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How to Troubleshoot Any Appliance

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in General Appliance Repair Wisdom 22 August 2012 · 2,627 views
troubleshooting
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?

Conclusion

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



Appliantology Newsletter: Weird Washer Leaks


Appliantology Newsletter
Weird Washer Leaks
August 3, 2012
Presents another award-winning issue of...

Brethren...
... and I mean that in the most gender-inclusive way... Let us open our Appliantology Hymnals to the Seventh Law of the Prophecy, wherein it is written, on whatever they use to write prophecies with, that, "All leaks are visual." Yea verily, greater truth hath never been uttered. Can I hear an, "Amen?" Well, how about a "Hello, Newman?"

This issue of the Appliantology epistle will show you in living color just how self-evident we hold these truths to be. The Samurai will reveal unto thee two example cases where this sacred Appliantological precept was applied to successfully locate and repair unusual, uncommon, even weird leak sources in washing machines. One case will be a front-loader and the other a top-loader. In both cases, the Seventh Law of the Prophecy is applied to successfully vanquish the leak.
Locating and Repairing a Mystery Leak in a Front-loading Washer
Watch with shock and awe as Samurai Appliance Repair Man ruthlessly ferrets out the source of a leak in a front-loading washing machine and then mercilessly repairs it.

Locating and Repairing a Leak in a Maytag Bravo / Whirlpool Cabrio / Kenmore Oasis Washer
In this excursion into appliance repair excellence, the Samurai shows you how to locate the source of a leak in a Maytag Bravo washing machine and how to fix it. In case you didn't figure it out from the title of this post, the Maytag Bravo, Whirlpool Cabrio, and Kenmore Oasis washers are all the same machine so this sublime repair kata applies to all three.

Addendum to the Last Issue, "Get the Apprentice Advantage"
One thing I meant in include in the last issue of Appliantology is this very important Apprenticeship offer:

If you have ever contributed any amount to the United Samurai Beer Fund prior to July 30, 2012, you are eligible for a complimentary promotion to Merit Apprentice Appliantologist together with all the rights and privileges thereof. Just Contact the Samurai and tell him the email address associated with your Paypal account from which you would have made the donation and he will promote you. This is our way of saying "Mucho Domos!" for your love-offering of support in the past.
And Hey!
Keep up with all the Samurai's repair adventures by subscribing to his Youtube channel. Kanpai!
Samurai Appliance Repair Man, www.Appliantology.org






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