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Repair or replace: what to do when common appliance faults happen

Find out the fixes you can do yourself, the ones best left to professionals and when it’s time for a new machine

Repair or replace: what to do when common appliance faults happen

Appliance faults vary from the annoying, such as oven bulbs breaking, to nasty surprises that could be a real financial worry, such as your washing machine no longer spinning.

Faults are more common than you might think, too. Half of us have had one in the past three years, according to a survey of 1,043 Which? members in November 2020.

Most of our respondents’ reaction to a dud appliance was to buy a replacement. A third hired a repairer to look at it, and just one in eight tried to repair it themselves.

But you can actually fix many of the most common faults yourself. Make sure you switch off the appliance before attempting any repairs, though.

Knowing when to repair or replace saves money and stops appliances being scrapped – so you’re doing your bit for the environment as well as your wallet.

Below, we’ve listed the most common faults found in each popular home appliance* and, with the help of eSpares.co.uk, we explain how to repair them, when to call a professional and when to buy a replacement:

Washing machines

  • Wobbly or noisy drum

Almost all modern washing machine drums are sealed shut, so you can’t take them apart to fix the bearings (the most likely source of any problems).

This means you’ll need to replace the whole drum – a costly and difficult repair that should be left to the professionals. As it can cost a lot, you may be better off buying a new model. Get a quote before making your decision.

  • Electrical failure

These faults can probably only be fixed by replacing the printed circuit board (PCB) in the control panel.

A Beko PCB can cost £50, but Samsung or LG ones can set you back around £150. Either way, you’ll need a professional to do it, adding at least £70 to the cost.

You may well consider it more cost-efficient to buy a whole new washing machine, although it’s worth finidng out exactly what your repair will cost first.

  • Not emptying water

If your washing machine isn’t draining away water, the first thing to check is the filter behind the latch under the
door.

Try cleaning it out. If that doesn’t help, a replacement costs around £7. If that doesn’t fix the problem, it will probably be the drain pump. This is tricky to replace yourself and isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Read our full washing machine repair guide for more information, or if you need a replacement head to our washing machine reviews.

Tumble dryers

  • Electrical failures 

A faulty circuit board (PCB) could cause the dryer to trip the electrics or not turn on, even when the plug and fuse are working.

Just like with washing machines, the PCB is expensive to replace – £100 to £200. Add the price of professional repair and it may be more cost effective to buy a new dryer.

  • Auto sensor problems or poor drying

Poor drying or problems with the auto shut-off sensor could be due to a host of issues. The heater could need replacing, which is a pretty simple fix for an engineer, but it could be an issue with the timer, which comes down to the PCB.

For condenser models, it could mean the condenser needs changing. If you’re unsure, call a professional.

Don’t try to fix something you’re not confident with, as it could cause a fire risk.

  • Wobbly or noisy drum

This could be down to the bearings, as with a washing machine, but it could also the drive belt. This can be a cheap fix for a professional.

If the belt is intact, but it’s not spinning, the motor could have conked out, which would cost at least £100 for the part plus £70 or more for a professional to do the job.

Read our top tumble dryer repair and maintenance tips. Or head to our tumble dryer reviews to get a replacement.

Fridge freezers

  • Not maintaining correct temperature or a build-up of ice in fridge

This could be an issue with the door seal. Check for any tears, warping in the corners or even bits where the seal has hardened. You can replace it yourself. Sometimes it’s as easy as pulling out the old one, but you might have to loosen some screws that keep it in place. New seals for are often available online, for £30 to £100.

The problem could also lie with the thermostat behind the temperature dial in your fridge. This can be replaced with a few home DIY tools, with parts available from £30. If you control your fridge-freezer using digital controls on the front, this is much more difficult to fix and worth calling a professional to give you a quote.

  • Broken drawers or flap-lids

New drawers can be bought online. It’s just a question of buying the specific part for the model you have. Be warned though that manufacturers can charge a lot for these, so be sure to shop around to see if you can get the one you want cheaper elsewhere.

Our fridge-freezer reviews will help you buy a reliable replacement.

Fridges

Which? expert measuring space inside a fridge freezer
  • Water leaking at the bottom of the fridge / broken drainage

This could be caused by a blocked drain hole. Water condenses at the back of the fridge, where it’s colder, and runs down into the drain hole, where it can be evaporated away by the compressor.

Dust, dirt and food waste often get stuck in it, but you can easily clean it with a thin straw, bit of wire or a cotton bud. If this doesn’t work, you may want to buy a special drain hole cleaning tool (available for about £5). A professional repairer can also use a steam cleaner to get further into the pipe.

If the fault does turn out to make your fridge a write-off, make sure you read our fridge reviews before buying a replacement.

Cordless vacuums

  • Faulty battery / not lasting as long as it used to

All lithium-ion batteries lose capacity over time, but those batteries can often be replaced. A cordless vac can only be a Best Buy if the battery is replaceable. The bad news, though, is that they can be expensive.

Some Dyson spares are available from between £65 (for the V6) to £85 (for the V11). But if you need a V10 battery, you have to email Dyson directly.

Keep your battery lasting for as long as possible by only charging it with the official charger and away from heat. Try not to drain the battery completely, too. Freqent short charges are better for keeping it healthy.

Head to our Best Buy cordless vacuums to find those with replaceable batteries that came out top of our tests.

Corded vacuums

  • Brush not working properly

A good clean and detangling of hairs might fix this – you might need to remove the casing, called the soleplate, which is normally as easy as unscrewing it. If the brush is broken, you can easily buy and fit a replacement yourself.

It could also be the brush belt at fault. Remove the soleplate and check whether the belt is broken. If you need to fit a new one, replacements usually cost less than £10 but can be a little fiddly to fit, as sometimes the clutch needs to be removed as well.

  • Loss of suction

This could be caused by blocked pipes or filters. If you continue using the vac, the motor can overheat and fail. Try taking as much as you can apart and giving it a good clean, including the filters. Replacement filters can cost as little as £4, depending on your model.

If you still think it’s lost suction, it may be the motor. This is pricey to replace and needs a professional, so you might prefer to buy a new vac.

Not sure if you want a corded or cordless vacuum? Read our vacuum cleaner comparison guide.

Dishwashers

Reading dishwasher manual for repair
  • Not draining properly or at all

The number-one cause here is a blocked filter or pump, which you should be able to sort out yourself. The pump is often under the filter. You’ll need to take off the cover and wash inside. If this still doesn’t fix it, then check whether the drain hose at the back of the machine is blocked.

  • Door seal broken

You’ll know your door seal is broken if your dishwasher is leaking slightly. You can buy a replacement from as little as £10.

  • Electrical fault

With electrical faults, professional fixes can cost upwards of £100, so it might not be worth it for older or cheaper models. Get an engineer to give you a quote before making your decision.

For more in-depth repair advice, read our full dishwasher troubleshooting guide.

Built-in ovens

  • Oven light breaking

You can easily buy a new oven lightbulb from just £4. Search for the bulb of your specific model online and make sure you switch the oven off at the mains before replacing. The bulb cover should be simple to remove, like twisting off a jar’s lid, but can differ depending on your model.

  • Oven not heating up properly or at all

Resetting the timer could be the ticket here, and is worth a try anyway as a possible free fix.

Replacing the thermostat, fan or heating element is trickier and needs a professional. Do get a quote for these before rushing to replace your appliance though. It will usually be cheaper than buying and installing a new oven.

If a repair is too expensive, read our built-in oven reviews before buying a new one.

Hobs

  • One burner or zone not working

This will entirely depend on the type of hob you have.

If your gas burner isn’t igniting, it’s pretty obvious that the spark isn’t working. If it’s not staying lit, it will be down to the thermocouple (the safety switch that makes sure it doesn’t stay on when not lit). Replacing this is a job best left to the professionals, and can cost around £100 to fix.

If you have an electric hob, whether ceramic or induction, faults are much harder to diagnose. Your best bet is to call a professional or get a replacement.

  • Touch controls not working properly or at all

Problems with the controls will be down to the circuit board (PCB), tucked away under the glass surface. You’ll need a professional to quote to replace this. It’s tricky and expensive, so you may find you’re better off replacing the whole thing.

If that’s the case, read our guide on how to buy the best hob.


*Most common faults come from a survey of more than 13,000 Which? members in September 2020.

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