Guide to Fixing Major Household Appliances

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How to Repair Faulty Gaskets, Wiring, Switches, and Thermostats

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A flush-mounted gasket is kept in place by a retaining strip, secured by screws or clips.

Let’s explore three of the most common components found in major household appliances. We’ll kick off with a vital item present in most water-using machines – gaskets.


Gaskets serve two purposes: they prevent air and water leaks, and they enhance the appliance’s efficiency. If a gasket fails, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Check for cracks and tears to determine if the gasket is faulty. A good gasket should feel spongy, whereas a hardened one needs replacement. Always use a new gasket specifically designed for your appliance and avoid using a universal, fit-all gasket.

Flush-mounted and channel-mounted are the two most common types of gaskets. A flush-mounted gasket is kept in place by a series of screws or clips, or a retaining strip or panel. On the other hand, a channel-mounted gasket is held in a retaining groove. Using a gasket tool or splining makes installation easier. If the manufacturer specifies, use gasket cement to install either type of gasket. Here are the steps to replace a gasket:

Step 1: Remove the old gasket carefully. If it’s channel-mounted, pull it out of the channel. If it’s flush-mounted, remove the fasteners, retaining strip, or panel to release the gasket.

Step 2: Clean the gasket area thoroughly with warm water and liquid detergent. If necessary, use mineral spirits. Dry the door.

Step 3: Install the new gasket, ensuring that it is even and smooth in its placement and goes around the corners easily. If the manufacturer specifies, use gasket cement. If you’re installing a channel-mounted gasket, press it into place with a splining tool. Ensure that the gasket is appropriately and smoothly positioned, with no part sticking up or curled under.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A channel-mounted gasket is held in a retaining groove.

Step 4: Replace the fasteners, retaining strip, or panel and its fasteners. With mineral spirits, remove any excess gasket cement, but be very careful not to damage the appliance’s finish.


Many appliance repair tasks involve wiring or connecting wires to install a new electrical component. Appliances’ electrical wires may be connected in several ways, including the basic screw-terminal connection, push-in terminal, and sometimes the sleeve-type lug terminal. Wires may also be joined with wirenuts, the solderless connectors. Components that have many wires, such as washer timers that control several operating cycles, are often connected in a wiring harness, a group of wires enclosed in a plastic sleeve. When installing a new component, each type of wire connection for each individual wire and each wire of a harness must be correctly made. Before disconnecting any wiring in an appliance, ensure that you know how it’s attached. Attach the wires of the new component in the same way.

Understanding Switches

Switches are electrical components that make contact with the conductors of a circuit to turn on or off an appliance. When an appliance is connected to a circuit, electricity flows through the wires to power the appliance. When the switch is turned on, the conductors of the appliance cord come into contact with the circuit conductors, allowing electricity to flow through the switch and operate the appliance. Other appliance components, such as rheostats, thermostats, solenoids, and timers, are also types of switches that control different functions of the appliance.

There are various types of switches, including push buttons, toggles, rockers, slides, and throw switches. All switches have electrical contacts in a mechanical housing, which can cause switch failure if either the contacts or housing are faulty. To determine if a switch is malfunctioning, turn it on and observe if the contacts are moving into position. If the contacts are not working correctly, the switch housing needs to be replaced. If the contacts are dirty or misaligned, they can be gently cleaned or bent back into place. However, if the contacts or screws are badly corroded, the switch needs to be replaced.

To test if a switch is working correctly, disassemble the appliance and use a continuity tester or a volt-ohm-milliammeter (VOM) to check the switch. If the switch is functioning correctly, the continuity tester will light up or buzz, or the VOM will read zero when the switch is turned on. If the tester does not light up or buzz, or the VOM reads higher than zero, the switch is faulty and needs to be replaced.

Understanding Thermostats

Thermostats are switches that control the temperature in a heating element or cooling device. They use different mechanisms, such as bimetal strips, bimetal thermodiscs, or gas-filled bellows chambers, to control the electrical contact. Faulty bimetal-strip and thermodisc thermostats need to be replaced, while gas-filled thermostats can sometimes be repaired by a professional. To check if a thermostat is functioning correctly, it needs to be tested using specific methods.

To troubleshoot a faulty thermostat in an appliance, follow these steps. Firstly, disassemble the appliance to access the thermostat. Next, test the thermostat with a continuity tester or a VOM set to the RX1 scale. Ensure that the appliance is unplugged before proceeding. Hook the clip of the continuity tester to one lead of the thermostat and touch the probe to the other, or touch one probe of the VOM to each terminal. The continuity tester should light up or buzz, or the VOM should read zero. Turn down the temperature control dial to see the contact points open at the thermostat. The tester should stop glowing or buzzing when the contacts open. If the thermostat is faulty, it should be replaced with a new one following the manufacturer’s instructions. It is important to note that appliances have two types of parts, mechanical and control. Thus far, we have only covered mechanical parts. The next section will focus on repairing control devices.


1. What are major appliances?

Major appliances are large electrical or gas-powered machines used for household chores. These include refrigerators, ovens, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers.

2. Can I repair major appliances myself?

It is possible to repair minor issues with major appliances yourself, but for major repairs, it is recommended that you hire a professional appliance repair technician. This is because major appliances have complex electrical and mechanical systems that require specialized knowledge and tools.

3. How often should I maintain my major appliances?

Regular maintenance of major appliances is crucial to extend their lifespan and prevent breakdowns. It is recommended that you perform maintenance checks on your appliances at least once a year, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

4. What are some common issues with refrigerators?

Common issues with refrigerators include a faulty compressor, thermostat, or evaporator fan. Other issues include a clogged drain or dirty condenser coils. These issues can cause the refrigerator to stop cooling properly or make strange noises.

5. What are some common issues with ovens and stoves?

Common issues with ovens and stoves include faulty heating elements, broken igniters, or malfunctioning thermostats. Other issues can include a faulty timer, loose wiring, or a malfunctioning control board.

6. What are some common issues with dishwashers?

Common issues with dishwashers include a faulty pump, clogged spray arms, or a malfunctioning control board. Other issues can include a broken door latch or a faulty heating element.

7. What are some common issues with washing machines?

Common issues with washing machines include a faulty water pump, broken belts or hoses, or a malfunctioning control board. Other issues can include a clogged drain or a faulty lid switch.

8. What are some common issues with dryers?

Common issues with dryers include a faulty heating element, broken belts or rollers, or a malfunctioning control board. Other issues can include a clogged vent or a faulty thermostat.

9. How do I troubleshoot a malfunctioning major appliance?

You can troubleshoot a malfunctioning major appliance by checking the power source, inspecting the wiring and connections, and testing the various components of the appliance. However, it is recommended that you hire a professional appliance repair technician to avoid causing further damage or injury.

10. How much does it cost to repair a major appliance?

The cost of repairing a major appliance can vary depending on the type of appliance, the extent of the damage, and the cost of replacement parts. On average, the cost of repairing a major appliance can range from $50 to $500 or more.

11. Should I repair or replace my major appliance?

Whether you should repair or replace your major appliance depends on the extent of the damage and the age of the appliance. If the repair cost is more than half the cost of a new appliance and the appliance is old, it may be more cost-effective to replace it.

12. How do I find a reliable appliance repair technician?

You can find a reliable appliance repair technician by asking for recommendations from friends and family, checking online reviews, and verifying the technician’s license and insurance. It is also recommended that you get a written estimate before hiring a technician and ask for a warranty on the repair work.

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