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How to Troubleshoot Any Appliance

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in General Appliance Repair Wisdom 22 August 2012 · 3,011 views
I've heard a lot of appliance techs complain that the reason they can't fix more appliances on service calls is because they don't get enough training from their company or from the manufacturers. I'm here to tell you that you can get all the appliance training in the world and still be nothing more than a trained monkey unless you have one crucial skill: Troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting is the higher mental function that separates the real technicians from the parts changing monkeys. A technician who knows how to use that gray stuff betwixt his ears to ask himself the right questions can fix any appliance, whether he's been "trained" on it or not.

Troubleshooting is not just replacing a part that's bad-- that's called parts changing. Troubleshooting is the systematic, logical progression of tracking down the cause of a problem. In accordance with the 6th Law of the Prophecy, the troubleshooting process begins right at the problem-- in other words, at the thing that ain't doing its thang. You then work backwards, checking inputs and outputs for each component in the work flow, whether electrical or mechanical.

This is the big secret to successful troubleshooting: checking inputs and outputs. If you just keep this in the front of your mind while you're trying to figure out what's wrong, it will lead you to the problem or bad part. And it doesn't matter if you've not been trained on the particular appliance because, in the course of checking inputs and outputs, you will naturally ask yourself exactly the right questions you need to answer in order to solve the problem.

For example, a refrigerator is warm in both compartments. You find the compressor is running but the condenser fan is not running. So you start troubleshooting right at the condenser fan motor. You ask yourself, "What are my inputs and outputs?" Say it aloud. Don't worry if the customer hears you talking to yourself-- at this moment, they don't matter; it's just you and the puzzle before you.

The output part is easy: fan blade movement: there isn't any. But what about the inputs? A fan needs voltage to operate. Okay, fine, but what kind of voltage? DC? AC? Pulse-width modulated? Don't know? That's okay! Now at least you have asked the right question and you now know what information you need in order to continue solving the problem.

At this point, you might look for clues on the fan motor label or on the tech sheet behind the toe grill in front. This is where training on the specific appliance can help you because it can give you the specs for many of these components. But you could be trained up the wazoo and still not approach this problem like a real technician who knows how to troubleshoot.

Let's look at a real-life case study:

I recently batted cleanup behind a local parts changing monkey (PCM) in my service area who advertises "30-years experience, factory trained." He was working on a GE front loading washing machine that overfilled. He tried to fix the problem by blindly replacing parts, hoping to get lucky. Of course, he failed miserably but that didn't stop him from charging the customer anyway. The customer called me out of frustration and desperation and it turned out to be a very simple problem that the PCM would have found if he had just done some troubleshooting like a real technician.

The other thing this video illustrates is the importance of understanding how the components inside an appliance are supposed to work together. How else can you troubleshoot? In this case, with the washer overfilling, starting troubleshooting at the water inlet valve is not a bad idea BUT what are you looking for? The PCM simply guessed and hoped to get lucky. But there's no need to guess if you understand how the valve is supposed to work and can make a simple voltage measurement.

In this case, you would use your meter to see if the valve is still getting voltage when the drum was overfilling. If so, then the problem is NOT the valve, but in the component that controls the valve. Here, the pressure switch controls the valve and this is the next thing the PCM replaced. But, again, there's no need to guess because the switching function of the pressure switch can be tested using your ohm meter and gently blowing into the pressure tube to see if the pressure switch contacts change.

Actually, in the process of gaining access to the pressure tube to test the pressure switch, he would have discovered the chaffed pressure tube in the course of doing simple troubleshooting like a real technician and not just blindly thrashing about, throwing parts at the machine and ripping people off.

So, putting this all together, here's a simple operational description of how these parts work together inside the washer:

As the water level in the drum rises, the pressure inside the pressure tube increases. This increased pressure is felt by the pressure switch which is calibrated to switch contacts at a specified pressure corresponding to a design fill level. The pressure switch, which was sending voltage to the water inlet valves during fill, then cuts voltage to the water inlet valves and the wash cycle begins.

It is apparent that if the pressure tube is leaking, the pressure switch will not get the proper input (change in air pressure) and so will not produce the proper output (cutting voltage to the water inlet valve).

How is it that someone who repairs appliances for a living does not understand this?


Troubleshooting is not mysticism; it is reason and logic. It begins with asking yourself the right questions, "What are my inputs and outputs?" Getting the answers to these questions will naturally lead you to the solution to the problem and a successful appliance repair.

Appliantology Newsletter: The Art of Troubleshooting

appliantology newsletter and 1 more...
Appliantology Newsletter
The Art of Troubleshooting
August 12, 2012
Presents another award-winning issue of...

The Ancient and Mystical Art of Troubleshooting
A long, long time ago, people did things like read books instead of surfing the Internet or had thoughtful discussions about complicated topics instead of yelling political slogans and sound bites at each other. Most folks also had at least a conceptual understanding of the process of troubleshooting: the logical, step-by-step progression of tracking down the cause of a problem.

To troubleshoot an appliance, you first need to have a basic understanding of how that appliance is supposed to work both from the operator's standpoint and how the components inside are supposed to work together. In other words, to figure out what's wrong, you first have to know what "right" is. Then begin troubleshooting right at the problem and step through, checking inputs and outputs, whether mechanical or electrical.

For example, an oven electric bake element isn't getting hot and is not visibly damaged. The element needs 240 VAC to get hot, 120 VAC at each of its terminals. The voltage at the terminals is controlled and delivered by different circuits or components inside the oven. Many people would just immediately replace the element, not even considering how the element works or checking to see if it's getting the voltage it needs to operate. Maybe they get lucky and fix the problem, but that's not troubleshooting. That's changing parts like a monkey.

Appliance repair servicers who practice their trade like that are not technicians or Professional Appliantologists; they are called "parts changing monkeys."

Parts changing monkeys can cost you a lot of time, frustration, and money.
Beware the Parts Changing Monkey!
What's a parts changing monkey, you ask?

He (or she) is someone who knows how to change out parts on your appliance, but doesn't know how to actually troubleshoot the problem. Based on your problem description, he will change out the most obvious part involved and hope that fixes the problem. That works just often enough to get by in many repair situations, but there are other times it results in a major rip-off of the customer.

Here's a repair saga where I followed up behind a parts changing monkey who never bothered to troubleshoot an overfilling complaint on a GE front-loading washer. He had replaced two parts without fixing the problem and was trying to convince the owner to replace a third. I was called in and quickly found the actual malfunctioning component that monkey-boy failed to even check. It's not rocket science! You just need to have a basic understanding of how these machines work, and that information is readily available in posts like this:

Wisdom! Let Us Attend!
You can find whatever appliance part you need through the parts search box at The Appliantology Academy. No harm in buying and trying with our 365-day, no-hassle return policy, even on electrical parts that were installed!

I'm always uploading new videos to my YouTube channel of my real-life appliance repair adventures that I do in people's homes. I film, produce, and upload all these videos completely from my iPhone so they're not all professional and slick looking but they are enlightening. You can keep up with 'em by subscribing to my YouTube Channel.

You can get more repair tips by liking our Facebook page.
Samurai Appliance Repair Man, www.Appliantology.org

What are "Bonding Grounds?" What do they do? Why are they important?

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in General Appliance Repair Wisdom 20 March 2012 · 631 views
ground, grounding, bonding ground

Bonding grounds are meant to tie any and all exposed surfaces together with a guaranteed path to ground (screws and wires), that eventually connect to the main ground of the appliance. They insure that should any condition occur where a hot wire touches an exposed panel, a circuit is made directly to ground which will terminate incoming power immediately (trip breaker/blow fuse). There is really no "wrong" place to put them except with any wire that is part of the circuit (black,red, or white wires). The appliance will not operate any differently in their absence, but they are to be connected to reduce possibility of shock hazard. They are always identified by green jacketing, or bare wires.

Source: Whirlpool RF365PXYN2 - grounding wires?

Appliantology Newsletter, Early March 2012

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in General Appliance Repair Wisdom 01 March 2012 · 741 views
Appliantology, newsletter
Appliantology Newsletter, Early March 2012

0. Introduction
1. Appliantology Chat Room Now Open to All Members
2. Private Appliance Repair Tutoring is Here!
3. Appliance Tips
4. Mrs. Samurai's Kitchen

0. Introduction

Blowing in from the Great White North Woods of New Hampshire like an Arctic Clipper on crack, it's another chill issue Appliantology. Movin' on...

1. Appliantology Chat Room Now Open to All Members

Ya sure, ya betcha! All members of the Appliantology Academy, faculty, staff, and students, are invited to rub elbows and noses (but let's stop there) and get to know each other in the Appliantology Chat Room. You'll find the link to the chat room at the top of the page at the Appliantology Academy just under the Appliantology logo along with the links to the other campus buildings.

Chat is real-time tippety-tap interaction between Academy members. It's great for answering questions about how to use the forums, shootin' the breeze, shop talk, how 'bout them Dawgs, political rants, etc. You'll usually find other techs hanging out and talking shop there most evenings.

So grab a mug of your flavorite brew, come on in, kick your shoes off and make yourself at home.

2. Private Appliance Repair Tutoring is Here!

Introducing a new program here at the Appliantology Academy: Private Appliance Repair Tutoring. This is a great way for the many talented Master Appliantologists who frequent the Academy to earn some extra beer money. There's no obligation, contracts, or revenue sharing and you can use the Academy facilities to do it! I'll explain the details and answer questions in the Chat Room tonight, 3/1/2012, at 9pm EST. All are welcome, Grasshoppers, Apprentices, and Masters. Hope to see you there!

If you can't make tonight's chat, don't you fret none! Stop by the chat room any ol' time for the info. Plus there will be a blog post about it soon.

3. Appliance Tips

• If you have a GE refrigerator with a muthaboard in it and it just ain't keeping the beer cold anymore or the dispenser quit working, the muthaboard may be bad. That's the bad news. The good news is that it may be covered by GE's muthaboard concession. I posted the list of included models and serial numbers ratcheer.

• Got an extra refrigerator parked out in the garage or on the porch and, mysteriously, it fails to keep the beer tooth-crackin' cold even though it's colder than a polar bear's bee-hind outside? Well, another appliance mystery is demystified in this post at my blog.

• If your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm goes off and you can't find the source anywhere, check for sump pump battery backup systems or even golfcart chargers, etc.-- any lead-acid battery that is charging can release hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and that can fool the average CO detector. Other things can cause a false alarm, too, as pointed out by a couple of appliance-savvy fans of our Facebook Page.

4. Mrs. Samurai's Kitchen

There's always something yummy cooking or brewing in Mrs. Samurai's Kitchen. The other night we munched back on a Veggie Frittata and Baked Hash Browns. It's a meatless dish on account of it being Great Lent, an' all but it was still a 10 on the world-famous Samurai Belch-o-Meter. Mrs. Samurai posted the recipe at her blog for you; come and git it. SoooWEE!


Samurai Appliance Repair Man

P.S. Don't be another Internet casualty and miss out on future action-packed and awe-inspiring issues of Appliantology. Get your very own autographed editions personally hand-delivered to your inbox by yours ever-so truly-- subscribe today!

Appliantology 3000 Microchip Implant Now Available

microchip, appliantology, implant

As many of my long-time grasshoppers know, the CIA occasionally calls upon the Samurai for special assignments which are particularly dangerous.

I have recently completed yet another covert assignment for The Company; this one involved testing a prototype of an implantable microchip. My assignment was to be the human test subject and to have this protoype implanted into my spine.

The Agency has declassified portions of this project and I am now free to tell you about this brilliant technological breakthough. The microchip is called the Appliantology 3000® Total Appliance Awareness Microchip Implant (TAAMI). Its purpose is to provide appliance repair technicians with instant and total access to information on every appliance ever made or that will be made. TAAMI meets or exceeds all of its design objectives. Below is a photograph of the Appliantology 3000® Total Appliance Awareness Microchip Implant:

Appliantology 3000 Microchip-- click for larger view
Appliantology 3000® Microchip

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much of a windfall TAAMI is for our national security. The successful implantation of TAAMI into every appliance repair technician in America will make our nation invulnerable to all threats, foreign and domestic.

I know many appliance technicians reading this have serious concerns about receiving such an implant. Some of you are concerned about civil liberties issues such as privacy; others may be apprehensive about having a device surgically implanted into your spine. Let me assure you that you have nothing to fear on both counts. Privacy in this electronic age is an illusion--Big Brother already knows everything about you.

As for the surgery, ain't nothing to it. A skilled surgeon implants the chip into the lumbar region of your spine, as shown below:

Location of TAAMI Implant-- click for larger view
Location of TAAMI Implant

The procedure only takes about an hour and half and you're out of the hospital that same day. You're left with a tiny, permanent lump at the base of your spine which is completely unnoticeable. You can barely see it in the picture below:

Side View of TAAMI Implant Site-- click for larger view
Side View of TAAMI Implant Site

But wait, there's more! The Appliantology 3000® Total Appliance Awareness Microchip Implant is also an integrated communications device. Throw away your cell phone, voice recorder, and all those other gadgets. Since the Appliantology 3000® microchip is uplinked to the global satellite phone system, you can make phone calls to anyone in the world from whereever you are by simply talking! Here's an example of a voice recording I made today on the implant by simply speaking normally:

The sound quality is a little muffled because the sound has to travel down my spinal canal to reach the microchip at the base of my spine. But still, you can hear the words clearly. Sound quality enhancement is one of the design goals slated for the second generation of TAAMIs.

If you are a currently practicing appliance repair technician, the Department of Homeland Security will be contacting you soon to schedule your implant surgery. In the meantime, I am available to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have regarding the Appliantology 3000® Total Appliance Awareness Microchip Implant. Feel free to post your questions or comments here. Remember: we appliance repair technicians are the vanguard defending Truth, Justice, and the Ameedikan Way!

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