How to Know When a Microwave Is Failing

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Once a crazy and almost magical idea, today microwaves are ubiquitous in homes, college dorms, break rooms, and other places. Most of us can't live without them, but you may soon have to if your microwave is smoking and not heating food well. Microwaves tend to last about seven to 10 years, so it's very likely that you'll have to replace yours at some point. The microwave will usually give you a few hints that its days are numbered.

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Warning

Do not attempt to open, repair, or troubleshoot the microwave's internal components. This is best left to a trained repair person.

It Sparks and Smokes

Your microwave will usually give you a little bit of a heads-up before it dies completely, but that is not the case if your appliance provides a fireworks display when you use it. If your microwave sparks, smokes, or smells burnt, unplug it and discontinue using it right away. In this case, your microwave isn't slowly dying — it's already dead. One exception is if a metal object like a fork or tinfoil is in the appliance; in this case, removing it may solve the problem. Otherwise, your microwave is now a potential fire hazard and needs to be replaced right away.

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Replacing the microwave if it makes weird noises is also wise. You should expect your microwave to hum while it's running, but that's it. Buzzing, rattling, grinding, popping, and other odd noises usually indicate a serious issue. These auditory cues are like smoke and sparks. You may hear them rather than see them, but they are still a cause for concern.

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It's Too Slow

The entire point of a microwave is to heat food quickly. If you find yourself having to heat your food longer than normal, it's a sure sign that your microwave is dying, To find out, put 1 cup of water in the microwave and cook it for two minutes on high. The water should be steaming hot and borderline boiling. If it's not, it's time for a new microwave.

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The same is true if your microwave still heats food but does so unevenly. Microwaves use turntables to rotate food so it will cook evenly. If the turntable fails, part of your meal will cook more quickly than other parts. Before buying a new microwave, make sure no one has turned your turntable off. If not, the turntable is likely bad.

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The Buttons Are Bad

The keypad on your microwave is a crucial piece of equipment. If you find yourself having to press the buttons multiple times — or if you have a few buttons that don't work at all — it may be time to retire your appliance. Sometimes you can just replace a defunct keypad, but depending on what you paid for your microwave, replacing the entire appliance can be more cost-effective.

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The Door Seal or Latch Is Broken

A microwave uses low levels of radiation to cook food. The door seal and latch are designed to seal the oven and keep that radiation inside the appliance. If your door seal is cracked, dried out, or missing altogether, it's time for a new microwave. The same is true if your microwave door won't latch. Don't use tape or anything else to hold the door shut. Instead, accept that it's time to part ways with your current unit.

Your Microwave Has Had a Few Birthdays

If you and your microwave have made it to the 10-year mark together, it may be time for a new unit. Even if your microwave still works well, newer models are likely to be more energy-efficient than what you currently have. You may also find new features to like on a newer microwave model. Replacing your microwave isn't necessary if yours still works well, but you may want to do a little shopping and see what's out there.

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