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Don't confuse deferred maintenance with the need to call the repairman.

Periodic maintenance, as prescribed by the appliance manufacturer, can extend the life of your appliances, giving you more time before you must consider the repair-vs-replace conundrum.

A clothes dryer's lint-clogged filter or venting, for example, can increase drying times and trigger a service call when maintenance is all that was necessary.

"You do have to care for them just like any consumer product and it's a good idea to have a real qualified maintenance person on an annual basis, or depending on how much you use it, give it a thorough cleaning, remove the back panels for a check and remove built up lint in dryers and ducting, and on washing machines and refrigerators (with ice makers and water dispensers) check the hoses. It's as much for safety as it is for performance," says Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) .

AHAM and Canton MI-based do-it-yourself appliance service and repair Web site, RepairClinic.com, offer these additional maintenance tips.

  • Before inspecting appliances don't neglect your safety. Unplug them! Approach appliances only as instructed in the manual.
  • Keep ovens' interiors and ranges' drip pans clean to prevent burns, fires and damage.
  • Periodically clean refrigerators' cooling fans, condenser coils and drain pans. Vacuum beneath refrigerators every few months. As needed, defrost manual-defrost models as outlined in the manual. Keep door seals clean and free of debris and replace cracked or torn seals. Replace the icemaker filter every six months.
  • Replace washing machines' rubber hoses at the first sign of wear. Consider replacing rubber hoses with more durable flexible stainless steel hoses. Keep washing machines level to prevent unbalanced loads and banging.
  • Dishwashers' water inlet valves need replacing every three to seven years or insufficient water levels may not allow the washer to thoroughly clean dishes. Keep the dishwasher's filter, and spray arms clean and clear of clogs.

    Take care that none of your preventive maintenance tasks void the warranty. If you remove panels or other wise open an appliance to get at its insides you could lose the protection of your warrant.

    "When you consider warranties with appliances, if you remove panels and use a screw driver or other tools you could void the warranty," says Mike Kozlowski, director of product service engineering for Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck and Co.

    The RepairClinic.com offers a full month-by-month maintenance calendar for all appliances.

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