DIY Maintenance

DIY maintenance and repair on appliances isn’t for everyone, but with these simple tips, you can extend the life of your appliance.  To get you started, here are 11 tips to help you better understand what’s happening and what to do when the inevitable occurs:

#11 “Uh Oh!”

Appliance: Refrigerator
Component: Clogged Defrost Drain
Customer Quotes:

  • “Water is leaking into my refrigerator.”
  • “The floor of my freezer is a sheet of ice.”
  • “There’s a bunch of water under my crisper bins.”

A sheet of ice on the floor of the freezer is generally caused by a plugged up defrost drain. If you have a top freezer model you may even notice water dripping into the refrigerator compartment from time to time.  When the freezer performs a defrost cycle, the melted water should be carried down to the drip pan under the refrigerator via the defrost drain. This drain can become clogged up with all kinds of stuff from food to parts of plastic bags. In some cases the defrost heater is not close enough or hot enough to thaw the drain to allow water to pass through it. By removing the back panel of the freezer compartment you can examine and thaw the drain manually with some hot water a turkey baster and a whole lot of patience. (Unplug the refrigerator first! This will keep you from fighting additional cooling effects from the evaporator coil and keep you from an undesirable interaction with electricity.) If the problem returns and you don’t find any obstruction, try installing a drain heater.

Disclaimer: This little piece of appliance repair trickery is not an ‘official’ fix, so try it at your own risk! Get a short strip of 12-gauge copper wire and shape it like a candy cane, then loosely hang it on the heater. This will carry a
little extra defrost thermal love down to the drain and keep it nice and warm.

Important Notes:
1. Don’t crimp the wire around the heater or you may cause damage.
2. It should not extend more than an 1/8″ into the drain or it may melt the plastic or rubber of the drain tube.
3. It needs to have a long enough hook that there is no danger of it slipping off the heater.

Appliance Repair tip: Unplug the refrigerator, open the doors and allow it to thaw out, or add a drain heater.
Average Repair Labor: $125.00
Appliance Repair Time: 30-40 Minutes

#10 “The Sounds of Silence”

Appliance: Dishwasher
Component: Float Switch
Customer Quotes:

  • “My dishwasher is dead.”
  • “My dishwasher won’t fill.”
  • “I’m not getting any water to my dishwasher.”
  • “My dishwasher has no power.”

Dishwashers use a part called the float switch to control how much water is allowed to enter the appliance. Normally, when you start the dishwasher you would hear water running into the tub. If all you hear is the horrifying sound of silence, a float switch may be the problem. The float is a little upside down cup located at the bottom of the tank, inside the dishwasher, that rises with the water level. When it has risen to its highest point, the dishwasher knows that the tank is full and closes the water valve. Objects like forks, knifes, and lids can jam the small cup in the up position tricking the dishwasher into thinking that it is full, thus preventing water from filling the tub.

Appliance Fix: Remove any object lifting the float switch
Appliance Part Needed: None
Appliance Part Cost: ZERO!
Average Repair Labor: $50.00 – 100.00 (If they’re honest)
Appliance Repair Time: 5-10 Minutes

#9 “They Broke the Mold”

Appliance: Icemaker
Component: Icemaker Mold (tray in which ice is made)
Customer Quotes:

  • “My ice-maker is broken.”
  • “There are ants in my ice cubes.”
  • “There are little flakes of stuff in my ice.”
  • “Ice makers these days are crap!”

If you are noticing little ‘floaties’ in your ice cubes, it may be time for a new filter — but if they look like little thin flakes of black or plastic, take a look at your ice maker’s mold. The slippery coating of an ice maker’s mold tends to break down over time and little pieces of it can find their way into your ice . . . Not good. Unfortunately, the only way to correct this problem is to replace the ice maker. In the old days before the birth of modern marketing wisdom and planned obsolescence, ice makers lasted for the life of your refrigerator. Today you can expect to replace your ice maker every 4-8 years! That gets expensive if you’re paying $200-300 each time to have  someone else do this simple exchange for you. Keeping your water filter up to date is about all you can do to delay ice-maker decay and thus learning to swap ice-makers is a must!

Appliance Fix: Replace your ice maker
Appliance Part Needed: Ice maker
Appliance Part Cost: $60.00-120.00
Average Repair Labor: $200.00-300.00
Appliance Repair Time: 20-30 Minutes

#8 “Floaties”

Appliance: Refrigerator
Component: Water Filter
Customer Quotes:

  • “Do I really need to change my filter every 6 months?”
  • “What will happen if I don’t change my water filter?”
  • “The water pressure at my dispenser is very low!”
  • “My ice-maker stopped working!”

Most refrigerators that have an ice-maker or water dispenser these days also have a water filter. These filters are designed to need replacement every 6-12 months, depending on how much water you use.
If the water filter is not replaced regularly, your water quality and water flow can be greatly reduced, leading to other problems including ‘floaties’ in your ice and water, your ice-maker failing to work properly and your ice-maker breaking. Refrigerator manufacturers want to sell as many water filters as possible of course, so they recommend a replacement every 6 months. In most cases, a one year replacement cycle is a safe bet unless you consume a large amount of ice or water.

Appliance Fix: Replace Your Water Filter
Appliance Part Needed: Water Filter
Appliance Part Cost: $15.00 – 40.00
(tip: To save $$$, buy filters in multipacks and you’ll usually get a price break AND you’ll have a filter readily available when needed.)
Average Repair Labor: $100.00 (if they’re honest)
Appliance Repair Time: 5-10 Minutes

#7 “Deep Freeze”

Appliance: Refrigerator

Component: Defrost Problem
Customer Quotes:

  • “The freezer is fine but my refrigerator is warming up!”
  • “I just went shopping! Ahhh!”
  • “My son left the refrigerator door open and now. . .”
  • “There’s a bunch of frost inside the freezer.”

All modern refrigerators have an automatic defrost cycle to melt away that inconvenient ice build up that the last generation just had to deal with. If a large amount of frost is building up on the back wall of your freezer compartment or if the fresh food compartment is warming up and you can still hear the fan in the freezer running, you probably have a defrost problem. (Note: the door may also have been left open.) The defrost system is made up of a heater, timer, and small thermostat, if any one of these fail, you have a problem. Fortunately this problem is usually simple and inexpensive to fix.

Appliance Fix: Replace either the defrost heater, defrost timer, or bi-metal thermostat.
Appliance Part Needed: The bi-metal thermostat is the most likely of cause of a problem with the defrost cycle and fortunately, the least expensive possibility.
Appliance Part Cost: Thermostat $8.00 – 33.00
Average Repair Labor: $150-300.00
Appliance Repair Time: 20-30 Minutes

#6 “Snow Ball Fight!”

Appliance: Refrigerator
Component: Door ajar and frost build-up
Customer Quotes:

  • “There’s a bunch of frost inside the freezer.”
  • “My son left the refrigerator door open and now…”
  • “It smells like something died.” 
  • “I just went shopping! AHHHHHHHH!”
  • “Are you trying to cool the WHOLE HOUSE!?”

From childhood we have all become familiar with this phrase, whether something blocks the refrigerator from closing all the way or we just forget to give it that final nudge from the hip, leaving the door open leads to frost build-up that will keep the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator from cooling properly. The good news is there is rarely anything mechanically wrong.

Appliance Fix: Unplug the refrigerator, open the doors and allow it to thaw out.
Appliance Part Needed: None… However, if the problem returns in a few days to a week you may have a problem with the defrost system.
Cost: A trip to the grocery store
Average Repair Labor: $150-250.00
Appliance Repair Time: 20-30 Minutes

#5 “Clothes-Lined”

Appliance: Dryer
Component: Safety Coils
Customer Quotes:

  • “The dryer heats for a little while then goes cold.”
  • “I can see the igniter glowing but no flame.”
  • “I just paid $150.00 to have the coils replaced three years ago.”

Gas dryers use a part called the Safety Coil to automatically open the dryer’s gas valve as the burner is cycled on and off to keep a particular temperature range. These coils often break down and stop opening the valve. This will usually happen after the dryer has been working properly for 15-30 min. If the problem is ignored the dryer will stop heating altogether in a few months.

Appliance Fix: Replace The Safety Coils
Appliance Part Needed: Safety Coils
Appliance Part Cost: $15-30.00
Average Repair Labor: $150-250.00
Appliance Repair Time: 20-30 Minutes

#4 “The Barricade”

Appliance: Dryer
Component: Clogged Ducting
Customer Quotes:

  • “The dryer heats for a little while then gets cold.”
  • “The dryer heats fine but it won’t dry.”
  • “I need to run two and three cycles to dry a load.”

There’s a good reason dryers have lint traps! Over time, lint can build up inside the dryer and block moisture-saturated air from leaving the dryer, especially if your dryer is in the basement and has vertical ducting. This effect can lead to very long dry times, low heat levels, and other mechanical problems. A dryer’s duct should be no longer than 10 feet in length; in some cases a water bucket can be used to trap lint.

Appliance Fix: The dryer and home ducting can be cleaned out with a vacuum or duct brush, greatly increasing your dryer’s efficiency.
Appliance Part Needed: None
Cost: Stress
Average Repair Labor: $150-250.00
Appliance Repair Time: 30-60 Minutes

#3 “Strike”

Appliance: Washer / Dryer
Component: Broken Lid or Door Switch
Customer Quotes:

  • “My washer filled with water and then…nothing.”
  • “My dryer is dead.”
  • “The dryer just keeps beeping at me.”

Washers and dryers use a switch to sense when the lid or door is closed to allow for safe operation. These switches often break, especially with rough use and door slamming. When this occurs, the appliance thinks the door or lid is open and refuses to run.

Appliance Fix: Replace the broken lid or door switch.
Appliance Part Needed: Switch
Appliance Part Cost: $10-30.00
Average Repair Labor: $150-200.00 (Watch The Repair Video & Fix It Yourself)
Appliance Repair Time: 15-30 Minutes

#2 “It’s Soooo Cold!”

Appliance: Dryer
Component: Thermal Fuse
Customer Quotes:

  • “The dryer sounds fine but no heat at all.”
  • “My dryer is dead.”
  • “The dryer was working fine and then – no heat at all.”

When the heat suddenly stops and your dryer runs cold, the most common cause is a blown thermal fuse. Appliance manufacturers have mounted this fuse in several locations depending on the dryer model. Once you find it, replacement is simple.

Appliance Fix: Replace the thermal fuse, test the cycling thermostat, and check the duct for blockages.
Appliance Part Needed: Thermal Fuse
Appliance Part Cost: $10-15.00
Appliance Repair Time: $200.00 (Watch the video & fix it yourself)
Appliance Repair Time: 30-45 Minutes

#1 “The Buzz”

Appliance: Top-Loading Washer
Component: Motor Coupling
Customer Quotes:

  • “My washing machine is making a horrible noise.”
  • “My washer sounds weird and won’t spin.”

The top-loading, Whirlpool-built, direct-drive washer is one of the most common washing machines in homes today. It’s also branded as Kenmore, Amana, Maytag, Roper, Estate, and many more. Hearing this sound when the washing machine should be spinning is obviously a little intimidating. Some people head straight for the new appliance store and drop $400.00-1000.00 on a new washer, others pay $150.00 – 200.00 for an appliance repair technician and about 15-30 minutes of repair time.

Appliance Fix: Replace Broken Motor Coupling.
Appliance Part Needed: Motor Coupling
Appliance Part Cost: $11.95
Average Repair Labor: $171.00
Appliance Repair Time: 20-30 Minutes


As you’ve learned, appliance maintenance isn’t for everyone, but simple, preventative maintenance can go a long way in saving you big money — especially in today’s tough economy!

Best Wishes!

Lafayette Appliance Repair