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Helpful Appliance Troubleshooting Tips


Appliances often do give out some clues that something is wrong and taking immediate action can often save the appliance or avoid a larger issue. For the most part, with proper care and maintenance home appliances will work efficiently, but you should be aware that they can give visual clues that you should heed.

Here are some examples of appliance problems that you can actually see – if you’re looking.

Washing Machine Troubles

Washing machines can develop mould if the lid is kept closed, trapping moisture within. But more serious issues have been reported regarding mould in front load washers. There are ways to reduce the risk of washer mould, but even with the best of care, some frontload washing machines tend to have mould issues, in the detergent dispenser and within the drum itself.

The problem with this mould build-up, if not properly cleaned, is the smell. Clothes will go into your machine and come out smelling worse. Fortunately, we have a solution to your smelling mould problem below.

Related: How to Clean a Smelly Washing Machine

If you’re washing machine is vibrating excessively, the first thing to check is the load. An imbalanced load of wet washing is an easy fix. Wait till your machine has finished its cycle or stop the machine to adjust the load – wet towels are notorious for this.

Washing machines rinse at very high RMP to squeeze water out of your clothes, so expect a lot of noise and vibrations, but if the machine is moving violently, then check the floor. Is this machine sitting on a solid base with even weight distribution on all four legs? An uneven floor can cause serious machine wobble.

If your floor is old and unstable, then consider using an inti vibration pad under the machine to absorb some of the shakings.

Have lot’s of soupy bubbles in your clothes after washing? Make sure not to overload your detergent drawer and run the correct washing load for the cycle, and check that the machine has spun properly.

Refrigerators: Loose, Leaks, or Mouldy Rubber Seals and Lighting Issues

The rubber seal around your fridge door locks cold air on and gives the door a soft close. However, these rubber seals can leak and mould can grow on the inside and outside of them.

A loose or worn seal allows the cold air to escape from the refrigerator, causing it to work much harder than it should have to, cycling on/off more often to keep the refrigerator interior cold.

When an appliance works inefficiently, it uses more energy and cannot keep a constant interior temperature which can also lead to more food spoilage. These gaskets should be fitted professionally to ensure a proper seal but can be done by DIY.

Seals tend to loosen and split as they age, and there’s nothing you can really do to prevent it; just be ready to take action should you notice mould or a gasket that is loose or pulling away from the refrigerator.

If the refrigerator is more than 10 years old, you can gain substantial energy savings by upgrading to a more energy-efficient model.

The refrigerator light should come on when the door is opened. If it doesn’t, your bulb may need changing. Bring your old bulb with you when you shop or jot down the specs.

Appliances require specially designed light bulbs. If the bulb is not the problem, your refrigerator light switch might be stuck in the closed position. It’s usually found on the side edge of the door. Check it for dirt/grime – a quick cleaning usually loosens the switch.

Messy sticky shelving, spilt liquids are usually a good sign that your refrigerator cleaning is long overdue. Refrigerator cleaning should be done routinely. That way you can discard spoiled foods, rotate fresh foods and take stock of what’s in there.

Freezers: Icicles, Thawed Foods, Freezer Burn

Ice forming inside the fridge can be a sign of a broken gadget, as the warm outside air mixes with the cold inside air, forming condensation that can freeze. As with a refrigerator gasket problem, the seal needs to be changed by a technician, or the refrigerator/freezer upgraded to a more energy-efficient unit.

Freezer burn is usually a good indication of decreased food quality. Freezer burn is not likely to harm you, but it does change the texture and taste of foods. You can often trim off a small section of freezer burn, but when it encompasses the whole steak, it needs to go.

Though the type of freezer can speed freezer burn, it’s not usually a freezer problem. It’s rather an indication of poor food storage methods. Frozen foods also tend to freezer burn more quickly in an automatic defrost style freezer, due to the fluctuations in temperature.

If the situation is extreme even with proper storage, your freezer might have a problem maintaining a proper constant temperature. A visit from a repair technician may be needed to confirm and repair the problem.

Should you find freezer foods to be in a partial or full thawed state, it would signal issues with the freezer. If the freezer door has been closed properly, thawed foods may signal that the freezer has reached the end of its useful life.

Freezers generally have a long life, the longest of all home appliances and unfortunately, there usually is no sign to indicate it is shutting down until you go to retrieve freezer food and notice a problem. If the freezer is still under warranty, start the process for repairs. If it’s an older model, it’s time to upgrade to a more energy efficient model.

Dryers: Lint & Dust on Walls

If dust and lint is starting to appear on the walls in the area of the dryer, check the dryer vent connection. Even if the plastic or metal venting hose was very secure when the dryer was installed, over time it can loosen and become disconnected from the wall vent. Reassemble the connection and you’ll no longer have lint building up on walls. Since plastic hoses can wear down more quickly from the dryer’s heat, changing to a metal hose connection is recommended.

If your dryer has stopped drying, make sure to check and clean all of the filters before troubleshooting an electrical fault, as clogged lint filters and condensers will hinder the performance of your condenser tumble dryer.

Clothes Iron: Leaking Seals

It’s not unusual to find your clothing steam iron emitting the odd drop of water as it heats up and creates steam, but if it leaks from bottom of the iron, that’s a good indication that the seals are gone. This should be covered under warranty if the iron is less than a year old. Otherwise, replacing the iron is probably more cost-efficient than taking it to an appliance repair shop.

Appliance Cords: Cord Condition & Plug Issues

For your safety, appliance cords should be in reasonably good shape with no fraying or exposed wires. If the cord has damaged sections and cannot be replaced, weak areas should be repaired with electrical tape. Broken wires mean the cord is damaged beyond repair. Plug ends should also be in good condition. Any plug areas that are burnt, black or where the plastic/rubber has melted, show signs of electrical problems and should be immediately replaced.

The same applies if you get an electrical shock when plugging in an appliance or notice any arching when making the connection. These are signs of an unsafe plug end. If you must use extension cords with your appliances, ensure they are adequately rated and never attempt to plug a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong extension cord or power bar. All appliance cords should have polarized plugs.

If you notice that an appliance cord plug connected to your power supply, is extremely hot to touch, discontinue use immediately. It means there’s a safety issue with the plug or cord.

Humidifiers: White Dust on Furniture

That white dust that seems to come out of nowhere where the humidifier is working, is actually white or greyish scale deposits from the humidifier. When a humidifier operates, water is expelled to the room by way of mist or vapour. Humidifiers that do not have a wick style filter to contain those scale deposits, tend to deposit it on nearby furniture and electronics as dust.

Scale deposits come from traces of minerals present in your water source. If you want to reduce that dust, use demineralized or distilled water in your humidifier. A certain amount of mineral dust is to be expected and does require more cleaning around that area.

Vacuums: Dust Blow Out

If you see a cloud or billow of dust coming out of your vacuum, chances are the vacuum bag is overloaded, improperly seated or has ripped, allowing dust to enter the motor area. Your vacuum filters should be cleaned well and serviced to ensure a safe and efficient operation.

Slow Cookers: Food Spilling Out Onto Counter

Food being drawn out of a slow cooker is a sure sign that there’s too much in the cooker. As foods simmer, when there’s too much in the pot, a vacuum or siphon effect is formed as air and steam is pushed out. That causes foods to be exhausted out, down the sides of the slow cooker and onto the counter. To stop the flow, just remove a little of the food content to bring the level down about 1″ from the top of the cooker.

Coffee Makers: Overly Slow Drip

When your filter coffee maker drip is painstakingly slow or you’ve noticed a gradual slowing down of the dripping process lately, your coffee maker needs cleaning. Cleaning with vinegar is easy to do, just follow my tips below and be sure to take time to run a couple of water-only pots to clear the vinegar all out, before your next pot of coffee.