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10 tips

When to repair appliances or replace them

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 20, 2003

Sometimes it can be a challenge to discern the course of frugality and wisdom. Should you repair a washing machine that fills and drains at the same time? (Answer: yes.) Should you attempt to fix that microwave oven after you've nuked metal in it? (Answer: no.) For additional tips on whether to repair or replace common household appliances when they conk out, read on.

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1. When the repair route makes the most sense. If you own a big-ticket item, such as a pro style range or a lawn tractor, it's probably smart to repair it if something goes wrong. Even if the repair is expensive, you're likely to come out ahead.

* * *

2. When replacement is reasonable. If the repair will cost you more than half the price of a replacement item, or if replacing the item will give you significant upgrades in technology and efficiency, then a new purchase could be the way to go.

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3. Hold on to what you've got. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to repair or at least consider repairing clothes dryers, washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, electric ranges, gas ranges, wall ovens, lawn tractors and riding mowers if they're less than 8 years old.

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4. Time to say goodbye. In most cases, don't bother trying to repair a microwave oven; you can find a replacement model for just as much money, if not less. As for walk-behind gas lawn mowers, repair them or consider repairing them until they're at least 5 years old. After that, weigh the repair cost against the replacement cost.

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5. If you opt to repair your appliance, make sure it's really broken. Check the troubleshooting section in the owners' manual.

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6. Surf the Web. You can find repair instructions and guidance on some manufacturers' Web sites and on these sites: www.pcappliancerepair.com, www.repairclinic.com and www.livemanuals.com

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7. Contact the company by phone. You may have difficulty getting through, but it could be worth the hassle: Nearly 10 percent of people who reach the manufacturer by phone receive offers to fix or replace an out-of-warranty item free of charge.

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8. Look into factory or authorized service. Manufacturers' technicians are typically trained on the latest equipment and are held to certain standards.

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9. Examine credentials. If your warranty has expired, an independent repair contractor could be a good option. Find out whether the repairer belongs to a trade association such as the Professional Service Association or the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians.

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10. Know where to turn. If you have problems with a repairer, you may file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at 1-800-955-5100 and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-435-7352.

-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey. Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); Point and Click Appliance Repair (www.pcappliancerepair.com)

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