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We have a lot of moving parts at play in the appliance repair industry today. Over the past couple of decades, appliance technology has become much more complicated, yet technician troubleshooting skills have eroded. This creates some uncertainty about the direction our industry is going.
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:
Back in the ‘90’s, when the internet was new and I didn’t have any grey hair yet, I started the first of several incarnations of sites that offered appliance repair wisdom online. Appliantology.org was started in November 2010. It’s an old site by Internet standards. It has evolved a lot over the years and I expect it will continue to do so.
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.).
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.
You guys have heard me say in webinars and elsewhere that we are going through a paradigm shift in the appliance repair trade. Gone are the days of Buttcrack Bubba. Parts Changing Monkeys are already obsolete and everywhere going out of business-- and good riddance! At the same time, techs who keep learning the new technologies being incorporated into appliances are thriving and have growing businesses.
Appliance techs today have nothing substantive in common with trades thought to be "related"-- home handymen, plumbers, electricians, or HVAC mechanics. The days are now here where we have more in common with computer technicians. You've heard me talk about how troubleshooting today's computer-controlled appliances is no different from troubleshooting any computer, including your desktop computer-- the troubleshooting process is identical.
Now we're kickin' it up a notch as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality. The IoT refers to the interconnectedness of formerly discreet machines and devices, such as appliances. All the manufacturers are coming out with wifi-enabled appliances.
IoT is not a kitschy marketing fad to sell more appliances. This is an extension of the same pattern we've seen over and over again with appliances- the manufacturers are simply adopting a firmly-established technology trend which will only become more prevalent as the new models come out.
The response of too many appliance servicers is to whine and complain about electronics in appliances.
Word: Get over it. Adapt or die.
The days are soon approaching where a common service call will involve troubleshooting network and wifi connectivity problems with appliances. Are you ready and willing to add computer networking and communications to your repertoire of technical skills?
I think the Pareto principle (the 80-20 rule) applies here as it does to so many other things in life: 80% of current techs will either be late to the ball or fail to adapt altogether while the top 20% in the trade will continue to stay ahead of the curve (that's the statistical bell curve, to which the Pareto Principle refers) and will prosper. Which group will you be in?
We have guys here at Appliantology who don't know how to search, don't check their email inboxes (even after they've sent me an email to which I've replied), don't know what a link is, can't figure out how to log in, can't even get a model number right... where will these guys be in 5 years? Where will you be?
Infographic Source: http://www.pennywell.ie/
[A Note to my Brethren in the Craft: This article is released into the Public Domain. You are encouraged to copy it, modify it as you wish, post it on your website and social networks, with or without attribution, your choice. The objective is to raise consumer awareness about the rampant problem of moral and technical deficiency plaguing our trade today. We need to expose these hacks and parts changing monkeys who are ripping people off, either knowingly or through willful ignorance, and giving us real technicians, who know how to troubleshoot and take pride in our work, a bad name. Together, we can clean up our trade and remove the tainted image it has in the public perception.]
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!
Not looking good for the home team...
Starting to get my notes and photos together from an excellent United Servicers Association regional training in Albany, NY. Here's my summary of the training. Dave Shertzer was the instructor; he did a great job. This is a very easy machine to work on. Tears down in about 10 minutes; 15 minutes if you're one-armed, one-legged, or one-eyed.
You're gonna want a set of these to facilitate electrical measurements on those tiny-ass wire harnesses.
Inside the control panel the VM washer. Panel comes apart differently. Two clips in front, either end. Can press in with a putty knife or credit card while pushing back on the panel. Can also undo them by reaching underneath the top panel.
Main control board and water inlet valve inside the control panel, closer look.
Looking into the tub with the top panel removed. Kind of a funky z-maneuver to get the top panel off. Have to remove the hinge screws in back and then do the z-maneuver to lift off the top panel.
Looking at the drive guts underneath the washer, laying on its front panel. The only two ways you'll be working on this machine: through the top or the bottom, as shown here. Do not remove the back panel.
Belt cage and belt removed. Motor and main yellow drive pulley.
Main yellow drive pulley removed. Seeing part of the splutch assembly.
With splutch removed.
Mode shifter motor. Shifts the splutch between spin and agitate modes. This has been a common fail item so far in this machine. Very easy to replace.
Keep Your Oven Cooking for Thanksgiving
November 1, 2012
Running Your Oven's Self-Clean Could Mean Cold Turkey on Thanksgiving Day
Professional Appliantologists mark the seasons by the mix of service calls we get. We're just now coming out of refrigerator season and getting into the thick of oven season. Every year, in the few days leading up to Thanksgiving Day, I can always count on a ton of last-minute, panicked service calls.
"Why is that, Samurai?" you ask.
Well, I'll tell you. For some reason, people always wait until the last few days before Thanksgiving Day to run the self-clean feature on their oven. Some folks may be thinking the oven should be clean before they cook the communal turkey in it. Others may be anticipating the meddlesome mother-in-law oven inspection. The problem is not "why" you run the self-clean, but "when." Lemme explain…
During self-clean, the temperatures inside the oven cell can exceed 900F. This is very stressful on the oven's sensor, door lock assembly, and electronic control board. If anything is on the verge of breaking, it will usually happen during the self-clean cycle. This means that if you think you're going to run the self-clean cycle in your oven, don't wait until a few days before before Thanksgiving Day, when you'll need it to cook that big turkey for a house full of guests, do it now! Then, if something does break in the oven, you'll have time to get it repaired and won't end up in a last-minute panic trying to get your oven fixed.
According to Rob Marriott, National Technical Manager for Dacor, a manufacturer of high-end ranges and ovens, "If you're going to use the self-clean feature, use it a lot or don't use it at all." The reason for this is that the most common thing to fail in an oven during self-clean is the door lock assembly. On many modern ovens, the door lock assembly has a little motor that locks and unlocks the door. This motor is controlled by the oven's electronic control board (the control panel with the digital display). If this motor isn't used on a regular basis, the accumulated grease that collects in the motor during normal use will coagulate and harden during self-clean and bind the motor so that it can't unlock the door.
The oven temperature sensor is also stressed during self-clean and is the second-most common thing to fail during or after running the self-clean cycle. Less commonly, yet still prevalent, the oven's electronic control board can fail due the extra heat it receives during self-clean.
Personally, we never run the oven self-clean cycle at the Samurai's dojo. But, I understand there are lots of valid reasons why someone would want to, two of which I mentioned above. So, if you're planning on running the self-clean in your oven, here are some...
Handy Links In Case Something Goes Wrong
Post your question, get your answer at our DIY appliance repair forums, The Samurai Appliance Repair Academy:
Get parts FAST-- even overnight and Saturday delivery-- for any brand and model of oven with a one-year return policy. Just enter your model number in the search box at the top of the page at Appliantology.org.
This picture shows you the most common places to look on your oven or range to find the model number tag.:
... and thanks for reading.
Samurai Appliance Repair Man, www.Appliantology.org
Recently, someone posted a bogus, malicious review about our appliance service business on Yelp. We had never worked for the reviewer nor had a service call that went anything like what he described. We think it may have been posted by a competitor. But this doesn't stop Yelp from posting it or allowing it to remain.
There are two ways to deal with such reviews on Yelp, both of which are focused on perception damage control and so are written with the potential customer in mind. But they are very different strategies:
1. The Serious Business Approach: This is a direct approach where you politely explain that, although you don't know who the reviewer is, that you would be happy to refund all his money if he contacts you with his real name. Then go on to showcase how your business works. This is the approach that 99.9% of service companies take.
2. The Surreal Approach: This strategy employs the principle of Judo where your opponent's own force is used against him. In the context of dealing with a fake review, the idea is to extend the reader's experience of reading a bogus review into the surreal and, in so doing, lampoon the bogus review. It's the proven technique of illustrating absurdity by being absurd. Again, this approach is not for a typical negative review by an actual customer. This is for over-the-top, fictional reviews by people who weren't even your customer.
And for most service companies, the first approach is probably the best strategy. However, if you have access to a creative writer (you can hire my son, Stephen), you can take the second approach.
Here's the reply we posted to our 1-star "review" on Yelp:
If you've been doing appliance repair as a Professional Appliantologist for any length of time, you've probably struggled through something similar to all these situations:
- You're trying to fix an Electrolux range but you can't even figure out how to take it apart so you can troubleshoot.
- You need to put a Whirlpool Duet washer into diagnostic mode but the sleaze bag who worked on it last stole the tech sheet.
- You're working on a temperature control problem in a GE refrigerator and need to look up some schematics and specifications in the service manual, which you don't have with you.
- You're preparing for a job on an LG dishwasher and want to make sure you have the service manual with you but you can't find it in those messy piles of papers and documents you call your filing system.
Wouldn't it be awesome if there was a way of keeping all the technical documents you need during service calls in an inexpensive, compact, light-weight container in which you could quickly find the document you need to fix the problem? In this action-packed, no-holds-barred episode of Samurai TV, I'll show you how I use the Amazon Kindle Fire to easily carry service manuals, bulletins, diagrams, etc., with me on service calls. Using the Kindle Fire, all the tech info I need for a job is right there at my fingertips, easy to retrieve and use.
You can buy a brand new Kindle Fire for $160, a very modest investment for such a powerful information tool. Plus, if you're using it for work, it's tax-deductible!
Amazon also offers a Kindle Fire HD, which has a higher screen resolution and more memory. It's also a lot more expensive. I just use the plain Kindle Fire because, for what I use it for-- carrying technical service manuals on jobs-- it has plenty of storage and the screen resolution is more than adequate for reading manuals. Here's the link to the Amazon Kindle Fire that I use on service calls: http://amzn.to/ZhC8tG
This LG refrigerator was DOA- warm inside, no compressor operation, no lights, no nuttin'. Found a blown fuse on the main control board. What took out the fuse: bad board or just a spike on the power line? I show how to check for that.
The fuses on these LG boards are soldered in and not easily replaceable. But a new fuse can be installed and I show how to do that without even having to remove the board, while it's still installed in the refrigerator.
Learn appliance repair at http://mastersamuraitech.com
In this journey into appliance repair enlightenment, Samurai Appliance Repair Man shows you how to use an airflow meter to analytically test the back pressure on a dryer vent for safety and efficiency. Looks can be deceiving, as this video shows, and even a short simple dryer vent that appears to be ideal can have airflow problems. So it's always wise to use a meter to actually measure the back pressure.
Here's the air flow tester I used in the video ==> http://www.repairclinic.com/PartDetail/Tester/W10106710/1447456
To learn more about your dryer or to order parts, click here.
In my ever-evolving quest to offer my users the very best online appliance repair help and information experience, I've improved the membership packages available here at Appliantology.
The free Grasshopper package will continue to be available as is. But the Apprentice and Professional Appliantologist packages have been upgraded and, incredibly, made even better... as if that was even possible, right?
For starters, the free Apprenticeship package using the Facebook coupon promotion has ended. It was starting to take up too much of my time going back and forth with people because they couldn't figure out how to do a screenshot, or share the coupon on their Facebook wall, or whatever. Then I had people who had gotten the free Apprenticeship complaining about the file download quotas or outright lying about how much they downloaded (as if I can't check that). And I wanna send out a special thanks to all the folks who sent me nasty, snarky emails because I was using Facebook for the free deal. Bless their hearts!
So, like Daniel in Babylon, I saw the writing on the wall and realized the free Apprenticeship deal had become a time-sucking, headache-inducing liability that seemed to bring out the worst in people. Yea verily, it's outta here. Now it's time to focus on bringing even more awesomeness to the Apprentice and Appliantologist programs!
Both the Apprenticeship and Professional Appliantologist packages have been upgraded in every way imaginable!
Apprentice Package: The download quotas for files from the vast and ever-growing library of technical documents in the Downloads section have increased FROM 3 files/day, 6/week, 9/month TO 4/day, 8/week, and a whopping 20/month! It is still not auto-renewing because it's intended for DIYers who probably just need help on a pressing problem or two at home and then they're done with appliance repair until the next thing breaks. But you can manually renew as often as you like. The fee on the Apprenticeship package has increased by a mere $2, from $10 to $12, for the same two-month term.
Professional Appliantologist Package: The download quotas have also been increased FROM 10 files/day, 20/week, 80/month TO 15/day, 30/week, and an incredible, eye-popping 100/month! It still includes access to the world-famous and coveted Repair Manual Stash™. The Professional Appliantologist package is an auto-renewing subscription package because, as the name implies, it's intended for techs who fix appliances for a living and so would need on-going repair help either in the forums or from reference material in the Downloads section. The fee on the Professional Appliantologist package has increased by 10 measly beans, from $55/year to $65/year.
If you subscribed to the Professional Appliantologist package at the old price of $55/year, your annual subscription fee will not change as long as you do not cancel your subscription. And you still get the benefit of the increased file download quotas. How's that for value?
I'm always looking for ways to increase value for my valued users here at Appliantology and, with your help, will continue to improve the premiere appliance repair resource on the web!
Samsung's in the news lately with exploding washers and tablet computers. So people may be wondering how reliable Samsung appliances are. Here's a good article from the Yale Appliance blog comparing Samsung repair rates with industry averages. Yale Appliance and Lighting [website] is a large appliance dealer and service center in the Boston area. Yale completes over 20,000 service calls per year so I expect their results to be a good representation of reality.
One comment that caught my eye, "Also, many technicians cannot fix the Korean brands for whatever reason. You may want to check that your dealer can service before you buy Samsung or LG."
You may be asking yourself why this is the case. This illustrates a huge problem in the appliance repair trade today: there is a critical shortage of skilled technicians who understand appliance technology (basic electricity and electronics, motors and motor control systems, microprocessor-based control systems, etc.) and know how to troubleshoot. As a result, many appliance servicers are really parts changers who do "troubleshooting" by pattern recognition: if this problem, replace that part. So if something merely looks different than what they're used to seeing, they're at a complete loss.
The reality is that electricity works the same way in Korea as it does everywhere else on Planet Earth and the Koreans are using the same technology as all the other manufacturers. But because the Koreans give more details in their service information (for example, showing circuit details of their control boards) parts changers freak out and think they're using space-age technology.
The Koreans aren't going away. Samsung in particular is gaining US market share faster than any other manufacturer. For a service company to refuse to work on them or to not acquire the technical skills and competence needed to be an effective appliance technician today is a bad business decision and a recipe for low income or bankruptcy.
Link to original article: http://blog.yaleappliance.com/are-samsung-appliances-reliable
Are Samsung Appliances Reliable? (Reviews)
I was watching the news last week and learning about Samsung's problems with phones exploding for no clear reason. Most new products have issues in my experience. The computer industry innocently calls them bugs.
Exploding products is a problem especially when you deliver them in your home. Gas ranges, dishwashers, and laundry can cause more damage than a phone.
So I wanted to answer the question: Are Samsung appliances reliable?
Measure of Reliability
Every year our service department completes over 20,000 service calls. Our formula is service calls divided by sales as a percentage of service within the first year. Then we compare brands and products as we have in various articles for a 12 month period.
We will compare Samsung's service rates to the industry in their major categories: Cooking (not including microwaves, because they do not break in any brand), laundry, dishwashers and French door refrigerators.
BTW, these numbers always change as they are measured on a 12-month rolling basis. Also, we have only sold Samsung for 18 months, so I do not know about the products manufactured before 2014.
Samsung Reliability Numbers October 2015-October 2016
Front Load Washers: 13 Serviced / 130 sold - 10%
Top Load Washers: 0 Serviced / 35 sold - 0%
Dryers: 10 Serviced / 92 sold - 10.4%
Industry average is just over 11%, so Samsung is slightly better. There have been 21 cases of the top load breaking apart due to the rod unfastening. However, 21 out of millions sold since 2011 throughout the country seems relatively small. However, this could be a concern.
Read Most Reliable Washers to compare against other brands
Dishwashers: 4 Serviced / 107 Sold - 3.7%
The average for all dishwashers is about 10.9%, so Samsung is more reliable.
Read Most Reliable Dishwashers to compare against other brands
Gas Cooking: 13 Serviced / 178 Sold - 7.3%
Samsung is serviced about half the average of about 14% in gas ranges.
Read Most Reliable Gas Ranges to compare against other brands
French Door Refrigeration
French Door Refrigerators: 71 Serviced / 425 sold - 16.7%
Refrigerators have service rates of 20% or more. Icemakers are the number one service call at Yale. Sending a frozen cube through a cool refrigerator dispenser will cause leaks over time.
16.7% is not great, but still better than the total.
Read Most Reliable French Doors to compare against other brands
Should You Buy a Samsung Appliance?
People ask me about what to buy all the time on this blog. I always say the same thing. I like what does not break because we have to fix broken appliances.
But I will answer the question on Samsung more directly.
The product seems reliable as the numbers show.
When there are problems, their logistics of parts and technical support are not as easy as a Frigidaire or Bosch. Also, many technicians cannot fix the Korean brands for whatever reason. You may want to check that your dealer can service before you buy Samsung or LG.
However, the product seems to be designed incredibly well. The new induction with the blue LED “flame” is creative, as are the designs of the French doors and front load laundry.
A company who has battled Apple successfully over the years (until recently) cannot be underestimated especially in a staid industry like appliances.
Looking for answers before you buy major appliances? Get the Yale Appliance Buying Guide with detailed profiles of the major brands plus answers to the 10 most asked questions. Well over 185,000 people have read a Yale Guide.
Best Stainless Packages
5 Best Counter Depth Refrigerators
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
Had a great week at the Annual Service Training Institute (ASTI) in San Diego last week! Got to hang out with old friends as well as meet lots of Appliantologists and Master Samurai Tech students in-person for the first time.
For technical training, I focused mostly on high-end appliances since that's about all that's worth fixing these days. Attended some technical training on Sub-Zero, Wolf, Bertazzoni, DCS, and a couple others, and some business courses.
I also conducted an all-day live training session on troubleshooting using the MST Ten-Step Tango Troubleshooting Procedure. It was an AM and PM session with the PM session a repeat of the AM session. I was surprised by how difficult it was to do! You're standing in front of a crowd of people all day, working through troubleshooting problems, answering questions, talking at volume (large room) all day long. I was pretty wrung out by the end of the day. I have a lot of new-found respect for manufacturer trainers who do this day in and day out as their job. That's a tough way to make a living!
It was pretty sweet the way I did it though, if I do say so myself. I set up my own wifi network in the room and did the whole training session from my iPad that projected on the screen via my Apple TV. That way, I could zoom in and draw on schematics, just like on the troubleshooting workshop webinars we've been doing here at Appliantology. If you've been to any of the recent webinars, the live training class I did at ASTI was a longer version of those workshops. Professional Appliantologists can watch those webinar recordings here.
Here's a short clip of me teaching the troubleshooting class at ASTI. You'll notice some of the guys are looking at their devices. That's because I gave them a link to the schematics I was going over so they could download them and look at them in more detail. Wanna see for yourself? Just go to GetMST.com.
I made an album of photos from the ASTI last week that you can check out here:
If you were at the ASTI and have some photos you'd like to share, please do! You can post 'em here as a comment or start your own photo album in the Gallery.
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
Brethren, we're always looking for new ways to establish credibility and trust with our customers. This is an especially difficult task in our trade because of the many hacks, shysters and parts-changing monkeys that infest our venerable Craft.
Now you can instantly show your customers that you're not just another PCM-- nawsir, you can show them that you're an appliantological GOD with the Official Appliantology Service Call Mug™! There's just no surer way to inspire trust and confidence in your customers, and even take them to the next level and have them worship you as the appliance deity that you are, than to brandish an Appliantology Mug.
If you have over 1,000 posts here at the Appliantology Academy, it would be my supreme joy to send you your very own Official Appliantology Service Call Mug™ absolutely free! Just PM me your full name and UPS-able address and you'll have it taco-pronto.
If you have less than 1,000 posts, it gives you something to aspire toward. You know, it's an incentive kind of a thing. Yeah, incentives are important.... learned that in rehab.
Or, if you don't wanna wait (and I don't blame you!) you can still git you an Appliantology mug here ==>
Two dollahs of your purchase goes toward helping to run this site, the rest goes to CafePress.
Join Samurai Appliance Repair Man on a repair safari into Refrigerator Land. In this scintillating video, I narrate a series of photos I took during a service call I did on a Samsung Quatro refrigerator. These are unusual refrigerators because they have four evaporators (hence the marketing name "Quatro"). In this service call, I fixed problems with two of the compartments-- fortunately, both on the same side!
If you're contemplating doing work for someone who lives out of town (eg., rental property in your area) and whom you've never met, it's worth spending a few minutes looking them up online. Google is your friend! Choosing the wrong customer can cost you a bad online review, even though you've already refunded 100% of their money after you've provided services. There are people out there (mostly real estate types) who take a sadistic pleasure in screwing over service companies. Here's an example of such a guy: http://toddhwaller.com
Most appliances today use computers to control the various appliance functions. Computers talk in logical 1's and 0's which are actually pulses or square waves of voltage that you can see on an oscilloscope or measure with a meter. These pulses are arranged in a specific sequence to transmit and receive information inside the appliance. In this video, the Samurai uses a Samsung dryer to show you what these pulses look like and how to use this information for troubleshooting.
Come with me now on Journey of Total Appliance Enlightenment.
Learn how to troubleshoot appliances like a real technician at http://mastersamuraitech.com
UPDATE: The Oven and Range Repair course is now open for enrollment. Click here for details.
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.
Question: what's one job skill that cannot be outsourced to India or China?
Answer: home services.
Looking to get in on the glamour life of being a professional appliance repair technician but you don't have the time or the money to travel somewhere and be gone for a few weeks at a time? Now you can learn appliance repair at your own pace right online at your computer with the Appliantology Academy's Appliance Tech Boot Camp.
The Appliance Tech Boot Camp is a structured and guided online training program designed to quickly get you up to speed as a competent appliance repair tech with the basic skills needed to succeed and continue to grow in the trade.
Within the first few lessons, you will acquire the skills and knowledge you need to begin repairing appliances. Yours so very truly, Samurai Appliance Repair Man, will be your faithful guide and mentor through this training process.
The program is feverishly being developed at this very moment by Team Samurai. Look for more details in later posts.
The inaugural episode of Master Samurai Tech Radio is out! We just submitted it to iTunes so the iTunes subscription link will take a few days to work. But meanwhile, you can download or stream it here: http://mastersamuraitech.com/master-samurai-tech-radio-episode-1/
Brethren, on this Veteran's Day, I present to you a timely and fitting guest blog post by Ray Starmann, the Editor in Chief of US Defense Watch. Enjoy!
An open letter to America’s college cupcakes on Veterans Day
November 11, 2016
by Ray Starmann, US Defense Watch, http://usdefensewatch.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-americas-college-cupcakes-on-veterans-day/
Dear College Cupcakes:
America has watched for the last year or so, as our nation’s universities have been consumed by a new strain of left wing totalitarianism that has all the traits of the haunting Marxist dictatorships of the past.
Free thought and expression and discussion are disappearing from college campuses and being replaced by behavior and lexicons out of 1984.
In the greatest arenas of free speech across this land, you shriek and howl and cry and stamp your feet like two year olds when someone disagrees with you.
You have mental meltdowns when reading passages from the world’s greatest literature that somehow offend you in every conceivable way, shape or form.
You feel oppressed and terrorized when viewing someone in a Halloween costume that you dislike.
You are triggered by opposing views from Presidential candidates, who do nothing more than say things that you may disagree with.
When triggered by every imaginable word, phrase and action on this planet, you find it necessary to retreat to so-called safe spaces, where you will be further coddled by counselors, Play Doh and Bubble Guppy videos.
Like raving martinets, you accuse anyone you disagree with of being a racist, a rapist, a sexist or any other derogatory term you can create to soothe your tender and warped psyches.
You have been told for your whole lives how special you are and these fantastical words have been reinforced by the ridiculous behavior of helicopter parents and idiotic teachers who found it necessary to control every facet of your lives and ensure that each of you precious little snowflakes received a trophy, even though many of you only deserved a kick in the behind.
Your latest irrational tirades concern the election of PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP. Inspired by the lunatic behavior of your socialist professors, you are the laughing stock of the rest of the country as you hold cry-ins, need therapy dogs and hide under the covers in your dorm rooms because a man was elected President.
Today is Veterans Day, when we honor those who served, which I have no doubt none of you ever have. The nation particularly honors our combat veterans who drained deep the chalice of courage and who fought against real racists, like the Nazis; real boogeymen like the Imperial Japanese Army, the Chinese, Victor Charlie, the Republican Guard and the Taliban.
Today, at this very moment, as you tearfully meltdown because Donald Trump is our next President, our current military is in harm’s way in Mosul, fighting real sexists who call themselves ISIS.
King George, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam, these were real threats, some of the greatest madmen the world had ever seen and our veterans fought and defeated them in hot and cold wars.
Our veterans, men and women, many of whom were your age at the time they served, never had the luxury to wallow in self-pity over imagined nonsense and monsters.
Their threats weren’t created in the hallowed ivory towers of Harvard Yard. Their threats were created in the British Parliament, in Bavarian beer halls, in jungle outposts and jettisoned across the globe to cause havoc and death. The only thing that stopped them, the only thing that prevented the world from descending into darkness was the US military and our veterans.
There were no safe spaces on Iwo Jima or Omaha Beach. There were no cry ins on Bunker Hill or at the Frozen Chosin. There were no counselors in the Ia Drang Valley or at Khe Sanh. There was no time to protest imaginary enemies at Fallujah. The enemies were real and were doing their damnedest to kill Americans and destroy our way of life.
As I stated, our enemies were fighting against Americans who were mainly your age. I and many Americans have serious doubts that you aggrieved marshmallows could rise to the occasion and fight anyone, much less the Redcoats or the Waffen SS.
How and why America has gotten to a point where being a wimp is looked upon as normal behavior for young people is the subject of another article and a disgrace in itself.
Instead of claiming half the nation is racist for voting for Donald Trump, you precious little snowflakes might want to get off your asses and read about men who overcame real prejudice and racism and fought for their country; like the Tuskegee Airmen.
Instead of being offended by words in books, you precious little cupcakes might want to step out of your safe spaces and read about American matadors at places like Trenton, the Wheatfield, Seminary Ridge, the Meuse-Argonne, the Bulge, New Guinea, 73 Easting and Tal Afar.
As for the election, get used to saying President Trump.
Suck it up buttercups.
Editor in Chief, US Defense Watch
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)