15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

The Fix-It Club is built on the premise that consumer items will last longer if you perform basic maintenance and simple repairs. We purchased our current car new and have followed these car maintenance tips. It now has 200,000 230,000 miles on its odometer and still runs strong! Here are 15 car maintenance things you can do to keep your car running smoother, longer, and more efficiently forever.

coolantcap2 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

Carefully remove the radiator cap when the engine is cool.

  1. Check the antifreeze/coolant level weekly. Some cars have transparent reservoirs with level markings. Fill to the level marking with 50/50 solution of antifreeze and water. Caution: Do not remove the pressure cap when the engine is hot!
  2. Inspect belts and hoses monthly. Replace worn, glazed, or frayed belts.Tighten them when more than ½” of slack can be depressed between the pulleys. Vehicles with spring-loaded belt tensioners require no adjustment. Replace bulging, rotten, or brittle hoses and tighten the clamps. If a hose looks bad, or feels too soft or too hard, it should be replaced.

  3. Check transmission fluid monthly. Do this while the engine is warm and running and with the parking brake on. Shift to drive, then to park. Remove the dipstick, wipe it dry, inert it, and remove it again. Add the approved type of fluid, if needed. Do not overfill!
  4. Check brake fluid monthly. First, wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid or unscrew the plastic lid, depending on which type your vehicle has. If you need fluid, add the approved type and check for possible leaks throughout the system. Fill to the mark on the reservoir. Caution: Do not overfill!
  5. Check the power steering fluid level once per month. Simply remove the reservoir dipstick. If the level is down, add fluid and inspect the pump and hoses for leaks.
  6. airfilter1 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

    To check and replace a car air filter, remove the cover held on by screws or clips.

    Check the air filter every other month. Replace it when it’s dirty or as part of a tune-up. It’s easy to reach, right under the big metal “lid” in a carbureted engine; or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the art duct hose assembly.

  7. Check oil every other fill-up. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert it fully and remove it again. If it’s low, add oil. To maintain peak performance, change oil every 3,000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first. Replace the oil filter with every oil change.
  8. Keep the windshield washer fluid reservoir full. When topping off, use some windshield washer fluid on a rag to clean off the wiper blades. In winter months, pay attention to the freezing point of the washer fluid.
  9. Check your car’s battery with every oil change. Use extreme caution when handling a battery because it can produce explosive gases. Do not smoke, create a spark, or light a match near a battery, and always wear protective glasses and gloves. Cables should be attached securely and be free of corrosion. If the battery has filler holes, add only clear, odorless drinking water.
  10. windshieldwiper 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

    Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition prior to winter.

    Inspect the windshield wiper blades whenever you can your windshield. Don’t wait until rubber is worn or brittle to replace the!. Wiper blades should be replaced at least once per year, and more often if smearing or chattering occurs. Be smart about car maintenance!

  11. Be sure all of your car’s lights are clean and working. Check brake lights, turn signals, and emergency flashers, too. Keep spare bulbs and fuses in your vehicle.
  12. Keep tires inflated to the recommended pressure and check for tire wear. It helps if you own your own tire gauge. Check the tires regularly for cuts, bulges, and excessive tread wear. Uneven wear indicates tires are misaligned or out of balance. Keep a record of tire rotation. Rotate at the first 5,000 miles and every 7,500 miles thereafter.
  13. Look for signs of oil seepage on shock absorbers. Test the shock action by bouncing the car up and down. The car should stop bouncing when you step back. Worn or leaking shocks should be replaced. Always replace shock absorbers in pairs.
  14. exhausthanger 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

    Make sure the exhaust pipe has no holes and that the hangars are in good condition.

    Look underneath the car for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in the muffler or pipes. Replace rusted or damaged parts. Have emission checked at least once per year for compliance with local laws.

  15. Take good care of your car and it will take care of you! More car maintenance and repair instructions are available free online on the Fix-It Club’s Car Repairs section.

Take good care of your car with these easy car maintenance tips and it will take care of you!


Smart Warranty Repair

REMOTECONTROL Smart Warranty Repair

Before disassembling appliances and devices for repair, check to see if the problem is covered by a warranty.

The Fix-It Club is ready to help you troubleshoot and repair or replace household things that break. But before you disassemble an appliance, electronic device or other gadget, consider whether it’s actually the manufacturer’s problem or yours. Many consumer items carry a limited warranty that the item will function for at least the specified time after the consumer buys it new. What do you need to know about warranty repair? Let’s find out!

What is a warranty?

A warranty is a guarantee by a seller or manufacturer to a buyer that the goods or services purchased will perform as promised, or a refund will be given, an exchange made, or a repair done at no charge. Warranties usually become effective when the manufacturer receives a warranty application from the buyer (not necessarily at the date of purchase) and are effective for a limited period of time. Warranties usually include limitations that exclude defects not caused by the manufacturer. Warranties are included in the price of the product.

Almost every purchase you make is covered by an implied warranty. The exceptions are items marked “as is” and sold in a state that allows “as is” sales. Implied warranties include warranty of merchantability meaning the seller promises that the product will do what it is supposed to do. A warranty of fitness applies when the product package or the seller tells you that the product is suitable for the described purpose.

Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are really not warranties at all. They are actually service contracts sold at an extra cost that is typically quite profitable for the retailer. That’s why so many retailers ask if you’d like to purchase an extended warranty when you buy something. In some cases, the retailer makes more profit on the extended warranty than on the product it sold you.

What is covered by a warranty? Warranties vary, but typically repair or replacement, though there may be a charge for labor (not parts) or shipping/freight costs. The manufacturer or the seller may be the one required to honor the warranty. The warranty term may be for 30 or 90 days or a year or more.

Fix-It Tip

As you shop for appliance and electronic replacements, open up the box and read the warranty card to find out how long the product or specific parts are covered for repairs or replacement. If the box is sealed, ask a clerk to open it and find the warranty information.

Won’t trying to repair something void the warranty? Maybe. Some warranties prohibit repairs not authorized or done by those authorized by the manufacturer. However, most things you buy will either not work as soon as you try to use them (they’ll be repaired or replaced under warranty) or the day after the warranty expires (fixing is up to you).

Product Recalls

More than 15,000 consumer items, including many things throughout a household, are subject to recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A recall is an announcement from the CPSC that a specific product offers a significant risk to consumers. You should stop using the product and follow instructions in the recall announcement. That may mean calling the manufacturer for a replacement or some other remedy. Each recall announcement is for a specific model of product and the remedy is different for each product recalled. You can find out if products you’ve purchase have been recalled by contacting the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or online at cpsc.gov. You also can report unsafe products that you think should be recalled. The website is also available in languages other than English as well as TTY.

That’s what you need to know about warranty repair.


Simple Repair Tools

FIK9706 Simple Repair Tools

The BASIC Fix-It Kit contains tools needed for simple household repairs. Tools are heat treated and chrome plated to resist corrosion, and contained in a handy blow molded case.

The Fix-It Club offers simple instructions on how to troubleshoot and repair or recycle household things that break. An important part of any repair is selecting the best repair tools for the job.

Tool Basics

A tool is any mechanical implement that cuts, turns, grabs, attaches, or provides some other useful function. To perform major appliance repair, small appliance repair and most other repairs around your household you’ll need at least a few basic repair tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, drills, and pliers. There are additional repair tools for specific jobs, such as a toilet plunger, level, clamps, paint brushes, caulk gun, etc. You can find basic repair tools at local hardware stores or online at Fix-It Club Tools.

Basic Repair Tools

Which repair tools do you need in your fix-it toolbox? We recommend these basics:

  • A good quality 8- or 16-ounce curved-claw hammer for installing and removing nails
  • An adjustable wrench (6, 8, or 10 inches long) for tightening and loosening bolts
  • A set of screwdrivers or a combination screwdriver with assorted tips (standard and Phillips) for tightening and loosening screws
  • Adjustable pliers (6, 8, 10, or 12 inches long) for holding or turning things
FIK9408 Simple Repair Tools

The BETTER Fix-It Kit contains all the tools necessary for most household projects. Tools are heat treated and chrome plated to resist corrosion, and are contained in a sturdy blow molded case with a built in carrying handle for convenient storage.

That’s about it. For less than the cost of replacing many broken household things, you can have the basic repair tools you need to fix hundreds of things in your household. Just make sure you buy at least medium quality. A cheap hammer is hardly worth its price. A medium-quality hammer may last you many years. Besides, you’ll probably save the cost of the tools on your first repair — and you get to keep the tools!

Better Repair Tools

You also can expand your budget to upgrade any of the basic repair tools covered here. For example, you can invest a couple dollars more to get a better set of screwdrivers or even a power screwdriver with assorted tips. If you want to add on to this basic toolbox to make tasks easier — or to make even more repairs — you can get these:

  • A basic multimeter for testing electrical voltage, current, and resistance.
  • Hand or power drill with assorted bits for drilling holes in wood, metal, or plastic
  • Wire stripper for cutting and removing the outer wrapper (insulation) from around electrical wires
  • Retractable-blade utility knife for cutting softer materials such as plastics
  • Measuring tape for measuring the height, width, or depth of various materials
  • Hand, hack, or power saw for cutting wood, plastic, or metal (depending on the blade used)
  • Set of wrenches (open- and closed-end) with standard (inches) and metric (millimeter) sizes for bolts and nuts
  • Socket wrench set with standard (U.S.) and metric sizes using 1/4-, 3/8-, or 1/2-inch ratchet drives for bolts and nuts
  • Allen wrench set for tightening and loosening Allen-head screws and bolts
  • Files are useful for removing excess metal, plastic, and wood.
FIK0773 Simple Repair Tools

The BEST Fix-It Kit is a versatile array of tools for a wide variety of household projects. Tools are heat treated and chrome plated to resist corrosion, and are contained in a sturdy blow molded case with a built in carrying handle for convenient storage. Features an easy-to-use cordless screwdriver with 20 versatile tips.

In addition to common screws and screwdrivers, you may occasionally run in to spanner and Torx fasteners. Both are designed to resist tampering. A spanner bit has a notch in the middle (for fasteners sometimes found on coffee makers). Torx fasteners have six points. In addition, Torx tamper-resistant screws have a post in the center that makes it even more difficult to open (found on some microwaves). If you need to get past one of these fasteners, you can purchase these special tools at larger hardware stores or auto parts centers.

Basic Painting Tool Box

A basic tool kit for painting projects will include these items:

  • Paint brushes or paint pads for applying paint and other finishes to smaller surfaces (better brushes will cost more, but will last a lot longer and spread paint more easily and evenly)
  • Paint roller (frame and cover) and tray for applying paint and other finishes to larger surfaces (a better quality roller cover will last for years and apply paint more easily and evenly)
  • Cartridge gun for applying caulking and other sealers
  • Scrapers and sandpaper for removing paint and other finishes from wood, metal, or plastic
  • A-frame ladder or sturdy step-stool for reaching higher locations
FEFIG30 Simple Repair Tools

These basic painting tools (tray, roller, cover, handle and brush) are all you need for touch-up painting jobs.

Fix-It Work Area

One of the keys to quick repairs is having a convenient place to work. Tools, standard parts, and good lighting are all together in one place. And it’s a place where you can leave things spread out if needed without complaints or losing parts.

Like where? To start, a corner of the dining room or a spare room will work. Parts and tools can be in a small tool chest or even a cardboard box. Nothing fancy, just efficient. Or you can use a small desk in an extra room or in your garage. A used student desk can be purchased for less than the cost of a repair and will give you working surface plus storage for tools and parts. Someday you may have a fix-it bench in the garage (as we do), or even a separate shop, with all the tools you’ve purchased with the money you’ve saved by fixing things yourself.


How to Repair Anything!

repair anything How to Repair Anything!

Following easy step-by-step illustrated instructions you can repair hundreds of household appliances and other things — including a coffee maker.

The Fix-It Club knows how to repair anything! Besides more than 200 illustrated FREE Fix-It Guides, FixItClub.com offers the Fix-It Process, a simple and logical way to troubleshoot and repair anything.

Fix-It Basics

What’s wrong with it? That’s the first big question in fixing broken things. Any broken things! It doesn’t matter whether you need door chime repair, gas grill repair, toy repair, or computer printer repair. You can repair stationary things, mechanical things, electrical things, and hybrid things. Figuring out what’s wrong with it is the most important task. Once you know what’s wrong with it, you’re well on the way to fixing it—or making an informed decision not to. Figuring out what’s wrong with something may sound obvious, but it’s often the step that keeps folks from fixing things easily.

household battery1 How to Repair Anything!

It’s easy to test small batteries that power dozens of small appliances and toys.

The Fix-It Process

Troubleshooting is a problem-solving process with the goal of returning an item to its as-designed state. The item doesn’t work at all, doesn’t work correctly, doesn’t work efficiently, or doesn’t stop working. You can fix anything if you know how to troubleshoot it. And you can troubleshoot if you understand how an item works and how to figure out why it doesn’t work. Here’s the process:

  • What does this thing do?
  • How is it supposed to work?
  • What isn’t this thing doing that it should do?
  • What’s the possible cause(s) of the problem?
  • What parts and tools will I need to fix it?
  • What are the steps to fixing it?
  • Once fixed, does it now work?
COFFEEMAKER4 300x224 How to Repair Anything!

Testing an appliance control or switch is easy with a multimeter or volt-ohm meter (VOM).

For example, a coffee maker, obviously, is an apparatus for brewing coffee. There are two types of coffee makers: drip and percolator. A drip coffee maker is designed to heat water then pump it to drip through the coffee basket and into a carafe. Most drip coffee makers also keep the carafe of coffee warm. That’s a drip coffee maker’s as-designed state; that’s what it’s supposed to do. What does it not do? In our example, the drip coffee maker doesn’t keep the coffee hot, though everything else works. Knowing how a coffee maker is supposed to work, you will identify the problem to be within the warming element or controls. To check it you need a multimeter for testing these components. Then, following the specific steps in the Coffee Maker Fix-It Guide, you disassemble, test, and, if needed, replace the part. Finally, you can brew yourself some coffee and know that it will stay warm.

Easy Repairs

faucet3 How to Repair Anything!

Learn how to fix any type of faucet with clear instructions from the Fix-It Club.

So, that’s the fix-it process . You can apply it to every thing that’s broken. That’s because the fix-it process works for every thing. It’s a simplified version of a time-tested problem-solving system. If it’s fixable, you can do it! Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can restore to working condition using the fix-it process. They include stationary, mechanical, electrical, and hybrid things. Every thing in your household falls into these categories. Now you know how to repair anything. Visit the Fix-It Club! It’s free!


Fix-It Tips: November

GASFURNACE2 Fix It Tips: November

Clean and adjust your furnace at least once a year for optimum performance and lower fuel costs.

The Fix-It Club offers simple instructions for common household repairs. Following are ten practical maintenance and troubleshooting tips that can help you keep repairs to a minimum. Topics for November include recycling, furnace filters, door drafts, main water shutoff, forced-air distribution efficiency, fireplace safety, cleaning garden tools, heater thermostats, aluminum window care and window screens. Come back each month (or sooner) to check out the latest Fix-It Tips!

Fix-It Tip #1

Can’t repair it? Recycle or re-use it! Visit our partner, Earth911.org, for useful information how how to recycle or reuse things that just can’t be fixed. Our goal is to fix the economy and the environment one repair at a time.

Fix-It Tip #2

Change or clean the filter regularly for maximum efficiency from your furnace.

Fix-It Tip #3

Temporarily stop a draft from under a front door with a rolled up towel or small blanket snugged up to the bottom of the door.

Fix-It Tip #4

Learn where your home’s main water shut off is located so you can turn water off quickly in case of an emergency. Show it to kids who are old enough to be home alone.

Fix-It Tip #5

Save energy by closing forced-air distribution vents in rooms that don’t need to be toasty warm.

Fix-It Tip #6

Avoid a chimney fire. Position a mirror in the firebox of your fireplace or wood-burning stove to see up the chimney and check for a buildup of creosote.

Fix-It Tip #7

Clean and repair garden tools before you store them for the winter in a dry basement, garage, or storage building.

Fix-It Tip #8

Install an automatic setback thermostat to precisely control your furnace and save energy. It can be set to automatically keep the house cooler at night when your family is sleeping and during hours when the house is unoccupied.

Fix-It Tip #9

Remove oxidation from aluminum window frames with steel wool or a mildly abrasive household cleaner. Then apply a coat of automotive paste wax for protection.

Fix-It Tip #10

Remove and store window screens for the winter. You’ll enjoy maximum sunshine and save wear on the screens.

–Dan “The Fix-It Man” Ramsey


How to Recycle or Reuse It!

POPCORNPOPPER3 300x224 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

A motor from a small appliance can be reused in many ways, including taking it apart to learn how motors work.

The Fix-It Club can help you repair hundreds of household things that break: appliances, bicycles, cell phones, computers, electric fans, hair dryers, iPhones, microwaves, plumbing, slow cookers, tvs, toasters, yard trimmers, and more. But there will be some things that you just can’t fix—or don’t want to pay to have fixed, or that will cost too much to fix. So what are you going to do with those things? Consider the many creative ways of recycling before you send anything to the landfill.

Recycle It

Because recycling is subject to local interpretation and budgets, you may find that recycling things and parts may be quite easy or relatively difficult depending on where you live. The best place to learn about recycling is to call whatever company picks up your trash. If you’re rural and must take trash and recycling to a landfill, transfer station, or recycle center, contact the company to find out what it can use and what it can’t, and whether there is a charge.

For example, many communities have curbside pickup for trash and recycling. The recycled things may be collected in a single bin or need to be sorted by type: metals, plastics, papers, and yard waste. Some communities have curbside recycling for small and major appliances while others don’t. And in some towns, there are private recyclers that will pick up just about any recyclable materials you put at the curb on a specified day.

Most major appliances are about 75 percent steel—and about a third of that is recycled steel. Other metals in appliances include copper, aluminum, and zinc, all recyclable. Refrigerators, freezers, ranges, ovens, cook tops, clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, trash compactors are all potentially recyclable.

Refrigeration appliances may require specialized recyclers to remove the Freon gas before recycling. That’s why some recyclers and landfills charge a fee for accepting these appliances. Others charge a fee for any large objects that they accept.

You also can find local recyclers in your local telephone book under headings like Recycle Centers and Scrap Metals. Many will pay you for aluminum cans, clear glass, PET plastics, and nonferrous (non-iron) metals. PET stands for poly ethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin used in many products–and easily recycled into new products.

Reuse It

There are many things around your home that you can reuse instead of recycling or tossing. Think creatively before you banish something from your household. For example:

  • Unrepairable clothing can become fix-it shop rags or quilting squares.
  • Broken or discarded kitchen cabinets can be used as work cabinets in your fix-it shop.
  • Extra drawers from a broken dresser can become under-bed storage containers.
  • Ugly but usable hairdryers can be put to work thawing frozen pipes or making small patches of paint dry faster.
  • Old tires can be nailed to walls in tight garages to reduce car scrapes or used in the yard as landscaping material or as play equipment.
  • Polystyrene packing (peanuts) and other packing materials can be used to pack around breakable gifts or any package you need to mail or ship.
lionsclubglasses 200x134 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

Donate out-of-prescription eye glasses to your local Lions Club for reuse.

Give it to Someone Who Can Use It

  • Donate old eyeglasses to your local Lions Club.
  • Some charities will accept operating computers and appliances.
  • Old cell phones can be donated to groups that help homeless and/or low-income people to be used for emergency-only calls.
  • Local charities may also accept diskettes, video tapes, polystyrene packing, compact discs, and holiday greeting cards.
  • A senior center or homeless shelter may appreciate your old books and magazines.
  • Packing peanuts and other packing materials are appreciated by your local mailbox/shipping store.
  • Animal shelters gladly take donations of clean blankets and towels.

What You Can Recycle

Recycling rules are localized. Your curbside recycling collector will probably accept many recyclables. Check with your local trash collector and/or recycler and any local recycling center for more information. However, many recyclers and communities use these guidelines:

  • Glass: Unbroken glass containers (not tableware, ceramics, Pyrex, windows, light bulbs, mirrors, or broken glass). Clear glass is valuable, mixed color glass is nearly worthless, and broken glass is hard to sort. Don’t bother removing labels.
  • Paper: Newspapers and inserts (not dirty, not rubber bands, plastic bags, product samples, dirt, or mold). Some locations don’t recycle cardboard, others do. Not waxed milk or juice cartons. Some recyclers require that magazines be recycled separately from newspapers.
  • Metal: Empty metal cans, caps, lids, bands, foil, (not full cans, spray cans, or cans with paint or hazardous waste). Many recyclers don’t even require that you remove labels.
  • Aluminum: Lawn chairs, window frames, pots (not metal parts attracted to magnets, nonmetal parts); sometimes tin is recycled with aluminum.
  • Motor oil: Call your garbage company or auto lube center. (Each year do-it-yourselfers improperly dump more oil than the Exxon Valdez spilled!)
  • Batteries: Automotive (take to a parts retailer); alkaline and rechargeable, such as those used in cordless phones, camcorders, shavers, portable appliances, and computers (throw in the trash unless prohibited); nickel-cadmium (recycle).
  • Ink cartridges: Send to a recycler or refiller. Your local office supply store may accept them.
  • Household toxins (paints, oils, solvents, pesticides, cleaners): Call your garbage collector for advice. Do not dump them down storm drains.
  • Plastic: Virtually everything made of plastic should be marked with a recycle code, but not all types can actually be recycled. You may be able to recycle plastic grocery bags at the grocery store; other plastic bags may have to be trashed. Any product made of a single plastic type should be marked and might be recyclable; those with mixed plastic types can’t be recycled.
  • Things requiring specialized recyclers: Major appliances with Freon (chlorinated fluorocarbon CFC)require trained technicians to remove; other items that require special recycling include antifreeze, asphalt shingles, car batteries, computers, ink and toner cartridges, rugs, smoke detectors, and single-use cameras.

Other Recycling Options

FEDWG05 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

Recycling symbols for common plastics.

What if the recycler won’t take it? Who will? In years past, organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and St. Vincent de Paul took nonworking items as donations for rehabilitation. The items were rehabilitated along with the people who fixed them. Broken things created jobs. However, the labor market has absorbed these workers into the mainstream, providing jobs in restaurants, retail stores, and factories. So, today, most of these organizations don’t accept nonworking items (except computers). In fact, such “donations” actually cost the group money because they have to dispose of the item. Goodwill Industries, for example, asks that donations be of “things you would give to a friend.”

Another option is to recycle broken things to repair shops. For example, small appliance repair shops may accept nonworking items and reuse the parts. Or they may refurbish and resell items. Most won’t pay you anything for the broken things–there’s just not enough profit in it–but they may bring it back to working condition and save someone some money. And you won’t have to pay to put it in the landfill.

If you learn to enjoy fixing things, donate something that breaks to your education. That is, put it on the workbench for a rainy day and disassemble it to figure out how it works. You may even be able to salvage and reuse an otherwise good motor, heat element, or switches. You’ll be a member in good standing of the Fix-It Club!


Really Easy Electrical Tests

electrical test1 Really Easy Electrical Tests

The electrical testers shown here are a continuity tester (left), a multimeter (middle), and two circuit testers (right) available at hardware and parts stores. Continuity testers and multimeters require internal batteries.

The Fix-It Club goal is to make electrical repairs and other home repairs easier. With simple instructions and an inexpensive electrical tester, you can test a wide variety of electrical and electronic devices in your home. For example, you can perform electrical tests during blender repair, washer repair, dryer repair, refrigerator repair, electrical cord repair, coffee maker repair, electric heater repair, holiday light repair, radio repair, vacuum cleaner repair, fuse replacement, when testing batteries and much more. With just a few uses, you can pay for your electrical tester in repair savings.

The three types of electrical testers for consumers are a continuity tester, a circuit tester, and a multimeter (VOM). All are easy to find and operate, typically coming with printed instructions. You’ll find a variety of electrical test tools at hardware stores, auto parts stores and large discount stores. Shop around and ask for help. You’ll probably keep and use your first electrical test equipment for many years. Here’s how to perform easy electrical tests:

Continuity Tester

Electricity needs a continuous path or circuit to flow. It’s like a two-lane road from point A to point B and back. If one or both lanes are blocked, traffic — in this case, electricity — stops. A continuity tester is useful for checking electrical cords and wires to make sure they can conduct electricity.

To test for continuity, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source (electrical receptacle or outlet).
  2. Turn ON any switches on the device.
  3. Attach the alligator clip to one prong of the cord.
  4. Touch the tip of the continuity tester to the other prong. If there is continuity, the tester will light up. If not, it won’t.
electrical test2 Really Easy Electrical Tests

A continuity tester can tell you whether electricity can flow through a cord. Wiggling the cord during the test can show if there is an intermittent break in the circuit.

Here’s how it works: The continuity tester sends electricity from an internal battery through one cord prong and down the wires. If the light gets electrical current from the other prong it lights up, meaning that the path is good. Otherwise, something, like a broken wire or component, is stopping it. You can remove the cord from the appliance and test each of the two wires separately to see which one doesn’t work. If both work, the short is in the appliance itself. You can buy a continuity tester under $10.

A circuit tester is simply a continuity tester without an internal battery. It uses the device’s electricity to power it. Be careful using a circuit tester and follow manufacturer’s instructions for safety.

Multimeter

A multimeter (also called a volt-ohmmeter or VOM) is another way of testing continuity. It also can measure the amount of alternating current (AC or household current) or direct current (DC or battery current) in a plugged-in or live circuit. It can check voltage, too.

electrical test3 Really Easy Electrical Tests

Analog multimeters measuring conductivity/resistance must first be adjusted for a zero reading. Check instructions that come with a new multimeter.

For example, a multimeter can verify that there are about 120 volts in an AC circuit or that a 9-volt battery is fully charged. In addition, a multimeter can check resistance. A continuity tester checks resistance, but answers yes or no. A multimeter checks resistance and reports how many ohms (the measurement of resistance) a circuit carries.

Fix-It Tip

Troubleshooting some devices may not even require that you use a multimeter. Many major appliances have fault codes that you can read and decipher using the owner’s manual. You press a button or two, read the resulting code, and look it up for repair instructions. And, if you don’t have the original owner’s manual nearby, search for it online. Multimeters are relatively inexpensive. The analog unit shown was $10 and the digital multimeter was $20, though you can pay $50 or more for more accurate models. The ones shown here are sufficient for most electrical tests called for in the Fix-It Guides.

You can use a multimeter to test motors, switches, controllers, home appliances and many other electrical gadgets. Specific instructions will come with the multimeter you purchase.

electrical test4 Really Easy Electrical Tests

Connect the multimeter’s probes to the device. (Shown is a digital multimeter.)

Here’s how to use a multimeter to test an electric appliance:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source, except when testing a live circuit.
  2. Plug the test leads in to the multimeter.
  3. Select the function (ACV, DVC, resistance) and the range (maximum reading expected).
  4. Connect the probes to the cord or appliance component.
  5. Interpret the reading. The Fix-It Guides and the device’s owner’s manual will tell you what to expect — and what to do about it.
electrical test5 Really Easy Electrical Tests

The reading with the device on will show some, but not infinite (1), resistance. If it shows infinite, the switch or other internal component is bad (heating element, etc.) and disassembly is required to fix the problem.

Quick Test

Here’s a quick test you can perform on any electrical device without disassembling it. Use a multimeter or continuity tester to check the appliance’s continuity — ability to pass electricity from one plug prong to the other — when the switch is on. If it passes, the appliance is okay. If not, you’ll need to disassemble it further to find the problem.

Now you know how to perform easy electrical tests! Welcome to the Fix-It Club!