Sunday, September 20, 2009

Book Review: Troubleshooting & Repairing Major Appliances 2nd ed.

Lisa's book review on Amazon:
I have a 13 month old dishwasher that cost me $650. It started making a loud noise while in use. I called the company's repair center and they gave me a rough estimate of about $400-500 to repair. According to Consumer Reports, I should have trashed the washer and bought a new one! I had to search high and low to find any books on appliance repair. Evidently, this knowledge is a state secret! I guess our disposable society doesn't want to fix anything. I did a lot of searching on the web and did find some general info on dishwasher repair, but they didn't offer any concrete details. This book saved the day. I read the repair chapter on dishwashers, grab my tools and removed the dishwasher, diagnosed the problem (bad motor--after ruling out other issues), went to the company's web site, located the motor and ordered it for $225. The motor arrived, I removed the old motor and popped the new one in, reconnected the electricity and water supplies, restored the power, ran a cycle and eureka, IT WORKED! The cost of the book, some of my time and I was able to saved my self hundreds of dollars and not be a prisoner of some repair person. The book offers chapters on using the tools, multimeter, etc. you will need to diagnose the problem. They are clearly written and not overburdened with "technobabble". The chapters on each appliance help you troubleshoot and rule out other possibilities. To be fair, I do have a strong tool background, so I have the equipment needed. If you don't have a multimeter, etc., you would be better off calling a repair tech, but if you do have to tools for the job, grab this book and fix the problem yourself. The sense of satisfaction and competence you feel by doing something for yourself and saving your appliance from the landfill make the effort worthwhile!

Thank you Lisa for your honest opinion on the book -" Troubleshooting & Repairing Major Appliances 2nd ed.".

You can purchase a copy of my book from

Remember to send your appliance questions to

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome Real Simple Readers!

The latest copies of Real Simple magazine have hit the shelves.

Check out our advice on when to fix appliances and when to replace them. We'll update with a link once the article becomes available online, but in the meantime, pick up your copy of the October issue today.

As always, if you have questions about your appliance repair, please e-mail me at eric at erickleinert dot com.

Want to know about multiple appliances? Buy the book for information on how to repair any major appliance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Repairing Microwave Ovens

A lot of people have written to me about repairing their own microwave oven. But, there are some safety precautions that must be observed first.

First let me tell you a short true story about my friend that tried to repair a microwave oven. He did not follow any of the listed safety precautions or technical training and was electrocuted. Thanks to rapid medical treatment and a lots prayers he was still alive. After a month in the hospital and a pacemaker installed he returned home never able to work again. When I spoke to him and asked him what had happened, he responded by saying that he new everything but forgot to follow the safety precautions. That was 35 years ago and I never forgot what happened to my friend. Do not let this happen to you. I strongly recommend that microwave oven repairs should be left up to a certified technician to repair.

WARNING: Any person who cannot use basic tools or follow written instructions should not attempt to install, maintain, or repair any microwave oven. Any improper installation, preventive maintenance, or repairs could create a risk of death, personal injury, death to others, or property damage. If you do not fully understand the installation, preventative maintenance, or repair procedures on this blog, or if you doubt your ability to complete the task on the microwave oven, do not attempt to make the repairs. Call a certified company or the manufacturer instead.

WARNING: First, before attempting any repairs, unplug the microwave. Then when you remove the outer cover or gain access to the electrical components, you must discharge the high-voltage capacitor or inverter. Do not attempt any repairs if you do not discharge the capacitor or inverter first. The high voltage circuit can have up to 5,000 volts stored in the microwave oven circuitry when the electricity is turned off.

WARNING:If you do not know how to properly and safely discharge the high-voltage capacitor or inverter, do not attempt removing or gaining access to the electrical components.

I have listed additional safety precautions below for you to follow if you attempt to make any repairs.
* Do not operate the microwave oven with the door open.
* Do not operate the microwave oven if the glass in the door is broken.
* Do not allow children under the age of 10 to operate a microwave oven.
* Do not jump out or by pass any components to operate the microwave oven.
* Do not operate the microwave oven if the door hinges and door assembly are loose.
* Always perform a microwave leakage test before and when repairs are made.
* Before you begin to service any high-voltage components within the microwave oven, you must discharge the high-voltage capacitors and inverter first.
* Never touch any wires or components with your hands or tools when the microwave oven is operating.
* Never run the microwave oven with the oven cavity empty. The microwave energy needs to be absorbed into food or a liquid, otherwise, the energy will bounce around, making its way to the high-voltage system and causing damage.

Before continuing, take a moment to refresh your memory of the safety procedures in the use and care guide that comes with your microwave oven.

Microwave oven repairs should be left up to the certified technician or the manufacturer to repair.

Preventive maintenance of the microwave oven is left up to the consumer to perform according to the use and care guide from the manufacturer. Please follow the instructions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Refrigerator/Freezer question?

Kellie writes:
I found your blog while reading a column about home appliance repair in Real Simple magazine, and I have a question for you. I acquired a 1940's Hotpoint refrigerator in nearly mint condition from a woman who damaged it while defrosting it with a knife. The hole is very tiny, and a refrigerator repairman told me that it could be easily repaired with some epoxy, but that he couldn't get a replacement dryer (perhaps I'm using car terminology) for it, and since we had to lay the fridge on its side to get it home, it was likely junk.

I'm an automotive technician and therefore think like an automotive technician, so my question is: can I do a motor swap? Can I install the guts from a modern refrigerator into this one? Or is there a better way to get it working again? I'm not afraid of projects or fabricating, and I have a pretty good understanding of automotive air conditioning systems which aren't terribly different. This refrigerator is absolutely beautiful, and it would be a shame to scrap it over a tiny little hole. I know that there are people who restore and update vintage refrigerators, but they charge thousands of dollars and I'd love the satisfaction of doing it myself. If it's doable, what exactly would I have to install, and where do you suggest I purchase parts?

I have included links to photos of the fridge and the puncture.

Thanks so much for your help,

My response to Kellie is:
Nice antique frig. Since you are an auto technician, I assume you know how to repair a leak in a sealed refrigeration system. Since the Hotpoint refrigerator is from the 1940's, first look for the name plate on the box. Determine what type of refrigerant was used (R-12 or some other type). The holes look like you can patch it with a epoxy repair kit if the whole is only on one side. Similar to the automobile evaporator coil. If you know how to work on a sealed refrigeration system then the repair would be simple for you. A refrigerant filter dryer is available. Just remember that the old type of refrigerant is no longer available due to the EPA requirements for phased out refrigerants.

As far as replacing the entire sealed system with a more modern type, the challenge will be to try a find an evaporator coil that will fit in the same area as the old evaporator coil along with a matching compressor and condenser coil.

Another possibility might be is to contact an aluminum welder and see if they can weld the holes. I once had to do this type of repair on a 1950's three door refrigerator. Then you can complete the remainder of the sealed refrigeration system repair yourself.

Good luck. If there is anything else I can help you with, please write back.

I wanted to also add to this response by telling my viewers, to repair a refrigerant leak in the refrigeration sealed system requires an EPA certified repair technician to make the repairs. Please do not try this type of repair if you are not EPA certified. It can be dangerous and it is against the law. Look up the following web page. This web page will explain the 608 rules and regulations for refrigerants.

Kellie, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Dryer question - marks on clothing

Ann writes:
Our dryer has started to leave brown marks, almost looks like a burn, on our clothes. The dryer is 4-5 years old. Is there anything we can do to fix this?

My response back to Ann is:
Take a look inside the dryer and look at the drum itself. If the paint finish came off the drum it's possible the marks you see on the clothes looks like rust. Also, take a look inside the dryer where the drum meets the front and rear bulkhead (front panel and rear panel). It is possible that the felt gasket has worn out and the clothes are getting caught between the bulkhead and the drum. I recommend also not to leave the clothes in the dryer when the machine stops if the drum or bulkhead is rusted. If the gasket is worn out, it can be repaired. If the drum and blukhead is scratched and rusted, you will have to purchase a new dryer soon.

Ann, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Refrigerator/Freezer question?

On September 7, Elizabeth writes:
I have Kenmore refrigerator (bought in 2006) with dual door refrigerator on top and freezer drawer on bottom. Every 2 months or so, the back of the freezer (where the vent is?) ices over causing the entire unit (refrigerator and freezer) to stop cooling. This problem began probably 1 year ago, and we have solved the problem in the past by leaving the freezer drawer open overnight to defrost it. This seems to work, but it is annoying and results in me having to discard a lot of perishable food from the refrigerator each time it happens. Is there a longer-term solution? What's causing this bi-monthly freeze up?

We have thought that it resulted from not getting the doors of the unit shut all the way, but I have been really careful about that in the past few months and the inside of my refrigerator is room-temperature today. Arg.

I appreciate any advice you have.

My response back to Elizabeth is:
What you are describing sounds like the refrigerator is not going into a defrost cycle. Every so often the refrigerator must go into a defrost cycle to defrost the ice off of the evaporator coil (the rear of the freezer section). I recommend that you call Sears to take a look at your refrigerator.

Elizabeth, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to