The $250 Rubber Band

by the other theo

Summer is a season of unexpected repair bills this year.   Our gas clothes dryer suddenly burned out a coil and a relay in June.  One of our cars started accumulating water in the driver’s foot well in July.  Our dishwasher stopped working at some point on Sunday night or Monday morning.   The incident with the dryer took about a week to resolve (parts were ordered and a follow up appointment required for installation) and the car was about three weeks (two separate visits to the garage, plus most of a week for parts to arrive.)   We resolved the dishwasher incident in less than 36 hours.  I’m happy for that, but I wish that it didn’t cost so much.

The story of the dishwasher began yesterday at around 4am, when the Peanut came down the hall and woke me up.   After two HOT days (almost as Neil Simon would say “Africa hot”), the two air conditioners in two bedrooms of our house were running all night.   In the case of the one in the Peanut’s bedroom, it was doing too good a job because he was actually cold.   I led him back to his bed, turned off the A/C, and covered him up a little.   Since I generally wake up around 5am these days to go to the gym, I had trouble going back to sleep and decided to watch a little TV.   When I got to the living room, I immediately detected an off odor in the house.   It wasn’t exactly a burning smell, but it seemed related.   My first thought was that the air conditioners were over taxing the wiring of the house… but that could not be.   The wiring of our house runs through the attic, which is full of wood, fiber glass batting, and paper-backed wall board dried by decades of hot summers.   Nothing up there would smolder.   It’s too dry and crispy for that.  If something was failing and could burn, it would be burning… and quickly.    So, I put it down to smoke from forest fires elsewhere in the state (which made the air hazy and smokey over the weekend,) tried to air the house out while it was still cool outside, and thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to around 7am, and I returned from the gym and started to get breakfast ready.   I figured I would use clean dishes from the dishwasher instead of using something else.   I opened the dishwasher door to discover 1-2″ of murky water in the bottom.   After two hours of siphoning dirty water (with occasional and unwelcome help from the Peanut — he loves transferring water from one container to another) and another of cleaning still dirty dishes, plus half an hour of inspecting the dishwasher, I decided that this was one nut I didn’t want to crack myself.   Thankfully, our experience with the dryer back in June brought us to a trustworthy appliance repair company.

That brings me to today, where I had to spend $250 because of a rubber band.


A rubber band fell into the dishwasher and got tangled in the blue impeller of the drain pump.   It eventually wrapped itself around the spindle behind the impeller and was pulled behind the white plastic plate you see above.   There, it acted like a rubber friction brake and burned the motor out.    That was the smell in the air yesterday morning.

So, it was a flat $80 fee for the repairman to show up, an additional $70 flat fee for any repair requiring parts, $90 for a new OEM motor, and $10 tax on the part.   The repairman had the necessary part on the truck, so total repair time was less than one hour.