RALEIGH, N.C. – Are you thinking about traveling by air for a few days? In winter, certain parts of the country start to look like a giant winter wonderland. Looking out your window, you can either think: “Oh, look how beautiful it is outside!” or “I’m never leaving the house again.” Whichever side you take on this weather matter, Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) wants you to be aware that winter can cause serious damage to your wallet.

With frigid temperatures upon us, the last thing you need is a faulty heating system, frozen pipes, a broken-down car, or a damaged home with scammers trying to cheat you out of money. 

Hire a reliable heating and plumbing company

  • Do your research. Research several businesses to learn about their background and qualifications. Some may be better qualified than others depending on their work history and your heating or plumbing system. BBB Business Profiles will give you a background on the business, including any complaints and customer reviews. Be sure the business is properly licensed to perform the work. Compare bids for pricing and job scope.
  • Get everything in writing. When contracting a job, even an emergency service, make sure everything the business agrees to is put in writing. Make sure the cost is within your budget and that any verbal promises are also documented in writing. Read the contract thoroughly and get any questions answered before signing.
  • Understand the warranty. If the business offers a warranty on the work, make sure you understand what is covered and how long it will be covered.
  • If a pipe bursts, immediate attention by a plumber is crucial. A plumber can help you locate the problem, thaw out your pipes, and insulate against future freezing. Repairing a pipe can be tricky and may end up causing more problems, so hiring a plumber is a safe and smart option.

Get your vehicle ready for the conditions

  • Replace or refill all fluids. The number one way to ensure your car is ready for winter is to check your fluid levels. This includes the coolant, oil and washer fluid. Your coolant must have the correct antifreeze/water levels to prevent any fluid from freezing in your radiator.
  • Inspect or switch your tires. Make sure to check that your tires have good tire pressure and they are not worn down.
  • Check your battery. Your battery can lose power in the winter due to the cold temperatures and oil can thicken making it difficult for your vehicle to turn over. Have your battery checked.
  • Protect your car inside and out from ice and salt. Dirt and salt can have huge impacts on your car’s paint job and floors. To protect your car’s paint, apply a fresh coat of wax before winter comes. Washing your car regularly can undermine the effects of dirt and salt and deter rust from forming on your car. Pick up floor mats if you don’t already own some to protect your car’s carpet and floorboards. Freezing temperatures can also cause water that has gotten into door and trunk locks to freeze and lock you out of your vehicle. Lubricate the locks before they freeze or use an antifreeze product to unlock them.

Avoid “Fly-By-Night” Contractors

  • Resist high-pressure sales. Some “fly-by-night” contractors use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
  • Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates.
  • Get at least three estimates. Get quotes in writing, don’t accept estimates over the phone, and be wary of very low estimates, which could set up a “bait and switch” tactic.

Replacing broken parts will extend the life of your refrigerator, stove, washing machine, dishwasher, or other household appliance. However, finding the right part is not always straightforward. You need to consider the type of repair, age of your appliance, and even your warranty terms.

Keep these tips in mind when looking for replacement parts for your appliances.

Tips for buying replacement parts for appliances 

  • Determine if buying replacement parts is worthwhile. Some retailers recommend replacing an appliance instead of repairing if the parts you need cost more than 50 percent of the cost of a new appliance. If your appliance is more than 10 years old, parts may simply not be available. Factor in the cost and logistics of repairing your current appliances to see if it’s worth the time and effort to extend its life. Keep in mind too, that ordering new parts may involve waiting several days for the parts to arrive.
  • Check the appliance warranty and store return policies. If your appliance is relatively new, you may be able to get replacement parts from the manufacturer under the item’s warranty. Usually, parts and labor are covered for at least one year. After that, core parts like washing machine motors or an oven’s heating elements may be covered by a longer warranty. Always check the warranty first to avoid purchasing a replacement part you might be able to get for free and to avoid unwittingly voiding an existing warranty with DIY work.
  • Know when you need to hire a professional repairman. Keep yourself and your family safe by hiring a professional to tackle any replacements that involve electrical, fuel, or plumbing connections. If your appliance’s fuses need replacing or your fridge needs a new compressor, you should call a professional to make the repair. On the other hand, most non-electric parts like microwave trays, fridge drawers and shelves, and certain kinds of filters are safe and easy to replace on your own. Find out what’s involved in the repair before you purchase a replacement part. It may be best to let a professional source and replace the part.
  • Reach out to the manufacturer. Contacting the manufacturer is always a safe bet when replacing appliance parts. You know you’ll get an original part that fits and works perfectly with your current appliance. Before calling the manufacturer, though, have all the appliance model numbers and the part specifications handy. This will save you time when you speak with a representative.
  • Check with locally owned appliance stores. If you are having trouble contacting the manufacturer or they don’t have the part available, try reaching out to a reputable local appliance service center or repair store. They may have the parts you need in stock, even ones that aren’t being manufactured any longer. Even if they don’t, they’ll likely have the expertise needed to give you a few other options.
  • Be careful when shopping for generic parts. Sometimes generic parts are much cheaper than replacement parts made by the appliance manufacturer. This can be a good way to save money, but you should buy generic parts with caution. Double check that the part will fit and function exactly like the original and find out if you can return any part that doesn’t work. In addition, make sure any generic parts you purchase won’t harm the inner workings of your appliance. If you aren’t sure, call an appliance service center to ask for advice.
  • Always make parts purchases from reputable sellers. Avoid getting scammed by making sure any business from which you buy parts is legitimate, and that it has a good reputation and record serving other consumers.

 For more information see BBB’s HomeHQ for tips on caring for your home. For more winter information, visit BBB.org/winter. For more information about BBB, visit BBB.org