Wednesday, April 6, 2011


By Shawn Strasburg

We have probably all heard the cliché; you’ve got to stretch your dollar further when things are tight. Well, some days I feel like I am stretching that lousy dollar into wallpaper. I have found over the years that by doing things for yourself, it can often save you a lot of money, and in the past six months I have felt the triumph of self sufficiency quite often.

In my house it has been “the year of the appliances”, and thanks to a little research and the Readers Digest Fix-It-Yourself book I have yet to replace one of these malfunctioning appliances. First off the dryer broke only being three years old. The way I found out about this was rather second hand, as I am banned from doing laundry (that is a story for another day). I scratched my head and looked at the symptoms, no heat, and I had a solution; the heating coil. With make, model number, and serial number scratched on a piece of paper I called Sears to see if they could ship me the part. They could for sixty-eight bucks but it would take over a week to get here. I thanked them and hung up and rushed down to Carl’s T.V. and Appliance in search of the part. They had the part for eighty-four bucks and available immediately, so I purchased it. I chatted with the gentleman at the counter about the steepness of parts prices, considering I had only paid three hundred for the dryer in the first place. He informed me that a service call would have been ninety bucks alone and advised me to check the thermostats on the duct that the heating coil is secured in, as these were much cheaper and could be my problem. I Ohmed the thermostats when I returned home and found them to be functional. I replaced the heating coil, secured the back, plugged it in. and I was the hero of the day, or at least for five minutes.

Next the refrigerator quit cooling. Even though I have I universal EPA refrigerant certificate, I was pretty lost without a manual. I called a couple of people and not a one had much advice but to tell me a Frigidaire built in the 1950’s had probably served its duty about four times over and should be retired. I disagreed, so I cleaned it for an hour and defrosted it overnight on the odd suspicion that the refrigerant was not circulating properly due to the ice buildup in the freezer. In the morning I plugged it in and within a few hours I actually had to idle it down as it was below freezing within the fridge. I tell you this story because it reminds me of a working dishwasher my father-in-law, Mike and I threw away. I had changed out their dysfunctional garbage disposal with one I had purchased for a steal of five bucks one day at a garage sale. Knowing next to nothing about them I forgot to remove the knockout that allows the dishwasher to drain into the side of the disposal. We then misdiagnosed the dishwasher, threw it out, found out the bargain garbage disposal was faulty, and ended up replacing both of them. Thankfully that was nearly ten years ago and I am sure they have forgotten my ignorance. The moral to that story is to never be too hasty to condemn something that costs hundreds of dollars.

The next appliance to go was the washing machine. It began to mysteriously flood the floor after five years of strong service. I researched the Fix-It-Yourself manual and began disassembly. I found the water pump to be leaking, as the plastic propeller had worn through the plastic casing. Another trip to Carl’s and I returned with sixty dollar part. In the dollar store for one buck you can buy something as complicated as this water pump, when Kenmore produces it, it’s value magically increases sixty fold. Well after restoring everything to it’s original condition and testing it, I had saved another ninety dollar service call.

The last appliance that failed is my microwave. I will warn you about this appliance, a lot of internal high-voltage parts can kill you. If you do not have a manual do not attempt repairs. I followed the manual and the Fix-It-Yourself book plus articles on the internet. After testing each part as prescribed I found nothing wrong with it, however it still occasionally released a sulphurish electrical burning smell. I have banished it to the porch pending further investigation and have borrowed a spare microwave from my brother.

While I am by no means an environmentalist, by fixing my appliances I have saved natural resources, countless green house gas emissions, oh yes the most important to me cold hard cash. I believe it is prudent to save money when you can, and since I have saved myself so much money in the past six months, I think I’ll celebrate and take my family camping if it ever warms up.

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