You can often solve many appliance problems yourself by reading owners’ manuals, watching DIY videos online, or using 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 only simple DIY fixes. 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 also offer useful how-to information). Some of these websites have technicians available to answer questions.

You rarely need to buy tools for these fixes; most require a screwdriver, adjustable wrench, or other common household tools. You’ll also need a multimeter (around $10), which you can use to run a continuity test to determine whether and where an electric circuit is broken.

We reviewed instructions and looked up prices for seven common repair jobs, such as installing an icemaker replacement and replacing an oven’s bake element. Most of these repairs are very easy and require only basic tools. We estimated they would take from 15 minutes to an hour and a half to do and save the $100 to $300 a pro would charge you.

For example, we could purchase a replacement icemaker for our Frigidaire refrigerator for less than $55. Using online videos and instructions from online parts retailers, we estimated removing the old icemaker and installing the new one would take less than a half hour and could be done using only a nut driver or small socket wrench and maybe a screwdriver. Checkbook’s undercover shoppers collected price quotes from pros for the same work and the average quoted price to supply and install a replacement icemaker was more than $300.

Replacing an oven electric control board was also simple. Customers who posted reviews on parts websites said replacing the unit took just 15 to 30 minutes, several even less than that. They all rated the task as “easy.” “Hardest part was cleaning the floor behind the oven,” said one customer, who completed the job using just a screwdriver and set of needle-nose pliers. We found three online sellers offering the manufacturer’s control board new for just $30, including free shipping. Compared to hiring a repair service, we estimated our savings were about $190.

Some repairs are so simple they cry for DIY, such as replacing an oven’s bake element. We found an aftermarket element for various Kenmore, GE, Hotpoint, and Americana brand ovens for $22 and a genuine manufacturer’s version for $63. The average repair price we got from professionals was $240. That means a savings of $180 to $220 for a DIY task that can be done in about 15 minutes with a Phillips screwdriver.

Of course, even if a repair seems easy, there’s always a chance that you’ll botch it, turning a quick and easy fix into a long and frustrating one, or forcing you to hire a professional anyway. And because some parts retailers don’t accept returns or charge hefty restocking fees, you can easily waste money if you misdiagnose the problem and buy the wrong parts. (The best return policies we found were on and; both allow returns for one year.)

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When deciding whether to DIY or call for help, consider:

  • Is the job easy enough? Check out several resources, especially videos that explain how to diagnose and fix a problem. 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?
  • Are there safety concerns? Many how-to videos we saw had safety warnings to let you know about hazards like sharp parts or electrical hazards. 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 in a DIY forum that removing his microwave’s turntable motor required a Torx bit, an item most people won’t have. Of course, you might borrow any needed tools from a friend, or buy them and likely still save money on repairs.

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

  • Unplug it. Some appliances can hold an electrical charge even after they’re unplugged; look for warnings in the repair instructions.
  • Never conduct 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. If you’re unsure about anything, look for another video or source for more information, or 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.
  • Keep track of how things come apart and, if you’re disconnecting wires, which ones go where. Putting things back together properly might be much more complicated than you expect. 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. 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 10 common appliance problems that repair shops told us have 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.