Broken appliance? When to fix it or ditch it - The Buffalo News

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Broken appliance? When to fix it or ditch it

When the fridge goes warm or the washing machine stops spinning, you may face a crucial question: Is it worth spending time and money getting an appliance repaired, or would it be wiser to replace it?

The answer depends on numerous factors. Our consumer-services research team, in talking to top-rated appliance repair professionals from around the country, recommends these guidelines for deciding:

Check the troubleshooting section of the instruction manual. You may discover an easy fix that might negate the need to call a repair person.

Consider the age and history of the appliance. Has it broken down before? If you haven’t had prior problems, it may be cost-effective to explore repair options first.

In many cases, it can be worth the money to call a repair pro out, even if you have to pay for a service call. A reliable appliance expert can examine the device and explain your options.

Is the repair too expensive? If the repair is estimated to cost more than half the price of a new appliance and the unit is more than 6 or 7 years old, it may be time to buy a new one.

When comparing a repair estimate to the cost of replacement, be sure to factor in all costs, including whether there will need to be retrofitting or other accommodations if a replacement doesn’t easily fit in your home. Consider any costs for removal, installation and disposal. Also, determine how soon any energy savings will offset the cost of a new appliance.

Our researchers hear frequently about situations in which a repair saved a consumer significant money over the cost of replacement. One recent example featured a Maryland member of Angie’s List who considered replacing his 15-year-old refrigerator when water leaked from the bottom.

The top-rated repair service he hired found that the leak was caused by a clogged defrost drain in the freezer, easily repaired for $99. The service provider estimated the fridge would last another five or six years with the fix, compared with a cost of $1,500 or more to buy a new fridge.

Other common problems that can be affordably repaired include dishwashers or washing machines clogged by too much residual soap, and appliances in need of new fan motors, belts and electronic controls.

More extensive, expensive repairs that might signify that replacement is a better option include issues with the refrigerant system or compressor with fridges, or broken motors on washers and dryers.

If you don’t know a reliable appliance repair professional, check with neighbors, friends or online review services to see who’s locally well-reviewed. Check how long the company has been in business and how much inventory its workers carry on trucks, as well as how quickly a technician can be sent out.

It pays to take care of your appliances

One way to reduce the need for hiring appliance repair services is to take good care of your large appliances. Try these tips for keeping appliances running longer:

• Clean refrigerator condenser coils annually.

• Don’t overload dishwashers or washing machines.

• Clean the dishwasher’s filter to remove debris and hard-water deposits. Make sure spray holes in the spinning arms are debris-free.

• Clean the dryer’s lint filter before each use. Inspect and thoroughly clean the exhaust duct annually.

• Don’t allow grease to build up on your stove or oven.

• Check air filters monthly and replace as needed.

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