By Jason Snell
February 28, 2019 2:48 PM PT
We Like: Fixing things!
I hear so much these days about how we live in a disposable society, and to a certain extent that’s true. Many of our devices aren’t designed to be repaired by the owners, whether it’s a smartphone or a car. And yet some devices still are repairable… and in the last few years I’ve come to love the combination of repairable products and the Internet.
A year or so ago my washing machine stopped draining and flooded a portion of my garage, which is where I work! It was not good. Fortunately the flood didn’t get too far, and we sopped it up with towels and ran fans, but we were left with the problem of a washing machine that didn’t work. (We ended up spending a few weeks clothes to the local laundromat, washing them there, then carting them home sopping wet to dry them in our still-functional dryer.)
We called local appliance repair people, all of whom heard the brand name of our washing machine and refused to perform service. More distant repair people in our region, including one that had previously serviced this machine, also refused. One said they could fit us in if we would wait about six weeks.
We got so frustrated that we decided we were just going to give up and buy a new washing machine—one that we could get reliably serviced by a local repair person. And that moment took me off the hook. Now I knew that if I broke our existing machine by attempting to fix it myself, it was no big deal—we were replacing it anyway. So why not try?
Like our disposable society, there are lots of things that are bad about the Internet. But you know what’s not bad about the Internet? You can search for just about any repairable device in your home and find multiple YouTube videos that show you, in detail, how to repair them. When I diagnosed that my washing machine had a failed pump motor, I was able to search for a replacement part—the Internet’s also full of sites that will ship you parts—and using YouTube guidance, open up my washing machine and replace the pump. It took maybe an hour. It cost me my time and 20 or 30 bucks for the replacement pump. And just like that, our washing machine was functional again.
I’ve repeated this same approach with replacing a car stereo, fixing a broken rack in my dishwasher, replacing a broken drawer in our refrigerator, and replacing a snapped-off handle and an ancient cutting blade on my lawnmower. (We bought the lawnmower 20 years ago and it’s still chugging away.)
The other week my weather station, which I’ve written about here and has been in service in my backyard for 15 years, stopped reporting rainfall totals. I sighed and started pricing new weather stations, until I realized that I could buy a replacement rain sensor, take the thing apart, and put it back together. I did that two days ago, for about one-tenth the cost of replacing the entire weather station.
So what do I like? I like the Internet providing me with replacement parts and instructional repair videos, yes. But I also like the feeling I get in knowing that when something breaks, I don’t need to throw myself on the mercy of a local appliance repair shop and write them a large check. I can, in my instances, fix it myself. Before the Internet the entire idea would’ve been ludicrous, but now it’s routine.