Make It Last

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

The average oil burner lasts 20-25 years. A car usually lasts 10 before it's time to trade it in or invest in serious overhauls. Windows have a guarantee of fifteen years, and appliances come with three year warranties. Only a few decades ago, people bought items without worry about how long they would last. Ringer washing machines ran until they were replaced with automatic models. Antique cars are still running today, and old fashioned kitchen gadgets are still up to a culinary challenge. It's time that we adopted Grandma's attitude that things were made to last forever, using and loving them longer.


Buy It To Last

Choosing your purchases with longevity in mind is important. A high price does not determine the quality of an item nor does a low price guarantee a bargain. Instead of looking at the price tag, look at the quality. Is it made of solid materials or pieced together? Less seams mean less chance of breakage. Does it have heft? This is a phrase my grandmother uses to describe kitchen tools, meaning that they have the weight of strong materials like hard woods or solid metals. If you have children, pets, or an avid football fan, furniture requires heft as well.

Warranties don't mean a lot except that the manufacturer expects the product to last that long. Try cashing in a warranty on a toaster or a installed carpet, and you'll see how much the warranty means. It's difficult to prove that the product earns the warranty, and at times the postage and handling to return the product counteracts the benefit of the warranty.


Preventative Maintenance

Knowing that your products are going to last for years feels good. Preventative maintenance is key if you want that feeling to last.

For automobiles, tune-ups, oil changes, and regular maintenance is key to a long relationship between car and owner. Interiors benefit from a detailing every few years, and the exterior will look like healthy new paint as well. Rotate tires for longer wear and fix windshield chips immediately before they get worse.

For home appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, dryer vents, furnace filters, and air conditioners a thorough cleaning will keep everything running smoothly. A clogged dryer vent will prevent the hot air from flowing and the lint may back up into the dryer causing motor problems. Be sure to wash the filter with water making sure that it flows easily; dryer sheets can cause build up on the filter. Likewise, inspect your dishwasher manual for instructions to take off and clean the filter below the dish racks. Despite the manual's advice that it is a "self-cleaning" filter, you'll be surprised to see the gunk underneath. A dishwasher that we once thought had seen its last rinse cycle is now washing dishes like new after a thorough cleansing.


Learn What To Do

A simple web search can find the answers to most mechanical problems. When the aforementioned dishwasher wasn't getting dishes clean, it took only a few minutes with the keywords "dishwasher isn't getting dishes clean" to find the solution. From there, a search for "cleaning dishwasher filters" found schematics of the appliance.

Websites such as give troubleshooting checklists as well as diagrams for fixing various parts of appliances.

Another option is to visit home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot who offer Saturday classes about home repair. Community colleges and education centers also offer night classes in the art of maintenance. Learn how to fix an appliance instead of spending hundreds of dollars to purchase a new one.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at


March 9, 20140 found this helpful

In grandma's days things did last forever because they were expected to and were made better and easier (less moving parts to break) and cheaper to repair. In our time they are made to have a specific lifetime (disposable). Yes, you can repair large appliances or anything else and I have but it gets to a point do I really want to stick the money into that again. Sometime it is better to upgrade and put that repair money towards the new item. If you really love the item than repair it. I for one am not that attached to any off my belongings.

Products have a lifetime because the corporations want consumers to spend and of course all of this spending keeps the economy going. It also some times gives us a better product than what we had before.

I have had three dishwashers in the twenty years at this house. Each one was quieter cleaned better more water saving than the one before it. I saved some money on these because I picked them up at the store and installed them myself.

I do like to save money where ever I can. I agree that keeping your items shipshape is always the way to go.

If you can't repair it yourself and have to call a repair person which can sometimes lead to a costly bill. I have had too often to make that choice - repair or replace. Sometimes repair is the choice to keep it going for a while but you know that next time it fails it has to be replaced.

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