To repair or replace, that is the question

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

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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.

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I now replace rather than repair. e.g last month dryer which was only 4 years old stopped working. I had a repairer come out which cost $90 who then advised me the logistic board needed replacing and this was not financiallty worthwhile. Items are becoming smarter, but not lasting for any great length of time. I changed back to a more manual dryer rather than a “smart” one.

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Back in the dark ages, when I was young, I made a deliberate decision to invest in tools and learn to repair & maintain my possessions - very largely motivated from numerous experiences with “professionals” charging for repairs which failed and I had to (re-)fix myself. Some 45 years later, in summary, this has been very wise/profitable BUT I have advised our kids not to bother following my example, as recent production tends to fail sooner, but not be repairable (due to design, short service life, super-cession, lack of parts, or not being worth the effort). While I work as a professional, I paid my way through university as a (trained) car mechanic, and have taken formal courses in diverse fields, as well as the learning that experience forces upon you.

When confronted with a fix or replace decision, I tend to be pretty rationalist (except in the case of sentimental value stuff, where over-capitalisation is not part of the decision). I tend to dismantle or otherwise investigate (eg, test) just far enough to get a clear picture of what is really the issue to be fixed (NOT farther). I then sort out the likely cost of repair (eg, special tools, parts if available) vs what I estimate the remaining value of the item is (in current dollars, not what I paid for it)(add time in as you value it). Whatever people tell you, there is always a risk inherent in any repair that things will come unstuck (demonic intrusion!), so there really needs to be considerable daylight on the “value” side. Quick examples: (OK but not great)Our Maytag washer survived 20 years of 3 wash a day use (think too many children), then the transmission froze. Repair was $240(my cost) vs estimated remaining value to us of $400 over 3-5 years. In the event, it went just over 5 years. (great) Our old Sunbeam Mixmaster went 30 years before a tempered part of the controller broke; no easy replacement parts or repair to the metal, so I found a used head on Ebay for $15 after looking at (terrible) reliability reviews for the new $300+ replacements - working perfect 6 years on with excessive use. On the other hand, with phone/tablet progression, even replacing a battery in an older unit can be a poor investment.

My perception is that current manufacturing seeks to turn “durable” items into “consumables” which they can bank on having to be replaced sooner rather than later … good business model but a waste of time and resources for me. Hence, I advise our family to begin with the end in mind, and buy the highest quality (based on actual independent product reviews, not advertising) they can find - which also tends to mean better warranty and longer parts support. Finding truly skilled and honest (repair) artisans is hugely difficult - my list of those I would recommend is not long - and if you use word-of-mouth be sure to ask till you get multiple recommendations (ie, weeding out “my drinking mate” or cousin). I know my personal limitations, so while I will do prep work for panel beating, I leave the spray work to someone with a “good (great) eye” for painting … in my experience this could be as low as 10% of painters. People like to make a lot of money, and it isn’t just the car game where “over-servicing” (replacing parts that don’t need it) is common - hence the need to have a clue what the actual problem really is … otherwise (for example) your gas hot water heater may be replaced rather than have a $40 part changed so that the “disposed for you” unit can be sold on to someone at another job.

To make any decision like this, you need information (duh). Information comes from 3 sources: repositories (eg, manuals, web - especially specialist discussion threads), experts (sometimes available through the web, but generally more time and $ to access), and research (DIY, with big time and $ costs - best not go there unless forced). Older manuals contain more gold than newer (think: litigation). Also, the web is now by far the biggest example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. People with that limited knowledge/experience feel a need to share it, often in totally inappropriate situations. Before embracing some quick fix brilliance, look to see if others have “thanked” the poster because their advice actually worked - if not, keep looking (in my experience).

One final piece of wisdom from 45 years of fixing: HIDE your abilities and experience! Otherwise, you will be assailed by people looking to “borrow” tools, dump every broken item they ever have in your lap, then come back after you kindly changed a globe in their car to tell you that the transmission is gone and “you were the last one to work on it.” If you can’t help yourself, swear them to secrecy once the job is done! Seriously!

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