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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

The Great Disassembling

Why is it easier to disassemble than put together or more correctly put back together?

Take this latest incident for example. The washing machine started to make an unusual noise but I was not immediately deterred and plough on with one more load. But the noise became something that one perhaps should not ignore. It sounded a little like some monolith was attempting to make its way to surface from the Earth’s core. That, right there, is a serious sound. On closer inspection, even to my unskilled eye, there was an obvious glitch in the fundamental structure of the appliance. I explained it thusly in a text to my husband:

                                                                                         ‘the washing machine seems to have a prolapse’

His immediate reaction was amusement because allegedly one doesn’t confer medical conditions on inanimate objects; however, the imagery conjured by the diagnosis was apt. The seal on the door and sagged and bowed out of its housing in a most ungainly fashion. Thus began the great disassembling.

Now I am not, by my very nature, a DIY (do it yourself) contender. I don’t like anything that requires the use of any tool that can’t be used in the kitchen. But my beloved is the DIY king and he asserted that we could, following a carefully viewed YouTube clip take the washing machine apart, remove the offending and buckled seal, replace it with a brand new one and then put the whole thing back together as a functioning white good. Sounds reasonable in theory. Enthusiastically a new seal was purchased from a salesman who seemed to know that he was allowing my husband to undertake a fool’s errand. He said little but the incredulous look on his face should have been the first hint that we might have had more luck splitting the atom with a blowtorch and some good luck.

The first problem was that our model wasn’t exactly like the one in the video clip. The front and top of our machine did not come away as indicated by the neatly dressed chap who seemingly revealed the trouble spot with limited effort. Our machine had to have all the sides removed by undoing fifty screws, several of which were unreachable unless someone levered the metal away from the housing, bending the frame out of shape in the process. This I was told could be rectified in the reassembling process. I hate to suggest that I doubted such a thing at this early stage in the proceedings.

With the washing machine now denuded of its casing it sat sadly exposed revealing that the prolapsed seal was in fact merely a symptom of the catastrophic injuries inside. Who knew that washing machines had a heavy cement ring that could under some sort of circumstances collapse off its plastic supports? Cement and plastic! Seriously! At this point, three hours in, one might have thought that the patient was dead and that despite the dozens of neat piles of screws that belonged together it wasn’t going to be the same even if it could be fixed. 


Then the war began. Old rubber seals have a bit of give. So getting it off its mounting was easy. I mean that, it was easy. New rubber seals have no elasticity at all and trying to get it back on was not only difficult but seemingly impossible. It required my help and that in itself reveals the desperate nature of the situation. I’m rarely called upon to wield tools and provide advice in these circumstances. But by hour five there I was brandishing two long screwdrivers that had to remain wedged under the rim of the opening to stop the seal dislodging itself as my husband gradually positioned a tiny rubber lip over an impossible gaping chasm of metal. I could just see the weapons I was holding in place, not just with my hands but with a foot and hip also involved, ricocheting out of place and stabbing both of us in a most injurious manner.

That technique failing we attempted using body weight, knees and an awkward move that saw us sitting either side of the machine, feet against what was left of the sides pulling the rubber ring in two directions in an attempt to stretch it enough to somehow miraculously make it fit.

By hour six we called for reinforcement. Despite it being dinner time, Dr. Pete, known aficionado of DIY, arrived to provide further advice and an extra pair of hands. I believe we said if it was not on in ten minutes he would be released from any obligation to continue. In hour seven the patient was pronounced dead. The neat piles of screws had been strewn from one end of the laundry to the other. The pieces, of which there were many, lay abandoned in several rooms and on the deck outside. Even if the seal had been replaced this baby was never going to be the same. So we became pallbearers instead of surgeons. In pieces and bags of bits and bobs the washing machine went to the tip.

I had hoped for a better outcome. Perhaps somewhere inside I had expected this to be a simple transaction; things are taken apart, laid out, new things inserted, parts are reassembled in the opposite order they were undone. Even with patience and skill (provided by two blokes and few tools) and some preparation (man in YouTube clip) and a new part (skeptical man in spare parts shop) some things can’t be put back together. It was confirmed when the same man who sold the seal refunded the money, with a knowing smile, when the offending part was returned.

But every challenge provides a lesson. So what did I learn: there is no shame in defeat when you are beaten by a stronger force; don’t pull something apart if you have any doubts that reassembly will be impossible; don’t believe everything you see in a YouTube clip; a man who smirks when you explain what you are going to undertake probably knows you’ll return defeated:  and that there is concrete in washing machines!

Good luck fellow disassemblers!

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