Basic guide to easy fixes for some appliance problems

There are some easy ways to fix problems that cause our common household appliances not to work. In an effort to save people a little money, and to contemplate how bad a problem might be, this website will cover some easy fixes to broken Refrigerators, Dishwashers, Washers and Dryers.

Ignorance, in the basics of how common home appliances work, can send us in many false directions looking for a solution to a problem before focusing on the real culprit.  Modern life with Google has made the average persons ability to find information on  processes easy to find- it is only a Google search away.  However, you may need to read several sites about your subject before coming to a good understanding.  What follows is a brief description of how some of our common home appliances work :

How does a refrigerator cool or freeze your food?

The cold temperature of the refrigerator is produced by passing a cold liquid, encased in metal tubing, around objects within an enclosed area to draw heat from the air and food. What is needed is a continuous way of producing a cold liquid to achieve continuous refrigeration. Fortunately, for us, some of our brilliant forerunners discovered useful entropy changes during phase shifts of a gas to liquid, and back again. Specifically, restriction of the flow of a high-pressure liquid produces a big temperature shift to cold liquid. This cold liquid will then absorb heat as it is released to a larger warmer space. When this liquid absorbs enough heat, it starts to boil turning it back into gas form. These Pioneers in refrigeration were:

  • William Cullen, a Scotsman, in the early 1700s worked with the evaporation of liquids in a vacuum. In 1755, Cullen used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of Diethyl Ether which then boiled while absorbing heat from the surrounding air. The experiment even created a small amount of ice, but practical application at that time was not pursued.
  • Michael Farady, a Londoner, in the early 1800s used liquefied ammonia in a series of experiments using high pressures and low temperatures to produce cooling.
  • John Goorie, an American, in 1834 built a machine to make ice to cool the air for malaria patients in Apalachicola, Florida. He was convinced that the cure for malaria was cold because outbreaks did not happen in winter.
    Today’s refrigerators operate upon principles developed from observations of these Scientists experiments. When a high-pressure liquid is restricted or forced through a smaller aperture, it becomes cold. Then, when that high pressure cold liquid is released into larger warmer surroundings, its boiling point is lowered as it absorbs heat and loses pressure- transforming it into a gas. This repeatable transmutation is what allows us to keep our food cold, thereby extending its period of freshness.

There are 4 main components of a refrigerator, Throttling device, Evaporator, Condenser, and Compressor. These mechanical components work in tandem to produce the essential invention of Refrigeration.


Throttling Device is what produces the cold liquid.



  • The Throttling Device is what produces the cold liquid. It is a coiled capillary tube of about 6.5 ft. with an inside diameter of .0236 in, like a capillary tube. The inlet takes in the refrigerant, Freon, in the state of a high-pressure liquid, pushes it through a much smaller space. Restricting the flow of Freon causes a tremendous pressure drop. This drop-in pressure reduces the boiling point of Freon, making it very cold as it loses heat. This large change of temperature is what’s needed for next phase of evaporation through the Evaporator.
  • Evaporator is a much larger metal coil space then the Throttling Device, and it is placed to surround the interior of the Refrigerator. This is where the cold liquid is sent to absorb heat from the food within the Refrigerator.
  • This can be likened to a mother placing her child’s cold hands on her bare stomach, in order to warm them quickly- the same principle of Entropy is at work. When heat is absorbed from the food within the Refrigerator, the cold liquid inside the Evaporator coil will boil changing its phase to that of a low-pressure vapor. Next, the hot vapor will be sent to the Compressor.
  • The Compressor will raise the pressure back to its initial high level by compressing the vapor or constricting it. Now the refrigerant is a high-pressure vapor, but it must be changed to a high-pressure liquid state in order to continue the recycling. The next device, the Condenser, takes the hot high pressure vapor and changes it to a high-pressure liquid.
  • The Condenser is a heat exchanger, large metal coil, fitted to the outside of the Refrigerator.  Since the temperature of the air outside the Refrigerator is lower than the refrigerant temperature, the heat will dissipate to the surroundings. The high-pressure vapor will return to a high-pressure liquid with the surrounding ambient temperature. The high-pressure liquid is then taken up by the Throttling Device to run a never-ending cycle through the four main components.

Of course the modern refrigerator is more complex, but for the heat exchange to happen the refrigerant has to go through the phases described above.

How does a dishwasher work?

(1) First, the dishwasher will add water to the bottom of its tub filling for a timed period or till the water float sensor says its full- which will keep the tub from overfilling.

(2) Then, in some dishwashers, the water is heated by an electric heating element, metal bar that gets hot as electricity flows through it, to the selected temperature depending upon dishwasher cycle. Other dishwashers are limited to the temperature of the water coming into the tub to preform wash cycles.

(3) The detergent will then be released into the water to dissolve.

(4) An electric pump will take the detergent laden water and force it through pipes to the spinning arms on the top and bottom of the dishwasher. The force of the water going through the arms will make them spin- just like a lawn sprinkler. The water being forced through the tiny holes in the arms gives the water more force in order to scrub the dishes clean. Kind of like your garden hose when you put your thumb over part of the opening to give more force to the water. The detergent laden water is also very special because it carries ingredients to break down acids, fats and proteins to dissolve the left-over smears of food.

(5) When the wash cycle is done, then the pump reverses and drains the dirty water to the sink drain in order to pump clean water into the tub. The dishwasher will repeat rinse cycles till a sensor, testing how clear the drain water is, believes the dishes are clean.

How does a washing machine work?

The basic components of a washing machine are:

  • The water inlet control valve is located near the top of the machine where the water enters. When the clothes are loaded into the washing machine, the valve opens and closes automatically depending on the quantity of water required for the selected cycle . He (high efficiency) Machines measure the weight of the clothes to determine how much water to fill the machine with.  Non He machines have a selector to set to small, medium, and large which will fill the tub to respective levels.
  • The Water pump circulates water through the washing machine. The Washer  will recirculate the water during the wash cycle, and then, at the end of the wash cycle, it works to drain the water before it pumps in clean water for the rinse.
  • There are two types of tubs in a washing machine- inner and outer. The inner tub has tiny holes to drain the water from the wet clothes to the outer tub. The outer tub is water proof and covers the inner tub- its job is to catch all of the water drained from the clothes, and then send it to the drain pump.
  • The Agitator or Rotating Disc is located inside the inner tub of the washing machine. While the wash cycle is on, the agitator rotates continuously causing the clothes to rub together while the detergent laden water flows through and around the clothes removing dirt and stains. The molecules of detergent encapsulate the dirt spec or fat globules- you think the dirt has dissolved because you can’t see it. When the clothes have washed long enough, according to the programmed selection, the inner drum will rotate a a high rate of speed (80 mph) spinning like a centrifuge. The centrifugal force  will push the clothes against the surface of the inner drum forcing the water, and the encapsulated dirt and fat globules through the tiny holes to the outer tub- consequently damp drying your clothes.

Modern washing machines have an electronic programmer that allows choices to be made on the type of wash cycle needed, such as Hand wash, Regular, Heavy, Bedding, and many others depending upon Brand and price point. The cycle will determine how fast, how long the Agitator works, what temperature the water should be (they have thermostats and heaters to control this), rinse cycle, and how fast the inner tub will spin.

How does a dryer operate?  

Dryers are comprised of 3 basic mechanical systems that produce heat, motion, and venting that work together to evaporate moisture from clothes. Dryers have a brain or programming that determines how long to tumble the clothes, at what heat (low, medium, high or no heat), and humidistat to check moisture level for energy saving drying.

  • The heat comes from a heating element, if using electricity, or a gas burner. The blower, draws air from the outside, sends it over the heating element, blows it into the dryer drum, where it circulates to dry clothes, and then vents moisture, lint laden, hot air to the outside.
  • Motion comes as the dryer motor turns the clothes drum with a belt, and it also turns the blower or fan to push the moisture laden air out the exhaust vent.


  • Venting is very important as it must move the moisture and lint laden air out of the dryer through the exhaust vent to be dispersed to the environment outside for the clothes to dry. The vent should be smooth metal along the air flow, less then 25 feet distance to outside, and 4 inches in diameter. Careful effort must be made to not crimp the vent as this would cause a backup of lint becoming a fire hazard.