31aug why replace hero default

Opinion: Replace vs repair

It started with an intermittent groan that soon became louder and more frequent. It was joined by a regular and annoying squeak. The last straw was an awful grinding, graunching noise that had me running to shut off my clothes dryer before it made my ears bleed.

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The source of the noise was an Electrolux sensor-controlled vented dryer I bought 12 years ago. It’s been moved between three houses and battled with the clothes of a family of six. The appliance life expectancy data on our website said I could expect seven to 20-plus years from a dryer, so it isn’t like it failed early, especially as it isn’t an expensive model. The noises suggested, to my engineer’s ear, nothing more than a failed bearing. I could see the money I would save by fixing it paying for something much more exciting than a new dryer.

So the dryer was moved to the garage and project “ski trip” began in earnest. Taking stuff apart is always fun and this was no exception. It was easy, once I’d found a small adjustable spanner to remove the non-standard bolts holding the back plate in place. As I suspected, the problem was a seized bearing. Amazingly, the huge drum turned on a “roller skate bearing” 25mm in diameter. The replacement cost me just $3 (a tip: almost all bearings are standard sizes and can be sourced from any bearing supplier, usually for much less than an “official” spare part).

While waiting for the bearing to arrive, I checked out replacement dryers, just in case. I had a short “must have” list: a vented model with sensor drying that scored well in our tests; at least 6kg capacity; and can be wall-mounted. I found a Fisher & Paykel dryer that fit the bill for $799.

I didn’t need that replacement. Fitting the bearing took a couple of hours, guided by an exploded diagram of the dryer I found online. It needed no specialist tools or skills. For the past month it’s been whirring away (that’s whirring, not graunching) drying clothes on damp winter days. One day the motor or control board will fail, and it might not be worth repairing again, but if I’ve extended its life by even a couple of years, I’m happy. I know it’s not strictly true, but it feels like I’ve gained $796.

There will always be occasions where it’s better to replace an appliance rather than repair it: the newer model might have significantly better performance or efficiency, or lifestyle changes might have altered your needs. But my experience shows you shouldn’t simply accept a broken appliance is dead. If you aren’t comfortable repairing it yourself, contact an appliance repair company and ask them to take a look. It might cost you a few bucks to find out it isn’t economic to repair, but you could save hundreds of dollars and delay a perfectly good appliance being recycled or even worse – becoming landfill.

And believe me, the “smug-factor” alone is worth the effort. I’m going to enjoy spending my savings skiing at Mt Ruapehu.

About the author:

Paul Smith manages Consumer’s product test programme. He has spent most of his career pushing user-focused quality into the design and manufacture of cars in the UK, and educating design engineers of the future in New Zealand. Paul wants Consumer’s independent tests to empower people to make informed purchase decisions. He’ll only be satisfied when he rids the world (or at least New Zealand) of underperforming, poorly designed products. Paul’s favourite items are his steel fixed-wheel bicycle and Dieter Rams-designed Braun travel clock.