When anything electrical in your home breaks down, you know it is going to cost you — and not just in money: there’s waiting time too. But with the credit crunch, the internet is tempting more people to save money by having a go at fixing things themselves.
When Briton Yvette Worth’s oven packed up she knew that if she got someone to fix it, it would be aggravation. ‘I work full time,” she says. ‘I imagined having to stay away from work all day, waiting around for someone to come and look at the oven, suck their teeth and tell me they’d have to order a part and come back next Friday.”
So Worth decided to get online and see if she could find out how to fix the oven herself. ‘I thought it can’t be that mystical, maybe I can have a go at this. I found a website which contains guides for spotting what is wrong with various appliances.” Having established that she needed a new heating element costing £20, she ordered it online.
The new element arrived quickly and Worth consulted the website again for its guide to replacing oven elements. ‘It worked. That was a month ago and it’s still going strong.”
Worth is not alone. David Still has had a go at fixing several essential pieces of kit after reading up on the ins and outs of them on the internet.
He’s had mixed results: ‘I fixed my satnav after my daughter sat on it, breaking the screen. I could have sent it off to get someone else to fix it for about £100 or bought a part for about £25. So I took the cheaper option and installed the new screen following the internet instructions.” The results are dubious. The screen is orange on startup, but after giving the case a twist it generally gets back to normal, he says.
Piece by piece ‘I had more success with my PC. The whole thing just conked out so I went online and tried out all kinds of suggestions and worked out that it needed a new hard drive. I ordered a new one for about £50 or £60. I generally go to three or four sites when looking for help with repairing stuff as some explain better and some have better diagrams. Each one seems to leave little bits out and reading a few gives you a better picture of what’s going on.”
Still has had other successes with fixing hardware. He says: ‘I’ve fixed my dishwasher and washing machine with help from the web.”
Still says he would not claim to be a natural at DIY. He says he will have a go only if he thinks he can save money — and he’s not the only one.
A report published in the United Kingdom last month by eSpares.co.uk, which sells spare parts for household goods, found that more than half of the 2 500 people it surveyed have a go at repairing their appliances before calling for professional help.
Saving money was the main reason given, but respondents said they also wanted to lengthen the lifespan of their appliances.
But there are risks. First, you will almost certainly invalidate any warranties if you open it up.
‘I’d say we get about two calls a month from people who have unsuccessfully tried to repair an appliance themselves and often they only make matters worse,” says Nigel Bell, managing director of appliance repair company GT Electrical.
‘People are fearful of calling someone out because of the cost, but we often find that they’ve bought the spare part and have no idea how to fit it and they make a complete hash of it. Putting a new belt on a tumble drier is one we find people often try to do themselves without success. Then our engineers literally have to pick up the pieces.”
Kenneth Watt, managing director of UK White Goods, says that many appliance repairs are quite straightforward, but there are instances when you do need to call in the professionals.
‘It’s generally not rocket science,” he says. ‘But for quite a few repairs we do advise people not to go there, because you really do need a professional who knows exactly what they are doing.”
He says: ‘Refrigeration, for example, needs a specialist knowledge. If you get it wrong and the food is not stored at the right temperature, it can be pretty grim for your health, so you don’t want to be making a mistake there.”
He warns that the manufacturers are increasingly taking steps to ensure that only their accredited repairers can repair their machines.
‘Many of the big manufacturers are now producing machines that have to be reset and reprogrammed with their own company laptops, using their own specialist programs.”
So before you roll up your sleeves, make sure that you know what you’re doing and aren’t about to make an expensive mistake. —