Common Appliance Issues and How to Repair Them

Even the most well-made and reliable appliances may develop issues after years of operation. When that time comes, you should look into getting them repaired. But the question is: what problems can you fix yourself, and which ones require the attention of a professional?

I spoke with a few appliance repair experts from across the country, and they shared which appliance issues they encounter most often with their customers, along with tips for how you could handle small appliance repairs yourself at home.

Ranges and Ovens

One problem that is seen often is that the range or oven simply won't turn on or won't produce heat. Sometimes surface elements fail to work. Another common complaint is that heat isn't distributed evenly.

An oven that is baking unevenly may have a failing heating element. This thin black tube, located in the bottom of the oven, will glow red entirely when operating properly. If it’s failing in some places, you’ll see burned or blistered sections. A replacement heating element is fairly inexpensive and can be installed within 30 minutes.

gas range

Refrigerators and Freezers

One of the main things that can go wrong with refrigerators is that they stop keeping your groceries cold. This may be due to any number of factors, such as a freon leak.

Another common issue is that the refrigerator is running nearly constantly but still not getting any colder. Dirty condenser coils are often the cause of this. These are the black coils located underneath or behind your refrigerator which work to remove heat. The fix is simple: use a long, bristle brush to gently eliminate dust and dirt buildup from the coils. A condenser coil clean-off should happen every six months, or more frequently if you have furry pets.

Certain components of a refrigerator may stop working as well. For example, the water dispenser could stop working, or the ice maker could stop producing ice or defrosting when it is supposed to. If the ice maker is failing to produce ice, the water inlet valve may be restricted or faulty. It’s a fairly simple, 30-minute DIY job to replace this valve.

When it comes to standalone, chest, or upright style freezers, common issues include not cooling efficiently, not running all of the time, or not working entirely.

Dishwashers

Some issues dishwashers may encounter are not draining or leaking water. This could be due to clogged filters. More technical problems that can occur include dishwasher lights blinking or buttons not working when pressed.

If dishwashers are not functioning properly, they may fail to clean your dishes. If your dishware is coming out still dirty, the dishwasher isn’t getting enough water to do its job. A defective or clogged water inlet valve may be the cause. Replacement water inlet valves are simple to install, as they are located just behind the removable front kick plate.

Washing Machines

There are several different things that can go wrong with washing machines. They may start making odd noises, like thumping, during the spin cycle. The electronic control board may stop working. They could stop spinning, agitating, or draining properly.

If your washer fills and agitates but won’t drain or spin, the lid switch has failed. Use an Ohm meter to test it. If you confirm that it’s broken, it can be fixed with a replacement lid switch assembly.

Dryers

Common issues with dryers include failing to start, stopping during a cycle, or leaving clothes wet after going through a complete cycle.

If the dryer is taking too long to dry clothes, it’s likely there is a dangerous lint buildup in the venting. Lint buildup results in thousands of fires across the U.S. and Canada every year. Clean out the lint buildup in dryer venting from the inside of the dryer to the outside; this should happen at least once per year. Hire professionals or make it a low-cost, DIY job using a long dryer vent cleaning brush. A related fix could be cleaning or replacing the lint filter, which may become coated and clogged due to dryer sheet residue.

Vacuums

vacuum cleaner

The most common repairs for vacuum cleaners are broken belts and clogs. Both are caused by people thinking their vacuum can pick up anything. This leads to vacuum repair shops finding the funniest things inside of vacuum cleaners: cat toys, dog food (wet and dry), underwear, pens, box tops, and of course, lots of Legos. Picking up anything larger than lint and dirt is a formula for a vacuum cleaner repair.

Vacuum belts are meant to break. They are rubber and will burn or break if something stops the brush from turning. People think that they can run over anything and the roller brush will throw it up inside the vacuum. This doesn't always happen. Even a coin can stop the roller brush and the belt will snap. Larger things like paper and cardboard slow the brush down, which causes the motor shaft to burn through the rubber belt. This situation gives off a terrible smell and you end up with a broken belt.

Sometimes the items make it past the brush roll and up inside the interior of the vacuum. This causes a clog in the airways of the vacuum. When this happens, the vacuum has to be taken apart and all the passages have to be checked. Clogs in canister vacuums can be very expensive, because if the clog can't be removed you have to invest in a new hose. A simple way to avoid an expense repair is to remember that a vacuum is meant to suck up dirt and dust - not paper clips, pins, or cardboard.

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