Monthly Archives: September 2003

Mailbag: Appliance Brand Recommendations

Julie Mento wrote:

IF you were to begin your life all over again, and get all the RIGHT appliances, instead of trial by fire, and years of education, what would you buy? We are building our first home in Warner and need appliances. Like most young, first home buyers, we don’t have money to burn but heres a summary…

We’d like a grant fridge for under $1,700

a QUIET and reliable dish washer (quiet being the key word) for a good medium range price.

a good workhorse of a dryer that will last like my dad’s – he’s had his for 25 years and its easy to fix.

We’ve already purcahsed the front loader washer Frigidare Crown Energy Star – and I think we got lucky – its the best thing since sliced bread.

We’d like to spread this luck around. Give us good, and specific answers and we promise to give generously to your beer fund.

Can we offer microbrew thoughts? Tuckermans is one of our favorites!

-julie and anthony mento, contoocook

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Message sent from IP:

Konichiwa, Julie.

Each day I begin my life anew. Zen mind, beginner’s mind.

General appliance rule of thumb: Avoid GE like the West Nile Virus. If you read Consumer Reports and they recommend a GE product, crumple up that page and use it for toilet paper ’cause that’s all it’s worth. Despite horrendous quality problems, outrageous markups on repair parts, and a damn-near universal agreement among appliance servicers that today’s GE appliances SUCK out loud, people keep buying GE and so the freak show continues. Ok, with that out the way…

Refrigerators: Stick with Whirlpool products, this includes Kitchenaid. More information on who makes what here.

Dryers: Either Whirlpool or Maytag. Period.

Washers: You lucked out and picked what is, in my opinion, the best front loader out there. We’ve had our Gibson front loader (a Frigidaire brand, same guts as yours) for about six years, used every day, sometimes twice a day, and not a single problem. A workhorse!

Dishwashers: The Kitchenaid is quiet and under $1,000. Bosch isn’t bad. If you want the best dishwasher made today, buy a Miele. But get ready to plunk down $2,000. 😯

Ranges/Ovens/Stoves: Avoid the once-venerable Jenn-Air range (a Maytag brand). Way too many electronic problems. We have a Jenn-Air and if I weren’t a practitioner of the repairing arts, we would have declared bankruptcy long ago due to all the repairs I’ve done to it. Also avoid Thermadore–way too over-engineered and unnecessarily complicated to work on. There’s a reason their sales are in a tailspin. Beyond these caveats, you have a bewildering array of choices.

Happy Shopping!

Appliance Repair Tool of the Day: Non-Contact Voltage Light Stick

Voltage Light Stick
Now this is just too handy for words. Sometimes, you don’t need to mess with a meter and test leads just to see whether or not voltage is present at a part of the circuit you’re troubleshooting. You just need to know if there’s voltage there or not. This non-contact voltage light stick gives a quick way of telling that. All’s you do is touch it to the outside of the wire. If there’s voltage there, it lights up! Quick, easy, and safe. You still need your meter, but this just makes it real fast and easy to trace out circuits.

Let’s take a ezzample. Your gas dryer ain’t firing up. You pull off the bottom access panel and notice that the ignitor isn’t glowing. The question immediately pops into your steel trap-like mind: is the ignitor bad or is the ignitor, in fact, good but not getting voltage? Using your handy non-contact voltage light stick, you quickly confirm that the ignitor isn’t getting its necessary operating voltage so the problem lies elsewhere in the circuit. Further investigation leads you to a bad thermal fuse. You just saved yourself a bundle of moola by not replacing a part that was good! Now go buy yourself a beer with all that money you saved.

Hillstomping Update: Mts. Welch and Dickey

big bite on little dickey -- click for larger viewIt was a fine August day for a hike on the famously picturesque Welch and Dickey loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I was hiking up Mt. Dickey, soaking up the sun, enjoying the superlative views and minding my own bidness, when this German Shepherd appeared out of nowhere and took a big bite out of a my little Mt. Dickey. I discovered another use for duct tape that day.

Mailbag: Amana Refrigerator Freezing Everything

John wrote:

My Amana fridge freezes top and bottom. I don’t meen frosts, I meen freezes. It runs all the time even when on the lowest setting. It freezes in the fridge and the freezer. Model #TG18V1W. It has seperate capilaries for fridge and freezer, so I don’t think it’s one of those. Can you tell me where the thermostat for the whole unit is, and if it’s likely to be the problem? I will be happy to pay a consultation fee if you can help.


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Message sent from IP:

cold control for amana refrigerator -- click for larger viewYou do indeed have two controls in this fridge. One is just a damper control (it’s attached to a baffle box that regulates the amount of cold air from the freezer into the fresh food compartment). The other is the cold control, sometimes called a thermostat– in your fridge, it’s the one on the right. (For some good background information on understanding what these controls do, click here.) What’s happened is that the contacts in the cold control have fused together keeping the compressor running all the time and freezing everything. You need to replace the cold control. Problem solved.

Appliance Tip of the Day: Appliance Parts Madness!

appliance tip of the day archiveGet appliance parts for every brand that matters through the links below:


























Hampton Bay







JC Penney

Jenn Air



Kitchen Aid




Magic Chef




Modern Maid

Montgomery Wards














Speed Queen









Waste King

West Bend






grasshoppers happily shopping for appliance parts by pointing and clicking with the master

Mailbag: Maytag Gas Dryer Won’t Fire Up

pudman wrote:

I’m just a poor boy from northern Minnesota living in Chas, SC. A Maytag dryer has been giving me fits. The glow plug heats up and snaps off prior to the gas igniting. I have tried drinking quality dark impoted beer while trying to fix it, but I guess it’s not good enough. Am I a moron or what? Please help me.

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Message sent from IP:

Minnesooooota! My daughter was born there (St. Paul). Nice place. Kinda like a flat New Hampshire filled with tax-and-spend Democrats handing out hot, wet, stinky cash to people of color who took a train ride up from inner city Chicago. On second thought, it’s not really like New Hampshire at all. Don’t get me wrong: we liked living there. We liked leaving it better, though. And, really, is there any other state that can even come close to the endearingly cranky character of the “Live Free or Die” state? My fellow Ameedicans, I present to you the great state of New Hampster, USA!

But I digress. Let’s talk about your dryer. Referring first to my excellent tome on the subject, the much bally-hooed, Gas Dryer Problem Solver, you’ll read that one of the first recommended diagnostic actions is to run the dryer with the vent completely disconnected.

gas dryer valve coil set for a maytag dryer--click for larger viewHowever, based on your description, and bearing in the mind the principle of “garbage in, garbage out,” my vast experience as a certified appliance guru leads me to suspect your valve coils. Oui, oui, come git you some.

To learn more about your dryer, or to order parts, click here.

Mailbag: Electric Dryer Stops Running

Leslie Van Dyke wrote:

Maytag Dryer, Model MDE9420AYW, SN 10068760YS, Purchased 2001.

Electric dryer stopped running.

I reset the home’s circuit breakers.
Pressed the START button again.
Checked the door switch.
Nothing worked.

Next day, I pressed the START button, dryer ran. Did one and one-half loads. Dryer quit running again.

Checked continutiy of thermal fuses, and door switch, good.

Checked venting, clean. Dryer started, quit in minutes.

Next day, dryer won’t start at all.

Help? Thanks – Leslie Van Dyke

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Message sent from IP:

maytag dryer motor
This sounds like the classic symptoms of a motor overheating and kicking out on thermal overload. You can confirm by measuring the continuity across the motor’s run winding next time it quits on you. If it reads open, then you know the motor’s internal thermal overload protector is open, which means the motor is overheating…

or just replace the motor.

Mailbag: Slow Drying Dryer

Joyce L. wrote:

Kenmore Dryer doesn’t dry the clothes very well. Takes 3-4 cycles to do so. Would it be the thermostat or the heating element and where are these located? How do I replace these by myself?

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Message sent from IP:

This is one of the most common dryer complaints. The cause is so simple that most grasshoppers don’t believe me when I tell them. Oh, how I valiantly try to explain to them that the problem isn’t the dryer at all, it’s the vent. "But I checked the vent and it’s clear," they reply, incredulously. The Samurai has the cure for your ignorance in his famous dryer venting primer. Knowledge is power!

Mailbag: Gas Dryers that Won’t Fire

Mike wrote:

I have a Frididaire [Samurai: Frigidaire] gas dryer that won’t heat. The drum turns, and all gas connections appear fine in back.

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Tara wrote:

First of all, thank you for your website. It has been a lifesaver for our horrid GE washer and dryer (SEARS SUCKS!) lately. They both worked great for the first 5 years. Now, each keeps breaking down continuously…..anyway, the latest is the gas dryer, it will spin but will not fire at all–no glow, no clicking, vent is clear, continuity okay,HELP!! My husband wants to throw it to the curb!

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Message sent from IP:

Ahh, grasshoppers, all is revealed in the oracle of gas dryer repair.

Mailbag: Icemaker Water Supply Hookup

K wrote:

Need help w/ water line install on Frigidare side by side — DESPERATE – have waterline hook up – bled, etc. – can’t for life of mee

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Message sent from IP:

ice maker water line installation kit--click to orderFirst thing is to make sure you’re using genuine copper tubing for your water supply to the icemaker. Next, refer to this page to help you with the finer points of icemaker water line installation.

Mailbag: My Washer Stinks!

Kim wrote:

Washer is empty and I keep the lid open when not in use. For some reason, a day or two after doing laundry, it smells like a wet load was forgotten in there. What should I check to figure out why it stinks?

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Message sent from IP:

This is a common symptom of using too much cheap detergent. Yes, Tide is a cheap detergent because it, like all other store-brands, uses inert fillers to bulk up the product.

There are many brands of commercially available detergents out there and they all SUCK. Why do they suck? Because they all contain fillers–inert, abrasive crap added to the detergent mix simply to take up space and to help clean your clothes or dishes by the abrasive action of the added silicates (sand). These fillers actually harm your dishwasher, washing machine, and clothes! Fillers in commercial detergents cause a whole host of problems including: clogging washing machine and dishwasher drain hoses, binding washing machine pumps, gunking up dishwasher impellers, creating foul odors in washing machines by providing nice homes for bacteria, creating leaks in dishwashers by working in between the tub gaskets and surfaces.

In addition to fillers, all commercially available detergents contain fragrances which give many people rashes, especially in sensitive nether regions, and other more subtle forms of allergic reactions, such as headaches and fatigue.

Many commercial detergents also add phosphates. For those customers on septic systems, phosphates are some of the worst things to put into your septic system. This is because phosphates are not readily biodegradeable and can accumulate in your septic tank creating nasty problems like overflowing and backing up.

Unless you enjoy adding these extra afflictions to your life, stop using those polluted detergents you buy at Piggly-Wiggly, SafeWay, or Wal-mart and start using real detergents that don’t have all that extra crap in ’em. “Ok, wise-guy Samurai, got any suggestions?” Sure do, thanks for asking.

Laundry Detergents

Power Formula Basic-L cleans clothes their whitest and brightest – especially when used with Nature Bright All-Fabric Laundry Brightener. Yet it’s easy on fabrics and gentle on sensitive skin. Basic-L also helps to guard against color transfer, so whites stay whiter and colors stay truer. Performs in all temperatures – even in hard water. If you have allergies and sensitivity to fragrances, Power Formula Basic-L Free, with no fragrance, dyes, or masking agents, is the product for you. Has the same powerful cleansing formula as Basic-L. Since it is sold as a concentrate, Basic-L saves you money, too. When used as directed, one nine pound box of Basic-L does the same number of loads as about 3.8 boxes of Arm & Hammer detergent.

Dishwasher Detergents

Use Basic-D Automatic Dishwashing Concentrate for sparkling clean dishes without all the added fillers. Cuts grease and baked-on food without chlorine. Top cleaning performance and phosphate free! Effective even in hard water. Again, this product is a concentrate and so saves you money. When used as directed, one 50-oz. box of Basic-D does the same number of dishwasher loads as 4, 45-oz. boxes of Cascade.

Try these products risk-free because they’re all backed by a 100% money-back guarantee! Best of all, your purchase helps support this free appliance repair website. Domo arigato!