DIY Appliance Repair

By Sam Smith

I was talking to an acquaintance recently about appliances, as we were both in the throes of appliance-based woes. She was in the process of buying a new washing machine, and I was elbow-deep in a dryer vent searching for a missing sock.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, no doubt instigated by the Lemony Snicket-esque being that rules my life, my lint trap had been bent, therefore catching various articles of clothing as they tumbled past. This resulted in the lint trap being ripped out while the dryer was running, and said sock to be sucked into the blower fan. The whole thing came to a loud, screeching halt, smelled tremendously of burnt rubber and lint, and rendered the entire dryer down to nothing more than an ambitious paper weight.

My acquaintance was both impressed that I was able to take apart my dryer (and to be honest, so was I), but also curious as to why I wouldn’t simply have someone in to repair it for me, or replace the whole thing. This is a fair question, given our societal impulse to simply discard what is broken, or have someone else deal with it. The truth is, I don’t want to spend my money on paying a repairman when I have the ability and time to handle this myself. I am also not of the mindset that broken = garbage. Cue me, toolbag in hand, vacuum cleaner at the ready, seventeen tabs of YouTube tutorials open, getting ready to dig into the guts of one of my most used appliances.

While it may sound like a terrible idea for a completely inexperienced person to attempt this, it really isn’t. As far as I am concerned, it’s no different than building IKEA furniture or trying out a new recipe. As long as you follow the basic instructions, it should be fine… right?

a cartoon person bending down to fix a washing machine in front of a solid pink background


There are a few steps that you should always follow when attempting to repair any type of appliance.

  1. Find the model number and age of the appliance. This is crucial if you’re going to need replacement parts. 
  2. Troubleshoot! You can’t fix something if you don’t know what the problem is. There is a finite number of issues that can be successfully fixed by a DIY-er, so make sure you only bite off what you can chew. Save the flux capacitor repair for a professional. 
  3. Get everything you need ready and standing by. Tool bag, device with Google searches and YouTube tutorials loaded, paper bag for hyperventilating, and any cleaning supplies you might need. It’s likely to be damn dirty.
  4. UNPLUG. THE. APPLIANCE. Before you start taking anything apart, unplug the damn thing. Once you’ve completed the troubleshooting step you shouldn’t need power to it, so please, please, PLEASE unplug it and do not get electrocuted.
  5. Take your time. If you are in a rush, you’re likely to forget crucial steps, lose pieces, or put it back together wrong. Which means if you DO have to call a professional, their job is going to be that much harder, and it will cost you more of your hard-earned dollars.
  6. Know your limits. There’s a chance that whatever the issue is with your appliance is beyond the scope of your ability, and that’s okay! For example, if you need to disconnect the gas to anything, that’s a hard stop. Not having the correct tools would be another excellent reason to stop and call a professional. The important thing is that you tried!


Appliance information in a sticker


(An example of the information you should be looking for.)

Whether you’re a chronic DIY-er, as stubborn as a mule, or the cost of a new appliance is well beyond what you want or are able to afford, basic appliance maintenance and repairs are a skillset we can all benefit from. Growing that skillset will take time, and a hell of a lot of confidence. It also hinges on your desire to keep large appliances out of landfills and working properly for as long as possible.

To simplify this for you, these are the two resources I have found the most beneficial. Both have been around for a long time (peep the videos dating back 11 years on the Repair Clinic YouTube Channel).


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