We are lucky to pay less than market value for our Seattle rental home in the burgeoning area where we reside. Over the more than nine years since we moved in, rent hikes have been rare and moderate, indicating that our landlord seems to value having dependable renters more than obtaining top revenue. Although there are certain compromises, our comparatively low monthly payments help keep our cost of living reasonable in a generally expensive area.
We pay close attention to how frequently we speak with our landlord about problems with the property. We wouldn’t hesitate to bring up any issues that are the owner’s duty if we were paying market rate. However, we make an effort to keep minor repairs or other issues off of his plate since we are grateful for our circumstances, want to show our appreciation, and want to keep him on our good side.
We were therefore hesitant to contact him when our washing machine malfunctioned one evening in the middle of a cycle and needed to be fixed.
For a handyman to assess the issue, we phoned
We made some rudimentary attempts to get it working despite the fact that neither of us is particularly handy and we recognised that “taking care of it ourselves” probably meant getting someone else to fix it. Nothing we attempted, including turning the machine off and on again, disconnecting it to clear the circuitry, and looking for obstructions in the piping and basin, helped. We began looking for a repair firm because we were at a lost for what else to do.
We discovered a repairman who was accessible right away after making a few calls. The fee to have the person come to our door was $100, and after hearing our description of the issue (which he assumed to be a blocked or burned-out drain pump), he calculated that the repair would cost an additional $250. We agreed and provided the repairman with our address because that was below the line at which we would typically contact our landlord.
After we hung off the phone, I began looking up information about washing machine repairs online to see if the quote we had been given was reasonable (which it was). After resolving that, I made the decision to research the process involved in maintaining or replacing a drain pump.
I looked for the model number—a Fisher & Paykel GWL11—on the back of our washing machine and looked up repair guides online. I was somewhat aback to see that what first appeared to be a focused search produced a large number of outcomes, including movies, comments from message boards, links to replacement components for sale, and more. I jumped in.
I discovered one specific YouTube video in particular that provided a step-by-step tutorial for how to unclog the drain pump on our machine between the hour between when we phoned the repairman and when he came. The signs shown in the film corresponded to how our unit was acting uncooperatively. I was re-watching when the repairman arrived, and I started to question whether summoning him was a rash error.
As the repairman carried his tools up to our laundry room to do an inspection, I gave my wife the tutorial. After about 10 minutes, he confirmed that it was a clogged drain pump and that there would be a flat $250 charge to have it cleared. He asked whether we were okay with him continuing.
My wife and I exchanged apprehensive glances. On one hand, we were encouraged by the YouTube video that we could repair the pump ourselves. On the other hand, we had to be open to the risk that we would fail or perhaps make matters worse in which case we would also have to spend an additional $100 to have the repairman come back out to our house. After deciding that the risk was worthwhile, we thanked the repairman for his time, gave him $100 for the visit alone, and started working.
With the aid of a YouTube video, we felt sure that we could repair it ourselves.
We rewatched the video and gathered the equipment we required for the task: our mini shop-vac to empty the washing machine’s basin; a plastic tub and towels to catch any leftover water that flowed from the unplugged drain pump; a cinder block to prop up the machine so we could get under it; a flashlight; plastic bags; packing tape; and a multi-tool.
We took turns using the flashlight, operating the laptop’s video, and giving tools while the other performed the unpleasant bending necessary to reach the drain pump in our little laundry room.
It was awkward and messy, and I assume that people who are knowledgeable about home repair would have laughed as they saw us struggle through the procedure. Nevertheless, approximately 90 minutes after we sent the repairman on his way, our washing machine was completely functional, and we had made a $250 profit. We were ecstatic, and our only regret was not seeing the video sooner and trying to fix it ourselves from the beginning to save the $100 we spent for the repair appointment.
The experience encouraged us to perform more DIY maintenance but also made us aware of our limitations.
Our success with the washing machine gave us the confidence to attempt do-it-yourself repairs more frequently, and when the heat in our car stopped working, another chance soon presented itself. Returning to the internet, I saw multiple postings on automotive message boards that convinced me that the issue was a dead blower motor resistor, a cheap and simple component to repair.
This time, YouTube offered a variety of instructions (tailored to our car’s make, model, and year) that helped me decide what to buy and how to install it at the nearby auto supply store. 30 minutes and $11 later, the heat was working properly.
In a similar vein, YouTube has assisted us in fixing a broken screen door latch, installing a wall panel in our basement to provide access to the sewer line, and even reprogramming our modem after a power outage returned it to its default settings (rather than paying a $80 expert to do it). With the right assistance, we were able to do all of these repairs despite our lack of fundamental handyman abilities and our limited understanding of how to mend things.
We’ve also learned to accept our limitations thanks to our newfound willingness to try repairs. As an illustration, this spring when water began suddenly trickling from a light bulb in our kitchen, we immediately realised it was a problem that required professional assistance. We informed our landlord of the issue instead.
After reading forums and watching tutorials, if a repair still feels out of our league, we have no qualms about seeking expert assistance. Although both are empowering in their own ways, we can only discover what we can do by first knowing what we can do.
I’m appreciative of the armada of knowledgeable vloggers who share their knowledge and ideas online, especially since DIY repair videos appear to have turned into a cottage industry on YouTube. When something at our house needs fixing in the future, I already know where to seek for advice.