Saturday, December 5, 2020

Still Life with Robin: YouTube to the Rescue

by Peggy Robin

If you are observing all the proper pandemic precautions, you will try to minimize visits from outsiders to your home, except when absolutely necessary – and that means avoiding repair calls, if at all possible. But what if you are not a good DIY-er? I’m not even a bad one – I would say my rating is “pathetic.” But I have lately discovered that it doesn’t matter how un-handy I am, as long as I can follow along as a GOOD repair person shows me exactly what to do, every step of the way. Just where do I find this competent, trusted in-home fix-it advisor? They are loads of them. And they’re all right inside my computer. Whenever I need one to demonstrate any home repair, I simply YouTube it....and they appear. And there's no charge at all. 

First, I go to and type into the search box a brief description of the problem, using normal English. Like this one, my latest, dumb problem: 
Pop-up sink stopper is stuck, won’t pop up.    

Immediately, I was able to watch this person showing me how exactly how to get the stopper to pop back up: 

There were a bunch of other videos with the same advice. Some were too long-winded, and one was too short – but any of them would have been fine to show me how to un-stick the stopper, using an ordinary suction-cup, the kind of thing you might have stuck to the shower wall to hang up a washcloth. I had lots of them around the house. I put one over the plug and pulled, and it came right up. And to think that I might have called a plumber, who would have charged me $75 or $100 for that same simple act. And would have made me feel pretty dumb, to boot!  

Let's say your garbage disposal is buzzing but not grinding – or maybe not even buzzing; there are two or three things you can do very easily that could have it back to normal again. First, see if it just needs a reset (you push the little reset button that you will find hidden on the underside of the disposal). If it's buzzing but not turning, it's probably jammed. You can fix that using the tool that came with it (the “key” or hex wrench) to un-jam the stuck blades. Not sure what I'm talking about? Just watch this guy as he tries these tricks: No matter how un-handy you are, you can do these things yourself.   

For almost any simple home repair problem, type in what’s wrong, and watch a video of someone fixing it. You’ll soon see whether it’s something you can try on your own, or don’t even want to think about attempting. Even if you end up calling in a professional, you will still feel reassured that it was necessary, not something you could have done on your own.  

Here's a quick list of things to check whenever ANYTHING electrical won’t work:  

1. Is it still plugged in? If it’s plugged into a power strip, is the power strip on? Try plugging it in somewhere else.
2. Has the circuit breaker been tripped? Check the panel.
3. If it’s something with a computer chip in it, can it be rebooted? Turn the power off for 30 seconds and then turn it back on.
4. Is there some other related device that needs has to be working for your electrical thing to turn on? For example, is there a timer controlling the thing that won't work, which perhaps has become out-of-sync? Is it plugged into a hub or some intermediary thing that that you can bypass or replace? 

There are many such questions to ask yourself. Or you can Google "Simple checks for [fill in the blank broken thing] to find out what you can do before you call a repair person.

I hope this can save you a little time and money, and spare you some aggravation -- in a year that's had far too much of the latter. 

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   


  1. THANK YOU, Peggy, for this handy advice. Excellent!

  2. Bravo for your great post.

    A few years ago, our espresso machine died. I was going to have to drive it out to Annapolis for repair. I discovered a Youtube video on how to replace the pump which included a link to an online site where I could buy the part. The whole thing took $10 plus an hour to do the repair. Sold me on Youtube.

    Speaking of interesting stuff on Youtube, Rick Beato’s videos themed on “What makes this song great” are really interesting. He breaks down the different parts and explains how they come together. Though I was never a Led Zeppelin fan at the time they came out, Beato’s breakdown of Ramble On changed my mind.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful insight - I ;never considered using You Tube - but just typing in a situation on Google probably brings up more than one could wish for! Wonderful suggestion! Many thanks

  4. Good reminder. Thanks. I fixed a humidifier that was making only noise, not steam, by consulting a youtube video. I felt quite accomplished!