By John Shryock| March 4, 2011 at 11:19 PM CST - Updated June 15 at 8:42 AM
By Ela Schwartz
Most of us take our microwave ovens for granted. Yet these little workhorses of the kitchen are actually high-tech marvels that use powerful electromagnetic waves to heat up food quickly and easily. Microwave ovens offer an unbeatable bang for the buck: A basic microwave oven costs around $100 and will keep nuking for seven to 10 years without a glitch.
So how do you tell when it's time to replace your microwave oven? The guide below will help you determine which problems could have a possible cheap fix and which ones aren't worth the trouble, especially for a microwave that's already several years old. Be aware that the cost of parts and labor often exceeds the price of replacing your microwave oven. That's why it's always a good idea to call the repair shop first, describe the problem and get a price quote.
Warning: A microwave oven's technical wizardry means that tackling a repair job is extremely risky, even for the most advanced DIY-er. Microwave ovens have an extremely high voltage component that can jolt you with a potentially fatal electric shock, even when it's unplugged. Most likely, you'd rather not brush up on how to discharge a high voltage capacitor or measure how to check for radio frequency emissions. Therefore, if you're considering repairing rather than replacing a faulty microwave oven, take it to a certified professional.
Fixable Microwave Problems
1. There's no light when the microwave starts cooking. You may just need a new light bulb. Since this involves opening the microwave's cabinet, call a repair shop and get a price quote.
2. Your microwave oven door has problems. The door to your microwave oven is a vital safety component that's carefully designed to contain radiation. The door interlock switches a signal that the door is shut, which means it's safe for the unit to start heating. If your microwave runs when the door is open, or stops working after you close the door, check the door hooks and door release button to see if they're broken, as you might have damaged an interlock switch by slamming the door too hard. (Needless to say, never take out your frustrations on your appliances!) Keep in mind that the door interlock switches work together. If one is damaged, you'll probably have to replace all of them.
3. The touch pad isn't working properly. If nothing happens when you hit Start, or certain keys don't function, the touch pad may need to be removed and either cleaned or replaced. A new touch pad could cost practically as much as replacing your microwave oven.
Signs It's Time to Replace Your Microwave Oven
1. Your microwave makes loud noises while cooking. This could be caused by something as simple as a wayward piece of food stuck in the turntable or misaligned fan blades. It could also be caused by a defective power diode, magnetron or high voltage capacitor. Check the turntable -- if you don't see anything, it's time to replace your microwave.
2. You punch in the cook time, press Start and get nothing but a loud buzzing. This could mean a defective power diode, high voltage capacitor or magnetron. Replace your microwave oven immediately.
3. Your microwave works, but cooking times take longer. Try the two-minute test: an 8-ounce mug of water should be steaming hot after two minutes. If it isn't, the magnetron is starting to fail, and it's time to replace your microwave.
Ela Schwartzis a writer specializing in home furnishing and remodeling for such publications as Kitchen Portfolio, the New York Daily News and At Home Long Island. She has written the book B&N Basics Home Renovation and has been the proud owner of a high-efficiency washer for several years.
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