By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Are you hosting any parties this holiday season? Have you thought about whether your appliances are up for it? In this week’s Angie’s List report, Jim Donovan has a look at ways to prevent your appliances from failing on you, so you don’t end up stuck with a big repair bill.

The holiday season your appliances will likely get a workout, but are they in good shape?

“When it comes to appliances, homeowners oftentimes take them for granted. We don’t take proper care of them, and then we end up disappointed when they don’t work right. We overstuff our freezers so proper airflow can’t get through,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

If you’re cooking a big dinner and don’t use your oven that often, give it a test run ahead of time.

And don’t forget to do simple maintenance on your refrigerator.

“If you have coils underneath there you can vacuum them and keep them clean. Some are on the back behind the back panel, and you have to pull out and take the back panel off to do some cleaning, but be sure you unplug it when you do that. If they are on the back wall — if the condenser coils are on the back wall — just dust them off, that’s all you got to do,” said appliance repair expert, Rick Cantleberry.

Your dishwasher will also be working overtime this holiday season. Do yourself a favor and clean off those plates.

“We literally see people with steak or chicken bones inside their dishwashers, and then the people say ‘Well, they told us there was a disposal in there and it will chop up the food.’ Not true, really. There are a lot of dishwashers that have a chopping blade in there, which will chop up small pieces: Corn, beans, things like that. You’re going to end up ruining that chopping blade and then calling us because of a clog, and then you have a repair bill on your hands,” added Cantleberry.

More from Angie:

Angie’s List dos & don’ts to get the most out of your appliances:

• Stoves/Ovens – Self-cleaning cycles cause the oven to run at extremely high temperatures. Do not run the self-cleaning cycle right before your big meal. Check your oven’s performance at least two weeks before the big day by getting a basic cake mix and following the directions exactly. If the cake isn’t perfect in the time frame set out on the box, your oven’s temperature might be off. Clean the oven after each use with soap and water — that will help prevent having to run the self-clean function.

• Refrigerators – In addition to overfilling, the number 1 issue with refrigerators is a failure to clean the condenser coil, which dissipates heat from the unit. Clean the coil every six months by unplugging the refrigerator, vacuuming the coil and using an air blower to get out any remaining dust or debris. Failure to keep this clean leads to performance issues. Refrigerators with misaligned doors from hinges damaged by people hanging on the door, or a bad seal, can also lead to trouble keeping food cold. You can test if the seal is tight by sliding a piece of paper between the seal and the door. If the paper slides down with the door closed, you should probably have the seal replaced.

• Dishwashers – Clean your dishwasher’s filter at least twice a year to remove particles and debris. The filters location can vary depending on the model, so be sure to check your owner’s manual. Rinse large food particles off dishes. Check the spinning arms to make sure the spray holes are free of debris. Avoid leaving a dishwasher running with no one home. If the automatic shutoff fails, you could come home to an overflowing unit and a water-damaged house.

• Garbage disposals – Keep the blades sharp by running cold water and sending a cup of ice down the disposal. Run cold water for 10 seconds before inserting food into the disposal and for 30 seconds after each use. Cold water helps solidify grease and fat so they can be chopped up by the disposal.

• Maintain your appliances: Maintenance required for your appliance will depend on the manufacturer. Always check with your model’s manual. Whenever you perform extensive maintenance work on your appliances, take the necessary safety precautions. Shut off electrical and gas lines when working on them. Consult an appliance repair professional for major maintenance/repairs.

• When to repair versus replace: If an appliance repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, you’re probably better off replacing it with a newer model.

There are many factors consumers need to consider before hiring an appliance repair service. Home appliances are expensive, and you want to ensure the company you hire is reputable and has the skills required to complete the fix in a timely and efficient manner.

Angie’s List Tips: Hiring an appliance repair service:

• Research potential hires. Get at least three estimates and compare the bids based on price, parts, labor and warranty. You also want to research how long the company has been in business, check reviews on Angie’s List and speak with past clients.

• Inquire about costs. Expect to pay up to $100 for a typical service call. Additional parts and labor charges will apply if you hire the company for a repair, but many companies will deduct the service charge.

• Check skill level. It’s important to hire a company whose employees have the training to complete the job. Ask if the employees are factory trained or certified in appliance repair. Ask if they have experience working with your make and model.

• Is the work under warranty? Check to see if the repair service guarantees its work, and determine how long. Most warranties vary from 90 days to one year.

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