Here's what goes wrong with kitchen appliances

Here's what goes wrong with kitchen appliances


Every year Consumer Reports gets tens of thousands of responses from members about problems they’ve had with their kitchen appliances.

In recent surveys, the organization collected data on more than 381,000  appliances purchased between 2008-2018.

Here are the most commonly reported problem areas; what breaks, a pro's perspective, and what consumers can do.

REFRIGERATORS, biggest complaints

17 percent, No water (or ice) coming out of dispenser

13 percent, Icemaker won’t make ice

7 percent, Buildup of ice in the fridge

6 percent, Water leaking

5 percent, Refrigerator not cooling

5 percent, Broken or faulty control panel or circuit board

4 percent, Not keeping food cold

3 percent, Blocked drain or outlet

3 percent, Broken or faulty compressor

A pro’s perspective

"Icemaker failures have always been a problem ... (and) we used to be able to repair them," said Dean Landers, president of Landers Appliance, a repair service in the Baltimore area. But, "now everything is molded, flimsy, and cast, making it necessary to replace the entire unit."

What Breaks

• Icemaker: This appliance-within-an-appliance draws water into uniform ice molds. Once cubes form, the molds are heated or twisted to free the ice from the molds, and a sweep arm ejects them into a container to be dispensed on demand.

• Evaporator fan motor: Moves air over evaporator coils, allowing refrigerant to absorb heat.

• Thermostat: Regulates temperature in fresh-food and freezer compartments.

A bad break

"Compressors are the heart of a refrigeration system," Landers said. "Replacing one means removing the refrigerant following strict federal guidelines, using a blow torch to extract the failed unit, soldering in the new one, and recharging the system. "It is extremely costly to perform this repair."

RANGES, biggest complaints

6 percent, Oven not heating up effectively

6 percent, Burners (gas) or cooktop elements (electric) not igniting or heating up

5 percent, Ignition breaking or not work­ing properly (gas models)

2 percent, Broken knobs

2 percent, Broken control panel button(s)

 What breaks

• Ignition system: In gas ranges, this series of components generates a spark to light the gas.

• Oven bake element: Produces heat for bake, roast, and broil functions in an electric oven.

• Oven temperature sensor: Regulates temperature for both gas and electric ovens.

 • Burner: Controls the evenness and shape of the flame on a gas range.

A pro’s perspective

"There’s a lot consumers can do themselves to fix minor problems with their ranges," said Paul Berry, owner of Mr. Appliance of San Antonio. "And it starts with cleaning.

"Take the ignition system: If you can still hear it clicking when you turn the knob, it may just be blocked by residue from a boil-over or other debris. Burners can also get clogged with food—you’ll notice a weak flame. For both parts, scrub out any debris using dish soap and warm water.”

DISHWASHERS, biggest complaints

11 percent, Not cleaning properly

9 percent, Not drying properly

7 percent, Not draining properly

7 percent, Control panel breaking or not working properly

6 percent, Water leaking

5 percent, Dish rack(s) breaking

 What Breaks

Inlet valve: Controls the flow of water into the dishwasher.

Wash arm: Sends rippling streams of water into dish racks for washing and rinsing cycles.

Drain pump: Removes dirty wash and rinse water from the dishwasher, pumping it into the drain.

Circulation pump: Forces water out of spray arms and onto dirty dishes.

A pro’s perspective

You’re not going to notice most dishwasher problems right away, according to Chris Zeisler, technical service supervisor at, an online clearinghouse for appliance parts and do-it-yourself videos. "[Your dishwasher] will slowly not wash well until it gets to the point where you’re fed up and wondering what’s going on," he said.

A bad break

The impeller is the part of the pump that generates the water pressure necessary to make the spray arms spin. It can get damaged if a seed, pit, or piece of glass gets into the pump.

“You would want to address that as soon as possible,” Zeisler said. That’s because it can lead to water leaking into the motor and out onto your floor. How will you know your impeller is damaged? You’ll hear a loud growling."

MICROWAVES, over-the-range, biggest complaints

5 percent, Buttons on control panel breaking or not working properly

4 percent, Excessive noise

4 percent, Failing to heat food adequately

4 percent, Door not locking or closing properly

2 percent, Turntable not turning

2 percent, Exhaust fan not venting properly

 What breaks

• Door latches: Redundant latches make it impossible for the microwave to run when the door is open or ajar.

• Turntable tray: Rotates food for even heating.

• Exhaust fan: Draws cooking fumes through the filters.

• Control panel: Operates heating functions.

• Magnetron: Creates the microwaves.

• Grease filter: Though it doesn’t technically break, this part gets gunked with grease, preventing it from drawing cooking fumes out of your kitchen.

A pro’s perspective

"Anything wrong with the microwave door is potentially a safety concern, because it can release potentially harmful microwaves," Zeisler said.


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