FAQs | Repair Videos | Academy | Newsletter | Podcast | Contact
Stay connected with us...
About this blog
Pearls of appliance repair wisdom from the Appliantology Forums
Entries in this blog
Here's a quick tip for finding service manuals for Kenmore model numbers in the Downloads section here at Appliantology.
Let's say you have a Kenmore model number like 796.31512210. The site search doesn't play nice with special characters like the "." in the model number. Easy workaround:
Use the search wild card character, "*" to replace the model number prefix including the "." like ahso: *31512210
Copy and paste that search term into the search bar at the top of the page. In the search box, be sure to specify the "Files" section of the site otherwise you'll search the entire site and get a bunch of results that don't help. Sometimes, you'll need to click "More options" in the search box choices in order to see the "Files" selection.
In cases where the model number also has a trailing part of the model number with another ".", do the patented double wild card search. Example:
Model number: 795.51022.010
Replace both the prefix and suffix with the wild card: *51022*
Search as instructed above and you'll find it.
I've been working with appliance techs online for over 20 years. One of the biggest changes I've seen in the tech community during that time is a steady decline in competence in troubleshooting electrical circuits. It's to the point today that many techs don't even know what real troubleshooting is or looks like. A common misunderstanding is that pattern recognition and parts changing are what constitute "troubleshooting."
Real troubleshooting starts with a succinct problem statement that answers one or both of these questions: 1) What is the appliance doing that it should NOT be doing? 2) What is the appliance NOT doing that it SHOULD be doing?
Using the problem statement and the schematic, a skilled technician will identify the load of interest (LOI), analyze the LOI power supply circuit, and then proceed to kick some appliance ass. I've codified this analytical troubleshooting technique into the Ten-Step Tango™ Troubleshooting Method.
I've posted multiple webinar recordings demonstrating the Ten-Step Tango™ on various appliances, from simple to complex, from wall ovens to refrigerators and everything in between. Today, I want to call your attention to just three of these.
In these three enlightening webinar recordings at Appliantology, each about an hour and a half long, the Samurai unveils the secrets of his own troubleshooting technique: The Ten-Step Tango™. In ten clear, easy to follow steps, you'll learn how to apply this structured troubleshooting procedure to diagnose ANY electrical problem, whether it's an appliance, home solar power system, or anything else electrical. And you'll troubleshoot it with precision and competence. No more guessing and hoping to get lucky.
If you're a premium tech member at Appliantology (Professional Appliantologist, Appliantology Fellow, or Master Samurai Tech Alumnus), you can watch these webinar recordings at Appliantology on-demand, 24/7. Access to videos like these are one of the many perks of a Professional Appliantologist membership at Appliantology. You can become one today by clicking here.
This first video walks you through the Ten-Step Tango™, then shows how to apply it by working through several scenarios based on real-life service calls.
This next video gets into some more advanced troubleshooting kata with even more exercises. If you hadn't quite gotten the hang of the Ten-Step Tango™ in the last video, this one will really lock it in for you.
Without a solid troubleshooting plan and schematic know-how, the refrigerator problems in this video might have made a parts-changing monkey out of you! Luckily, you've got the Ten Step Tango™ on your side.
You'll find all three parts of this webinar series here on the webinar recordings index page at Appliantology. Beyond that, there's over 30 different videos -- that's over 40 hours of content -- all covering fundamental appliance troubleshooting and technology. The knowledge in this treasure trove will serve you well, no matter what kinds of appliances you service, because at Master Samurai Tech, we teach the fundamental technologies that are common to all appliances. Learn more, earn more.
Nice job explaining what I’ve suspected for years...
The Samurai gave a live walkthrough on how to effectively use Appliantology as an appliance tech information tool: getting familiar with the site layout and content, how to search for service manuals, how to start new topics, and much, much more! BONUS: a quick run through of the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
Special guest, Justin Duby, with Just-in Time Appliance Repair in Grantspass, OR ( @applianceman97 here at Appliantology) joins us to talk about his experience selling new appliances and offer tips and advice for anyone thinking of adding this to their appliance service business.
Also, at the end of the show, we give an update on the developing Facebook data-selling debacle that's unfolding. More info on this in my previous blog post.
You can subscribe and listen to the audio-only portion of the podcast here: http://mstradio.com
Unless you’ve been living under a washing machine all this time, you’ve undoubtedly heard the kerfuffle where Facebook was recently caught selling the personal information of over 50 million people to a marketing firm.
I'm not surprised-- saw this coming a long time ago.
So did Facebook Dear Leader and CEO, Mark "The Zuck" Zuckerberg. Here's an exchange between The Zuck and a friend shortly after founding Facebook:
[Source: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-25/dumb-f-ks-julian-assange-reminds-us-what-mark-zuckerberg-thinks-facebook-users ]
Hello? Is this thing on?
And, not to say I told you so but… I TOLD YOU SO! Yep, Master Samurai Tech Radio Episode 23, February 8, 2018, I called out all of this and more. I explained that Facebook is scraping all your personal content and interactions with the site in order to build a marketing profile on you and sell this to big marketing companies and government intelligence agencies. THAT’s why it is “free.” In reality, it’s not free. That’s because you’re giving up tons of personal, private information about yourself. Yep, I explained all that right here, starting about 35 minutes into the show (the video below will start playing at that time):
In other words, you are whoring out your personal information so you can watch your niece's dance recital or yak with your "friends."
At Facebook, YOU are the product. By the way, this is generally how the Internet works: if you’re not paying for it, YOU are the product.
And I’m here to tell you, what you’ve heard on the news about Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg. People with lots of degrees and initials after their names get paid Big Bucks to design the Facebook platform to psychologically manipulate you and keep you addicted and interacting.
Even what you do and say in “private groups” becomes part of your profile and is used to compile a dossier on you. This can be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes ranging from political campaigns to “outing” people for having opinions that are deemed unacceptable or politically incorrect by The Powers That Be. Consequences could include the loss of your job, negative affects on your business, legal harassment, jail or, in the future, "re-education." Some police departments around the country are already using artificial Intelligence (AI) to mine data and predict crime. And guess what: they suck at it! Unfortunately, the consequences of a mistaken SWAT raid are rarely benign.
But it may even go way beyond that, as I explain in the podcast-- there are credible reports that they’re also manipulating you physiologically by modulating the electromagnetic field (EMF) of your smartphone to influence your brain waves. Who knows what will come out in the next 5 years. You heard it here first!
Facebook’s recent data dump scandal is actually damage control covering for something far worse. It's a controlled release of some bad information in order to avoid fessing up to the really bad shit they’ve been doing.
People with the inside tech scoop are deleting their Facebook accounts leaving the naive on the plantation. Has the exodus has begun? Let’s hope so. And I’m doing my small part to get the word out. In the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, "Come out of her, my people!"
Is Facebook ZUCKing itself into oblivion? It's not unthinkable. Remember that failed Facebook predecessor, Myspace? The graphs below shows how the search volume at Myspace reached a peak and then drifted off into oblivion. Could it happen to Facebook? Well, so far, things are looking pretty similar:
After Facebook, another vogue social media plantation will come along that unsuspecting victims will flock to. And what’s the product on all the social media plantations? YOU: your data, your preferences, your fetishes, your biometrics… your mind.
Nothing on the Internet is really free-- you are paying somehow. If not with money, then with personal information. That’s why you pay for premium access at Appliantology. Appliantology is part of the free-range Internet (meaning we're off the corporate plantation): no data harvesting, no profile scraping, no compiling dossiers, no selling you as a product to big marketing firms.
If you still choose to have a Facebook account, do so with the understanding that they are trying to Zuck you. It’s called the Zuck n’ Jive.
Fantastic Peer Group meeting last night! We had 5 presentations (including mine) and I want to thank the other presenters for doing such a fantastic job! We had almost 20 techs in attendance who stayed the full two hours. Good presentations, good discussion, good times!
Here's a listing of the presentations and presenters:
Network marketing for your business, @Ed V
New AHAM Guidance for Safe Servicing Appliances with Flammable Refrigerants, @KaveMan
Dealing with Customer Personality Types: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, @Jim Westfall
Wi-Fi Basics and Internet Connected Appliances, @Son of Samurai
Two Refrigerator Troubleshooting Case Studies, @Samurai Appliance Repair Man
Thanks again to all the presenters!
I've uploaded some of the presentation PDFs here.
Tech members at Appliantology can watch the full-length video recording of the webinar here.
In this special international episode, the Samurai is in Fiji at Samurai International Headquarters, while Mrs. Samurai is in the Team Samurai New Hampshire pavilion. Although halfway around the globe from each other, Team Samurai comes together through the miracle of the Internet to deliver you this timely and crucial information in this episode of Master Samurai Tech Radio. We compare and contrast three online training options with the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
Subscribe or listen to the audio-only podcast here: http://mstradio.com
In this first video, we troubleshoot a warm beer compartment (fresh food) in a Frigidaire Gallery french door bottom mount refrigerator. The video illustrates the importance of following a cardinal rule of troubleshooting: Fix the obvious problem first.
In this case, the customer simply reported that the FF compartment was warm but the freezer compartment was good. We verified these temperatures upon arrival. But then the customer points out that the lights in the FF compartment were stuck on and melted a hole in the liner at the top-- you'll see this in the video.
So, in keeping with step one of the Ten Step Tango™ troubleshooting procedure, what is our problem statement? Warm FF compartment? Or...
It may have started out that way but now, with this new observation, the problem statement evolves to "lights in the FF compartment stuck on."
We then show how to verify this in diagnostic mode and using the video record function on the your iPhone. Then we show how to use the schematic on the tech sheet to deduce the cause of the problem.
BTW, we had already tested the door switch in diagnostic mode and it was correctly reporting the open/closed status to the UI so we ruled that out.
This case study reveals how imperative it is for the sharp shooter tech to avoid getting tunnel vision based on the customer problem statement and to look for and respond to realtime observations at the service call.
In this next video, we take you inside the defective damper assembly in a GE Profile (Arctica series) side by side refrigerator and shows you a common way these dampers fail, allowing too much cold air into the beer compartment.
Fun Fact to Know and Tell: Four out of five astrophysicists agree that the smartest and best appliance techs in the galaxy hang out at Appliantology.org!
The Samurai and Mrs. Samurai share some highlights from the inaugural Appliantology Peer Group meeting. One of the topics discussed was the idea of doing electronic control board repairs as part of an appliance repair business.
To hear just the audio portion, subscribe to the podcast: http://mstradio.com/
Samurai Appliance Repair Man and Mrs. Samurai suss out various angles and facets in a sensational recent news story where a Sears contractor tech attacked a customer. Lots of interesting lessons from this story for both customers and in-home service professionals.
Link to the news story: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/02/19/repairman-arrested-homeowner-attack/
The Samurai and Mrs. Samurai talk about the Biz of appliance repair and other topics:
Customer relations and strategic market targeting
Culture of dumbass among some techs
Free Appliance repair expos like in the HVAC industry
Upcoming Appliantology Peer Group web meeting
In this appliance repair extravaganza, Samurai Appliance Repair Man shows you how to think like a real technician using the schematic as your troubleshooting strategy map and track down the cause for a no heat problem in a gas dryer.
Learn appliance repair online at the Master Samurai Tech Academy
Get tech support at Appliantology.org
I’m going to explain how you can get a free tech membership here at Appliantology, the premiere online tech support community.
Hot on the heels of two, free tech memberships here at Appliantology that we announced recently-- the Master Samurai Tech Alumni and Senior Appliantology Fellow programs-- today we're rolling out yet another free tech membership program! This membership gives verified techs free access to most of the tech-only forums and downloading privileges from the Appliance Repair Manual Pot Luck Supper with over 4,300 service manuals and tech sheets (and growing!).
"Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?" you ask, warily.
No catch but there are a few limitations. It's easiest to explain this by comparing and contrasting the two tiers of tech memberships here at Appliantology.
There are two tiers of tech membership at Appliantology: Limited and Premium.
Limited tech members are in the member group Legacy Tech. They have access to the tech-only forums with the exception of the technical training webinar recordings (although they are invited to attend the live webinars). Legacy Techs can download service manuals from the Appliance Repair Pot Luck Supper but they can't post service manual request in the Appliance Service Manual Requests forum and the download speed is limited. Also, Legacy Techs can download only one manual at a time but there is no limit to the number of consecutive downloads. Legacy Techs also have limited access to the private message system. Other than these differences, they are full tech members here at Appliantology.
Premium tech members are in the member groups: Professional Appliantologist, Senior Appliantology Fellow, and Master Samurai Tech Alumni. These groups all have the same access and privileges: unthrottled and unlimited simultaneous downloads, requesting manuals and tech sheets not already in the Downloads section, full access to all tech-only forums including webinar recordings, unlimited access to the private message system and some other goodies.
"Okay, but why are you giving this away? What's in it for you?"
My, my-- suspicious much? Call it a dietary vitamin C deficiency compounded by long, sunlight-starved winters in New Hampshire. Call it early onset Alzheimers. Call it coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. But I hope you're not so coo-coo that you don't recognize a good deal when it's slapping you upside the head!
My thought in doing this is that it gives professional appliance repair techs a better look at what Appliantology has to offer, and I hope that you'll like what you see enough to stick around and either pay for a Professional Appliantologist membership or earn an Appliantology Fellowship by participating. Plain as that.
"Okay, how do I hop on this gravy train?"
I thought you'd never ask! First, register for a free Grasshopper (non-tech) account. Then send in the form below to request a free upgrade to a Legacy Tech account.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href="https://mastersamuraitech.wufoo.com/forms/qyisdb70vd2d3e/" href="https://mastersamuraitech.wufoo.com/forms/qyisdb70vd2d3e/"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; Fill out my Wufoo form! &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hot on the heels of the Master Samurai Tech Alumni program that we just announced, we're launching yet another way that professional techs can earn a free, full-tech membership here at Appliantology.
You may have seen some of the brethren here at Appliantology whose member group is "Senior Appliantology Fellow," such as Brothers @john63, @Budget Appliance Repair, @AccApp, @sh2sh2 and others. These are a select few members who have a long history with Appliantology and have been prolific posters, helping other tech members solve appliance problems. We've never had a really formal structure for gaining this vaunted status but we've come up with something that I hope you'll like.
Here's the two-step tango for requesting a Senior Appliantology Fellowship:
You have been a tech member at Appliantology for at least one year
You have at least 1,000 total posts
If both the above are true, then fill in the short form at the end of this post and we'll get that going for you mo'scratchie (that's Samurai-speak for "quickly").
Questions and Answers:
Q. What does being a Senior Appliantology Fellow membership get me and why should I bother?
A. It's a full tech membership with all the same privileges as a Professional Appliantologist member (a $197/year value-- FREE):
access to all tech forums
unlimited manual downloads with no download speed throttling
access to webinars and webinar recordings
Q. Why are you doing this?
A. Because we're awesome and we think you are, too.
Q. Do I need to make 1,000 posts every year to keep my Fellowship active?
A. No, this is just the "bar to entry" to apply for the Fellowship program.
Q. Why 1,000 posts?
A. Because experience and history have shown that this is enough to 1) show the value of the member's knowledge and posts and 2) ensure that the member thoroughly understands how to use Appliantology. Also, at least some of your 1,000 qualifying posts should be recent to show that you're currently active at Appliantology. In other words, if you have over 1,000 posts but your last post was a year ago, get active again before applying for a Fellowship.
Q. Once I get a Fellowship, is this a permanent deal?
A. Few things in life are permanent but this is pretty close. As long as you stay active at Appliantology (meaning you help answer questions or upload files when you can) then your Fellowship is secure. This doesn't mean you need to post every day. On the other hand, it does not mean you can stay away for months at time, not posting or only coming around to download manuals. Make Appliantology one of your regular haunts for appliance repair info and tech camaraderie and you are good to go.
Q. Why are you calling it a "Fellowship?" Seems kinda gay.
A. It comes from academia where visiting scholars are often given a Fellowship for sharing their wisdom with the University. So, although many modern scholars may, in fact, be gay, the genesis of "Fellowship" is absolutely not. Most famous scientists and engineers in history, for example, were awarded a Fellowship at a prestigious institution early in their academic careers. This tradition persists in modern science and engineering today.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href="https://mastersamuraitech.wufoo.com/forms/q1pmvkjs191vicb/" href="https://mastersamuraitech.wufoo.com/forms/q1pmvkjs191vicb/"&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; Fill out my Wufoo form! &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
In this glimpse into the glamour life of an appliance tech, we troubleshoot an E-OE error code on a Samsung gas range with the added twist of rat infestation and yapping little dogs. It's winter in New Hampshire and rodents will seek out warm places but this place was a literal rats nest. The smell of rodent piss was gagging us (me and @Son of Samurai) as soon as we walked in the door. It would have been stronger if it was actually warm inside the kitchen but it was probably only about 45F which kept the stench at sub-gag level. And then, to make our joy complete, we were serenaded by yapping Jack Russell terriers the entire time. (Isn't it about time we outlawed little yapping dogs? How 'bout at least make it legal to shoot them on sight?)
Really, what the hell is wrong with people today?
In this epic episode:
- Wrap up of the 2018 Annual Service Training Institute (ASTI) held in St. Petersburg, FL
- Technical and business training at the ASTI
- Travel tips to avoid getting sick
- Fun facts to know and tell about how social media manipulates you and gives you brain damage
You can subscribe to the podcast and just listen to the audio portion here.
In this special episode, we explore the question of size of the Samurai's ego. Turns out that it's so massive that we needed a whole episode devoted to it. Yes, size does matter!
- Upcoming ASTI in St. Petersburg
- Tech training challenges
- Three stumbling blocks to becoming a better tech
- What makes Appliantology so great?
- MST Alumnus program
Subscribe to the podcast here.
Training at the Master Samurai Tech Academy is already a killer deal: comprehensive, state-of-the-art training that’s online and on-demand at tuition low enough that anyone can afford it.
Well now we’re kicking it up to 11 with the Master Samurai Tech Alumni program.
If you have been certified* in the Fundamentals course at the Master Samurai Tech Academy or at the Mr. Appliance Academy (Bundle 1 only), you can get full tech access to our tech support site, Appliantology.org, with no annual fee. Yes, as in FREE.
You heard that right.
You would be a Master Samurai Tech Alumnus at Appliantology with the same level of access and all the benefits of a Professional Appliantologist member (read all the benefits of PA membership here). That’s a $197/year value-- FREE!
What’s the catch? No catch but there is a small difference between PA and MST Alumnus membership.
PA members can continue to renew their membership at the annual rate and can download and request all the manuals they need regardless of how much or how little they participate in the forums.
The MST Alumnus membership is also annual but instead of paying with money, you “pay” with participation in the forums. Each year when your membership comes up for renewal, you need about a 2:1 post to download ratio to renew [UPDATED]. That means that as a general guideline, you need to have made two posts for every download.
This is super easy to do and active Appliantology members are already far exceeding this ratio without even trying. The idea here is not to place a burden (because it’s not)-- it’s to discourage people from getting the MST Alumnus membership and simply downloading manuals without interacting with the other members.
This really is a killer deal and a special perk for certified Fundamentals graduates! Why are we offering such a great deal? Simple:
We want to encourage more techs to successfully complete the Fundamentals course and get certified. This helps them be better techs and helps the trade in general.
Certified Fundamentals grads tend to be top tier techs who bring interesting questions and good problem solving insight to the forums. They are skilled techs and potentially valuable content contributors.
This deal is retroactive meaning that if you’re already a certified graduate of the Fundamentals course, you are eligible for this deal. If you’re already a PA member and a certified Fundamentals grad, we can move you to the MST Alumnus deal.
So how do you get started on this gravy train? Easy: just fill out this short form, we’ll review it and set up your MST Alumnus account here at Appliantology mo’scratchie (that’s Samurai-speak for “quickly”).
* Certified means that you meet all currently required quiz and exam score requirements for the course; see this page for details.
2017 is quickly coming to an end, and the new year is just around the corner. This is your last chance to get in some tax deductible business expenses, and an enrollment in one of our enlightening and empowering appliance tech training courses at Master Samurai Tech is just the thing!
Most of you reading this will be in either the 15% or 25% tax bracket. Training costs for your employment or business are tax deductible. If you claim your tuition as a deduction on your 1040, this is effectively like getting our top-notch, online appliance repair training at a 15 to 25% discount!
If you have already enrolled this year, be sure to claim your tuition as a business expense. If you haven't yet enrolled, you can still claim this deduction on your 2017 taxes if you enroll by the end of the year.
Why let the government take more of your money when you can spend it on empowering, knowledge-packed courses that are sure to level up your appliance repair business?
From all of us here at Team Samurai, we wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2018!
The Master Samurai Tech Academy
Employment numbers for the appliance repair industry
Whirlpool lawsuit against Samsung because Samsung is kicking Whirlpool's corporate *ss on front load washers
Samsung opening a new, state-of-the-art $380 million manufacturing facility in South Carolina Kenmore appliances on Amazon
Appliantology monthly workshops
Refrigerator sealed system repairs: what you really need to know
Top Kendo Master at Appliantology each month wins $100!
Oven and Range repair training course- just in time for cooking season
You can watch the video below or subscribe to the podcast for the audio-only portion.
Tech members at Appliantology earn points for answering questions. The top 5 point earners and a running tally of their points are listed in the "Kendo Masters" block on the Appliantology homepage. At the end of each and every month, the member with the highest Kendo point score (the “Ichiban Kendo Master”) wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate!
It's that simple. No gimmicks.
Check it out:
If you earn Ichiban Appliantology Kendo Master for only two months, you will more than pay for your Professional Appliantologist membership!
If you earn Ichiban Appliantology Kendo Master every month for a year, you could earn $1,200! (in Amazon gift certificates)
Mah breverens, this here be's a killer deal! No strings. No gotchas. No chit, mon! You could win a $100 Amazon gift certificate just for talking shop with your Brethren in the Craft!
Just think what you can do with that money:
Finally get that Fluke meter set you’ve been drooling over
Buy that new digital micron gauge you’ve been wanting
Get a cool tool backpack like the one I use
Buy whatever else makes your heart go pitty-pat in that impulse buyer’s emporium known as Amazon.com
What is “kendo”? Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art that derives from samurai swordsmanship. Unlike it’s lethal predecessor, participants use bamboo swords. Seemed appropriate for what we do here at Appliantology: we sharpen our troubleshooting skills as we help our fellow techs solve problems. The person seeking help and the person(s) helping all improve their skills.
The top point earners, Kendo Masters, are listed for the week, month, and year. This is a simple rolling look-back for 7, 30, and 365 days respectively so it usually changes each day depending on activity. On the last day of each month, starting now (October 2017), the Kendo Master with the highest monthly score will win a $100 Amazon gift certificate.
Since I also accrue Kendo points just like any other member, that means you’ll have to beat my monthly Kendo score in order to win.
You earn Kendo points for your replies to all topics, even topics that you start. But you probably won’t accumulate enough Kendo points to win that way. So you’ll also need to reply to other people’s topics in order to earn enough Kendo points to win for the month. And that’s the whole point! (pardon the pun)
In addition to the $100 Amazon gift certificate, Ichiban Appliantology Kendo Masters for each month will also get special recognition in the Kendo Masters Hall of Fame forum. A new topic will be started there each month to commemorate the Ichiban Kendo Master of the Month.
Let the Kendo games begin!
Many professional appliance techs do not currently offer refrigerator sealed system repairs but are thinking about adding it to their service repertoire. In this post, I’ll offer some thoughts to help you decide if this makes sense for your service area. I'll also offer some resources for learning sealed system repair if you decide that makes sense for you. I encourage any of my Brethren in the Craft to post their comments and experience.
The false mystique of sealed system repair
First, understand that actually doing sealed system repairs is distinct from diagnosing a sealed system problem to begin with. Here’s the reality: it's easy to train PCMs on how to do sealed system work; it’s much harder to train technicians how to think and diagnose warm refrigerator problems correctly and cleverly. And you know what they say: If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If all a guy knows is how to do sealed system work, guess what: every warm refrigerator problem looks like a sealed system problem. Yes, I actually know guys like this.
In fact, I've found that a lot guys who do sealed system work don't actually understand how the sealed system works. I know, it sounds crazy! But that's the dirty little secret of sealed system work: you don't have to understand the thermodynamics of a refrigeration system, you just have to know how to follow a procedure and wield a torch. It's a PCM's wet dream!
Doing sealed system work is a matter of following a procedure, paying attention to details, using some expensive equipment, reading pressure gauges and weight scales, and acquiring some degree of proficiency with brazing copper (and soon, Lokring). When I first started doing sealed system work 20+ years ago, there was a definite cool factor--playing with gauges, vacuum pumps, and torches just like in all the pictures. After I fixed my first one, I strutted around like a rooster, "Yeah, I'm a badass like those guys in RSES magazine!" But then I found sealed system work quickly became boring and repetitive and that troubleshooting refrigerator problems was a much more commonly needed skill and was also more interesting.
Brazing copper lines seems to be the skill that most techs are in awe of. My dear old dad, Grant Brown (of blessed memory) owned Hillphoenix Refrigeration, a company in Conyers, GA, that manufactures commercial refrigeration systems. I worked there as kid growing up and during summers while I was studying engineering at the University of Georgia. Anyway, Grant Brown had a saying, “Any asshole can learn how to braze copper; it takes a highly paid asshole to learn how to weld steel.”
The point is that in the range of physical skills required for metalwork, brazing copper is a relatively easy one and thus not highly compensated in the industrial world.
Everett Ball was Grant Brown's star brazer, shaping and making the copper pipe connections on compressor racks (these were commercial multiple compressor systems to allow staged refrigeration capacity to more closely match the refrigeration load). Everett Ball was an absolute artist with copper. He could shape the pipe and make perfect hand-made solder joints first time, every time, 100% free of pinholes. But ol' Everett liked his beer... and his vodka, and his bourbon, and probably even sterno and lighter fluid if he ran out of those. Grant Brown bailed him out of jail for DUI more times than I can remember (he knew the judge from Rotary Club). Everett also couldn't manage money so he was always "borrowing" money from Grant, which only delayed his inevitable bankruptcy and losing his house. And then there were the divorces (yes, plural). He didn't have a very big vocabulary but he could swear to make a drunken sailor blush. Although Everett was not the sharpest knife in the drawer (to put it kindly), the man was a frikkin' Picasso with copper and torch.
The point of that little story is this: don’t be freaked out about learning how to braze copper-- it’s a well-worn path that thousands of people with far less intelligence than you have mastered. A little practice with some silver solder and copper pieces and you’ll get it.
Adding sealed system repairs to your service offerings
Having plucked the bloom of mystique off the sealed system rose, I’ll go on and discuss doing sealed system work from a business standpoint.
Let me say right off the bat that doing sealed system repairs in the right circumstances is very high margin and profitable work. But the circumstances are all-important. I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and ugly.
The length of time to complete a sealed system repair can vary from about two hours to half a day or more. The big variable is locating the leak and the difficulty in making the repair depending on where it is. Sometimes, it’s a slam dunk because it’s a known problem and the manufacturer has put out a service bulletin on it. For example, the leaky evaporator problems with some Whirlpool models and older Sub-Zero models. Other times, you have to use dye or some other leak locating technique to pinpoint the location of the leak. And then you may find the leak is in a location that’s difficult to access and physically awkward or nearly impossible to braze in. These stretch out the repair time and make for painful, tedious repairs.
As you might gather from the foregoing, doing sealed system work as a warranty servicer is often a losing proposition. If you connect with the wrong company, you are essentially whoring out your time like a two-bit hooker and the manufacturer is completely exploiting you as such. Why do some of them do this? Because most servicers don't have enough self-respect to "just say no" and negotiate a fair compensation rate.
The exceptions here are some high-end manufacturers like Sub-Zero because 1) they actually pay a reasonable rate for warranty sealed system work (without having to haggle) and 2) the COD referrals alone make it worthwhile.
How about a business doing only COD sealed system work? Great gig if:
you can get enough of it,
you don’t like to think much (i.e., troubleshoot), and
you have a high tolerance for repetitive, manual labor.
But, yes, it would be high margin, high paying work relative to say, doing repairs on a throw-away Whirlpool vertical modular washer.
But what if you could book two to four service calls on quality cooking appliances, either high-end brands or the upscale offerings of mainstream brands, in the same time span as one sealed system repair? Job average on high-end appliances is about $400 with an average time of about an hour each. Now you’re talking about:
comparable or even more money,
more customers taken care of,
much less tedium, and
you don’t come home feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck from huffing solder fumes and working in a cramped, awkward position all day.
But doing these other types of jobs profitably does require more diagnostic expertise and understanding appliance technology.
Let’s look at a couple of case studies as illustrative examples.
Case study 1: 11 year old Amana FDBM refrigerator, MN AFB2534DEW, retailed new for $1,300. Start device failed open and subsequently compressor start winding also failed open. Needs new start device (PN W10613606), compressor (PN W10309989), and filter dryer (PN WPW10143759 - replacing the filter dryer is SOP on any sealed system repair). Quoted Blue Book repair fee: $1,003.14
Question: How likely is it that the customer will opt for the repair given 1) the age, 2) what they paid, and 3) that they can get a new one for about $1400?
Answer: A near-zero percent chance.
Case study 2: 11 year old Sub-Zero 700TFI built-in all-freezer, retailed new for $6,985. Open winding in 3-phase compressor. Needs new compressor (PN 7002026), upgraded control board (PN 4204380), and filter-dryer (PN 3014230). Quoted Blue Book repair fee: $1,449.98
Question: How likely is it that the customer will opt for the repair given 1) the age, 2) what they paid, and 3) what it would cost to purchase and install a new one?
Answer: Extremely likely.
Do you see a pattern here? Because of the cost of doing sealed system work, you probably won’t be doing much of it on lower to mid-level appliances unless you signed a “sucker’s contract” with one of the manufacturers who don’t pay very much for sealed system work. Do your homework and negotiate the rate!
Moral of the story: You probably won’t do much profitable sealed system work unless you’re working on high-end and usually built-in refrigerators such as Sub-Zero. As mentioned before, if you can get a Sub-Zero authorized servicer contract, this would be a big boon to your business. Pretty much anyone else: fuggetaboutit. (Your market may vary: do your research!)
The 90-10 rule
Finally, let's keep in mind an important rule of thumb: over 90% of the normal mix of refrigerator calls you run will be due to a control problem, not a sealed system problem. So you need to ask yourself if it's worth tooling up for sealed system work ($1,500 to $2,000) for what will amount to less than 10% of the refrigerator calls you run. Seems to me you'd want to make sure you have the 90% calls dialed in first, that you're able to accurately troubleshoot control problems because that's where most of your money will be made.
The 90-10 rule also means that if you're going to offer COD-only sealed system repairs to your customers, you're going to have lots of expensive equipment and sealed system doo-dads and nick-nacks sitting around not being used most of the time, cluttering up your shop or truck.
Of course, the foregoing comments do not apply if you have a lucrative Sub-Zero authorized servicer contract- in that case, doing sealed system work is a no-brainer.
Handling "gray areas"
What if you don't offer sealed system repairs, you run a warm refrigerator call and diagnose a sealed system fault- how do you handle this with your customer? As we saw previously, if it's a lower- to mid-level refrigerator then it almost certainly doesn't make sense for the customer to have a sealed system repair anyway. You would advise them of this and collect your service call fee.
The gray area is the "affordable luxury" line, such as the $3,000 Samsungs or LGs. This is a tougher call because a COD sealed system repair would make sense here. And diagnosing a sealed system fault in these models requires more technical finesse, so you will definitely earn your service call fee. But we may have a perception issue with the customer. How do we handle this?
First, recognize that this situation is the rare exception, not the rule, and we don't structure our business systems around exceptions. You definitely need to charge something otherwise you're sending the message that the valuable skill you just provided in diagnosing the problem isn't worth anything. An easy customer perception management technique is to give a discount off your service call fee, say $25. This feels like a significant discount to most people and usually preserves good will.
The EPA has some silly regulations based on politically-motivated "science" requiring refrigerant recovery.
The short story behind these regulations is that Dupont's patent on R-12 (a CFC refrigerant) was expiring so they funded lots of "studies" at American universities purporting to show that CFC molecules caused ozone depletion. How do I know this? I was a graduate student in Environmental Systems Engineering at Clemson University in the mid- to late 80's when these studies were being funded and carried out. Everyone knew Dupont was funding these studies and the bullshit agenda behind them but the political fix was in.
So now to purchase refrigerant and do sealed system work, you have to have an EPA "certification."
You'll occasionally come across guys swaggering about getting their EPA certification. The way you hear some of them cluck, you'd think they'd been inducted into Mensa. Or that they must be wizards with a rare understanding of the thermodynamics of refrigeration cycles and keen, penetrating insight into the intricacies of using a pressure-enthalphy graph to design refrigeration systems. Time for a reality check...
To work on residential refrigeration sealed systems, EPA requires that you have a "Section 608, Type I" certification. Section 608 refers to the regulatory code. What do you think that the EPA, being yet another dumbass government regulatory agency, cares about with these silly tests? Thermodynamics? Pressure-enthalpy graphs?
Not even close.
These tests are conspicuously void of any science or engineering. All the the EPA cares about is that you can parrot back the regulatory requirements for each certification "Type." The "Types" just refer to the size of the refrigeration system as defined by the pounds of refrigerant used in the system.
You can get a Type I certification by taking a quick online, open-book quiz. Here's one of hundreds of places that offer this. Download their regulatory study guide, parrot the answers back on the open-book quiz and, behold!, you are now a "certified" refrigeration technician... in the eyes of the EPA.
In other words, you don't need to know the first thing about how refrigeration systems work but as long as you can parrot back the right answers about the regulations, you, too, can be an EPA certified "technician" and write home to momma about it, "Look, Maw, I done got me a gubmint certification. Ain't you just so proud?"
Yes, it's a minor hoop you have to jump through if you're going to do sealed system work. If you hear some guy bragging about getting an EPA certification like it was some kind of life accomplishment, then know that you are talking to someone who rode the short bus to school and would get gold stars for spelling his name right.
I hope my comments have been helpful to you in charting your business course. I’ll leave you with some resources for pursuing sealed system repairs should you decide that’s where you want your business to go.
If you’d like to get better at diagnosing refrigerators to determine if it’s the sealed system or (more likely) a control issue, then check out the Refrigerator Repair course at the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
Any comments or questions? Please post them below.
Refrigerant Recovery, Evacuation, and Charging Procedures
Sealed System Training Manual from Electrolux
Refrigeration Brazing and Evaporator Repair
Lokring Repair Method Service Guide from GE
Lokring Tube Connection System Service Manual from Whirlpool
Brazing and soldering techniques
Evacuation and charging
Replacing the filter dryer
Replacing the compressor
Flushing with R134a
The Retail Observer is a widely-read publication in the appliance and retail industry. We contributed an article that just came out in the August 2017 issue. Enjoy!
Technician Diagnostic Skills In the Age of Computer-Controlled Appliances (PDF, 97 kb)
The problem in the appliance repair trade today is that we have too many parts changers and not enough technicians. Even many experienced techs don't know the fundamentals and technology we're working with on modern appliances today. I'm talking about things like basic electricity, circuits, reading schematics, knowing how to troubleshoot, motors, microcomputer control systems.
What this means is this: you're probably not going to find techs to hire with the skills you need to grow your business.
Solution: hire based on character and then add the technical skills cost-effectively with Master Samurai Tech online training.
Many multi-tech businesses are successfully using our innovative training to grow their businesses. Here's just one example from Todd Daganaar, President of Nebraska Home Appliance, a successful appliance repair company with 9 technicians and growing!