The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers reports that one third of all service calls are unnecessary. If you call the service repairperson unnecessarily, you’re spending money you could better use somewhere else.
The best way to save on repair bills is to keep the equipment running properly with regular tightening, cleaning, and a drop of oil here and there, all according to instructions. Read the manual that comes with your appliance and maintain it as the manufacturer intended. It’ll pay off in longer life.
When you buy some new equipment, read and take advantage of guarantees. Take a few minutes to fill out the validation card. Read the directions carefully. Have a special place for your warrantees, guarantees, and instructional booklets so you don’t lose them.
When an appliance stops, check to see if an electrical plug is dislodged. Be sure there’s electricity at the outlet. If not, check fuses or circuit breakers.
If it’s a gas appliance, make sure the pilot light is on. You can light it yourself by following the manual. But if you have any doubts about the equipment or any questions on safety, call the gas company.
If heating elements are involved, make sure they are securely screwed in and connected to terminals. Check to see if they are broken or might be burned out.
On furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, disposers, and electric motors, check the emergency switch and reset button. Sometimes pressing a button or the flicking of a switch that had been knocked off is all that’s needed to get your appliance going again.
Check all controls on the appliance. Sometimes they are turned the wrong way. If the appliance still won’t start, try making your own repairs. Read the instruction manual or get a detailed repair manual. But don’t get in over your head or touch any parts you don’t understand. If nothing you do works, call a repair person and clearly explain your problem. Sometimes he or she can tell you items to check or simple repairs to make yourself.
If you don’t know a repair person, get references from your friends and relatives or the Better Business Bureau. Ask for estimates on the repairs, and if it’s going to be very expensive, get a written estimate. And always ask for a guarantee on the repairs and parts. With a stopped-up sink, tub, or toilet, before calling a plumber, try a plunger or force cup over the drain. Use a plumber’s snake or stiff wire through the drain or a trap to remove any obstruction.
For leaky faucets, keep an assortment of washers on hand. They are easy to install. If you don’t know how, most hardware and building supply stores have free pamphlets with simple directions and diagrams.
If the toilet keeps running, check the float and the stopper ball or flap in the water tank. If they need replacing, you can do it yourself. You can also adjust the float arm up or down to control the water level.
When you can’t get your power mower, snowblower, or garden tractor going, make sure you are not out of gas! Then, check for dirty or burned-out spark plugs, a fouled gas line, slipping belts, or gears.
Exchange services with a friend or neighbor. If you know about plumbing and she can fix small motors, do each other’s repairs.
With some equipment, dealers offer service contracts. The cost is generally low for the first year, slightly higher the second year, etc. Your chances of having a problem are less during the first year or two. If you are unlucky enough to buy a lemon, the service policy will be a comfort.