Don’t Replace it, Fix it!

by Katy on March 19, 2014 · 30 comments

Don't replace it, fix it!

If you own possessions, you’re already fully aware of the content decline of everything that surrounds you. Appliances need repairs, clothes need mending and stuff simply needs fixing. But just because your possessions crumble in front of your very eyes doesn’t mean that they have to be replaced.

Just the other day, my microwave started flashing and making a burning smell. Needles to say, I unplugged that sucker faster than Katy Wolk-Stanley on half-price Goodwill day a cheetah. My first thought was that the microwave was a goner, but my husband came home and pulled off the flat metallic plate, (called a wave guide cover) which sported a very obvious burnt hole. We very carefully wrote the make, model and model number on the plate and took it to a locally owned appliance supply shop.

Wave Guide Cover

To my surprise they sold me an entire sheet of packaging-free mica-like paper/metal. I then traced the shape of my metal plate and cut it out using scissors and slotted it into place. It set me back $22, but there’s enough material to make six of these metal plates, so I have enough to repeat this repair until the day I die.

Cut-your-own Wave Guide Cover

I thought about how most Americans would have freaked out and replaced the entire microwave without even considering this easy fix. (And it doesn’t help that many currently manufactured appliances and electronic gizmos are deliberately designed to be unfixable.) Luckily, this was an easy fix, but even if it hadn’t been, I still would have tried my hardest to repair before replace.

Whether it’s a microwave, a ripped bed sheet, a busted wooden table or even just a lowly sock, it’s likely to be fixable. So step away from your big box routine and change your mindset from replace to repair.

If I can do it, anyone can!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary March 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

Wow, who knew the fix would be so simple?!?!

I definitely would have been the one to toss the microwave and buy a new one. I never would have thought that it could be fixed so easily and so cheaply! And I would never have thought that I could do it myself!

I do try to mend clothing, socks, slipper socks, purses, toys, etc. But a microwave? Never even crossed my mind… until now 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

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Katy March 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

Sooo simple! 😀

Katy

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Kristin March 19, 2014 at 11:05 am

Great job! Our toaster recently got stuck between up and down, and there was no way to open it up to fix it. SOOOO annoying! It was about 15 years old and cheap to begin with, but still. Hello, new toaster.

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Cee March 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

Don’t you worry about what burned the hole in the first place?

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Katy March 19, 2014 at 11:31 am

Nope. It was most likely a splatter of food.

Katy

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jill March 19, 2014 at 11:45 am

Luckily my husband’s brain works like yours does and he immediately tries to figure out how something broke and how to repair it – he gets that from his mom who is like that too. (My family hired everything out and threw everything away) He is incredibly good at finding solutions that save us money – and thank goodness because even though I am better than I used to be since learning from him, I still have a long way to go .

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tami March 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I just found this website – http://www.ifixit.org. My friend bought a $30 kit and replaced and iPhone 4s battery – rendering the phone as good as new, and fixing the slow speeds caused by the dying battery. Cool repair videos and app!

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Katy March 19, 2014 at 5:58 pm

My husband loves iFixit.com, and he’s used it over and over again for our computers and phones.

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Lisa March 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Thank you for this link. I try to diy whenever possible & this site looks perfect.

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WilliamB March 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm

The problem for many – myself included – is not just not knowing how, but not even knowing how to identify what’s broken. Frex, my dishwasher is semi-broken in that the timer dial gets stuck. I can manually advance it (at 35 min then at 55 min) but I don’t even know how to describe the problem enough to try to find out how to fix the problem.

Tami, I’ve bookmarked ifixit.org, thanks for the hint.

OTOH I can usually figure out how to fix something made of fabric, or hire someone who can. You may have read in the Frugal Girl’s blog how I spent half an hour mending a cheapo backpack to keep it out of the landfill, and I’ll probably have two coats relined when the winter is over.

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Rosa March 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I have found that, if I look something like “parts for” and the brand/model number, I can often come up with a diagram with all/many of the parts labeled. And then I know what they are called!

Sometimes it’s not in English, though. For whatever reason, the only useful manual for our last washing machine was in German. Luckily it had parts numbers (but my man had to dig deep into the high school German he took because what we *really* needed to know was what the useless error codes meant. Turned out the most common one was “something is stuck in the outflow hose.”)

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Melissa March 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm

I usually try to fix something before I replace it, mostly because if it’s already broken, it’s not like I can make it worse. Unless it explodes or something, I guess.

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Linda March 19, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Oh, maybe the spark-spitting microwave in my garage (it’s sitting in the garage because I don’t want it to end up in the land fill & I haven’t found a way to recycle it) just needs a simple fix. I have already purchased a built-in microwave to replace it.

Just yesterday I fixed a pair of Rubber boots that had a leak (Oh that’s why they were donated to the thrift store).
I used a tube of Shoe Goo.(also from a second hand store) Its not pretty but they are now water tight!

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oregbear March 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Katy,
As a fellow Portlander (in the Buckman neighborhood), I read your post daily.
Today’s posting about your microwave brought to mind my triumph over my faulty electric dryer (yes, I use it!).
The dryer up an quit…so I googled it, found the possible problem. Taking the model and make, I went to the hardware store that stocks appliance parts (down by St. Francis Park), got the part, installed it, and for $17 my dryer has been working ever since (for over two years).
I had dreaded visions of having to hire a repair person or, Gawd forbid, having to buy a new dryer. NO WAY! NO NEED!
Keep up the great work!
—oregbear

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Katy March 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Yay, great story!

Katy

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Katie March 20, 2014 at 2:25 am

I love this! Our washer and dryer are from 1987 and i have had them repaired a couple times.when i cannot fix it i try to see if i can go without.

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Gretchen March 20, 2014 at 3:18 am

The other benefit in completing a repair is the immense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Good job, Katy!

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Diane March 20, 2014 at 4:09 am

Just fixed my blender. I ordered a new blade attachment for $5.00, cleaned the whole blender up and it looks and works like it is brand new.

I did toss a broken microwave recently and we have been microwave free with no problems at all.

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reprince March 20, 2014 at 4:43 am

My bread machine finally died last week. I should try to repair it. I will check out the fix it website. I did however put a “shout out” to my community and did end up getting one from a friend for free….

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Janine March 20, 2014 at 5:02 am

Katy….so inspiring, I to am a big IFixit fan, but am hessitant to self fix things that involve eletricity. Would you please describe, including the brand name, the material you were sold to replace the burned out microwave panel? Thanks…first thing in the morning I read your daily emails

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Linda Gertig March 20, 2014 at 6:39 am

If you make it a general practice to cover everything you heat or cook in the microwave it will heat the food faster and more evenly as well as prevent splatters that have to be cleaned up. The food splatters use some of the microwave’s energy so a dirty microwave is not as efficient as a clean one.
I use Pyrex glass lids that I have saved from kettles that have broken over the years. Such lids may well be available at thrift stores.

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Maggie March 20, 2014 at 7:13 am

The throw it out mentality is definitely predominant where I live , but I’ve made a little extra side business out of hauling home what other people throw out, fixing it up, and selling it on Craigslist! I’ve put MAYBE $30 into repairs and supplies, and to date I’ve made over $2500 from other people’s “broken” stuff. My favorite DIY repair is those baby swings- the motors burn out really fast, but you can buy one of those sense and spray things (with a coupon, of course! Sometimes the thrift store even has them!), take out their motor, and fix it up to work properly. They sell for $30-$45 used!

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Carrie March 20, 2014 at 10:48 am

We have a space heater with silicone core that stopped working. (The unit has a lifetime warranty, but the company went out of business.) I took it to the monthly “Repair Cafe” at a local restaurant, but sadly after taking it apart and extensive testing, even the handy, talented folks there couldn’t fix it. Next stop – the metal recycler to see if I can get some cash and put the materials back into the production stream.

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Allison March 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm

I loved this story. Last year I had the exact same problem with our ancient microwave (I think it dates back to the last remodel of our kitchen, which appears to have been in the mid-eighties.) I really didn’t want to replace it – it’s a range hood model. I loathe range-hood models – too high up for the kids to reach, useless as a fan. What I hate even more is the cost of replacing it before we are able to renovate the kitchen in a few years and get rid of the stupid range hood microwave altogether.

I figured that our microwave was so old that no one would have parts. But Katy, out of desperation I figured out the world’s cheapest solution! The hole was off-center in the mica material, which turned out to be much larger than the small opening it covered. I simply rotated mica covering so the hole wasn’t lined up with the opening in the microwave. Six months later, problem still solved. Still, if this solution turns out to be short lived, I now know how to do the next fix, thanks to you.

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Nancy K March 21, 2014 at 9:11 am

My husband has fixed our oven and dryer himself. The oven required a $16 part and an hour’s worth of work. As for the dryer–it was tearing and staining clothes in the seal, banging and making high pitched squealing sounds. We researched both replacement and getting a repair guy out ($300 minimum, ack!). My husband figured out what was wrong and a guy at an old school appliance repair shop said that he had a repair kit for the problems we described. He had to replace the drum belt and all of the seals around the drum and door. $69. He watched a bunch of youtube videos and had to completely take the dryer apart. It took a half a day and a lot of swearing, but it runs perfectly. Yay, us!

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Rachel March 24, 2014 at 5:33 am

We did this exact same microwave repair last year!!! I am still excited about it to this day… I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I am ashamed to admit I was ready to just buy a new one (I think ours is maybe a decade old), but thankfully my awesome boyfriend was convinced it would be an easy fix, and it was!

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clothespin April 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Well, this didn’t save us anything but labor but… my brakes on my car were making a terrible racket. Hubs got under there and replaced all of the pads himself, upgrading from the cheap carbon pads to the more durable, and a bit more expensive, ceramic pads. Total cost = $70 and 4 hours of time. Doing that at a repair shop would have been over $500, or at least that is what hubs said.

My favorite fix it – my vintage Bernina sewing machine. My mom got it from a call in radio show for $50. $100 in repairs later… They go for over $500 on ebay! And, are SO much better than a $500 new machine. They were made to actually be used and to last. It’s my favorite thing that I own…

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Monica April 4, 2014 at 11:41 am

Not as thrilling a repair job as appliances…but I have pair of $50-ish sneakers and after one month’s wear there were holes in the toes along the seam. Boy this steamed my bean. I couldn’t take them back to the store, as I had actually bought them over a year ago and just hadn’t worn them. Sewing up the holes didn’t work, so I took out my iron on patching kit (used for cotton items, like patching a hole in a comforter, etc), cut semi-cirles of fabric, and ironed-on the patches over the toe holes! The patches are almost the same color as the sneakers and are holding tight! Now I don’t have to be embarrassed to wear them in public anymore!

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Cyberingme April 19, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Yep, that happened to mine too, but I was not ready to toss it because I’m always looking for a solution or fix. So I did my research on YouTube as always, and came across this fix. However thanks to your video, I now know that I can buy the wave plate thingy in a whole sheet size, yoo hoo! Thanks. I am now motivated to go around fixing family and friends microwaves at a tiny fraction of the cost of microwave repairmen/women! A win-win all the way around.

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Luke Yancey July 28, 2016 at 4:16 am

You are right- most Americans are freaked out by the idea of fixing their appliances and will go straight to replacing them. Yesterday my microwave was doing the same thing as yours. There was a lot of smoke and it seemed to be overheating. Thank you for mentioning that it may be possible to just get a sheet of metal for $22 to fix it! I will go to my hardware store straight away.

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