Stay connected with us...
Webinar Recordings Index Page 11/07/2017On-demand appliance repair training videos for Professional Appliantologist members Over 30 hours (and growing!) of original, high quality appliance training webinars developed and given by yours truly are at your fingertips, on topics you won't find anywhere else. Fill in those knowledge gaps, strengthen those areas of uncertainty, and boost your skills. Watch on mobile or desktop at your convenience whenever, wherever. Ultra Short Primer on Basic Electricity, Circuits, Ohm's Law, and Schematic Reading (Length: 1:04:48) Basic Refrigerator Troubleshooting (Length: 1:10:45) Schematic Reading Workshop, 10/2015 (Length 1:19:08) Troubleshooting Strategies for Computer-Controlled Appliances (Length: 48:34) Semiconductors and PN Junctions (Length: 1:04:37) Appliance Temperature Sensing Devices & Technology (Length: 1:27:33) Voltage Measurements, Meters, Ghost Voltages, and Triac-controlled Neutrals (Length: 1:29:32) Troubleshooting with Tech Sheets, Part 1, 4/2016 (Length: 1:09:26) Troubleshooting with Tech Sheets, Part 2, 4/2016 (Length: 1:21:11) Tech Sheet Review, 4/9/2016: Bosch Speed Cooker, Amana Refrigerator, GE Glass Cooktop Range (Length: 1:22:58) Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) Switches used in Samsung Switched Mode Power Supplies (SMPS) (Length: 27:07) PWM Computer Cooling Fan in a Whirlpool Refrigerator (Length: 14:53) Understanding AC Split-phase Household Power Supplies (Length: 52:41) Troubleshooting a Samsung Electric Dryer without Disassembly using Live Tests and the Schematic (Length: 22:47) Troubleshooting a Bosch Dishwasher No-Heat Problem using the Schematic and Live Tests (Length: 15:38) Linear Motors and Linear Compressors (Length: 55:54) Bi-directional PSC Drive Motor Systems in Whirlpool VM Washers (Length: 56:52) Appliance Service Call Structure and Troubleshooting Strategies (Length: 1:00:16) The Ten Step Troubleshooting Tango and Workshop Exercises (Length: 1:35:39) Troubleshooting Ten-Step Tango Advanced Workshop (Length: 1:32:06) Ten-Step Tango Troubleshooting Workshop: Refrigerators (Length: 1:35:57) Whirlpool Duet Washer Schematic Analysis & Whirlpool Dryer Moisture Sensor System (Length: 1:03:04) Neutral Vs. Ground, Inverter Microwave, Digital Communications, Loading Down in DC loads, and more! (Length: 1:14:45) Gas Oven Service Call After a Parts Changing Monkey (Length: 36:04) AFCI and GFCI Circuit Protection Technology (Length: 41:26) Troubleshooting Samsung Refrigerators and more (Length: 1:29:58) 3-way Valves and Dual Evaporator Refrigerators (Length: 1:15:45) Split-Phase Compressors and PTC Start Devices (Length: 1:11:57) Gas Dryer Ignition Systems (Length: 53:50) Refrigerator Sealed System Thermodynamics, Part 1 (Length: 43:07) Refrigerator Sealed System Thermodynamics, Part 2 (Length: 1:09:09) Refrigerator Sealed System Thermodynamics, Part 3 (Length: 1:11:56) Refrigerator Sealed System Thermodynamics, Part 4 (Length: 37:45) Refrigerator Sealed System Thermodynamics, Part 5 (Length: 16:35) To access these webinars and all the other info-goodies here at Appliantology, become a Professional Appliantologist today. If you need cost-effective, time-flexible, state-of-the-art appliance technical training, check out the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
[Webinar] Appliantology Workshop 11/09/2017Information is the name of the game in the appliance repair trade today. Appliantology is a powerful information tool for the professional appliance repair technician. But just like with any of the more capable tools in your tool bag, many of the more powerful features are hidden from you unless you "read the manual." Ugh! Who wants to do that? Well, this is one time when you don't have to! In this webinar, Team Samurai will personally walk you through the site and show you many of the useful and powerful features that even long-time users probably never knew existed.
About this blog
Pearls of appliance repair wisdom from the Appliantology Forums
Entries in this blog
Got bad drum bearings in your LG washer and thinking about replacing 'em? Okay, Hoss, Professor john63 calls the dance steps on this little ditty:
REAR OUTER TUB ASSY (3045ER0048)
click on picture $ 140
INNER BASKET (3045ER1017A)
click on picture $ 195
TUB O-RING SEAL (4036ER4001B)
click on picture $ 6
And a Service Manual.
Source: LG washer bearing replacement?
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
- Refrigerant recovery
- Evacuation and charging
- Replacing the filter dryer
- Replacing the compressor
- Flushing with R134a
- 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.
- Upcoming webinar on Schematic-foo: ancient Samurai art using tech sheets as deadly weapons in appliance repair. Get details here: http://appliantology.org/calendar/event/768-schematic-workshop-webinar/
- Appliance product training today: we don't need hands-on, we need brains on. The future is here NOW!
- Bidness Talk: Pricing your services; fixed and variable costs; how much should you be charging for repairs? Strategic customer selection and when to fire your customer; Property managers: the scourge of the appliance repair industry?; Getting paid for your service.
- Troubleshooting: what it is and what it is not. Recognizing when you don't have enough information to make an analytical diagnosis.
- De-bunking another electric circuit myth... this time promulgated by a manufacturer. Using Ohm's Law to analyze the effects of high resistance/loose connections on a circuit using an electric oven bake circuit as an example.
Listen here or subscribe on iTunes or Android.
Technician Diagnostic Skills In the Age of Computer-Controlled Appliances (PDF, 97 kb)
Whirlpool-built appliances include the following brands:
Whirlpool Kitchenaid Jenn-Air Amana Maytag some Crosley many Kenmore models (indicated by the three-digit prefix) For these brands, you want to find the PUB number of the tech sheet. This is important because the same PUB number can apply to multiple different models. So searching by model number won't necessarily find the tech sheet PUB number you need.
Here how to find the PUB number for the tech sheet:
Open a new browser tab. Go to the Sears site and paste your model number into the search box You'll pull up several thumb nails of parts diagrams. Usually on the first page, the tech sheet part number (what we call the PUB number here at Appliantology) will be listed. It won't necessarily be the first item-- keep reading down the list. Copy that PUB number into your browser (you don't really need me to tell you how to mark, copy, and paste with your browser, do you?) Switch back to the Appliantology browser tab, select "Files" in the site search box and paste in that PUB number. If something comes back in the search results, that's the file you need. If you're still not finding the tech sheet, then post a request in the Appliance Service Manual Requests forum and we'll get it for you. Including the PUB number you found helps us help you.
Go git 'em!
The annual fee for new Professional Appliantologist members has increased. This does not affect current members as long they do not allow their membership to expire.
The annual fee increase is also great news for prospective new members! Huh? Why?
Because it means we are still accepting new members… for now.
We came very close to implementing one of two options:
Close off new memberships altogether and just keep the site open for existing members as long as they wanted to remain Allow memberships only for Master Samurai Tech Academy students and alumni making Appliantology the on-going support site for the MST community. In the end we decided on a third way: keep the annual fee the same for existing members in perpetuity and still allow new members but at a higher fee. This may discourage membership but that’s okay-- our focus is on quality, not quantity.
Master Samurai Tech Academy students with active enrollments(s) (i.e., still working on a course) are currently offered a 10% student discount off Professional Appliantologist membership. That will remain in effect, too.
How to Prevent your current Professional Appliantologist membership from expiring
An invoice will be automatically emailed to you two weeks prior to your membership expiration. If you want keep your membership at the current fee and you do not have a credit card on file, be sure to pay the invoice right away! If it expires, you’ll need to re-purchase the membership at the new, increased fee.
If you’d like to mitigate the risk of your current PA membership running out because you somehow missed the renewal invoice, you can keep a credit card on file with our payment processor, Stripe. Your credit card information is not stored on our server-- it is stored securely on Stripe's server. (Stripe is our payment processor. They are lightyears ahead of Paypal in both security and features and are an Apple Pay certified partner. Their website is here.)
Once your card is on file, you will get a reminder email 3 days before the payment is taken. If your card is current, you don't need to do anything and your membership will autorenew.
To enter your credit card info, go to Memberships > My Details > Cards and click the yellow "Add New Card" button.
Desktop membership menu:
Mobile membership menu:
The number one question you should ask yourself about any certification is, “What does it mean?”
Does it mean that someone simply paid a fee to take and pass a test? If so, is the person certified in this way a better technician as a result? No, all this type of certification says is, “We certify that this person was good at taking our test.”
The other meaning of certification is that a person has completed a structured and specialized course of study and instruction and has demonstrated high comprehension of the information throughout the training course(s). This is the meaning of certification as traditionally used by colleges, professions, other skilled trades, and at the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
Merely taking and passing an exam has no possibility of producing a competent technician. It may vouch for a tech’s prior experience and training but, without knowing what the exam is actually testing for, you don’t know what exactly is being validated.
On the other hand, successfully completing a detailed training course taught by industry-recognized experts is a proven method of producing skilled technicians.
Specific appliance technician certifications of various kinds have zero consumer recognition. Customers may like to know, in a general sense, that you are certified (by someone) but they have no knowledge of or interest in the specific certification and what it really means.
You know who is interested in the single exam-type certification? Let's be honest: it's techs trying to impress each other. This goes right to the next question you should ask yourself about appliance tech certification...
Are you wanting certification so you can have initials after your name and a patch on your uniform, thinking this will impress customers? Here’s a newsflash: customers don’t give a rip about initials after your name and a patch on your uniform.
You know what customers do care about? You getting it fixed right the first time without swapping parts like a monkey and hoping to get lucky.
Or are you wanting certification as a testament to your real acquisition and mastery of technical and troubleshooting skills? Who cares about this? I'll tell you...
Any employer would care about this in their technicians and prospective hires. Owner/operators whose livelihood depends on successful repairs would care about this type of certification. The last question you need to ask yourself is “What do YOU want out of certification?”
Do you want to sport initials after your name and a patch on your shirt to impress your friends and yourself? Or do you really want to be able to troubleshoot and repair appliance problems that other techs have tried and failed to fix?
Do you want to be the guy with initials after his name but can’t fix the tricky problems any better than the guy without initials? Or do you want to be the go-to tech who can think through problems and that other techs seek out for help?
I’ve offered you some of my thoughts on this issue of certification to hopefully help you think clearly about what it is and what it is not. I hope that this will help you make a decision about certification that’s consistent with your career goals. Let me know what you think.
Team Samurai is turning up the heat this July with a new full-length technical course: Oven and Range Repair
The content that we’ve created for you is absolutely fantastic. We cannot wait to be able to open the doors so you can see it for yourself.
This is a mondo course, with over 30 original videos and 7 Case Studies, that was almost a year in the making using the same training structure for the prerequisite courses we developed for Sub-Zero Wolf factory training.
The Oven and Range Repair training course covers all the technology used in modern gas and electric cooking appliances, ovens, cooktops, and microwaves, and includes seven real-world troubleshooting case studies using the world-famous Ten Step Tango® troubleshooting procedure.
Next to refrigerators, cooking appliances are the most profitable appliances to repair, especially high-end cooking appliances. Any appliance company that expects to thrive and prosper in the coming recession needs to be competent at troubleshooting and repairing high-end cooking appliances and this course empowers any tech to do exactly that.
Here's a list of the topics taught in the course:
1 Groundwork concepts
1.1 Basic electricity refresher
1.2 Conductor ampacity
1.3 120/240 VAC split phase power supplies
1.4 Ghost voltage and electrical measurements
1.5 GFCI and AFCI circuit protection
1.6 Gas fuel basics
2 Cooking appliance technology
2.1 Mechanical and solid state relays
2.2 Capacitive touchpanels
2.3 Motorized door lock assemblies
2.4 RTD oven temperature sensors
2.5 Electronic oven controls
2.6 Microwave oven operating principles and troubleshooting
2.7 Electric cooktop infinite switches
2.8 Radiant and inductive cooktops
2.9 Gas surface burners
2.10 Gas oven burners
2.11 Fuel conversion on gas ovens and cooktops
2.12 Gas burner spark ignition systems
2.13 Gas flame detection and burner reignition systems
2.14 Gas oven hot surface ignition systems
2.15 Direct spark ignition (DSI) systems
3 Seven troubleshooting case studies on modern, real-world gas and electric ovens and cooktops applying the principles taught in the course and the world-famous Ten Step Tango® troubleshooting procedure.
3.1 Dual fuel range - oven no heat
3.2 Double wall oven - long pre-heat
3.3 Dual fuel range - gas surface burner continuous sparking
3.4 Dual fuel range - gas surface burner no ignition
3.5 Gas range - bake burner no ignition
3.6 Gas range - low/erratic oven temperature
3.7 Electric cooktop - hot surface indicator light stays on
The Oven and Range Repair training course will be released this coming Saturday, July 15, 2017, at the bargain introductory tuition of only $375. We'll announce the official release in our newsletter. Look for it in your inbox.
To learn more about your refrigerator or to buy parts, click here.
Source: GE Ref PDS22SCRBRSS No control board operation
We also had an encounter with technical gremlins that attempted to thwart the Appliantological gospel but they were quickly slain. The recording also includes a good roll of the video I tried to play during the webinar. After a little TLC from the Nads o' Samurai (my two sons) who edited the recordings and came up with this Final Cut edition, Professional Appliantologist members and Master Samurai Tech Academy students who couldn't join us last night for the live webinar can share in the adventure at their convenience.
Professional Appliantologist members may watch the webinar recording here.
Master Samurai Tech Academy students may watch here.
Computers in appliances are not only here to stay, they're evolving and, for many techs, getting "scarier." Rather than complain about them and wax nostalgic for the "good ol' days," smart techs are learning the skills they need to stay current and successfully repair them, zooming ahead of their competition and reaping the benefits of increased income.
The infographic below gives a nice summary of where appliance technology is today and where it's going in the very near future. If you need the mental tools to effectively compete in the appliance repair market of today and tomorrow, learn these skills cost-effectively and conveniently in our online training courses at the Master Samurai Tech Academy. Learn more, earn more!
Cool infographic courtesy of HalfPrice.com.au http://www.halfprice.com.au/products/roller-shutters/
You know the Samurai does periodic webinars on a wide range of appliance repair topics.
At the webinars, we talk about all kinda cool techie topics like basic electric circuits, troubleshooting strategies and tactics, reading schematics, computer control and digital communications in appliances, electric motor operation, gas flame sensing and reignition technologies, and more. Over 30 hours (and growing) of original, high-quality technical training!
Sometimes we cover basics, but many of the topics are more advanced, going beyond what we teach in our online training courses at the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
I know it’s not always possible to make it to the live webinars due to scheduling conflicts, beer drinking, basketball game, whatever. Believe me, I get it.
You may be wondering, “Can I watch recordings of past webinars? Is there a way to find out what the past webinar topics were? So what’s a brutha to do?”
The Samurai’s gotcha covered!
Lemme tell you about Appliantology’s best kept secret: The Webinar Recordings Index Page. On this page, you’ll find a listing of all past webinar recordings listed by topic and linked to the video recording of the webinar. So it’s easy to scan down the list to find a topic you’re interested in, grab a bag of popcorn, your flavorite adult beverage and go on a learning safari with the Samurai.
Just so you know--we don’t record all the webinars and, sometimes, the technology gods just don’t play nice. But we post as many as we can, and the page is updated as new recordings become available so be sure to check back often.
So why do I call the Webinar Recordings Index page “Appliantology’s best kept secret?” Because not many Professional Appliantologists seem to be aware of it. This is my fault-- I need to do a better job of getting the word out and reminding you guys about it. Hence this blog post!
Master Samurai Tech Academy students and Mr. Appliance® Academy students also have access to the webinar recordings at the links below:
- Master Samurai Tech Academy students: https://mastersamuraitech.com/webinar-recordings/
- Mr. Appliance® Academy students enrolled in Bundle 1: http://mrappliance.mastersamuraitech.com/appliance-repair-course-support/student-forums/forum/webinar-recordings/
Although the door gasket on LG washers is very similar to all the rest, that inner retaining spring seems to be just tight enough that it's worth the extra effort of removing the front panel to facilitate the installation. LG also makes two special spring pliers to help with removing and reinstalling the outer and inner retaining springs. Most Appliantologists say they can get by without the outer spring clamp tool Part number: AP4438623
but that inner spring clamp tool Part number: AP4439038
is worth the price of admission.The other big thing to watch out for with getting the replacement LG door boot is to check to see if the model you're working on has the extra drain port at the 6 o'clock position or not. Sometimes, even looking up the door boot by model number will give you the wrong replacement boot and the presence or absence of the drain port seems to be the key difference.
Here's a video that shows how to replace the door boot using both the outer and inner spring clamp pliers and by removing the front panel of the machine.
As it exists today, this site is dedicated to supporting the professional appliance tech community with teaching, training, information, and camaraderie. This wasn’t always the case.
The purpose of this little magnum opus is to relate the long and storied history of this site and its predecessor, Applianceguru.com, and to reflect on how we’ve changed, some of the dysfunctional people we’ve dealt with over the years, and where we are today.
I’ve learned a lot about running internet communities, often the hard way and by trial and error. The Internet was a brave new frontier for everyone back in the 90’s. So everyone was making it up as they went along. You’ll get a glimpse into the challenges of keeping a forum community alive and kicking.
Come with me now on a journey through the Appliantology looking glass...
History - the "Good ol' days?"
I started the old forums at ApplianceGuru.com waaay back in 2003. It was a plain-jane forum-- no downloads section, no webinars, no blogs, no galleries, just a fraction of the functionality and features of this current forum software.
The Applianceguru.com site was started as a DIYer support forum. DIYers were the focus and it was 100% funded by affiliate parts purchases from DIYers. It was a workable part time model back in the day that brought in a little beer money.
Other techs started coming to the site and helping answer DIYer questions. Naturally, techs started helping each other out, too.
I started collecting service manuals in a Mediafire account. I called this “the Stash.” Eventually, I started sharing lifetime access to this file storage with techs who paid a modest one-time fee ranging from $5 to $40. That account and file storage still exists today.
The developer of the old forum software quit or died or something and he stopped supporting it. This was at a time when smartphone usage was starting to get big and there was no possibility of a mobile-friendly version of that forum software ever being developed.
So, in November 2010, I took the plunge and started a whole new forum-- this one-- using completely new software and at a completely different web address. Thus Appliantology.org was born.
As a courtesy and convenience to tech members at Applianceguru.com, I migrated their accounts over to the new forum, even though the old forums at Applianceguru.com remained open until a couple of months ago (the software was completely obsolete and couldn’t be maintained any more).
When Appliantology was first running, there was no Downloads section like we have now. The only Download available was the access link to the Mediafire account. Techs still had the option of making a small, one-time donation to access the Mediafire account.
Eventually, I started adding files in a separate Downloads section, what is now called the Appliance Repair Manual Pot Luck Supper. Today, that library has grown to almost 4,000 files and more manuals are added almost every day and on request. All the manuals are indexed and searchable.
Several things changed that caused us to have to restructure the business model used to support this site:
DIYers started coming to the site to get help, but then shopping elsewhere (eBay, Amazon) for the part to get it for a buck cheaper. Some would actually come back and brag about it. Affiliate parts sales (and hence all income to run and grow this site) dropped to almost nothing. Since DIYers had basically said to hell with us, we decided to change the whole business model of the site to focus on supporting the professional appliance tech community. The increased bandwidth from users and downloads required a more expensive server arrangement (ultimately getting the dedicated private server that we have today). The increased hard costs and man-hours needed to run the site as a high-quality tech support resource meant I had to make a decision: either run it like a business or shut it down. I wasn’t ready to just shut the site down because I believed that enough people in the appliance tech community would value a high-functioning, full-featured appliance support site. So we set out to reinvent the site. We did this by making a few changes:
We briefly offered a lifetime membership shortly after we set up shop here at Appliantology, until we realized it wasn’t going to support the features we wanted to provide. So we created a new membership group called Professional Appliantologist with an annual membership fee. This is used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the site. All techs who had purchased a “lifetime membership” for access to the Download Stash at Mediafire from Applianceguru.com or in the early days of Appliantology still have access to that resource. They also have gratis downloading privileges but it is at a throttled speed and one file at a time. This was necessary to ensure that limited server resources were available for the Professional Appliantologists. All lifetime techs likewise have access to the tech-only forums (which is now most of the site) and the live training webinars. Remember: most paid a ridiculous pittance, $5 to $40, more than 7 years ago for lifetime access at a completely different website, Applianceguru.com, not unlimited access to this site, Appliantology.org. In either case, the Download library did not exist as it does today. Extending downloading privileges at all to the original tech group was a pure gift on our part. Unfortunately, a small segment of these techs did not see it this way.
Accusations from Malcontents
Most techs at this site are really great people to interact with and value what we strive to provide for them here. The malcontents and detractors comprise less than 1%. If you think about it, this is probably true with your service call customers. It’s about the same distribution anywhere you have a large group of people.
One type of malcontent we’ve encountered are the “lifetime” members from the early days who thought they should get all of the privileges and benefits that our current PA members do. We were accused of various forms of selling out, greed, and “only being in it for the money”, despite all the access that they still had, as described above.
Again, we’re talking about a handful of users. Most of the techs from the early days either were content with their legacy-member benefits, or simply upgraded to a PA membership to get all of the new goodies.
Most people are unaware of how carefully an online forum has to be managed to keep the community healthy, to retain old members and attract new ones. This is one of those skills I had to learn by a lot of trial and error. But learn I did, and over the years I have escorted several people off the site for various reasons, which I’ll discuss in a moment. It’s always regrettable but also necessary to maintain the quality experience of the site for the other members.
In cases where a person had paid for a Professional Appliantologist membership, I refunded 100% of their money even though they had persistently violated site Guidelines and were several months into their membership term. I did this with the hopes that we could simply part ways amicably. Unfortunately, being “amicable” is not in everyone’s toolkit.
Have you ever decided not to continue on a job that you could tell was breaking bad, refunded any money the customer paid, and then they STILL talk shit about you? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Part of my responsibility as your gracious host is to maintain a positive atmosphere at the site. Occasionally this means showing folks to the door when they persistently demonstrate one or more of these defects:
Uncouth or unpleasant in their communications with other members Unwilling or unable to learn, either about how to effectively and properly use the site or about basic technology, such as electricity and circuits (things about which it is not a matter of opinion-- you’re either right or wrong) Persistently, albeit unintentionally, giving inaccurate information even when myself and others would try to correct it Bullying or overbearing personality You’ve heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” Well, that’s bullshit. The customer is not always right if they’re not the right customer. And any business that’s been around long enough will inevitably have a few of those kinds of customers that need to be “pruned.” On the other hand, when they are the right customer, you will bend over backwards to please them.
Some people left quietly, accepting that Appliantology just wasn’t right for them. But others, despite getting their money back, have gone on to spread malicious lies about me personally and even my wife, accusing us of being “greedy” and “ripping them off.”
All Content Creators are “turd magnets”
Do you ever wonder what causes people to leave nasty comments on YouTube or other places? They’re doing what envious non-creators have always done to creators: shooting off their big fat mouths because that’s all they’re really good at.
You can probably relate to this in your repair business, when a customer gives you a scathing online review that shows they know nothing about what it takes to run a professional in-home service business.
It takes a lot of time and hard work to create valuable content that people are willing to pay for. If these malcontents had any real talent, you would see the results online. Instead you see them bellyaching and lying. They have never created anything online that anyone would pay a nickle for. In short, they are entitled, envious, pathetic losers. This is the same psychological profile of the infamous “YouTube hater.”
Creating a comprehensive information and training resource takes dedication, talent, and years of in-depth education, things that envious haters are in desperately short supply of. So their lying and complaining is not really about money-- it never was. It's about rejection. And their fragile egos can't handle that.
Again let me say that the turds are maybe 1% of my interactions. But, dayyam, they sure can stink up the place! It takes the occasional sweep with the pooper scooper to keep our community a pleasant place to hang out. Before I leave the topic, let me tell you about a few of the...
Weird pathologies I’ve dealt with over the years
One of the weirdest, most perverse pathologies that all teachers deal with is where a student attacks the teacher instead absorbing the teaching that the teacher offers. This sick dynamic exists in all teaching settings, from high schools to trade schools to here at Appliantology. There have been a few techs with whom I professionally disagreed on a technical point go on to disparage me, my site, my personal hygeine, my parentage… you get the picture.
A related psychosis that teachers encounter is where someone benefits from the teaching and then turns around and resents the teacher for telling them something they didn’t know. I know- it’s absolutely insane! Yet it happens all the time to all kinds of teachers.
A third sickness is where someone sifts through the mountain of information that a teacher has produced and offered over the years to find some insignificant (usually imagined or misunderstood) flaw and tries to use that to discredit everything the teacher has ever done, despite the fact that they benefited greatly from the material. This is a pathetic attempt to pull down the teacher to make himself feel better. This is the ugly face of pure envy.
I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting these diseases early on and terminating the relationship before it festers.
This site is a business
I appreciate and value the many awesome techs who have joined me in my online appliantological adventures over the years, but let’s be clear about something: this site is my virtual dojo. I work here for a living. I don’t do this for free. Nor do I do it as a public service. My time and talents are valuable and I produce high quality content that many people are happy to pay for. I may give some away, but the best stuff I reserve for paying members. To those people, I strive to overdeliver on value for the price they pay.
This site is not a hobby run out of some guy’s basement. It is a business. That means a couple things:
It is professionally managed in every way: hardware, software, and content. Professionals get paid for their time and talents. I am one of those professionals. So is my son, Sam (Son of Samurai) and my wife of 28 years, Susan (Mrs. Samurai) All businesses are based on voluntary exchange: people value the information and services we offer more than the dollars they’re holding and thus a free market transaction takes place. As a business, we’re always looking for ways to please our valued customers in the hopes that they chose to continue doing business with us.
Membership here is a two-way relationship, not an automatic right or an entitlement. I choose not to associate with boors, bullies, and boneheads because life is just too short to piss it away with the wrong people. I know that most of my fellow Brethren in the Craft at Appliantology feel similarly.
At the same time, I try to make this site an appealing value, even a “killer deal,” for techs looking for a positive, full-featured information resource.
Reasons to be or not to be here
Appliantology is open to all and all are welcome within the terms of the site’s Guidelines. Professional appliance techs may choose to purchase a membership to enjoy all its many benefits. But Appliantology is not trying to be all things to all people--an impossible goal for any business.
I’ll go over some reasons to be here and some reasons to not be here.
Appliantology is probably a good fit for you if...
You want to learn new things and become a better tech You want to help other techs learn to become better at their craft You understand what it means to disagree without being disagreeable You learned what yo momma taught you when you were little: Share everything (i.e., information, technical literature, etc.). Play fair. Don't hit people. Clean up your own mess (i.e., close out your topics with the solution). Appliantology is probably not a good fit for you if...
You have something to prove to yourself or others You are unwilling or unable to learn new things like How to use this site correctly and effectively (Hint: it’s not at all hard if you just READ) How to read schematics, understand technology and think like a real technician You're only looking for parts changing information You resent the rare instances that I may correct a post you made (in the spirit of being helpful) or hide it altogether when it is not helpful, may only confuse the OP (original poster- the guy who started the topic), or is a distraction from the teaching point I'm trying to help the OP to understand. Do you value a tech support site that...
uses state-of-the-art software with lots of features and functionality? has nearly 100% uptime? is hosted on its own private server which enables consistently fast page load times and download speeds? is monitored and maintained 24/7? has no Google ads or popups for Professional Appliantologist members? is 100% mobile-friendly and the full functionality available on desktop is also available on mobile? emphasizes understanding the underlying technology behind specific failures, applying good troubleshooting techniques and clear thinking to problem solving rather than merely parts changing info (“if this problem, replace that part”)? has three full-time people (one of which is me) dedicated to constantly improving this site, adding enhanced features to continually add value for members? uploads new service manuals and technical literature almost everyday and on request? offers regular, live tech training webinars on topics and technologies that you will never learn anywhere else? makes many of these webinar recordings available for you to watch at your convenience? prizes accuracy and clarity of information? maintains a positive and professional environment by flushing the occasional turd? If you value these things, then Appliantology is your home because we value YOU as a member of this tech community! We are constantly looking for ways to add value to your membership and welcome your suggestions.
Appliantology has come a long way and Team Samurai works hard to make this site the premier professional appliance tech resource on the web. If you are a member, I sincerely thank you for being a part of this community. If you're thinking about becoming a member, I hope some of my comments were helpful in that decision… or at least entertaining.
Lemme know what you think. Post your comments below.
One of the outstanding Master Appliantologists at Appliantology.org, Budget Appliance Repair (a.k.a., Willie) offered the following procedure for assessing the operational state of the magnetron:
Source: Advantium 220 microwave electrical burning smell
And more from another post:
Source: GE OTR Microwave JVM1871SH001
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!
Conventional Old Skool Compressors
Before we talk about how these inverter compressors work and and how to troubleshoot them, let's quickly review the old skool compressors so it's fresh in our mind when we compare with how the inverter compressors work.
In the conventional compressor technology that's been around for decades, the compressor has a start winding to help kick things off and a main (or run) winding that keeps the compressor going after it's started. A start relay and sometimes a start capacitor are used to momentarily power the start winding and then take it out of the circuit once the compressor is up and running. The compressor runs off standard, single-phase, 60 Hz 120vac.
If the start relay fails, the compressor will sit there trying but failing to start and drawing locked rotor (LR) current. Where the normal operating current draw on a conventional compressor is somewhere between 1 and 2 amps, LR current could be somewhere north of 8 amps. All that current makes heat, lots of heat. As the compressor sits there straining to start, it starts boiling the oil and burning the varnish insulation on the motor windings. If this goes on for very long, the compressor will literally self destruct (internally) from all the heat.
To prevent this unhappy scenario, the engineers added an overload device that's used to kill power to the compressor if something goes wrong, like a bad start relay, open compressor start winding, bad internal bearing, or a seized piston inside the compressor that prevents it from starting correctly. The idea being that if the problem is just a bad start relay (very common), this can be repaired easily and inexpensively compared to replacing the entire compressor (or refrigerator).
If you were to measure the resistance of the start winding and the main (or run) winding, you would find that the start winding has a higher resistance than the run winding. It's also made of thicker wire because the start winding has to handle the extra current flow through it that's needed to get the compressor piston going from a dead stop.
A common troubleshooting technique with these old skool compressors is to rig up a test cord and manually power the compressor to see if it'll run. More details on compressor test cords here: http://appliantology.org/blog/1/entry-669-rigging-and-using-a-compressor-test-cord-to-manually-operate-a-compressor/
Once they're up and running, these old skool, compressors run at the same speed and move the same amount of refrigerant vapor per minute. In other words, their refrigerant capacity and motor RPM is constant the entire time it's running. They can't work "harder," just longer.
So, let's summarize the old skool compressors:
- has two windings, a start and a run winding, which are physically different windings and have different resistances; the start winding has higher resistance than the run winding
- runs off standard 120vac household power
- uses a start relay to initially power the start winding and then take it out of the circuit after the compressor is up and running
- can rig up a test cord to directly power the compressor
- are constant capacity and speed machines
Keep all this in mind as we now look at the new inverter compressors...
Inverter Compressor Systems
Although inverter compressors do the exact same thing as the old skool compressors-- pump refrigerant vapor-- and they physically move the vapor the same way-- through a vapor-compression cycle-- they are powered and controlled very differently.
For one thing, inverter compressors use a special three-phase voltage produced by a special control board called an inverter. Fuggetabout 120 VAC, 60 Hz line voltage. We're not in Kansas anymore, boys and girls! Both the amplitude (amount) and frequency of the input voltage will vary. Typical specs are 80 to 230 VAC with the frequency ranging anywhere from 57 to 104 Hz. The higher the frequency, the faster the inverter compressor will run.
So, inverter compressors, unlike their old skool forebearers, really can work harder. In fact, this is exactly why the manufacturers are using these inverter compressor systems; they can match how hard the compressor needs to work to the actual refrigeration work needed to keep the beer cold. By doing it this way, the compressor draws less power and the manufacturers can meet the Energy Star requirements.
Inverter compressors have three windings, not just two like the old skool units. All three windings should have the exact same resistance. If the resistances vary from each other by as much as a 1 ohm, the compressor will not run correctly. In fact, this is one of the ways of checking an inverter compressor: making sure that all three windings have the exact same resistance. Check the manufacturer's spec for what that exact resistance reading should be. This is different from the old skool compressors with just two windings and the start winding has a much higher resistance than the run winding.
Remember how a common troubleshooting trick with the old skool compressors is to power it directly with a test cord and see if it starts? Don't try that on these inverter compressors because you'll permanently break it. If you're a professional Appliantologist and you do this on a service call, you just bought your customer a new refrigerator!
Let's summarize the inverter compressors:
- have three windings, not just two; all three windings have the exact same resistance
- does not use a start relay/overload device
- runs off a special voltage produced by an inverter board; the voltage varies in both magnitude and frequency: the higher the frequency, the faster the compressor runs
- variable capacity, variable speed
- cannot directly power the compressor (well, you could but you'd regret it)
Troubleshooting Inverter Compressor Systems
If you're working on an inverter compressor system where the compressor isn't running, you can't power an inverter compressor directly to test it. But you can (and should!) check the resistances in all three windings to rule out an open winding. If the compressor windings check good, this is not diagnostically conclusive that the compressor itself is good. But if, OTOH, the winding resistances are imbalanced or one of them is open, this is diagnostically conclusive that the compressor is bad.
Okay, so let's say the compressor windings check good but it's not running. Now what?
Now you have to check the inverter board itself. There are two different tests you can do on the inverter board to see if it's good or not:
1. Check for good input voltages.
An Inverter board will have two different input voltages:
- 120 VAC main power supply
- 4 to 6 VDC control voltage from the main control board (or Muthaboard-- a completely separate circuit board in the refrigerator)
If you're missing one of these voltages, the inverter board can't run the compressor. You'll need to backtrack and find the missing voltage. Could be a bad wire harness connector, bad muthaboard, etc. BTW, make all voltage measurements with everything CONNECTED. Otherwise, you'll get different readings that could be misleading.
OTOH, if you're getting both of these input voltages to the inverter and the compressor isn't running (and you've already checked the compressor winding resistances), then you need to do this next test:
2. Check the current draw on the 120 VAC power supply.
- Disconnect the 120 VAC power supply from the inverter board.
- Connect your amp meter around one of the wires supplying 120 VAC to the inverter board (doesn't matter which one).
- Reconnect the 120 VAC power supply to the inverter board and watch your amp meter.
If the meter stays at 0 amps, the inverter board is toast-- it's not even trying to start the compressor.
If you see the current draw jump to say 4 amps (typical LR current in these inverter compressors) and then drop off, keep watching. Most inverter boards will repeatedly try to power up the compressor. On GE refrigerators, for example, the inverter will try to start the compressor 12 consecutive times. If the compressor fails to start, the inverter will timeout for 8 minutes and then try again. Other manufacturers may have different test schemes but the idea is the same: if the inverter is working properly, you'll see activity on your amp meter as the inverter tries to do its job.
In the video below, I demonstrate troubleshooting an inverter compressor system on a GE refrigerator. The only thing I didn't show in the video is checking the inverter board's current draw.
Here's the replacement inverter board I used to fix this refrigerator: http://www.repairclinic.com/PartDetail/Inverter-Board/WR55X11138/2443233
Classical troubleshooting is a structured and scientific method for thinking and solving appliance problems. There is a method to the madness! The Master Samurai Tech troubleshooting method is called the Ten Step Tango (TST).
There are specific dance steps to troubleshooting, and we teach them to anyone who wants to learn. As an introduction to the TST, we’re offering a free short course to the entire appliance tech community where techs can quickly learn the TST troubleshooting procedure and immediately start benefitting from this skill on service calls.
The TST short course uses a real-world, modern refrigerator (dual evaporator, computer-controlled) case study to lead you through each of the ten steps in the TST to troubleshoot and solve the problem.
To get started, just register a free account at the Master Samurai Tech Academy, and you'll see the “Ten Step Tango Troubleshooting Procedure Case Study” listed as one of your free courses available to you on your login welcome page. If you're already registered at the Academy, just log in as usual and you'll see the course on your login welcome page.
You'll also be able to take our other free courses: Appliantology 101 and Internetology. All our free courses are short and fun to do. So have fun, dammit!
- The Ten Step Tango troubleshooting procedure: Troubleshooting techniques for any appliance brand or type. If you aren't already registered at the site, click here to sign up for the free TST course.
- Tech training webinars at MasterSamuraiTech.com and Appliantology.org
- Monitoring the training progress of your technician who is enrolled at the Master Samurai Tech Academy.
Download and listen or watch below:
Online appliance repair training: Master Samurai Tech
Professional appliance technician support: Appliantology.org
A Consumer's Guide to Recognizing Charlatans, Hacks, and Parts Changing Monkeys in the Appliance Repair Trade
Have you or someone you love been victimized by an appliance hack?
Have your appliances been defiled by a Parts Changing Monkey?
Do you feel clueless when trying to decide which appliance repair company to hire?
Do you feel helpless and vulnerable when trying to evaluate the accuracy (and truthfulness) of the guy standing in your home telling you what's wrong with your refrigerator?
To protect your appliances, your precious time, and your wallet from incompetent repairmen, first you need to know a little bit about the trade.
The Problem with the Appliance Repair Trade Today
An epidemic of ignorance exists in the appliance repair trade today. In fact, there is a shortage of skilled labor in all of the skilled trades across all sectors of the US economy. For a variety of complicated reasons, all the subject of a separate interesting and scintillating article, the appliance repair trade in particular has been hit by a brain drain and a critical skill shortage. This has actually been building for the past 20 years but has become particularly acute in the last five or so years as appliances have become more computerized and more complicated to troubleshoot.
This situation leaves consumers especially vulnerable. Because, on the one hand, more complicated appliances makes it even more difficult for consumers to understand how the appliance works. On the other hand, it has accentuated a critical skill gap that already existed in the trade because many of the guys who were able to get by on the older, simpler appliances by simply guessing and changing parts find that it's a much more expensive proposition to do that on these new, electronic appliances with their pricey control boards. And who ends up paying for their ignorance and guesswork? You got it: YOU the consumer.
In the trade, the remnant of us real technicians call these bad actors various names such as hacks and charlatans. But the most common one that you will hear among the Appliantological Illuminati is Parts Changing Monkey (PCM).
You are not alone! The manufacturers are also getting screwed big time by these PCMs. That's because they have to hire these PCMs to do their warranty work. So, Monkey Boy goes out on the service call, guesses the wrong part, then has to order another part and come back at a later date to try his next guess. This costs the manufacturer money in extra parts and it costs you aggra-dollars-- time and inconvenience in a delayed repair for something that should have been done in the first trip and in a timely manner.
If these PCMs are so gawd-awful, then why are the manufacturers even using them? The answer is: What other choice do they have? Yep, it's slim pickins out in the appliance repair technician field today.
The other fact of life is that the manufacturers pay so little for warranty work that many of the sharp technicians choose not to do it and instead focus exclusively on the more profitable COD work. The end result is that getting a warranty technician is often (not always) a lot like getting a public defender; you're usually getting a second or third rate guy.
By the way, these are the same guys that the manufacturer will refer you to if you call them to ask for their "authorized servicers." You will still need to evaluate these guys yourself!
Who am I to be telling you what constitutes a charlatan, hack, and PCM? Well, if you're really interested, you can read my bio. Over the last couple of decades I've been running my own service business and I've also interacted with thousands of consumers and techs, as well as many manufacturers, through my online appliance tech-help (Appliantology.org) and tech-training (MasterSamuraiTech.com) websites. I know what's out there-- the good, the bad, and the butt-ugly.
So, the burning question you're asking yourself right now is, "How is the hapless consumer to recognize a Parts Changing Monkey when he's telling me what he thinks is wrong with my appliance?"
Come with me now on a Journey of Total Appliance Enlightenment...
How to Recognize a Charlatan, Hack, or PCM in Your Home
1. If your “tech” walks in and sees you have a Samsung, LG, or Miele (or other higher-end brand) and immediately goes off on how these brands are junk and how you need to get yourself a Whirlpool, this is a surefire sign that the guy is a hack. A lot of parts-changers don’t like Samsung, LG, etc. because those brands have a lot of new, electronic parts and control boards in their appliances, which require technical skills such as reading the schematic diagrams and taking electrical measurements to accurately troubleshoot the problem.
Parts-changers don’t know how to read schematics and therefore don't know how to make real diagnoses, and despite the availability of ways to learn that skill they refuse, out of laziness or pride, to learn real troubleshooting. Willful ignorance is rampant among appliance hacks. They like brands like Whirlpool because they are familiar with them and know how to change the right parts to fix common problems. If a “tech” comes into your home and acts like this, you’ll know what he really is.
2. The second indicator that a “tech” is really a PCM is when he is confronted with a warming refrigerator and says that it "needs more Freon" in the sealed system. This should rarely–if ever–be done to a fridge. The procedure to add refrigerant is time-consuming and expensive, and really not worth it compared to the cost of replacing the fridge. Furthermore, most of the causes of a warming refrigerator are in the defrost system, fans, or controls, not the sealed system.
3. The most infamous charlatans out there like to a play a certain game with their customers. After the problem has been “diagnosed”, they’ll replace a part. If that doesn’t fix the problem, the hacks just say “Oh, it must have been something else in addition to that”, and replace yet another part. They continue to charge you, the customer, for each part they replace. In other words, you are paying for them to guess at which parts will fix the problem until they finally get the right one.
There are very few instances where a trained and skilled technician would troubleshoot your appliance and justifiably not be able to tell that a second part was involved in the problem. And if he did miss that the first time around, a good and honest technician will own up to that oversight and not charge you as if there was nothing he could have done about it.
In particular, if a servicer wants to replace a control board, ask him what will happen if that doesn't fix the problem. PCM's are infamous for not being able to accurately diagnose a faulty board and will often guess at it. If they answer "you'll still have to pay for it," show him the door. A real technician who knows how to troubleshoot will be confident in his diagnosis, will be able to explain it to you, and will stand behind the repair.
If you've experienced any of these three behaviors from an appliance servicer, it's time to try someone else! Look for a technician who invests in his training, including ongoing training over the years. Many of the best techs are active at Appliantology.org and/or get their training from reputable training institutions such as the Samurai Tech Academy!
Professional Appliantologist members here at Appliantology can access and watch this webinar recording along with all the past webinar recordings on the Webinar Recordings Index Page.
Are we going to be a profession, filled with well-paid, highly-skilled technicians at the top of their game, or a semi-skilled trade, filled with low-paid parts changers who are essentially just the eyes and hands carrying out the directions of tech-line personnel? Will both of these types of techs coexist, or will one go extinct?
We’ve worked with thousands of techs and scores of business owners online over the years, most of whom take training and their profession seriously. We meet lots of folks like that at events such as ASTI. It makes us feel that the transition from trade to profession is here, and here to stay.
A big wake-up call for the Samurai
Recently, however, I had an abrupt reminder that there are still many who are not on board with that vision and are also influencing the direction of our industry.
I was doing ride-alongs with techs at a large service company to assess the effectiveness of our online training at The Master Samurai Tech Academy. I was surprised and dismayed to see that the techs weren’t using many of the techniques that we emphasize in our training, such as coming to a job prepared with tech documents, doing a simple load analysis using the schematic, and performing electrical measurements from easy-access locations to definitively identify the component failure. In fact, they seemed to have forgotten even how to do many of these things.
What the heck? Where did I go wrong?
It all became clear to me when I had a chance to go over the day’s calls with a service manager for the company. When I described the troubleshooting methods we used on a dryer call, he declared that we had gone "full retard" (a phrase from the movie Tropic Thunder) for actually looking at the schematic, doing a few amp readings and one simple Ohm’s Law calculation.
I was speechless. This is the guy who is supervising the techs who were paid to go through Master Samurai Tech training. However, it explained what I had seen that day. Although one of the senior managers at this company saw the value of using the MST Academy training for their techs, the other managers were not on board. Many of the skills taught at the Academy were not just ignored or discouraged, they were outright ridiculed. So of course the techs basically became parts-changers who simply carried out instructions from their manager or tech line.
At that point, another movie came to mind, Idiocracy, which imagines the dismal result of several hundred years of cultural anti-intellectualism.
I’m used to encountering techs who are a bit defensive about their lack of troubleshooting skills, but when even service managers mistake pattern recognition, parts changing, and a collection of factoids for real troubleshooting or, worse yet, have become hostile to it, then idiocracy is gaining a foothold in the appliance repair trade.
Attitudes: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Over the past decades, the technical skill level among many appliance techs has degenerated to such a low level that they don't even know what cause-and-effect troubleshooting is anymore. Since service managers are now being promoted from this group of techs, this attitude has become firmly entrenched in some organizations.
In all my dealings with techs over the past 20 years, I have come to realize how phenomenally important attitude is. And I’ve seen it all. Some techs love to keep learning and sharpening their skills, no matter how many years they’ve been doing it, and enjoy the pride of accomplishment and the profits that come along with it. Then there are others who have worked long enough to have some know-how based purely on pattern recognition (“if this problem on that model change this part”) and resist the notion that their job performance and income would benefit even further if they learned real troubleshooting skills. The causes of this attitude include ignorance, arrogance, and laziness. Ignorance is curable through outreach and training. Arrogance and laziness are difficult and dangerous qualities in a tech, but even worse in someone who is in a leadership role.
What's the risk to the industry if too many techs go down the road of idiocracy? Doesn’t that just give an opening for more success by those companies that behave like professionals?
Not necessarily. The expression "a rising tide lifts all boats" works in the opposite direction as well. The experiences our customers have with “parts changers” can negatively impact their future interactions with other service companies. They will often be more suspicious and price sensitive.
Furthermore, appliance manufacturers are seeing this problem in the appliance repair industry today, too. They realize there is uneven, often inadequate technical expertise in the trade. As a result, they are adapting to this general dumbing down in troubleshooting skills by dumbing down their training programs to essentially spoonfeeding what's already in the service manuals, knowing that most techs don't RTFM. They're also developing new technologies to decrease reliance on field techs to troubleshoot and solve problems.
Here's what the future could hold:
- Wifi-enabled appliances will report errors and diagnostics directly to the manufacturer's central technical staff who are specialists in that product.
- Corporate techs can then run diagnostics and do most troubleshooting remotely.
- The service company is then dispatched to simply replace a part- no troubleshooting required.
If this comes to fruition, the end result will be a decrease in skill level expectation from technicians. And since higher pay accompanies and incentivizes the acquisition of specialized skills, there will be a concomitant reduction in "technician" pay and skill level. Service managers will be be reduced to route makers and time card checkers with a corresponding reduction in their skill level expectation and pay.
All is not lost on this front. I speak with enough manufacturers to know that they would still like a better trained corps of appliance techs out there who can keep our mutual customers more satisfied. They haven’t given up on us yet!
Take a look at yourself! Have you looked at yourself?
I’m sure most of you reading this don’t come anywhere near being the kind of person who would call technical troubleshooting going "full retard." But, we would all benefit by stepping back and taking an honest look at our attitudes and expectations to see what part we are playing in raising our trade to a profession, and identify (and remedy) any weak links in our organizations.
After all, if you’ve invested in training the techs in your company, it’s a waste of money if you aren’t implementing and nurturing the skills and practices that the techs learned in that training.
Here’s what I still see too often when I go on ride-alongs with techs. Do you recognize any of these traits in your own service calls?
1. The tech arrives at the service call with no technical literature (service manual, tech sheet, bulletins) pre-loaded on his tablet or notebook computer. A manager may have pre-screened the calls and had probable parts pre-loaded on the service tech's vehicle, but the tech himself/herself is walking into the call completely cold.
2. If the call is anything other than a simple mechanical problem or parts replacement, the tech calls either his service manager or the manufacturer tech line.
3. Either way, the tech is spoon fed information to complete the diagnosis or repair; he is merely following detailed instructions but not doing the troubleshooting himself. From the tech's standpoint, this is only adding to his internal database of pattern recognition and factoids.
4. Neither the service manager nor the tech line guy has the time, patience, or skill to use this experience as a teaching moment and coach the tech through a troubleshooting thought process by asking leading questions. Examples:
- what is your load of interest on the schematic?
- what other components have you identified in the circuit for that load?
- where does the schematic indicate that you would test the power supply for that load?
5. The appliance may get repaired as a result of the spoon feeding but the tech never grows in his ability to perform independent troubleshooting analysis-- he has simply added another pattern to his repertoire for recall on another job with the same problem. Reliance on outside counsel such as service manager and manufacturer tech line, which should be a rare event for a skilled tech, is perpetuated. Job security for the service manager and tech line guy is assured, but no skill growth for the service tech takes place.
The foregoing is a typical pattern of degraded tech performance that is accepted as the "new normal" by far too many service companies. The problem is compounded when the service company middle management-- the service managers-- not only accept this degraded performance, but defend it.
Pattern recognition and a head full of factoids do have their place in appliance repair. In fact, these form the basis of experience in older technicians, allowing for quick diagnosis and repair of commonly-occurring problems with known solutions. But these experiential skills should not be mistaken as classical troubleshooting and are insufficient for service calls with problems that don't fit the pattern or are "off the flow chart."
The rewards of professionalism
Techs who take the time to hone their craft with training, continuing education, and pre-diagnostic work are true professionals. Being prepared and able to competently troubleshoot any type of appliance and failure scenario is where the big payoffs happen in terms of reputation and profit. First Call Completes are maximized, callbacks are minimized, and cheerleader customers are forged. That’s what a professional business looks like.
Is it too late to turn back the tide of idiocracy in the appliance repair trade? We at Master Samurai Tech firmly believe it is not too late and we have developed affordable, time-flexible training solutions to aid our brethren in the Craft. These skills are eminently learnable by anyone who desires to do so, and we’ve seen countless examples of techs and owners who have reaped the rewards of rising to the challenge.
Join us, and help avert the future portrayed here:
In a recent webinar, I offered a mental framework for executing classical troubleshooting strategies during service calls. Professional Appliantologist members and Master Samurai Tech Academy students may watch the 1-hour webinar recording here: