I have an ancient -- and still operating -- Maytag clothes drier. It is literally older than I am. During its nearly 40yrs of use, I've had only one problem with it: The heating element burned out due to a coin working its way into the heating chamber. $11 later, it's back to normal.
The most interesting part about repairing it was when I opened the unit and looked inside. At first it looked like 1000 dust bunnies had exploded in there. But after vacuuming all the lint out, it looked brand-spanking-new inside! They had done a wonder job of material selection, and used a baked-on enamel coating that was completely impervious to aging.
Compare that to the washing machine I bought a few years ago. It's a Kenmore front loader that does an outstanding job of cleaning clothes, but within the first 9 months it had a failed computer module, which would have cost half of the sale price to replace if it hadn't still been under warranty. The problem? The dang washer had shaken the capacitors loose! After the repairman left, I made sure the new one was gooped so solid that it won't happen again. And the repairman let me keep the old computer, so I have some spare parts in case anything happens.
Operator convenience seems to be the driving factor in many of these upgrades. I think the rise of service contracts is the indicator that Convenience for the Operator (once the household engineer learns what is what) ends up becoming the prime requirement the NEXT time you buy one. Just like cell phones, only engineer-crank-collectors care about servicability.
My 1989 vintage, water and electric inefficient Maytag washer and drying will be in my house for as long as I can source replacement parts. I have been raising four kids using these workhorses. Just this past year, due to clunking of the drum, I replaced the plastic and cork drum glides on the front of the dryer and replaced the rear rollers and felts just for good measure although they probably didn't need it. I put in a new belt too since it was apart but the old one was still working fine. 21 years of constant use and this was the first time I had to do ANYTHING to that dryer. The washer still has it's original belts and all. No problems with it either. The tree-huggers and green-washers will have to pry my cold, stiff fingers off these babies. I'm not giving them up for nuttin.
Rant over. Phew.
Oh, how I wish I still had the 1992 vintage KitchenAid dishwasher in my previous house. That enameled steel tub dishwasher was built like a tank and I never had any problems with it. Mechanical timer too. But, alas; Whirlpool bought and destroyed the KitchenAid brand too judging by the dishwashers I see in the store with the KitchenAid label.
My Whirlpool side-by-side refrigerator is another waste of $1100. The little tabs on the brittle plastic inner door panels break off and the shelves fall down. Both the freezer and fridge doors are rusting from the inside-out around the handles. What would it have cost them to use a decent grade of steel or even properly treat it so it wouldn't do this ????? The self-closing cam on the fridge door broke, so now the door must be pushed closed. . The baskets in the freezer keep falling out of their tracks.
My GE gas range. Not so bad, but the digital control board that sets the oven temp and timer functions just flips out for no particular reason. Gets worse when operating the oven so I suspect a temperature problem. That little doozy is going to set me back about $150 for a range I spent about $450 for. WTF, over??
OK, all you U.S/American appliance manufacturers: You can kiss my rear. I'm done. You have cheapened the products to the point of uselessness. You have fattened your bottom lines by short-changing quality and reliability. You have been coasting along on previously vaunted reputations figuring the consumer is too stupid to realize that you are screwing them. I would gladly pay premium dollar for appliances that will last for 20 to 30 years but no, you sell us crap. Ten years ago, I would NEVER have considered buying a foreign-made appliance. Now it seems to be my only choice. You didn't learn anything from the downfall of the U.S. auto industry, did you?
Oh, boy. Just revving up the rant machine about newer appliances. Oops, just blew a head gasket.
I'll try to be brief. The newer machines may be more efficient (by someone's measure) but they are unreliable pieces of scheisse. My fancy Maytag (built by Whirlpool, the Satan of the appliance industry) dishwasher sold for $800 about 10 years ago. Within a year, the main control board in the door went Tango Uniform. It was easier for me to simply spend the $110 on the new one instead of trying to deal with the warranty B.S. and getting repairman out to fix it. A year later, the membrane switch panel on the top of the door flaked out and died. Another $100 or so. The plastic piece of doo-doo door latch handle just broke off. Fortunately it still latches by pushing the door shut and you can just pull it open (some type of detent). Just recently, I noticed a lot of crud sticking to the dishes after it was done. I found the filter media on the pump housing has ripped or become un-bonded so the water is not being cleaned as it is circulated through the pump. I wonder how much I'll have to pay for that part? You have to buy the whole housing because it is all glued together. GRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
It drives me nuts when I ask about quality and the sales person dives right into a pitch about their service contracts. I had one sales person give such a hard sell on the service contract that he said "About 70% of these come back for repair." Needless to say, I walked out empty handed at that point. For way too many items, questions about quality and reliability end up with a sales pitch for a service contract. That's not helpful.
Some machines use the pellets-in-a-ring self balancing concept (similar to Centramatics for autos). One front loader I have used also has some algorithm to determine load and balance, spinning up to check balance, and spinning down and flopping back and forth in an attempt to redistribute load before spinning up again if the balance is too far off for the mechanical pellet thing to compensate for (this is all obvious design). The adaptive redistribution with the balance compensation mechanism allows a pretty high spin cycle. The old commercial machine were just brute force (I have one of those)... they need to be bolted to a concrete floor to run, but are nearly indestructible.
And..unfortunately, some companies have been known to compromise on quality even designing in components in a way so that they will fail -- leading the consumer to buy the newer model (until you meet brilliant folks like yourself who look into the motherboard to see what's going on) and a consumer class action suit.
"Planet or convenience" is often a false choice. We can have "planet and convenience" through innovation if we do OUR jobs right. Also, many times we only think we're saving the planet - greenwashing and unintended consequences are rampant.
Don't throw the blame at me, semi man! I pursue quality, but it is a real challenge, since usually when I ask about quality the sales person starts to list features. Then I explain that I am seeking a product that will last and not break down, and they describe their service contracts. The fact is that my first batch of appliances lasted a very long time, and they simply don't make them like that any more. Some cost a lot more, and anything with a micro controller will cost more and fail much more quickly, so it is instantly off the list. As for the front load washer, probably the best first were the Westinghouse Twins, dating back to the 1950s, I think. I never did figure out why they stopped making them, although there may have been a main-shaft bearing seal problem. I can see that spinning a load to dry it could have some challenges, in fact, does anybody know how they are able to balance the load for spinning in a front-load washer?