Tips for Consumers - How to Avoid Calling a Repairman
From Reed Realty
How to Avoid Calling a Repairman
Things fall apart. They also get clogged, jammed, broken, or just mysteriously stop working -- usually when you can least afford the disruption. Instead of calling a repairman (they rarely come quickly -- or cheaply), try these fix-it-yourself methods for a few common household predicaments.
I. To Unclog Sinks and Tubs:
1. Remove as much standing water as possible and slowly pour a large pot of boiling water down the drain to dissolve the blockage.
2. Pump the drain three times with a plunger. Try a couple of times, if necessary.
3. Put a bucket under the U-shaped part of the drain pipe and unscrew it with a wrench. Poke a bent wire hanger up toward the drain to dislodge the gunk.
4. Help keep drains clear by pouring a cup of bleach down every couple of weeks. Many plumbers discourage using chemical drain cleaner because they contain caustic chemicals which are dangerous, bad for the plumbing, and not particularly effective.
II. To Fix Stopped-up Toilets:
1. If something such as a child's toy or washcloth has accidentally fallen into the toilet, roll up your sleeves, pull on your rubber gloves, and fish around in there until you find it. To make longer "gloves", use a couple of old plastic bread wrappers fastened loosely around your upper arm with rubber bands.
2. Don't flush. Let the water drain away as much as possible and pour in a bucket of boiling water all at once.
3. Push a toilet plunger up and down as firmly and quickly as possible. Be sure the cup fits snugly over the bottom of the bowl. Repeat at least three times.
4. Buy or rent a plumber's auger (a long snake with a metal spiral at the end). Push it into the bowl and keep cranking until it meets the blockage. At that point you can either try to pull the blockage out by slowly retracting the auger, or move the auger handle around quickly to dislodge the obstruction.
III. To Fix an Electricity Failure:
Electricity is something you don't want to fool around with casually, but some problems are simple to diagnose and correct. If you can't easily solve an electrical problem, call an expert -- don't try to fix it yourself.
1. In a blackout or partial blackout. Look outside to see if nearby homes have been affected. If not, grab a flashlight and check your circuit breakers to see if an overload has tipped them. You'll recognize this because the breakers will have moved away from the "on" position. If this has happened, first switch off all but a couple of lights and the refrigerator. Then turn on the breakers one by one. Turning breakers on all at once can blow your entire circuit box.
2. If a lamp or room light won't work. Unscrew the light bulb and shake it gently. If you hear a tiny rattle, the filament is broken and the bulb must be replaced. If the bulb seems okay, twist it to see if it's screwed in properly. Bulbs sometimes work loose and just need to be tightened. Go to the circuit box and see if the circuit breaker has been tripped due to an overload. And don't overlook the "dumb" factor -- if there's a light switch on the wall, make sure it's in the on position.
IV. To Fix Dripping Water Faucets:
1. If you have a newer type of faucet, with hot and cold combined, you will probably need to replace the cartridge to fix a drop. Purchase a repair kit from a hardware store and follow the instructions.
2. If you have a classic stem faucet with separate hot and cold handles, turn off the water supply, unscrew the handle, and replace the old washer with a new one. If you don't have a new washer, you can sometimes make do by turning the old one over.
3. If you prefer a quick fix to a permanent repair (at 3:00 A.M., perhaps), wrap a string around the spout and let it trail into the sink. The water will soak into the string and slip quietly into the sink. To conserve water, put a pan in the sink and save the leakage for your plants or garden.
V. To Correct Low Flow From a Faucet:
This is sometimes caused by a buildup of deposits of small debris in the aerator (the little screen at the end of the spout). Unscrew the nozzle and clear out the screen. Occasionally, water flow is blocked by a worn washer at the spout. If the aerator screen is clean, inspect the washer for signs of wear.
VI. To Clear a Jammed Garbage Disposal:
1. Before removing an item from the disposal, always make sure the wall switch is turned off. Remove the black-flapped washer from the top of the disposal and retrieve the loose item from the bottom. When the item is out, run the cold water, push the small red button at the bottom of the machine to reset the circuit breaker, then flip the wall switch on. If the machine still doesn't work, try resetting the circuit breaker again.
2. To remove an item that can't be retrieved by simply reaching in from the top, insert a disposal wrench (available in any hardware store) into the hole at the bottom of the unit and rotate the wrench back and forth to free the disposal blades. If you don't have a disposal wrench, try inserting a broom handle from the top and gently working the teeth around until you can pull the object free. Then follow the procedure above for resetting the circuit breakers.
3. Keep the disposal clean and sanitary by grinding ice cubes in it every couple of weeks and adding a few tablespoons of Comet (or other powdered cleanser with bleach) while the unit runs.
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