Appliance repair services often find that their customers could solve many problems on their own by reading their owners’ manuals and using a little common sense. All too often the appliance is simply unplugged, a circuit breaker has tripped, the water is cut off, or a reset button needs pushing.

Beyond simple solutions, many major appliance repairs require pretty easy fixes most homeowners can tackle themselves. There is an abundance of online videos and repair-related message boards to help you diagnose and fix most problems. You can buy parts from local distributors or from websites like, which offer a lot of other useful how-to information, as well. Some of these websites have technicians available to answer questions.

You rarely need to buy tools for these quick fixes; most can be performed with a screwdriver, adjustable wrench, and a few other common household tools, plus a multimeter, which you can use to run a continuity test to determine whether and where an electric circuit is broken. You can buy a multimeter for around $10.

We reviewed instructions and looked up prices for seven common repair jobs, such as replacing a drive belt on a dryer to replacing a control board and baking element on an oven. On average, we estimate we’d save $60 to $200 on each project vs. calling in a pro.

For example, we found we could replace the icemaker on an Admiral refrigerator for $110, the cost of buying and shipping the new part. Using videos and instructions available from online parts retailers, we expect the job to take about a half hour and require just two screw drivers and a simple ratchet wrench or nut driver. We estimate our half hour of work would save about $200.

At first, we thought replacing the electronic control unit on a Frigidaire oven might be too complicated, but it turned out to be one of the easiest fixes we examined, requiring maybe a half hour’s work and just a few basic tools. With a DIY cost of $133, we estimated a savings of around $150.

Some repairs are so simple they cry for DIY: To replace the turntable motor for a microwave, we’d pay $40 for the part and spend only a few minutes installing it, rather than paying an extra $100 or more for a service visit.

Of course, even if a repair seems easy, there’s always a chance that something may go wrong, which can turn a quick and easy fix into a long and frustrating one or force you to hire a professional anyway. And because some parts retailers don’t accept returns or charge hefty restocking fees for them, you can easily waste money if you misdiagnose the problem and buy the wrong parts. (The best return policy we found was from, which is for one year and even takes back opened packages.)

When considering whether to DIY or call for help, ask yourself:

  • Is the job easy enough? Check out several resources, especially videos, that explain how to diagnose and fix a problem and, in some cases, rate the difficulty. Read any comments and questions posted by customers who have done the repair. Did they encounter issues and, if so, how did they resolve them? What tricks did they uncover that can make the job easier?
  • Are there safety concerns? Many of the how-to videos we saw had safety warnings to let you know that you might encounter sharp parts, for example, or that the job could expose you to an electrical hazard. For some repairs, it’s a good idea to have someone help you, for example, when moving a heavy appliance or dealing with bulky parts such as the drum on a clothes dryer.
  • Do you have the tools? For two of the repairs we researched, special tools were either needed or could have helped. For instance, one consumer commented that removing his microwave’s turntable motor required a so-called security Torx bit, an item that, though inexpensive, isn’t part of a basic tool kit. Of course, you always can try borrowing the tools from someone you know. Or you can take this as an opportunity to add to your tool chest while likely still saving money.

If you’re ready to take on a repair, take the following precautions:

  • Unplug it. Because some appliances can hold an electrical charge even after they’re unplugged, look for warnings in the repair instructions.
  • Never do a continuity test on a plugged-in appliance.
  • Always think before you touch anything. Make sure you don’t become part of an electrical circuit. If you’re uncomfortable with the fundamentals of electricity, leave appliance repair to the professionals.
  • Before you begin, take another look at the procedure, and go over it step by step in your head. If you’re unsure about anything, look for another video or source that might provide more information. Or you can check with a website’s technical experts. Review the safety warnings. And be sure your diagnosis is correct.
  • Look for potential obstacles. If possible, compare the new part with the original one to verify that it’s the same. Check the appliance for bolts, screws, or other fasteners that look like they may be difficult to remove because of rust or other corrosion. Coat them with penetrating oil, preferably the night before, if possible.
  • Keep track of how things come apart and, if you’re disconnecting wires, which ones go where. Putting things back together properly can be much more complicated than you might think during disassembly. Label parts as you remove them, or snap pics or take videos to help you remember what goes where.
  • Be careful when removing fasteners. If they don’t come off easily, examine them closely to figure out why. If you force them, they might break or strip, which can be very frustrating. As you remove parts, place them in a container in the order you took them off. An old egg carton is useful for fasteners, washers, and other small parts. If you get confused when putting things back together or end up with extra parts, retrace your steps and recheck the videos or other resources—or ask for help.

Here are the 10 major-appliance malfunctions for which repair shops we interviewed say often have relatively simple DIY fixes:

  • Dishwasher isn’t cleaning successfully.
    Common fix: Replace water inlet valve.
  • Oven’s cooking times are way off the mark.
    Common fix: Recalibrate temperature readout.
  • Washing machine fills and moves clothes around but won’t drain or spin.
    Common fix: Replace lid switch.
  • Oven isn’t heating properly or cooking foods evenly.
    Common fix: Replace heating element.
  • Refrigerator runs noisily.
    Common fix: Replace evaporator fan motor.
  • Refrigerator’s icemaker won’t make ice.
    Common fix: Replace water inlet valve.
  • Washing machine thumps and vibrates.
    Common fix: Adjust legs to re-level the unit.
  • Electric clothes dryer won’t heat at all.
    Common fix: Replace heating element.
  • Refrigerator runs and runs and runs.
    Common fix: Clean condenser coils.
  • Clothes dryer takes forever to complete a cycle.
    Common fix: Clean lint buildup in venting.