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Hello TSF,

This forum has been very helpful to me in the past with numerous PC related problems, but now I have something a bit more domestic for you.

I have a ten year old Panasonic washing machine, model number NA-VR5500L, that has suddenly become very noisy. This is a Direct Drive, 9kg, front loading model with lots of bells and whistles. It still washes and spin-dries clothes normally and reports no error codes while doing so, but the drum bearings have clearly gone bad and need replacing. Numerous sites around the net describe the process of replacing them, and I am fully confident I can perform this repair, but I cannot find replacement parts for this model anywhere. Parts for other models do exist, including other Panasonics, just not this model. It is, or was, a top-of-the-line model back in 2010 when we bought it. It does everything except fold your laundry and even talks sweetly in Japanese as it begins and ends each cycle so I thought it would last at least 20 years. It cost 200,000 yen ($2,000US), which is a lot to spend on a washing machine, but I tend to buy expensive appliances as I know they will generally last longer and give better service. Or so I thought -- not so with this one, apparently.

A Panasonic repairman came by yesterday and confirmed my original diagnosis, that the drum bearings are bad, but he said that Panasonic had stopped producing that model and that parts were no longer available for it. He also said that the expected life-cycle for these machines is only seven years so he strongly advised us to buy a new washer.

Well, the old DIY Repairman in me wasn't too happy hearing that! I resolved to fix it myself instead, but I am going to need a source for parts. I suspect the bearings are fairly standard in size -- all I need to do is determine the OD, ID, and width of the bearings and find some off-the-shelf replacements. The rubber seal may be more difficult but not impossible to find. Bearing suppliers I have access to, official Panasonic replacement parts sellers -- not so much. I could use your help with these questions, however:
  • What type of bearings should I look for (standard ball bearings, sealed, unsealed, etc.)?
  • Despite what Panasonic says, will a bearing kit from another model work in my machine? These bearings can't be all that different from one machine to another, especially from the same manufacturer. See this link for one such kit on eBay: PANASONIC NA-168VX4 NA-168VX2 WASHING MACHINE DRUM SEAL bearing set spare kit | eBay
  • Are there bearing kits from other manufacturers that will fit? Unlike Panasonic, LG seems to be all over the internet with spares kits. Will those bearings fit do any of you know? I'd rather not do a lot of experimenting to find out if I can avoid it.
The fact that this may not have been done before doesn't bother me. I have nothing to lose except an old washing machine. Your help in answering these questions is therefore much appreciated!
 

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I have noticed that with most appliances the successor model is normally just a reskinned version of the older model. The mechanical parts will normally be the same, but the housing, controls and electronics may be updated to look different than the older model.
The bearings on ebay you linked are SKF, so easily available almost anywhere. If you find the same bearings in a kit, the odds are that the seal would be usable even if listed for a different model.
I'd take it apart, take a good look at the seal(s), measuring the bearings and do some shopping. I've found that many Ebay sellers are willing to measure parts for you if you explain the problem.
 
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