What to Know before Trying DIY Appliance Repair

woman examining toaster oven with a screwdriver
  • 1-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500

Along with squeaking doors and clogged toilets, appliance repair is a significant part of the home maintenance checklist.

If you’ve ever had the garbage disposal, washing machine, or refrigerator go on vacation without you, you know there's no good time for an appliance breakdown. But when it comes to DIY appliance repair, you should know what you’re getting into in terms of safety, budget, and technical challenge.

1. Do Put Safety First

When working on appliances, you’re dealing with a combination of electricity, water, and moving parts so there is the potential for a variety of injuries. Always turn the power off at the source before working on any appliance.

Many appliances are also heavy, bulky, and awkward, so get help when moving them to avoid injuring yourself.

2. Do Understand Your Warranty

Before digging into any potential issues, check your appliance warranty. Many warranties are void if you attempt repairs yourself. Keep your paperwork easily accessible for when problems arise.

3. Do Keep Up With Maintenance

hand vacuuming dryer vent pipe

Probably the number one thing you can do to ensure a long life for your appliances is to perform regular maintenance.

Service the furnace twice a year and replace the filter every one to three months. Drain the water heater annually, or more often if you have hard water. Empty the lint filter after every dryer cycle and clean the vents every few months. Drain and clean the filter in your front-loading clothes washer with similar frequency.

These are just a few examples of the regular maintenance requirements to keep your machines in tip-top shape and the repairman employed elsewhere.

4. Do Evaluate Costs

Initially, appliances were built in a way that provided durability and longevity. Quality materials and budget constraints meant people chose to make repairs rather than replace the machine.

Over time, manufacturers have moved to less-expensive parts and higher demand has brought prices down. What this means is it’s often less expensive just to buy a new machine than to repair the current one.

However, this isn’t always the case and it’s worth evaluating. For example, if your clothes dryer won’t start, it could be as simple as replacing the door latch for $10-$15. If the dryer timer is the problem, it might run you $50-$80 for the parts.

However, if you add in the cost of having someone else do the repairs, it changes the scenario. That same timer can run between $150-$300.

When evaluating whether it’s worth it to make the repair, also consider the age and condition of the machine. If it’s ten years old and will cost you $300, it’s probably worth it to buy a new one. On the other hand, if you’ve already replaced other major parts you might get another 10 years out of it.

5. Don’t Overlook the Simple Fix

flipped switch on a home circuit breaker

When you walk into the room to find the dishwasher flooding, start by going through some basic troubleshooting. Is the seal around the door leaking? Did the attached garbage disposal become clogged? Is there a clog in the hose leading to the sink? Did someone add dish soap instead of dishwashing detergent?

If there is no power to a machine check to make sure it didn’t flip a circuit breaker or become unplugged. If you don’t have any idea what could be causing the problem, start with an internet search. It’s worth the time to try a few common fixes before tearing apart the machine or calling for an expensive repair.

6. Don’t Be Overconfident

Be honest about the amount of time you have to tackle repairs. Also evaluate whether you have the right tools and level of understanding. Often it’s worth having the professional do the work simply because he or she can do it more quickly based on their experience and toolbox.

If you don’t know what you’re doing with some degree of confidence, you can make the situation worse rather than better. Ask any repairman how many times his job was made harder by a well-intentioned DIY repair and you’ll see the point here.