How to Replace Carbon Brushes on any motor.

Before you ignore this post on how to replace the carbon brushes on a motor consider this … most appliances have motors, most motors have carbon brushes, the most common thing to stop a motor from working is worn carbon brushes.  If you know how to replace them you can fix almost any motor and will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in your lifetime.

Total exaggeration in terms of money saved unless you happen to own a nuclear power plant, but I had to get your attention.

Changing carbon brushes sounds like something only a large man with  a hairy belly would attend to, but trust me … no hair is required.  If you can replace a battery in your smoke detector, you can replace a carbon brush.

Just to suck you in a little more, here’s a list of things that usually have motors with carbon brushes.

Power Tools

Vacuum Cleaners

Washing Machines

Dryers

Blenders

Kitchen Aid

and MORE.

Not all motors have carbon brushes that you can replace, but most of them do.  And it really is as easy as replacing a battery.  Or close to it anyway. That’s another tiny bit of exaggeration but I can sense you need a little encouragement.  It’s way easier than getting rid of back fat.  I can guarantee that.

This … is a carbon brush.

replacing-worn-carbon-brushes-washer

 

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I know.  You were expecting an actual brush.  Surprise! They don’t look like brushes.  The one on the left is a new carbon brush.   The one on the right is a worn carbon brush.

A carbon brush is basically the “thing” that conducts the electricity to the motor.  It actually conducts it through the motor’s commutator, but since I don’t care about that, I figure you don’t.   Don’t worry about what a commutator is.  Nobody knows and nobody cares.

Carbon brushes are built to wear down.  If they didn’t wear down, and they were constantly rubbing hard against the (nobody cares) commutator it would damage the commutator.  Which is a bad thing to do.

So carbon brushes are made of a material that is softer than the commutator.  After years of wear, they end up being just tiny little nubs and need to be replaced because they no longer conduct electricity to the all important (but we don’t care about it) commutator.

If the motor stops running, or the thing stops turning, sucking, blending or mixing … it could be the carbon brushes.

To replace them you need to do two things.  You need to find out WHAT carbon brushes your motor takes and then you need to buy them.

You can Google your appliance and see if you can find the carbon brushes for your particular motor there, or you can call an appliance repair shop with the make and model of your appliance and have them look it up for you.  Then if they carry them in stock you can either buy them from your local appliance repair shop or you can order them online.  I ordered mine online because my appliance repair shop didn’t have them in stock.

They arrived within 4 or 5 days.

So let’s do this.  Let’s replace carbon brushes!  Because it’s FUN and we’re FUN and everyone’s here so we might as well!  See?  Isn’t this the most exciting thing you’ve ever read about?  And you thought this was going to be boring.  Hah.  I showed you.

I’ll be showing you how I replaced the carbon brushes on my Bosch Front Load Washing machine.  The technique will be similar no matter what the appliance.

Remove the motor.  Sounds scary but isn’t.  O.K., it was a little scary pulling the motor out of my washing machine but now that I’ve done it I realize it really isn’t scary at all and in fact I immediately felt superior to pretty much everyone else in the world the moment I did it.

Always UNPLUG whatever you’re working on before you work on it.

I removed the back cover of my washing machine and located the motor with my eyeballs.

Any electrical that was attached to the motor got disconnected.

There was this little green wire …

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-4

 

And this big plug of wires.

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-2

 

The inside of a washing machine and motor is filthy.  Wear surgical gloves.

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-3

Once the electrical is disconnected you can remove the motor.  This particular motor was held in by 2 bolts.  One at the front of the motor and one at the back.

Loosen the bolts.  First the one at the front.

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-6

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-7

 

And then the one at the back.

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor-8 removing-bosch-washer-motor-9

 

Now the motor will pull out with a little wiggling and work. It doesn’t weigh much.  A few pounds, so don’t worry about that.

 

removing-bosch-washer-motor

 

 

Drag it onto your work space and start looking for the 2 carbon brushes.   I’m pointing to where the 2 carbon brushes are.

Bosch-front-load-washer-motor

 

You can recognize the carbon brushes by the clips.  This is what you’re looking for.

 

bosch-front-load-washer-carbon-brushes

 

Simply pull the electrical connection apart either with your fingers or with needle nose pliers.

 

 

 

replacing-carbon-brushes

 

The actual carbon brush is held in place by a small brass clip which needs to be wiggled out of its spot.

removing-carbon-brushes

 

Then just give a little pull to pull the old brush out.   Make sure you pay attention to what direction the carbon brush came out!  It has a beveled edge and the new one has to go in the same way the old one came out, otherwise the brushes will be rubbing on the (we don’t care) commutator the wrong way and won’t work.

 

worn-out-carbon-brush

 

As a reminder, this is the old brush beside a new brush.  You can see how worn down the old one is.  No wonder it didn’t work anymore.  I wouldn’t work if I was that worn out either.

 

replacing-worn-carbon-brushes-washer

 

 

Now it’s time to put the new carbon brush in.

 

inserting-carbon-brush-washer-motor

 

Just feed it into the hole you took the one one out of, making sure to put it in the same way. You can see I drew a picture with a Sharpie on my  motor so I wouldn’t forget which direction to put it in.

 

replacing-bosch-carbon-brushes

I had trouble getting it all the way down so I just used a bamboo skewer to coax it down.

 

inserting-carbon-brushes

 

Squishing the springy coil down takes some patience and fiddling.  Just keep at it and it’ll all go down.  Then insert the clip into the slot.

 

carbon-brush-clip

 

Reattach the electrical clip.

 

attaching-carbon-brush

And you’re done.  Now replace the other carbon brush the exact same way.

 

carbon-brush-1

 

Drag your motor back to your appliance, in this case my washing machine, and put it back in place.

I don’t know about you but I feel confident that I could fix pretty much any problem now.

Except back fat.
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82 Comments

  1. Rondina says:

    This totally makes me want to take my blender apart.

    • chris aka monkey says:

      see rondina wants to take apart her blender you should be a motivational speaker for the irs everyone would pay their taxes on time ha ha xx

      • Karen says:

        LOL! That’s just great, but who’s gonna motivate me into getting my taxes done on time?? I’m too busy taking motors apart and such to do something as unimportant as taxes. ~ karen!

  2. Laura says:

    Ah, you need to rename the blog: “The Art of Revealing the Secrets of the Universe”!

  3. Tracy Nanette says:

    Impressive!
    Let me know when you get to ride on lawnmowers. 🙂

  4. chris aka monkey says:

    karen i read all of your posts you never know when you might need to use some of your tuts..i even read the garden ones and we didn’t have a garden this year…you amazed me xx

  5. Rachel San Diego says:

    There’s another reason to read these types of posts– I’m always convinced that whatever mechanical/electrical thing you blog about will immediately break in my home and I will kick myself if I didn’t read your post! I’m now actively waiting for a time in my life when I will be trying to order a carbon brush online. This is a weird new problem to have. Karen, you give us weird new things to worry about! But then at least you tell us how to fix it. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      I … I never thought of it that way, lol. I apologize. 🙂 Here’s hoping neither one of us has to fix anything ever again. (as if) ~ karen!

  6. Barbie says:

    My favorite line…. “and located the motor with my eyeballs.”

    You just amaze me!

    • Karen says:

      No need to be amazed Barbie. Anyone can do this! I had never done it before and managed to do it on my first try. It isn’t doing this sort of stuff that’s hard, it’s having the courage to say What the hell … and giving it a shot. ~ karen!

  7. Teresa Jennings Richardson says:

    I’m impressed.

  8. TucsonPatty says:

    “…having the courage to say What the hell…and giving it a shot.” I love that attitude and I got me some of it this morning when I decided I could at least TRY to fix my car’s rear passenger window that wouldn’t roll back up. All I needed was a screwdriver to remove the door panel, thought I. Not so. I’m now afraid of breaking the 1994 plastic clips that hold the door panel on, and then there is all that electrical stuff hidden in there. I called my mechanic. I’m very proud of trying first, though! I googled and I tried. I replaced a seal on the toilet on Sunday, something I had to go to the third place to buy. It was a strange Kohler toilet part no one had seen before. All this to say – Karen, you are so very inspiring! Thank you for all your wonderful talent and can-do attitude.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Patty! At least you tried and were smart enough to say Uh oh. Nope. Better stop, lol. I’ve done that plenty of times. ~ karen!

  9. Jane says:

    Inspiring? Yes you are! But my question is this, how did you know to look for the “carbon brushes”? If there were 50 parts on that motor, what would make you think it was those specific pieces? I wouldn’t have a clue what to look for. Have you taken some kind of class in the past?

    • Louise says:

      Yeah, what Jane said! How DO you know?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane. No, I haven’t taken any classes. Whenever something breaks I Google and Google and Google until I’ve narrowed down the symptom with the possible causes then I go through the causes one by one until I’ve eliminated all but one. 🙂 ~ karen!

  10. Quincy says:

    Fantastic post however , I was wondering if you
    could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could
    elaborate a little bit more. Bless you!

  11. Grammy says:

    I feel smug and I haven’t even done it. Just knowing this is going to make me obnoxious for the next few days. Excellent tutorial and it makes me want to take apart all my appliances.

    • Pam'a says:

      Oh, no need to wait. Next time you run into ANYBODY with ANYTHING that’s not running, you are now equipped to stroke your chin and murmur, “It could be your brushes…”

  12. Maura says:

    Great post Karen! Are there always 2 carbon brushes on every motor?

  13. Sharon says:

    Is there anything you can’t do?

  14. natalie says:

    Somehow I now feel sorry for the commutators – they really got snubbed.

  15. Laura Bee says:

    Wow-I need to remember this! Thanks so much. Buying a new house with older Kenmore appliances & I know they last forever…but one day this will be useful. I feel better already!

  16. Sally A says:

    You never cease to amaze me! Thank you for the empowerment!

  17. Kim C. says:

    Thank you! Great instructions and I like the clear, close up shots with each step. Gives me hope that I can now confidently take my crappy vacuum cleaner apart to see if the brushes are worn. If that’s not the problem I’ll stick it back in the closet and wait until you fix something else! I trust your advice and tutorials THE most! By the way, I can only imagine what work went into snapping the photos along the way. You rock=)

    • Grammy says:

      ” If that’s not the problem I’ll stick it back in the closet and wait until you fix something else!”

      Karen, thank you once again for attracting such entertaining people to gather at your place. The comments are the other reason I come here.

  18. Su says:

    rock on lady! thanks for sharing and inspiring us to not be afraid to give it a shot 🙂

  19. Tigersmom says:

    So this is what we end up paying $150 for a service call for.

    NOT ANYMORE! Mooooohahahahahahah!

  20. Magdalena says:

    Thank you! This is sooooo awesome! These posts are what I look forward to in the morning and so I have these simple words for you ‘Thank You!’. Very constructive information in this one but most importantly – funny, you are funny 🙂

  21. Edith says:

    Hi Karen!

    It was all your fault. And if you had been here I’d given you a hug afterwards!

    While my hubby was on the other side of the planet a few weeks ago, the ice maker went out in our fridge. NORMALLY I would have called the repairman. BUT INSTEAD I followed my favorite Canadian gal’s advice (that’s you) and just gave it a shot. Well no, I didn’t shoot the darn thing, I tackled the problem myself! I looked at Youtube tutorials, removed the ice maker, did some tests on it, ordered a replacement unit and installed it myself. I would have NEVER done this prior to finding your blog. You’ve done me so good!

    • Karen says:

      Really?! That’s great! I love these types of comments and stories. I’ll have to do a post on them one day where everyone let’s everyone else know about the things they’ve tackled because they now know they can. Good job! ~ karen

  22. Mary Werner says:

    OK what really got me was when you said take out the motor – how did you know what “things” were holding the motor in place and which were part of said motor. It all looks the same to me. Sorta like a great exam. I tried, honest. But there are all sorts of bumps and lumps in there. I had just been to my doctor when he said you should do self exams. Well a week later, I was showering and said, what the heck, I’ll try. Then to my surprise I found several little bumps and immediately called him. He said come in the morning, I’ll open early so we can get you in. Well, after I drove the hour to get to him, he examined me and said, those are just normal things inside. You are fine. Well they ought to sell boobs with things inside so we could feel what to feel for. All that to say, the motor has so many “things” all around how in the world did you know to take the 2 “bolts” out to get the motor out? The first pic of you hand inside looked like a horror movie until I realized on the next pic that you were wearing gloves. I’m just so afraid of doing something really wrong. Need to start small like changing the smoke alarm battery.

  23. Mary Werner says:

    I know – maybe with all your spare time you could video the process so it wasn’t so intimidating!

  24. Jody says:

    When I saw you were wearing gloves I thought this was going to be a sterile surgical procedure. Sounds just a s complicated to me though.

  25. Kristi says:

    You ARE AWESOME! GirlPower to the 9th power! … or something like that. I wish you wrote the instruction manuals for all things that need fixing – I understand your language

  26. Heather says:

    You can make anything interesting!

  27. Lynne says:

    Well. I learned something today. My ex – who was a quite a handy type – would fix just about anything – or give it the old college try at least. I had heard the term “brushes” on numerous occasions when he was futzing with things but I never actually looked at them, being content to let him deal with it. I always assumed they were – well – brushlike. It never occurred to me that they were solid and so named because they literally brushed against something.

    Now I know. Thanks, Karen.

  28. Alice says:

    This will come in handy sometime. The most brilliant part is making a diagram with a sharpie. This will help with so many things.

  29. Brenda says:

    YOU*ARE* UTTERLY*AMAZING

    Dont let ANYONE tell you that you’re not

    PS don’t you love that new expression, “Let’s do this” ?

  30. Sally says:

    As an electrician I was reading your post anticipating a ” train wreck” but did an awesome post! Great job Karen!!! I might be the only one who cares about the commutator

  31. JeannieB says:

    I burnt out an electric drill, years ago and took it to a small motor repair place to have the brushes replaced. I assumed they were actually ” brushes”. Little, fuzzy brushes! But now I know better. Thanks for informing us. Knowlege is power!

  32. Patti says:

    You’re amazing because you can talk about carbon brushes and (no one cares about) commutators AND still bring the LOLz. You make this stuff look easy. Which I guess is what you’re trying to show us, that it ain’t rocket science!

  33. Ana Rocadas says:

    I love these kinds of posts. And I don’t even own a washer.

  34. janpartist says:

    Everyone is so complimentary and I’m thinking, “I waited two days for this?!” Humpfh!

  35. Stacey says:

    Karen – Can you now teach me how to replace my front door. Serious problem, totally intimidated.

  36. Ellen says:

    Screw the Maytag repairman…………….. we’ve got Karen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. Hazo says:

    Did a similar thing a week ago…replaced the motor on our washing machine with the help of Mr. Google and the Whirlpool website and $39.00 for replacement part! Works better than it ever did. Now I’m looking at my sad, well-used, but dying weed whacker and thinking…WWKD???? What would Karen do???? Thanks for the inspiration! I’m gonna do it!

  38. Leah Laurent says:

    Oh, thank goodness those are surgical gloves! I thought, for a quick second, you had a serious problem with hydration and that your skin was oddly puckered in the shape of some electrical slot and not bouncing back. And then you said “Always wear surgical gloves” and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief for your hydration. Phew.

  39. Debbie says:

    Many moons ago my Husband of 17 years ,just left and that was it. Of course, the furnace quit working the second day and it was December. I called the gas company thinking it was something to do with it. The nice gas guy told me what it was pointed to it. It was the ignitor. (way before internet days) I ordered one from a parts company loosened two screws and put it in. Worked great for another 10 years. This is where,” try to fix it first” started. Your post has inspired me, to look into the mixer, and see if this is what the deal is with this. Thank you for this post.
    Also, how old is your washer, I was wondering how fast these guys can go out.

  40. Auntiepatch says:

    You are my Hero! Does anything scare you?

  41. Margaret B. says:

    Omg Karen! This is genius! I have a graveyard of fans that don’t turn anymore that might get a new lease on life. Us “old” girls need all the cool air we can get 24/7.

  42. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Just who is this “commutator” and why do you want us to not care about him….hmmmm..I wonder how many appliances I tossed that could have been fixed this way..Good job Tool Lady..

  43. I had no idea such things as carbon brushes existed. My world has expanded and I’m not yet through my morning cup of coffee! Just recently, I was working “basin wrench” into my conversations, after completing my first-ever bathroom taps and drain removal and installing new ones. The nut that wouldn’t loosen almost had me reaching for the phone for one of the hairy belly sorts you mentioned. The repair would be small potatoes for you, but provided a whole cropful of pride for me! Wonder if I’ll be working “carbon brushes” into future chats . . .

    -Karen

  44. Christy Cramer says:

    Ok so I got busted by my boss cackling at this post in my office. You funny girl. It was worth it though because I do believe, after reading the steps and looking at the pics, I could do this myself. Now I can’t wait for something with brushes to break 🙂

  45. Marius Beltman says:

    Replaced brushes on old hoover vac. Original brushes not longer available, made some up to fit. Thickness is correct but not as wide as original. Motors runs but is turning the other way round. Any comment. Thanks.

  46. Bram says:

    The big question is how do I know the initial length of the brush if I’m going to replace it when its already worn out?

  47. Kevin says:

    Anytime you replace brushes, you should evaluate the condition of your armature. Most newbies just replace the brushes and call it good. Sure, the motor will work, but you’re cutting down on its service life. And nobody mentioned anything about its bearings either;sealed or not, ball bearing or sintered bushings etc. The armature’s commutator should at least be cleaned/inspected and bearings evaluated.

  48. Dave McE. says:

    K, you’re a doll!!! Keep that sense-of-humour going…………I love it!!!!

  49. Fabian says:

    My brushed motor is completely sealed so is waterproof (electric scooter motor). I guess I need to pull the stator out of the motor, disassemble the motor ?. Can’t do it by hand (motor has about 4-5 inches diameter). How to I do this ? Do I need some sort of puller tool ? Thanks =)

  50. Jan Weber says:

    It was a joy to come here and learn from another woman – another sister who is NOT part of our throw-away society! My vacuum just stopped one day – not very old but evidently I got a deal on it bc it was discontinued and all parts as well. No one would fix it. So I got online, found a motor and learned how to replace it. Then some comment about brushes made me go in that direction. New motor: $200 – new brushes: $15.
    Until I came here, I was afraid to pull out that little spring with the wire attached. The most helpful thing for me was the pictures of the new and old. So a carbon brush is the whole shebang: wire, spring AND carbon piece. As it turned out, my carbon part was still looking like new. But I also found a cheaper motor. So thanks for getting me this far!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Jan! I’m so glad it helped you out. I have to say those brushes might be the last time I fix my washer/dryer combo though. I’ve been fixing the same set for 16 years now and parts are literally falling off of them, lol. Sometimes you just have to know when to say “when”. 😉 ~ karen!

  51. Mathew Davis says:

    Thank you soo much Karen. My daughter used our Dyson Vacuum as a shop vac, despite the fact that I have three shop vacs. I didn’t know jack about an electric motor and within a very short period of time, with the help of your article, I discovered that the metal housing around one of the carbon brushes was corroded on the inside and was not allowing the brush to slide freely. Without your article I wouldn’t have known the thing was supposed to move at all. After cleaning the spring and the metal sleeve, the carbon bar started working correctly and pushing forward within the sleeve. The power head brush is now spinning like a top and I don’t have to go drop several hundred dollars for another vacuum. I didn’t even have to order a carbon brush.

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Mathew. I’m happy I was able to help because I know I had a hard time finding information about carbon brushes when I was needing to replace mine. I’m gonna have to think about putting a tip jar on my site. 😉 ~ karen!

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