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Samurai Appliance Repair Man's Blog

Samurai's 12 Laws of Appliance Repair

12 laws, Samurais Laws
Samurai's Ichiban Law of Appliance Repair: Never replace a part unless you have proof that the part is bad.

This distinguishes the Samurai School of Appliantology from the Monkey Boy School of Appliance Repair. When I replace an appliance part, it's because I have proven that the part is bad. This proof could be something subtle, like an electrical measurement, or something simple, like laying eyeballs on a burned wire connection. It could be direct, meaning the part is getting proper input but not giving proper output. Or it could be indirect, meaning that all other parts involved in the problem check out good so it's the bad part by process of elimination. This latter technique is more prevalent in the newer appliances with electronic boards where the manufacturer either doesn't give enough information about the board's inputs and outputs or the information/schematics it does supply are wrong.

Samurai's 2nd Law of Appliance Repair: All machines break.

I don't care how much you paid, who made it, or what the salesperson told you, appliances are just another type of machine. And all machines, like everything else in the physical world (including our bodies) tend inexorably toward entropy, i.e., they wear out and breakdown. The corollary to the 2nd Law is to buy appliances that are easy to repair because, at some point during its useful life, you will be repairing it. Speaking of useful life, how long should appliances last?

Samurai's 3rd Law of Appliance Repair: Measure twice, order once.

Ok, you've diligently observed Samurai's Ichiban Law of Appliance Repair and have proven that a part is bad based on some type of objective observation. If this observation involved making an electrical measurement, such as voltage, current, or resistance, then make that measurement TWICE just to be doubly-woubly sure that you didn't make a mistake. Common mistakes in making electrical measurements include not making good contact with your probe and not removing at least one wire from the component before making a continuity or resistance measurement.

Samurai's 4th Law of Appliance Repair: Beliefs are for religion, not appliance repair.

In appliance repair, we use test instruments to quantify the problem and draw definitive conclusions about cause and effect. Hope, beliefs, and wishful thinking don't get stuff fixed, unless it's by pure, blind luck.

Samurai's 5th Law of Appliance Repair: Electronics and wet appliances do not mix.

Manufacturers love using fancy electronical boards for things that used to be done by simple, reliable mechanical switches. I see these boards fail frequently and at far greater expense than the good ol' mechanical switches. But the failure rate of these cheesy, over-priced electronical boards in the wet appliances (washer, dishwasher, ice and water dispensers on refrigerators) is excessively high. If you have a choice when buying new appliances, opt for the models with few or no electronic boards.

Samurai's 6th Law of Appliance Repair: Begin troubleshooting right at the problem.

Where else you gonna start? No water coming in your dishwasher? Start at the water inlet valve. Gas oven won't bake? Start at the ignitor. Go right to the main thing that ain't doing its thang.

Samurai's 7th Law of Appliance Repair: All leaks are visual.

Let's say your washer is leaking. You see the water seeping from under the washer cabinet. So you go online to the Samurai School of Appliantology and say, "my washer is leaking, what should I do?" And we'll tell you to remove the front panel and get some eyeballs on where exactly the leak is coming from. Same deal with your dishwasher-- remove the kickplate and peer underneath with a flashlight while it's running to spot the source of the leak. Get the picture?

Samurai's 8th Law of Appliance Repair: Fix the obvious problems first.

If you have an appliance that you think may have several things wrong with it, you have to break down the problem into smaller component problems and then fix each one. Usually, when you fix the obvious problem first, you find that it was the only problem all along. Other times, you cannot even diagnose the other problems until you've fixed the obvious one(s).

Samurai's 9th Law of Appliance Repair: Nothing kills bio-gookus like chlorine.

Just remember this next time you're dealing with a restricted condensate drain in your refrigerator. Bio-gookus loves to grow in dark, moist environments like condensate drain tubes and they'll restrict the flow the same way plaque does in arteries.

Samurai's 10th Law of Appliance Repair: Never move an appliance to make a repair unless you absolutely have to.

This is one I learned the hard way. You never know what you're gonna run into (that you didn't need to) when you move an appliance. And, worse yet, you may end up creating a new repair that you hadn't planned on. The classic example is pulling a dryer out just a few inches only to find that it had some impossible dryer vent connection that requires a contortionist/gymnast to re-attach. Oy!

Samurai's 11th Law of Appliance Repair: Raw power is dirty power.

All electricity is not created equal. Power quality varies widely from place to place. Depending on where you live, power at the wall outlets in your house could have all kinds of garbage on it. Stuff like voltage surges, sags, swells, and spikes can kill electrical and electronics equipment. In this modern era of using electronic control boards in appliances for the jobs that simple, reliable mechanical switches used to do, all your appliances should be protected by simple surge protectors at the least. Just like you wouldn't (or shouldn't) plug your computer directly into the wall outlet without using some type of surge protection, neither should you expose your appliances to naked, raw power.

Samurai's 12th Law of Appliance Repair: Neutral is not ground; ground is not neutral.

Under normal circumstances, neutral and ground should have the same, or close to the same, electrical potential. But, electrically, neutral and ground are not the same thing and serve entirely different purposes. Back in the old days, they were often used interchangeably, as with the old three-wire dryer and range cords. But, after lots of people got themselves fried or burned their houses down due to a ground fault, "They" decided it would be a good idea to respect the distinction between ground and neutral. Hence the new four-wire dryer and range connections.

Samurai's Golden Rule of Appliance Repair: Never trust customer diagnostics.

I'm too embarrassed to admit how many times I've been burned by violating the Golden Rule. You'll get some customers that are so eloquent and seem so erudite and technically proficient that you'll be tempted to accept their diagnosis over the phone (at their insistence-- to save money, of course). So when you bop on over with the special-ordered part that doesn't fix the problem, you're now in a quandary: how do you charge for this wasted repair effort and the cost of returning a special-ordered part...if you can even return it? Unless you bought the control board here, electronic boards cannot be returned once they're installed. The hard lesson is to always do your own diagnosis, no matter how much the customer insists otherwise.

Samurai's Appliance Brand Recommendations, Second Edition

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in General Appliance Repair Wisdom 06 April 2013 · 3,676 views
appliance, brand, brands and 1 more...
0. Introduction
1. Disclaimer of Affiliation
2. The Second Law of the Prophecy and the Golden Rule
3. The “Authorized Servicer” Racket
4. What about Kenmore?
5. The Four Prime Criteria™ and General Brand Recommendations
6. Notes and Observations on Specific Manufacturers
7. Recommendations by Type of Appliance
8. Epilogue

### ### ### ###

0. Introduction

This is the Second Edition of the Samurai’s Appliance Brand Recommendations, updated April 2013.

One of the questions I get asked a lot on service calls and on the web is, “Which appliance brands do you recommend?” Or some variation on that theme such as, “Who makes the best dishwasher?” or “What’s the best brand of scrotum scrubber?”

So I thought to myself, I said, “Self, that’s a ding-dang doggone good idear for a Special Samurai Scroll™!” And the Lord did grin and the people did feast on fruit bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals…

Skip a bit, brutha.

### ### ### ###

1. Disclaimer of Affiliation

Right. So, since I’ll be talking about appliance brands and offering my opinion as a
professional appliantologist on the good, the bad, and the butt-ugly, a disclaimer is in order. Hear ye:

In offering my professional opinions on appliance brands, I accepted no amount of money of any kind, neither shekel nor shilling, yen nor yuan, nor any Federal Reserve Note debt instruments masquerading as dollar units of value in consideration for my favorable opinion. My opinions are based solely upon my vast and considerable experience as an appliance samurai engaging in hand-to-machine combat in the field with machines that are no longer operating within their specified parameters or fulfilling their design function.

### ### ### ###

2. The Second Law of the Prophecy and the Golden Rule

Okay, with that bit of legal unpleasantness out of the way, let us proceed straightaway to the Second Law of the Prophecy: All machines break. Always keep this in mind when contemplating a new appliance purchase. Failure to consider repairability at the time of purchase is to guarantee heartbreak in the two to four years (industry average) when the appliance has its first malfunction and requires a repair.

And, brothers and sisters, let us always be mindful of the Golden Rule for buying appliances: Don’t pay so much for an appliance that you’re married to it. If the appliance suddenly requires an outrageously expensive part or has been a troublesome box of bolts requiring frequent repairs, you want the freedom to Deep Six that pig-dog and git you a new one. Well, how free will you feel to jettison said pig-dog if you’ve paid $4,000 for it? Marry a human, not an appliance.

### ### ### ###

3. The “Authorized Servicer” Racket

You also need to understand the “Authorized Servicer” racket. All an “Authorized Servicer” means is that an independent servicer, such as Joe-Bob’s Appliance Repair Service, has signed a contract with a manufacturer agreeing to do their warranty work (i.e., fix their factory eff-ups) for a bargain-basement price, and in most cases, slave’s wages. Sometimes they get a half day or a day’s worth of training and some technical service info. The quid pro quo is that some manufacturer’s will only allow their authorized beeotches access to their tech sites and service bulletins.

In my opinion, this is tantamount to a form of blackmail and it does a great disservice to the customer. An all-too common example is that someone has an appliance from a manufacturer who plays dirty like this (and I name names below) and they need a repair. The “Authorized” guy says he can’t get there for three weeks. And while the person’s regular repair guy can get there tomorrow, he declines the job because he doesn’t have access to the latest service bulletins needed to fix the damn thing.

So, I ax you, mah bruvahs and sistahs, in whose best interest is it to restrict access to technical service information: you, the customer and end user, or the manufacturer with this medieval policy? Think on these things.

### ### ### ###

4. What about Kenmore?

Most people understand that there ain’t no Kenmore factory in Malaysia or some place. The Kenmore “factory” is several floors on the Sears Tower where corporate bureaucrats beat up other corporate bureaucrats at manufacturing companies, like Whirlpool or Electrolux, to make their stuff for them and slap a Kenmore label on it.

Kenmore is nothing more than that– a label slapped on an appliance that someone else made. Kenmore is merely a marketing company in the Sears Tower in Chicago. The real manufacturer is coded into the three digit model number prefix. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. But it creates problems such as crossing over a Kenmore model number to the real manufacturer model number, which is needed to look up tech info like service manuals and bulletins. So it affects repairability.

### ### ### ###

5. The Four Prime Criteria™ and General Brand Recommendations

Having laid all that groundwork, you are now ready for me to reveal my Four Prime Criteria™ for selecting an appliance brand:

- Repairability: the appliance should be constructed in such a manner that it is easy to work on.
- Reasonable markup on parts compared to the markup on similar parts from other manufacturers.
- Availability of parts meaning it has a widespread and robust parts distribution system as opposed to having to buy exclusively from the manufacturer or one of their “Authorized” dealers (and usually get screwed in the process).
- Access to technical info, the big bugaboo I ranted about above, which also ties into Repairability.

To help summarize this information, I’ve developed recommendations based on how well a manufacturer lives up to the Four Prime Criteria™:

Recommended- Meet all the criteria.
Recommended with reservations- Meet some of the criteria and may be worth considering e.g., get a great bargain price on one.
Not recommended- Meet none of the criteria, not recommended for purchase under any circumstances.

General Brand Recommendations (recommendations by appliance type are in Section 7)

LG, Dacor, Electrolux, Whirlpool / KitchenAid, GE

Recommended with reservations:

Not recommended:
Samsung, Viking, Sub-Zero, Fisher-Paykel

### ### ### ###

6. Notes and Observations on Specific Manufacturers

LG: Free access to their tech site for professional appliantologists, an enlightened policy that generates good will among appliantologists and, in turn, good word-of-mouth to customers– a guerilla marketing tactic. Relatively new to the major appliance scene but their front-load washer is already proving to be one of the best out there.

Electrolux - Frigidaire: Excessive compressor failures in refrigerators. On their front load washers, they removed front panel access to drain pump to save $.50 per unit in production cost; greatly decreases Repairability. However, they allow free access to their tech site for professional servicers so kudos for that.

Whirlpool - KitchenAid: This manufacturer acquired Maytag and so owns the Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Magic Chef brands. Excessive tub bearing failure in front load washers. Allow access to their tech site for professional appliantologists but it’s NOT free; $500/year for non-authorized appliantologists; $250/year for authorized.

GE: Allows access to technical info like Whirlpool but for a much lower fee ($160/year) and their tech site is a helluva lot better, too. GE’s TAG (Technical Assistance Group) is also very innovative about getting training information on their new appliances out to independent techs in the field. For example, they do things like put on webinars for techs. Old news for most other fields but that’s bleeding edge in the appliance world!

Samsung: What were the engineers smoking when they designed this refrigerator? Restrictive access to technical service info, quasi-restrictive parts procurement. Often a nightmare getting the right part the first time unless you have access to their good ol’ boys network, GSPN. Rots o' ruck widat, GI!

Fisher-Paykel - DCS: Poor reliability on all products. Flimsy products all the way around. Restrictive parts procurement. Restrictive access to technical info. Avoid. Warning, Will Robinson!

Bosch - Thermador - Gagmenow: Restrictive access to technical info. In the case of Thermador, overpriced products with a high failure rate and difficult to work on.

Dacor: Good-quality but pricey products. Robust parts distribution. Open access to technical info. All American-built products.

Sub-Zero: Restrictive access to technical info. Restrictive parts procurement. Excessively high failure rate for the price paid. Sticker price is a marriage license.

Viking: Draconian about access to technical info. Have threatened lawsuits against servicers to keep their tech info off the web. Restrictive parts procurement. Very poor construction quality on all their in-house built stuff. This manufacturer fails all the Four Prime Criteria. If there’s a more effed-up appliance manufacturer out there, I’ve not seen ‘em yet.

### ### ### ###

7. Recommendations by Type of Appliance

Here are my (updated) bottom line recommendations by type of appliance, listed in order of preference:

Front load washer: LG, GE, Electrolux, Whirlpool
Top load washer: Whirlpool direct drive (also sold as the Maytag Centennial washer), Whirlpool Cabrio (also sold as the Maytag Bravo and Kenmore Oasis washer)
Refrigerator: Any of the Whirlpool-built products, GE, LG
Dryer: Whirlpool-built with lint filter in the top panel, LG, Electrolux-Frigidaire-Gibson
Dishwasher: KitchenAid. Yep, just KitchenAid but with the caveat that all dishwashers built today suck. And you can thank the Energy Star requirements for that.
Dishdrawer: KitchenAid by Fulgor, not the piece-of-trash KitchenAid that was previously built by Fisher-Freaking-Paykel.
Oven/range/stove: Electrolux, GE, Whirlpool, Dacor

### ### ### ###

8. Epilogue

Just a reminder, you can find whatever appliance part you need through the parts search box right here on this page. No harm in buying and trying with our 365-day, no-hassle return policy, even on electrical parts that were installed! It’s insane!

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Early-stage AC motor failure and the famous 60 hertz hum

Motor, 60 cycle, failure, hum

The early stages of a motor failure exhibits the famous 60 cycle hum. 120 volts is supplied to the motor; if any of the windings begin to short; there is not enough induction, the rotor of the motor stalls and eventually locks (locked rotor amps) draws excessive current and trips the internal/external overload on the motor. Before this occurs, if a winding in the motor is shorting, you will hear a buzzing noise which is the 60 cycle frequency of the 120 volt supply indicating (perhaps) a failing motor.

Source: New dryer works great, but fills house with a hum noise

How to pay three times more for an appliance repair in your home

appliance repair, service call

I go out on a DOTT type whirlpool dryer, order says it won't finish cycle. He leads me to the laundry room and I find the thing completely dismantled. He said he hired a buddy to fix it, but he couldn't figure it out. He had the front off, the burner tube out, he bent and broke the clips to force off the kick panel. he removed the rear bulkhead, he took the front off with out removing the blower, he even took the screws out of the door. He failed to gain access to the console, lots of bending and pry marks but he never found the clips to open it up.

The only wrong with the machine was a blown thermal fuse.

It took 3 min to find the problem, and 90 min to rebuild the dryer around the new thermal fuse.

What a tool.

Source: DOTT Dryer all in pieces

Using the Tech Sheet Schematic to Root Out Appliance Gremlins

tech sheet, schematic and 1 more...
We all love those jobs where, given the brand, model, and problem description, you walk into the house already knowing what the problem is. After you've worked as an appliance tech for a while, you start noting that every machine has weak points and particular failure patterns. Some failures become so well-known that the manufacturer will issue a service bulletin on it. But what about those jobs where it's not a clear case of plug n' chug, in other words, where you DON'T know exactly what part to replace to fix the problem? Well, that may be when you have to use the tech sheet schematic, your trusty meter, and that gray swirling muck betwixt your ears to track down a pesky electrical problem.

If you don't have much experience using schematics to solve problems, this article will give you some good, practical foundational information that'll help bring you up to speed. This won't be a theoretical primer on basic electricity and making electrical measurements-- I expect most of you reading this already have that-- nawsir, we's just gonna jump right into real-world appliance problems and get stuff fixed using schematic diagrams.

In this excursion into Appliantological Excellence, we're going to review three recent service calls I did on two refrigerators and a front load washer where I used the tech sheet schematic to ruthlessly hunt down the troublesome gremlins and terminate them with extreme prejudice. In all three cases, you'll see the actual schematics used and how they were crucial to planning and executing my victorious assault.

Fixing A No-Drum Movement Problem In A Frigidaire Front-Load Washing Machine

We've all been on the no-spin complaints in these Frigidaire front load washers. As long as the drum moves during tumble, you know with 98.76% certainty that the problem is a bad door lock assembly, like in this case. Easy repair, badda-bing, badda-boom, skip n' pluck to the next job and life is good.

But what about the case where the drum isn't moving at all, no tumble, no spin, no nuttin'? Could be a bad motor control board. Could be a bad motor. Could be a bad wire connection. Could be lotsa things. But when we're on a service call, "could be's" don't do us any good; we need to slam-dunk, dead-nutz KNOW what the problem is. After all, ain't that why we professional Appliantologists makes the big money? Posted Image

This video shows that sometimes finding the problem is just as much about finding voltage where it shouldn't be as much as it is about finding voltage where it should be. Using the schematic and ladder diagram on the tech sheet, I was able to prove that the problem was the motor control board because it was backfeeding 120vac to the pressure switch. Something had shorted on that board and it was toast. This justified the huge PITA of pulling this stack unit out of the closet in which it was installed (in a kitchen with new hardwood floors, no less!) to install the new board. And problem solved.

Fixing A Whirlpool Refrigerator That Intermittently Warms Up

This unit is the one with the small ADC board and mechanical cold control in the fresh food compartment control panel. It was intermittently warming up for randomly-varying lengths of time. A really tricky problem, this is one you need to catch in the act to effectively troubleshoot. In fact, I had already been out on this one two days prior to this call for the same complaint and could not find the problem since both compartments were cooling just fine when I arrived. The second time she called back, I got right out and caught this tricky bugger in the act.

Having two things bad at the same time on any one appliance is rare but it does happen and you have to be thorough and persistent to root out all the evil-doers. In this case, both the ADC board and the compressor start relay were bad.

Fixing a No-Cool Problem in a GE Side-by-Side Refrigerator

In this problem, the complaint was that the fresh food compartment was warm. A quick check in the freezer revealed that the evaporator fan motor wasn't running. Rather than tear apart the freezer right away, it's much easier on these refrigerators with a muthaboard in back to just go around behind the unit and do some quick checks right at the muthaboard to see if its sending voltage to the fan.

This is a case, also, where the original minimanual supplied with the unit was AWOL (as in gone) and I was using the copy that I had pre-loaded onto my Kindle Fire just in case. Having been burned like this before, I now always try to load the tech sheet, Fast Track manual, or minimanual onto my Kindle Fire before I run a service call on a unit. So in this video, you'll see me using the schematic on my Kindle Fire.

The lesson on this one is to expect the unexpected and don't get so caught up in the schematic that you overlook the simple things, like loose or unplugged wire harness connectors!

What's It All Mean, Seymour?

Using the schematic diagrams to troubleshoot electrical problems in appliances is not optional unless it's a very simple circuit or there's something visually burnt or disconnected. Knowing how to use the schematic can take away the guess work when trying to figure out which part to replace. The most authoritative schematic to use is the one that's on the tech sheet that came with the appliance. It supersedes the schematics in the service manual because there may have been late production revisions on that model that aren't reflected in the service manual schematics.

But don't count on the tech sheet to still be there with the appliance when you need it! About a third of the time I go out on service calls, the tech sheet is missing; either it was stolen by the sleaze bag who worked on the unit before me or the customer removed it for "safe keeping"... and then lost it. So always try to have the tech sheet for the model you're working on pre-loaded on your Kindle Fire, iPad or whatever tablet you use for storing and carrying technical documents on service calls before you run the call.

If you're not using some type of tablet computer as an information tool, you're really shooting yourself in the foot. You can buy a Kindle Fire for a little as $160! If you can't afford that for a bidness information tool, then there's something wrong with how you're pricing your service and you need to start using the Appliance Blue Book.

And if you'd like to see more videos like the ones in this article, subscribe to my YouTube channel! I'm usually filming these while literally single-handedly whuppin' up on some appliance bootay, so what they lack in production value they make up with edge-of-your seat excitement of live appliance repair action!

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