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Microwave DIY Fail

Recently, our only microwave, the one above our kitchen stove, stopped heating up food. It still appeared to be completely fine from the outside. But something was definitely wrong on the inside. The refrigerator-temperature shredded cheese and soup that went in and came back out unmelted and unchanged was strong evidence.

Naturally, as both a frugal and environmentally-conscious person, I wanted to try to fix it rather than buy a new microwave.

Fixing it ourselves would save us a few hundred dollars and keep the existing microwave in rotation as long as possible, and not in a trash heap somewhere.

After doing some research online, I thought it could be fixed for less than $10. Totally worth the attempt.

Spoiler alert: we failed.

Fixing it ourselves… well, it wasn’t meant to be. I even brought my husband in on the DIY fun and no luck.

But you know what? We made the most of the situation each step of the way.

I still learned a lot about the microwave removal/installation process. And about keeping the experience as frugal as possible- despite the DIY fail.

Because failure is really an opportunity to learn.

Which means failure is sort of success in disguise!

At least, I think that is how it should be viewed.

Read on to find out what went wrong (and what went right) with our DIY microwave project and how we made the most of it.

We thought the microwave could be easy to fix because of some online search results.

Researching online produced some promising simple fixes, including the following video:

According to our research, if a microwave stops heating and emits a slight buzzing noise, like ours was, the problem was probably a bad diode.

With that bit of research complete, we felt confident trying to replace the diode. Why not, since we could order a new one for less than $10 on Amazon!

All we would have to do was not die taking the old one out. (The articles we read had warnings and tips for discharging the electricy in the microwave to avoid electrocution. Yikes.)

Totally worth an attempt to fix it. 😉

First, we needed to learn how to remove the microwave from the wall.

The removal process was quite simple.

We slid our step stool underneath the microwave so it couldn’t accidentally fall off the wall and onto the floor while we attempted to figure out how to remove it.

Then we unplugged it. In the process of clearing out the cabinets above the microwave so we could get at the outlet, we also discovered the (3) screws that would need to be removed- up above the microwave.

That was the key to removing that sucker from the wall.

Once the screws were removed, the two of us were able to lift the microwave up and off the wall mount, and rest it gently on top of our step stool.

Lesson learned: how to remove microwaves from over the stove!

Note: we thought we needed to remove some screws from the front panel too, but that turned out to be unnecessary for removing the microwave from the wall. However, we did have to do that when it was time to put in the new diode later.

Then we laid out an old towel and carried the broken microwave over to sit on the floor until our new diode arrived in the mail.

While waiting for the diode, I discovered that I used our microwave a LOT. I missed it.

I didn’t realize how much we relied on that thing til it was broken.

In the meantime, I learned how to use our toaster oven and stove to warm up some foods. With varying levels of success.

It turns out the toaster oven is actually great at warming up frozen breakfast sausages, or melting cheese on toast (to go in French onion soup), etc.

But I also learned that I should not leave a paper towel in there for more than one run unless I want to start a fire.

And the stove worked well to warm up leftover casserole dishes. I did have to play with temp and timeframe…

Lesson learned: how to warm up food in the toaster oven or stove in a pinch!

Finally, the diode came and it was time to look around inside the old microwave.

We took off the front panel and found the location of the existing diode.

You can see a closeup in picture 3 below.

Extremely important step: this is when you MUST discharge the microwave before touching anything with your bare hands. We wore work gloves, and used the metal tips of needle-nose pliers. We put the metal tips inside each of those small black tubes (where the diode is plugged in) and you should actually hear a little “tch” sound of the electricity discharging.

Then we unscrewed one side of the diode and pulled the other side out of the black tube. It was not easy to get at the diode, but the needle-nose pliers also came in handy for this step and made it easier to grab hold and pop the diode out.

Lesson learned: how to remove and install microwave diodes!

After successfully installing the new diode without dying, we plugged the microwave back in and gave it a go.

We turned it on and… there was absolutely no change in how the microwave worked.

Which meant the turntable was turning and the lights were on, but nobody was home. The sad plate of tortilla chips covered in unmelted cheese looked up at me in disappointment.

*Sigh*

At this point, we’d been without a working microwave for almost 2 weeks and we were getting desperate.

It was time to go microwave shopping.

Luckily, it was Presidents’ Day weekend so Lowe’s was having a sale on appliances.

And apparently, standard size isn’t very standard. I mean, many of these over-the-range microwaves were considered standard size, but the widths could be up to 3/4 inch difference.

And it really mattered for the space above our stove. Our broken microwave was a really tight squeeze. 

In fact, a “real” standard size microwave wouldn’t fit in our kitchen because the space is about 1/4 inch smaller than normal.

So, measure measure measure before you go to the store and bring your measuring tape with you. There were only two microwaves in our price range and would also fit in the space over our stove.

Lesson learned: measure your space and the new appliance before buying because “standard-size” has a range of sizes.

The hubs looked up details on consumer reports about both microwaves and we picked the one with the best reviews. It was 27% off the regular price for the holiday.

The store had our choice in stock so we could bring the microwave home that day!

Then we saw that it would cost $120 to get it installed professionally. Um, what? I’m still a DIY-er, right? I convinced my husband that we could install it ourselves.

The old microwave was GE, and so was the new one that we bought. So, we had high hopes we could use the old wall mount or easily install the new mount, possibly with the existing holes.

Spoiler alert: installing the new microwave ended up being another DIY fail.

The old and new wall mounts were different. And the new one did NOT match up so we could use the existing holes in our tile back splash.

Suddenly the whole project got intimidating. While we hummed and hawed about trying to put new holes in the tile, the new microwave sat unusable on our kitchen floor.

We discussed and finally came to the conclusion that a professional install was worth the extra cost to us in this case. A pro install would give us the peace of mind that the microwave was installed securely and would not fall off the wall, and give us a warranty to fall back on if it did.

When I went back to the store to add the install onto our purchase, it turned out to be a better deal because then we didn’t have to pay taxes on the microwave or install!

Apparently, if you buy both together, taxes are exempt. For us, that was a savings of $18.

And the price included hauling away the old microwave. If left to our own devices, we would’ve had to pay $20 to get rid of the broken microwave.

Actually, buying the microwave and pro install was a whole collection of savings deals:

  • Presidents’ day sale, 27% off regular price ($80)
  • no taxes ($18)
  • install included haul away ($20)
  • Lowe’s rebate for 11% cash back on the purchase ($23)
  • And we paid for the entire purchase with gift cards bought on Raise through Ebates, so we got another 3% and 1% off, respectively. ($7)
  • Plus another 5% cash back for the entire purchase by sending a copy of my receipt to Lakeside Perks (a cash back program that I’m still deciding/calculating if it’s worth the monthly fees). ($17)

Total Savings: $165

Our savings deals more than covered the $120 installation fee!

Obviously, some of these savings deals were planned ahead and others were lucky timing. But I’m listing it all here so you can be on the lookout and start thinking this way for your own purchases.

Environmental Bonus: The Lowe’s associate also told me that they send the old microwaves to a salvage shop that recycles everything they can.

And the professional installers were able to install the microwave the same day!

The pros let me watch them work and made it seem easy to install the new wall mount. (That’s why they’re the pros!) They told me not to be intimidated to put the holes in the tile next time. We shall see…

Finally, after two weeks of failed DIY– I mean, successful learning, we can warm our leftovers in style!

Lessons Learned from My Microwave DIY Fail

I really learned a good deal from this microwave DIY fail, like how to:

  • Remove a microwave from above the stove
  • Open up a microwave and replace a diode
  • Warm leftovers in the toaster oven and stove
  • Measure rather than rely on standard-size measurements
  • Get a crazy good deal on the price of a new microwave plus install

Overall, I’d say that was a very successful DIY fail!

There is so much to learn even from failing.

And who knows maybe I’ll have the confidence to try drilling into the tile next time. If there is a next time. But here’s hoping there’s not.

Fingers and thumbs crossed.

Joni