All disposers have an overload feature
that automatically shuts off
the power when the motor
becomes overloaded and gets too
hot. Once the motor cools, simply
push the reset button on the side of
or under the unit.
On the other hand, if it hums
but doesn't spin, it may have something
stuck in it. Switch the disposer
off, then try working through it
by turning the blades with a special
disposer wrench (sold at home centers)
or by turning a bottom bolt. Many disposers have an Allen wrench for that
purpose, inset on the bottom of the machine.
When a light goes out or a switch doesn't work, you should
first check the main electrical panel for a tripped circuit
breaker. But don't stop there. Before you change out light bulbs
and switches, see if a GFCI outlet (which may be
upstream from the troubled light or outlet) has tripped.
Sometimes all the bathrooms or the outside lights are powered
through a single GFCI located in one bathroom or
elsewhere, such as in a basement. Simply push the reset button
on the GFCI and you could be back in business.
If your refrigerator conks out on a hot day and you have
a cat or a dog, immediately check the coils for pet hair.
Service pros find this problem on half of their refrigerator
calls. The coils are the black tube-and-wire grid that
cools the fluid in the compressor. A buildup of hair will
cause the compressor to overheat and trigger the overload
switch. On many fridges, you get to the coils by opening
the grille at the bottom of the refrigerator. Then push a
coil cleaning brush (sold at home centers) into the coils,
pull it back and vacuum it clean.
If the coils are located on the back, pull out your
fridge (it's often on rollers) and brush them off.
Bonus: The clean coils will cool more efficiently
and save you money on your utility bill!
Once the overload switch
is tripped, you may have to
wait a few hours for it to cool.
It will reset itself and turn
the refrigerator back on.
If your stove burner won't
come on, the likely culprit is
the spaghetti sauce that
boiled over a few days ago.
Use a toothbrush to clean off
food spills from the igniter.
On an electronic ignition stove,
it's a little ceramic nub located either on the stovetop or
under the ceramic seal strike plate. Also make sure that
the round ceramic seal strike plate is properly seated on
If your electric stove burner won't heat, turn the burner
off and pull it out from its socket. Then plug it in again
and wiggle it around. If it feels loose, remove the burner
again and gently bend the burner prongs slightly outward
for a tighter connection. Easy does it. You could
end up pushing the whole socket out of its bracket.
Standing pilot gas range
To access the ignition system in an older-style standard
gas range, pop the lid. It's usually hinged on the back side.
If the pilot flame is out, poke a needle into the pilot hole
to clean out soot (be careful not to ream it wider). Brush
off any debris and clean the tube that leads from the pilot
to the burner. Then relight the pilot.
Electronic oven controls
Blame it on the technology. It so happens that if you set the
“time cook” function, the oven, much like a programmed
VCR, won't turn on until the appointed time. You may
have done this inadvertently,
but if your digital display
reads “hold,” “delay” or
“time cook,” then the timer
is engaged. You'll have to
clear it first by pushing the
“off” button. On ovens with
dials, be sure the knob is
turned to “manual.”
When a washing machine cabinet rocks, it makes a horrible racket
during the spin cycle. The solution is to simply readjust the legs.
Screw the front legs up or down until the cabinet is level. When both
legs are solid on the floor, tighten each leg's locking nut. In most
washers, to adjust the rear legs, gently tilt the machine forward and
gently lower it down. The movement will self-adjust the rear legs.
Our expert repairman responds to many “dryer-not-
heating calls” only to find that the machine
is set to “fluff air”—a non-heat setting. Avoid
the embarrassment. Check the settings first.
Another common cause of poor drying is a
clogged lint filter. The filter may look clean, but
it may actually be
covered by a nearly
caused by dryer
sheets. This film
and forces the
thermostat to shut
off the heat before
your clothes are dry. Test your filter by
pouring water into
it. If the filter holds
water, it's past time
to clean it. Pull out the filter and scrub
it in hot water with a little laundry detergent
and a stiff kitchen brush.
Also check the outside dryer vent for any lint
that may have built up there. The louver
door–style vent covers are notorious for lint
buildup, which traps heat and turns the heat off
in the dryer. Pull the cover completely off to get
to these clogs.
If you turn your central air conditioner
on, off and then on again in
rapid order, chances are you'll blow a
fuse or shut off a circuit breaker or
the air conditioner simply won't
respond. That's because the compressor
(in the outdoor condensing unit)
may have stopped in a high compression
mode, making it difficult to start until the compression releases.
Older condensing units may switch the compressor on anyway,
which causes the circuit to overload and blow a fuse. Newer,
“smarter” condensing units will prevent this blunder by delaying the
AC’s “on” function for a few minutes. It's easy to mistake this delay
with a faulty air conditioner. Be patient and give the air conditioner
about five minutes to come back on.
To determine if you have a blown
fuse, locate the special fuse block
near the outside unit. Pull out the
block and take the whole thing to
the hardware store. A salesperson
can test the cartridge fuses and tell
you if you need to replace them.
Another simple reason your AC
might not come on: You've signed
up for a cost discount with your
electric company in exchange for
limited air conditioning during high-demand periods, and you're in
an “off” period. If you can't remember, call your electric company to
find out. You don't want to pay the repair technician to drive out and
explain this program to you!
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When your dishwasher no longer
gets your dishes clean, a food-filled
filter is most
often to blame.
If it's clogged,
make it to the
spray arms to
clean the dishes
in the top rack.
The fix takes
two minutes. Simply pull out the
lower rack and remove the filter
cover inside the dishwasher. (Check
your owner's manual if you can't
spot the filter.) Then use a wet vacuum
to clean off the screen.
While you're there, slide the nearby
float switch up and down. If it's
jammed with mac and cheese, you
won't get any water. If the cover
sticks, jiggle it up and down and
clean it with water.