March 1, 2024

Bucks: Readers’ Advice on Appliance Repairs

After my Shortcuts column about my refrigerator breakdown ran in The Times on Saturday, I received quite a few readers’ comments about their repair experiences. It goes to show that the joy of comparing appliance problems is second only to that of discussing medical misfortunes.

I particularly liked the one Alice H.O. Garelick shared: “Today’s column about out-of-warranty appliance repairs brought back an old memory. More than 20 years ago, we spent nearly $1,100 for our 25 cu. ft. refrigerator, so we were less than happy when its compressor needed to be replaced five years later. Fortunately, the breakdown was one week before the end of the five-year warranty, so the G.E. service tech made the replacement at no charge to us. I asked him if it was unusual for the compressor to fail after such a short time. His reply was, ‘Yes, it is very unusual for it to fail a week before the warranty period ends. Compressors usually fail one week after.’”

Yes, people out there are pretty cynical about appliance repair. But they are also happy to share what they have learned to make things a little easier for the rest of us. Bob Segal, for instance, came up with an innovative way to explain the problem to a repairman he was talking to over the phone.

“Recently, our clothes dryer stopped working and I thought I’d relate what I learned from that experience. I called a couple of places and mostly learned it wasn’t worth trying to fix the dryer. The third repair shop also confirmed that repair was an expensive option. (Unless the drum belt had broken. In that case the repair would only be about $150.)

“Furthermore, if the starter unit was a certain type, the needed part was no longer available, so repair was impossible. Although the repair guy tried to describe the difference between the two starter types, I couldn’t tell the difference by looking at our unit. So inspiration hit and I took a close-up photograph of the starter and e-mailed it to the repair guy. He said: ‘Good news, you have the right starter type, but that doesn’t matter. I can see in the background the broken belt hanging down.’

“Perfect, 90 minutes (10 minutes of actual repair time) and $150 later, the dryer was up and spinning. Lesson learned: a picture is worth a thousand words and a few hundred bucks.”

In my column, I also mentioned that I should not have purchased our refrigerator with a debit card because using a credit card would have doubled the life of the manufacturer’s warranty to two years, from one.

One reader took me to task for even having a debit card because debit cards offer much less protection for purchases than credit cards. Another reader chimed in to say that Visa and American Express would not extend the warranty up to one year (or send a repairman) if the appliance was a built-in model like a dishwasher or an above-the-stove microwave/exhaust fan unit. “I found out the hard way on both,” “ES” wrote.

Muriel Haber, whose refrigerator motor caught fire while she and her husband were away from home welcoming a new grandchild in California, discovered that there had been two recalls on her model, manufactured by Jenn-Air, and she had never been notified. She suggested visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site,, to learn if your appliance has been recalled.

Ruth Weirer offered one simple suggestion that often works: pull the plug out, wait a bit and put it back in. I did try that with my refrigerator; sadly, it didn’t work. But sometimes (who knows why?) that’s all that’s needed.

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