Monday, April 19, 2010

Saving Money on Appliance Repairs

One of the many benefits of the internet is the availability of information on how to fix appliances. Over the years I’ve managed to save money by fixing a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, a heater, and most recently, a dishwasher with the help of online information.

Some repairs are simple enough that I am able to figure them out myself, but I was out of my league with the dishwasher. The water was just dribbling around inside instead of firing around, and the dishes were staying dirty. After staring at the dishwasher’s innards for a while, I would certainly have given up without some online help. It didn’t help that this dishwasher didn’t come with a user’s manual. It only had an installation manual.

Past experience with calling repair people tells me that the minimum charge is about $100 plus the obligatory replaced part. Add in taxes and it’s hard to see how the total could be less than $200. Not only did I not want to spend $200, but I wasn’t sure whether I would be throwing good money after bad on a dishwasher that should be replaced.

After poking around online for a while, my wife found a web page whose instructions on cleaning out the food filter seemed to match our dishwasher. I wouldn’t have guessed how to remove the parts necessary to get at the filter without these instructions.

A half-hour later (with some moaning from me about a sore back from working awkwardly) we had a functioning dishwasher again thanks to some kind person who posted useful information.

I’m probably just being paranoid, but I wonder if the lack of a user’s manual for my dishwasher (a Kenmore made by Whirlpool sold by Sears) is an attempt to increase repair calls. It’s not that I lost the manual; from online searching, it doesn’t seem to exist. Fortunately for me, useful online information is cutting into the incomes of repair people.


  1. Complain? You?!? Never!!!

    Indeed, it is astounding the amount of information out there, but I am more concerned that some sites have figured out just how valuable this information can be, and offer you "subscriptions" to get information about your device (ran into this with a car radio I had, but found the information needed elsewhere).

  2. Funny coincidence... My wife and I were just talking yesterday about how our dishwasher already seems to have outlived its mean time between failures (GE portable, 8 years, no problems) and that we should start saving up for the next one. Why am I telling you this? Not sure.

  3. @Big Cajun Man: Fortunately, it's possible to skip over the pay sites and find a free site with useful information (if you search long enough).

    @Patrick: We have a 23-year old microwave that continues to work well (and passes all testing we've done for leakage). It's possible that its expected remaining lifetime is longer than the expected lifetime of a new microwave. We're not in a hurry to replace it.

  4. I have a kenmore dishwasher as well. It broke down a while back. I called sears to have it serviced. The malfunction was due to a broken "control board." That is, the interface between the buttons you use to start the dishwasher and the dishwasher itself.

    I had no idea how to replace this, but it took the repairman less than 20 minutes to do it. It ended up costing me about 200 bucks. This dishwashers sells for around 440 new. blah.

  5. @Desk Jockey: $200 and a replaced part -- people are going to think you are just one of my alternate personalities writing comments to support my own post :-)

    With any luck, the next time you have a problem with it you may be able to diagnose the problem and figure out how to fix it with some online searching.