My washer has become a sullen teenager, leaving an occasional, unremovable streak of rust on random areas my clothes. I didn’t realize this until recently. Actually, I had assumed the kids had left a funky pen in their pocket and it was washed with our comingled laundry. Thank goodness my spouse figured it out; otherwise, with my luck, I’d have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Obeying the stereotype of being a late-30s guy with tools, I took the washer apart. The agitator was fine, but there was a nickel-sized spot of rust on the inner spire basket. It’s not something I’d be confident sanding out and covering with Krylon (that sacred knowledge is gained when I turn 42), so the whole piece needs to be replaced. I priced parts at about $200, half of the original cost of the washer.
I’m sorry, Jim, I’m afraid
I can’t wash that
Thus begins the walk down the slippery slope of wanton consumerism. For $200, I fix a teenage washer that may have other areas of rust or wear. For $500, I can buy a new, energy- and water-efficient washer with more capacity and a warranty. For $1,200, I can buy one of those HAL-9000 washers named after legends. If the marketing is to believed, the appliances summon angels to make my colors brigher, whites whiter and tropical fish fishier. (Optional fish feeder and fish pedestal not included.)
Consumer Reports had a washer and dryer issue in February. While I admire their attempt to provide useful information, it’s not as helpful as I’d like. For example, I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult to match up the model numbers to the specific units they list. The methodology has changed, too. Is “average washing capability” necessarily bad? Too bad I can’t compare it to my current washer, before the rust streaks appeared.
As I perused Consumer Reports’ site, I came across their 2003 article on repairing versus replacing. It’s an eye-opener. For example, if a washer breaks in the first four years of ownership, they recommend fixit it; if it breaks 5-7 years, they recommend you consider fixing it; otherwise, they suggest replacing it. They have the same timeframes for dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators.
Their thinking apperas to be predicated on improving technology and the availability of parts. In the case of my washer, units manufactured after 2004 are required to be much more energy and water efficient. Still, looking beyond the washer, my dryer, dishwasher, and refrigerator are thirteen, seven, and thirteen years-old, respectively. I’ve done a little maintenance on each.
- Dryer: I cleaned all twenty serpentine feet of lint exhaust with one of those special tools I was compelled to acquire when I turned 35. It worked a lot better after that was done. It’s due again soon, I’m sure. If it totally crapped out, I’d buy an electric one.
- Dishwasher: I just re-tined the racks and sanded out some rust spots. If there’s one appliance my spouse will never let me forget she hates, it’s this. However, she doesn’t hate it enough to buy another one before it dies.
- Refrigerator: The icemaker clogged up a few months ago, but I just had to thaw it out. I vacuum out the coils once or twice a year, usually after fishing out all the toys my kids wedge under it.
Do most folks expect only eight years out of a major appliance?