Sparking between washer & inlet hose.

Old 12-20-06, 11:39 PM
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Sparking between washer & inlet hose.

Hi Folks,

My first post, so please bear with me as this is a problem I've never encountered before.

Yesterday as I'm walking past our laundry alcove, I heard dripping water and saw that one of the braided metal inlet hoses was leaking. I turned off the inlet valve and the next day when I was starting to replace the hose, I put a pair of channel locks on the hose end to unscrew it from the rear of the washer and I got a small spark when the channel locks briefly contacted the washer's metal housing. I then noticed that the braiding on the old hose had a couple of small arc burns on it where it was leaking.

I immediately stopped and unpluged the washer. I broke out my trusty VOM meter and did a check for countinuity on the washer between the metal washer housing and the hot side of it's electrical plug, and got an open (infinite) reading.

Plugged the washer back in and measured for presence of voltage between the washer housing and the water valve... I'm reading about 23 volts.

I also found (and I don't remember if this is normal) that I can get a 120 volt reading with the volt meter leads on the hot side of the wall outlet and the inlet water valve. It's been way too many years since I've used my apprentice electricial knowledge and I just can't recall if this is an abnormal condition.

What are your thoughts on this?

I'm concerned about the voltage reading between the water valve and the hot side of the outlet, but if that's normal, what might the cause be for the voltage reading (and sparks) between the washer housing and the inlet hose?

Might that be an indication that the problem is possibly a short in the washer itself, such as a control panel that's grounding out, rather than a possible fault in the house wiring?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
Old 12-21-06, 04:08 AM
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Voltage between hot and water is not a good sign. Check the outlet with no load, hot to N and gnd, and N to gnd. Check the washer plug for continuity of the gnd pin to the metal chassis.
Old 12-21-06, 04:12 AM
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Assuming your water pipes are properly bonded to or are properly acting as your ground, you should see 120 volts between the hot wire and the water line, or between the hot wire and the chassis of the washer.
Old 12-21-06, 06:58 AM
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Just to add.... arcing to the metal braided water supply hose ain't "normal"! Especially if it was bad enough to burn through the braid and cause the hose to leak.

You either have voltage on your water pipe or the frame of that washer. this really is a dangerous deal because you dont know where the voltage is originating.

I would be reluctant to advise checking this out because of the inherit dangers of troubleshooting something like this on live circuits. You need an electrician to look at what is causing this objectionable voltage.

Dont use that washer till you find out what is causing this, kill the breaker serving that washer.

One question though is your house wiring grounded or is it the older ungrounded 2 prong outlets?


Last edited by Roger; 12-21-06 at 07:36 AM.
Old 12-21-06, 01:52 PM
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The House was built in '83, it's 3 prong grounded... and I neglected to mention in my post that the outlet is on a GFI breaker, which has not tripped.

Yes, I agree, this is not a normal situation... and a potentially deadly one, I've already taken safe guards. In my mispent youth, I was once in a apprentice electrician program that I dropped out of to go work on mainframe computers (there are days that I wish I had stayed with that apprentice program), so I have a very healthy respect for what electricity can do to a person... especially if they are providing an excellent path to ground.
Old 12-21-06, 08:57 PM
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I think you need to do more investigating. First, the water valves on a washing machine are usually plastic and so would provide no good path to ground to burn the metal braid. (and you proved there isn't an electrical connection between the hose and washer because of the pliers sparking) And, if the washer was having ground issues or a hot wire touching the frame you'd have gotten shocked touching it. I suspect something metal fell on to the hose at some point while contacting the washer frame and caused the burn.

I would begin checking the plumbing for a ground wire for something that may be grounded to it rather than the panel. I suspect something is trying to use the plumbing for a neutral return, and that something may additionally have a problem. I've also run across situations like this where the supply line was metal and continuous with the neighbors metal supply line - and the neighbor had a neutral issue and the current was using the water lines and grounding electrode connection to complete a circuit, causing the pipes in my customer's house to shock people. Neither of these situations is particularly uncommon or particularly easy to find sometimes.

Obviously, make sure that the neutral, ground, and hot wires on the washing machine cord are all intact and haven't been damaged, especially where they enter the machine. Use a Wiggy or similar device, or a 100 watt lamp in a socket that has test leads attached to verify that both the neutral and ground connections at the receptacle show around 120 volts to the hot wire.

Above all, be careful. You may have a simple problem or something you need to involve a pro with depending on what you find.
Old 12-24-06, 08:47 AM
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I would check the GFCI for proper operation. If the GFCI is working correctly, then the circuit supplying the washer cannot be the source of the current to ground.

If the GFCI is working correctly, then the next thing that I would check for is voltage between the _ground_ pin of the receptacle to the metal water pipes.

If you find voltage between the ground pin and one or the other of the water pipes, then you need to investigate further. I once had a problem with an electrically 'hot' water pipe; it turned out to be a damaged hot water heater element, combined with water pipes that were not properly bonded.

Old 12-24-06, 09:00 AM
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It could be an internal short in the machine with current flow back through ground instead of neutral or a bad internal neutral connection somewhere causing it. That coupled with maybe a bad GFCI. Also if you're reading 23 volts between the washer chassis and the water pipe it means they are not bonded. Your washer may not be properly grounded.

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