How to repair appliances

Appliances are made to last. They put in long hours year after year, usually without incident. It’s easy to take them for granted. As a result, when an appliance breaks down, you may be completely stumped — you have no idea how it works, why it stopped working, and how to fix it.

What options do you have? You can either hire a professional to fix it or do it yourself to save money. This article will teach you how to disassemble your major appliances and then reassemble them in working order. But, before you attack the refrigerator with a screwdriver, let’s review some basic appliance knowledge.

The majority of appliances are powered by your home’s electrical system, which uses AC current from your home’s circuit wiring. Small appliances use 110-120 volt circuits and have two-bladed plugs on their cords. Air conditioners, dryers, and ranges, for example, typically require 220-240-volt wiring and cannot be operated on 110-120-volt circuits. A grounding wire is used to connect large appliances, and their plugs have two blades and a prong. This type of appliance must be plugged into a grounded outlet (one with blades and a grounding prong) or grounded with a special adapter plug. All appliances are labeled with their power requirements in watts and volts, either on a metal plate or on the appliance casing, and sometimes in amps.

Small appliances are typically straightforward machines. They can be as simple as a heating element, a fan, a set of blades, or rotating beaters attached to a drive shaft, or they can be as complex as two or three mechanical linkages. Repairs for these appliances are usually straightforward. Large appliances are more complicated; a washing machine, for example, might have a motor, a timer, and a pump, as well as various valves, switches, and solenoid. Problems with this type of appliance can occur in the control devices as well as the mechanical/power components. When a control device fails, it can affect one operation or the entire appliance; when a mechanical/power device fails, it usually only affects the functions that rely on it. Knowing how to diagnose and repair a major appliance is just as important as knowing how to fix it.

The first step is to determine whether the problem is in a control device or a mechanical device. (Many newer appliances include electronic diagnostics that can be interpreted from the owner’s manual.) The control devices in a dryer, for example, regulate the heat while the mechanical components turn the drum. What systems are impacted? The problem is in the control system if the drum spins but the dryer does not heat. The problem is mechanical if the dryer heats but the drum does not turn. In all large appliances, this type of analysis can be used to pinpoint the type of failure — control system or mechanical system.

To determine the exact nature of the problem, you must examine each component of the affected system for the malfunctioning component. Because appliance components work in a logical sequence, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. To isolate the cause of the failure, start with the simplest possibilities and test each component one at a time.

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