Experts offer advice about whether to repair or replace appliances

When the fridge goes warm or the washing machine stops spinning, you may face a crucial question: Is it worth spending time and money getting an appliance repaired, or would it be wiser to replace it?

The answer depends on numerous factors. Our consumer-services research team, in talking to top-rated appliance repair professionals from around the country, recommends these guidelines for deciding:

•Check the troubleshooting section of the instruction manual. You may discover an easy fix that might negate the need to call a repair person.

•Consider the age and history of the appliance. Has it broken down before? If you’ve not had prior problems, it may be cost-effective to explore repair options first.

•In many cases, it can be worth the money to call a repair pro out, even if you have to pay for a service call. A reliable appliance expert can examine the device and explain your options.

•If a repair is estimated to cost more than half the price of a new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, it may be time to buy.

Consider any costs for removal, installation and disposal. Also, determine how soon any energy savings will offset the cost of a new appliance.

Our researchers hear frequently about situations in which a repair saved a consumer significant money over the cost of replacement. One recent example featured a Maryland member of Angie’s List who considered replacing his 15-year-old refrigerator when water leaked from the bottom.

The top-rated repair service he hired found that the leak was caused by a clogged defrost drain in the freezer, easily repaired for $99.

Other common problems that can be affordably repaired include dishwashers or washing machines clogged by too much residual soap, and appliances in need of new fan motors, belts and electronic controls.

Check how long the company has been in business and how much inventory its workers carry on trucks, as well as how quickly a technician can be sent out.

Our team suggests these tips for keeping appliances running longer:

•Clean refrigerator condenser coils annually.

Don’t overload dishwashers or washing machines.

•Clean the dishwasher’s filter to remove debris and hard-water deposits. Make sure spray holes in the spinning arms are debris-free.

•Clean the dryer’s lint filter before each use. Inspect and thoroughly clean the exhaust duct annually.

•Don’t allow grease to build up on your stove or oven.

•Check air filters monthly and replace as needed.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews. www.angieslist.com.

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