Keep Calm and Repair On

One of the great truths of life is that unexpected expenses are most likely to arise when one is not in the financial position to deal with them (such as being unemployed). Have you noticed this?

Then again, what at first appears to be an unexpected expense can be easily remedied if you’re willing to put in a bit of work.

A little over four years ago my husband and I negotiated for the appliances to be included in the purchase of our house because we didn’t want to have to deal with going out and buying all new appliances while we were dealing with the stress of moving. It didn’t take us long after the move to realize that this may have been a poor decision, as the previous owners of the house were not exactly easy on their appliances. On moving day my mother and aunt spent over an hour scrubbing the inside of the stove, which looked like it had never been cleaned since the day it was purchased. The washing machine, I soon learned, was similarly treated; there was so much gunk along the top of the drum that I’m amazed no one ever got sick just from being near it.

But we did our best to clean up the appliances and so far they’ve served us just fine. Some of them can be a little temperamental at times, but they’ve, for the most part, worked just fine for the past four years.

Then, yesterday, a couple of months into my and my husband’s joint unemployment, our dryer mysteriously died. I nearly had an aneurysm right then and there because I had literally just put a load of laundry into the washer…a load that contained every pair of pants that I own.

This is how my morning went yesterday. How was yours?
This is how my morning went yesterday. How was yours?

Here’s were a little bit of patience (ha ha ha ha ha…) and Google can be excellent assets. See, instead of traipsing right off to Sears to look for a new dryer and forking over several hundred dollars that we can’t really afford at the moment, I began to dismantle the dryer. I quickly found that the dryer drum belt had snapped, meaning that the dryer couldn’t turn. Two minutes on Google showed that the belt cost about $20. Twenty bucks. Instead of several hundred. My husband looked up a very helpful video that showed how to properly replace a dryer belt, then ran out to get the part (since I had no pants). We had to settle for a part meant for another brand of dryer, but it was identical to what we needed and still only cost $20.

And so, as I stated on my Facebook page yesterday:
“Four hours of working in my pajama pants, about two hundred screws and bolts, half a vacuum canister worth of dust and dirt, one off-brand part, two tetanus-shot-worthy gashes, and an uncountable number of profanities, and we’re drying clothes again. Thank f#$&.”

Don’t get me wrong; every moment I was working on that dryer I wanted to pick the entire thing up and chuck it in the ditch out front of my house. But in the end a little bit of frustration saved us a ton of money. Instead of just rushing out for a new dryer, we took it upon ourselves to see if it was fixable first.

We live in a wonderful age during which instructions for just about anything can be found on Google, and I promise you that the video my husband found could have easily been followed by anyone who was technologically illiterate. The hardest instruction from the video was getting the clips that hold the dryer top down to pop open, and the most difficult part of the actual repair was cleaning out the years worth of dust and dirt that covered every part inside. If they were strong enough to hold the drum up and put tension on the belt arm, my almost-three-year-old daughter and four-year-old niece could have done the repair.

The lesson of the story is that when disaster strikes, keep calm, take to the internets, and see what you can do yourself to get yourself out of a jam. Believe me, even with the frustration that can be involved, nothing will make you feel more confident in yourself than doing a house repair all by yourself instead of wasting a bunch of money on a repairman or a brand new item.

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