the problem wouldn’t open, you have to find a way to get it unlocked and use the washer.
The main reasons the washer door won’t open are because of the power supply, a malfunctioning door lock, or a broken door release mechanism.
In addition, the door won’t open if the washer fails to drain properly due to a clogged drain filter or a defective pressure switch.
As you can see, the reasons behind a washer door refusing to open are numerous. You don’t have to be professional to deal with many of these issues.
Still, if you’re facing a defective temperature sensor or a broken pressure switch, it would be better to call a technician.
Why Won’t the Washing Machine Door Open?
Some washers are designed to keep the door locked in the middle of a cycle. That’s a precaution for your own safety.
Front-load washers usually won’t allow you to open the door once you press the Start button until the cycle is over.
But sometimes, even when the cycle is done and the washer has powered off, you try to open the door, but it won’t open. Is the door jammed? Is the washer malfunctioning?
There are at least 8 cases where the washer door gets locked and won’t be released.
1. Power Supply Issues
Sometimes, the washer must be plugged in for you to open the door. If that’s the case with your washer, check that the machine is plugged in and that the panel is lit or the Start button has the light on.
If the machine is plugged in, but you don’t see any lights on, check that the socket is not defective and that the plug is in good condition. Then, replace a faulty socket or power plug to fix the problem.
2. Door Handle Problem
The door handle of the washer is usually a hidden lever that you have to reach behind a protruding ledge on the door to find it.
When you press the lever, it releases the latch of the lock and releases the door.
To close the door, you just push it in place for the latch to lock the door. But when the door handle malfunctions, you can’t release the latch.
To fix the broken door handle problem, slip a piece of string between the door and the body of the washer.
Slide the string down as you hold its ends tightly and pass it through the locking mechanism. It will push the latch into the body of the washer and release the door.
Now you can replace the broken door handle.
3. Door Safety Lock Damage
Any damage to the door safety lock means that the door will stay locked, and you can’t have access to the drum. The door safety lock ensures that the door stays locked when the washer is operating.
You can try to open the door with a piece of string, as I explained in the previous segment, then get the damaged door safety lock replaced.
How to Replace Door Lock
- Switch off the washer and unplug the power cord from the socket.
- Open the door wide to gain access to the locking mechanism.
- Use a screwdriver to remove the band holding the lock.
- With the same screwdriver, remove the seal on the lock.
- Now unscrew the screws around the lock.
- Get your hand under the lock and gently slide it out. It will be connected with cables to the washer.
- Unclip the cables and clip them into the new lock.
- Screw the new lock back in the washer and replace the rubber seal and band.
4. Drainage Problems
If the machine is plugged in with lights in the panel and the door handle is working fine, peer into the drum to see if there’s still water there.
If the drum has water, chances are the drain filter or drain pump is malfunctioning. As long as there’s water in the drum, the door will not open.
You can still get the washer door to open after manually draining the water inside.
How to Drain the Washer
- Unplug the washer and tuck the plug and cord on top of the machine. You can also tape the plug to the washer to keep it from getting wet.
- Look for the drain pump filter. Consult the washer manual to find where it’s located on your machine.
- Place a pan on top of an old towel under the filter to collect the drained water.
- Open the panel and unscrew the filter by holding it with both hands and rotating it anti-clockwise.
- Let the water drain into the pan.
- Examine the filter and give it a thorough cleaning to remove the clogging.
5. The Washer Door is Stuck
Another reason the washer door won’t open is that the door release mechanism is defective, and the door is stuck.
The only solution for this problem is to remove the door of the washer altogether and replace the door release mechanism.
How to Replace Washer Door Release Mechanism
- Unscrew the nuts or screws at the back of the washer door to release it from the machine.
- Look between the outer and inner door trims for screws to separate the door trims.
- Take out the trims and the bowl to gain access to the door release mechanism.
- Extract the release mechanism from the door and replace it with a new one.
- Reinstall the bowl and trims and tighten the screws.
- Reinstall the door and tighten the nuts or screws.
6. Temperature Sensor is Defective
In normal situations, the washer door will remain locked if the temperature inside of the drum is too high. This is to protect your hands from getting burned when handling hot laundry.
The component in the washer responsible for getting a temperature reading is the temperature sensor or NTC sensor.
A faulty NTC sensor might send a high temperature reading to the machine even if the drum is cool. This will prevent the door from opening.
Use a multimeter set to ohmmeter mode to check if the NTC sensor is defective.
You’ll find the sensor near the heating element. If you get a reading between 20 to 30 Kiloohms, the sensor is good.
Otherwise, you’ll need to replace the NTC sensor.
7. Pressure Switch is Defective
We saw how the presence of water in the tub prevents the door from opening.
But sometimes, the machine will get the wrong information about the level of water in the drum due to a defective or clogged pressure switch.
The only way to access the pressure switch is to remove the panel. For top loaders, the panel is at the top, and for front loaders, the panel is on the side.
You’ll find the pressure switch under the panel with a hose connected to it. The hose could be gray, black, or red, depending on the brand.
Unplug the hose and clean the pressure chamber. If the door still doesn’t unlock, test the pressure switch with a multimeter set to ohmmeter mode.
If you don’t get a reading, the pressure switch needs to be replaced.
8. Error Code
Not all cycles will finish as expected. Sometimes the washer will stop functioning in the middle of a cycle for no apparent reason.
When that happens, the washer will display an error code on the panel. The exact error code displayed varies depending on the cause of the issue and the brand itself.
Take note of the error code and consult the manual that came with the washer to find out the reason behind the issue and how to get it fixed.
How to Unlock Washing Machine Door that Won’t Open
When the washer door doesn’t open for you, you have to get creative and find ways to unlock the door, release the latch, and get access to the tub.
But before you work on the jammed door, you need to empty the water inside of the tub.
Pull out the drain hose and empty the water into a bucket.
If the washer has a drain filter, unscrew the filter and drain the water in a pan.
Once the washer is empty, it’s easier to handle. Now you can try one of the two methods to unlock the washer door.
Opening a Manual Lock
Manual locks are relatively straightforward to deal with. They have a latch that fits into a release mechanism.
There are several ways to work with a manual lock. If one way doesn’t work, move on to the next one until you get the door open.
Here they are in easy steps.
1. Switch Machine Off
Switch the washer off by pressing the Power Off button to end the cycle. When the machine is powered off, unplug the power cable and wait for 5 seconds. Check if the door opens.
If it doesn’t, move on to the next step.
2. Wait 5 Minutes
Most top-loading washers will automatically unlock the door 5 to 6 minutes after powering the machine off. That’s because the lock on the door is triggered by heat. When the washer is running, the temperature inside rises which locks the doors.
When the washer cools off after 5 minutes, the door will unlock.
3. Gentle Slaps
If none of the above solutions works, try slapping the door gently.
You’re not punishing the door or trying to bang it out of shape. The slaps should be gentle and get the door lock to loosen. You’re slapping the handle, not the door itself.
You can also apply pressure on the jammed door lock to get it to release. The operative words here are pressure and vibration.
This method works best with front loaders and has little chance of success with top loaders.
4. Nylon String
I mentioned this method when talking about dealing with a jammed or broken door handle above. Here’s how to do it in a little more detail.
Use a piece of nylon string about 20 inches long. Slide one end of the string between the door and the body of the washer under the lock.
Keep feeding the string until the inside end comes out of the opposite seam of the door.
Tie both ends to create a loop and keep the loop tight as it holds the latch of the lock.
Now pull the string loop away from the lock to release the latch and open the door.
Opening an Electronic Lock
Most modern washing machines have an electronic lock that is controlled by the computer in the machine.
Here are the different ways you can deal with this type of locking system.
1. Press Pause
Even if the machine isn’t running, there’s a chance that the computer is not aware of that simple fact due to faulty or defective sensors.
You can let the washer know that the cycle has ended by pressing the Pause or Power Off button.
This should release the lock within a minute or two.
2. Unplug the Machine
As with old washer models, powering off the machine and unplugging it can do the trick. Allow between 5 to 10 minutes for the machine to cool down and automatically unlock the door.
3. Use the Emergency Switch
Some washers have an emergency switch that lets you open the electronic door manually.
The switch is behind the panel under the door of front loaders. Use a flathead screwdriver to pop the panel out and locate the plastic switch.
Pull the switch down as you tug at the washer door to open it.
If the washer door won’t open, you need to use a nylon string to pop the latch open and gain access to the tub and the wet laundry inside.
I also wrote a guide on how to care for your washer here that you should check out to keep your washer in top shape 🙂