It was Christmas Eve. Company would be arriving in a matter of hours. I opened the refrigerator only to discover everything inside had reached a balmy 70 degrees. This could not have happened at a worse time.
Away to my computer I flew like a flash -- straight to the RepairClinic website, where I entered the make and model of our refrigerator and read all the possibilities for why it was running but not cooling.
By following the suggestions and detailed instructions, we performed eight years' worth of maintenance. We looked under the darned thing for the coils that had become hopelessly covered in refrigerator gunk. We were back up and cooling in no time at all.
One thing I learned from my holiday refrigerator crash is that, like cars, major appliances require routine maintenance to keep them working at the peak of efficiency and guarantee a long and useful life.
Here are five simple appliance maintenance jobs everyone should do, each of which takes only minutes and can be tackled by anyone.
Inspect the dish rack tines for rusting. Rust particles can ruin the pump and seals, causing a hidden leak or pump failure.
A tine repair kit, available on manufacturer websites or Amazon, could save you the cost of a new dish rack. The kits come in various colors so you can pick one that matches yours. If the dish rack is beyond salvation, it should be replaced.
Dirty stovetop drip bowls reduce the heating efficiency of the burner, so clean or replace them regularly. If you can find it, Dawn Power Dissolver will make light work of that tough job! A good second choice is Dawn Heavy Duty Degreaser. Never cover drip bowls with foil! This can cause an electrical short in the stove or block the oven vent, which is often through the center of a back burner.
Calcium and other mineral deposits reduce the effectiveness of humidifier pads. Replace humidifier filters and pads annually, even if they appear to be fine.
Clean or replace the air filter in your air conditioner to help the unit run more efficiently, and don't forget to give the evaporator and condenser coils an annual cleaning. Use the model number of your unit to find the correct filter.
Washing machines are responsible for more than $150 million worth of damage in homes across the U.S. every year. Imagine a river flowing from your laundry room with hundreds of gallons of water per hour over thresholds and flooring, soaking your furniture and prized collectibles. It happens. Washing machine hoses score No. 1 in the lineup of the most neglected maintenance items in a home.
If you have a washing machine, you need to check the water inlet hoses or water fill hoses at least once a year. There are two of them, and they connect the machine to the cold and hot water faucets. You cannot tell simply by looking at these hoses whether they need to be replaced. Age, chemicals in the water and buildup of calcium deposits over time can degrade rubber.
To complicate matters further, even a new hose could be old, having lived a good deal of its life in a warehouse.
If you cannot remember ever replacing your water inlet hoses, put that on your list for next weekend. Repeat in three years -- even though most manufacturers and all insurance companies recommend replacing them every three to five years. You cannot be too cautious.
There are two types of hoses: rubber hoses for about $5 each or braided stainless steel hoses for about $15 each. While stainless steel hoses have the edge when it comes to performance, they are not foolproof. The connectors can break loose, and the rubber interior of the metal hose often deteriorates.
Installing new hoses is not at all difficult. It's like attaching a garden hose. But beware: Installation error is the biggest cause of premature hose failure. Sharp kinks or bends in the hose can weaken the hose itself or the seal at the connector.
Need help? The NaturalHandyMan website is another excellent self-help website that will come to your rescue with diagnoses, repair instructions and maintenance tips for jobs around the house, plus all of your household appliances. For links to the products mentioned in this column, visit www.everydaycheapskate.com/appliancemaint.