Is Your Whirlpool Washer Stuck on Sensing | Simple Fix

You may think that your washer is functioning properly when, in fact, it isn’t. Initially, the cycle begins as normal – with a sensing phase before any water enters the washing machine. But then the washer gets stuck during the sensing mode and is unable to progress further along the wash cycle. To rectify this issue and get the washing operating again, there are a number of troubleshooting steps to explore.

What Is The Sensing Cycle

Have you ever been baffled as to why your washing machine gets stuck on the sensing cycle? This short phase is where your washer figures out just how much water it needs to wash your garments. It’s a clever feature that ensures the appliance doesn’t use up more water than required. When the device stalls during this step, it prevent the program advancing further into subsequent stages of the cycle.

Is it Normal When The Sensing Light is Flashing

You will normally see the sensing light flashing on your Whirlpool washer when you start the appliance with the knob set to ‘auto-sensing’. During this phase, the machine will do a few short and slow spins to assess the load size. However, the sensing light will flash only for a few minutes when the washer is working properly.

How To Fix A Whirlpool Washer Stuck on The Sensing Mode

You are probably extremely frustrated that your washer has stopped working during the sensing phase. However, the good news is that in the vast majority of cases this problem is easy to resolve, and won’t take you more than a few minutes to fix. First you can try resting the washer, if that fails you will then check you washer settings, and finally you can inspect the the water inlet valve to make sure its operating how it should. I will now take you through each step, to troubleshoot and resolve the problem.

1. Reset the Washer

The easiest fix and the first one you should try is resetting your washer. This means switching off the appliance on the control panel, unplugging it, and waiting for several minutes before you plug it back in. In some cases, this is all it takes to get your washing machine running again.
Electrical appliances on occasions can run into a program glitch, where their processors get confused and need an electrical discharge (switching off) to reset. You will probably be familiar with rebooting your home computer, well this is the same principle.

2. Check Your Wash Settings

There is a chance that you have chosen the wrong settings and haven’t even realized. And now that’s the reason why your washer can’t get past the sensing cycle. Make sure that you check the settings and adjust them if necessary.

If none of the above solutions provide you with any outcome, and your machine is still stuck on sensing it’s time to inspect different components of the appliance.

3. Check for Defective Water Inlet Valve

A faulty water inlet valve can cause the washer cycle to stop it fails to open properly or maybe it doesn’t close fully. As a result there is insufficient water entering the washing machine, leading to an extended sensing cycle,  while the washer tries to detect the water level.

Washer inlet solenoid valve
Washer inlet solenoid valve

The best way to determine whether the inlet valve is functioning is to test it using a multimeter like this.

How to Test the Water Inlet Valve

You will need to have both a multimeter and a screwdriver handy to conduct this test. Before you do anything, make sure that the machine is not plugged into a power source. Once you do that, you should follow these next steps:

  1. Take your screwdriver and use it to remove the console on the top of your Whirlpool washing machine.
  2. You will see a plastic solenoid with two wires connected to it. This is the water inlet valve, refer to inlet valve image above.
  3. Disconnect the wires and remove the inlet valve.
  4. Set your multimeter to the lowest resistance setting and connect its leads to the valve’s terminals.
  5. The valve should show some resistance.
  6. If you get a reading of 0 ohms or infinity, it means that the water inlet valve is faulty and will need to be replaced. You can buy a replacement here.

If you’re interested to learn how to replace a defective water inlet valve, watch the video below. This ais a relatively simple component to repair, and something that a competent personal can fix at home.

Whirlpool Washer Repair - How to Replace the Water Inlet Valve (Whirlpool Part # W11210459)

4. Faulty Shift Actuator

The shift actuator is an optical sensor that sends a signal whenever the machine shifts between two different functions. If the shift actuator is faulty, the machine will only be stuck on one function – sensing. In order for your washer to shift between different functions, you will need to replace this component.

There are a few clear signs you can check for when you think the shift actuator may be at fault:

  • Cycle not advancing: A clear indication of a faulty shift sensor is a washing machine getting stuck in a particular cycle and not being able to progress. It basically remains in one phase or process, without transitioning to the part of the program
  • Inability to change cycles: The machine will fail to respond even if you attempt to select a different cycle.
  • Error codes: The washer may display error codes referencing an issue with the shift actuator. Error codes tend to be model specific, so you may need to refer to your manual.
  • Unusual sounds or vibrations: A malfunctioning shift actuator sensor may create unusual noises during operation.
  • Visibly damaged or loose sensor: Inspect the shift actuator sensor visually, and check for physical damage, such as cracks, broken parts, or loose wire connections.
Whirlpool washer shift actuator
Buy Whirlpool washer shift actuator

How to Replace a Shift Actuator

To gain access to the shift actuator inside your washing machine, lay it on its side and unscrew the rear panel with a screwdriver. Using the reference image above locate the actuator situated next to the drive belt. It’s a good idea to photograph the wire connections, so that you have a clear visible record for the installation and connection on the new unit. Replacing the shift actuator is as simple as disconnecting the wires, unscrewing the component and replace it with a new unit.

Below is an excellent video providing step by step guidance on how to replace a defective shift actuator in your Whirlpool washing machine.

Whirlpool Top Load Washer Replace Shift Actuator #W10597177

5. Faulty Drive Motor

The drive motor inside a washing machine is built to last for a long time. But that doesn’t mean it’s indestructible. When it does become defective, it will be a serious problem that you shouldn’t attempt to fix yourself. But there are a few clues that can help you narrow down the diagnosis to isolate the drive motor as the probable cause:

  • Lack of motor activity: During the sensing cycle, the drive motor will engage and start to rotating the drum. If you can’t hear the motor running it could indicate that the motor is the cause.
  • Faulty motor connections: If you can inspect the motor check for any loose wires.  A loose connection will prevent the motor receiving power, leaving the washer stuck sensing cycle.
  • Burnt motor smell: A malfunctioning drive motor can be prone to overheating and give off a burning smell.

If you’re not comfortable for confident in performing these tests, or if you already suspect the drive motor is causing the sensing issue, you should contact a professional technician for support.

6. Problem with the Main Control Board

If the washer’s main control board fails it can either start sending wrong signals or won’t send any signal at all. The only way to be certain that there is a problem with this component is to test it for continuity with a multimeter.

Testing the Main Control Board

The main control board is located right behind the control panel on your washing machine. To test the board, you will first have to remove the control panel. Here’s how you can conduct the electrical continuity test on the main control board.

  1. Start by unplugging your washer from the power source.
  2. Now remove the screws that hold the control panel with a screwdriver.
  3. Remove the control panel.
  4. You will notice the control board after removing the panel. You’ll have to remove the board as well.
  5. Set the lowest resistance setting on your multimeter.
  6. Connects the leads of the multimeter to the main control board’s terminals.
  7. In case you get a reading of 0 ohms or a number close to it, the board is in good condition.
  8. If you see a very high number or the symbol for infinity, there is a problem with the board and it should be replaced.

Run Diagnostics Mode

It’s a good idea to run diagnostics mode so that the washing machine can display information on which component might be causing the issue through error codes. You should ideally do this before you start disassembling the machine and inspecting different components since it will save you a lot of time.

How To Enter Diagnostics Mode

Entering diagnostics mode is a simple process. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Start by turning the dial 360 degrees once.
  2. After you do that, you should rotate the knob one click left, three clicks right, one left, and then one right.
  3. Dials will now begin to flash. When that happens, simply turn the knob to the spin cycle.
  4. Now press the Start button and the washer will enter the diagnostics mode.

You may also want to check out Whirlpool Washer Not Draining – Easy Troubleshooting

Recalibrate Your Washer

In case you recently changed components inside your washer like the main control board or drive motor, you will have to recalibrate the machine.

How to Re-Calibration

To recalibrate your washer, you should repeat the first two steps in the process of entering the diagnostics mode. After you do that, start turning the knob to the right side and click by click until you only see the Rinse light flashing. Now press the Start button and the machine will start recalibrating. This process lasts a few minutes.

Verdict: Sensing Cycle Problem Resolved

In most cases, when your Whirlpool washer is stuck on sensing you can fix the problem without having to disassemble the machine. But if there is a mechanical issue then you should identify which component is defective and either fix or replace it. Some of the components that might be causing your washer to get stuck on sensing include the shift actuator, drive motor, and main control board.

If your washer ran into this problem, please feel free to share your experience with us below using the Comments section.


Whirlpool – Sensing Mode

Appliance Service Technician | Website | + posts

Andy has over 8 years of experience working on residential household appliances, performing diagnostics, and repairs across most major brands. He graduated from the Denver Institute of Technology, is NASTeC certified, and has worked for Mr. Appliance. Andy has contributed to features on major publications including Better Home & Gardens, Family Handyman, and