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Microwave DIY Adventure

broken microwave handle

Not my microwave, but same problem.

I’m not really a DIY kind of guy. My excuse is that I’m busy and I should concentrate on what I do professionally and let the repair people do their thing. However, now that I’m preparing to go it alone and leave my day gig, I will have to pick up some DIY skills. There is so much information on the internet these days and you can find a ton of DIY instructions online. Today, I bring you another tale from my DIY adventure.

About 10 days ago, Mrs. RB40 broke the microwave handle as she was opening the door. The plastic part that the screw goes into broke clean off. This is probably not a rare thing because I was able to find a picture on the internet pretty easily. (I forgot to take a picture…) 5 years ago I would have called a repair man and let him deal with it, but now my goal is to be a DIY guy, so I figured I’d see if I could fix it myself. After all, I already fixed one microwave last year when the door switch went bad.

The Fix

So I went to the appliancepartspros.com to see if they sold a handle. Yes, they did, but it cost $74 after shipping is added. I’m thinking this is ridiculous. This piece of crap plastic is going to cost me $74! So I put it off for a few days. Yesterday, I finally took the door apart to make sure I could get the handle off first before I ordered a new one. I thought taking the door apart will be difficult because I couldn’t find any screws, but it turned out to be pretty easy. Check out this video.

After I got the handle off, I had an AHA! moment. There were two screw hole posts on the top side of the handle. One broke clean off, but the other one was intact. The door only has one hole so what I needed to do was to drill a hole through the sheet metal and I’d be set. So that’s what I did. I went off to Home Depot and purchased a titanium drill and a center punch. After that, it was history. I’m sure if I call a repair guy, this would have cost at least $150. The last time I called them, they wanted $100 just to figure out what’s wrong with it. (This was the switch problem where the microwave was not heating up at all.)

So it turned out very well this time. I spent $10 on tools instead of $150. You never know where DIY will take you. I’ll try to do more DIY projects and continue to build my Mr. Fix It skills. Guys, it really impresses the Mrs. so it’s well worth doing it yourself. πŸ˜‰

Next project: replace our reluctant to flush toilets. Do you have any DIY projects lined up? It felt great to fix this one without having to shell out for a replacement part.

Disclaimer: Repairing the microwave can cause leakage so if you are unsure, it’s best to bite the bullet and call a professional.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Adam June 14, 2012, 10:28 am

    NO NO NO. I hope I am not too late and that you will read this:

    Please discontinue use of the microwave, and dispose of it immediately. Under no circumstance should an anyone but a trained professional attempt to modify or repair a microwave. Doing so puts the user at risk of exposure to potentially harmful levels of microwave radiation. I spent over 2 years working at a major american appliance manufacturer, and I know first hand that this is not something to be taken lightly. There is of course little proof that it will cook you based on a small hole drilled in the case, but don’t take that chance. Just pony up and buy a new one.


  • 101 Centavos May 4, 2012, 3:51 am

    Heh! Seems that easy repairs in the kitchen and laundry (appliances, minor plumbing) delivery the most savings bang for the buck. I fixed a loose fridge handle recently, and it was just a matter of lifting the handle assembly off right, and having the right tool, a star bit for the screwdriver. A call to the local appliance guys would have been $110, their minimum.

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:11 am

      The appliance guys charges so much. I bet they make more money than many regular employee.

  • Aloysa @My Broken Coin May 3, 2012, 6:36 pm

    Beaker replaced our faucet in the kitchen. He did such a good job that now I am trying to come up with more DIY projects for him to do. πŸ™‚ Be careful, my friend! Mrs RB40 might be following in my footsteps.

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:10 am

      Heh heh, I think you’re right about that one.

  • Broke Professionals May 3, 2012, 1:19 pm

    We had a microwave disaster almost exactly a year ago – a metal component on the ceiling of the microwave melted down, so we had to pitch it. I don’t think we could have DIY’d it, but really, maybe we could have…

    We had a problem with our AC last summer, and thought we were going to have to call HVAC folks. Instead, my husband found it was a blown circuit breaker and replaced it for $4!!! We estimate he saved us at least $100-$200!

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:10 am

      Wow, that sounds serious. How did it happen? Great job with the HVAC. Our system is so old and need a total overhaul. πŸ™

  • John @ Married (with Debt) May 3, 2012, 9:03 am

    We just fixed a persistently clogged kitchen sink drain by renting a 25ft snake for $25. Calling the plumber would have been at least $100.

    We also have a microwave that is about 15 years old but still works like a champ. Glad to see that I can repair it myself should a similar problem arise.

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:08 am

      That’s a great idea. I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time. It seems the most fragile parts of the microwaves are the handles and door switches.

  • Christa May 3, 2012, 6:19 am

    My husband saved us a ton of money by fixing our refrigerator himself. He’s a computer tech, though; so when the motherboard got fried in an electrical storm, he was all over fixing it. Me? I would have had to call a repair person on that one!

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:07 am

      Wow, that’s impressive. I assume he replaced the motherboard.

  • Nunzio Bruno May 2, 2012, 8:33 pm

    Great vid and greater savings! While I can’t say that I will be trying to fix my microwave anytime soon your post def inspired me to look around my home and office for ways of sprucing things up a bit. I did manage to knock a few things off my next Staples run. That’s exciting and keeps Financially Digital running a little leaner. Now to see what else I can DIY save for myself πŸ™‚

    • retirebyforty May 4, 2012, 10:07 am

      DIY is fun if you have time. πŸ™‚

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc May 2, 2012, 1:26 pm

    I don’t do many DIY projects like that for the same reasons you cited. However, I am happy that this one ended up working out. I think paying $74 for the plastic (or other easy fixes) is ridiculous as well πŸ™‚ Congrats on the fix.

    • retirebyforty May 2, 2012, 5:21 pm

      I’m starting to like DIY more and more. πŸ™‚ Thanks.

  • Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog May 2, 2012, 8:40 am

    Nice DIY fix joe – you’ll be on your way to going it alone confidently in no time! my latest diy was a bathroom remodel – still in the remodelling stages, but have torn out the entire old bathroom without paying anyone!

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 2, 2012, 7:19 am

    Nice job! And if you keep expanding your skills, you’ll get more use from the $10 investment in tools. I like to attempt DIY, and you’re right: One can get instructions for just about any repair on youtube. But I’ve always been baffled by electricity. I’ll replace a light fixture, but that’s pretty much where I draw the line.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple May 2, 2012, 7:08 am

    Congrats on the fix! I like to DIY but my skills are lacking in a lot of areas. We’ve finished a lot of our projects but when you own a house, stuff is always breaking…

    • retirebyforty May 2, 2012, 8:51 am

      That’s true about owning a house.

  • Joel May 2, 2012, 6:04 am

    Depending on where the exact break was in the handle, I think I would have reached for the trusty epoxy to fix this problem. Nasty stuff (mix outside if at all possible) but can fix an amazing amount of things and is often stronger than the material it is bonded to.

    • retirebyforty May 2, 2012, 8:51 am

      I was thinking about superglue, but I didn’t think it would hold up. I’ll have to keep epoxy in mind for next time.

      • CmonCins May 13, 2012, 4:39 am

        JB Weld is the ticket, comes in like a stick of silly putty, pinch off a small amount and mash into pliable putty tween your fingertips, and apply to what you need repaired. Have a cup of warm water handy to dip your fingers in and smooth it out like clay and clean your fingers. Hardens in a few minutes, cures overnight. Perfect everytime. There are numerous versions of the same stuff called different names.

        • retirebyforty May 14, 2012, 1:57 pm

          I will try that when the handle break again. (I’m sure it will.)

  • Alexa May 2, 2012, 6:01 am

    We had a microwave issue a few weeks ago too. A bird had made its nest in the hole for the exhaust from the vent-a-hood part of the microwave! We had little branches and grass everywhere when we turned the thing on!

    • retirebyforty May 2, 2012, 8:50 am

      Hahaha, that’s crazy. Isn’t there suppose to be a vent screen or something?

      • Alexa May 7, 2012, 5:25 am

        I have no idea. But you better believe there is one now!!!

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