Troubleshooting Problems With Common Household Appliances

Household appliances make our lives easier by helping us cook, clean, and entertain. However, when they break down it can be frustrating and disruptive. Many appliance issues can be easily fixed at home without needing professional repair. Learning some basic troubleshooting techniques for common household appliance problems can save you time and money.

Refrigerator Troubleshooting

Refrigerators are one of the most important appliances in any home. When issues arise, food safety and convenience are impacted. Some common fridge troubles and solutions include:

Refrigerator Is Not Cooling

  • Check the temperature setting – Make sure the temperature is not accidentally set too high. Recommended fridge temp is 35-40°F.
  • Dirty condenser coils – Clean the coils which can get clogged with dust/dirt and prevent proper airflow.
  • Failed thermostat – Test the thermostat with a multi-meter and replace if faulty. This controls the compressor and temperature.
  • Compressor issues – Listen for humming/clicking. If none, the compressor could be broken and will likely need replacing.

Refrigerator Is Freezing Food

  • Dirty door seals/gaskets – Clean seals and ensure they seal tightly when closed.
  • Thermostat problem – Test and replace the thermostat if it is maintaining a temperature that is too low.
  • Overcrowding – Ensure adequate airflow. Do not overstuff fridge or block vents.

Strange Noises

  • Hissing/gurgling – Normal sound of the refrigerant circulating through the sealed system.
  • Popping or cracking – Can occur when ice makers cycle on/off or from contraction/expansion.
  • Rattling – May be caused by airflow obstructions or a loose internal component. Remove obstructions and secure any loose parts.
  • Loud hum – If the hum is loud or excessive, it likely indicates a problem with the compressor that requires repair.

Moisture Buildup Inside

  • Too frequent/long door openings – Try to reduce opening the door when possible to limit cold air escape.
  • Door seal leak – Inspect the seal for any cracks or poor sealing and replace if needed.
  • High humidity – Dehumidifiers can help regulate excess moisture in the air.
  • Clogged defrost drain – Unclog the drain line to allow defrost water to flow out properly.

Refrigerator Has Odors

  • Spoiled food – Check for expired food and spills producing odor. Remove any problem items.
  • Stale odors – Try cleaning the interior with a baking soda and water solution. Activated charcoal bags can also absorb odors.
  • Door seal leak – Inspect the door seal and replace if air/odors are getting in from a poor seal.

Dishwasher Troubleshooting

Dishwashers are convenient time-savers but sometimes soap buildup, electrical issues, and more can cause them to malfunction. Troubleshoot your dishwasher with these tips:

Dishwasher Won’t Start

  • Power supply – Check circuit breakers and fuses. Reset breaker/replace fuse if needed.
  • Door latch – Ensure the door fully clicks/latches into place when closed.
  • Control panel – Attempt reset and check for error codes. May need control panel repair/replacement.
  • Motor issues – If lights/control panel work but motor is silent, the motor may need replacing.

Dishes Not Cleaning Properly

  • Clogged spray arms – Remove debris and clean all the spray arm jets/openings.
  • Hard water buildup – Run appliance cleaner monthly to remove scale on heating element and interior.
  • Low water supply – Ensure the water valves are fully open. Check for kinked hoses.
  • Filled detergent cup – Make sure detergent cup opens and empties adequately during cycle.

Dishwasher Leaking

  • Door seal – Replace seal if it is cracked or has gaps allowing water to leak through.
  • Clogged drain hose – Disconnect and clean drain hose regularly to ensure water can flow out freely.
  • Overfilled – Don’t overfill dishwasher and avoid water spraying directly on door.
  • Water supply line – Tighten hose connections and inspect supply lines for cracks needing replacement.

Cloudy Dishes

  • Low rinse aid – Dispenser should be topped up to remove spots and film from dishware.
  • Detergent amount – Reduce detergent amount if it is rinsing poorly and leaving residue.
  • Items blocking spray – Rearrange items so spray can fully reach all dishware surfaces.
  • Hard water – Install a water softener to help reduce mineral deposits from hard water.

Strange Noises

  • Filling sounds – May hear hissing of water filling dishwasher at start of cycle.
  • Drain noises – Gurgling sound from the drain pump is normal.
  • Knocking/rattling – Items may be loose and knocking together. Secure loose dishware.
  • Grinding/humming – May indicate issues with pump/motor that likely need repair.

Oven and Range Troubleshooting

Ovens and ranges are vital for everyday cooking. However, technical problems sometimes arise that prevent proper operation. Some troubleshooting tips for common oven/range issues:

Oven Not Heating Up

  • Temperature setting – Verify temperature is set appropriately and not accidentally set too low.
  • Blown thermal fuse – Fuse shuts off power to protect from overheating. Replace blown fuse.
  • Faulty igniter – For gas ovens, check igniter and replace if no flame after clicking.
  • Heating element – Assess heating element for any visual damage and test resistance for replacement.

Oven Not Turning On

  • Power supply – Check home’s electrical panel for a tripped breaker or blown fuse.
  • Door not closing – Ensure door properly shuts and latches. Adjust if needed.
  • Keypad – Attempt keypad reset by disconnecting power for several minutes.
  • Control board – If above doesn’t work, likely an electronic control board failure needing replacement.

Burner Problems

  • Clogged burner ports – Clean ports and clear obstructions preventing flame.
  • Igniter misalignment – Ensure igniters line up correctly with burner ports for ignition.
  • Faulty igniter/sensor – Assess with multimeter and replace faulty part if not sensing flame.
  • Gas line issues – Confirm gas supply line is fully opened and inspect line for damage.

Oven Temperature Inaccurate

  • Oven thermostat – Test thermostat and replace if actual temps don’t match set temperatures.
  • Improper rack position – Use recommended rack heights. Upper racks near broiler may run hotter.
  • Oven vent blocked – Remove obstructions to allow proper hot air flow. Keep oven vent clear.
  • Sensor calibration – Many ovens have a sensor calibration option to sync to actual temp.

Oven Light Not Working

  • Bulb burnt out – Replace old light bulb with an equivalent watt and type.
  • Electrical wiring issue – Assess wiring connections to light fixture for looseness/damage.
  • Light switch – Test or replace control console if switch not responding. Could indicate failure.
  • Board failure – Light wiring controlled by electronics board which may need replacement.

Microwave Oven Troubleshooting

Microwave ovens are ubiquitous time-saving cooking tools. But problems with microwave electronics or doors can cause frustrating issues. Common troubles and solutions include:

Microwave Has No Power

  • Door alignment – Ensure door is fully closed and engaged with door sensors.
  • Circuit breaker – Check electrical panel and reset tripped breaker switch.
  • Power cord – Verify cord is firmly plugged in and inspect for damage. Replace if faulty.
  • Fuse – Check and replace internal fuse if blown or faulty. Often accessed behind vent grille.
  • Magnetron – This provides the microwaves. Failure requires professional magnetron replacement.

Microwave Won’t Heat

  • Spinning turntable – Ensure turntable is clean and rotating freely with no obstructions.
  • Door issues – If door is misaligned, damaged, or has loose hinges this can impair functioning.
  • High voltage diode – Professionals should assess the high voltage diode and replace if needed.
  • Magnetron failure – Have technician check the magnetron tube which generates the heat.

Microwave Has Sparking/Arcing

  • Metal inside – Ensure no metal dishes, foil, or objects are accidentally inside.
  • Cavity damage – If interior lining is damaged it can cause arcing hazards. Professional repair often needed.
  • Door issues – A poor door seal/closure can cause arcing and requires repair.
  • High voltage components – Have HV capacitor, diode, and magnetron tested. May need replacement.

Microwave Leaking

  • Door seal – Inspect seal for any cracks or gaps that could cause leaks. Replace if needed.
  • Venting issues – Ensure vent and damper are operating correctly and exhausting air/moisture.
  • Turntable motor – Leaks could indicate an issue with the motor/bearings allowing moisture inside unit.
  • Cavity damage – Interior punctures, cracks, or corrosion can result in leaks needing professional patching/repair.

Lights and Display Not Working

  • Door open – Verify door is fully closed. Microwave functions disabled when open.
  • Fuse/wiring – Inspect internal fuse and wiring harness to control board for damage.
  • Control board – If display is out, likely a faulty control board that will need professional replacement.
  • Bulb burnt out – Replace bulb with equivalent watt and type for interior light.

Washer/Dryer Troubleshooting

Washers and dryers make doing laundry significantly more convenient. However, when something goes wrong it can be stressful dealing with piles of unwashed or wet clothes. Some washer/dryer troubleshooting tips:

Washer Won’t Start

  • Power – Ensure washer is plugged in securely and outlet is active. Check for tripped breakers.
  • Water supply – Verify that hot and cold supply lines are turned on fully.
  • Door/lid – Most have a door sensor and won’t run with it open. Make sure it is fully shut.
  • Controls – Attempt power reset and check for error codes. May indicate control board failure.

Washer Won’t Spin

  • Laundry load – Overloading can prevent proper spinning. Remove some items to lighten load.
  • Belt issues – Worn or broken drive belts will need replacement to spin correctly.
  • Motor failure – If belt is fine but it still won’t spin, the motor likely needs professional service.
  • Braking problems – Issue with brakes not releasing properly. Complex repair often required.

Washer Leaking

  • Door seal – Clean or replace door seal if leaking occurs around door.
  • Hose leaks – Inspect and tighten hose fittings. Replace any hoses that have cracked/burst.
  • Pump leaks – Leaking at pump could indicate pump needs to be rebuilt or replaced.
  • Overfilled – Don’t overfill washer. Water should not go over clothes level.

Washer Making Strange Noises

  • Off-balance – Redistribute laundry to allow proper spinning. Ensure washer is level.
  • Coins/debris – Check under washtub lip for coins that may be rattling around.
  • Drive pulley – Inspect pulley for damage. May need repair to resolve odd grinding noise.
  • Pump failure – Loud whining noise could indicate a failed drain pump needing replacement.

Dryer Won’t Start

  • Power – Ensure dryer is plugged in firmly and outlet is active. Check breakers/fuses.
  • Door switch – Most dryers have a sensor that prevents operation when door is open.
  • Cycling thermostat – This provides timed air heating cycles. Fault can prevent starting.
  • Motor – If dryer powers on but drum doesn’t turn, the drive motor may have failed.

Dryer Not Heating

  • Lint buildup – Excess lint buildup in vent lines/exhaust will impair air heating efficiency.
  • Burnt heating element – Visually check heating element for burns/damage and test resistance for issues.
  • Thermal fuse – Check continuity on the safety thermal fuse. Replace if blown.
  • Gas valve coils – For gas dryer, valve coils may need replacement to ignite gas burner.

Moisture Not Removed

  • Full lint filter – Laundry won’t dry efficiently with a clogged lint filter. Clean regularly.
  • Vent obstruction – Check external vent hood for obstructions blocking exhaust airflow.
  • Low air circulation – Rearrange load to allow more air circulation. May be overcrowded.
  • Damaged vent – Inspect vent line for rips/holes where moisture can condense. Seal any leaks.

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting

A garbage disposal is extremely convenient for food waste, but jams and electrical issues can temporarily stop it from working. Some garbage disposal troubleshooting tips:

Disposal Humming But Not Operating

  • Reset button – There is often a red reset button on the bottom to restart after an overload.
  • Obstruction – Unplug and carefully remove any stuck object like broken glass blocking blades.
  • Overheat – Allow unit time to cool off after overloading before pressing reset button.
  • Jammed motor – If not restarting, the motor may be seized and require replacement.

Disposer Turning On But Not Chopping

  • Unplug and test spin – Spin the flywheel at the bottom to ensure it isn’t stuck.
  • Obstruction – Unplug and carefully remove any stuck object preventing chopping.
  • Blade damage – Remove and inspect blades for missing or bent blades needing replacement.
  • Bad bearing – May need to replace worn garbage disposal bearing allowing spinning.

Leaking From Bottom of Disposer

  • Loose drain pipe – Tighten slip-nut connecting ring/flange at drain pipe.
  • Failed sink flange gasket – Assess gasket and replace if it is broken/unsealed.
  • Cracks – Inspect unit bottom for any cracks causing leaks that require replacement.
  • Rust holes – Check bottom for rust perforations allowing leaks that mean a new unit is needed.

Loud Grinding Noise

  • Obstruction – Unplug and carefully remove debris like broken glass causing grinding.
  • Damaged blades – Remove and replace blades that may have blunted, warped edges.
  • Bad bearings – Worn bearings can sound gravelly or rough when spinning.
  • Off balance – If not obstruction, motor balance may be off requiring garbage disposal replacement.

Disposal Has Bad Odor

  • Debris buildup – Remove and clean unit, including using degreaser on flywheel.
  • Bad food – Avoid putting excess fatty/starchy foods down disposal to minimize odors.
  • Blade replacement – Foul odors can linger on damaged/warped blades. Install new blades.
  • Citrus rinds – Citrus oils can sometimes leave lingering smells. Avoid large amounts of citrus.

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting

With rising summer temperatures, a malfunctioning air conditioner can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. Some typical air conditioner issues and troubleshooting tactics include:

AC Not Blowing Cold Air

  • Clogged filter – Clean or replace filter to improve airflow through system.
  • Refrigerant leak – Have professional check for leaks and recharge refrigerant if needed.
  • Frozen evaporator coil – Check for ice buildup indicating a failing coil needing replacement.
  • Capacitor failure – Capacitors help run compressor. Replace failed capacitor.

AC Blowing But Not Cold

  • Thermostat – Ensure thermostat set below room temperature and is functioning properly.
  • Refrigerant level – Low charge can reduce cooling. Check for leaks and have unit recharged by a pro.
  • Frost/ice buildup – Unit may be overcharged with refrigerant if coils are icing up, restricting air.
  • Compressor – Have technician assess compressor. Could be bad valves, failure, or overheating issue.

AC Leaking Water

  • Plugged condensate drain – Remove debris from primary and overflow drain lines allowing water to exit.
  • Drain line clog – Backflush the drain line with compressed air or snaking cable to clear clog.
  • Unit overcooling – Set thermostat to a higher temperature if AC is freezing air excessively causing overflow.
  • Drain pan issues – Rust, crack, or overflowing pan will require drain pan replacement.

AC Not Turning On

  • Power – Check circuit breakers and fuses. Test outlet. Could just be loss