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Renovation & Design

Is it worth fixing that old microwave oven?

Expert answers burning questions about household appliances

Repairs for older microwaves are likely to be more expensive than buying a new one. (Erik S. Lesser / Associated Press files)

Wayne Archer, who fixed appliances for 20 years and now provides DIY help for appliance and lawn and garden equipment through Sears Parts Direct, joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week on the Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: My front-load washer is starting to smell. How do I get rid of the stink?

A: Over time, an odour-causing residue can build up from all the dirt, detergent, fabric softener and water that pass through your front-load or top-load washer. One of the best things you can do to prevent odours is remove wet clothes as soon as possible when the wash cycle is done. Also, leave your washer door or lid open between loads to dry out.

If you have young children who might find the open washer door an invitation to play, keep the laundry room door closed while airing it out.

Q: I have occasional bouts of dirty water appearing in the bottom of my dishwasher, presumably from the sink next to it. Our appliance repairman says the washer is functioning fine. The plumber made sure the dishwasher’s water hose was raised up a bit, and advised I clear the sink drain occasionally with yeast or RID-X. Any other ideas?

A: If dirty water is appearing in the dishwasher at random times, your problem might be from a restriction in your house drain line. This will block the water from going down the drain, causing the house drain water to back up and fill the dishwasher with some dirty water. I recommend checking the dishwasher for dirty water after you run water from other places, such as sinks or showers. If water appears then, you will need to have a plumber come over and clean your house drain lines.

Q: The ice dispenser on my KitchenAid Superba Side by Side refrigerator suddenly stopped working. Now I have to scoop ice from inside the freezer door. It’s a minor inconvenience, but I wonder whether there’s a simple solution. The water dispenser works fine, as does the ice maker. Any ideas?

A: Open the freezer door and look into the ice chute from the inside of the freezer door to check for an ice clog. Use a hair dryer on a low setting to defrost ice and clear the clog if you see ice cubes in the chute. If the chute is clear, then a wiring failure or faulty control is probably preventing the ice-dispenser door from opening.

Q: My 10-year-old microwave stopped working. Except for the "Popcorn" button, any other function causes it to conk out and prompts a "Reset Clock" message. Do you think it would be cheaper to fix it or replace it?

A: Repairs for a 10-year-old microwave would most likely be more expensive than buying a new one.

Q: My kid scratched up the inside of my microwave. Can I use appliance touch-up paint to repaint the entire inside?

A: Sorry, no. Touch-up paint is designed only for use on arcs and burn marks up to the size of a quarter. The touch-up paint shouldn’t be used to repaint the entire inside of the microwave. For safety, a service technician should examine the inside of the microwave if it has large scratches. If the technician determines that it’s safe to repaint the inside of the microwave cavity, the technician can apply the paint and then test the microwave for radiation leakage. The leakage test must be conducted on the microwave before it can be used safely.

Q: When the spin cycle is ending and the drum starts to slow down to a halt, my washer makes an alarming rattling noise. What is it and can I fix it myself? Is it worth the cost of having it repaired or should I buy a new one?

A: Foreign objects such as coins under the agitator could be the cause of your problem. On older washers, the spin bearings could also be wearing out and starting to make noise. I recommend having a service technician check your washer for foreign objects under the agitator. Repairing or replacing would depend on the age of the product and overall shape it is in.

Q: My KitchenAid dishwasher is about two years old and I use it once or twice a week. I have tried the "Soil, "Prowash" and "Tough" cycles, but my dishes do not come out clean. I have also taken the filters out and they are all clean. Do you have any suggestions before I call for service?

A: Check the holes in the spray arms for hard water deposits that could be blocking water flow. Clean any blocked spray-arm holes using toothpicks or bamboo skewers. If the spray-arm holes are clear or the dishes still don’t get clean after clearing the spray arms, watch our SearsPartsDirect.com video on the topic online to help address other possible dishwasher cleaning issues.

Q: We have a Kenmore refrigerator that was purchased in late 2004. About three or four years ago, I needed a new drawer slider but neither Sears nor LG still stocked the part. I was lucky to find it on eBay. Do you have any suggestions on where to find parts that are no longer available from the original seller?

A: EBay or Amazon are the best places to look for discontinued parts. Also, search the part number with the part name and you might find some supplier with one in stock.

Q: We have a six-year-old French-door DCS (by Fisher-Paykel) refrigerator that we love. A 10-inch section of the gasket on the top of the freezer door is cracked, and the appliance store where we bought the unit told us DCS no longer makes or stocks that gasket. The repairman who visited said it is a "dart mount" gasket, but apparently DCS changed the shape of its gaskets. He suggested glueing the torn section of the gasket together. Do you know of other sources for buying a gasket? What problems might we have in the future if we go with the do-it-yourself fix?

A: Try to find the part on eBay or Amazon. Using silicone glue to repair the cracks in that freezer gasket will probably work for a year or two. Eventually, air will probably start leaking through the cracked freezer door gasket, and you’ll see frost forming on items inside the freezer. Frost can also build up on the evaporator and the refrigerator section may not cool as well.

Q: We don’t use our dishwasher at all, but I’ve been wondering if we should run a load through once a month or so to keep it working. Would this be a good idea?

A: Yes, running a load once a month will help keep water seals moist and flush out any water in the pump and hoses.

Q: My GE dryer no longer makes a sound to alert me when the drying cycle has ended. Also, if the dryer door is closed for a week, a lot of moisture builds up inside the drum and I have even noticed a small puddle of water on the floor beneath the door. What is causing these problems?

A: Check the dryer’s control settings to see whether the end-of-cycle signal is turned off. Turning the signal back on may fix that problem. If not, a wiring failure or faulty control may be causing the signal failure.

Moisture inside the drum could be caused by a broken vent damper on the wall cap where dryer exhaust air blows out the side of your house. A flapper on that wall cap should close and prevent air from entering your home when the dryer isn’t running. If that damper is broken, replace the wall cap.

Q: My top-load washing machine has a cracked agitator fin. Can the machine continue to run effectively if a piece breaks off completely, or would I need to replace the entire agitator unit? Will this throw it off balance?

A: Yes, it could throw the washer off balance. It could also rip clothes that get caught on it. We recommend replacing the cracked agitator.

Q: Are dishwasher cleaners necessary? Other than cleaning the filter, do I really have to "clean" it? I do make sure the "arms" drain.

A: Cleaning it once a month helps get rid of food particles that collect around the side of the door.

Q: My front-loader has developed a black stain on the gasket. It’s spreading from the side where the door hinge is, which led me to think it’s some kind of mould. I tried scrubbing and bleaching to no avail. Do I have to replace the gasket?

A: To remove washer mould already present on the door seal of a front-load washer, follow these steps from SearsPartsDirect.com:

1. Empty all garments from the washer.

2. Mix 3/4 cup of liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of warm tap water.

3. Wipe the seal area with the ­solution and let stand for five minutes.

4. Rinse the area thoroughly with plain water. Open the door wide and let the seal air dry.

Q: The door frame on my Bosch front-load washing machine is broken and it hangs askew when open. I can successfully latch it, but I am afraid the weight hanging off it will break the frame at the other hinge, too. How can I replace the front part of the frame?

A: Take a look at the washer’s parts diagram to see how the door parts fasten together. Order replacements for any broken parts. On your Bosch washer, you’ll probably need to remove screws from the hinges that attach the door to the front washer panel and then pull the door off the washer. To remove and replace the outer frame, you’ll probably have to remove screws from the inner door panel and door hinges to release the outer panel.

— Washington Post

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