23 February 2009

More Tales of Appliances

For the two of you that might possibly read this, my apologies for being away so long. In the past few weeks I've discovered Facebook, so I've been spending most my online time there. But there's a whole 'nother possible blog entry there, so let's move on to my recent adventures with major appliances.

Thanks to a bonus, we were finally able to purchase a new dishwasher to replace the one that died months ago. After months of washing dishes by hand, I should never complain about having to unload and reload the dishwasher again. I didn't say that I won't, but I shouldn't.

We selected a mid-range model and while I might possibly have been able to install it myself, I've seen some of the difficulties in doing so and opted to pay a professional to do it. We even bought a service plan on it. Historically, this is something we avoid, but given our history of problems with dishwashers, it seemed prudent this time, especially considering all the things it covered.

If you read my previous entry about making an emergency clothes washer purchase, we bought it at the same store as we did that. This time, however, since we had a bit more leeway, we didn't opt for "what do you have in the back right now." Oddly, this still worked out in our favor. The store called the morning of the delivery and said, essentially, "we don't have the model you selected, but would you be willing to take the next model up for no additional charge?" Naturally, we said yes and wonder just who turns down such offers that they feel it necessary to ask? I mean, it was still the color and manufacturer we selected, just a model that might offer an additional feature or two and cost about $100 more. Looked at from a certain perspective, that essentially means we got the five year service plan for free.

I'm no Eastern philosopher, but it seems karma dictates that this good fortune come at a price. A few nights later, around midnight, my wife woke me up to tell me the clothes dryer was making a funny noise. I checked, and yes, it was. Seeing few options, I took it apart. Just after 1:00 a.m., I had diagnosed the problem: one of the rollers for the main drum had worn out. It had obviously been working on it for a long time, but I guess something just finally gave. (I apologize for not thinking to take a picture of our laundry room with bits of dryer spread around it.)

My wife said she hadn't expected me to take it apart. However, I've seen the appliance repairman do so once before, several years ago. They're not that complicated inside. If the drum is turning and the heating element is working, there's not a lot left to go wrong with a dryer. I might point out that this dryer is probably 20-30 years old. We bought it from the people who sold us the house 15 years ago, and it was old then. I've been told, probably by the same appliance repairman I watched, that a dryer can last through about three washers. Most people replace them at the same time just so that they'll match. As we're not in the habit of inviting friends over to watch us do the laundry, we don't really care. They're both white and box-shaped, so I suppose that's close enough. Oh, and we're on washer number three.

Now, at 1:00 a.m., there's not a lot of options for getting dryer parts, so the cloth diapers she was trying to dry would have to wait to go out on the line when the sun came up. I did so before I left for work. Naturally, it rained during day while Dorothy was away from the house, so they didn't get dry. Luckily, some friends down the street let her use their dryer so we at least had clean diapers. I, unfortunately, had a meeting right after work. I hit one of the big-box hardware stores afterward, as they were the only things open. While they did have some generic dryer parts, as I feared, they didn't have what I needed. Thus ended the second night without a dryer.

The next day, before work, I attempted to visit the appliance parts store I'd been to once before, but they'd moved farther away from us. Next I checked what I could do online. Sears.com – it's a Kenmore dryer – led me to the where I could buy the parts. They weren't too expensive, but having them shipped next day delivery just about doubled the cost. So I called Bob Wallace Appliance, a locally-owned store listed in the yellow pages. They confirmed they had the part, so I went by on my lunch break. Once there, I told them I wanted to replace the belt too, at which point he said, "let's check the price on this maintenance kit." It turns out there's a set of pre-packaged parts that covered what I wanted/needed to replace, plus another part. And it cost less that buying replacement rollers and the belt separately. I'm sold!

So, on the third evening I go to work. I didn't pay attention to how long it took, but I eventually had all the new parts installed and the dryer back together. And it seems to work. I mean, it's been a week or two now and the clothes are getting dry. Paying $32 for parts certainly beats a service call, even if it took a couple days.