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How to Make Sure Your Appliances Don’t Fail When You Can’t Get Them Repaired

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mother with washing machine
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The Big Prevent

No one enjoys paying high fees to get appliances fixed, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Or is it? With most of these household devices, a little preventative maintenance can go a long way, saving hundreds of dollars. The following are some tips from professionals on how to maintain your appliances and avoid hefty repair bills — with all experts reminding owners to always unplug appliances before cleaning

Related: 27 Kitchen Essentials That Are Built to Last

Harbor Breeze Ceiling Fan
Lowes

Fans

Fans are easier to maintain than most appliances, says Brian Kim, owner of Newman's Vacuum & Appliance in Santa Monica, California. "If it has dust and you can open it up, you vacuum it out yourself — provided you know what you're doing and you don't damage the motor." Dust contributes to clogging the motor, so keeping it clean is helpful to overall maintenance. "If it gets to the point where the motor is not working, then you should bring it in for maintenance," Kim says. It will be oiled and lubricated properly, and technicians will check to ensure the motor fan is running at a proper speed.

Related: 10 Tricks to Survive the Long Hot Summer — Without AC

vacuum
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Vacuums

With vacuums the need to be serviced is often due to dust particles passing through the bag and getting into the motor. "Once dust gets taken into the machine, it can clog the motor. Additionally, bigger particles can also hurt the motor by blocking the suction," Kim says. Once a larger particle clogs the machine, it can cause the motor bearing to give out by blocking the suction. "When the motor bearing goes bad, the carbon brush goes bad, making a lot of noise as it gets stopped up." Vacuuming out the vacuum — yes, with another vacuum — can help prevent this from happening. Kim recommends maintenance every six to eight months.

Related: Best Vacuum Cleaners

bagless vacuum
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Bagless Vacuums

The filters on bagless vacuums need to be checked and cleaned properly on a regular basis, Kim says. Normally he recommends a cleaning at least once a year, but it depends how the vacuum is used. If you're picking up particles and fine dust, it will block the filter faster than using it for larger dirt and detritus. In that case, Kim suggests bringing in the appliance every six months so the casing can be properly cleaned.

using microwave
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Microwave Ovens

Microwave ovens don't really need to be checked regularly, but Kim advises: "Keeping the inside clean, regularly wiping out residual food and liquid, will cut down on bacteria from developing and also help to prevent corrosion." Fully wiping down the microwave once a week can ensure this doesn't happen.

Related: The Best Cheap Microwave Ovens

blender
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Blenders

To keep a blender running, clean it after every use. "Most people don't take apart the complete blender. The glass and the base should be separated on a regular basis and completely washed and cleaned. Some customers never open that up and separate it and clean it out. Not only is this not sanitary, but it could cause problems in the long run," Kim says. Warm soapy water should be sufficient. A little daily care can prevent issues with blades getting stuck. Otherwise, it's only necessary to bring in when you have an issue with the product.

Related: The Best Cheap Blenders

food processor
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Food Processors

If you find your processor isn't working as well as it should, you may just need a new blade. "Sometimes it's an issue with the switch system, but that's not as common," Kim says. The easiest thing consumers can do to prevent problems is simple cleaning and maintenance. The blender blades, for example, should always be cleaned in warm dishwashing liquid. This prevents food buildup and keeps them operating smoothly. An important note: Blades can be damaged by trying to prepare items that are either too sticky or too hard, such as dried fruit or ice. Kim recommends bringing in a food processor to a professional when an issue arises.

loading dishwasher
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Dishwashers

A dishwasher should be low maintenance, according to Pacific Appliance Repair in Los Angeles. "The biggest factors that come up are the drain line and the pump. But that's not to say that you can't prevent clogs," a Pacific Appliance technician says. Food can collect in the filter and cause pump issues when the water doesn't drain quickly enough. If you have a bit of a technical bent, you can usually pop the lid off of the filter (at the bottom of the appliance) and remove the filter to clean it with soap and water. Pacific Appliance recommends doing this every two to three months. Why it's worth it: Cleaning a drain line usually costs about $180. Replacing a drain pump is probably an additional $240, plus technician fees.

Related: 25 Germ Magnets That Need Cleaning Now

refrigerator coils
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Refrigerator Coils

You wouldn't think there's much you can do to keep your refrigerator running well, but cleaning its coils will go a long way to saving money on costly repairs. The coils work to release heat, and if they can't, will eventually cause the overload protector on the refrigerator's compressor to shut the fridge down. A coil cleaning brush ($13 on Amazon) for use every three months is a great investment when compared with the cost of calling a maintenance technician. Depending on make and model, the refrigerator has coils either on the back or beneath. Use the brush to keep them free from pet hair and dust, then vacuum detritus away.

Refrigerator Gasket
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Refrigerator Gasket

The door gasket is what keeps the cold-air seal on a refrigerator tight. If it gets dirty or sticky, it can become damaged and eventually cause air leaks. Wiping down the gasket takes about two minutes. Just use hot water and a sponge (detergent can damage the gasket) to clean the gasket and help prevent a replacement bill costing upward of $200.

washing machine
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Washing Machine

You wouldn't think that you'd need to wash your washing machine, but sometimes it gets dirty. Sears Home Services says it is a good idea to run an empty wash cycle with vinegar and, midway through, a little detergent. This will remove mildew, hard water deposits, and soap residue. Some advise using vinegar and baking soda. Just take care not to combine the vinegar and baking soda before putting into the machine.

washing machine hose
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Washing Machine Hoses

Washing machines can last years with simple preventative maintenance. Hoses should be replaced when they are bulging or cracked, or if it's been more than five years since they were last replaced — getting ahead of a problem can mean the difference between costly repairs that involve replacing the motor, should water get into the motor and cause it to malfunction.

Related: The Best Cheap Washing Machines

laundry machine
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Washing Machine Lint Trap

A washing machine may also have a lint filter, just like a dryer — well, not exactly like it. Depending on the type of machine you have, the lint collector may be in the agitator tube or near the top of your machine. Check your owner's manual and be sure to clean the lint collector every few weeks.

dryer lint trap
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Dryer Lint Trap

Clean your dryer's lint trap regularly. Letting lint build up can hurt its efficiency and may even become a fire hazard, Sears warns. For optimal performance, secure hoses and cords properly (you can reinforce connections with duct tape to prevent gaps and slipping); keep dryer loads small, just like with a washer, blender, or food processor, so you don't overwork the machine; and don't forget to clean the interior vent. Here's a test: If clothes still feel damp after the dryer has stopped a full run for the size of the load, you should clean the interior vent. This requires disconnecting the exhaust vent from the back of the dryer and vacuuming up additional lint or debris. If you're not comfortable with this, consult with a professional.

Related: The Best Cheap Dryers

cleaning AC
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Air Conditioners

As with most appliances, keeping an air conditioner filter clean is key to preventing more expensive maintenance issues. Clogged filters block airflow, causing the coils to get dirty and impair the coil's heat-absorbing ability. Not only will proper care help keep your AC running smoothly; it will lower energy consumption by 5% to 15%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Did you know you could use the same brush you use for your refrigerator coils on your AC? Just make sure they're clean first.

Related: The Best Air Conditioners

garbage disposal
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Garbage Disposals

Ice — that's right, ice will clean a garbage disposal and ensure it's working properly for a long time. Put a handful in the disposal and run it to keep the unit clean, being sure to put the rubber stopper on to prevent slivers from flying out. Follow by cleaning with a degreaser to prevent fat buildup, and always use cold water when running the unit, says Complete Protection, a nationwide repair company. 

oven cleaning
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Ovens

Extend the life of an oven by cleaning at least once a month and doing a deep clean twice a year. Dealing with oven grime may not be the most pleasant task, but like anything, the longer you ignore it, the harder it becomes to deal with. Your oven may be less efficient at reaching desired temperatures if you leave burnt food on it, and can become blocked by dirt and grease. Martha Stewart recommends using a natural paste of baking soda and vinegar.

Related: 25 Germ Magnets That Need Cleaning Now

woman with wine cooler
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Wine Cooler

While there's not too much to worry about with a wine storage system, there is one thing that might prevent a costly repair: Some wine cooler units come with a carbon filtration system that helps eliminate odors that can permeate the cork. Every three to four months these filters can become clogged. If you're going to invest in a wine cooler, it's a good idea to buy some extra filters ($30 from Kegerator) and swap them out occasionally to keep a cooler running smoothly.

Related: 21 Affordable Wine Clubs That Will Satisfy Even the Snobs