DIY Appliance Repair

Animated cartoon character standing in front of a dryer and happily removing dry clothes from dryer.

DIY Appliance Repair: Clothes Dryers

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You might think dryers are simple and you’re right. But they do break. Most times it’s not serious but still a big inconvenience. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could diagnose a dryer problem in five minutes flat? After reading today’s edition in the DIY Appliance Repair Series about dryers, you will have a better understanding of what they do, how they do it, and a few simple solutions to some common problems.

Here’s what I’ll be talking about today:

  • How dryers work
  • Common problems you can fix
  • When not to try
  • It’s time to contact Tin Lizzee for help

So, how do dryers work?

They’re not scientific marvels. Not even close. They have a drum for your clothes and a drive belt driven by an electric motor. When the drum turns, heat is produced by the heater (electric or gas) and assuming it has a clear vent, begins its mundane task of drying your clothes.

The genius part of dryers is how easy they perform its task of drying clothes. You may remember drying clothes on a clothesline before dryers came along. Speaking of clotheslines, the process represents what happens in your dryer today.

Illustration of laundry hanging from clothesline.All dryers require three things to happen in harmony with each other. First, we need heat (sun) to dry clothes. Heat by itself cannot dry clothes. It can only heat them. Airflow (wind) mixed with heat dries clothes. Good airflow dries them faster and better.  So, you see, we need heat and airflow to dry clothes.

The third thing all dryers need is a way to tumble clothes to allow hot, moist air to escape through the clear vent to facilitate drying. In a clothesline scenario, clothes suspended in mid-air and wind gently blowing around them replicates tumbling.

Dryers replicate the clothesline process well. However, if any of the three elements of drying are missing, efficient drying can’t happen. That said, let’s look at what you can do quickly to remediate a drying problem.

Common, easy to fix dryer problems

  1. I’m sure you’re familiar with long dry times, but have you learned what causes it and better yet, how to fix it? When you notice towels taking 80-90 minutes or more to dry, something is up.

The first place to check is outside where the vent exits your house. Inspect it. Is it clogged? My guess is yes. Remove the screen if needed and reach inside to remove packed in lint but watch for a nest! Birds and other animals like the seclusion and warmth of a dryer vent. Wear gloves for this!

If it was clogged and now it’s clean, run your dryer empty for about 5 minutes to remove any loose lint. If you’re satisfied that everything is OK, put the screen back in, and you’re good to go.

TIP: Some people opt to leave the screen out and get in the habit of checking the now open vent regularly. If your vent has louvers, leave them in for protection.

What I just shared with you could save you big time in charges for vent cleaning and higher bills for the extra run time of the dryer!

  1. If your vent is clear and you’re still experiencing long dry times, look at the vent from your dryer to the wall. Is it crushed or kinked? Crushed or kinked vents are a leading cause of long dry times, eventually leading to excess lint buildup inside the dryer, increasing the chance of a dryer fire.

The simple fix for this is a new vent. Lowe’s, Home Depot, or any other hardware store sells them. Remember to use only metal vent. Refuse vinyl if you see it. It’s dangerous to use and banned in most states.

  1. If I had a nickel for every time I found the next simple problem and fixed it in under 2 minutes, I would be on easy street. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed to check the breaker, you’re right!

It happens this problem occurs far more often with electric versus gas dryers. If an electric dryer is missing half of its required 220 Vac, it runs but won’t heat. Many times, checking and resetting the breaker fixes it. Try resetting it a few times. Another simple fix!

When Not to Try

If dry times haven’t improved after cleaning the vent to the outside and replacing the section from the dryer to the wall, a mechanical problem such as a stripped blower wheel might be the culprit. It doesn’t happen often but enough to talk about it.

A stripped blower wheel is one repair that isn’t a simple fix. In fact, if you’re not trained to repair this, do not try it. You’ll discover you’re in too deep once you have the dryer torn apart. For this repair, it’s time to reach out to us and let us guide you through every step.

It’s time to contact Tin Lizzee for help when…

  1. Your dryer has no power.
  1. It powers on but won’t start.
  1. It’s very noisy when running.
  1. It runs but doesn’t heat (for electric dryers, check your breaker first!)
  1. It runs but doesn’t heat (for gas dryers, the flame goes out quickly)

Wooden Blocks Spell Final ThoughtsAs usual, I’ve had a great time writing this article for you. It’s my hope you’ll learn a little each time you read this and our other super-informative articles and use your new knowledge to save some money and understand more about your appliances. Remember, we love to hear from you! Please, leave a comment below and tell us how you fixed your dryer. Our readers will enjoy it!

Young smiling woman with an open full dishwasher giving thumbs up isolated on white background

DIY Appliance Repair: Dishwashers

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Think of it – relaxing after a nice dinner, talking about the day, and enjoying some well-deserved down time. Sounds great, doesn’t it? What if your dishwasher wasn’t working and you, your wife, and the kids couldn’t relax just yet because the dishes need to get done?

Surprisingly, we can trace most dishwasher issues back to the operator (that’s you). But what you probably don’t know is they’re easy to solve when you understand how they work and how to make them run their best. See, it’s not you, it’s only because you weren’t trained well.

That’s what I’ll be discussing here. Welcome to the dishwasher edition in our Getting Started Series presented by none other than our favorite group of DIY Online Appliance aficionados known as Tin Lizzee!

What will you learn today?

  • I’ll describe typical dishwasher operation such as what happens when you close the door and press START.
  • How to troubleshoot and solve two common “washability” issues.
  • When you should contact Tin Lizzee for a helping hand.

Basic Washing Operation

Dishwashers clean dishes much like a touchless car wash. It uses high pressure water mixed with a special soap designed to clean dishes. After washing, rinsing occurs followed by a drying cycle to finish.

You may wonder why dishes take forever to clean. Lots of things happen internal to the dishwasher causing wash times to vary. Water temperature sensors and turbidity sensors (water clarity) affect wash times.

If your dishwasher uses a digital display, the time shown is an estimate and varies or appears to get stuck and not move. More about this in the Washability Section.

As water gets pumped into the dishwasher, the upper and lower spray arms move and spray water on the dishes. If your dishwasher offers options such as upper rack only, or turbo wash, pressure changes from upper only to lower (turbo) only, depending on the option chosen.

Rinsing

Before rinsing, the dishwasher drains and brings in fresh water and starts a similar wash-like action without soap. It’s during this cycle the dispenser pulses its solenoid and releases a measured amount of Rinse Aid into the rinse water.

Some people refuse to use Rinse Aid, but it’s designed to increase overall washing performance. It helps water drain in sheets from dishes, reducing water spots and help dry, too. Using Rinse Aid or any other rinse agent is your choice but knowing how well it works might change your mind.

Drying

Picture of modern dishwasher with door open slightlyAfter the final rinse, the heater turns on and starts its drying cycle. If you prefer to air dry the dishes, crack the door after the final rinse, or select the option for air dry. Most dishwashers use an exposed heating element for drying. It’s located inside on the bottom and gets very hot. Don’t touch it!

Some newer dishwashers offer air dry only, so watch for this when shopping for a new unit.

Others use a combination of forced air through a heated chamber on the bottom of the sump assembly inside, near the lower spray arm. Heads up – this option doesn’t perform well.

Washability Issues

  1. Takes too long to wash. One of the more common complaints we receive is the dishwasher washes for three or more hours and dishes aren’t clean. Three hours is about the limit for any dishwasher working normally in extended cycles such as sanitize or sensor wash.

Solution: Aside from a normal three-hour cycle, the turbidity sensor or main control usually is the blame for this. We define turbidity as the clearness of the water. If the dishwasher is dirty from prolonged use, food particles build up in the sump and mix with fresh water used for washing and rinsing.

As wash water passes through a turbidity sensor, it can shorten a cycle too much, or cause extended cycles over three or more hours. If the sensor fails, either can happen with dirty dishes as a result.

When a working sensor detects dirty, cloudy water, it directs the dishwasher to pause its wash cycle, drain, and bring in fresh water to help clean the wash water. The function adds significant time to the cycle.

You’ll notice something isn’t right when the display seems to get stuck on say, 2.5 hours or 150 minutes and doesn’t move – ever. Suspect a failed turbidity sensor or main control. If so, contact us for an appointment to walk you through the repair.

TIP: Use dishwasher cleaner monthly to keep it running its best (i.e. Dishwasher Magic by Glisten).

  1. Dishes don’t dry. Believe it or not, dishwasher heaters rarely fail today. Not so long ago, a common replacement part was a heater and control for most models. Gradually, manufacturers lowered the output of their heaters to rely more on Rinse Aid and venting to dry dishes.

Solution: Take my advice to use Rinse Aid. Also, watch your soap usage! A tablespoon is all that’s needed for any size load. Do NOT use the Pre-Wash section of the dispenser – ever. Pods are OK, but they’re borderline over soaping your dishwasher. If you use them, be sure to use Dishwasher Magic every month to clean out excess soap.

A telltale sign of a bad heater aside from wet dishes is lukewarm wash water on a high-heat or sanitary cycle. Before spending money on parts, contact us first for help in pinpointing the problem.

TIP: Use a tablespoon of good liquid soap for best results with no risk of over soaping.

I hope you gained insight on dishwasher operation. They’re amazing machines! Changes over the years make them indispensable tools for convenience, but like anything, issues come and go. Now you have a better understanding of how they work and maybe you’ll be inclined to figure out a solution before spending your hard-earned money on a repair you can do yourself!

As always, Tin Lizzee is only a few clicks away! Reach out to us for DIY appliance repair help, any time, night or day!  If you liked what you read here today, please leave a comment below. You know we love hearing from you!

Compact standard microwave on a shelf.

DIY Appliance Repair: Microwaves

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open tabletop microwave oven on a white backgroundWe find microwaves in just about every home we enter for service. To most people, however, they’re a mystery. We put our coffee inside, press one or two buttons, and a few minutes later we have hot coffee! Gotta love this technology!

From a DIY appliance repair perspective, when a novice attempts to repair a “not-heating” problem, half-way into the unit they back off because many components inside stand ready to punish them for trying. But, if they have the right knowledge before starting, chances are they might get the thing running again.

For now, I’ll leave the repair talk out of this and review how microwaves work and why never attempt to repair them on your own without expert help.

That said, welcome to Tin Lizzee’s latest article in our Getting Started Series! Today’s article reaches further into microwave technology. How it heats, when it doesn’t, who invented it and when. Great stuff to know!

What Makes a Microwave Work?

Each time you press “start” on the control panel of your microwave, several events take place to heat your food. The main control receives input from pressing the start button and a safety check of the door switches determines if the microwave can proceed.

After initial checks, house power (120 Vac) feeds to the main control where 120 Vac is fed directly to the high-voltage transformer where it’s doubled by the high voltage diode and capacitor circuit before reaching the magnetron. The magnetron produces microwave energy and cooking begins.

This is a simplified description of the microwave process, but overall it should give you an idea of what happens after you press start on the keypad. Many components come together and operate to produce heat. While failure of any one component would shut off high voltage, most times lights and display work, but food doesn’t cook.

Because of the extremely high working voltage of a microwave (approx. 2200 volts), it’s recommended having a working knowledge of safety and follow every step when disabling high voltage.

Inverter Technology in Microwaves

Standard microwave operation lacks a consistent, even heat in the cavity. To circumvent this, Panasonic and GE use inverter technology in some of their models. An advantage of using an inverter in place of a standard high-voltage transformer is when adjusting a cooking cycle power output to 50% for example, it outputs power at exactly 50% of its full, rated power.

A standard microwave achieves 50% power by turning its magnetron on full for approximately half of the set time in the cycle. Due to heat losses within the unit, the microwave averages 50% output, meaning power fluctuates above and below 50% power.

Inverter technology holds the advantage in cooking food with steady heating, and it can defrost food without burning the edges. However, the cost of microwaves using inverter technology is much higher than standard ones, and repair parts cost more, too.

Convection Microwaves

Tabletop convection microwave with door open showing inside.Sometimes I wonder why convection microwaves haven’t caught on yet. They’ve been around a long time, but few are sold. Perhaps the price scares people away. If I had to guess, I would say it’s because microwave cooking never got people excited enough to try it.

Convection cooking in a microwave is nearly the same as in a standard range with convection. They both use fans to circulate hot air around the cavity and bake food evenly. Wait! Bake in a microwave? Yes, that’s what convection microwaves do! Maybe now we know the reason they’re not popular. Your existing range with convection outperforms the microwave in every way, including cooking space.

One last topic about repair. I couldn’t resist.

Typical Causes of No Heat

A non-heating microwave is a huge disappointment and if you don’t have a clue of the reason, you’re more upset. I know how you feel because I’ve been there, too. Most times, the cause is a simple one, but not as easy to fix. Let me explain.

Standard microwave magnetron.By far, the most common cause of no-heat in a microwave is a failed magnetron pictured here. A simple reason, but a challenge for a novice to fix. Tin Lizzee can guide you through diagnosing this and any other symptom and find out exactly what is causing the issue.

Another common cause of several issues is the door switches. If one or more fail, lights staying on, no heat, not starting, and starting unattended are some of the symptoms you’ll see. As I said earlier, simple reason, but a challenge to fix.

If you go ahead with a repair, we help you through every step, and if needed, our camera sharing app, Virtually There™ shows us in real time exactly what you see. It’s just like being there with you!

Wooden Blocks Spell Final ThoughtsWho Invented the Microwave?

The story about how microwaves got their start is funny! In 1945, a man named Percy Spencer working at Raytheon was working on a radar system and microwaves produced from it started melting a Hershey’s chocolate bar in his pocket!

Initial tests were popcorn and yes, an egg. We all know what happened to the egg, right? It exploded!

From there, Spencer fabricated a sealed metal box and tested his discovery with food inside. He verified temperatures in food rose rapidly but didn’t burn the outside. Raytheon filed for a U.S. patent on October 8, 1945. The rest as they say, is history!

If you have any comments to add from your experience with microwaves, please feel free to add them below. Or, if you liked what you read here today, please let us know. As always, we love to hear from our readers!

Single built-in wall oven in a white kitchen

DIY Appliance Repair: Wall Oven Installation Tips

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Modern kitchen with a built-in wall ovenMost of us think a wall oven works the same way as a conventional slide-in range. In many ways, it’s true. But there are differences you should know about before installing your new oven. I know they’re beautiful pieces of technology, and it’s worthwhile learning a few tips now instead of finding out the hard way!

For years, I’ve seen great installations and some very reckless and dangerous ones, too. After an installation, most customers have no idea what’s behind or around their oven. The assumption is as long as it works, all is good. Please, read on…

Self-Clean Misfortune

Wall ovens require specific minimum distances around the unit providing ample room for air flow. The open space around the oven allows it to cool properly without tripping its internal temperature sensors and stopping operation.

I won’t give specifics here because each unit has its own specifications. My point is, make sure your installers follow the specifications. They’re too important to ignore. I’ve seen too many ovens installed in spaces clearly not designed for them. That said, lack of airflow clearances creates an immediate problem.

A majority of my customers love keeping their ovens clean using the self-clean function. Aside from the steam option, a regular high-heat option remains the common choice. However, in a case of a bad installation, it’s risky to allow ovens to reach high temperatures (750-900°) for extended periods, such as during a self-clean unless proper ventilation allows sufficient airflow.

I should say all ovens I’ve seen with optional self-clean have been tested for high temps, but problems occur when insufficient airflow around the unit prevents proper cooling, tripping high-limit thermostats. This leads to a complete shutdown of the oven, or at least the bake and broil elements.

Electrical Pigtail Too Short

A potentially dangerous and novice-like installation is apparent when electrical installers don’t follow instructions and leave enough slack in the electrical pigtail connecting power to the unit. It’s too late when your wall oven gets removed for repair.

Cartoon electrician with toolboxEnough length in the power cord (pigtail) is essential to allow someone to remove the unit from the wall with enough room to maneuver around the unit while it’s sitting on an oven cart. A pigtail too short makes it impossible to remove the unit without disconnecting the pigtail from the unit, which is awkward, hard to reach, and potentially dangerous.

I should note here most units come pre-wired with a five-foot pigtail attached, but that’s not guaranteed. Please, watch carefully during the installation and insist they add enough length to the pigtail to avoid a disaster whenever the unit needs repair and must be removed from the wall!

Using Shims to Raise or Level the Unit

If an installer uses a block of wood under the unit to raise it high enough to close up gaps at the top of the opening, don’t allow it. Instead, have them use a solid piece of wood with the same footprint as the oven directly under the unit to accomplish this.

Shims shift and crush built-in exhaust vents. They’re not designed to withstand the oven’s weight, which is why they’re recessed underneath. A shim will slip during installation and end up directly below a vent, crushing it when the oven comes to rest.

Confirm Unit is Level

Before the installers leave and ask you to sign off, open the oven and check the slide-out racks. Do they slide out when you open the oven door? If yes, your unit is not level and will create major problems for you.

Hopefully, your installer won’t attempt to use shims mentioned earlier to level the unit. A basic step in a wall oven installation is to make sure the opening is correct according to spec, and level. It’s the installer’s responsibility to correct any problems before attempting installation.

Wooden Blocks Spell Final ThoughtsWe know how frustrating a bad home appliance installation can be. All Tin Lizzee techs have seen their share; that you can be sure of! I hope the tips I’ve shared with you help make your new wall oven installation a glowing success! I’ve included a link to another article about home appliance installations you might find helpful.

As always, if you like this article, please write a comment below. We love to hear from our readers. Need to suggest something? Please, feel free. We’re here to help!

 

Dryer Preventative Maintenance

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Dryer maintenance is easy! Clean the lint screen before each load. Says so on a lot of dryer filters nowadays. The dryer vent tube and household dryer duct should be cleaned once every year or two. Keeping the vent duct clear helps maintain a strong airflow and decreases the rate at which dryer lint can collect within the machine cabinet. Lint building up in the machine cabinet decreases its efficiency but it also increases the potential fire hazard of the dryer. Lint collecting in the dryer cabinet or even the household duct work can lead to blown thermostats and thermal fuses. Dryer lint will clog the moving components like the drum rollers and idler pulley and the machine will begin and squeak and squeal. Run a dryer that way for too long and larger problems will surface.

Dryers with restricted air passages need longer run times for the same effective dryness. Many “long dry time” complaints are traced back to a restricted dryer vent duct. Sometimes the restriction is just in the dryer vent tube found behind the unit; however, I’ve found restrictions from the machine blower wheel to the screen on the very end of the household dryer duct. Clean the lint screen regularly before your dryer builds up an excess of lint. It is for this reason I recommend using just one dryer sheet per dry cycle. If you prefer, you can eliminate the use of dryer sheets all together and use Dryer Lint Balls instead. Lint Balls can be found at most department stores. Dryer sheets can be sucked into the machine air duct during operation and clog the air blower wheel and using multiple dryer sheets in any one cycle makes it easier for the sheets to escape the dryer drum into the blower housing. When the blower wheel becomes obstructed the dryer makes a very loud humming and vibration noise. A stuck dryer sheet can produce this noise as can a buildup of lint on the blower wheel assembly, lint that builds up because it cannot exist the machine effectively.

Air flow is really the most important factor in the operation of a dryer. A dryer with no heat production can still dry clothes so long as there is sufficient air flow to remove the moist air from the system. Running a dryer without a heating element is inefficient and the dryer will need a long time to complete the task, but it will dry.

Another tip to keep your dryer working great for longer, don’t overload the dryer. Overloading a dryer contributes to long dry times due to the restricted amount of airflow within the dryer drum. Because the dryer drum’s volume is taken to capacity, the clothing items don’t have enough room to move about the drum and the air within the drum has a harder time escaping the dryer via the machine air duct. Overloading the dryer can also put greater stress on the dryer drum rollers, flattening them down and causing a very loud thumbing noise during machine operation, kind of like the sound a flat tire makes. Allowed to persist the drum rollers can eventually break and the roller bearing can warp, greatly increasing the cost of a repair.

They don’t make any appliances the way they use to. A fellow technician named Dave (a 28-year Pro and my Primary Trainer) had a customer with a 12-year-old Kenmore dryer that stopped heating. Dave discovered the heating element and thermostat had blown. The heating element broke because of increased heat stress from operating the dryer with virtually 0% air flow. Dave’s customer had not cleaned the machine lint filter since they bought the machine nearly 12 years prior. They had no idea it was there and that they were suppose to remove and clean it after every cycle, no one ever told them as much. I asked Dave, “did you tell them to get the air duct cleaned out?” Laughing Dave said, “Uhhh yeah!” Nowadays many modern dryers have sensors that measure the rate of air flow through the machine. If the air flow reading drops below an optimum level the machine is designed to shutdown heat production. In some models, all motor movement will cease in the event of a restricted air flow fault! Another tip, a dryer vent duct should rise no more than 8 feet above the machine and should run no more than 15 feet to the outside of the home and the duct should not have more than one 90 degree turn. I’ve seen long air ducts cause an air flow error even though the air duct was perfectly clear.

Vacuum the dryer cabinet and blower wheel housing. The condition of the dryer cabinet is a good indication of the air flow. A dryer with thick layers of dust within the machine cabinet and no obvious machine duct break is having a serious airflow problem. The wet dusty air is being returned back into the machine. Removing the dust buildup also helps maintain the machine moving parts like the motor, idler pulley and rollers which can be restricted with the lint dust adding friction to the system which will eventually break the affected components.

Visit Tin Lizzee.com for guidance in troubleshooting your dryer’s heating problems and online assistance in conducting your own preventative maintenance procedures. Check back often for more articles on the Importance of General Maintenance and Preventative Maintenance Tips which can be found on the TinLizzee.com blog page.  There you can find not only this article but also interesting information about most aspects of appliances, from how to keep them looking their best to which ones NOT to buy.  Thanks for reading, and give us feedback, we love hearing from you!