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Microwave oven reliability

We’re in the process of building a house and thought we’d put in a new built-in microwave in the kitchen. Our current Sharp Carousel (not built-in) has been with us for almost 27 years (but is definitely showing signs of age) so we thought perhaps a current Sharp model with a trim kit would be suitable. However, looking at choice readers reviews (and others around the interwebs) it seems that you’re lucky to get much more than 2 years service out of the current models, with melting doors seeming to be a common issue. Indeed its been very difficult to finding any reviews of microwaves purchased between 2 and 5 years ago that would lead us to buy that model.

Is there such a thing as a recommended microwave oven model that is both currently available and can be expected to function for a reasonable lifetime (where I would expect reasonable to be greater than 10 years of light use)? I’m not interested in a recommended brand based on a purchase made 20 years ago as we would ourselves have absolutely recommended the Sharp based on our previous purchase, but the current models just don’t seem to past muster. I’m equally not interested in a recommendation for a model purchased less than 3 years ago, given the alarming number that seem to fail straight after they come out of their 2 year warranties.

Our requirement is merely for a simple microwave oven, no convection, no grill, just microwave with preferably power of 1000W. Our current Sharp has the convection function and we did indeed use it occasionally for the first couple of years but eventually reverted to just using the microwave features.

If microwave ovens are now truly disposable items then we’ll have no choice but to abandon the concept of built-in as there is no way I want to design a kitchen around something I’ll be discarding within a short timeframe.

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Hi @duncan,

I’ll add the link to the CHOICE Microwave reviews (member content) for reference, in case other readers want a quick link. It’s a tricky question as reliability can be shifting sands and as you have mentioned it’s also about availability. For example, we have a very cheap and basic Samsung microwave at home, but it has lasted quite a few years without fuss. Even so, if I were building a kitchen I’d (unfortunately) plan it as modular as possible to account for the possibility of appliances that need replacing sooner than wanted/expected.

Hopefully there are some Community members who can offer some further insight for you.

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We have a Panasonic microwave (about 10 years old now). What we found out after about 5-6 years use is they are considered not worth repairing and a disposable item…the cost to repair exceed the cost of replacement.

This really infuriates me as it creates unnecessary waste and an item which should not be considerable disposable (should have a long service life as the main components are reliable). What generally happens is a minor part such as the main circuitry board or synchronous motor fails rendering the appliance useless/dead. Such parts should be cheap and should be inexpensive to replace…but in Australia one needs to be an electrician to do so which makes the call out fees prohibitive. One should be able to replace such items as they usually require clipping connectors and then inserting a new part.

Anyway, our microwave’s synchronous motor failed which Panasonic advised would be cheaper to replace as it could be the circuit board and not the motor…making any repair very expensive. Rather than disposing the microwave, I managed to purchase a synchronous motor for about $15 delivered and replaced the part. We have a microwave which is now about 10 years old and still works well…rather than dead microwave and a new replacement microwave.

It appears unfortunately that many smaller appliances are treated as disposable items…no differently to mobile phones or computers.

What would be nice is for laws to change to allow minor parts to be replaced by the homeowner (like in New Zealand) or appliances designed so that parts can easily be replaced by a layperson with out any electrical risks.

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Totally agree @phb, it would be great if all appliances were designed to facilitate such repairs for those keen to do so :+1:

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Hi, where is it stated that you need to be a licenced electrician to repair an appliance such as a microwave? As long as the appliance can be unplugged and you are competent, ie you understand basic electronics and the care that needs to be taken with mains powered appliances it should be OK to repair yourself. The difficulty often is that repair information is not readily available, and you need to go to third party suppliers to obtain the necessary parts, at least at a reasonable cost.

See the applicable Electrical Safety legislation your state. The only appliances which one can legally do work on are those of very low voltage, such as battery opertated appliances.

From reading various state sites it looks like you need at a minimum either a “test and Tag” certification or small appliance servicing or some similar qualification.
From a Victorian OHS site, other States seem to refer to the same standard.

The checking and tagging of equipment as per AS/NZS 3760 must be done by a ‘competent person’ - this means someone who “has the necessary practical and theoretical skills, acquired through training, qualification, experience or a combination of these, to correctly undertake the required tasks”. The person does not need to be a qualified electrician, but an electrician or someone who has successfully completed an approved course at a TAFE college would be deemed to be competent.

This doesn’t directly address the question of servicing but would reasonably be required after repairing an appliance.

Hi @gtillett, would expect that servicing is different to repairing. I would imagine that servicing could include the ongoing maintenance of the appliance in accordance with the user manual, where repairing would be the modificarion or replacement of key operational parts to maintain or reinstate its function.

Servicing could be carried out by the user/layperson, while repairs could not be carried out legally by the same layperson.

In Australia, there are also liability and insurance risk associated with a layperson carrying out work/repair on electrical appliances.

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Since this topic was started, we’ve worked hard to improve our advice around reliability. You can now see a reliability score as part of our microwave testing (member content).

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Great to see the reliability score appearing in the reviews. Kudos to CHOICE.

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Good to read thanks @BrendanMays.

Also observed that the brand we have now settled on features with a good result in the tables.

Perhaps not so certain when you own higher end than a basic mobile phone, or bottom end Crome book?

The lack of easy repair of appliances is certainly lamentable as we most recently purchased units with stainless finish cabinets. Over thirty years we had five MW failures. Two were straight forward replacements of the turntable motor. Even the two older MWs which were not repaired at the time had enamelled steel housings, which were still very serviceable. Just not in keeping with the kitchen vibe. Although within scope of a repaint with care.

The turn table motors and exhaust vent fans are typically externally accessible in the models be have purchased. Which suggests repair is intended! The keypad/controller, HV power supply and magnetron present additional challenges and risks. Accessing the internals of any microwave due to stored energy in the HV power supply presents unfamiliar hazards.

There is an additional hazard with MW leakage where any work done may affect the fit up, hence the designed protection from excess radiation.

I’m with @phb in thinking we need a better solution for repairing better quality appliances and white goods. Access to affordable replacement parts is only one need. Access to repairer trained personnel at a reasonable cost is another. There are differing views on how to improve the latter. An unlikely outcome given the vested interests. Safe at any cost vs protected occupation status and demarcation of employment.

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We received this story about a Community member’s experience with the Sharp R-350E microwave. It’s an interesting example of how product design can inhibit what should be a relatively straightforward repair:

Approximately 18 months ago I bought a Sharp microwave, model R-350E (w). The purchase price was $199. The clock was faulty gaining about a minute per day so required frequent resetting. Then recently the internal light started to flicker and then failed completely. On inquiring about a replacement I was told it would cost $80 so I had a look at the light which runs on 240 V and the milky coloured cover contains quite a complex little circuit board which ultimately drives two tiny LEDs using 1.8 W. On testing, the LEDs were working so somewhere inside its complex circuitry the board had broken down and a replacement would cost 40% of the cost of the whole microwave.

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It may not only be product design, but the general trend for a throw away society and the cost to repair like the example I raised here:

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I had reason to replace a microwave recently which was a Samsung that was 25 years old. I could not find the same brand that would fit into the space in my kitchen so I bought a Panasonic. When it was just a bit older than 3 years old and I was cleaning the interior and noticed a brown blob in the back that left rust and flaked paint on the rag I had used. I put my finger into the area and there was quite a depression in the surface. I decided to return it to Harvey Norman because I had bought an extended warranty when I bought it, fortunately. Because they didn’t have anything other than more Panasonics I opted to get my money back. I have since checked and researched microwaves and found that Panasonic’s are just painted with a coating, unlike a Samsung which is coated internally with baked enamel and they declare this as part of their marketing, which explains perhaps why it lasted for so long internally(it was the motor that died). To me this is a vital piece of information as I believe if gone unnoticed, this could have become quite dangerous, apart from being of unsound manufacture. To the unaware the surface looks enamel but looking more closely it can easily be scratched and in this case become a rusted hole.

This alone sets a Samsung apart from the start which is important information for customers to know.
Rosemary

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Welcome to the community @choRo.

25 years is a really great life for a kitchen appliance. The turntable motors were a common replacement part, although for a 25 YO appliance?

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The Panasonic we have (purchased about 2006/7) has a enamel/powder coated interior lining. These work well unless there is a fault in the coating or the coating is damaged (e.g. chipped or scratched) whereby water and air can rust the underlying steel casing.

When growing up, we had a microwave with a stainless steel interior. We haven’t shopped for a microwave for about 13 years so don’t know if the latest models offer stainless steel interiors. These will be far more robust than enamel or other coated steel interiors. It may be worth hunting to see if there are models available in you price range an in the size you are after.

Choice has also reviewed microwave ovens in the past as well (Member content)…

Unfortunately the reviews doesn’t include a filter for interiors, but maybe Choice can add such information in the future.

The synchromatic motors are a common fault with microwaves but can easily be replaced (albeit expensively as technically one isn’t supposed to do it themselves). The motor itself costs about $12+ depending on the make, model and whether it is non-OEM.

We recently found out that bulbs also fail after time. Removing the incandescent bulb, we found that it is a one piece unit similar to that shown above. Fortunately we had another very old microwave not in use where its bulb fitted and was old style where the bulb had an Edison base and could be replaced…without replacing the fitting as well.

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We bought a Sharp convention microwave in 1995, and apart from having the drop down door hinges replaced a few times, it only needed the magnetron replaced once, and it was still working fine when we donated it to Lifeline in 2014.

It had a black interior and never had a problem with the coating.

We bought our current LG convection microwave in 2015 and it has had no problems to date.

It has a full stainless steel interior with the exception of the inside of the door, which is black.

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My current Panasonic (recommended by someone in this forum) has an SS interior (and a flat bed, rather than a turntable). I am hoping it will live longer than me.

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Be careful what you wish for?

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ROFL. Just being pragmatic.

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