CHOICE membership

To repair or replace, that is the question

repair

#1

I had a broken washing machine machine a couple of years ago. It was a few years old back then, so my first thought was to clear some time on the weekend to get a replacement. Then, the project-lover within decided it would be fun to try a DIY fix, and as it turned out, it was a pretty easy job (and the machine is still going).

More recently, I had some water spilled on my laptop keyboard. It still worked, except for the keyboard, so I took it for repair and was told it would be better just to buy a new one. Instead, I looked up a few videos and decided I would have a go at replacing it, for a cost of around $30. It worked too… for about 30 seconds. Then there was a fair bit of smoke and you can probably guess I needed to buy a new one.

Our friends at Which? asked a panel of professional engineers about 14 of the most common faults affecting dishwashers, fridge-freezers, ovens, vacuum cleaners and washing machines could normally be repaired as the best course of action.

So, do you repair or replace? Whether you do or not, I’d like to hear your considerations.


#2

I’m a qualified ICT technician at Cert III level, so I’ve managed to extend the life of quite a few laptop and desktop computers over the years. If you’re going to get a professional to fix it, get a quote for the damage up front, including the price for them just to have a look at it. Some of them charge an arm and a leg to look at your devices and then give you a quote on what the repairs will cost to add to your initial consultation fee.

If you choose to fix your device yourself or choose a backyard hobbyist technician then it’s vital not to let the smoke out. Once the smoke escapes you’ve pretty much killed your computer. So if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t want to pay someone to fix it, it’s probably easier just to replace the entire unit. That way you’ve only paid for the new unit and not a new unit plus the cost of a replacement part that you used to help kill off your old computer.


#3

Agree, get a professional to fix it. Still cheaper than replacing.


#4

Yeah, I learned that one the hard way! It’s extremely fiddly working on laptops. Thanks for the advvice @NubglummerySnr and @TeaEarlGreyHot.


#5

I am a tinkerer, so have fixed many items from washing machines, dryers, computers, laptops, iPhones, toasters, lighting, etc. etc.

As a rule if it’s under warranty, I don’t try to fix it myself, so I don’t void the warranty. Otherwise, I’ll give it a go. With the array of how-to videos available on YouTube it is now easy to repair things.

Just occasionally, I have been defeated, but without any disasters and not often enough to stop trying. :slight_smile:


#6

I have repaired most things, laptop keyboards, washing machine oil seal, pumps, belts, microwaves, sewing machines, filters, printers etc. I draw the line at cheap items - $20 toaster, $10 electric kettle - although my husband puts them back in their original packaging, even though we can’t get parts (they’ve done 10+ yrs work) intending to repair one day. He says “A man made them, so a man must be able to fix them.”

We are not “ordinary” consumers, as we have an extensive workshop, and my husband is never happier than when he is fabricating a part, and my father was an electrician.

Our biggest disaster is evaporative air conditioning. We were always getting the installer back because it didn’t work, burnt out motors, continually replacing parts to find that wasn’t the problem, Hard to get him back - 3 years one incident, usually tries to sell us solar power, large reverse cycle air con, or get free advice, anything but fix the problem. We’ve had several goes at it ourselves, gave up and bought a $6,500 unit from him. Isolated area, no one else around.

When I was single, working long hours and often far away from civilisation (building roads), I did hand over some things to “experts”. I wasn’t short of ability, but I was time poor and camped out away from tools & shops etc. I lost two sewing machines - went in with a problem and came out in parts with an offer to sell me another one.


#7

My background is fixing things, started out fixing jet airliners for a living but with airline businesses falling over and globalisation moving many maintenance jobs offshore I have worked in a number of industries since. At home I have always fixed our washing machines, dishwashers, hot water services, and only last week our automatic expresso machine needed some love.

In my experience most machines appear complex but in fact they are not, they are sometimes afflicted with and therefore often replaced for very simple faults. As most homeowners know sometimes the cost of servicing/repairs is often rapidly approaching to replacement cost in this throwaway world.

For example recently I had a couple of year old timber venetian blind that the mechanism to rotate the blades had stopped working, after pulling the blind down and investigating I discovered it was a simple broken part that converted the rotary movement of the control wand to twisting of the blades, the part to fix it would cost nearly $20 by the time it was posted to me a whole new blind was $30 online, you can guess what I purchased.

So even with the best intentions sometime replacement is the most economical solution.

With regard to fixing things yourself 240V AC is dangerous and unless you know what you are doing don’t start pulling apart appliances, but having stated that most reasons I have found for appliances that use water to stop working is due to blockages, things like jammed pumps or blocked fill valves, burned out heating elements. 90% of problems in my experience can be solved there. It is extremely rare for modern solid state controls to fail, so that is the last place to look.
You tube is your friend if you want to learn how to do something new. As I often state you are never ‘Robinson Crusoe’ someone has usually done the task before and posted a video of themselves doing it.

Just on a side note I now service motor cars and I find that many problems are as a result of the owners not having the required maintenance done in a timely fashion. Many people wrongly believe that servicing is expensive and unnecessary and as such cost themselves major repairs because they seek to minimise that expense. A stitch in time will almost always save 9.


#8

We try and repair. I hate throwing something out with a minor defect just because it is inconvenient/expensive to repair or there is a better one with more bells and whistles.

Examples.

  1. Have changed power supplies in PCs etc. Easy to do if you have a bit of knowledge.

  2. The turntable in our Panasonic microwave stopped turning. After doing some research online, found out that it could either be one of two things…the synchronous motor or the controller circuitry. I rang up Panasonic to see the price for a synchronous motor and/or controller panel and they said not worth fixing and would be cheaper to buy a new one (original microwave was about $300, 8 years old, very good condition, worked well except for the turntable and had very light use). I then decided to see if I could buy a synchronous motor on line and found out a new replacement one (non-genuine but incidentally identical brand and model to the one installed in the factory) was less than $15 inc. postage. Took a punt it was the motor and bought one. The motor came with replacement instructions and the motor took about 10 minutes to replace…the motor was held in with slide connectors so no risk of making a mistake causing a problem. It fixed the microwave and now have had over 2 years additional problem free use.

  3. But all the stories are not good. The rubber seal in our Sunbeam stainless steel stick blender got sucked out during use when about 7 years old. Again, it had light use. Contacted Sunbeam and asked it they had a replacement seal which I expect would cost less than 1 to manufacture. The said don’t hold such parts and recommended buying a new one…they even offered a 30% discount on a new one I purchased. I thought that the device still had years life left in it and made a home made seal using some plumber rubber and silicon. The stick blender works well (just more careful with it now).

  4. Washer in our sink waste trap. Caroma also don’t have parts and was expected to purchase a whole new stainless steel waste trap. A waste of resources and money buying a whole new one when it is just a replaceable seal. Now using a different sink brand washer which more or less fits and that had stock available.


#9

Thanks for the detailed response, and I’m glad at least one person here has had success fixing a laptop keyboard. You make an interesting point about the time taken to complete a job, it’s a factor.


#10

Interesting to hear about your background @tndkemp, I’d imagine you’d be more capable than most people when it comes to fixing things. Safety was one of my concerns after the laptop incident, and for the average repair person without experience it can be hard to know where to draw line.

Your point on car servicing is quite salient here. With products of all manner increasing in complexity, even maintenance can become a foreign concept to some.


#11

It’s a shame Sunbeam and Caroma do not offer the parts, as you said - what a waste. Thanks for the detailed response @phb.


#12

Here’s another point of interest based on the above responses, which correctly point out some barriers to repairing things like time and access to tools.

Would you visit a ‘repair cafe’ to fix an appliance?

  • yes
  • no

0 voters


#13

VERY relevant to our discussion. About manufacturers using non-standard fixings such as screws etc to try to inhibit access to their equipment:


#14

Most iPhone parts are available online and over the years i have replaced batteries, headphone jacks even a home button etc on my kids iPhones and iPods.
Some phone’s and pods are real tough to do others are quite easy, again see Utube for someone else showing you how.

But if you are not interested in doing it yourself see the guys in the market stalls that specialise in replacing iPhone parts they do screen replacements, batteries and everything in-between all at very reasonable prices. They are often asian guys who do watches as well. Vic market, weekend markets, and monee ponds market to name a few locations I have seen them doing it. I reckon they are at paddy’s market too.


#15

My washing machine was 25 years old when it decided it had serviced me for long enough. With the technology used in washing machines now, there was no question as to whether I was going to repair or replace; replace it had to be. I chose an LG 8.5kg machine. I can program many different washes, and it plays a lovely little tune to let me know when my wash is ready for the clothesline. I just love my new machine. :slight_smile:


#16

Nice one @nerrel.loader, I think 25 years is an admirable effort. Glad the LG is working out well


#17

Thanks, Brendan. My Mum always said buy a good brand. In her day, Whirlpool was ‘the’ brand and products were made to last. When it was my turn I purchased an equivalent brand of ‘Ingas’ which was another brand of Whirlpool. It certainly was made to last. I hope my new LG goes the same distance, but I somehow think not, as they just don’t make things to last as long as they used to. But, I am perfectly happy to eat humble pie. :smile:


#18

The concept of a repair cafe sounds great, but the general term of appliance infers (to me) more than a 15 minute repair job. I would sit down for 15 minutes, but ask me to sit for 30 min or more whilst someone repairs an appliance; well, that just wouldn’t happen for me. I’m not very patient, but I am sure there are plenty of people who are and who would love this concept. :slight_smile: Oh, the coffee would have to be excellent also. :grinning:


#19

Good points @nerrel.loader, especially about the coffee!


#20

We usually repair where we can. Our washing machines have usually lasted 2 to 3 times longer than the average age as we repair what we can until the repair cost becomes prohibitive. Our current machine is 12 years old and had the power board replaced 7 years ago when I was informed by the repair man that it might last another 2/3 years. My husband is good at small electrical and computer repairs but will take it to a qualified repairer for larger items. We also look for appliance replacement parts on-line which has been quite successful and cheaper. Overall our appliances have all lasted longer than the average which we think is because we usually follow the care instructions except for one dyson vacuum cleaner that blew up on me because I had not followed the recommended cleaning process.
Basically we repair until the appliance dies completely and HAS to finally be replaced.