When Should You Try a DIY Appliance Repair?

published Mar 17, 2017
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Almost always! Because it’s fun! I mean, it can be. If appliance repair isn’t your idea of weekend entertainment, it may still be worth a try. Thanks to my need for a hobby, my appliances last even longer than expected. It’s simple: I refuse to give up on things that cost me a lot of money.

Of course, there are times when a repair is beyond my skill level. I’ve learned when to throw in the towel, or call the appliance repair person, as the case may be.

How do you know when you should go the DIY route for a large appliance that’s no longer under warranty? Ask yourself these simple questions.

1. What are the chances you can actually do this?

No matter how much I’d love to knit a baby blanket, it would end in me stabbing a wall in frustration with the needles. Some repairs are easy, but it’s really important that you know your limits. Have you ever started fixing, say, a toaster, only to find a heap of pieces on your kitchen table?

2. How soon are you planning on replacing it anyway?

If you’re not planning to remodel any time soon and you aren’t ready to spend the money on new appliances, you’ll want to try to hang on to what you have. If you’re thinking you’ll replace the appliance within the next few months, anyway, it might be time.

3. How much money could you save?

How much do service calls cost in your area? In my case, it would cost about $100 to have someone come look, then tell me they couldn’t fix it because the parts were discontinued. For the recent washer repair, parts totaled $133. Worth the risk, in my opinion.

4. Is it dangerous?

If a repair involves wires, things can get a little dicey. I feel comfortable because I’ve done some very minor electrical work (rebuilding a lamp, replacing a circuit breaker fuse) and I know the rules. Please don’t do anything without taking every precaution to stay safe. When in doubt, turn off all the electricity in the house. And if you aren’t into flooding, get yourself a water key and turn the water off at the street before you dismantle anything.

5. How bad do you want it?

Some people run marathons. I’m hella impressed by said people, but I have absolutely no desire to run unless I’m in danger. My adrenaline rushes come from fixing things and not paying someone else to do it. Appliance repair takes patience — especially when you have no idea what you’re doing. Some people enjoy it and plenty of people don’t. How much are you willing to suffer to win?

Once You Decide to Go the DIY Route

You’re gonna give it a go? Congrats! The first thing I do is call the company that made the thing. I’ve been on the phone with Kenmore, Maytag, GE, and a host of other appliance makers. They might not be able to tell you how to fix it, but at the very least, you’ll have a pleasant conversation and maybe learn something new. Make that call before you do anything, especially if your appliance has been discontinued, because the makers may have some insight.

Then, take to the Internet. One of my favorite sites is Part Select. After you enter the model number of your busted appliance, you’ll get choices. You’ll see lists of parts, potential issues and what replacement parts might fix them, and popular parts that other people needed for the same model. (Note: This is not a commercial for PartSelect.com, but they’re awesome and I need to share.)

Next stop? YouTube, where you’ll find tons of videos made by wonderful people who want you to win. Steve from Part Select is a favorite of mine. (Once again, I swear this is not an ad for the site.) His voice is soothing and he’s kind and smart. My dad died a few years ago and I miss him every day. Steve reminds me of Dad, which makes me cry but also gives me the confidence to soldier on. Also, I cuss less when Steve is talking, because I can imagine my dad being “not mad, but just very disappointed” in me for cussing in front of my kids

Think you aren’t handy? You may be surprised. And if you fail? You’re just back at square one.

Have you ever gone the DIY route with a large appliance? How did it go?