The first step in appliance repair is simple: Check the warranty.
Most manufacturers provide free service on their products for a year or more--a benefit you may forfeit if you undertake a repair yourself. If a broken appliance is under warranty, let the manufacturer repair it.
Service contracts are available from some companies. Although a service contract can be expensive, it's an option to consider if the appliance is used heavily and you would rather not tackle major repairs.
If you have neither a warranty nor a service contract, you might try fixing the appliance yourself. Many repairs are simple enough so that a lay person with a little patience can do them. Many appliance problems are caused by a single component or connection.
Large appliances such as washers and dryers can sometimes be the simplest to fix; they are designed to be taken apart, and the most serviceable components are usually accessible. Inexpensive small appliances, however, are sometimes designed to be discarded rather than repaired. Manufacturers may discourage repairs on such appliances by sealing the housing or by assembling it with fasteners that require special tools for removal.
Hiring a Professional
Not all all appliances with serviceable parts can or should be repaired by the owner. Some manufacturers place a label on the appliance warning that repairs should be undertaken only by an authorized service center. Even though you may be able to open the appliance, you may not be able to buy the parts to repair it.
Don't take an appliance apart unless you have to. Start by looking for the obvious: Is the machine unplugged? Is the circuit breaker off or the fuse blown? Are you using the appliance improperly? Are the power cord and plug in good condition? Then check the owner's manual for maintenance and trouble-shooting tips.
If you must disassemble an appliance, remove as few parts as possible. If you do remove a part, mark connecting wires with tape or sketch their alignment. Don't tamper with calibrated devices such as thermostats, particularly if their adjusting screws are secured with a drop of plastic as a reminder to leave them alone.
For Safety's Sake
Before testing or repairing an appliance, unplug it. If you can't unplug it, turn off the power to the circuit at your home's main service panel.