Repair or Replace? That is the Question

Is your refrigerator running properly? Don’t worry, we don’t want you to go catch it, but it may be time to get it fixed or buy a new one altogether. This goes for all large appliances, including your dishwasher, stove, washer, and dryer. Sometimes the problem you’re having has a simple fix, while other times your machine could be at the end of its life cycle. If you aren’t sure, here are a few issues and potential solutions to help you decide:


Average life span: 13 years

Too warm or cold: This could be as simple as someone bumped the temperature gauge. Check to see if it’s at the correct temperature (35 – 38°F is the average). It could also mean air is escaping through a broken, dirty, or loose seal on the door, also known as a gasket. Try cleaning the gasket with warm soapy water and letting it dry completely.

Leaks: Water on the floor can indicate a frozen or clogged water supply line in the freezer. Unplug the refrigerator and look for the shut off valve. After it’s closed, you can check for leaks or blockages in the supply line. If you find any damage to the line, you should have it replaced. If it doesn’t seem to be from the supply line, another blockage in the defrost drain may be the culprit. If it’s clogged by ice, try to flush it with warm water from inside the freezer. If it’s clogged with bits of food, you may need to use a pipe cleaner to remove the debris.


Average life span: 10 years

Bad Odor: If your washing machine smells every time you open the door, it can make you think twice about how well it works. First, if you’ve never cleaned your washer, that might be the issue. Many newer models have a self-cleaning cycle where you simply use bleach and run an empty load. It may also be an issue of the gasket around the door remaining damp. You should wipe the gasket dry after each load to prevent the possibility of mold. If you can leave the door ajar after each load, that also helps air it out.

Not Draining: Your washer may have a hose located in a panel along the front or side. If you’ve recently been to the beach or have washed extremely soiled loads of laundry, some of the sand and dirt could have built up needing to be drained from the hose. You can unhook the hose and remove the cap to drain excess water. There may also be a trap that collects rocks and other loose articles. Remove the trap, run under hot water, and scrub with an old toothbrush to remove any leftover particles.


Average life span: 13 years

Clothes Not Drying: This may be a lint problem. ALWAYS clear the lint trap after each use. If the lint trap or filter is clean, unplug the dryer and vacuum out the vent and hose, which are usually located in the back of the appliance. This problem can also be caused by overloading the dryer. Try slightly smaller loads of laundry and see if that helps.


Average life span: 9 years

Dishes Not as Clean: Have you ever gone to unload the dishwasher but couldn’t tell by looking whether it’s run yet or not? Inadequate pre-rinsing or cool water temperatures sometimes leaves food still on the dishes. Try to remove as much residue from your dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher, and run the hot water tap closest to the dishwasher before starting it to ensure the water is a good temperature. Also, be mindful of the cycle settings as some are better suited for dirty pots and pans versus delicate wine glasses.

Stove or Range

Average life span: 14 years

Not Turning On: If you own an electric range and the stovetop doesn’t work, check to see if the clock on the stove is working. If not, this could indicate the range may not be getting power. If it is, check to see if the problem is solely with the one burner by checking the coil to ensure it’s properly connected to the stovetop. If it’s all burners, you may have an electrical issue that would require a professional. If you own a gas range, try lighting the burner while listening for a clicking sound and checking for the smell of gas. If you hear the clicking but don’t smell gas, it could be a problem with the gas line. If you don’t hear clicking but smell gas, it’s likely the ignition switch.

A general rule of thumb is you shouldn’t attempt repairs if it will cost more than half the value of the appliance. Call a service technician if you’re uncomfortable repairing the appliance yourself, and always check to see if it’s still covered under warranty. If you’ve regularly maintained your appliances and a problem arises, it just might be time to replace them. Some of the best times to buy are at the end of the month, as stores may be looking to meet quotas. Whether you stick with your tried-and-true appliances or get new ones is up to you, hopefully now you can make an informed decision.

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