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What about Protection Plans or Extended Warranties for New Appliances? Are they worth buying?

protection plan and 2 more...
I get asked about new appliance protection plans and extended warranties a lot both during real-life service calls as The Appliance Guru and via emails from this site. So, FWIW, I thought I'd offer my contemplations and musings on the topic.

First off, you gotta realize that protection plans and extended warranties are only as good as the people offering or doing the actual service work. Protection plans are basically a form of insurance. Lots of companies want to get in on the protection plan biz because, structured correctly, it’s a highly lucrative arrangement: you pay a chunk of money for service that the warranty company is betting you won’t need. Insurance companies have this game figured out in all aspects of our lives, including home and appliance warranties.

But there’s one big difference.

In auto, home, and medical insurance, for example, all the insurance company has to do is write a check for a claim. Insurance companies are all about cash so even writing big checks are no problem for them.

Now consider an appliance repair insurance plan— which is basically what protection plan and extended warranties are. When a claim is made, what’s the payout? Instead of a check, the payout is usually a repair. And herein lies the dirty little secret about appliance protection plans: they are only as good as the repair services available in your area, as in a live, skilled technician coming to your house and fixing your broken stuff.

When you’re being sold on the plan, they’re trying to implant the Fantasy Scenario vision in your head:

The Fantasy Scenario

The technician gets there the same day or next day, knows exactly what the problem is, has the part on his vehicle and gets you all fixed up right then and there. This almost never happens in a real-world warranty situation but that's the fantasy when you buy the plan.

Okay, let’s come back to planet earth and look at how these protection plans work in the real world.

Suppose something breaks and you need service. Depending on who is actually providing the service for the protection plan, the response will likely be one of the following scenarios:

The Typical Sears Scenario

You call and get an appointment for two weeks from now. If you're lucky, you'll get a decent tech who can troubleshoot the problem accurately. But much of the time you'll get an undertrained guy who "thinks" he knows what the problem is but, since corporate policy prohibits him from carrying inventory on his service vehicle (to prevent employee theft and moonlighting), he has to order the parts and come back. That’ll take another two weeks. On the second trip, the servicer installs the new part only to realize that he guessed wrong. Whups! “Golly, ma’am, must be sumpin’ else!” Or, “Dang, another bad board outta the box, that’s the 5th time today!” He scratches his head, takes a guess at another part, and has to come back yet again. Each trip is a four hour window for the servicer’s arrival so that’s two or more half-days you’ll need to take off work to wait for him. Oh, and they may call you on the day of the scheduled appointment to cancel for that day and re-schedule.

The Typical Home Warranty Company Scenario

There are several of these types of companies out there-- NEW, American Home Shield, and others. They all work the same way: you pay them for an appliance warranty plan (repair insurance) and, in return, they’ll cover any repairs that need to be done under warranty. Sounds great on paper and they do a great job selling these plans. But, as you might expect, there are not one, but two big Achilles’ Heels with this arrangement.

1. Their service is only as good as the independent servicers they can find in your area. If you live in a densely populated area, this may be a non-issue. But if you live in a sparsely populated area, this could be a problem. The warranty company won’t have any easier time finding a qualified servicer than you would on your own. In fact, they’ll have a harder time because of the second Achilles’ Heel:

2. Most independent servicers hate working for warranty companies because 1) they are difficult to deal with like any corporate bureaucracy, 2) they are either slow to pay or pay very little compared to COD rates, or 3) they have gotten a reputation in the industry for stiffing servicers and not paying at all after the repair is successfully completed so, as a result, many independent service companies flat out refuse to work with particular warranty companies. The result is a delay in finding a servicer willing to work with the warranty company which means a delay in getting your stuff fixed. This miserable process usually culminates with you spending hours on the phone with the warranty company (most of that time on hold listening to blaring muzak or repetitive announcements telling you how awesome they are).

Protection Plans from Independent Retailers

This requires careful investigation on your part because, again, their warranty is only as good as the service to back it up. Some dealers service what they sell. Okay, fine. But are their technicians any good or are they parts changing monkeys? Hard to know. One way to find out, though, is to use the Internet and see what people are saying about them on places like Google reviews, YP.com, and the Better Business Bureau. Do a Google search of the company’s name and see what you come up with.

Most service companies should have a company website that tells how they do business and a social web presence, at least a Facebook Page. If they don’t, that’s a red flag right there. I don’t say that because I’m a Facebook fanboy, but because it shows something about the company-- that they have a public reputation they are cultivating and want to protect. It also shows that they’re in business for the long-haul.

If you are inclined to go the protection plan route, a good way to go is with a local dealer who services what they sell and one whom you have personally vetted nine ways to Sunday. You don’t want to end up in the situation where you call your local dealer for a protection plan service only to find that their phone has been disconnected. Hey, a lot more common and possible in today’s economy that you may think.

What would I do if I were me? No, wait: what should you do if you were you? No, wait…

IMHO, the best thing to do is to find a good local servicer (using the vetting suggestions discussed above) and establish a relationship with them. Some may offer some kind of protection plan you can purchase. Otherwise, just budget a little money each month into savings to cover eventual repairs.

Here are a few more vetting strategies...

If you don’t get a live human when you first call, don’t leave a message. Call back another time and see if you get a human then. You’re looking to see if getting voicemail is how these people roll or was that a fluke due to bad cell reception or something else going on with them. You want a service company that strives to always answer the phone, even after hours and on weekends. Honestly, in this day and age of cell phones, there’s no excuse for not doing this… unless they just don’t care whether or not they get your work. And that’s what you’re trying to assess.

You also want to find out what their typical response time is. What do they claim their response time is at their website? You’re looking for someone who strives for same day-next day service. The best service companies will offer Saturdays as a regular working day because that’s when people are home and it’s convenient for them (that’s why it’s called appliance repair service).

Once you’ve found this golden service company, cherish them, woo them, nurture that relationship, send them Christmas cards, bake them Kwanza cookies, carve them Hanukah dradles, knit them Ramadan kufis, whatever you think will solidify your connection with them because, when your fridge breaks on a Saturday and you have a houseful of guests, you want them out there that day to get that box cooling again taco-pronto.

If you have the supreme good fortune of living in the Kearsarge-Lake Sunapee Region of New Hampshire, call The Appliance Guru for fast, expert appliance service, including weekend and holiday emergency service at no extra charge. Learn more here: www.ApplianceGuru.com


Soot: A Clear and Present Danger in your Gas Oven

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in Oven-Range-Stove Repair 06 December 2013 · 1,942 views
gas, oven, range, soot and 2 more...
I was at a service call on gas range the other day for an oven that wouldn't bake or broil. The cause turned out to be a bad range control board. Nothing unusual about that. The astonishing thing with this range was the inside of the oven cell-- all the surfaces inside were coated with a thick layer of soot (click the images for a larger view):

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This is NOT a normal condition in any gas range. If you see soot accumulated on your oven cell walls, even a little, STOP USING IT AND GET IT CHECKED OUT!

Soot is a product of incomplete combustion. So is Carbon Monoxide (CO), dubbed "the silent killer" because it is odorless and kills by displacing oxygen in your blood, making you sleepy and, in high enough concentrations, can make you take that final dirt nap. We've all heard the stories of people dying in their homes from CO poisoning. Improperly adjusted gas appliances, like the oven shown in the photos above, is one of the more common ways this happens.

A standard practice in the appliance industry is that all gas appliances, ranges, ovens, dryers, etc., come ready to burn natural gas. If you're going to use propane (also abbreviated LP for "liquid propane"), you have to convert the gas system in the appliance to safely burn it without producing soot or unsafe levels of CO.

Since propane burns hotter than natural gas (2,500 Btu/cu ft for propane vs. 1,030 Btu/cu ft for natural gas), it needs more air to make a "complete" (or at least safe and soot-free) combustion. If the air-fuel ratio (AFR) is too low (too much fuel or "too rich" in automobile terms), you'll create soot and unsafe levels of CO. If you're interested in some numbers on the AFR for natural gas and propane, start here.

While no combustion is 100% complete, you can still get close enough to prevent soot formation and keep CO production to safe levels.

The range in this service call is a Kenmore (Frigidaire-built) range that was purchased from a famous, nationwide retail chain (I'll give you one guess; hint: it's a Kenmore). This range, like all gas appliances, came ready to burn natural gas and needed to be converted for use with propane.

The customer paid the retailer for the conversion but it wasn't done properly. They converted the gas burners on the cooktop correctly by replacing the gas metering spuds for each burner with the smaller diameter spuds sized for propane. But they completely neglected to convert either of the gas burners in the oven (bake and broil). Behold (click the images for a larger view):


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To make matters even worse, when the customer called the retailer's customer service department to complain about the soot in the oven, they advised her to run the self clean feature which successfully produced copious amounts of soot and, at the 900F temperatures reached in the oven cell during self clean, baked the soot onto the oven walls. The soot will never come out. This range is only three years old and the oven is effectively ruined.

So how is the strange and mysterious conversion process done in gas ranges? It's really not a mystical experience at all. It's as simple as following the instructions and installing a few pieces that all manufacturers provide for this very purpose. For example, here is an official conversion instruction sheet that Frigidaire includes with the conversion kits for its ranges. GE's conversion instruction sheet has similar information but I think it's a little more comprehensive and easy-to-follow (you'll need to be an Appliantology Apprentice to download it).


The Silver Bullet Fix for LE Error Codes in LG Dishwashers

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in Dishwasher Repair 06 December 2013 · 710 views
LG, dishwasher, LE, error code and 1 more...
Of all the error codes seen in LG dishwashers, the LE error is probably the common one asked about in The Samurai Appliance Repair Academy Kitchen Forum. So much so that it seemed like this one needed a Silver Bullet answer. And who better to fire that silver bullet than the Dean of LG Appliantology himself, john63. Y'all go grab you a cold one and let's listen to the big guns going off:

Replacing the SUMP ASSY (AJH31248604) and protecting/repairing (as needed) the Wire Loom inside the door assembly---will resolve your immediate problem ("LE" error).

The "LE" error is *extremely* common for all LG dishwashers built from 2004 through mid-2008.

The cause of the Wash Motor failure is due a process during manufacturing---that degraded/damaged the Wash Motor.

Replacing the entire Sump Assy makes perfect sense in this case (as opposed to just the Wash Motor) since the new design Sump Assy has a much better design internal gasket.
The original Sump Assy gaskets were extremely challenging to re-install (disassembly is required to replace the Wash Motor).
Replacing the Sump Assy---also has the benefit of having a new...

1) Wash Motor
2) Heating Element and internal Thermistor
3) Drain Motor
4) Soil Level Sensor
5) Vario Motor (switches water from lower washer arm-to-middle and upper wash arms---every 90 seconds)

After removing the door panel----inspect the Wire Loom from the bottom of the door-up-to-the-Detergent-Dispenser-Assy.

Repair wiring as needed.

Wrap the entire Wire Harness with electrical tape---from the bottom of the door up to the Detergent Dispenser Assy

Insert a cardboard cut-out---behind the Wire Harness---to further isolate the wiring from the Tar-Like Thermal/Sound Insulation of the door liner.

**********

<<<I haven't fixed appliances before, but I'm a DIY guy in general.>>>

**********

In that case---I'll provide some recommendations to further improve the dishwasher performance & reliability (especially if you are planning to replace the Sump Assembly).

Replace the following items:

1) Guide Assembly (4975DD1001A)

The Guide Assembly has been updated (improvement)---to eliminate the oft-elusive symptom of once-in-a-blue-moon water leaking from the lower corner of the door.

Replacement Guide Assys include a new FLOAT ASSY. Not only has this been re-designed (elimination of Styrofoam floats)---but since Tri-Sodium-Phosphate (TSP) is no longer used in dishwasher detergent (beginning July 2010---many FLOAT ASSYs are becoming clogged with fatty/greasy residue. This in turn---causes incorrect water fill/filling then draining/poor wash performance/water-on-floor-complaints.
This accumulation of sticky residue is becoming so commonplace---that replacing the Guide Assy is virtually mandatory (when I service an LG dishwasher).

Prior to July 2010---TSP in dishwashing detergent would chemically-react with the fatty/oily deposits in the dishwasher---and CONVERT it to a soap/detergent.
This chemical change (fat-to-detergent) is called "Saponification".
Today---dishwasher detergent cleans---not by saponification---but by "Enzyme" method (breaks down fatty/oily deposits into smaller pieces).
Hence---the oily/fatty residue remains with the wash water---and ideally or in theory---should be eventually rinsed/drained from the dishwasher---provided that the cycle duration/run time is longer than a "normal" cycle AND the wash/rinse water temperature is hot enough to effective remove the residue---sufficiently.

My experience has been that---over time---deposits will gum-up the Guide/Float Assy (and the hose leading to it from the Sump Assy) to the point of rendering the dishwasher essentially useless.

It's also why I believe that LG introduced an all-new re-designed dishwasher---shortly after the TSP-ban (entirely different water level sensing method---a water frequency sensor rather than using floats).

As an option---the Drain Hose (AEM6943803) can be replaced as well. This re-designed hose is intended to be used with the (also re-designed) Guide Assy. The correction was to prevent loss-of-wash-water during the Wash Cycle---especially in situations where the drain hose has been incorrectly installed into the floor---to a drain connection in the basement/crawl space.
This would eliminate "air sucking sounds" and heating element damage due to frequent insufficient amount of water in the tub during the cycle.

Lastly---installing a new (yes-re-designed) Filter Assy (ADQ32598202) can reduce the possibility of hard debris entering the Sump Assy during the cycle. The filter area has smaller openings to resist glass shards and other debris---such as a toothpick.

Before I forget---if you've replace the Sump Assy---and all works beautifully---but now you're noticing a whistle/growling sound during the wash cycle---post back:)

The CHOPPER/MASCERATOR was inexplicably changed from a good design with not-so-pointed ends on it----to a design which best resembles the tip of an indian arrowhead.
This pointed tip---causes whistling and/or grinding during wash.
The original Chopper was brought back---to stop the noise complaint (sigh).

Good Luck!



Source: LG LDF6810ST Error Code "LE"


Diagnosing Catastrophic Front Load Washer Drum Bearing and Inner Basket Failures

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in Washing Machine Repair 02 December 2013 · 2,971 views
front load, washer, drum, bearing and 2 more...
Front Load Washers Rule!

First, lemme start off by saying I love front load washers. I think they offer the best clothes washing technology out there combining low water use with a gentle tumble wash that's easy on the fabrics, making your clothes last longer, and does a very thorough job of cleaning the clothes compared to the high efficiency (HE) top load washers.

We're a family of five with dogs and cats. We've used a front load washer for over 16 years at our house and, aside from routine repairs, have never had any washability or odor complaints. You'll hear some people complain about these issues with their front loader but, in almost every case I've seen during service calls, it's been due to user error-- usually using too much or the wrong type of detergent.


The Economics of a Repair

Okay, so front load washers: rah-rah, go team go. Why have a special post dedicated to front load washer drum bearing and inner basket failures?

Because these failures are usually considered a "total" event (as in "Dude, I totalled my car last night") by professional Appliantologists due of the huge cost of the repair. Not only are the parts expensive (sometimes more than $500) but the job itself can take more than three hours (depending on the particular nightmares you run into) and usually require a second man... or one with a very strong back, though it may not be after completing one of these repairs solo!

Everything is repairable. The question is: does it make economic sense to do the repair?

There are two circumstances where it may make economic sense to repair a failed drum bearing or inner basket support spider:

1. You are going to do the repair yourself, so you're only paying for parts.
2. The machine is still under full or partial manufacturer's warranty and some or all of the cost of the repair will be covered.

So, if you're in a situation where neither of the above conditions apply, wouldn't it be nice if you could positively diagnose a bearing or basket failure on your own and at least save yourself the cost of a service call? Ya sure, ya betcha! And hence, the raison d'être for this post.


How to Tell if Your Washer has Bad Drum Bearings or a Broken Inner Basket

Okay, enough talk. Let's do some basic watching and listening.

1. Broken Inner Basket



The inner basket is supported in the back by a special metal structure called a "spider." The spider has three support members that extend from the basket hub to the outer perimeter. A common failure is for the support members to corrode by galvanic corrosion, eventually weakening the metal to the point that it breaks. Here's an example of what that looks like, this particular washer is a Frigidaire but this is typical regardless of brand:

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Here's another example, but this is from a GE front loader:

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What you see in these photos is called galvanic corrosion. Various theories abound as to whence cometh this galvanic doo-doo. Some of the more plausible ones include:

- Dissimilar metals used in the support members vs. the basket metal itself.
- Certain combinations of hard water and detergents.
- Running the washer on a non-grounded or improperly grounded outlet.

Regardless of the cause, which is a whole separate and interesting engineering discussion, if this happens to your washer, your immediate tasks are to 1) properly and positively identify this failure and 2) decide whether to repair or replace based on the economics of the situation.


2. Bad Drum Bearings

This failure usually manifests as a roaring noise during the spin cycle. This first video demonstrates the tell-tale sound of bad drum bearings:




In advanced stages of this failure, you can also diagnose bad bearings manually using this technique:




Ruh-row, trouble in washer-land! These drum bearings are factory-pressed into the back half of the drum. So it's not like you can buy a set of OEM bearings, pop 'em in and off you go. You have to replace the whole drum, at least the back half, with the factory-installed bearings. Problem is that you'll usually find the drive shaft on the inner basket so corroded that you'll need to replace the inner basket at the same time. Double whammy!

If you look around the Internet, you'll find third-party bearings that claim to be a drop-in replacement for the factory-installed bearings. I've not heard of a single case of this repair lasting more than a few months. If you've done this repair and have gotten longer than a year out of it, send me proof and you'll be a rock star.

The reason these third-party bearings have such a dismal reliability record is because the tolerance on these bearings is astonishingly tight. When you consider the pressure and speeds that these bearings need to work in, it's amazing they last as long as they do. These bearings are actually a precision-machined piece and that's why they have to be installed at the factory for maximum reliability.


Dispelling Two Big Urban Myths about the F35 / Sud Error Codes in Whirlpool Duet Front Load Washers

Posted by Samurai Appliance Repair Man, in Washing Machine Repair 01 December 2013 · 1,134 views
Whirlpool, washer, F35, Sud and 3 more...
The F35 / Sud error code is one of the more common codes to pop up in the display of the late-model Whirlpool Duet front load washers. There's a lot of urban mythology out there on the Internet about these codes, their causes, and how to fix them. I'm going to deal with the two most prevalent myths out there and inoculate you against their error.

Urban Myth Number 1: "The F35 / Sud error code is caused by a clogged drain pump and to fix it, you have to clean out the drain pump cleanout port."

Reality: The drain pump and its cleanout port have absolutely nothing to do with this particular error code. The control board is programmed to display completely different error codes pertaining to the drain pump such as:

- F01 Pump driver error
- F21 Long drain time
- F27 Overflow condition

You can find these yourself on the tech sheet located inside the washer, either under the top panel or behind the bottom front panel. On that tech sheet, you'll see over six pages of very specific error codes-- 30 in all! -- dealing with distinct, specific aspects on the machine's function and operation.

The F35 error code specifically deals with faults related to the Analog Pressure Sensor (APS). The Sud error code pertains to excess suds detection in the machine. When these two codes occur together (and they don't always), it leads you to a very specific diagnosis but one which has nothing to do with the drain pump.

I know there's a video out on Youtube with a lot of views where the guy claims this fixed it but I assure you that was purely coincidental. He was a DIYer who was just guessing. Saying that a poor drain caused the F35 / Sud error combo is like saying a flat tire caused your car engine to quit starting.


Urban Myth Number 2: "To clear the F35 error code, try pulling the rubber tube off the APS and blowing hard into the tube nipple on the APS to reset it."

Reality: Blowing into the APS does absolutely nothing good. But it does ruin an APS that was already good. These are not like the old bellows pressure switches. Analog pressure sensors are digital transducers that convert an analog pressure into a digital information stream for the CCU. Telling people to blow into the APS is simply going to make them ruin a hundred+ dollar part.

There is some merit, however, to pulling the black rubber tube off the APS and blowing into it back toward the drum (NOT into the APS) to clear any gookus that may have gotten lodged in there and is interfering with the changes in air pressure being sent up the tube to the APS.


The Light of Truth

Let's take a walk through a Whirlpool Duet washer with the F35 / Sud error code combo and investigate its real cause and how to fix it:



Here's the link to the Analog Pressure Sensor (APS) that I replaced to fix the problem in this particular model: http://www.repaircli...0415587/1938628

As mentioned in the video, a defective APS is the single-most common cause for the F35 / Sud error code combo. There are at least two variations on the APS theme, so be sure to look up the correct sensor based on your complete model number and buy it here. That way, in the off chance that the APS doesn't fix it, you can return it for a refund and buy either the CCU or the Steamer board.






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