Find My Local Expert How To Safely Identify Electrical Faults...Read More
Having an appliance stop working is an understandable frustration, especially when it’s an appliance that you use a lot or that is important to your day-to-day life, such as a washing machine or refrigerator. You will understandably want to get the problem remedied as quickly as possible, but how do you know the best course of action?
The simplest course of action would be to just replace the appliance, of course, and that may be fine if we’re talking about a cheap lamp from IKEA, but if it’s an expensive range cooker or an enormous TV that’s broken down, you’re probably going to want to make sure there’s no salvaging it before you go out and buy a new one!
In this post, we’re going to look at the most common reasons that might cause an appliance to stop working, how you identify those reasons, and what to do about it.
There are a few things to check when an appliance stops working that can narrow down the potential causes.
One of the most common causes of an appliance ceasing to function is electrical issues. Understand that, when we say electrical issues here, we mean external to the appliance, such as your outlets, and other parts of your home. Probably the most common cause of issues in this arena is that of fuses in the appliance’s plug fuse blowing.
In the UK, every household appliance that connects to a standard 3-pin power outlet is required by law to have an appropriately-sized fuse as a safety precaution. In the event of a problem the fuse “blows”, cutting the electricity to the appliance. Naturally, this will cause the appliance to stop working.
As impressive as that might sound, a blown fuse of this type is not particularly grand in terms of explosions. Indeed, you might never notice the fuse blow at all, if not for the fact that the appliance stops working. The good news is that these fuses are available in any good hardware store, and can be changed with little-to-know expertise with electrical systems.
To test this, first try a different appliance in the same outlet that your broken appliance was connected to. If the other appliance works, you know the problem is with the appliance itself. You can test whether it’s the fuse or not by replacing it and seeing if the new fuse blows as well. Don’t worry, they aren’t expensive.
Changing a fuse will be slightly different depending on the type of plug. If you inspect the side with the metal pins on and there is a little rectangular compartment that can be gently pried open with a small screwdriver, this will likely be all you need to do to get at the fuse. If not, you will have to open the plug up. As long as you don’t mess with any screws inside the plug, this should be perfectly safe, but always consult the manual of an appliance before doing so, especially if the appliance in question has batteries.
The fuse itself should just pop out of the metal contacts that hold it in place. You might find it easier to use a small screwdriver to pry it out, but don’t apply too much force to the middle, as the fuse could shatter.
If the problem isn’t the fuse in the appliance’s plug, it might be something electrical outside of the appliance. If you’ve done the test we mentioned above and tried a different appliance (that you know works) in the outlet that your broken appliance was connected to—and that appliance worked—then you know that the outlet itself is fine. If the other appliance didn’t work in the broken appliance’s outlet, your next course of action is to try the broken appliance in a different outlet that you know works.
If your appliance works in a different outlet, that points to it being a problem with the outlet itself. However, if your appliance doesn’t work in a different outlet, it points to either a problem with the appliance itself or a bigger problem with the electrics.
The first and most obvious test you should do at this point is a quick sweep of your home to make sure other appliances are working. This one may sound silly, but unless you are actively using an appliance, you might be surprised at how long you can go without realising that it has stopped working. If you find that many appliances in your home aren’t working—or even all of them—it could be a tripped breaker, which is essentially a reusable fuse like the one mentioned above but for several outlets, rather than just a single plug. If you are familiar with your fuse box, you could take a peek and see if any breakers have been tripped. If not, it’s best to leave it alone and call an electrician.
Of course, if there is no power to your property at all—including lights and other fixtures—the most likely cause of the issue would be a power cut, and you will want to contact your energy supplier to find out when the issue might be fixed.
If you are renting a property that comes fully furnished—or you are lucky enough to enjoy the services of a household manager—then there will likely be a person you can call for whose job is specifically to deal with broken appliances.
Of course, they may have questions about the circumstances of the appliance breaking down—after all, if your washing machine broke because you tried to wash a bowling ball with it, your landlord isn’t going to pay for it to be repaired. If you are in such a situation and the circumstances around the appliance breaking down were genuine, you should contact them before getting anything repaired or replaced.
If you are relatively confident that the appliance is broken (as opposed to it being something electrical or any other kind of external factor) and the cause of the breaking is not you doing something you shouldn’t have been doing (see aforementioned bowling ball in a washing machine for an example), then it might be worth checking the date on which you purchased the appliance.
Almost all appliances will come with a manufacturer’s guarantee and a warranty that should cover your appliance in the event of a failure that was not caused by external factors. You may even have purchased an extended warranty, which can cover you in more instances and last for longer. You will need to check your warranty information to find out if your appliance is still covered, however.
Even if you are out of your warranty period, however, it is worth looking into your statutory rights. Manufacturers are required by law to ensure their products perform as they are intended, and this may be something you can use to your advantage if your manufacturer’s warranty was a little light—or non-existent.
We hate to bring this one up but, unfortunately, it’s a very common problem. It’s also a problem that is increasing as appliances get more complex with all the new technologies they incorporate.
If you are not using the appliance correctly, you are unlikely to get the desired results. If the appliance is getting power and doing things, consider checking the instructions to make sure it’s not you that’s doing something wrong. It can’t hurt to have a little look over the instructions, just to avoid an awkward phone call with technical support.
If nothing we’ve talked about applies to your situation, it would, unfortunately, seem like you are out of options that don’t involve repairing and replacing your appliance (or living without it). If the cause of your appliance not working is the fault of someone else, you may be able to get them to take care of the repair or replacement costs, but that will be a matter between you and them.
Repair or Replace
If you do have to take care of the matter yourself, should you look to get the appliance repaired or just replace it? This will ultimately come down to what you feel is best but, generally speaking, the newer or more expensive an appliance is, the more likely you will want to get it repaired rather than replacing it. If the problem is with a 10-year-old cheap lamp, it’s probably a better use of your time and money to buy a new one, whereas a high-end fridge-freezer that’s only just out of warranty will probably be much cheaper to repair.
Whatever the cause of your broken appliance, you’re going to want to call the right kind of professional to take care of it. Most of the time that will be an electrician, and we certainly don’t advocate anyone messing with electrical systems without knowing what they’re doing.