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To find a problem in any appliance, an electrician will begin by testing components-switches, solenoids, timers, heating elements, thermostats, relays, power cords-with an ohmmeter.

*Make sure the appliance is unplugged before you check it, so you have less danger of electric shock.

You can buy an ohmmeter yourself for less than $10. This can be found in any hardware store or automotive department. Even if you have no intent of doing your own repairs, you can pinpoint the problems and protect yourself from the unethical repairman who will try to sell you unnecessary work or sell you parts that are not needed.

Use the ohmmeter to check the broken thermostat of your refrigerator or freezer, the water level switch on your washer, or the heating element of an electric range or clothes dryer.

The owner's manual that comes with it gives more specific instructions, but briefly put, you simply place the ohmmeter's probes on the appliance part's wires or terminals. That will answer three vital questions:

Does a broken circuit exist?

What is the resistance to the flow of current?

Is a short circuit making the component inoperable?

What to do when your washer won't fill!

This process will work for all types of machines, although all brands are different in design, the basic concept is the same. Water comes into the machine by way of a water valve, or mix valve. When a machine won't fill, there are several things to consider.

Is the water hose kinked? Could there be sediment in the screens of the hose?

Look into the valve at the back of the washer with the hoses removed. There are filter screens that could be clogged. They can be easily cleaned with a turkey baster. Use it as you would a baby syringe. Sucking the sediment off the conical screens. Do not remove these screens for any reason! Always disconnect from power before inspection. If all else seems OK, the valve is probably bad.

How to fix water leaks in the refrigerator.

If your refrigerator leaks water in the fresh food section, there are two ways this can happen. The most common cause is a blocked defrost drain. Every eight hours or so, the refrigerator goes into defrost, and ice is melted from the cooling coils. This water must drop into a very small hole just under the evaporator coil, and from there, is transported to a drain pan below the unit.

To correct this, remove the inside panel in the freezer to expose the evaporator, then use very hot water to melt any ice you see down in the drain. Add a capful of bleach to the hole once it is clear to kill any residual algae. You can also reattach the tube securely to the rear grommet, using silicone sealant if you like to glue it in place.