Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Over-the-Range Microwave?

The thing about microwaves is that while they may look like simple boxes, they have some complicated electronics and aren’t a candidate for most DIY fixes. That’s because a microwave can hold an electrical charge of thousands of volts in its capacitors for hours or even days after it has been unplugged. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that people have been electrocuted trying to repair their microwaves. So don’t try it.

While some microwave issues render them inoperable, not every problem requires an immediate repair. The chief complaint our members reported about their microwaves was that they are too noisy. That’s not something you can fix, and microwaves run in such short bursts that it’s likely you can tolerate the brief interruption. If the turntable stops turning, you can live with that for a while and rotate the food yourself so it heats evenly. But if the door won’t shut or the control panel breaks (two of the top three most common problems), you’ll need a repair.

Finding the right person to repair your microwave isn’t easy, perhaps because there are so many options. You can call the retailer where you bought it, call the manufacturer, or find an independent repair service in your area. Before reaching out, check to see if your microwave is under warranty—most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty. If it’s covered, the repair may cost less or even be free. In our survey, more than two-thirds of the OTR microwaves that were professionally repaired were covered by a warranty.

In our member survey, we found that owners of OTR microwaves were roughly divided between having the repairs performed by manufacturers, independent repair shops, and DIYers, with a smaller number (16 percent) reaching out to retailers for help. When a repair was attempted, 95 percent were successful.

The best way to avoid a costly repair is to maintain your microwave to begin with. Keep it clean (including the filters underneath, which can get gunky with cooking grease), don’t mistakenly run it on empty, don’t put anything other than food and microwave-safe dishware inside, and don’t slam the door. (The door latches have to align for the microwave to work correctly.)

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