Things I Learned from My Appliance Repairman

washing machineLong-time readers know I enjoy learning the ins and outs of appliances. So whenever a technician visits, I talk to him (so far all male) and ask lots of questions. Of course, you have to take their advice with a grain of salt as you never know when they are trying to make you feel guilty for doing something wrong, to justify an unnecessary repair. And sometimes they are just mistaken. When repairs are simple enough, fixing it yourself is sensible. Appliance parts are readily available online.

Most of us have a few different types of appliances in our home, and repairmen generally specialize in one or the other. The repairman I called claimed that he worked on refrigerators, but in the end called someone else in to look at mine.

There are three main types of appliances and repairmen:

  • Air-conditioners, freezers and refrigerators. These all involve cooling and a refrigerant that occasionally leaks.
  • Washing machines and dishwashers. which are mainly mechanical and involve plumbing and pipes. Washing machine repairmen generally fix dryers and ovens, which are relatively simple machines.
  • Gas. Working with gas burners, heaters, and ovens often requires special training and certification, because a leak can be so dangerous.

Washing machine

After a week of trying to get my regular washing machine repairman to show up, I called someone new. I asked him to look at my 9-year-old Electra front loader. Before you say that a washing machine is off-topic for a cooking website, remember that we use it for tablecloths, towels, napkins and rags.  The machine worked, but the spin cycle made odd noises. He said that the cause was running one load after another without letting the motor cool off and the motor was “sparking.” He took it off to be cleaned and refurbished.

When my older sons both come home for the weekend at the same time this is fairly hard to avoid, but I can try. And I recently found that in the summer when clothes dry quickly, it’s more efficient to wait until I have several full loads and do a marathon session instead of doing one or two loads a day, that may not always be completely full. He suggested 45 minutes after a cold cycle, and 3 hours after a very hot cycle (which I never run). My machine heats the water so it works quite hard for the hottest cycle. He also pointed out that the drums of most newer models are only coated with stainless steel, while mine is all stainless. And newer models are manufactured in China.

Before he left, he told me that he cleaned under the machine, and that it’s important to keep that area clear so that air can circulate. He said that when he comes back in a few years (hopefully not sooner) he’ll check to see whether I did a good job. Gee thanks.


My dishwasher had been flashing an error message. Depending on how many times it flashes, you know what the repair should be. But the repairman simply reset the machine by pushing on the on button for a few seconds, and the machine stopped flashing. He pointed out that the salt and finishing rinse dispensers were empty. I protested that we always fill them up when the warning light goes off. “Ignore the warning lights. They’re meaningless,” he advised.


I was concerned about my refrigerator, too, because I had to throw out a lot of food all at once. Recently the refrigerant had leaked out and been refilled, and the technician who did it warned me it that there could be an internal leak he couldn’t fix. The refrigerator technician, called in by the washing machine guy, said it works fine and had just overloaded. He said there was no need to check the level of refrigerant.

I had tried to cool a lot of cooked food at once on an extremely hot day, and everyone was home opening the refrigerator constantly. Some thinks barely lasted overnight. The same thing happened last year, when I cooked for my son’s bar mitzvah. Of course, then I made much larger quantities.

When it gets really hot I need to be vigilant about stagger cooking times, locking the refrigerator, or both. At any rate I was pleased it did not need any repair. Since he ended up repairing my air-conditioner it was not a wasted visit.

So do you think the repairmen know what they are talking about? What have you learned from your appliance repairman?

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  1. My fridge was leaking water from the bottom. I called the repairman once and he told me what to do, namely clean out the tube in the back that drains condensation from the fridge. I have to do this fairly regularly, but it’s a 30 sec job and I’m happy not to spend $45 on it!

    One thing this taught me is to 1) ask a handy friend for advice before calling a repairman and 2) google the problem — you may be surprised to find that it’s very common and easy to fix.

    One more story — our tub drains get clogged once or twice a year with the usual soap, hair, etc. I have called in repairmen 2 or 3 times over the last 10 years when it gets really bad. The last plumber I called in disappeared into my bathroom with nothing more than a plunger and a screwdriver. Ten minutes later the drain was clear! I figured whatever he could do with a plunger and screwdriver, I could do, too.

    So I called a friend who is a plumber and asked him how to do it. I had always assumed you need a “snake” for these types of jobs. Here is what he said to do:

    Unscrew and remove the plate that covers the run-off drain OR simply clog up the runoff drain as well as possible. I find a wet washcloth works well.

    Run hot water into the drain until there are a few inches of water.

    Gently start plunging until you get some action going and after about 10 plunges or so, give a fast YANK! on the plunger. You may have to do this 20 times, but it will almost always eventually work. Very satisfying to watch the water swirl down the drain and know that you just saved $45+!

    • tdr–with my previous fridge, I used to blow into the tube to clear it. Disgusting but it worked. Thanks for the plumbing tip!

  2. Ms. Krieger says

    I have learned that built-in appliances that are a part of the fabric of your house are much more expensive to fix than appliances bought at a store and simply plugged-in or hooked to a pipe.

    It is important to get built-in equipment checked out by an expert if you are considering whether to buy a new home/apartment. For example…our central air conditioning/heating unit was never installed properly. Not only was it missing non-essential parts, but it was not large enough for our home and it did not have air returns installed in sensible locations. It never worked effectively, was expensive and wasteful to run, and when it died (far too soon) we found that it would be hugely expensive to replace. (approx. $10,000US)

    Space heaters and window air conditioners, on the other hand, are relatively cheap and easy to buy/repair.

    • Ms. Krieger, I am learning the same thing regarding my a/c, which I didn’t include in this post. The previous owners put it in, and it’s difficult to access it to maintain it.

  3. Yeah, that’s what I do (blow into the tube). My kids can’t believe I do it! It is disgussting.