Appliance Maintenence Tips by Domestic Appliances

I would like to thank our friens at Chicago Appliance Repair for compiling these tips and hints.

Washing Machines
Fabric softeners are waxy and can gum up in the washer if introduced undiluted with water before dispensing. So mix them with water before use. If there's a fabric softener dispenser on your machine, add the recommended amount and then top off with water. If you're pouring from a cup, use a 3-to-1 ratio of softener to water. Avoid overloading the washer. Add clothes until the unit is filled to just below top of the agitator axle without packing down the clothes. An overloaded washer strains the motor and transmission, shortening their lives. Once a month: Remove and clean intake screens where water-supply hoses enter the washing machine. The screens get clogged with sediment and/or mineral buildup. Because they're difficult to reseat improperly installed, they can jam open an internal valve replace them with flat screened washers (available at most hardware stores) in the end of the hose. Be extra careful when removing and replacing hoses, as the plastic threads on the intakes at the back of the washer are easily stripped. Every five years: Replace rubber water-supply hoses if they're splitting, cracking or are losing flexibility. Rubber replacement hoses last five years, but hoses that use a braided-jacket of stainless steel, although more expensive, last at least twice as long. Replace pinch-type hose clamps with more reliable worm-driven clamps.

Clean the lint filter after every dryer load. Replace the door seal if it's loose, worn, damaged or hardened. If you don't, the warm dryer air will escape, forcing the unit to work harder. Check the seal by holding a tissue near door while the dryer is running. If the tissue is sucked toward the door, replace the seal. Replace flexible plastic exhaust ducting with aluminum or steel. It's more efficient and reduces the risk of fire. Limit the length of duct runs if possible, and keep sags out of longer runs if you have to use them, because they collect lint that can restrict or even block the flow of warm exhaust air. This puts a strain on the dryer fan and reduces overall efficiency. Two times a year Clean the lint filter with soap and water to remove built-up soap and fabric softener. Clean the lint filter with soap and water to remove built-up soap and fabric softener. Once a year Disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer and remove accumulated lint. This should really be done a couple of times a year if possible. Vacuum lint from the dryer heater box. To get to this area, remove the access panel. Most are held in place by clips or screws, but check the product manual. Always unplug the machine or shut down the gas connection before you remove the panel.

Keep the top of the refrigerator clear and make sure there is at least a 1/2-in. clearance on sides. Make sure the refrigerator is level or tilted back slightly so the door closes completely. Once a month Clean door gasket with 1 tsp. of baking soda dissolved in a quart of warm water. Besides cleaning the gasket, it will keep it soft and pliable. Two times a year Clean coils with a condenser coil brush , available at an appliance dealer. The coils are usually behind the snap-out grill at the front bottom of the unit. On older models, they're located in the back and are partially covered by cardboard. Unplug the unit first so you don't strike the moving fan. Even when the unit is unplugged, avoid disturbing the insulation or bending the fan blades, which could damage the fan. If your pets shed, do this four times a year. Test the door gasket. A leaky gasket wastes energy and shortens the life of the compressor. Close the refrigerator door on a dollar bill at various places along the door, and pull lightly. If the bill does budge, replace the gasket . Peel back the gasket enough to loosen the retainer strip screws and slip a new one in place. Change the inline water filter on the ice-maker after turning off the source water. Use a bucket to catch water in the system. Buy recommended replacement filters. Once a year Slide the refrigerator out and vacuum around and beneath it. Left unattended, this dirt will end up on the coils.

Air Conditioner
Never run an air-conditioning unit when the outside temperature is below 60 degrees F. Coils may frost up, restricting airflow. Wait at least five minutes before restarting a unit. This relieves stress on the compressor. Always turn on power 24 hours before using a central air conditioner. This gives the unit time to separate the oil from the refrigerant before cool air is required. Keep drapes and curtains away from window units. Keep vegetation, grass clippings and leaves away from the condenser grille. Remove window units in winter, or protect them with tight-fitting waterproof covers. Once a month Clean filters with dishwashing detergent, rinse thoroughly and let them dry before replacing. This allows a free airflow, reducing stress on the fan. It also keeps the coils clean, so heat can dissipate easily, leading to lower operating costs. Twice a cooling season Slide the chassis out, if possible, and lubricate the compressor fan; the oil ports are often hidden by caps or screws. Use five drops of SAE 20 nondetergent motor oil for a window unit and 10 drops for a central unit. (Some window units must be removed for oiling.) The sealed motors on newer units don't require extra oil. Clear the drain hole in the chassis using a stiff wire. Add a capful of bleach to the tray or pan base or wherever water collects. Once a year If visible coils are dirty, coils within the unit probably are too. Take the unit apart and wipe the coils with a clean, damp rag. Use dish soap, which won't corrode metal. Finish by wiping the coils with a soap-free wet rag. If your unit is solely an air conditioner, turn it off at the breaker in winter. Otherwise the compressor heater will try to keep the oil in the unit warm and ready for use.

Run the hot water in the sink near the dishwasher before starting it, so even during the first cycle the water is at or near the design temperature of 120 degreesF. If the water isn't at least 60 degreesF, the soap won't dissolve. Promptly repair cut or chipped plastic coating on racks to prevent rust. Use steel wool to remove rust and cap the damaged rack tines with slip-on rubber tips. You can get a rack- or tine-repair kit from the manufacturer. Load the dishwasher correctly, follow manufacturers instructions. Use only dishwasher detergent in recommended amounts. Do not put any other cleaning compound inside dishwasher (laundry detergent, liquid dish detergent), as it may suds and overflow you could fill your kitchen with soap suds!!! Store detergent in a dry, cool place, and do not keep extra packages on hand for a long time as it takes up moisture from the air and then loses cleaning ability. Two times a year Lift out the strainer and clean it with warm soapy water and a soft-plastic scrubby pad. Remove the spray arm and clean it by poking a piece of stiff wire through the holes. Then shake the spray arm to make sure nothing is inside, such as seeds from fruit like watermelon. Finally, scrub any mineral deposits off the spray arm with hot distilled white vinegar. (The cap holding the shower arm in place is typically reverse-threaded, which means you should turn it clockwise to remove it. Be careful not to drop the nut or washer into the motor.) When you run a regular wash cycle, place a small container filled with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar in both the dish rack (lower) and the cup rack (upper); the dishwasher will disperse the vinegar during the wash cycle. This dissolves mineral accumulation and soap residue throughout the dishwasher, especially at the hinges where rust-causing buildup occurs.

Most gas stove problems are simple mechanical adjustments or maintenance tasks that have been overlooked over time. The procedures to rectify the problems can be performed in your home. If at any time you smell gas or have to replace any part and feel uncomfortable doing so, call your local gas company first for repairs before trying to repair the gas stove yourself. Failure to do so can have grave consequences. Cleaning clogged burners- If the pilot light is lit but the burner does not light; chances are your portholes are clogged from grease or food. To gain access to the portholes, lift the range top and lift up the burner assembly and pull it out. This is the round part that has the little holes all around it with the pipe that runs to the control knobs in the front of your range. Use a small thin piece of wire or a sewing needle and insert the wire or sewing needle into the holes, taking care not to deform or enlarge the holes. Now wash the burner heads in hot soapy water and replace them making sure the port holes line up with the flash tube leading to the pilot. Adjusting the pilot for non-automatic pilots- The flame requires a mixture of both gas and air in order to burn efficiently. When the burner is set to run on high, the flame should be bright blue and steady. If the burner is not getting enough air, the flame will be blue, yellow and white and leave soot on your pans. Now is the time to adjust the pilot. With the top of the stove raised, look behind the control knobs until you see a filter valve that has a screw. Locate this screw and turn it with a screwdriver until it is a blue flame with little or no yellow or white flame. Adjusting the pilot for automatic pilots- An automatic pilot is one that has a spark ignition rather than a pilot flame. The system is activated when the control knob on your gas stove is turned to 'Light'. If there is no spark when you turn the control knob, the electrode is dirty and will need to be cleaned. You can find the electrode halfway between each pilot on the left and right hand side of the inside top of your stove. Check for loose or burned wire from the igniter to the module and from the module to the control switch. If the wires seem fine and are not damaged, use a volt tester and check the module. The module is usually marked with an 'N' and an 'L'. Putting one end of the voltage tester on each end will determine if the module has power. If you get a reading of no power, you will have to change the module. You can remove this piece and order the part from your local appliance repair store or call your gas company and have one of their service repair technicians repair it for you.

Wipe down the range top. A clean surface prevents scratches and stops acidic food from eating away at the appliance finish. Run the self-cleaning cycle after removing racks (they discolor at high temperatures). Clean around the door and its gasket first these areas often don't receive enough heat to thoroughly burn off grease and splatters. To cut down on smoke during cleaning, sweep out crumbs. The minimum duration of the cycle should be two and a half hours; some manufacturers recommend three or more. The self-cleaning cycle, which costs around $1 to run, burns off residue with an automatic 850 degrees F setting. After the cycle has completed and the oven has cooled, wipe out ashes with a clean wet rag. Run the self-cleaning cycle at night, when kids won't get near the hot stove and you won't notice the odor as much. Once a year: Inspect the oven-door gasket. It should be soft and pliable. If it is hard, it may leak heat, which taxes the element in electric ovens and affects the performance of the oven. What's more, it will cost you energy dollars. If yours is held on with screws and clips, replace it. Most, however, require disassembling the oven door to replace the gasket you might want to call a technician for this.

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