Our eloquent and lyrical Brother in the Craft, DurhamAppliance, offers some sage pearls of wisdom for us Professional Appliantologists when dealing with a customer who has negative (and often strong) opinions about appliance brands:
Respecting others opinion is professionalism at its best. Sometimes not challenging a customer's negative opinion about your favorite machine neither reflects your enjoyment of what you do nor your expertise in doing it. When you take a customers disparaging comment to heart, you risk losing your objectivity.
Customers, after battling a machine for a length of time, can also developed heartfelt feelings. I, for one, am not a washer-customer social worker nor appliance relationship counselor. Others may elect to be such. I will, however, repair their machine and educate them about it. If the customer still feels his machine is a piece of crap, so be it. I'm not a believer in the maxim "a customer is always right" , but I do subscribe to a principle found in How to Win Friends and Influence People, one of the best books on sales techniques ever written. That principle suggests when dealing with people, many times it's best not to be right...even when you are.
As almost everyone with a pulse knows, Kenmore appliances aren't made by a manufacturing company called, "Kenmore." There ain't no Kenmore factory in Malaysia or anywhere else. The only thing Kenmore makes is money.
Kenmore appliances are all made by other, well-known manufacturers under contract for Kenmore. This can present a problem getting tech info, like service bulletins and manuals, for independent appliance techs. Since the technical documentation is written by the original manufacturer, you need to be able to convert the Kenmore model number into it's original manufacturer equivalent.
I recently ran into this with an LG-made Kenmore refrigerator. Chief richseattle56 explains the arcane and mysterious method for converting LG-made Kenmore appliance model numbers into their LG equivalent for purposes of finding tech info on the unit:
Here is a simple way to get LG made Kenmore Service Manuals and tech support. The LG number for the tech information is in the Kenmore model number. It is the five numbers after the first three, for instance, if the model number is 795.75202401, on the LG tech Assist site, click on Tech Publications chose Refrigerator and enter in the search box 75202 and click on search the different manuals will show up. This will give you the exact manual.
All Master Appliantologists acquire advanced repair katas during their years of hand-to-machine combat with malfunctioning appliances. Examples of how some of these Special Weapons and Tactics are used in appliance repair include:
- diagnosing elusive or subtle problems
- gaining insight into the condition of a component and assessing its likelihood of future or imminent failure
- testing specialized components to see whether they're good or bad
- facilitating or implementing a particular repair
In this special issue of Appliantology, I'll reveal some of my personal, favorite SWATs that I use on some service calls which can also be useful for amateur appliantologists working on their own appliances.
The Hand-Held Steamer
Good for all kinds of household tasks such as cleaning and disinfecting, the mighty hand-held steamer is indispensable for some appliance repairs. For example, defrosting a frosted-up evaporator coil or clearing a clogged condensate drain in a refrigerator. In fact, since I've been using my steamer, I can't imagine doing these types of repairs without it! It's makes quick work of these messy jobs.
Take a look at the icy mess in the freezer in this video; this repair would have taken over two hours without a steamer but, with the steamer, I did this entire repair in less than an hour!
You can buy the very same steamer I used in the video at Amazon for $15 less than what I paid for it! http://amzn.to/OPggAo
Refrigerator Temperature Data Logger
Sometimes I run into situations where I need a way to log temperature data inside a refrigerator for at least 24 hours to get a clear picture of what's going on inside that box. A couple of examples are:
1. Customer complains of warm temperatures in the beer compartment of her Maytag side-by-side refrigerator but says that the freezer compartment is fine (and we know how accurate customer temperature measurements are... NOT!). You arrive and measure the freezer temperature using your infrared temperature gun and get readings that vary from +5F to +12F. Marginal temperatures for a freezer but was that because it was just coming out of a defrost or off-cycle? Was the door recently opened just before you got there? You don't know, and all you have is the one data point: the measurement you just made. Wouldn't it help your diagnosis if you could put a data logger inside the freezer for a day or so and then look at a graph of the actual temperature measurements inside that freezer over time?
2. Customer complains that the freezer temperature in her GE built-in refrigerator fluctuates over time from 5F to 10F to 20F and then back to hard freeze. You maybe even verified this yourself (if you spent enough time there to do this). But how much time in a typical service call day do you have to babysit freezer temperatures? And you still wouldn't be able to gather enough temperature-time data points to discern whether or not there's a pattern to the fluctuations which could then be correlated to some other process in the refrigerator (defrost cycles, compressor cycles, etc.). Even seeing that there is no pattern, that the fluctuations are random, is also helpful because it could indicate something as simple as the door not being closed all the way (hinge adjustment issue?).
In cases like these, you just gotta be able to look at the temperature inside the compartment over an extended period of time. Enter the Supco LT2 LOGiT Dual Channel Temperature Data Logger. Here's a video of me showing you how to set up and use the data logger:
and you'll need this software kit to get the data to your Windows PC, also available at Amazon: http://amzn.to/S3bmhb
Special Meter Technique for Testing a Microwave Oven High Voltage Rectifier
You probably know how to use a multimeter to make simple electrical measurements, like voltage and resistance. (If not, then see this page at my blog for a simple tutorial on using a multimeter: http://fixitnow.com/wp/2004/12/18/appliance-repair-revelation-making-basic-electrical-measurements/ ) But sometimes, you have to do a voltage test in an unusual way to check whether a component is good or bad. A common example of this is testing the high voltage rectifier (also called a diode) in a microwave oven. This is an inexpensive, common-fail part that will stop the microwave from heating if it breaks.
For most rectifiers, you test 'em by simply measuring the resistance and then switching the leads and checking it again-- should read open (high resistance) in one direction and closed (low resistance) in the other. But microwave high voltage rectifiers are a special case because their internal resistance is so high that you'll just read open in both directions and you can't tell whether it's good or bad that way. So, to test them, you have to actually do a voltage test using a 9 volt battery. This esoteric kata is fully revealed in this video:
The Mega-Ohm Meter (or "Megger")
One of the common failures with a refrigerator compressor is that the varnish insulation on the motor windings starts to break down and then begins leaking current to ground. If the current leakage is large enough, you can deduce that this is happening by measuring compressor current draw-- an abnormally high reading combined with the compressor running hotter than normal are sure signs that the insulation on the compressor motor windings is breaking down and the compressor is not long for this world.
Or you could directly test the compressor motor windings using an instrument called a mega-ohm meter, or "megger," to directly test the integrity of the winding insulation. I use an inexpensive megger that cost less than $100 (back when I bought it a million years ago-- it's not much more than that now). This video shows using a megger to check the compressor motor:
Measuring current flow through a circuit or component is a powerful troubleshooting tool to have in your appliance repair SWAT bag.
For example, on a Bosch dishwasher that's not heating, a quick current measurement a few minutes into the cycle will tell you whether or not current is flowing through the heater. If not, yet the control board is supplying 120 volts to the heater circuit, then you know the problem lies in the heating circuit itself because something in that circuit (heater, NTC, etc.) is open, stopping current flow.
Other times, the only way you can tell whether or not a part is bad is by measuring the current flow throughout that part. For example, the ignitor in a gas oven glows but the bake burner never fires up: is it a bad gas valve? Bad ignitor? Flip a coin and guess? No need to guess if you can make a simple current measurement. (Note that an ignitor can glow and still be bad-- in fact, this is the most common case.) This video shows you how:
I prefer Fluke meters and I own two Fluke amp meters. Here's the Amazon link to the one shown in the video, the Fluke T5, which is well under $100: http://amzn.to/Rd5pPh
And I also own the Fluke 322 which is a little more expensive (still under $100) but also more versatile: http://amzn.to/RIsQPf
You can find whatever appliance part you need through the parts search box at Appliantology.org:
No harm in buying and trying with our 365-day, no-hassle return policy, even on electrical parts that were installed! And now shipping to Canada, too!
Academy Fellow CTG51 graces us with another of his clever appliance repair gizmos...
A handy item if you test a lot of microwave ovens ( or other fuse eating items )... Make a resettable fuse tester................... and with easy to find parts ......Makes a good ( safety ) jumper in case you jumped the WRONG wires....
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.
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