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Friday, November 4, 2011

Whirlpool/Kenmore/Maytag & more-F02/F21 & Sd error codes common fix

Let me start with a disclaimer. While I've been a journeyman ticketed technician since 1997 and repairing appliances professionally for nearly 20 years, I am not a professional writer nor am I a guru web designer, so what you see is what you get...I hope it will suffice.

As the title suggests, this is a general remedy for most Whirlpool made front-load machines, such as Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag, Amana, etc. when it comes to dealing with error codes displayed as Sd (suds) F02 or F21.

So before I begin I will elaborate on these common error codes in regard to their meaning...or intended meaning. Before getting started the simplest component to check is the drain hose...make sure it is not "kinked" or plugged.

First the Sd error (or SUDS as it can appear on certain models).

This code, is not so much an error really, I think of it as just a "heads-up" if you like from the MCU (motor control unit) to let you know you still have time to correct this before serious damage potentially occurs. The "Sd" is intended to be associated when too much detergent (thus creating suds) has been detected, but can manifest for several reason's. If left unchecked on certain models the F02 or F21 will be initiated by the CCU (central control unit) after several attempts to proceed.

Far and away the most common factor in my experience, is the use of the wrong type of detergent or too much of the correct detergent combined with water temperature. (that is specifically what this is based on, my experience...but mine is professional experience, this isn't a copy & paste from wikipedia to be clear)

You may ask, What's the difference and why does it matter ? Glad you asked, I'll attempt to explain.

Modern washing machines are very different from washers of the past, even ones built as recent as 10 years fact most appliances are very different. Sometimes these modern differences are obvious through the use of electronic controls, low water levels and minimum decibel levels (some can only be heard when standing next to them...subject to location, floor plan, and the items within of course :)

These machines are built with the same basic principle, to wash your clothes...though the extent of washing they are designed to perform has changed drastically in the past 20-30 years to say the least. Consider the primary demographic for manufacturers, urban folks whom of which rarely have 6-10 children to wash for anymore and if so it is the exception not the rule.

This actually factors into the use of too much detergent in my opinion, most urban folks don't get their clothing very soiled at all, they wear them to work or to school and throw them in the laundry, right ? However, does one adjust the amount or type of detergent added to the wash ? In my hands on experience, the answer is, no. More is not better either by the way...contrary in fact, very detrimental in most cases.

Nearly all washers today should use "He" (high efficiency - if you don't know if your detergent is high efficiency or not, look for the symbol shown below..if it's not on the package it is not "He") and in my opinion even using less of non-high efficient detergent is unacceptable.

In fact, not using "He" can lead to many avoidable failures, worst case scenario, worn out bearings and basket spider gears from excessive vibrations...even in the topload high-efficient machines, but that's getting too technical for my intended blog here.

I know many folks balk at the idea of "He" being more expensive, but in fact it's not when you consider it requires less to accomplish the same (if not superior) cleaning. The biggest difference between regular laundry detergent and "He" detergent is simply the additives...or specifically the amount of additives. Regular detergents as they've been marketed in North America are full of additives. (European, South Pacific, Asian countries have used "He" detergent for many years, in fact they are only known as for colors, one for whites, no bleach either...but the use of bleach is another kettle of fish) these companies actually add "soap" to the detergents they sell....and no soap and detergent are not the same, they are very, very different.

As most people will acknowledge marketing is a game of illusion and seeing is believing, right ? What do most people associate with cleaning ? You guessed it, suds ! So in their marketing research through the years, they've found products with more suds, better smelling additives etc. sell better...though they certainly don't necessarily clean better. Detergents, before adding "soap" do not create suds...or very little suds...dependant on water temperature, soil in the items, aggressiveness of the tumble action etc.

Enough of that, that is one factor for sure. The other factors ? Well, most modern machines also only use perhaps 1/3 (or even less on some I've seen recently...2-3 years) the water as previous generations of washers as I'm sure you are well is usually the first comment folks make to me about their new "high-efficient" washer.

The other factor, though not as great a factor, cold water washing. (this also is a primary contributing factor in those "stinky" "foul smelling" "moldy"  front load washers everyone hears about...that's for another blog...stay tuned)

I know I know, you purchased detergent designed for cold water washing, great ! The only problem I find with this detergent is folks tend to use enough to produce these unwanted suds, when used for warm or hot water washes it tends to suds even greater.

Having said all this, my intention is not to scare anyone into thinking "Oh gosh, I've ruined my washer", I am hoping the information I provide here will help you prevent potential catastrophic failure and keep the money in your pocket, instead of mine...though I'll accept it if you need me, ha ha !

Second, F02 and F21 are essentially the same error displayed differently depending on the model. On certain models (refer to your owners manual if possible to confirm or dismiss) one can attempt to clear the display first by pressing pause/cancel twice.

This error code is displayed when the CCU (the washers brain or central control unit) has detected the washer cannot drain in the allowed time programmed into the CCU, usually 8 minutes.

Don't panic, it doesn't mean the pump is toast (though it can be) it is more commonly a by-product of foreign objects  (such as coins, buttons, nails, thongs, infant socks are common too...and dare I say what I see too often, support wires from bra's thus catching all the lint meant to be extracted) in the filter of the pump preventing proper water flow through the pump, thus the time needed to drain the typical volume of water is exceeded.

So, there you have the common reasons for these errors. Below is a guide I put together on what and how to resolve these errors once they occur, based on my professional experience.

A #20 type torx screwdriver, (possibly pliers/vice grips) and a shop vacuum are the suggested tools for this remedy, you may also choose to wear rubber gloves, they are actually great for gripping when working around water, almost like that was the intention, go figure, lol :)

Before attempting to repair your appliance via the do-it-yourself method please use safe practises. **Turn off the breaker at the service panel or unplug the washer from the wall first**

1) locate the screws in front at the very bottom of the panel below the door and pull the panel down and forward until it is off. They will be either 1/4" hex head or #20 torx head screws as this example illustrates.
FL AW service panel
(The more involved back flow I discuss below will require removing the rear panel if necessary to check the back flow ball. These are also #20 torx screws, but you will also need to remove the plastic caps from the shipping bolt openings).

2) You will immediately see the drain pump in front of you (these units just have the one pump) with a large removable filter. ( **see image below...this is were a wet-dry shop vac and towels come in handy, also the use of the removed panel as a catch pan is beneficial...but you may still get wet )

3) Turn it counter-clockwise should allow you to remove it and inspect it and clean it out. (this filter can be very tight and may require the pliers/vice grips to loosen it initially) Once you loosen it, drain the water slowly…don’t remove it all at once or you’ll certainly get wet and (hopefully not) flooded. Make a good thorough inspection inside the pump as well…not just the removable filter.

This is where you can manually open the locked door (after sufficient water has been drained) if it was unable to open automatically, this is often the case when these errors appear. With the panel removed, reach your hand up along the latch side of the door and feel for the latch assembly, it will have a teardrop/loop shape on the bottom, (as pictured in the image below) pull this and the door will open.

4) Re-insert the filter and before placing the panel back run a test rinse/drain cycle to inspect for leaks and to verify the unit drains and spins now.

If the problem still exist`s the Sd or "F2" or "F21" will re-appear. If so you`ll need to check the hose/rubber bellows from pump to tub (this is where the back-flow ball is located) for other obstructions.

5) If all appears OK after your efforts, well your efforts paid off...pat yourself on the back. You just saved yourself potentially a couple hundred bucks !

Now You should be good to go. If you’re confident it is repaired and there are no signs of leaks, re-attach the lower panel and you`re back in business.

**NOTE: if this still fails to remedy the Sd, F2, F21 or if it returns immediately during the next drain you may require a pump unfortunately...part # 280187 available at "" "" etc.

**These errors however, can also be caused by the back-flow ball inside the bellows which connects the tub to the pump. There is a large clamp which secures it to the tub, but if you remove it to clean out all the dirt built up inside, make sure you get it good and secure when putting it back.**
As shown from the rear of the washer
back flow clamp


Often I have found dryer static/softener sheets (like I say to my customers, "don't ask me how it got in there, it's your laundry"...same goes for coins, screws, etc. in the pump ha ha !) and the like covering the check ball (back flow) thus preventing it's proper function or blocking proper water flow, hence it will initiate an F21/F02 error.

Among the many potential causes of these errors, the most common by far is too much detergent even if you are using "He" – high efficiency, detergent…which you should be on any frontload washer. This may require a thorough “washer bath” just to get back to normal function. As I mentioned above, coming soon you can see my other tip on front load washer maintenance for more info on this subject...stay tuned.

In closing let me explain “why” these errors occur most often in the hope you can prevent this from happening in the future. When combining too much detergent and the use of cold washing, add the dirt from the items in the wash, this manifest into a scenario of all this grunge build-up as it settle’s to the walls of the outer tub and hoses.
Thanks for visiting my fixedappliance blog today. I hope I was able to provide you with some useful information to keep your hard earned money in your pocket and the steps to do-it-yourself. Good luck.

Please feel free to leave feedback or ask further question if anything is not clear or the procedures above do not resolve your particular problem.

**If you have any hesitation to perform anything suggested here, please contact a professional or post your concern here**

Speaking of professionals, I have link to the top right of the page for my paid services, click on "Buy Now" to utilize this service.

I welcome your involvement, but please respect these solutions are only the first and most common remedies, not necessarily the resolve for all...but rather "most" Sd, F02, and F21 error codes.


Mark M.


  1. I just wanted to thank you. Your post really did save us money on a repairman.

  2. I have a HE machine, but started making my own detergent that I put directly into the tub with the clothes. It consists of oxyclean, feldspar, baking soda, etc. I am wondering if that could be causing my machine to clog? Thank you.

  3. Thanks, is there a need to remove the attachment to the pump to inspect more thoroughly?
    I noticed on the second spin the pump was making a funny noise, water drained ok though.

  4. Thank You! My Machine has been throwing this error every day. Tine to do this maintenance item. 4 years of great service with a family of 5.... my washer has been a real trooper.

  5. Thanks for the info. Had the "Sd" error and discovered a long missing sock between the tubs.

  6. The internet is bogged down with bogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantastic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me.
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  7. awesome post ,i truly found a underwire,screws ,hairpins,change and all kinds of gunk in a 5 yr old washer thanks for a very helpful and awesome post

  8. THANKS TO YOU AND THIS AWESOME INSTRUCTIONAL EDUCATIONAL POST----I did it! No more F21!! Yeah! Woo hoo! Thanks a ton.

  9. This was great thank you. HOWEVER I still need help! I started with the F35 error. We drained and checked everything!! We replaced the pressure switch now I am getting the F21 error! We checked everything what else can it be??? Please help! Thank you!

  10. Thank you for your easy to follow directions. I had a F-21 error code and was able to clean the drain filter myself. I found coins, ink pen parts and gunk. But this leaves me thinking...why in the heck don't they put those directions in the manual...and why don't they just put a little flip up door to open and give easy access to the drain filter. This is probably something a person would check & clean every few months.

  11. Please help. I changed out my pump cleaned my hoses and still F2 error on my Duet. My hubby bought a huge thing of cheap soap and I imagine this is the issue. My drain hose does not seem to be pushing out the water its more like trickling out. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

  12. Your blogs and its stuff are so notable and worthwhile it can make me return.portable washer reviews

  13. Thank you so much!! 3 tubes a WRENCH and lots of lint later and my washer is running again!!!

  14. Thanks for this info. Very helpful! I found junk/muck in each area, but I would still get the F02 error. Looking around, I found a piece of plastic connected to what looks like an air hose. Turns out it is called a washer hose and air-trap. I disconnected it from the backside of the tub and it was completely clogged with gunk. I cleaned it out, put it back together and now my washer is working again. ***If you have to do this be careful for the small screw on the bottom of this "air-trap". Very hard to see that you need to remove that as well as lift the clip.

  15. Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. appliance installation

  16. We had the f21 code replaced the pump and now we are getting the SD or 5d code any suggestions