This article was crafted with the help of Jeff Guinn from Guinco Service.

The kitchen is the nerve center of the home, so when major appliances—the microwave, the refrigerator, and the dishwasher—break down, it can throw a kink in the way the whole household runs. Jeff Guinn, owner of Guinco Service in Dallas/Ft. Worth, has years of experience in appliance repair, and he notes that though most major appliance problems need the assistance of a repair professional, “basic maintenance goes a long way toward preventing small problems from piling up into big trouble.”


From heating up coffee to cooking a full meal, the microwave has become one of the most depended-upon appliances in the kitchen. Given its frequent use, when a problem does arise with the machine, it can be a real disappointment to the home cook looking for a speedy answer to meal preparation. Fortunately, the most common enemy of microwave operation is also the easiest to overcome. Accumulated food particles and grease that have hardened over time are the main things that interfere with the microwave’s operation. “That hardened food will collect around what’s called the stir cover and in the corners of the microwave,” says Jeff, “and it will eventually burn.” This can cause sparking in the microwave, and, if allowed to remain over time, it can damage the interior of the microwave and create exposed areas and holes that can cause sparking or potential fires. Regular cleaning can eliminate the problem and prevent extra wear on the microwave in addition to maintaining the machine’s efficiency in cooking.

Because a majority of the microwave’s operating parts are internal, most of the common things that go wrong with it will need to be serviced by a qualified technician.

Symptom Possible Causes
Microwave doesn't turn on
  • Circuit breaker has tripped
  • Internal fuse has blown
  • Circuit board is broken
  • Internal door switches are broken
Microwave isn't producing heat
  • Circuit board is broken
  • internal door switches are broken
  • High-voltage circuitry is broken
Carousel won't rotate
  • Carousel motor or coupling is broken
Microwave display flickers
  • Internal circuit is damaged
Microwave buzzes loudly
  • Magnetron is damaged
  • High-voltage circuitry is broken


As the one kitchen appliance that is always running, the refrigerator should be expected to suffer some wear and tear. But Jeff points out that a refrigerator problem often subtly announces itself through the appearance of condensation or frost—long before the time comes when a breakdown might be imminent. “Visually check the fridge, maybe once a month,” says Jeff, “and if you see condensation or frost around the insides of the doors, then that means you have an air leak.” Any pooling water in the bottom of the fridge might indicate that the drain needs to be looked at and possibly cleaned out. While replacing the gasket and clearing the drain line are tasks that a homeowner can sometimes complete, Jeff recommends they be left to a professional repairman to avoid any mistakes that might create bigger problems later. Catching the problems early is definitely a matter of making a visual inspection of the refrigerator a regular part of your kitchen duties.

Another culprit that often contributes to refrigerator malfunction is dirty condenser coils. Usually located on the back, top, or bottom of the refrigerator, these coils help to cool the refrigerant. If the coils accumulate lint, they can’t get rid of heat efficiently, and the refrigerator’s compressor will work harder and use up more energy as a result. So not only is regularly cleaning the coils an easy way to prolong the life of your appliance and avoid repair calls, but it can also save you money monthly by reducing power usage. And in a machine that is always on, this can put a few extra dollars a month back into your pocket.

There are a number of symptoms that a refrigerator can present that often require a professional to diagnose and repair:

Symptom Possible Causes
Refrigerator doesn't turn on
  • Fuse or circuit breaker has tripped
  • Thermostats are broken or turned off
  • Circuit board is broken
  • Wiring is bad
Refrigerator is not cooling
  • Condenser is dirty
  • Fan motor(s) is broken
  • Defrost system or thermostat is broken
  • Circuit board is broken
  • Starting device is broken
  • Refrigerant is leaking or compressor has failed
Refrigerator makes noise
  • Possibly normal; check use and care guide for normal noises
  • Fan motor(s) need adjusting or replacing
  • Compressor needs replacing
Icemaker won't make or dispense ice
  • Water filter needs replacing
  • Water line is clogged or frozen
  • Ice is frozen together
  • Water valve is broken
  • Ice maker is broken
Doors pop open
  • Unit needs to be leveled
  • Doors need adjusting
  • Door closure assembly is broken


A sink full of dirty dishes will always drive home the importance of a functioning dishwasher. Not only is it a convenience to simply load the machine and have it do the hard work for you, but dishwashers have also been shown to sanitize dishes far better than hand-washing could ever manage. When the dishwasher has problems, the complex internal mechanisms should be serviced by a professional, but Jeff says one of the most common complaints is simple to remedy. “Seventy percent of customer complaints are that the wash quality is poor,” he says. “One of the best ways to help the dishwasher work more efficiently is by not pre-washing or cleaning the dishes before putting them into the machine as well as using quality soap and the correct wash cycle.” Since the phosphate ban a few years ago, manufacturers have changed the way dishwashing soaps work. Surprisingly, soaps now work more effectively when they meet correct water temperatures and food particles, which get its chemical reaction going. Jeff recommends only scraping dishes to remove leftover food and not rinsing or brushing them before they go into the dishwasher.

Of course, there are still a host of other problems a homeowner might notice in the dishwasher, but actual mechanical issues like these require a call for help to a Best Pick:

Symptom Possible Causes
Dishwasher doesn't turn on
  • Circuit breaker has tripped
  • Door latch switch is broken
  • Circuit board is broken
  • Wiring is bad
Dishwasher won't fill with water
  • Water supply is turned off
  • Overfill protector is blocked or broken
  • Water-inlet valve is broken
  • Circuit board is broken
Dishwasher makes noise
  • Debris is trapped in the circulation or drain pump
  • Spray arms are obstructed by a dish or utensil
  • Pump or motor is damaged
Dishes are not drying
  • "Heated Dry" is not selected
  • Rinse aid is empty
  • Water is not draining
  • Drying fan or heating element is broken
Detergent dispenser won't open
  • Detergent dispenser is blocked or obstructed
  • Detergent dispenser is damaged

Repair or Replace?

To repair or replace a major appliance is more a question of personal household budget than any other consideration. However, Jeff notes that there are many variables that go into the decision.

A good rule of thumb is to get an estimate on the repair and compare it both to what you spent on the original machine and to what you would expect to spend on a replacement model. If repair costs are at or above fifty percent of the replacement cost, then you have a significant point in favor of replacement, though Jeff also recommends taking into account the condition of the machine, its age, and even how much you like your particular model. No matter what your appliance problem is, a professional technician will be able to guide you to the best decision.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Guinco Service, an Appliance Repair Best Pick in Dallas. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.