Make sure you know how to disassemble and reassemble things before you try to fix them.
When disassembling, put parts in a small tray or container in the order of their removal. It makes reassembly much easier. (This is an mini-muffin pan that cost less than $1.)
Some fasteners are hidden behind trim.
Some fasteners are not intended to be removed without damaging them. Fortunately, once removed you can find a replacement at larger hardware stores.
Many smaller consumer components can be disassembled by carefully prying the case apart.
Another important part of repair is disassembling things so that they can be reassembled in the same way whether it's done today, tomorrow, or once you've found some parts a month from now. Here are tips for smart disassembly.
Find a place where you can leave everything out for an hour or a day, if needed, to stop and get additional parts.
Make notes on disassembly in your Fix-It Notebook.
For tougher repairs or when you know it will be awhile before you can get replacement parts, use a film or digital camera to take photos of the disassembly process. Or you can make a drawing.
If you know you will be reassembling everything within the next couple of hours, lay the parts in a line as they come off, left to right, and reassemble right to left.
Use old muffin pans, empty frozen dinner dishes, clean coffee cans, or other containers to collect parts as they are removed.
Intimidated by what you see when you open up something to fix it? Don't be. Most things are made of components, more than one part. And each of these components is replaceable. It's just a matter if figuring how the thing works, which parts or components don't work, and replacing the problem part(s). Many of our Fix-It Guides include photos or drawings that let you see what's inside the device or objectyou'll know what you're getting in to.
Most parts either screw on or plug in. For example, disassembling an appliance requires unscrewing fasteners that hold the outside body together. Once inside, other parts may need to be unscrewed or unplugged. Many components are plugged together, especially electrical parts. For example, a couple of wires enter one side of a plastic plug and other wires run out the other side. To disconnect the part, find a tab on the connector and lift it or apply pressure to it and carefully pull the connector apart. Install the replacement component by plugging the two halves of the connector together. Most connectors only go together one way, so it's relatively easy.
You'll find that many consumer items are assembled using screws, clips, or both. In fact, if you don't find a screw or clip, the manufacturer is probably telling you there's nothing inside that the consumer can fix. You may be able to replace the entire component, however.
Some parts can be hard to remove because they are friction-fit to a shaft. Don't force friction-fit parts; they may break. Instead, use a wide-bladed screwdriver under the coupling to carefully twist and lift the coupling upward. If that doesn't work, try heating the coupling slightly (with a hair dryer) to expand the part enough to pull it from the shaft. Or slip a pair of thin wood wedges under the coupling. Then push the wedges toward each other and lift. If none of these succeeds in separating the friction-fit part from the shaft, you may have to take the appliance to a professional.
Some manufacturers use a pressure clip to hold a product's case together. To disassemble, look for a notch along the seam and insert the tip of a straight screwdriver to push and turn the clip, opening the case. Make sure you unclip all of the notches and remove all screws before disassembling the body or you could break one of the small clips.