Jeff's DIY

Advice on doing your own diagnosis and repair

Advice from the book Can I Do It Myself?

Common appliance faults and possible causes


Gas oven lights but then shuts off.

As will a furnace, this usually indicates a faulty flame sensor. Locate the flame sensor near the burner and inspect for oxidation. If oxidation is visible, carefully clean the sensor with emery cloth or steel wool. If this does not restore operation, replace the sensor.


Electric clothes dryer does not dry clothes.

First check to make sure the filter is not clogged and the fan is pushing air through the clothes. If the fan is not running, remove the back of the unit and check for voltage at the fan terminals (usually 110VAC). If there is voltage at the fan, replace the fan. If the fan is running, check to see if the element is heating up. If the element is not heating, verify that it is getting voltage (usually 220VAC, so BE CAREFUL). If it is getting voltage, replace the element.


Clothes dryer does not tumble.

This fault is usually caused by a broken belt but may also be due to a failed motor. If you can hear the motor spinning, open the back or front access panel to get a look inside. If the belt is broken or off the motor pulley, inspect the pulley carefully. If the pulley is worn out, see if you can find a replacement online. If the pulley is good, but the belt broke, replace the belt. If the belt came off or is slipping on the drum, make sure the tensioner spring is working properly. Rethread the belt and watch it as the unit is activated to see why it is slipping off.


Clothes dryer makes a lot of noise.

This is usually caused by worn drum support wheels. The drum must be removed to access and replace these wheels. I always replace both, even if only one is worn out.


Microwave oven comes on but does not heat food.

This is usually caused by a failed magnetron. Check the cost of a new magnetron as compared to a new microwave. Smaller units are generally not worth repairing. If you do open a microwave, unplug the unit and make sure you discharge the high voltage capacitors inside before touching anything. Inspect the unit carefully to make sure there is no other obvious reason for it not to work. It is possible that a new magnetron will not resolve the problem. If you have any specs on the magnetron, such as resistance values across the terminals, check them.


Clothes washer does not drain/dishwasher does not wash.

This is usually caused by a failed pump. Locate the pump to see if it is getting voltage (usually 110VAC). If it is getting voltage, replace the pump (this will be messy-make sure you siphon the water out of the tub first).


Clothes washer or dishwasher leaks from the bottom.

The usual cause of a leak is a failed tub shaft seal. Remove the lower front skirt/access panel and see if you can spot the leak. Check the water inlet valves, hoses, and pump. These are much easier to repair than the main seal, which is centered under the unit. Unless the unit is still very new and yet out of warranty, it is not likely repair will save money in the long run. If the unit is under limited warranty, ask the manufacturer how much it would cost to replace the seal.


Refrigerator automatic icemaker does not make ice.

This can be caused by a failed valve or icemaker. If the icemaker is not getting water, verify that the supply valve at the wall is open, and then check to see if water is flowing from the downstream side of the solenoid valve. You can do this by removing the tube from the valve and activating the icemaker. Note: if the valve is working, this will dispense a tray's worth of water on the floor. If no water, replace the valve. If there is water, the tube is clogged or frozen up. If water is getting to the icemaker, replace the icemaker.


Vacuum cleaner brush does not rotate.

This is usually due to a worn out belt-replace the belt.

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