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Samurai Appliance Repair Man's Blog

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Pearls of appliance repair wisdom from the Appliantology Forums

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Troubleshooting a Whirlpool Duet Washer with an F11 error code and repairing it without replacing parts

Many appliance servicers have been befuddled by the elusive and mysterious F11 error code in these Whirlpool Duet front loading washers (also sold under the Kenmore brand). In their confusion and frustration, many will go into Parts Changing Monkey mode and start blindly replacing expensive control boards without really fixing the problem (but still charging the customer, of course). The Appliance Guru never does business that way. Customers hire me to solve a problem. Period. I give a quote up-front for the complete repair cost and I stick to it. If my diagnosis is wrong, that's my problem, not the customer's and it won't cost them a penny more than what I quoted. How can I offer professional appliance repair services this way and stay in business? Well, it means I better know what I'm doing and be able to do real troubleshooting, not just throw parts at the problem and hope to get lucky. The infamous and all-too-common F11 error code in these Whirlpool Duet front load washers is a case-in-point. The tech sheet inside the washer says this is a communications error between two control boards: the CCU (central control unit) and MCU (motor control unit). Even Whirlpool's own technical guidance for this error is abysmal; they say to replace the CCU and if that doesn't fix it, then replace the MCU. This is why there is so much confusion among appliance repair techs in the field. Each of these control boards costs well north of $200 and the CCU in particular goes on frequent backorder, adding lots more cost and inconvenient downtime to the customer. As I show in the video, the F11 error code problem in these Whirlpool Duet washers can almost always be repaired without replacing any expensive control boards. It's at least an easy and inexpensive repair to try before replacing the CCU or the MCU.

Defective customers and Youtube

There's a lot of great stuff on Youtube on just about any topic you're interested in. You can even find detailed how-to information on appliance repair, for which the premiere, go-to channel is this one. But unless you know how to apply what you're seeing on Youtube to your exact, specific appliance repair problem, then Youtube videos just become a source of noise and confusion. In fact, if you are someone specially endowed with the Cheesedork mentality, then Youtube videos will only make you dumber because of your hubris, pig-headedness, and unique inability to apply what you see to your specific situation. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Cheesedorks is that they don't know what they don't know yet they think they know it all. And their hubris prevents them from seeing the truth. Brother nickfixit, veteran appliance repair warrior and esteemed Brother-in-The Craft, shares with us a recent encounter he had with a real-life Cheesedork who was so utterly befuddled by the appliance repair information he watched on Youtube that he could not even hear the truth from the professional Appliantologist right there in his house. Don't be this person. Source: Defective customers and Youtube

Customer Qualification: The Cheesedork Challenge

You are a cheesedork if... you resent paying anything to have me drive to your house to troubleshoot your appliance, even if you decide not to repair it. You are a cheesedork if... you call troubleshooting your appliance "just looking at it." You are a cheesedork if... you expect me to drop what I'm doing and get right over to your house, know exactly how to repair your appliance, have the part on my service van, and get it repaired in that same service call but you carp and whine nine ways to Sunday when I tell you how much it will cost to fix it. You are a cheesedork if... the first question you ask after I troubleshoot your appliance and tell you how much the repair will cost is "How much is a new one?" Look, I'm an appliance repair tech, not a vacuum cleaner salesman. You think I carry around appliance catalogues from all the major manufacturers? You are a cheesedork if... you are incapable of grasping the fundamental economic difference between the retail price for a new, mass-produced appliance and the fees charged to repair that same appliance at your house. As if the cost of banging out a million washers in a Chinese factory is somehow even remotely connected to the costs of operating an in-home repair business in the U.S. Get a clue. You are a cheesedork if... when you call, you inform me that you know what's wrong with your appliance and insist on knowing how much the repair will cost without me even troubleshooting it. Ummm, hold on, lemme warm up my crystal ball... You are a cheesedork if... you resent that I do not bill or invoice for services. Oh, you're right--as the "local provider of services" I should just send you an invoice and let my money float for 30, 60, or 90 days interest-free (if I see it at all). You wanna loan, go to the bank. You want your appliance fixed, pay me before I leave your house. You are a cheesedork if... you think of my business as "the local provider of services" like I'm some friggin' government agency, or something. You are a cheesedork if... you don't think twice about the confiscatory taxes being withheld from your paycheck or the outrageous property taxes you're forced pay, yet you'll start a modern Boston Tea Party over paying a fair price for an expert and convenient appliance repair in your home. How 'bout ranting about something that really matters, for a change? You are a cheesedork if... you mistake my professionalism and polite demeanor to mean it's safe for you to crab and moan to me about my bill when you know you wouldn't even make a peep to a redneck repairman about his bill. You are a cheesedork if... you justify your outrageous behavior to me by repeating the quaint mantra, "The customer is always right." Well, Einstein, if you're always right then whaddya need me for? Go fix it yourself. You are a cheesedork if... the first question you ask when calling for service is "How much...?" instead of "How soon...?" Let your fingers do the walking--call someone who doesn't have enough self-respect to tell you to take a walk. You are a cheesedork if... you think it should be free "'cuz it's on the innernet, an' all." You are a cheesedork if... you send me email whining that I'm "too cynical about people"--as if I sit around and make up all this stuff. Puh-leez!! Folks, I wish I only made this stuff up, really I do. But the sad reality is that all this stuff is based on real encounters with real cheesedorks. Truth is, most people are just plain childish when it comes to paying for appliance repairs.

Understanding how the Water Level Sensor in LG Washing Machines work

Water level sensing in LG washers is done differently from how you may be used to seeing it done in other brands. Whirlpool, GE, Electrolux and others use an air tube connecting an air dome on the tub to a pressure sensor with a physical diaphragm or transducer that "feels" the water level increase as an increase in pressure inside the air tube. LG uses frequency measurements. How's that again? I'll let Brother john63, Dean of LG Appliantology explain: Source: LG PRESSURE SENSOR OPERATION

A Backdoor Test for the Mode Shifter in the Whirlpool VM Washers

These new Whirlpool vertical modular (VM) top-loading washers are pretty easy to troubleshoot, mostly because they practically troubleshoot themselves with fault/error code combinations that you can read in diagnostic mode. The mode shifter has turned out to be one of the common-fail parts on this washer and it's regular rolling inventory for me. Although the fault/error codes will point specifically to the mode shifter if there's a problem with it, there may be situations where you want to test the mode shifter directly. Brother Eric calls the dance steps on that little ditty: Source: Amana NTW4600yq

How to Troubleshoot the New Inverter Compressor Refrigerators

The new inverter compressors ain't like the old skool compressors used in yo momma's beer cooler. Oh, they still do the same basic job-- pump refrigerant vapor. But you have to troubleshoot them differently from the old skool compressors. In their quest to comply with increasingly onerous Energy Star requirements, all the appliance manufacturers are producing refrigerator models that use inverter compressors. Like it or not, inverter compressors are here to stay. Many a fine tech has been befuddled by these new compressor systems but not you! For the Samurai shall reveal the truth unto thee, and the truth shall set thee free. 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

How to install the upper rack stops and rack rollers in a Whirlpool-KitchenAid dishwasher

Both the upper rack stop and roller assembly in the Whirpool-KitchenAid dishwashers are amazingly simple to install... IF you know the trick. Ain't that the way it always is in appliance repair: it's all a cake-walk IF you know what you're doing. And that's a big fat IF. Problem is that most people don't know what they don't know but they THINK they know it all. Case in pernt: Had a customer call me yesterday (Saturday) because the upper rack in their dishwasher came out. They insisted that I come right out. I told them that upper racks in dishwashers don't just come out on their own; great pains are taken during the design and manufacturing process precisely to ensure that this doesn't happen. Can you say, "class action lawsuit?" I advised my customer that something had broken in the upper rack assembly to cause this unhappy condition, typically the rack stop or the rack rollers in the Whirlpool-Kitchenaid designs, and there was no reason for me to come out right away because I didn't have the needed parts but could order them and come out early next week. They insisted that I come right out because they KNEW nothing was broken. So, in an effort to provide good service and giving the benefit of the doubt, I agreed to go out told them that they would be charged extra if it turned out that a part was needed that I didn't have (but knew would be needed). And what did I find? Low and behold but the upper rack roller was had broken clean off! They were appropriately contrite and embarrassed, paid for my service call fee for that day and will also pay full price for the repair when I return early next week with the needed rack roller. Here's the part link to the upper rack rollers and how to replace them: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=uScxPlJWEIw&subid=0&offerid=225193.1&type=10&tmpid=2111&RD_PARM1=http&RD_PARM2=%253A%252F%252Fwww.appliancepartspros&RD_PARM3=.com%252Fwhirlpool-wheel-adjustable-mount-8268743-ap3043711.html And here's the part link to the upper rack stop, incase you need that instead: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=uScxPlJWEIw&subid=0&offerid=225193.1&type=10&tmpid=2111&RD_PARM1=http&RD_PARM2=%253A%252F%252Fwww.appliancepartspros&RD_PARM3=.com%252Fwhirlpool-stop-8565925-ap3886370.html

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


The Big Three Deadly Dishwasher Mistakes

Deadly Mistake Numero Uno: Using a gel detergent or powered detergent that is old or has already gotten wet. The main tasks of a detergent are to remove soil from surfaces and prevent the re-deposits of soils on the surfaces. The best detergent formulations will be powdered. Do not use gels or liquid detergents. Why powdered detergent? Because in today's phosphate-free world, you need two types of cleaners in a detergent formulation to get dishes clean: 1. Enzymes to remove protein-based stains 2. Bleach to remove other stains These two cleaners are incompatible with each other-- if they're released at the same time, the bleach will destroy the enzyme and, after this epic battle, there will be little or nothing left of the bleach to do even its little bit of cleaning. The result: dirty dishes. They can coexist in a powdered form because they are not activated until 1) they get wet and 2) the water temperature reaches 125 deg. F. In a liquid or gel form, everything is already wet so you're only getting one kind of cleaning action. Detergent has a shelf life. Old detergent will not work well because the enzymes denature over time. Also, the detergent must stay dry until it's time to use it. Once it gets wet or even damp, it activates and will no longer be active when put to work inside the dishwasher. In my experience as a professional Appliantologist, my customers have enjoyed much better dishwashing results after I switched them over to Finish Powerball tablets. I leave two free samples behind and invariably, they report vastly improved washing results. BTW, I do not make a kickback for giving out the Finish Powerball samples-- I do it because the manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, puts on an excellent training seminar at the appliance training sessions I attend and it really does work well. Deadly Mistake Numero Duo: Pre-rinsing dishes. It is not only okay to put dirty dishes into a dishwasher, it is mandatory to properly activate the detergent! Detergents are designed to work with food soils, not clean water. Without the food soils, the detergent will create a caustic slurry inside the dishwasher which will etch the glassware by removing the silica from the glass. Not only that, but pre-rinsing the dishes wastes water. DOE estimates that pre-rinsing dishes uses 20 gallons of water per load. Scrape the chunks off with a fork and leave the rest on the dishes. It's a dishwasher, for crying out loud! Let it do what it was designed to do! Deadly Mistake Numero Trio: Not scraping the chunks of food or solid debris off the plates before loading them into the dishwasher. Taken together, these last two Deadly Mistakes are a great illustration of the saying, "The opposite of dysfunction is dysfunction." People tend to fall into one camp or the other: they're either OCD pre-rinsers or they use the dishwasher as a garbage disposal. You wouldn't believe some of the junk I've pulled out of dishwashers! Here's a short list of some of the things I've dredged up from deep within the bowels of broken dishwashers: - plastic wrappers - tooth picks - bits of bone - broken glass - mayonnaise jar label - an adult human tooth! - crab leg shells - candle wick holders - ear rings - a tongue stud-- yes, a tongue stud! Today's dainty little dishwashers can't handle hard solids and these things end up damaging the innards of the dishwasher such as breaking the macerator or binding the wash motor impeller. So there you have it, the Big Three. Almost every dishwasher service call I go out on, the customer is doing at least one of the Three Deadlies. But not you! Nawsir, not no more 'cuz the Samurai hath done enlightened yo ace. BONUS SECTION! Since you slogged (or scrolled) through to the end of this post, here are a couple of bonus tips for getting the best performance from your dishwasher: Tip #1: Use Rinse Aid! It’s not an option with today’s dinky dishwashers. Rinse aid allows the dishwasher to use less water with the same amount of cleaning and drying effectiveness. It does this by creating what we professional appliantologists call “sheeting action” of the water. By making the water sheet along dishes, rather than cluster into beads, it evaporates faster and with less energy. Tip #2: Do Routine Dishwasher Tune-Ups No tools needed! Regularly using a dishwasher cleaner (Affresh) and performance booster (Glass Magic) to clear out the gookus and reduce the build-up will keep your dishwasher clean and fresh smelling and operating at peak performance.

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Dryer Auto Dry cycle not working - a simple fix using the Dean's Method

Most dryers have an Auto Dry cycle where it sense the dryness of the clothes and adjusts the cycle time accordingly. Sometimes, clothes will stop drying properly on the Auto Dry cycle but still dry normally on the Timed Dry cycle. Brother john63, the Dean of LG Appliantology, has developed a simple procedure to correct this problem and it works on all brands and models of dryers with an Auto Dry feature. Source: Samsung Dryer DV350AEW/XAA auto dry not working

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


How to replace the chopper-mascerator blade in an LG Dishwasher

Many dishwashers have a part called the macerator or chopper to cut up larger chunks of food before sending the waster stream back to the wash impeller. These are not meant to function as a disposal but to protect the wash impeller from stray chunks of food that may be circulating in the dishwasher. The best way to prepare dishes for the dishwasher is to scrape off all the chunks with a fork and leave the rest. Don't pre-rinse because you'll just create a caustic slurry that will etch your glassware. The chopper is there for the occasional soft chunk of food that made it into the dishwasher by mistake. Sometimes, the chopper needs to be replaced. This is a fairly common and easy repair on the Whirlpool-built dishwashers. The procedure is similar on LG dishwashers. Sometimes, you may need to replace the chopper in an LG dishwasher because it's making a weird whistling noise due to a defect in the design of the chopper blade. Brother john63 explains more about this and how to correct it: Source: LG Dishwasher, Whistling, whirring sound

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Samurai Appliance Repair Man


Dishwasher Filmology: Handling Hard Water and Mineral Buildup Problems in Today's Wimpy Dishwashers

Intro The dishwashers being made today ain’t like yo mamma’s dishwasher. Dishwashers made as recently as 1997 used big honkin’ motors that practically sandblasted your dishes clean and then reversed direction to pump the water out. They used a lot more energy and water than the delicate little dainties being made today. They also lasted much longer and weren’t as prone to having problems with mineral buildup inside of ‘em… but don’t get me started on that rant. Prodded along by the Beltway Bandits wielding the Energy Star stick, all the manufacturers are making their dishwashers with dainty little wash motors that drizzle the water on the dishes and a separate drain pump motor. So, for better or for worser, we’re all stuck with these limp-wristed dishwashers. One of the consequences of using these low-wattage pumps and motors is that they have to run longer to get your dishes as clean as the old war horses did. Whereas yo mamma’s dishwasher would run for less than an hour, it’s not unusual for a new dishwasher to run for two or three hours. Although it seems counterintuitive (that’s one of those big words that we professional appliantologists use– please don’t try it at home as I cannot be responsible for your safety), the newer dishwashers are still using less energy than the older ones even when they run two or three times longer. It’s madness, I tell you, unmitigated insanity! But, like with everything, there’s a downside to all this feel-good, Energy Star madness. If you have hard water (like most folks who get their water out of a well), the reduced water use and longer run times mean you’re gonna get more mineral deposit gookus on your dishes and in the guts of your new fancy-pants, Energy Star dishwasher. This can cause all kinda washability and cleaning problems for your dishes, damage to the dishwasher’s dainty little innards, and increased energy consumption. I get several calls a week for poor washing complaints in newer dishwashers. When I go out on these service calls, I often find that there's nothing wrong with the dishwasher from a repair standpoint. Yes, it doesn't help that all dishwashers made have been neutered by the Energy Star requirements which mandate that they use less water and electricity. And that's only going to get worse. It also doesn't help that phosphates were quietly removed from detergents by the manufacturers in July of 2010. You combine these two things with homes with hard water, like most people on a well, and you have the perfect storm for dishwashers that don't do a good job of washing the dishes. One common result is film left on dishes, especially evident on glassware. Dishwashers need three things to do their job: 1. Mechanical action: water sprayed from the spray arms, 2. Thermal action: water heated to 120-125 deg. F to activate detergent, 3. Chemical action: good quality, fresh, dry POWDERED detergent matched to the amount of water hardness, and the use of rinse-aid. If the dishwasher itself is operating within specs (conditions 1 and 2 above are satisfied) then almost all dishwasher washability complaints come down to the third condition: bad chemistry. Chemistry problems will involve one or more of these factors: - Detergent - Rinse Aid - Water Hardness In today's epistle, we're gonna look at all three of these factors in detail and'll reveal some esoteric techniques for dealing with dishwasher film and mineral accumulation problems in today's wimpy dishwashers using phosphate-free detergent in hard water environments. Whew! Okay, grab 'hold of those two large lumps that you're sitting on and let's get ready to R-R-R-R-R-R-R-U-M-M-M-B-L-L-L-L-L-E! Background Info: The Hard Facts About Hard Water Complaints about the washer or dishwasher not cleaning very well are one of the more common ones I get from grasshoppers at my website and from paying grasshoppers in the field, also known as customers. The first thing I always like to figger out in these cases is how hard the water is. What’s water hardness and why’s it so ding-dang important? Well, Hoss, hang on ’cause I’m gonna ‘splain it to you. Hardness is a term them fancy-pants engineers use to talk about dissolved minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium, in the water. Water picks it up as it flows in rivers or in aquifers under the ground, dontcha know. It varies from place to place according to the types of rocks you got. Anyway, them fancy-pants engineers went on and created a way of measuring hardness. They call it grains per gallon, and you’ll see ‘em write it as "gpg." So, the more grains of calcium or magnesium dissolved in each gallon of water, the harder it is. Here's how they talk about hardness in numbers: 1 gpg = 1 grain per US gallon = 17.1 mg/l CaCO3 (US water hardness) 1 ppm = 1 mg/l CaCO3 (US) 1°e = 1 grain per UK gallon = 14.29 mg/l CaCO3 (English water hardness) 1°d = 10 mg/l CaO (German water hardness) 1°f = 10 mg/l CaCO3 (French water hardness) 1 gpg = 1.712°f 1 gpg = 0.959°d 1 gpg = 1.198°e (gpg UK) 1 gpg = 17.120 ppm CaCO3 So, what’s wrong with having a little calcium and magnesium in the water? Nothing if it’s just a little, like less than 3 gpg. But, when you start getting water with 7 gpg or more, you gots what we in the trade call, "hard water." And if it’s more than about 10 gpg, it’s called "damn hard water." This nifty little table summarized what I be sayin': Y’see, Hoss, in a washer or dishwasher, these little calciums and magnesiums suck up the soap or detergent leaving less of it available to clean the crud off your clothes or dishes. As a result of water hardness, it takes more soap or detergent to get your clothes or dishes to an acceptable level of cleaness. Now you see why I always wanna find out what the water hardness is when I’m dealing with a poor cleaning complaint? Now here’s something else to think about. The detergent instructions on the box are based on average hardness. Average hardness in the U.S. is defined as 6.6 gpg and 6.1 gpg in Canada. Now this cuts both ways, Hoss, hang with me for a minute. What if your actual water hardness is only 2 gpg but you’re putting detergent in your washer based on the directions on the box (typically a standard "scoop" or "capful")? Well, it don’t take a certifiable appliance guru like myself to figger out that you’re using too much freakin’ detergent! You’re not only wasting money, but you’re wearing lots o’ that stuff in your clothes, too. Awwite, what if your actual water hardness was 15 gpg and you’re putting in detergent according to the amount on the box? Why, it means you are one dirty dude ’cause your clothes ain’t getting clean when you wash ‘em. Think about that next time you put on a pair of "clean" underwear. Not only is hardness a problem from the standpoint of cleaning your stuff, it messes up your appliances, too. Oh sure, after a while, all kinds of "scale" from the hardness collects on the innards of your washer and dishwasher and screws it all up. But hey, I love the work it generates so I ain’t complainin’! Now, the question you’re all axin’: "how do I measure the hardness of my water?" Piece of pie, tovarish. Come git you a Maytag Water Hardness Kit: Dishwasher Detergents and Phosphates The main tasks of a detergent are to remove soil from surfaces and prevent the re-deposits of soils on the surfaces. The best detergent formulations will be powdered. Do not use gels or liquid detergents. Why powdered detergent? Because in today's phosphate-free world, you need two types of cleaners in a detergent formulation to get dishes clean: 1. Enzymes to remove protein-based stains 2. Bleach to remove other stains These two cleaners are incompatible with each other-- if they're released at the same time, the bleach will destroy the enzyme and, after this epic battle, there will be little or nothing left of the bleach to do even its little bit of cleaning. The result: dirty dishes. They can coexist in a powdered form because they are not activated until 1) they get wet and 2) the water temperature reaches 125 deg. F. In a liquid or gel form, everything is already wet so you're only getting one kind of cleaning action. Detergent has a shelf life. Old detergent will not work well because the enzymes denature over time. Also, the detergent must stay dry until it's time to use it. Once it gets wet or even damp, it activates and will no longer be active when put to work inside the dishwasher. It is not only okay to put dirty dishes into a dishwasher, it is mandatory to properly activate the detergent. Detergents are designed to work with food soils, not clean water. Without the food soils, the detergent will create a caustic slurry inside the dishwasher which will etch the glassware by removing the silica from the glass. Not only that, but pre-rinsing the dishes wastes water. DOE estimates that pre-rinsing dishes uses 20 gallons of water per load. Scrape the chunks off with a fork and leave the rest on the dishes. It's a dishwasher, for crying out loud! Let it do what it was designed to do! Let's look at the detergent ingredients in action: - Alkalies regulate the pH of the cleaning solution to help remove soils from the surfaces - Builders regulate water hardness and prevent the formation of limescale deposits - The bleach system eliminates certain soils (e.g. tea and coffee stains) by oxidizing them and making them water removable - Enzymes work as catalysts and, in general, work best at temperatures around 122°F. Protease breaks down protein-based stains such as egg. Amylase breaks down starch-based stains such as oatmeal and potato. Phosphates did a number of important things to help the detergent clean better. For example, phosphate causes food to break apart and dissolve by removing the calcium that binds foods together. It also reduces spotting and filming during the wash cycle. Phosphate also helps break up and get rid of grease, helps control water hardness, and suspends soils within the wash water so they are not redistributed onto the plates. The old-formula dishwashing detergents had about 30% phosphates. Now, with the phosphates removed, the calcium is free to run around inside the dishwasher slurry causing trouble, a particular problem in hard water areas. But the Samurai has a few tricks for dealing with this situation that you can share with your customers. The detergent manufacturers all quietly and "voluntarily" removed phosphates (as tri-sodium phosphate, or TSP) from detergents on July 1, 2010. I say "voluntarily" because they did this to pre-empt a whole new riot act of regulations about to come out under the Clean Water Act which would have had more far-reaching effects and, as regulations always do, make detergents even less effective and more expensive. So the industry did damage control by voluntarily removing TSP from the detergents. This in itself caused a rash of washability complaints. All of sudden, the same type and amount of detergent that people had been using for years in their dishwasher no longer did the job. I remember being inundated with dishwasher complaints through the rest of 2010. How to Handle Hard Water and Mineral Buildup in Today’s Wimpy Dishwashers: Epilogue and How-to Guide Contrary to popular belief, you do not want the water to be too hot in hard water conditions. If you use any of the water heating options (Sani, Temp boost, etc.) and you're having filming problems on the dishes and glasses, try disabling those options. If you are in a hard water area, you can also get flash drying, which means the water will evaporate off the glasses and plates instead of rinsing off, leaving behind grit and all the hard water deposits. You want the water to be at least 125℉ or so to activate the detergent, but that’s about it. Use a good POWDER detergent. Recommended amount I believe is 1 tablespoon per grain of hardness; if you are 10 or more, fill the cups and boost your rinse aid up to Max. I describe flash drying to people with this scenario. If you had a gorgeous black car, would you wash and wax it in the heat of the day in direct sun? When they say "no" I ask them "why" and they state it would leave white spots all over it. This is what happens in the dishwasher. Glasses look like they were rinsed in milk, and fine food particles are left behind. Even the dishwasher itself can get all gunktified like ahso: To prove your glasses have hard water filming (can be cleaned) and are not etched (irreversible damage) try filling one up with white vinegar half way and let it soak. If when you rinse it the whiteness is gone from the area where the vinegar was, it’s hard water filming. Let's watch it in action: So let's end with four practical things you can recommend to your customers having dishwasher cleaning problems: Numero Uno: Use rinse aid! It’s not an option with today’s dinky dishwashers. Rinse aid allows the dishwasher to use less water with the same amount of cleaning and drying effectiveness. It does this by creating what we professional appliantologists call “sheeting action” of the water. By making the water sheet along dishes, rather than cluster into beads, it evaporates faster and with less energy. Look at the difference: Numero Duo: If a little Rinse Aid doesn’t work, use MORE! Numero Trio: Regularly use a dishwasher cleaner (Affresh) and performance booster (Glass Magic) to clear out the gookus and reduce the build-up. Numero Quattro: Install a household water softening system or buy a fancy-pants dishwasher with its own water softener built in, like a Miele.

Old Skool washing machine motors: a quick, simple explanation of how they work

The Old Skool washing machine motors that we all know and love are the big, honkin', clunky motors in all the older model top loading washing machines. They are controlled with simple mechanical timers and switches. Depending on which contacts are made on the timer, the direction of rotation can be controlled. In order to have different speeds, the motor has to have different windings physically built into it at the time of manufacture and then the timer or selector switch can energize these different windings. It was all pretty crude technology and but it was rugged, simple, and easy to troubleshoot. And it all worked great for a long time until the Energy Star requirements came along and mandated lower energy use in washing machines and other appliances. Nowadays, the new front-loaders and the new high-efficiency top-loaders all use variable speed motors that require a special (and often expensive) phase control board. These types of motor arrangements are often called "variable-frequency drives" or "inverter drives." Wikipedia has a pretty good primer on this technology if you want to read more about it. Anyway, back to the Old Skool motors. Why do we still care about these? Because there are still lots of them out there so any competent Appliantologist has to have a working understanding of both types of motor drives. Like the saying goes, "You can't figure out what's wrong if you don't know what 'right' is." IOW, how you have to understand how they're supposed to work so you can troubleshoot them when they're not working. Brother fairbank56 gives us a good, concise explanation of how these Old Skool motors operate... Source: Amana won't agitate in Regular Cycles

LG WM3677HW Combo Washer/dryer - washes okay but doesn't dry

One common problem with these combo laundry units is that they'll stop drying the clothes. The dryer portion of the combo unit is a condenser type dryer. It works on the principal that water condenses on a cool surface, similar to moisture collecting on a cold drink on a hot and humid summer day. A fan circulates air through the warming duct, drum, and condenser and over and over. The air is warmed because warmer air holds more moisture than cooler air and the heat causes more of the water to be evaporated form the laundry. The warm, moist air is directed through the condensing duct, which is cooled by a spray of cold water. This difference in temperature causes the moisture to precipitate in the condenser, where it and the cooling water are exhausted by the drain pump. The air, now dry, is passed over the warming element and through the laundry again as the process repeats itself. Because the air is recycled instead of exhausted, a vent and lint filter are not necessary for this type dryer. If you don't work on a lot of these units, they can be strange and mysterious beasts, even leading some techs to go insane on blind, parts-changing rampages in a vain attempt to fix a no-drying complaint. Brethren, let us unbunch our panties and unfurl our brows while Brother john63, Dean of LG Laundry Appliantology, reveals to us the solution which, like most technical solutions, is stunningly simple once you hear it, yet ever elusive to the uninitiated: Source: LG Combo Washer/dryer not drying

How to manually cycle the GE WR30X10093 icemaker

A useful and handy diagnostic technique when working on an ice maker problem is to manually initiate a harvest cycle to see with the ice maker will or will not do. Here's how to manually cycle the GE WR30X10093 ice maker: If the ice maker won't do the manual harvest, replace it. Here's the replacement you need: http://www.repairclinic.com/PartDetail/Ice-Maker-Assembly/WR30X10093/1399596 Source: how do you cycle test the WR30X10093 icemaker

Installing the foamed-in-place refrigerator door gaskets used on some Whirlpool and Kitchenaid models: A War Story

Brother Willie shares his battle-scarred experience with replacing these types of refrigerator door gaskets. To summarize in a word: DON'T. Or, if you must because you're a professional Appliantologist, make sure you charge a lot for the job. But Brothers PDuff and JJ Surfer offer these consoling words of wisdom: Source: Kitchenaid fridge. KBRC36FKS02. Sporadic temp problems

Things customers say while you're in their home on a service call...

Every day, professional Appliantologists have the unique privilege of going into people's homes on appliance repair service calls. And it really is a privilege... most of the time. We meet all kinds of people and every professional Appliantologist has fond memories of those "special" customers because of some of the things those customers say to brighten our day while we're in their homes and working on their appliance. Here's a slice-of-life collection of some of these memorable pearls from our customers. These are all from real-life service calls and uttered by real-life customers. Could've been your neighbor, aunt, brother-in-law, or even YOU. Source: Things customers say while you're working...

Appliance Repair Pricing Systems: Comparing Flat Rate vs. Time and Materials

After reading a lively and long-lived discussion about flat-rate vs. time and materials pricing at another blog that Brother Durham brought to my attention, Mrs. Samurai felt The Calling to weigh in and write up her own opus magnum on the topic. We decided to post it here at my blog since she wants hers to be mostly about food, home, and health-related topics. So I'm posting it here under her by-line. It's a great read! Whether you're a professional appliantologist or a client of a professional appliantologist, I think you'll find it a thoughtful, informative, and fun read. Appliance Repair Pricing Systems: Comparing Flat Rate vs. Time and Materials by Mrs. Samurai, www.MrsSamurai.com Most people are familiar with the “time and materials” method (TMM) of calculating the fees for in-home appliance repair, but a method called the “flat-rate system” (FRS) is gaining in popularity around the country. Many folks wonder how exactly the FRS works, and if one of these systems is better than the other. I’m gonna break it down for you, and go over the pros and cons of these systems. Disclosure: Our service company, The Appliance Guru, uses the FRS. However, we don’t sell a flat-rate book or anything like that, so we don’t stand to gain one way or another with any particular recommendation. But since we researched this ourselves to arrive at our decision, I can share what we found out about both systems. A summary of the Time and Materials method The usual TMM fee for an in-home appliance service call is calculated by adding 3 basic pieces of information together: the service fee, the part(s) cost, and the labor charge. The service fee is a set amount that is charged to cover the trip to the house and the effort and expertise it takes to diagnose the problem. (Some people refer to this as the fee to “come and look at it”, but that’s an absurdly simplistic way to describe the troubleshooting process!) Service fees for coming to diagnose most standard residential appliances may range from about $55 to $95, depending on the area. The labor charge will be based on the actual time spent doing the repair multiplied by the hourly rate. This rate will also vary according to area, and should be disclosed up front. Also, there may be a minimum time that will be charged, such as a half hour. The part(s) cost will be a retail price, not the actual wholesale price that the servicer paid for the part. Some experienced servicers are able to give a “not to exceed” quote on a repair beforehand, so the customer has an understanding of the upper limit of the cost of the repair and has some protection against unexpected time delays. Others do not do this and will just charge based on how long the repair actually takes. What is the Flat-rate system? Although the FRS is fairly new to the appliance repair scene, many other trades have used a similar system for a long time. Auto mechanics usually have standard “book rates” for certain tasks, rather than charging each customer the actual time (labor) it takes to do a repair. The FRS is pretty straightforward. When the appliance servicer diagnoses the machine and determines what repair is needed, he will look up the fee for the particular repair in a book and then quote the customer that price for the repair. For example, if a widget on an ACME washer needs to be replaced, the servicer would look in the section for ACME washers, find the task “replace widget”, and the total cost for the completed repair will be listed beside it. There occasionally can be some add-ons if, for example, the washer is located in such a tight little closet that either it will take a lot more effort or a second man is required to help maneuver it so that it can be serviced, in which case a “difficult access” or “second man” charge will be added. There are also discounts that will be made if more than one task is performed during the same service call. The main point of the FRS is that the exact cost of the repair is quoted up front to the customer, so that they can make a fully-informed decision about going forward with the repair. If a customer decides not to do the repair, then typically the servicer will charge a diagnostic or service fee of some amount that was disclosed up-front, similar to the service fee I mentioned in the TMM description. How are the Flat Rates calculated? The most common appliance repair flat-rate book on the market is called The Original Blue Book Major Appliance Job Rate Guide. According to the publisher’s website, the primary elements that comprise the rates in the guide are: “parts, time & labor, equipment, predictable and unpredictable circumstances surrounding specific jobs, inventory management, education/training, office staff, advertising, insurances, travel time to and from the customers home, and all service vehicle expenses.” (appliancebluebook.com) Essentially, the FRS is similar to TMM in that the labor, time, and parts are all factored into the price for the repair. Similarly, an accurately determined labor rate for a TMM servicer will factor in all of the additional costs of doing business listed above. Obviously, in order to stay in business, any company needs to adequately price their services in order to cover all of the expenses involved, and since this can be a complicated calculation to make, the FRS is an attractive and easy pricing solution for repair companies. What’s important in choosing a servicer First of all, the pricing system that a service company uses is NOT the most important consideration the customer should make. Neither system will compensate for a technician who is incompetent, inconvenient, or dishonest. Either system can work well for a technician who runs a good business. The first things you should learn about a prospective appliance repair business is not the pricing, but rather their experience, convenience, guarantees, and the like. If they are a good company with well-trained technicians, then you will likely be charged a fair rate. It may not be the cheapest rate, but as we all know you usually get what you pay for. Appliance repair - what you need to know about this trade One other important point before we go into the pros and cons is that you should understand how the appliance repair trade is evolving, and how it is different from other skilled trades such as plumbing and electric. For one thing, there are hundreds of different models of appliances out there. Having a reasonable inventory of parts along with all the technical bulletins, manuals, and other up-to-date information on all of these requires both time and financial resources to manage. A servicer who does not keep up with inventory and information will be less likely to be able to complete your repair in a timely or competent manner. Also, the fact that modern appliances are getting increasingly complicated, particularly with all of the electronic control boards and advanced features, makes training and after-hours research a regular part of any technician’s schedule. Gone are the days when a general handyman or tradesman in another specialty can do a lot of appliance repair tasks quickly and effectively. One other consideration is that the average day for an appliance repair tech involves many more trips between job sites as compared to a plumber or electrician. This extra time driving between jobs decreases the “billable hours” available during a typical weekday. Because of these unique characteristics of the appliance repair trade, the rates for appliance repair (whether calculated via TMM or the FRS) often run higher than the hourly rates charged by different types of tradesmen such as plumbers or electricians. Enough already! Which pricing system is better? If all other qualities of an appliance repair company are equal, is one pricing system better than the other? First of all, you should understand that in a sense both methods result in some degree of “averaging out” of the cost of jobs. Let me explain what I mean. For example, the cost of a particular task charged by a company using the FSM will be the same no matter how slow or fast, experienced or inexperienced the technician. So every customer will pay essentially an averaged-out price for that repair. A widget replacement will cost $X regardless of whether it took the tech 10 minutes or an hour to complete it. Alternatively, a TMM servicer will charge the exact same hourly rate for a repair regardless of the amount of training or expertise that particular repair requires. Hourly rates are calculated to adequately cover all costs of doing business, which includes ongoing training and equipment for increasingly complicated electronics and machines. Yet even the simplest of repair jobs will be charged the same hourly rate as the most complicated, even though plenty of repairs on older machines do not require particularly advanced skills, ongoing training, or expensive test equipment. The FRS is able to take these details into account for each particular job, whereas the TMM is not, because the FRS pricing takes into account the level of skill (training) required for a particular job, not just how long it takes to actually perform the task itself. Here’s a summary of what customers like about flat-rate pricing: The exact repair cost is quoted up front, which makes the “repair or replace” decision easier to make and gives the customer more of a feeling of being in control of the situation.
The standardization of prices prevents a price “penalty” for a slower technician or one who doesn’t have the part on the truck and will need to make a second trip.
The knowledge that the price is an accurate reflection of the actual skills, effort, and equipment needed for that particular job is reassuring.
I would also point out something people might not think of - since the flat-rate prices are calculated very carefully to cover all of an appliance repair company’s expenses (including training to stay up-to-date on new appliances) and provide a living wage for the servicers, the businesses that use this system are more likely to stay in business for the long term. That’s important if you have found a company that you like! If your favorite tech throws in the towel because he just can’t make ends meet, then where are you? Here’s what people like about time and materials pricing: Seeing the cost of the part and the labor itemized gives a feeling of transparency.
Knowing how much a technician is charging hourly allows them to judge if they think it is reasonable, often by comparing to other servicers (as I mentioned earlier, this is generally not a valid comparison if you are comparing an appliance tech to someone in a different field, such as a plumber or electrician).
Is one method cheaper than the other? There is no good reason that - on average - the prices for either method should be cheaper than the other if they are all based on covering all the costs of doing business. We happen to have had the opportunity to compare our “book prices” with those of other appliance repair companies who work in our area and found that the differences were generally not significant and there was no consistent pattern to who was more or less expensive. The only reason that some people will find lower prices with a company using the TMM is that they are undercharging for their services (and thus at risk for going out of business) or are skimping in various ways, such as not being insured, not keeping a well-stocked inventory of parts, not staying current on training, not guaranteeing their work, not having a live human answer the phone, not doing same-day scheduling, etc. The Bottom Line Ultimately you should choose your appliance tech based on the level of service he provides, not how he charges. If price is your most important consideration, then you will likely have to sacrifice some amount of convenience and quality to get a lower price. If you have a choice between two equally good repair companies with different pricing structures, then you can use the above comparisons to decide which one would suit your temperament best.

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