Appliance Repairs

October 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Your refrigerator breaks, your oven won't heat. When is it time to buy a new appliance, and when should you pony up the money to get your old one fixed? Paul Willman, who's been repairing appliances for nearly 30 years, often gets desperate calls from homeowners. "They can't hear that we'll be there in two or three days. They want it fixed that day or the very next morning."

But it turns out finding a good repair person isn't always easy.

Celia Lehrman, Consumer Reports, says "We surveyed 13-thousand of our subscribers, covering more than 20-thousand broken products, and plenty of them had complaints about the repairs they got."

The biggest problems were with electric cook-tops and wall ovens. Lehrman says, "The parts were very difficult to find and the repairs often took two weeks or more to get done."

When it comes to dryers, washers, and other larger appliances, the survey showed people have much better luck using an independent shop once the warranty is up, rather than a factory-authorized service center.

But Consumer Reports says sometimes an appliance just isn't worth fixing. "You should replace it if the repair is going to cost more than half the price of a new model," says Lehrman.

Consumer Reports says its latest research shows there's still no need to buy extended warranties on appliances. If an appliance does break, the odds are the repair costs won't be any higher than the cost of the extended warranty.

Paul Willman says it's great when he can fix something right away, like the oven that went out on Thanksgiving Day. "Not even an hour later and I ad that stove lit. Cheers coming from the other room because people were already arriving for the dinner. And it was pretty cool."

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