Mark Klug Amy Church Dishwashwer, Surprise AZ (C) Daniel FriedmanHome Appliance Troubleshooting & Repairs

  • APPLIANCE DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR - CONTENTS: diagnosis & repair help for home appliances: air conditioners, coffee makers, clothes dryers, clothes washers, freezers, electric motors, dehumidifiers, refrigerators, toasters, ovens, range tops, fans,
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Home appliance inspection, troubleshooting & repair guide:

Tthis article describes simple steps that you can take to get a home appliance working again, or to decide that it's time to buy a new toaster or other device, or that you would be smart to call an appliance repair person.

These quick inspection points and tips are accompanied by links to detailed inspection, diagnosis, and repair for most appliances found in homes, from room air conditioners to washing machines and water heaters.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Appliance Repair Guides, Advice, Tips & Procedures

Window Air Conditioner that fell (C) Daniel  FriedmanFrom room air conditioners to washing machines and water heaters, here we list InspectApedia articles that can assist in the diagnosis and repair of most home appliances.

These articles focus on basic procedures that help spot trouble with an appliance first by simple visual inspection. For each appliance topic we include links to additional in-depth inspection, diagnosis & repair information.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Photo at left: the igniter module for a Jenn-Air countertop gas cooktop. We replaced this item as well as the wiring and individual igniters to cure chronic gas burner ignition problems: endless clicking.

Details of that repair are found at GAS IGNITER DEFECTS & REPAIRS.

Article Series Contents

Check These Things First when Troubleshooting an Appliance

Before tossing out your air conditioner or coffee maker and even before calling an appliance repairman for your washing machine, refrigerator, or clothes dryer, here are some things to check:

  1. Electrical power: Is the appliance plugged-in?
    • Is there electrical power where the appliance is connected and is the receptacle itself properly wired?
  2. Appliance instruction manuals often contain a troubleshooting guide: have we found and read the installation and troubleshooting procedures given by the manufacturer for this appliance? Often there are trivial problems that are easy to correct but that are not obvious before reading the instructions.
  3. Controls & switches: Are the appliance controls and switches properly set? Is a control or switch acting funny: loose, makes a sparking noise, used to "click" but no longer does?
    • Hidden reset buttons: Is there a reset switch or button on an electric motor or elsewhere on the appliance
  4. Noises or smells: something is burning? Is the appliance making a funny noise or smell.

    Watch out: Unplug the appliance immediately to avoid a fire.
  5. Appliance inspection for electrical problems: do we see something that looks burned when inspecting an appliance circuit board, wire, or switch?

    Watch out: as we cite
    at DISHWASHER SNAFUS, poking around inside or beneath an appliance may risk electrical shock.
  6. Appliance inspection for leaks: for
    dishwashers - DISHWASHER SNAFUS,

    garbage grinders - GARBAGE DISPOSAL vs SEPTICS,

    water heaters - WATER HEATERS,

    washing machines - WASHING MACHINE OIL LEAKS, do we see or smell oil or do we see water leaking?

Appliance repair parts for sale at the Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: gas range and other cookstove repair parts on display at the Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Antique Rainbow gas stove (C) InspectApedia

Above: an antique Rainbow Gas Stove (photo courtesy of anonymous reader).

Portions of the text in this article and some illustrations are adapted from Carson Dunlop's The Home Reference Book (also available as the The Home Reference eBook) and and are used here with permission. Information in online articles found at is © copyright protected but is provided free for your reading or printing.

Please do not make online or electronic copies of our website content.

Clothes Dryer Inspection & Repair

Dryer vent installation, sloppy (C) D Friedman

Or see this

Clothes Dryer Article Series

As noted in Carson Dunlop Associates' Home Reference Guide:

Clothes dryers tumble wet clothing in a rotating drum through which heated air is circulated. The hot air removes moisture from the clothing and is vented to the exterior. Heat may be generated by electric elements or by gas burners. Electric dryers require a 240-volt electric outlet on a dedicated circuit. This circuit is typically capable of carrying at least 30 amps.

Gas dryers require gas piping with an accessible shut off valve. Please see the Heating chapter for information on gas piping and gas leaks. Gas dryers also require a grounded 120-volt electrical outlet to power the motor and for the controls and timer.

As the hot air leaves the dryer, it goes through a screen that collects lint. Lint can interfere with the proper venting of exhaust. Lint traps are typically cleaned after each load.

Watch out: The exhaust vent pipe connects the dryer to the exterior of the home. The vent pipe should be as short, straight, and smooth as possible to reduce the risk of lint collecting inside the duct. There should be no screws that extend into the duct. Many recommend avoiding flexible plastic ducting, although in some cases, it may be used for short distances as a transition duct as long as it is exposed. Rigid metal ducting is preferred.

Coffee Makers

Coffee maker Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:


Dishwasher Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

Starting with the basics, as noted in Carson Dunlop Associate's Home Reference Guide:

Dishwashers may be built-in or portable. Some portable dishwashers may be converted to built-in units. Typical life expectancies are eight to 15 years. Most dishwashers require a 120-volt electrical supply and a supply of hot (140°F) water. Built-in units are connected to the waste plumbing system, typically upstream of the trap below the kitchen sink.

Hot water enters the dishwasher through a solenoid (electrically operated) valve. Some dishwashers use a booster heater to raise the temperature to 140°F. This allows the house hot water to be kept at roughly 120°F. An overflow switch shuts the solenoid valve when enough water has entered the machine.

Water is distributed through the dishwasher by rotating spray arms. A strainer helps prevent food particles from clogging the pump, located at the base of the washer. Dishwasher soap and rinse agent are dispensed from cups, usually located on the door. The discharge is controlled by the same timer that controls the sequence and duration of the cycles.

When a wash or rinse cycle is finished, the pump discharges the dirty water into the waste piping below the kitchen sink or through a food waste disposer. Once the rinse cycle is complete, the dishes are dried by either the heating element in the bottom of the tub or a combination heater and fan. On some units, the dryer element can be turned off to save energy.

Some areas require an air gap in the waste line to avoid a cross-connection or siphoning. This is typically a chrome device projecting above the counter at the rear of the kitchen sink. Other jurisdictions consider the solenoid valve to be adequate protection.

Doorbell Inspection & Repair

Doorbell inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

If a doorbell is not working I start by checking the following:

Exhaust Fan Inspection & Repair

Exhaust fan Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

Starting at VENTILATION in BUILDINGS we organize a large collection of articles describing best practices in building ventilation and air quality management, including all types of ventilation and fans: exhaust only fans, heat exchanger or balanced ventilation, etc.

As discussed in Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Book:

Garbage Grinders / Waste Disposers

Garbage waste disposer inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

As discussed in Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Book,

If the disposer is inoperative, the fuse or breaker at the main panel may have tripped, the overload protector may have tripped, the stopper or wall switch may be faulty, or the motor may be faulty. If the disposer does not grind, the motor may be faulty or the flywheel may be jammed. If the disposer grinds slowly, there may be insufficient water flow, the shredder ring may be dull, a flyweight may be broken, or the drain line may be clogged.

If the garbage grinder or waste disposer leaks, there may be a loose plumbing connection or defective gasket.

Watch out: : loose electrical connections, switches, or controls around plumbing and water are especially dangerous as they increase the risk of shock and electrocution.

If the waste disposer is noisy, the motor may be faulty, a flyweight may be broken, a metal object may be in the unit, or the unit may be loose. Splash Guard If the splash guard is worn, damaged or missing, it should be replaced. If the unit is loose, it should be re-secured.

Kitchen Range & Cooktop Inspection & Repair

Kitchen range or cooktop Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

The following has been adapted (with permission) and expanded from Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Guide:

Electric Range Problems

Gas Range & Gas Oven Problems

Oven Hazards

Microwave Oven Inspection & Repair

Microwave oven inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

As adapted (with permission) and expanded from Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Guide:

Refrigerator Inspection & Repair

Refrigerator nspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

Where to start when the refigerator is giving problems: as adapted from Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Guide:

Trash Compactor Inspection & Repair

Trash compactor inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

As noted in Carson Dunlop Associates Home Reference Guide:

Watch out: Trash compactors have numerous fail-safe devices. The compactor will not operate if the door is open, the unit is not level, the bin latch mechanism has not been closed, or if the safety interlock switch is not activated. The switch is a key lock that must be in the “ON” position for the unit to work. The removable key allows the unit to be deactivated. If bottles and glass must be compacted, they should be at the bottom and additional waste placed on top. Aerosol cans or other explosive objects should never be placed in the unit.

To avoid odors around the trash compactor, preferably, only dry trash should be used in the compactor, since this will reduce odors. Most units are equipped with an automatic aerosol deodorant dispenser. This is activated once the ram has completed its cycle.

If the compactor does not operate at all, the fuse or breaker at the main panel may have tripped, the safety interlock switch may be “off “ or faulty, the motor may be faulty, the overload protection switch may have tripped, or there may be a loose electrical connection or damaged cord. If the ram does not compact trash, the drive chain or belt may be loose or broken, the gears or pulleys may be loose, or the ram may be seized.

If the trash compactor is too noisy or vibrates excessively  the drive chain or belt may be loose, the compactor may need lubricating, or there may be loose mechanical connections. If the unit is loose, it should be re-secured.

If the drawer will not open, the ram may be jammed, or the unit stopped working part way through a cycle.

If the trash compactor continues to run, one of the switches may be faulty.

Central Vacuum System Inspection & Repair

Central vacuum system Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

- As noted in Carson Dunlop's Home Reference Guide:

A central or whole house vacuum system consists of a canister located in the garage or the basement. A series of lightweight plastic pipes run from the canister to outlets located around the house. The outlet flap is lifted and the vacuum hose is inserted into the outlet. A metal band or similar device on the end of the hose completes a circuit between two contacts in the outlet. This switches the system on. A number of accessories. 

The main canister usually has an on/off switch and may have a suction outlet as well. The exhaust may discharge directly from the canister or it may be piped through an exterior wall. Generally, units that do not have a filter must discharge to the exterior. Units equipped with a filter may discharge to the exterior or interior. The canister can be opened or removed to empty the unit. Some filters are self-cleaning while others require cleaning by the homeowner.

Watch out: Central vacuum units without filters may allow dust to build up on the motor causing it to overheat and burn out sooner than a unit with a filter. Units with an external motor and no filter may allow dust to build up on the fan blades, causing uneven bearing wear. The motor is the most common repair item and may require repair or replacement every five to ten years, depending on how often the unit is used and cleaned.

Washing Machine Inspection & Repair

a home photo lab - lots of photo chemicals into the septic system might be a problem at this property

Clothes washing machine Inspect, Diagnose, Repair Guides:

Washing Machine installation & troubleshooting tips adapted from Carson Dunlop Associates' Home Reference Book:

Braided steel hoses are preferable to rubber hoses for connecting washing machines to supply piping in the home. A ruptured hose can result in serious water damage in a short time, especially if the laundry area is in or above a finished area of the home.

For even more protection, there are automatic shut-off valves available that turn off the water in the event of a burst hose.

When a leaking washing machine (or hoses) may cause damage to finishes, a washing machine drain pan may be installed to collect water in the event of a failure. Fittings on these pans should be connected to a drain so that the water can be safely discharged.

The waste hose can discharge into a laundry sink or into a waste standpipe connected to the waste plumbing through a trap.

The waste standpipe (standing waste pipe) should extend 18 to 30 inches above the trap. The drain hose should fit loosely into the standpipe so that there is an air space to prevent back-siphoning.


Where to Obtain a Printed Copy of the Carson Dunlop Associates' Home Reference Book & Related Inspection Guides or education courses

To purchase a more extensive printed collection of information about home inspection and maintenance see


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