Make your small appliances last longer

July 28, 2015

From toasting our bread to ironing our clothes, these specialized helpers make life better in lots of little ways. Most need just a little attention to keep them whirring and humming along year after year.

Make your small appliances last longer

Be circuit savvy

  • Most modern kitchens have several electrical circuits in order to let you use the blender while the microwave is cooking. But that doesn't help if you plug both appliances into the same circuit.
  • So, be aware of which outlets are on which circuits so you can spread out the electrical demand.
  • Short on circuits? Well then, you'll have to wait until you're done with the microwave popcorn before using the blender.

Repair a control knob

  • If the shaft breaks on a control knob — whether for a small appliance, like a toaster, or a large appliance, like a washing machine — installing a new one is as easy as slipping it into place.
  • The problem is usually finding a replacement that matches.
  • Fortunately, it's easy to fix a control knob if the break is clean and you have the broken-off piece. Put epoxy glue on the break, and fit the pieces together.
  • Then, wrap the shaft tightly with nylon thread.
  • Finally, coat the thread with epoxy — the thread will reinforce the repair.

Note: Often the shaft fits into a hole in the appliance's case. Make sure the thread won't interfere with re-inserting the shaft.

Replace a plug

  • If your appliance works intermittently, there's a good chance it just needs a new plug.
  • A plug is cheap and takes only minutes to replace — it's just a matter of screwing two wires into place. The important thing is to make sure you get the right plug for your appliance.
  • It's a good idea to remove the old plug so that you can take it to a hardware store or home centre to find a replacement.
  • If the plug is too light-gauge for your appliance, the cord won't fit through the hole in the cord's cover.
  • So when you cut the old plug off, take an inch or so of cord with it. That way, you can make sure the plug is correct before you buy it.
  • Also, if you have a hard time getting the wire to fit around the plug's screws, or find it difficult to close the plug, that's a sure sign the plug is too light-duty for the job.

1. Lamps and many low-amperage appliances use flat cords. You can purchase quick-connect versions of flat-cord plugs. These plugs have little spikes that piece the insulation and dig into the wire to make a connection, and they require no tools to install. Just snip off the old plug and slip the new plug cover over the cord. Spread the prongs on the plug core, insert the cord, then squeeze the prongs to drive the spikes into the cord. Next, slip the cover in place, which makes it ready to plug in.

2. Appliances that draw more amperage, such as irons, sometimes have round cords. On these screw-on plugs, tie the cord in a way that ensures pulling on the cord won't loosen the connections. (Look up how to tie an Underwriter's Knot, which is the specific electrician's knot that works best here.)

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