Jessie Raymond: Aging appliance applying the heat

Our dishwasher has been acting up lately. One day, it works fine. The next day, about halfway through doing whatever it does (all the while making a sound like a 737 taking off), it goes silent, offering nothing by way of explanation beyond the “clean” light flashing endlessly off and on.
I know nothing about dishwashers, but I do know about the Internet. And the Internet said the flashing light means the dishwasher thinks the water isn’t hot enough. So it quits.
The water is plenty hot. The dishwasher is being a diva.
The Internet also told me that by pressing several of the buttons on the display panel in a certain order at a certain speed while also shouting “Expelliarmus!” I could reset the hot water sensor and trick the washer into starting from scratch.
Which I did.
And which I have continued to do every other load or so, for several months, whenever the washer stamps its foot and says, “I don’t care if the water is hot, it doesn’t feel hot to me.” What a whiner.
If you’ve ever had an appliance go on the blink, you know there’s a standard procedure to follow:
1. Fix it yourself. I had already established through my years of mechanical training (well, minutes of online searching, anyway) that my dishwasher was having computer issues. I could reset the computer, but I couldn’t prevent the error from recurring. So I tried the next logical step.
2. Wait and see if the appliance fixes itself. I love this approach. I always hold out hope that a machine, given time, will heal on its own. While this didn’t pan out with our defunct toaster or our spontaneously combusting microwave, I suspected that the dishwasher was just going through a phase. Most people by this point would have moved on to step three.
3. Call a repairman. Actually, I did this — not because I lacked faith in the dishwasher’s odds of recovery, but because in the meantime, my oven had stopped heating up. That’s the oven’s only job, really, and I count on it. A working dishwasher is a mere convenience; I need a working oven.
While the repairman was here to fix the oven, he took a look at the dishwasher. But he couldn’t replicate the error. The dishwasher, in an enthusiastic but, frankly, transparent attempt to discredit me, showed off by washing, rinsing and practically turning cartwheels for the repairman’s enjoyment. Luckily, he had seen this kind of thing before and wasn’t fooled. Which brings us to what should have been the final step.
4. Have the problem fixed. It sounds obvious. But it wasn’t that simple.
In our case, it came down to numbers; specifically, 10 and 200. The dishwasher is more than 10 years old. The cost of a new temperature sensor is over $200. Did we want to put hundreds of dollars into an appliance that could drop dead at any time?
“Let’s just get a new dishwasher,” my husband said.
A shiny new appliance? Yes, please. I mean, why put $200-plus into a lame-duck dishwasher when we could just by a new one for a little bit more money?
I’ll tell you why: because it turns out new ones cost significantly more than $200. The top-rated models, in fact, come in at $800 or more. (For $800, I expect a dishwasher to load itself.)
Unable to decide, I’ve added one additional step.
5. Hem and haw. Fix the old, or buy new? I don’t want to sink money into an item that might pack it in tomorrow. But replacing it would leave a huge hole in our budget and, by extension, my tightwad heart.
So for now, the dishwasher continues to goof off every other day, and I find myself regularly pressing elaborate combinations of buttons and yelling incantations to get the thing back on track. My friends have mentioned, in concerned tones, that this is not a normal way to live.
Maybe not, but it’s something to pass the time while I’m hemming, not to mention hawing. I’ll probably keep doing it until the dishwasher fails altogether or a self-loading model comes on the market and justifies its price tag.
And if neither of those happens, fine. If, in 20 or 25 years we downsize to a smaller place, we’ll simply leave the old dishwasher behind.
Problem solved.

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