Looking a gift dishwasher in the dishwasher equivalent of a mouth
August 5, 2016 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Due to product-recall and corporate-policy fun, we have the opportunity to replace a 16-year-old basic model Maytag dishwasher with a brand-new equivalent 2016 model at no cost to us. However, a quick Google revealed that Whirlpool bought Maytag in 2006 and promptly shut down the factory, moving manufacturing out of the US. Further Googling reveals mixed feelings / reviews of newer Maytag products, including complaints about their durability. The current one is showing its age a bit (and there's that recall issue) but in other ways is a champ. So.... good or bad idea?

The issue with the current one was a whiff of what could have been melting plastic -- we haven't used it since. We found the recall info online and called in about it. The repair person who came out identified the recall issue as an electrical one in the door wiring that has started a handful of fires when rinse agent leaks and causes problems with the wiring -- he thought that our issue was the calcifications on the heating element, which we can get rid of with some vinegar or suchlike.

He also talked up the reliability of the older models and said that ours could go for a long time yet.

Of course, the attraction of "brand new free large appliance that even has installation paid for" is hard to overlook... not to mention the likely increased water / power efficiency of a new model vs a 2000 one. This one is in the $500 range; as far as I know the older one (bought by previous homeowner) was more or less the same. We can also choose a spiffier Maytag model if we pay the difference.

What do you all think? Are new Maytags so different from older ones that we should turn away the appliance installers bearing a shiny new dishwasher at the gates of Troy, or should we welcome it with open arms? Is there a new model that you've had such a stellar experience with that we should pay $100 or $200 more for an upgrade? (One idea I've had would be to accept the new one but keep the old one on hand for when the new one goes south, but that's definitely going to be a nonstarter with the rest of the family...)

I can provide model numbers if that changes the assessment any.
posted by sesquipedalia to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on the nature of the recall I'd guess your homeowners insurance would be mad if they could prove you damaged your house by knowingly not replacing it.
posted by tilde at 8:46 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I said this same sentence yesterday and I stand by it. A new, modern dishwasher will change. your. life.

You should absolutely do this.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

See if you can find a review for the replacement model in Consumer Reports, if you have a subscription or are considering getting one (it is about $30 per year IIRC).

Modern dishwashers are very efficient with water and deal well with dirt, so there's a lot to be said for them.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2016

Definitely replace. The savings in hot water and electricity will be very significant between a current model and a 16 year old model. I would recommend you replace the 16 year old dishwasher for that reason alone even if you were buying a new one outright. With a free one? Don't think twice.

Every major appliance has complaints about durability and mixed reviews. Maybe Maytag isn't the best currently, but it is definitely better in a lot of ways than a 16 year old model. Not only in efficiency, but also in effectiveness (dishwashers have gotten a lot better in cleaning effectiveness in the last 16 years). Do yourself a favour and dump the old dishwasher.
posted by ssg at 8:59 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

should we welcome it with open arms


Pretty simple. 16 year old smelled like burning plastic has a recall needs screwing around with vs new and free.
posted by chasles at 9:00 AM on August 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Look at it this way: 16-year-old dishwashers probably don't have a good durability record either.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:11 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit (why is that considered a bad thing, anyway?) but a few elaborations.

Re the recall issue -- we don't use rinse agent, so it seems safe to say that the recall issue won't be affecting us. And if we take care of the calcification, according to the repair person that will take care of the smell (which only occurred once, though we've been using the dishwasher several times weekly for many years).

This particular new Maytag has gotten specifically middling reviews (4.9 out of 10?) on a product review site (reviewed.com?) which I have no particular reason to trust or not, but whose writeup seems authoritative and Consumer Reportsy. Haven't yet checked CR for what it says about this model, but as previous discussions on the green have complained, it focuses on features and out-of-the-box behavior rather than reliability down the line. And buyers' feedback on various Web sites do talk about how it's prone to fail not long after the warranty expires and require $200-plus repairs.

I wouldn't be having second thoughts if the repair person hadn't spoken so reverently of how well built the old models are, immediately juxtaposed with the assessment I'm seeing online about the new model. It feels almost like the old one could wind up lasting longer than the new one, all things considered.

The new one is MDB4949SDE. It gets great user reviews on Maytag's site and sites like homedepot.com -- but there are mentions that "this review was submitted as part of a sweepstakes entry". Hard to avoid the suspicion that they held a sweepstakes in order to boost positive reviews compared to negative ones. The non-sweepstakes reviews often mention major repairs needed after only 2-4 years and say things like "if you must get this, make sure to buy the extended warranty."
posted by sesquipedalia at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2016

Of course the repair person thinks you should hang onto the old dishwasher. It is no doubt easier for him to repair than a newer machine and, let's not forget, is more likely to need repairs down the line which translates into more business for him. IME, the first repair on an older appliance (or car, for that matter) presages many many more repairs down the road, leading to great remorse about not having replaced said appliance before you spent all that money to keep it going.

The newer model you referenced got a 4.5 out of 5 on Abt's site (based on over 5000 reviews, 94% of whom would recommend the model to others), but you might want to check out higher-end models as well since you'd only have to pay the difference. There have been some very cool features added to dishwashers in the past 10+ years.
posted by DrGail at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Take the freebie and buy the extended warranty. It's really the kindest thing to do for the planet. Sure, it's a gamble but so is keeping your old one. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:10 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

If the new, updated model you're being offered for free gets mediocre reviews in a way that concerns you, pay an extra $100-200 to get a new one that gets amazing reviews. It's that simple. In terms of what to look for in the upgraded model, try to get as many internal parts made of metal as possible, rather than plastic.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2016

Store the old one and put it back in when the new one craps out.

You might be able to "persuade" the installer to let you keep the old one.
posted by H21 at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2016

Will they let you keep the old one, and do you have space in the garage or wherever to hang on to it in case the new one quickly turns into a problem?

I got a free fridge through a 'replace certain clunky old energy-sucking appliances for the lower income!' program run by the electric utility here. I had a very reliable, solidly built Whirlpool. Now I have a Frigidaire whose industrial designer must've had a substance abuse problem, and this was hopefully the last thing he made before he got fired. In under a year, three out of two door shelves were broken, the cheese drawer broke, one shelf has a crack -- and we are not unusually hard on the fridge, tiny family -- and the gaskets are crap -- and my electricity bill didn't go down at all. Unfortunately the program involved taking away the old appliance. I'm pretty furious, as that Whirlpool probably would've lasted another decade, and now I have a fridge that is physically clapped-out, held together with white duct tape, and which is so poorly built overall I expect to need a new fridge before long.

Newer is not always better. If the old one washes your dishes and never gives you any trouble, well...

I have used a number of "old basic model" Maytag dishwashers. They were all total workhorses. New dishwashers with the infuriating circuitry tend to have problems with the circuitry long before they should die as an appliance, all because electronic displays were somehow seen as superior to a row of analog buttons you could press. If I found a good-condition old Maytag I would probably rip out my current electronic-display dishwasher and move the old one in. If Maytag is still making a lo-tech one, I might try to dicker to have them replace it with that instead of a "good" one with a $150 circuitboard that will break. Alternatively: ask for credit on another Maytag appliance if you have an appliance that you would like to upgrade? Perhaps a non-starter, but it never hurts to ask about that sort of thing.
posted by kmennie at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2016

Well, the old ones catch on fire, so I don't think I'd say they're that well-built...
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Consumer Reports ranks the Maytag MDB4949SDM (just the last letter is different, which from what I see, looks like a difference in trim and color option only) as 69/100, which lands it pretty much in the middle of the "very good" category.

The highest-scoring dishwasher got an 85, and the lowest a 34.

It scores Excellent on washing and drying, Very Good on ease-of-use and energy use, and Good on noise. They really seemed impressed, overall, and really appear to have dinged it mostly for noise.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:09 PM on August 5, 2016

You can improve your chances of liking the new dishwasher by understanding its limitations. Appliances are now made to use as little electricity as possible in the "normal" cycle, and with dishwashers this means a long, not-very-hot wash. If you push the buttons for a high-heat wash and dry, dishes will be cleaner and less spotty and the machine won't develop odors. Sure it'll uses more energy than it would on "normal," but so does your old dishwasher as you're currently using it.
posted by wryly at 4:40 PM on August 5, 2016

Go for the new one. Horror stories galore of people who did not listen or pay attention to recalls are available at www.saferproducts.gov. You are never better off ignoring a recall. Me mail if you want lots of details.
posted by Nackt at 6:05 PM on August 5, 2016

Best answer: We had one of the recalled dishwashers too, never used rinse aid, still had a small fire. It would not have occurred to us to ever use that dishwasher again.

My one piece of advice on picking a new one is to take your most-used plates and (especially) bowls and see how they fit in the racks of some candidates. We've found that there's just enough less space between the tines of the new one to make for a pain in the neck.
posted by lakeroon at 9:05 PM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Every appliance we have in our house is a Maytag (washer/dryer we purchased, everything else was new with the house - seller put them in during a remodel). We've had electrical problems with the washer, once, that required replacement of an internal motor controller board. Everything else has been fine. These are all on the low end or middle end of the scale, price-wise; I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Maytag again if I had to.

Our repair guy (a local person, not a Certified Maytag Etc.) stated pretty flatly that there are better, more expensive options out there, but... Drawbacks. Braun for example, pricey, holds up well, but the costs for repair parts? Through the roof. Maytag is common enough that parts are not too difficult to obtain and repair service is not too hard to find.

He also had some very specific dishwasher tips: Use powdered soap, not liquid, and never fill the container more than half full. They can and do hold more soap than is necessary, and the white filmy residue on your dishes is the result of incomplete rinsing when too much soap is present (can also be lime scale, but in most cases it's soap). He also said that risnse agent is a bit of a scam; white vinegar works just as well, and is much, much cheaper. And don't slam the door on your appliances, he said that more than half the service calls he handled for dryers, washers, etc. was to replace the latch mechanism - slamming it breaks that part, and it won't start if it thinks the door is ajar.

(Needless to say this guy's contact info is always where I can find it. How many repair people take time to ensure you won't need to see them again??)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2016

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