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This Internet search could save you big money fixing a broken appliance

You can potentially save hundreds of dollars by doing one simple Internet search before you order parts to fix an appliance on the fritz.

My refrigerator light started flickering recently. Sometimes it would work when you opened the door, and sometimes it wouldn’t. Of course, I checked the bulb, but that was fine. When the light did come on, it was working normally.

My next thought was the door switch might need to be replaced. That means it’s time to go online to see what kind of trouble I’m getting into. The joys of homeownership.

How to search for a solution

Whenever I need to look up how to fix something, I plug in the manufacturer, model number, and as simple a description as I can manage.

In my case, my Google search looked like this: Kenmore Elite [model #] refrigerator light won’t turn on.

Earlier I said I suspected the door switch might need to be replaced. However, I kept my search to describe the symptom, not what I thought the cure might be. The problem very well could be something else I may or may not have considered, so it’s best not to limit the results.

As it turned out, I found a YouTube video that showed how to replace the lighting harness — the fixture that holds the lightbulbs. From that video, I discovered my issue was part of a product recall. All the recall information, including the recall number, telephone number to call for replacement parts, and additional symptoms of the faulty parts were documented.

First, I was wrong about what the problem might be. Second, I could not only get the parts for free, but have a professional come out and install them for free, too!

My new first Google search

From now on, I’ll always search for a recall of my specific model before I start looking at how much the parts cost or how to install them.

My refrigerator is 11 years old, and the recall was at least six years old itself. Thanks to that information, I saved $230 — the cost of the parts plus labor. Not only did I get a new light harness, I also got a replacement circuit board. That actually might have fixed an issue I was having with things on the bottom of the refrigerator freezing, too.

What if there is no recall?

More often than not there won’t be a recall for your item. Here’s what you should do next:

  1. Search for the manufacturer, model number, and a simple description of your problem.
  2. Look for videos that ideally show your problem and walk through how to fix it.
  3. Search for the manufacturer, model number, and the part(s) you need to replace.
  4. Find the approximate cost for your repair. Be sure to pay attention to whether the parts you’re looking at are new, used, or refurbished and if there are additional shipping charges.
  5. Decide — now that you know the cost of the part(s) and have seen a video of the difficulty of the repair — whether you should buy a new item, perform the fix yourself or call in a professional.
  6. If you opt for a professional, you can now explain exactly what the problem is, what the likely fix is, and get an accurate quote for the work. Now you can compare quotes from multiple places confident that you’re getting specific numbers, not just answers to a vague “My [washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.] isn’t working.”
  7. Sometimes the right choice is to buy a new one. If the cost of the part is 25% of a new unit and you think a professional will be needed, chances are you’ll pay 50-60% of the cost of a new one to fix it. Depending on age, functionality, and where today’s technology is compared with your current item, the smarter use for that money may not be the repair.

I hope this helps save you some dough next time a big-ticket item goes on the blink.

Do you have any other tips for saving money on appliance or other major repairs?

1 Comment

  1. Ms. Money Supply

    I typically turn to Google whenever something breaks, but I’ve never thought of searching for a product recall – great advice! Definitely something I’ll do going forward.

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