Fix it: Appliance and Electronics

Keep your appliances and electronics in working order

By
From the February 2014 edition
Washing machine

Symptoms: You notice that towels and sometimes clothes smell of mildew after being washed and dried, or you may notice an odor from the machine itself.

Diagnosis: High-efficiency washers are prone to mold growth. High-speed spin cycles coat the drum with unused detergent, which is less likely to be washed away due to water-saving technology. Keeping front-load doors closed to save space prevents air circulation and exacerbates the problem. Scott Brokaw of Scott’s Odd Jobs suggests combining two cups of bleach with one washer cleaner tablet in the drum and running two consecutive empty cycles, either on the “clean washer” or “whites” setting.

Cost: Around $9 for three Affresh washer cleaner tablets and around $4 for a bottle of bleach

Kitchen odors

Symptoms: When cooking aromatic foods like onions and fish, the smell lingers despite the use of a fan. Sometimes, you’ll smell food and grease even when you aren’t cooking.

Diagnosis: The odors are likely trapped in the vent above your cooking range, says Tim Steele of Steele’s Appliance and Home Repair Services. Because these vents are often hidden underneath the microwave, they can be forgotten. Change the filter to eliminate the odor.

Cost: Less than $15 for a new filter, depending on make and model

Vacuum cleaner

Symptoms: The vacuum motor seems to be running fine, but it’s not picking up dirt and debris from the floor.

Diagnosis: If the vacuum’s brush roll is spinning but dirt isn’t picking up dirt, it’s a suction problem, says Chris Blanchard, owner of Blanchard Vacuum Sales and Service. Empty the chamber (or change the bag) and check if the filter is clogged. If the brush roll isn’t spinning, the belt is broken and needs to be replaced.

Cost: Usually less than $5 for a belt and less than $30 for a new filter, depending on make and model

Microwave

Symptoms: The machine runs, but it’s not heating up. You may notice the machine runs louder and louder each time before it goes totally kaput.

Diagnosis: If there’s no noticeable change in sound, the microwave likely needs a new fuse, which can be done easily and cheaply, says Steele. If it’s loud before it dies, it might be a magnetron issue, in which case you’re better off buying a new machine.

Cost: About $3 for a new fuse at an appliance parts store like 1st Source Servall on North Fourth Street. Depending on your skill level, you might want to call a professional to have it installed.

Cell phone

Symptoms: Your phone doesn’t immediately respond to an inserted charger. You might have to wiggle or manipulate the cord before the phone begins to charge. Eventually, it won’t charge at all, says Daniel Maldet, owner of Tek Experts.

Diagnosis: The charging port has detached from the motherboard, Maldet says. The phone isn’t shot, though. Take it to an expert for soldering.

Cost: About $50 at Tek Experts, one of the only places in town equipped with the necessary microscopes and soldering tools for charging port repair.

Refrigerator

Symptoms: You notice your refrigerator isn’t staying cool. There is also a buildup of frosted ice on the back wall.

Diagnosis: The refrigerator isn’t defrosting properly, likely due to a failing control panel, says Robert Rist, co-owner of Central Ohio Appliance Repair. In most refrigerators sold today, computerized systems monitor how often doors are opened and control how often the unit is defrosted. If this system fails, it will no longer defrost and ice will form.

Cost: Varies per model, but usually starts around $250 for parts and service.

Tablets and cell phones

Symptoms: You dropped your iPad or tablet, and now the screen is cracked. It’s nearly impossible to read and you’re wary to use it for fear of slicing open a swiping finger.

Diagnosis: Many cell phone repair shops and general electronics stores will also replace tablet screens. Depending on the cost of the service and whether the broken device is insured, it might be more cost-effective to buy a new one.

Cost: Cell phone screen replacements from $75 and tablet screen replacements from $100