How to Repair Small Appliances

By: Fix-It Club
©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Circuits for heating and motor appliances.

Electricity furnishes the energy that powers small appliances and other electrical devices. Current flows to the device through the hot (typically black) wire and returns through the neutral (typically white) wire. The power that moves the current is called voltage.

In most household systems, the hot wire has about 120 volts and the white wire has zero volts. The difference in voltage between the two wires moves the electric current and powers your appliance.


There are three types of small, portable, or household appliances. Some appliances, such as toasters and coffee makers, heat something. Other appliances, like food processors and vacuum cleaners, move something. A few appliances, such as hair dryers, do both.

In this article, we'll tell you how to repair all of these appliances, and more. First, though, we'll provide an overview on fixing small appliances.

Heating Appliances

Heating appliances convert electrical energy into heat, which is used to toast bread, warm coffee, dry hair, or perform other helpful tasks. This heat is developed by passing current through a special wire called an element. Since the element makes it difficult for electricity to pass through it, some of its energy turns into heat. The electricity uses so much of its energy to overcome the resistance of a toaster element, for instance, that it glows bright red, thus toasting the bread.

Common heating appliances covered in this article include toasters, toaster ovens, drip coffee makers, and percolator coffee makers. Heating appliances that work on the same principles include clothing irons; electric fry pans, woks, griddles, and waffle irons; convection ovens; deep fryers; slow cookers; food dehydrators; rice cookers; steam cookers; indoor grills; espresso and cappuccino machines; iced tea makers; and popcorn poppers. Once you've learned how to troubleshoot and repair the most popular heating appliances, it will be easy to repair any of them.

Motor Appliances

Motor appliances convert electrical energy into movement. This power cuts and blends foods, opens cans, grinds waste, picks up dirt, and moves air. A motor converts electrical energy into magnetic energy that rotates a shaft. The end of this shaft may have a blade or other attachment that does the actual work.

Motor appliances that are addressed in this article include food mixers and blenders, electric can openers, garbage disposers, and upright and canister vacuum cleaners. Other motor appliances with similar operation include juicers, coffee grinders, ice cream makers, electric knives, knife sharpeners, electric pencil sharpeners, electric clocks, fans, humidifiers, and foil-head and rotary-head electric shavers.

Combination Appliances

Some small appliances both heat and move. The most popular is the electric bread maker. It mixes dough, then bakes it into bread. Bread makers also include diagnostic electronics that assist the owner in troubleshooting and repair, so they are not included in this article. Other combination appliances include hair dryers and stirring popcorn poppers.

Troubleshooting Small Appliances

Nearly all small appliances are powered by 120-volt electricity. This means that many of the problems that can occur with toasters can also occur with garbage disposers and hair dryers. These problems are caused by circuit breakers or fuses, switches and plugs, or grounded or loose wires.

In this article, you'll learn how to easily solve many common problems with small appliances, beginning with repairing cords.

Appliance Cords

An appliance cord delivers electricity to an appliance. An appliance cord is typically constructed of two or three wires and a plug. Attach the appliance end of the cord with metal connectors or fasteners like electrical nuts.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A typical appliance cord connection.


Wires used in appliance cords are of different diameters, or gauges. The thicker the wire, the lower the gauge number. That is, a 12-gauge wire is thinner than a 10-gauge wire. Most small appliances use cord wires of copper strands insulated with heat-resistant plastic.

An appliance that requires less amperage to operate, such as a lamp, will typically have a two-wire cord of 18- or 16-gauge wire. Higher-amperage heating appliances will use a two- or three-wire cord of 14- or even 12-gauge wire. Two-strand cords include one hot wire and one neutral wire. A three-strand cord will have one hot wire, one neutral wire, and one ground wire.


The plug at the end of an appliance cord receives electricity from the wall receptacle. A two-prong plug is typically used for ungrounded appliances rated at less than 15 amps. Some two-prong plugs are polarized to ensure that the hot and neutral wires are connected correctly. The smaller prong is the hot wire, and the larger one is neutral.

Three-prong appliance plugs include one round prong used for grounding and ensuring that the hot and neutral prongs are inserted into the correct receptacle slots. Most small appliances are rated at less than 15 amps. A receptacle with a T-shaped neutral slot is designed to accommodate 20-amp appliances, though 15-amp cords can be plugged into it.


At the other end of the cord, inside the small appliance, the wires are connected to a switch, or controller. The wires may be connected with solder, with electrical twist-on nuts, or with connectors. These connectors physically and electrically connect the power source with the appliance.

The connection can be made with crimp connectors, clip or spade connectors, or with U- or O-connectors. Internal appliance wires are typically smaller than those used for cords, which means the gauge numbers are higher.

Repairing Appliance Cords and Wires

To test an appliance cord or wire, first make sure that it is disconnected from any electrical source or capacitor. Then use a continuity tester or multimeter to make sure it can adequately conduct electricity.

With the tester attached, move the wire to ensure that there is not a break in the strands that can cause intermittent shorts. Also check the quality and pliability of the cord or wire insulation. If there are any breaks or cracks that may eventually expose strands, replace the cord or wire with one of equivalent rating and gauge.

Small Appliance Controls

Electrical power coming into a small appliance must be controlled: turned on or off or varied based on temperature, time, or function. That's what appliance controls do. Appliance controls include switches, thermostats, rheostats, and timing mechanisms.

In many small appliance problems, a controller is the culprit. So, before you begin tearing your toaster or vacuum apart, let's see how small appliance controls work -- and what to do when they don't.


Most small appliance switches are activated by hand to control the flow of current in an appliance. A single-pole switch is pushed or moved to turn power on or off. Multiposition switches allow set amounts of current to flow, such as a multispeed switch for a blender.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Appliance controls include thermostats, rheostats, timing mechanisms, and assorted switches.


A thermostat opens and closes a circuit to furnish current based on temperature. The simplest, a bimetallic thermostat, uses two bonded pieces of metal with different heat ratings. At room temperature, for example, both metals are of identical length and form, allowing contact points in the circuit to touch. Heat flexes one of the two metals and causes them to pull the contacts apart, opening the circuit and stopping current from passing.

Thermostats can be used to turn a heating element or a motor on or off. In fact, thermostats are used as overload protectors that open a circuit and turn off a motor if it overheats or overloads.


A rheostat is a variable controller. That is, it variably controls the amount of current flowing to an appliance component. A blender with a speed control that can be turned to increase or decrease motor speed uses a rheostat to do so. Because rheostats can be damaged by moisture, they can easily malfunction. In that case, they must be replaced with a rheostat of the same type and function. Rheostats are also called potentiometers or "pots."

Timing Mechanisms

A timing mechanism controls current flow based on a mechanical or digital timing device similar to a clock. A timing mechanism in your coffee maker can furnish fresh coffee in the morning. In most cases, timing mechanisms turn small appliances on or off. When a timed appliance doesn't turn on, one of the first components to check is the timing mechanism. Some can be repaired, while others must be replaced.

Repairing Appliance Controls

Appliance controls are easily tested with a continuity tester. By placing the clip on the input side and the tester probe on the output side and activating the controller, you can

determine whether the control is functioning properly. For variable controllers, it may be easier to use a multimeter that will show you a change in resistance.

Most defective small appliance controls should be replaced rather than repaired. Once you remove the controller from the appliance, take the part, along with the appliance's model and serial numbers, to an appliance-parts dealer or electronics store to ensure that the appropriate replacement is found. A switch with a higher amp rating or a rheostat with a higher ohm rating can damage your appliance's heating element or motor. It can also be dangerous to the operator.

Where can you find replacement parts for small appliances? First, check your owner's manual to identify the model and part numbers. If you live in or near a metropolitan area, you may have a number of appliance-parts stores from which to purchase. Of course, call them first to determine if they have or can get the type of parts you require. Then take the defective part in for a side-by-side comparison with the replacement part to double-check the match before you purchase it. As a last resort, you can write to the manufacturer. In most cases, they will refer you to an area appliance-parts dealer.

Since most small appliances are made up of similar parts, it's pretty easy to troubleshoot any problem once you have the basics down. However, there are specific tips for each small appliance that may come in handy. Let's start by taking a look at how to repair toasters.

How to Repair a Toaster

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. This cross section of a toaster indicates the various elements that make a toaster work.

Toasters are categorized as heating appliances. Their function is to develop sufficient heat near a slice of bread to heat and toast it. Breakfast certainly wouldn't be the same without the pop-up toaster.

In many homes, toasters malfunction more than any other small appliance. There are two reasons for this. First, toasters are typically built economically to be a throw-away appliance. Replacement models start at $10.


Second, malfunctions are frequently not the fault of the toaster itself but of food particles that interfere with its operation. Excess pieces of bread broken off by carriage movement fall into the base of the toaster and accumulate, obstructing carriage movement, shorting out heating elements, plugging the latch release, and interfering with solenoid operation.

That's why most pop-up toasters have a large crumb tray and door at the bottom of the toaster. By sliding or unlatching this crumb door you can release food particles trapped in the bottom of the toaster.

For a toaster that is used daily, this should be done once

a week. Simply unplug the toaster, hold it over a trash

container, and unlatch the door. Once the primary food particles have fallen out, move the toaster around to release other particles that may be trapped at the edges. Periodically clean out the toaster using a can of compressed air, making sure you don't damage sensitive heating elements or switches.

How Toasters Work

Most electric pop-up toasters all operate in the same manner. A slice of bread, a frozen waffle, a toaster strudel, or some similar food item is placed through a slot in the top of the toaster and into the carriage. The carriage is lowered into the chassis using the lever at the side of the toaster.

When it reaches the bottom, the carriage latches in position and an internal switch is activated to start the heating process. A thermostat determines how long electric current will be sent from the power cord to the heating elements.

The person who is operating the toaster sets the thermostat using a control knob or lever calibrated between light and dark. When the desired temperature is reached and the heating process is completed, the solenoid turns the current off, then unlocks the latch and allows the carriage to spring up to its original position. At this time, the toasted food is easily reachable and can be removed by the operator of the appliance.

How to Repair a Toaster

Common toaster repairs include servicing the latch assembly, servicing the chassis, recalibrating the thermostat, and servicing the solenoid.

Servicing the Latch Assembly: The carriage and latch are vital components to the operation of pop-up toasters. If they don't work smoothly, bread or other food products cannot be held in position to be heated. To clean and lubricate the latch:

Step 1: To access the latch, remove the end panel by removing levers, knobs, and fasteners. On some models, disassemble the entire case by removing levers, knobs, crumb tray door, and fasteners. Fasteners are usually accessed from the bottom of the toaster, though some models hide them under plates and self-adhesive labels on the side.

Step 2: Once the cover is removed, inspect the latch assembly to determine if there are obvious problems such as a food particle or loose part jamming the assembly. Clean the latch area using a can of compressed air to blow away crumbs.

Step 3: Move the carriage lever up and down to check for smooth operation. If the carriage moves stiffly, carefully lubricate the rod on which the latch lever travels. Use a petroleum lubricant, making sure you don't get any of it on adjacent electrical parts.

Step 4: Check the operation of the latch to ensure that it works smoothly. You may need to carefully bend the latch so it catches properly.

Servicing the Chassis: Most of the mechanism within a toaster is mounted on a frame called the chassis. To repair or replace many internal parts, including the heating elements, you will need to remove the chassis from the toaster shell. Disassemble the toaster by removing levers, knobs, and fasteners, then carefully lift the shell off the chassis.

Some toasters will require that you disconnect the power cord internally before you can fully remove the chassis. Depending on the problem your toaster is having, you may want to replace the entire chassis or just one or two components.

Recalibrating a Thermostat: The thermostat in a pop-up toaster performs a vital function in telling the solenoid how long you want the heating elements to toast the bread. If your toaster seems to ignore your setting, the thermostat may be out of adjustment. To recalibrate the toaster:

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A calibration knob, screw, or nut can be turned to recalibrate the thermostat.

Step 1: Clean the toaster to ensure that food particles are not jamming the mechanism or shorting out the electronics.

Step 2: To recalibrate the thermostat, make sure the toaster is cool, turn it over on its top, and open the crumb tray cover.

Step 3: On most units, a bracket from the control

knob will be visible. On this bracket there will be a calibration knob, screw, or nut that can be turned to recalibrate the thermostat. Moving the bracket toward the solenoid switch typically will shorten the toasting cycle, and moving it away from the solenoid switch will lengthen the cycle. You can shorten the cycle if the toast is

too dark or lengthen the cycle if the toast is too light.

Step 4: Close the toaster, plug it in, and toast a piece of bread to determine if the adjustment is correct. If adjusting the thermostat doesn't solve the problem, consider replacing the thermostat or the toaster.

Servicing a Solenoid: The thermostat activates a switch that operates the solenoid. The solenoid releases the latch. So if your toaster burns toast or doesn't want to release the carriage, the solenoid switch or the solenoid itself may be faulty. The solenoid switch is located near the thermostat and can be accessed by opening the crumb tray cover. Test it with a continuity tester. If it is faulty, remove it and replace it with a new switch.

The solenoid is located near the latch at one end of the toaster. To access it, remove the end cover, or the shell. Test the solenoid with a continuity tester and replace if faulty. If either the solenoid or switch is installed with rivets rather than screws, consider replacing the entire chassis or the toaster itself. Riveted parts are difficult to remove and replace without special tools.

Think you've mastered toaster repairs? Take that knowledge and use it to help you fix toaster ovens. The tips on the next page will assist you.

How to Repair a Toaster Oven

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a toaster oven.

Toaster ovens operate much like toasters. However, a toaster oven is more complex and is typically more expensive to purchase. The higher cost means that repairs are easier to justify. You will probably think twice before tossing a $75 toaster oven into the recycle bin. And because toaster ovens are less compact, they are often easier to work on than pop-up toasters.

Some toaster ovens simply toast bread and related food products horizontally rather than vertically as with pop-up toasters. Other toaster ovens are actually miniature ovens. The differences are identified by the wattage used -- broilers require more watts of electrical power to operate -- and by the controls. Some toaster ovens allow you to bake and broil foods, offering precise temperature and function control.


How Toaster Ovens Work

To operate a toaster oven, controls are set, the door is opened, food is placed on a tray, and the door is closed. If set for toasting, a toaster thermostat operates the upper and lower heating elements as selected by the color controller. If set for baking or broiling, the baking thermostat operates the heating elements as selected by the temperature controller and possibly by a timing mechanism.

There are a variety of toaster oven models, each with its own features. However, most operate in the same manner and can be diagnosed and repaired by applying the suggestions that follow.

How to Repair a Toaster Oven

Typical toaster oven repairs include servicing the main switch, the thermal fuse, the heating element, and the solenoid.

Servicing the Main Switch: The toaster oven's main switch is an important operating part, one that gets extensive use and is a frequent culprit when things go wrong. In many cases, all that's required is cleaning the switch. In others, the switch must be replaced. To access and replace the main switch:

Step 1: Remove the side panel and, if necessary, the power cord.

Step 2: Check the contact points for pitting or discoloration.

If they are not making good contact, carefully rub them with very fine sandpaper, then clean them with an electrical

contact cleaner spray or isopropyl alcohol on the end of a cotton swab. Be careful not to bend the contact leaves out of alignment.

Step 3: If the contacts are fused or the leaves broken, remove and replace the main switch. Main switches are fastened to the chassis with clips, screws, or rivets.

Servicing the Thermal Fuse: A thermal fuse protects the toaster oven's main switch from damage caused by an electrical overload. If the main switch doesn't work, check the thermal fuse using a continuity tester or multitester. The thermal fuse should show continuity rather than an open circuit. If defective, remove and replace the thermal fuse with one of identical rating. In most models, this means cutting the fuse leads or wires and replacing the fuse unit.

Some toaster ovens use a bimetallic thermostat or thermal cutout to protect the adjacent main switch from damage. Inspect the thermal cutout for debris, distortion, or discoloration. Clean debris away with a can of compressed air. As needed, clean the contact points with emery paper.

Servicing Heating Elements: A heating element is vital to your toaster oven. It may only be on for a few minutes to toast bread, or, in the case of a baking/broiling unit, it may be on for an hour or more at a time. A heating element is simply a high resistance wire that glows as electricity flows through it. Heating elements, then, are easy to test. Here's how:

Step 1: Determine whether or not there is a clear path for electric current by touching a continuity tester or multitester probe to each end of the element.

Step 2: If there is no clear path, remove the heating element. Removing an element may be as easy as unscrewing both ends and any support brackets; however, it may also require that rivets be removed and replaced. Your decision to replace a defective element will then depend on how easy it is to remove as well as the value of the toaster oven.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The two dark rods along the base of this toaster are the heating elements.

Step 3: Once the heating element has been removed, replace it with one of identical rating and structure. Be very careful not to distort the shape of the new element as it is installed. Element wires are fragile and can be damaged easily. Higher-wattage elements are of thicker wire, much like the element in your conventional oven.

Servicing a Solenoid: The solenoid turns the electric current to the heating elements on and off. If the heating elements stay on longer than they should and burn your food, or if opening the appliance door turns them off, the solenoid may be defective. To test and replace a solenoid:

Step 1: Look at the unit for visible damage and smell the area around the solenoid for obvious damage to components.

Step 2: Use a continuity tester or multitester to verify your findings.

Step 3: Replace the solenoid. In some units, this is easy. Simply unscrew the brackets and remove the unit. If replacing the unit requires cutting or desoldering, take the unit to an appliance-repair shop for service.

Mmm...what would go great with that hot buttered slice of toast? A hot cup of coffee, of course. So what do you do when your coffee maker is no longer cooperating with your morning routine? See the next page for suggestions.

How to Repair a Coffee Maker

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a drip and a percolator coffee maker.

There's nothing more invigorating in the morning than the smell of fresh coffee -- nor anything more frustrating than the sight of a coffee maker that isn't functioning as directed.

Fortunately, many repairs to coffee makers are simple to perform and require only basic tools. So, before you toss that coffee maker or defect to a coffee shop, consider how coffee makers work and what to do when they don't.


How Coffee Makers Work

There are two types of coffee makers in common use: those that drip hot water once through the coffee grounds, and those that percolate, or recycle, the water through the grounds many times.

Most drip coffee makers are activated by switches and timers in the control panel, heating water and pumping it up to drop through the coffee basket. The resulting hot coffee falls into a carafe. An element under the carafe keeps the coffee warm.

Percolator coffee makers heat a small amount of water in the base of the unit, forming steam that pushes the hot water up a tube in the center of the percolator. At the top, water falls into the coffee basket and soaks up all that great coffee flavor from the grounds. The resulting hot coffee then drips through holes in the basket base and into the main compartment to be recycled. A thermostat determines when the coffee has brewed sufficiently, then turns the percolating system off. A heating element continues to maintain the coffee at the selected temperature.

How to Repair a Coffee Maker

Common repairs to coffee makers include servicing the on/off switch, thermostat, heating element, and warming element.

Servicing an On/Off Switch: A coffee maker's switch is a simple device that controls current to the heating unit and pump. Fortunately, this key controller is easy to test and to replace. Here's how:

Step 1: Make sure the coffee maker is unplugged.

Step 2: Remove the base or shell to access the back of the switch.

Step 3: Place test probes across the terminals and activate the switch. The circuit should be closed and show continuity as indicated by the switch positions.

The same test of continuity can be used to test other controllers, such as timers. All operate as switches, conducting electricity in some settings and not in others.

Servicing a Drip Coffee Maker's Thermostat: A thermostat in a drip coffee maker controls electricity to operate the heating element. It can cause problems if it doesn't work correctly. To test the thermostat in a drip coffee maker:

Step 1: Unplug the unit, empty excess water from the reservoir, turn the unit over, and remove the base. (Special head screwdrivers -- available at larger hardware stores -- may be required.)

Step 2: Use a continuity tester or multitester to check the thermostat, placing a probe at each end.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Testing a drip coffee maker's thermostat

Step 3: If defective, remove and replace the thermostat with one of the same rating.

Step 4: Also check the continuity of the fuse and replace it if the circuit is open.

Servicing a Percolator Coffee Maker's Thermostat: The thermostat in a percolator coffee maker serves the same function, but looks different from one in a drip system. To test a percolator coffee maker's thermostat:

Step 1: Unplug the coffee maker, make sure the coffee and filter are removed before turning it over, then remove the base to expose the heating element and thermostat.

Step 2: Test the thermostat's continuity.

Step 3: If the thermostat is an open circuit, replace it. If replacing the thermostat requires unriveting or desoldering it, consider taking it to an appliance-repair shop or replacing the entire coffee maker.

Servicing Heating Elements: A coffee maker's heating element is a critical component. No one wants cold coffee. The heating element in either a drip or percolator coffee maker is accessed through the base of the appliance. To test and replace a heating element:

Step 1: Make sure all liquids and grounds are emptied from the appliance before turning it over to remove the base.

Step 2: Once accessed, the heating element can be tested using a continuity tester or a multitester as you would any conductor. Disconnect the unit from the circuit, then place a probe at each terminal and verify that the element can

conduct electricity.

Step 3: If no electricity is being conducted, replace the

heating element unit or assembly. With masking tape, mark the location of all wires and components you loosen so you will be able to reconnect them with ease.

Servicing Warming Elements: Once the coffee is brewed, the warming element in the base of the coffee maker keeps it warm. The warming element on some coffee makers remains on all day long, so it may be the first component to fail. In addition, water or brewed coffee may spill and leak into the warming element, shorting it out. Here's how to test and replace a warming element:

Step 1: Remove the coffee maker's base, identify the warming element, and disconnect it from the terminals.

Step 2: Check for continuity using a continuity tester or multitester.

Step 3: Replace the warming element, if necessary.

Let's mix it up a little by learning how to repair another small home appliance -- food mixers -- on the next page.

How to Repair a Food Mixer

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a stand mixer.

Food mixers can be found in nearly every kitchen. They blend ingredients to make cookies, cakes, muffins, breads, desserts, and other foods. Because of their versatility, they have become a favorite gift item for people setting up a new household.

How Food Mixers Work

Food mixers are motorized small appliances. That is, rather than heating something, they move something. In this case, they move or mix food ingredients. Obviously, the motor is a primary component of the food mixer. So are the gears. Gears translate the motor's rotation to the opposing rotation of the beaters. A speed controller varies the electrical current delivered to the motor, thus allowing the speed of the beaters to be controlled.


There are two types of food mixers: portable (or hand) mixers and stationary (or stand) mixers. Portable mixers are lightweight, with small motors for easier mixing and blending jobs. Stand mixers use larger motors and components to manage bigger jobs, such as kneading dough or mixing large batches of ingredients.

How to Repair a Food Mixer

Easy repairs to food mixers include servicing a switch, repairing speed controls, and servicing gears.

Servicing a Switch: Switches are simple components that can easily stop the operation of a small appliance. If your mixer doesn't operate and you've checked the plug and cord, test the switch next.

To test and replace a switch:

Step 1: Carefully remove the housing around the switch to expose the back side of the switch.

Step 2: Check the terminals on the switch to ensure that the wires from the appliance are fully attached to the switch.

Step 3: Mark the terminal wires for position and disconnect them.

Step 4: Use a continuity tester or multitester to determine if the switch is faulty. If it is, replace it and reconnect the terminal wires.

Servicing Speed Controls: Food mixer speed is controlled by varying the current to the motor. Smaller hand mixers use a speed switch that includes a number of electrical contacts, each increasing current to the motor. Larger units use a variable resistor to control current. Continuity testers or multitesters are useful for checking the operation of either type of speed control. In some cases, contacts can be cleaned to improve function. However, in many cases, problems caused by speed controls can only be solved by replacing the controller.

Servicing the Gears: Food mixers work so well because they rotate the beaters in opposing directions to blend the ingredients. This opposing rotation is produced by the gears. In most food mixers, a worm gear attached to the motor shaft turns two or more pinion gears. The pinion gears, in turn, rotate the beaters. As gears are a physical component rather than an electrical one, servicing them is different. To inspect and lubricate gears:

Step 1: Make sure the appliance is unplugged.

Step 2: Remove the upper housing to expose the gears. In most cases, gears that are causing problems can be checked for damage and then lubricated.

Step 3: Inspect and lubricate the worm gear as well as the pinion gears, making sure that excess lubricant does not touch the motor or any electrical components.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Inspect and lubricate the gears; make sure excess lubricant does not touch the motor or electrical components.

Step 4: Remove any loose shavings or pieces in the housing before reassembling.

Replacing a Fuse: If your food mixer's motor doesn't operate, the motor's fuse may be blown. To test and replace a fuse:

Step 1: Remove the upper housing to gain access to the motor.

Step 2: Find the fuse and disconnect it from the motor.

Step 3: Place a continuity tester or multitester probe at each end to check for continuity. If there is none, the fuse is blown and must be replaced with one of the same amperage rating.

Step 4: Because the fuse's purpose is to save the motor from electrical damage, check the speed controller and other electrical components in the appliance to determine the cause of the blown fuse. Otherwise, the new fuse will blow as soon as the motor is turned on.

Replacing the Motor: If a small appliance is properly designed, the motor should be one of the last components to fail. It is also one of the last components to check. Unless you have the proper tools, you should replace the motor rather than attempt to repair it. Or you can take the motor to a professional service person for repair. To test and replace a motor:

Step 1: Test the motor for continuity as you would any other electrical component.

Step 2: If it fails the test, mark and remove wires attached to it and disconnect the motor from the housing.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Disassemble a hand mixer to access the motor.

Step 3: Make sure the new motor is an exact replacement in size and rating to ensure that it fits the housing and the task.

A blender is another motorized small appliance. See the next section for what to do when your blender stops blending.

How to Repair a Blender

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a blender.

A food blender is a popular and useful kitchen appliance. Foods and liquids placed in it are blended or chopped based on the speed set by the operator. Today's food blender can chop ice, make peanut butter, grate cheese, and perform many other useful functions.

How Food Blenders Work

The kitchen food blender is a motorized small appliance. A blade inside a jar is connected to a motor shaft. By varying current to the motor, the blade's speed is controlled.


Preventive maintenance can reduce the repairs needed to keep a food blender running for many years. The two most important steps an operator can take are not to overload the blender and to keep the seals tight.

The multispeed switch in the blender sends current to the motor based on which control buttons are selected or how far the rheostat is turned. More current means a higher motor speed. Placing hard foods in the blender jar and trying to chop them with a low motor speed can cause the motor to burn out.

Because the jar holds liquids, yet must be disassembled for cleaning, it has seals to keep liquids from escaping. In addition, the blender housing has a seal around the coupling to make sure liquids don't leak into the vulnerable motor. Keeping these seals tight and ensuring that liquids don't overflow the jar can help keep a blender operating smoothly.

How to Repair a Food Blender

Food blender repairs include servicing a multispeed switch, replacing a fuse, servicing a motor, tightening a drive stud, and servicing a blade assembly.

Servicing the Multispeed Switch: It's easy to see why the multispeed switch is a critical component to the operation of your food blender. Because of its high use and complexity, it is a frequent culprit when things go wrong. To service the multispeed switch:

Step 1: Remove the blender base.

Step 2: The multispeed switch will be attached to the base with clips or screws accessed from underneath the base's faceplate or from inside the base. Visually inspect the switch before removing it; in many cases, the problem is a loose terminal. Otherwise, a blackened terminal or wire may identify where the problem has occurred.

Step 3: Check the multispeed switch with a continuity tester or multitester.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Remove a blender's multispeed switch and test it.

Step 4: Because of its exposed location on the front of the blender, the switch is susceptible to damage from liquids. Use a can of compressed air or an electrical contact cleaner to clean the switch. If necessary, replace it.

Replacing the Fuse: Fortunately, most blenders include an in-line fuse that protects the motor from overload. If excessive current is sent to the motor, the fuse will blow. To determine if the fuse is working:

Step 1: Remove the blender base and locate the fuse in the wire from the multispeed switch to the motor.

Step 2: Disconnect the wire and use a continuity tester or multitester to check the fuse. If the circuit is open, the fuse is blown.

Step 3: Replace the faulty in-line fuse with one of identical rating.

Servicing the Motor: The motor will typically withstand many years of use (though not much abuse). Unfortunately, if the motor needs to be replaced, it may be less expensive to buy a new blender.

Motor operation is easy to test. Because there is a circuit running from the appliance cord, through the multispeed controls, to the motor, and back to the cord, an ohmmeter (part of your multitester) can test the circuit. To test a blender's motor:

Step 1: Place a probe on each cord prong.

Step 2: Select a speed-control button or turn the speed controller slightly, then read the resistance on the meter.

Step 3: Next, rotate the drive stud clockwise one turn. If the resistance reading (in ohms) changes, the motor needs service. Take it to an appliance-repair service or replace the appliance, depending on cost.

Tightening the Drive Stud: If the motor operates well, but the blade in the blender jar doesn't turn as it should, the problem may be the drive stud. The most frequent cause is a loose drive stud. To tighten the drive stud:

Step 1: Remove the base and turn the blender over. The other end of the drive shaft will protrude from the bottom side of the motor.

Step 2: Grip the drive shaft with a wrench or pliers, then turn the blender on its side to attach a wrench to the drive stud.

Step 3: Hold the drive shaft steady as you turn the drive stud clockwise.

The other cause of drive stud problems is the rounding of its corners, requiring a new drive stud. To replace a worn drive stud, reverse the instructions for tightening a drive stud, install the new part, and tighten it.

Service the Blade Assembly: The blender's blade assembly is simple in function. It is rotated by the drive stud, which blends or chops food within the jar.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A blender's blade assembly blends or chops food in the jar.

The most common problem is caused by the jar leaking liquids. The solution is to tighten the base. If this doesn't solve the problem, inspect and, if necessary, replace the gasket.

If the drive stud is turning but the blade assembly isn't, inspect the assembly socket into which the drive stud fits. It may be worn and require replacement. This is a common problem on blenders with metal drive studs and plastic blade-assembly sockets.

It's time to open up and talk about how to repair electric can openers. See the next page for suggestions.

How to Repair an Electric Can Opener

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a can opener.

Canned foods bring ease and convenience to meal preparation. In seconds, an electric can opener will present a variety of prepared fruits, vegetables, and even main dishes stored in cans. Some models also open bottles or sharpen knives.

Of course, trying to open a can with a defective can opener will tempt you to order take-out food. Fortunately, electric can openers are simple appliances that can be easily maintained and repaired.


How Electric Can Openers Work

The electric can opener is activated by an operating lever. The lever is lifted, and the edge of a can is placed between the feed gear and cutter. A magnet grips the top of the can.

When pressed down, the lever activates a switch that turns the motor on. The motor passes power through gears to turn the small feed gear and rotate the can. As it is rotated, the cutter cuts through the edge of the lid. When the can is removed, the lid stays attached to the magnet.

Many problems with electric can openers can be resolved before they occur by periodic cleaning and lubrication of the drive wheel and cutter. Unplug the can opener from the wall receptacle, clean the parts with a toothbrush and mild detergent, wipe clean, and lubricate with a light oil or white lubricant. Wipe away excess lubricant to ensure it doesn't transfer to food or other components.

How to Repair a Can Opener

Can openers are simple to fix. Typical repairs include servicing a switch, a gear, a grindstone, or a motor.

Servicing the Switch: An electric can opener is turned on and off with a contact switch activated by the appliance's operating lever. A defective switch may prevent the appliance from working at all. Here's how to service the switch:

Step 1: Remove the can opener's cover so you can watch how it activates.

Step 2: Press the lever down to make sure it makes contact with the switch. If not, check for and remove any obstruction, or realign the lever so that it makes contact.

Step 3: If the switch still doesn't work, unplug it and test it with a continuity tester or multitester.

Step 4: If the contacts are corroded, use emery paper clamped in pliers to clean them. If a contact is broken or the switch is defective, replace it.

Step 5: Remove and mark all wires, unfasten the switch, and remove it from the housing. Replace it with a switch identified as a replacement part for your appliance.

Servicing the Gears: Gears translate the motor's power into torque that turns a can. This requires a feed gear at the edge of the can and at least one other larger gear inside the appliance. To check and replace gears:

Step 1: Inspect the feed gear and clean or replace if worn or broken.

Step 2: Check internal gears by opening the appliance case and carefully removing gears. Teeth may be missing or warped, or the gears may simply need lubrication with a white lubricant. If the gears need to be replaced, make sure the replacement gears match exactly in every measure, including width, circumference, and number of teeth.

Step 3: If a replacement to a broken gear cannot be found, consider using a plastic or metal glue, as required, to repair the break. When done, carefully reassemble the gears and case, then test the appliance.

Servicing the Grindstone: Some electric can openers will include a built-in grindstone that sharpens the blade as it is being used. Other electric can openers also serve as knife sharpeners, using their motors to power one or more small grindstones for the job.

The most common cause of problems with these grindstones is that stone shavings and other debris obstruct operation.

This situation can cause the motor to burn out or the motor's fuse to blow. The best way to avoid this problem is to periodically clean the grindstone and the area around it.

Once worn or damaged, the grindstone must be replaced with one of the same size. Some models use a screw or clip to retain the stone on the shaft. Others will require that the

stone and shaft be replaced at the same time. Depending on the grindstone's function on your can opener, you may elect

to disconnect or not use it.

Servicing the Motor: Electric can openers and other small appliances that don't require extensive power use a shaded pole motor. It has fewer parts than a universal motor and is less costly. To test and replace an electric can opener's motor:

Step 1: Unplug the appliance, open it up, and find the fuse on the motor.

Step 2: Place one continuity tester probe to one side of the fuse and the second probe on the other side of the fuse. If the continuity light doesn't illuminate, the fuse is blown and must be replaced.

Step 3: Attach a continuity tester or multitester across the two wires on the field coil winding. If the circuit is open, replace the motor as a unit. You can get one of the exact size and rating from an appliance-parts store.

Step 4: Always check the bearings for wear that will cause the shaft to wobble. Remove the rotor to check for damage or excessive wear.

Do you have a garbage disposal that you want to, well, throw in the garbage? Don't toss it just yet. See the next page for repair tips.

How to Repair a Garbage Disposal

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a garbage disposal.

Garbage disposals are handy kitchen appliances that some consider a luxury and others deem a necessity. Disposers can quickly liquefy waste from food preparation or leftovers. When inoperative, they can also be a frustration, requiring that all food within be removed before repair.

Fortunately, with minimal maintenance, a garbage disposal can last many years without major repair. Simple maintenance includes ensuring that a disposer's enemies -- grease, large items, hard items, fibrous foods -- be eliminated from its diet.


Also make sure that water is running while the disposal is operating so that ground-up kitchen waste can be swept down the drain and not solidify inside the appliance.

How Garbage Disposals Work

A garbage disposal is a motorized small appliance. The motor turns a flywheel to which impellers are loosely attached. Food waste within the chamber is repeatedly hit and cut by these rotating impellers, grinding it into small particles that can be flushed through the drain pipe and into the septic system.

Some garbage disposals include an intake line for a dishwasher. The entire unit is attached to the sink using a flange, ring, and mounting bolts.

How to Repair a Garbage Disposal

Common garbage disposal repairs include servicing a flywheel, hoses and seals, and a worn impeller. Here are the step-by-step instructions for these repairs.

Servicing the flywheel: The flywheel in a garbage disposal rotates to spin the impellers that shred the food waste. If the flywheel doesn't turn, the disposer doesn't do its job. A stuck flywheel can also burn out a motor if left on too long. Fortunately, a flywheel is typically easy to free. To free the flywheel:

Step 1: Check the bottom side of the disposal for a six-sided (hex) hole.

Step 2: If it has one, look for a hex wrench in a pouch on or near the disposal. The hex wrench is used to rotate the motor shaft and flywheel without having to access the inside of the garbage disposal. If you don't find one, check your toolbox or purchase one.

Step 3: Simply insert the hex wrench in the hex hole and rotate it in a circle in both directions to free the flywheel.

If there is no hex hole, insert a shortened broom handle through the drain hole, resting one end at the side of an impeller. Gradually apply leverage to move the impeller in one direction or the other to free up the flywheel.

Servicing Hoses and Seals: A common complaint about garbage disposals is that they leak water into the cabinet below. By studying the leaked water and its location, you can often determine its source.

Standing water with discoloration from food means the drain pipe or the dishwasher intake is leaking. If the water is at all warm, it is probably from the dishwasher. If the standing water is clear, it may have come from the sink before the water entered the disposal. To assess a leak and replace the seal:

Step 1: Place a hand at various locations around the disposal. You can sometimes pinpoint the source by feeling water run across your hand.

Step 2: If the leakage is from underneath the garbage disposal, it is probably leaking through the flywheel seal and into the motor. In this case, you will need to remove the garbage disposal from the drain system. Disassemble the unit and replace the seal -- or take it in for service.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. If leakage is from underneath the garbage disposal, remove the disposer from the drain system.

Servicing Worn Impellers: To remove a garbage disposal to sharpen impellers:

Step 1: Unplug the garbage disposal, remembering to trip the circuit breaker first or remove the fuse at the main electrical box if the disposal is wired directly into the house.

Step 2: Remove all hose fittings leading into or away from the disposal. Some garbage disposals can then be removed by twisting to free them from the support ring. Others require that the unit be unscrewed from the ring. Remember that a garbage disposer is a relatively heavy small appliance, so freeing it will suddenly put its full weight in your hands.

Step 3: To service worn impellers on many models, you must remove the flywheel. Lock the flywheel in place with a screwdriver, then loosen the flywheel lock nut.

Step 4: Once the flywheel is removed, the impellers can be removed or sharpened in place. If the impellers cannot be sharpened, the flywheel assembly will need to be replaced.

Your vacuum cleaner is broken? Say it isn't so. Don't let the dirt pile up -- check out the tips in the next section for repairing vacuum cleaners.

How to Repair a Vacuum Cleaner

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A cross section of an upright vacuum

Vacuum cleaners typically last 8 to 12 years, depending on their quality, frequency of use, and general maintenance. By maintaining and repairing your vacuum cleaner as needed you can extend its service life and reduce its actual cost.

There are two common types of vacuum cleaners: upright and canister. The upright vacuum cleaner has the motor and beater bar in the same unit. A canister vacuum cleaner has the motor and storage bag in the canister and the beater bar in a separate power head, with the two units connected by a hose.


How Upright Vacuum Cleaners Work

An upright vacuum cleaner uses a motor and fan to pull dirt from a surface and deposit it in a bag. Dirt is loosened and swept into the vacuum with a rotating brush called the beater bar. The upright vacuum cleaner is guided by the operator using the handle on which the bag and controls are mounted. Operation is simple. Maintenance and repairs are easy to perform.

How Canister Vacuum Cleaners Work

A canister vacuum cleaner places the majority of its weight (vacuum motor, filters, bag, and cord winder) in a separate unit to make the power head lighter.

With a long hose, the canister can be placed in the middle of the room and the power head moved more easily. This design allows larger and more powerful motors to be used.

As with the upright, the canister vacuum cleaner loosens dirt with the beater bar, located in the power head and driven by a smaller motor. Dirt is pulled through the hose by the main motor in the canister. Wheels on the canister make it easily portable. Because the fan in a canister vacuum is more isolated than the fan in an upright vacuum, it is generally less susceptible to damage.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A cross section of a canister vacuum.

How to Repair an Upright Vacuum Cleaner

The following tips offer easy instructions for servicing an upright vacuum cleaner's on/off switch, beater bar, drive belt, dirt fan, and motor. You'll also learn how to repair an on/off switch, a power-head wire connection, a beater bar, a motor, and a cord reel for a canister vacuum.

Servicing an On/Off Switch: Because of its repeated use, a vacuum cleaner's on/off switch can malfunction. Fortunately, on most models the switch is easy to access and test. Some are fastened in place with rivets, but most use screws. To test and replace the switch:

Step 1: Make sure the vacuum is unplugged, then remove the cover plate to expose the back side of the switch. The switch may be on the handle or on the housing.

Step 2: Check the wires to make sure they are completely attached to the switch.

Step 3: Use a continuity tester or multitester to make sure that there is an open circuit when the switch is off and a closed circuit when it is on.

Step 4: If there is a problem with the circuit, or if the switch doesn't test correctly, remove and replace the switch with one designed to be a replacement.

Servicing a Beater Bar: The beater bar in an upright vacuum cleaner is the first contact your upright vacuum has with dirt. It's also one of the first components to need servicing.

The beater bar is a round roller with an offset row of brush fibers. The brushes can wear down, the roller can be damaged, the end cap can come off and be lost, or the drive belt can come loose. To remove and replace the beater bar:

Step 1: To inspect the beater bar, turn the vacuum upside down. The beater bar will be at the front edge of the housing.

Step 2: Remove the clips at each end, remove the drive belt, and lift the beater bar from the housing.

Step 3: To disassemble the beater bar, remove the end cap and flange; pull the brush from the casing.

Step 4: If worn, replace the brush. If broken, replace the cap, flange, or case. If necessary, replace the entire beater bar.

Servicing a Drive Belt: The drive belt in an upright vacuum cleaner passes power from the motor to the beater bar. The drive belt should be checked once a month to ensure that it is in good condition. Some beater bars have an adjustment that allows the drive belt to be tightened or loosened. To replace the drive belt:

Step 1: Remove one end of the beater bar (see "Servicing a Beater Bar") from the vacuum housing.

Step 2: Loosen the drive belt from the motor pulley and remove it from around the beater bar.

Step 3: Slip the replacement drive belt over the beater bar and around the motor pulley.

Step 4: Reinstall the beater bar and adjust the drive belt as necessary.

Servicing a Dirt Fan: The dirt fan in an upright vacuum cleaner is located underneath the motor. It pulls dirt swept back by the beater bar up into the vacuum bag. In most cases, the dirt fan doesn't need replacement, only periodic maintenance. Here's what you need to do:

Step 1: Remove the motor cover and dismount the motor from the vacuum frame. The fan will be on the underside of the motor.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Servicing an upright vacuum's motor and dirt fan

Step 2: Clean the fan's blades and base with a moist cloth. Inspect the blades for damage caused by vacuuming solid objects.

Step 3: Unscrew or unbolt the dirt fan from the motor shaft to inspect and clean the back side.

Step 4: Check whether the motor shaft needs lubrication.

Step 5: If the dirt fan needs replacement, make sure the new part is an identical replacement. Take the old unit to an appliance-parts store to verify the replacement.

Servicing a Motor: Most upright vacuum cleaners are designed for reasonably long life. However, some will last longer than others. Much depends on the quality of the motor. If a vacuum's motor stops working unexpectedly, check the power cord, the fan (for jams), and the on/off switch. It's also possible that you have a defective motor. Here's how to find out:

Step 1: If you suspect that the motor is defective, first test the motor's brushes with a continuity tester or multitester.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Test the upright vacuum's motor brushes with a continuity tester or multitester if you suspect a defective motor.

Step 2: Turn the motor shaft or beater bar by hand. The motor should maintain continuity.

Step 3: If not, replace the brushes or take the vacuum to an appliance-repair shop to have it done. If the motor is unrepairable, consider replacing the entire upright vacuum, as the cost of a new motor is a major investment.

How to Repair a Canister Vacuum Cleaner

A canister vacuum cleaner has its own set of repair procedures. Here they are:

Servicing an On/Off Switch: Like the switches on most small appliances, the on/off switch on a canister vacuum cleaner gets a lot of use. Considering the ease of repair and its low replacement cost, this switch is one of the first components to check if a vacuum doesn't turn on or off correctly. To test and replace the switch:

Step 1: Open or remove the canister housing to access the back side of the switch.

Step 2: Use a continuity tester or multitester to ensure that there is an open circuit when the switch is in the OFF position and a closed circuit when the switch is in the ON position.

Step 3: Also check the wiring and terminals to ensure that they are connected properly.

Step 4: If the switch doesn't test correctly, remove it and replace it. Some switches are fastened to the housing with screws, others with clips or friction snaps. A few are riveted in place.

Servicing a Power-Head Wire Connection: An advantage of the canister vacuum is that the part that is pushed and pulled across the floor is lighter than with a single-unit upright vacuum. A disadvantage is that power must be delivered first to the canister, then to the separate power head.

The wire connection between the two units is often a source of problems, even in better-quality canister vacuum cleaners. The reason is that there are four sections to the connecting wire: from canister to hose, from one end of the hose to the other, from one end of the power-head tube to the other, and within the power head itself. The end of each section of wire has a connector. If the connection is not made sufficiently, the power head doesn't operate or operates intermittently.

In most cases, servicing the power-head wire connection simply requires that each connector be checked and tightened as needed. If a specific connector frequently makes a poor connection, you can clean the male and female connections with a small piece of emery paper and a can of compressed air.

Broken wires or worn insulators can sometimes be reconnected and wrapped with electrical tape. However, the wire may be located inside the hose, requiring that the hose be replaced as well.

Servicing a Beater Bar: The beater bar on a canister vacuum cleaner is serviced in almost the same manner as one on an upright unit. Here's how:

Step 1: Remove the clips at each end of the beater bar, and pull it and the drive belt from the power-head case. In many cases, all you have to do is clean the brush and the two ends. Remove any excess pet hair or carpet fibers that get wound into them.

Step 2: If needed, remove the beater bar end cap and flange to remove the brush from the shaft and clean or replace it.

Step 3: Also check the drive belt and replace it if it is worn or damaged.

Step 4: When reinstalling the beater bar, make sure there is sufficient tension on the drive belt to rotate the bar by pulling on the belt. If the belt is loose, adjust it following the instructions in the owner's manual.

Servicing a Motor: The motor for a canister vacuum cleaner is easy to access on most models. To test and replace the motor's brushes:

Step 1: Open the canister's top cover and remove the motor cover to expose the motor itself.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Open the canister's top cover to access the motor.

Step 2: Place the probes of a continuity tester or multitester on the two wires that lead to the motor from the on/off switch.

Step 3: Rotate the motor shaft a few revolutions by hand. The motor should test as a closed circuit with some resistance. If an ohmmeter indicates no resistance or infinite resistance, the motor is probably damaged.

Step 4: Check the motor's brushes in the same manner, if they are accessible. Replace the brushes if needed.

For other motor repairs, take the appliance to an appliance-repair service or motor-repair shop. If the motor needs replacing, evaluate the overall condition of the vacuum and consider replacing the entire appliance.

Servicing a Cord Reel: The cord reel on a canister vacuum cleaner is a gadget that simply makes storage of the cord easier. It doesn't clean anything. The cord reel unit is usually located at the rear of the canister.

An internal spring offers sufficient tension to retract the cord onto the reel. The cord reel winds the cord in a circle, so the internal end of the cord must also move in a circle. At the same time, it must be electrically connected to the motor.

To make this work, the cord is attached to a rotating contact called a commutator block. It is a circular conductor of electricity that passes current from the internal end of the cord to a stationary block. If the blocks become dirty or corroded, they will not pass current to the motor. To remove and clean or replace the cord reel:

Step 1: Open the top cover of the canister. Another sealing cover will protect the cord reel -- and probably the motor as well -- from the vacuum chamber.

Step 2: Depending on whether you're cleaning or replacing the cord reel, you may need to remove it from the housing. To do so, find the clips or fasteners holding it into place and undo them. If necessary, cut the two wires leading from the cord reel to the motor. In some cases, you may be able to make adjustments and repairs without cutting the motor wires.

Step 3: Clean the cord reel of dirt, then clean the commutator and stationary block with some isopropyl alcohol on a soft rag. If pitted, the blocks should be lightly sanded and wiped clean.

Step 4: Adjust the spring as needed and reinstall the unit in reverse order, replacing any cut wires.

Don't blow it -- read the tips on the next page to help you fix a malfunctioning hair dryer.

How to Repair a Hair Dryer

Publications International, Ltd. A cross section of a hair dryer.

Hair dryers combine both types of small appliances: those that heat and those that move something. Therefore, a hair dryer includes both a heating element and a fan motor.

Most people don't bother to fix even the simplest problems on their hair dryers because they are generally inexpensive to replace. It's easier to toss them and buy new ones. In the long run, however, it may be more efficient to purchase a better-quality hair dryer and make most of the repairs yourself.


How Hair Dryers Work

Personal hair dryers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all contain the same components and work in the same way. The typical hair dryer includes an on/off switch, a fan-speed switch, a fan and motor, a heat switch, a heating element, and a thermal cutout switch.

The heating switch controls the amount of current delivered to the heating element, thus controlling the heat delivered by the hair dryer. The fan-speed switch controls the speed of the fan motor and fan, thus controlling the force of the air delivered by the hair dryer. The thermal cutout switch, a safety feature, shuts off the heating element if it gets too hot.

How to Repair a Hair Dryer

Common hair dryer repairs include servicing the switch, fan, heating element, and thermal cutout.

Servicing a Switch: On/off, fan-speed, and heat switches all work in the same way. They control the current going to the hair dryer, the fan, or the elements.

Some switches have only two positions: on or off, high or low. Others have three or more. However, they are all tested and replaced in the same way. Here's how to test a hair dryer switch:

Step 1: Unplug the hair dryer and carefully unscrew and remove the housing. Screws are typically recessed near the motor vent.

Step 2: Switches will be mounted in the handle or main housing between the electrical cord and the fan motor and heating element. Remove the switch and disconnect it.

Step 3: Using a continuity tester or multitester, make sure the switch functions as it should. That is, an on/off switch will indicate an open circuit (continuity light off) in the OFF position, and a closed circuit (continuity light on) in the ON position.

Fan-speed switches and heating element switches will show continuity in all settings.

Servicing a Fan: The fan in a hair dryer pulls air in through a vent and pushes it out the nozzle. The fan-speed switch feeds it electrical current.

Hair dryer fans are generally quite durable. The primary causes of problems are hair and

moisture -- two elements found in abundance in a bathroom.

Hair, lint, and other debris can clog up the screen filter on the air intake. To clean it, use compressed air or a soft-bristle toothbrush.

Publications International, Ltd. You can clean built-up debris from a screen filter by using a soft-bristle toothbrush.

Moisture can damage any motor by shorting out components. To test and repair a hair dryer fan and motor:

Step 1: Remove housing screws and lift off the housing.

Step 2: Remove and inspect the fan blades, repairing or replacing as necessary.

Step 3: Test the motor using a continuity tester to ensure that current has a closed path (continuity light on) through the motor. If not, remove and replace the motor with one of an identical rating in watts and size.

If a replacement motor cannot be found, or if it costs more than half the price of a new hair dryer, consider replacing the entire hair dryer.

Servicing a Heating Element: The heating element in a hair dryer is a continuous high-resistance wire wound around a nonconducting frame. It is installed in the appliance nozzle or output vent. When electrical current is applied to it, the element heats up. The adjacent fan forces air past the element, warming it before it exits the nozzle. To test a hair dryer element if you suspect a problem:

Step 1: Remove the housing of the hair dryer and the element shield.

Step 2: Find the two wires leading to the element. Visually inspect the wires and the element coils for any obvious breaks or debris.

Step 3: Use a continuity tester or multitester to check for continuity. The circuit between the two lead wires should be closed (continuity light on). If not, check the thermal cutout.

Step 4: If the thermal cutout functions properly, replace the heating element with an exact replacement part.

Servicing a Thermal Cutout: A thermal cutout is located in the element assembly of most electrical hair dryers. The purpose of a bimetallic thermostat is to shut the hair dryer element off if it gets too hot. To test the thermal cutout:

Step 1: Open the housing and gain access to the element assembly.

Step 2: Find and inspect the thermal cutout for debris, distortion, or discoloration.

Step 3: Clean the contact points with emery paper. Loosen debris with a few short blasts of compressed air held at sufficient distance to avoid damage to the sensitive element wires.

So, before you toss out that malfunctioning hair dryer, toaster, or other small appliance, make sure the problem isn't an easy one to fix. The tips in this article will help you get those household necessities up and running again.

©Publications International, Ltd.