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MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: I was thinking about this as I was fixing a sliding screen door this past weekend that didn’t quite fit the track it was on. What has been your most triumphant home repair that saved you a good amount of money?

My washing machine failed on me a few years ago. It turned on, but just went clunkity-clunk. I took the whole thing apart and found that the plastic coupler that connected the motor and the wash tub had split in half. I brought the pieces to a local repair shop and found an identical coupler for about five bucks. When I put it all back together I wasn’t sure who felt more triumphant, me or my wife!
washingmachine

Post your responses in the comments section.

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Most recently, I replaced the trim around an octagonal window and replaced some fascia on my house. I was rather proud of the result, though it took me a lot longer than it would have when I was a kid working in construction. Still, two days work (on staycation) and $200 in parts for what would probably have been an $800 repair job.

  2. rouadec says:

    After some work on the water pipes down in the street our faucet got jammed by some dirt that fell into the pipework.

    The plumber was all about replacing the expensive faucet.

    Guessing the jam was in the cold water intake I plug the faucet in reverse, cold water pipe on the faucet’s hot water intake.

    I then put the faucet’s cold water intake into a bucket, turned the water on and blocked the faucet’s output with my thumb. I could then see all the dirt coming out in the bucket.

    No new faucet, no cumbersome appointment, free repair work ;)

    1. Ha! You were like the boy who plugged the dam.

  3. Roberto says:

    My plumber wanted me to replace all the heating circuit because a pressure loss due to an unlocatable leakage; this involved replacing the current circuit (buried under floor and walls all over the house) with another one that should go in surface crossing walls; all that was expected to be about 1500-1800€. I asked other 2 plumbers that told me the same thing. a third one told me to replace the heater (some 2000€).Finally I decided to buy a 70€ kit of a cyanoacrilate semiliquid product, though to stop leakages “from the inside”; although there was a risk of killing the heater pump as the product is quite viscose, finally I decided to carry on and now, and it solved the problem in a couple of weeks!!!
    “that’s not a maker fix”, I can hear you… well it is true, after all I just used a commercial product and the “maker part” was limited to injecting the product in the circuit. But it was the fact that I saved 1500€ against the opinion of 3 professionals that got me impressively proud of myself… being able to discuss in same terms with plumbing professionals was the prize!!!

    1. Hey, it was DIY right? I’d say that qualifies as a Maker Fix.

  4. fanuch says:

    A washing machine of ours broke, and would only display a two digit error code. Was quoted all kinds of nonsense prices, and even told to scrap it and get a new one. After tons of searching the web it turned out it is a very common problem! Cables inside the washer come un-done after years of shaking and vibrating. Took all of 20 minutes to reassemble the washing machine after reattaching a loose cable more firmly.

    1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening the thing up and looking for something obviously wrong.

  5. When I moved into my house, the thermostat that controlled the bedrooms was in the foyer, all the way on the other side of the house! I had to run 50 feet of new wire through the basement and crawlspace up into the bedroom wall. I had to get pretty creative in how to get the wire up into the wall.

    Thanks to that, I saved thousands in heating oil!

  6. A couple of summers ago, during a heatwave, the A/C stopped working. An inspection of the system quickly revealed the outside fan was not turning. First thought the motor was shot, but since it was mechanically fine and showed appropriate resistances across the coils. I continued looking. And noticed the fan’s starter capacitor was swollen. Checking its readings confirmed it was dead.

    The hardest part of the completing the repair was finding a local business that had a replacement available and was willing to sell it to some random homeowner. Turns out, just about nobody tries to fix their A/C themselves. Which is funny, because the #1 part to fail with a central air conditioning system is the starter capacitor for the outside fan.

    Total cost of repair: $23

  7. Ross Hershberger says:

    I’ve spent a good deal of my life repairing electronic and mechanical things for a living. One tip in working on electronics: look for mechanical causes first. Circuitry is pretty robust, but things like plugs, jacks, switches, potentiometers, anything with moving parts, will fail long before circuits will.
    If a part is just corroded, dirty or intermittent I use Caig products to recondition it. caig fader Lube for potentiometers and Caig Deoxit D5 for metal/metal contacts. They work like a charm. I can’t count the number of pieces of ‘dead’ consumer electronics I’ve brought back to life with just those two spray cans. Parts Express sells the stuff.

  8. Glenn says:

    I recently replaced a heating element on my glass cooktop. The part was over $100 but a new cooktop is at least $1,500!

  9. KB says:

    We had a problem with our front loading washing machine overflowing. It only happened occasionally, and suddenly started happening all the time. I had a repair guy come look at it, of course it worked fine when he was there, he checked a few things, but couldn’t really find any problems.

    The next time it happened I pulled the plug, figuring that since the inlet valves close when the power goes off at least that way there wouldn’t be water all over the place. Oddly enough, the water kept running even without power. The water from our well is loaded with iron, the washer was about 6 years old, and the inlet valve had become so coated with iron that it was sticking open.

    I took the washer apart and took out the valve assembly, I wasn’t really able to clean it very well. I called the repair guy from before and asked if he could get me the part. He could, but it would be a week to ten days. Having a family with 4 kids, that was going to be a lot of trips to the Laundromat!

    I noticed that the cold water side of the valve was the side that was sticking, we usually only use cold water when doing laundry, the hot water side was relatively clean. I ended up swapping the hot and cold hoses on the outside of the machine, and swapped the wires going to the valve assembly. This way the washer would signal the hot water valve for cold water, and the cold water valve for hot water.

    We were able to keep from getting buried in laundry until the new valve assembly arrived. I installed the new part, and it’s been fine ever since.

  10. I have one of those multi-zone home audio systems that can pipe music to any room of the house. The amplifier died, and it would have cost at least $2,500 to replace it. I’ve been teaching myself electronics in my spare time, so I opened it up and gave it a shot. After $25 in replacement capacitors + shipping and a few hours of my time, it is running good as new again :)

    So I spent the money on a bunch more tools for my workshop.

  11. K. McCready says:

    I have a five-year old who is rather hard on his toys, specifically his Peg Perego John Deere Gator. One of the drive reduction gears (plastic) stripped some teeth, so rather than buying a replacement, I decided to tool up to solve this and any future problems. Needless to say, I procured a lathe, mill (converted to CNC!), tooling, 3D printer, and raw materials to complete the job. The shock of spending ~$8k (real spend withheld to avoid possible spousal inquisition) to replace a $12 part was completely justified by son’s realization we can now build anything we want.

  12. Adam Burton says:

    Last week I had trouble with my computer, It just won’t turn no matter how push the button! I decided to take it apart to see what the problem was, knowing that I don’t know much of this computer stuffs I just cleaned the inside and dust off the area. After cleaning it, I put it back together and voila! It turned on again! I guess sometimes, equipments need some cleaning to able perform or work. I may have saved a couple of dollars by just doing it myself.

  13. Bob Spline says:

    I needed a garden shed, and after pricing out comparable sheds at thousands of dollars, I said “Heck with that” and built an enormous saltbox shed for around $600 in materials. Mind you, I went all out on the materials (white cedar and treated pine).. it was far better than I would have gotten with the commercial sheds! I figure I saved at least $2k. Probably more considering the premium materials I used. Tip: For a garden shed subfloor frame: Make it out of 2 by material (I used 2×6), drill edgeways through the framing timbers and spike (or lag bolt.. but spikes are much cheaper) the frame into big landscaping timbers, or logs. You’ll create a simple, incredibly resilient and open base that will keep the subfloor off the ground with a renewable base.

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