Like all kitchen appliances, your microwave wasn't built to last forever. At some point it's going to need replacing. The question is when? Here are the telltale signs that it's time to start shopping for a new microwave.
1. Smoke, sparks, and burning smells.
These are signs of a serious and urgent problem. Stop what you're doing, and turn off and unplug the microwave immediately. There's no going back if you see smoke or sparks, or smell something burning. Your microwave is failing, and it's time for a replacement.
2. Food isn't cooking properly.
Part of the appeal of microwaves is that they seriously speed up cook time. If your microwave is heating food much slower than normal, or not at all, something is off.
If you think your microwave's power is starting to wane, give it a test. Cook one cup of water on high power for two minutes. If it's not piping hot, it may be time to consider a new microwave.
3. It makes horrible sounds as it cooks.
As it cooks, your microwave should be relatively quiet, making no more then a gentle hum. If instead it becomes loud and makes grinding, buzzing, or rattling noises, something is amiss. First, check the turntable and fan blades. A leftover piece of food or misalignment is an easy fix. But if those areas check out okay, there's a bigger problem at hand that might be best resolved with a new microwave.
4. The door doesn't seal properly.
When closed, the microwave door should be completely sealed. This is an important safety feature, designed to keep radiation contained. If it appears cracked, severely worn, or broken, this is enough to warrant a new microwave.
5. The keypad doesn't function.
The keypad is an integral part of microwave cooking. Things may be going downhill if it fails to respond when you punch in the cook time, power setting, or the start button. It may be that the keypad simply needs a good cleaning. But if that doesn't do the trick, it may be time for a replacement.
6. It's over 10 years old.
Most microwaves are built to last up to 10 years. But even if yours surpasses the decade mark and appears to be in working order, it may still be time to consider an upgrade, since technologies improve and most appliances become far more energy efficient.
To Repair or Not to Repair?
Microwaves have become a relatively inexpensive kitchen appliance, so buying a new one may prove more economical than the parts and labor costs of a repair.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)