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How to Help Your Appliances Last Longer

Do your appliances die before their time? Here are ways to keep them humming longer.

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Is it just me or does it seem that appliances don’t last as long as they’re supposed to?

Our dryer died after 11 years (two years before a typical dryer’s lifespan is up), and we repaired our refrigerator three times before it reached its 12th birthday (it’s supposed to live for 13 years).

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t give myself an A in appliance care. But in the future, I vow to keep up on regular maintenance that’ll keep my new dryer running longer than my last one.

Rob Carpenter, owner of a Mr. Handyman franchise in Maryland, shares some insider tips about how to extend the life of home appliances.

Refrigerators That Last

Refrigerators break down when doors don’t close tightly, forcing motors to work overtime to keep food cold. To test your door seal, close the door on a dollar bill: If the bill slips, you’ve got a problem that requires refrigerator maintenance.

Magnetic strips embedded in gaskets around refrigerator doors make doors close snugly, but they routinely wear out and should be replaced or re-magnetized every couple of years. If you’re handy, re-magnetizing is a DIY job — just run a powerful magnet along each side of the gasket, in the same direction, about 50 times.

If messing around with the refrigerator door is beyond your pay grade, call a professional. Pros typically charge around $242 to repair door problems.

Related: How to Buy a Refrigerator
   
Washing Machine Endurance

Loose change banging around your washer drum can cause dents, chipped paint, and rust, so make sure to empty pockets before washing clothes.

Also, maintain your washing machine by regularly cleaning or replacing filters that trap water sediment before it enters your machine. Filters, which look like thimbles, are located in the back where supply hoses attach to the machine. Remove hoses and either poke out debris with a tip of a flathead screwdriver, then remove and wash the filter, or replace it.

Dryers that Keep on Drying

In addition to regularly cleaning out your dryer’s lint trap and exhaust hose, inspect the exterior vent — hot air must escape your house unimpeded.

Make sure the hinged exterior vent pops open when the dryer runs. If it doesn’t, open the cover and scrape out lint with the end of a hanger or dryer vent brush ($13). If your vent is louvered, clean slats with an old toothbrush.

When my dryer recently lost its heat, we called a repair guy who discovered a family of sparrows living in the vent. He sucked the birds out (poor birdies), and then we covered the vent opening with a wire mesh.

Related: The World’s First Solar-Powered Laundry Dryer

Dishwasher Extenders

Here are ways to keep your dishwasher stress-free and long-lasting:

  • Prime your dishwasher by running the hot water in your sink before you begin the cycle. This will clean your dishes with hot water from the very start of the cycle.
  • Once a week, run your dishwasher empty except for a cup of vinegar, which will keep it shining and smelling fresh.
  • Clean out food traps regularly.
  • Wipe clean the seals around dishwasher doors.

Related: Which Homemade Dishwasher Soap Recipe is Best?

Toaster Thoughts

Darkly toasted bread will burn out your toaster two years earlier than lightly toasted bread. So if you can live with lightly crisp rather than almost burnt, you’ll get a few more years out of your toaster. Just saying.

What’s your oldest appliance? What did you do to keep it humming?

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordon

is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.

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