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Appliance Repair Tech Tips

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Entries in this blog

How to Correctly Measure Dryer Vent Airflow

The general rule for dryer vent airflow is that, if the airflow feels like a breath (even a strong one), then you have a problem. This rule of thumb will serve you well a lot of the time, but sometimes a "calibrated palm" just isn't enough. Sometimes, you need to get an actual measurement of the airflow so that you can compare it to the specifications. What you really want to know is the volumetric flow rate of the dryer exhaust. That is, how much air it's pushing out over a particular peri

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Why Using OEM Parts Should be SOP

We've all been there: you're looking up the part that you need for the job, and the price tag about knocks you out of your chair. No way that heating element costs that much to produce! Maybe your concern isn't just for yourself -- you're interested in saving the customer some money. Despite the sometimes exorbitant prices, there are many good reasons to go with the OEM part over a generic one. OEM parts are generally better quality and make for a more reliable repair. You're going

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

What is Ghost Voltage?

Ghost voltage is a term that you'll hear used in tech circles, and often incorrectly. Ghost voltage is the name of a very specific phenomenon, but I've seen it used variously to refer to failing under load, high resistance connections, and even simple open circuits. What does it really mean? What we call ghost voltage is transient, seemingly sourceless voltage. It does, of course, have a source. You know how when current flows through a conductor, it produces a magnetic field? Well that mag

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Installations from Hell: What Would You Do?

Picture it. You're walking into the service call of a long day, but you're feeling good. You've got your tools in hand, you've done all the prediagnosis; you're gonna kill it. The customer lets you in, and while chatting affably he begins leading you to the appliance. You can't place why, but a dark cloud of foreboding passes over you. You push it aside, but the feeling only grows. He's leading you downstairs now, into the basement. It's dingy down here -- clutter everywhere. No,

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

KitchenAid KGRS505XWH05 Range Mysteriously Refuses to Bake or Broil

What do you do when an appliance, despite all appearances of normality, simply refuses to do its job? The Samurai and I were forced to answer this very question today. The culprit: A KitchenAid KGRS505XWH05 double oven all gas range. The complaint: The customer told us that neither the top nor the bottom ovens would ignite, but the cooktop worked fine. The customer's description turned out to be about right (for once). The upper oven broil and lower oven bake ignitors would glow f

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

How to Troubleshoot a GE Cooktop like a Real Tech vs. like a PCM

What we call Parts-Changing Monkeys (PCMs) around here at Appliantology are techs who rely on pattern recognition, tech myths, and blind luck to make their repairs. Case in point with this example of a GE ZGU385 gas cooktop, where said PCM figured he would get lucky by replacing a couple of components that seemed related to the problem, apparently without any troubleshooting beforehand. Spoiler: he didn't get lucky. Real technicians don't rely on luck to get things fixed. We rely on kn

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Diodes in AC Circuits

Put simply, diodes are devices that only allow current to flow in one direction. In DC circuits, this means that a diode can either act as a conductor, just as a stretch of wire would, or as an open in the circuit, depending on the configuration. See the examples of DC circuits with diodes below: That arrowhead-like symbol is the diode. The fat end of the arrow is the positively charged anode, while the narrow end that meets the straight line is the negatively charged cathode. Fi

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Pop Quiz: What's Wrong with this Range Wiring?

You open up the terminal block on a Bosch range, and you see this. What's wrong with this picture? (Hint: those of you who have watched this webinar recording should know what's up). A few questions for you sharp Appliantology techs: Will the machine run in this configuration? Why is it not okay to leave the machine in this configuration? Does this machine have a 3 or 4 wire power cord? How would you correct this situation? Let me know your answers

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai in Tech Talk

Educating Customers About Self Clean

Self-clean sounds like a great idea, right? Just push a button and watch your oven burn away all that caked-on grease and charred food.It certainly makes for a good selling point. But is this no-hassle cleaning feature really all it's cracked up to be? And what is the best way for the customer to use it (if at all)? First off: does it actually work? Can the oven clean itself just by getting really hot? Yes, definitely. Self-cleaning isn't just a gimmick, and when used properly, it does actu

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

One Powerful Measurement Could Have Saved This Tech Hours of Troubleshooting...

Here's the situation: the tech is working on a dryer that keeps blowing its thermal fuse. The tech has already replaced the fuse once, and it's now blown again. What could be causing this, and what's the best way to tell? We'll start by looking at the heater circuit -- an essential step in any troubleshooting plan. Pretty simple stuff. Just a cycling thermostat, a centrifugal switch, and a hi-limit thermostat. The thermal fuse that keeps blowing is the one in the motor circuit. I

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Most Techs Wouldn't Troubleshoot this Door Switch the Right Way...

I want you to take a look at the door switch I've circled below. Think about it for a minute, then answer one question: what single test could you do to prove beyond a doubt whether or not that door switch is operating within spec? There's no trickery going on here -- it's just a simple switch. But many techs will test it using a flawed, limited test that has a big chance of leading them to the wrong conclusion. And they'll do a bunch of unnecessary disassembly. Post your answer in th

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai in Tech Talk

Being the Technician in the Face of Overbearing Customers

Sometimes, the hardest part of being a tech is dealing with the customer. Customers always have expectations, some reasonable and some not, and we have to manage these on top of performing our diagnostics and repairs. A large part of being a real technician is knowing when to trust your own expertise over customer demands. This struggle generally manifests in two ways: 1. The customer has their own diagnosis that they're sure is correct. We've all encountered this before. Something alo

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Bypassing the Auto Temp Control on a Whirlpool Washer

Here's your scenario: you're working on a Whirlpool CAM2742TQ2 Washer, and you've determined that the auto temp control (ATC) has failed such that it won't energize the water valves and allow the machine to fill. You intend to replace the ATC, but it's on backorder. Is there any clever trick you can think of that will at least get the customer going temporarily while they wait? Time to crack out the schematic. It looks like there's a lot going on here, what with all those alphabe

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai in Tech Talk

Waterproofing Splices in Refrigerators and Freezers

Why is it that manufacturers (such as GE, Electrolux, and others) always recommend that you seal any splices you make in their refrigeration units with silicone grease? The simple answer is that it keeps out water. This is obviously desirable because water can both corrode and short out electrical connections. A splice is already a weak point in a circuit, so especially in wet environments, you want to give them as much lasting power as possible. And it gets even more interesting when you'r

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Your Most Powerful Appliance Repair Tool isn't in Your Tool Bag...

Information has always been the name of the game for appliance repair techs. Our jobs are all about locating and making extrapolations upon information such as specifications and measurements. If we can't access at least a baseline level of information for a particular job (at the very least the schematic), then it's almost impossible for us to do our job. The meteoric rise of mobile technology and the Internet over the past few decades has hugely expanded how much information we can access

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

How Does this Dryer Run in a Seemingly Impossible Configuration?

Imagine you're out on a call, and you run into this: As the picture says, the dryer runs like this. And even weirder, when you correct the wiring, it stops running. Take a minute to think, then see if you can answer this pop quiz: 1. How does the dryer run in this configuration? 2. What's wrong about the wiring in this configuration? 3. Why does it stop working when you correct the wiring? 4. What one test could you do that would prove your hypothesis about th

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

When the Tech Sheet Lies...

Tell me what's wrong with this picture: No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you -- that schematic really is showing a split-phase compressor being run by an inverter board. If you're sitting there sputtering and foaming at the mouth in disbelief, thinking, "That can't possibly be correct," then congrats! You had the correct reaction. What this diagram is showing simply can't line up with reality. Split-phase motors are never run using inverter boards -- the very idea is nonse

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

How to Know the Limits of What You Can Troubleshoot

There's a goal that any tech worth his salt should have when he heads into a service call: troubleshoot the machine until he has logically and definitively located the problem. Most of the time this goal is achievable, as long as you have the documentation for the appliance you're working on. You can take measurements and compare them with the specifications from the manufacturer until you find what's not within specifications. This is called analytical troubleshooting and is, in fact, the 

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

2 Simple Steps to Make your Appliance Repair Business More Profitable

You're fighting a constant battle in the appliance repair trade to get the most money out of the time you spend. One of the biggest problems you face is unprofitable service calls. Most often these crop up as repairs that are close to the replacement cost. What customer is going to opt for a $300 repair when they can buy a new dryer for $400? Fortunately, there are 2 simple steps you can take to weed out 95% of these kinds of calls. These steps are prediagnosis and flat-rate pricing. P

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

More Tech Jargon Explained: "Short" and "Ground"

There are some electrical terms that are often used in vague and incorrect ways by the general public. This can make things confusing for us techs, especially those new to the craft, because these terms have precise meanings when used by those in the trade. A couple of these words are short and ground. Short is often used by the non-technical to refer to any "bad" circuit. The term "short circuit" is a popular one to throw around in this sense. In reality, a short is just one of multiple di

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

What are TMR sensors and how are they different from Hall Effect sensors?

New technologies are never invented specifically for household appliances. We always get hand-me-downs. But just because a technology was used first in a different field doesn't mean that we're familiar with it already when it reaches appliances. TMR (tunnel magentoresistance) sensors are one such example. Coming to us from the world of computer electronics, they serve the same purpose as Hall Effect sensors but work completely differently. A TMR sensor consists of two ferromagnets sep

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

How to Identify Unfamiliar Parts in Schematics

Take a look at the cooktop schematic below. I don't know about you, but "tranformator" isn't a familiar term to me. it certainly sounds like a transformer, but why would a transformer be necessary in a 240 VAC cooktop element circuit? The best thing to do here is to look up the part numbers for the "transformator" as well as other key components, such as those cooktop switches that the transformator is supplying power to. Then we can use a parts site to look at physical pictures

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Are Thermistors Interchangeable?

Thermistors are everywhere in appliances these days, and they're a relatively common-fail item, so wouldn't it be nice to stock a supply of them in your service vehicle to be used on any occasion? Well, in order to determine how feasible that is, we need to answer a question: are all thermistors interchangeable? The short answer is no. The long answer is that thermistors are not interchangeable brand-to-brand, but they can be interchangeable within the same brand, depending on the manu

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai in Tech Talk

One Magic Trick to Instantly Identify Sealed System Problems

One of the first steps when you're troubleshooting a warm temperature proble in both compartments of a refrigerator should always be to identify whether you're dealing with a problem in the sealed system or with a problem elsewhere in the unit. The go-to method for most techs is to get eyes on the evaporator coils. While the frost pattern there can tell you a lot of things about the health of the refrigerator, it has a massive drawback: getting to the evaporator can require a lot of non-tri

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

Why Amps are the Definitive Measurement in AC Circuits

Volts, ohms, and amps -- these are the three types of electrical measurements from which we draw our diagnostic conclusions as appliance techs. They all have their uses, but watch out -- they're not all equal in usefulness or reliability! Let's go through them one at a time. Ohms: Despite being a lot of techs' go-to measurement, ohms is actually the least reliable of the three. This is due in large part to the fact that it can only be performed on a dead circuit. This means that it complete

Son of Samurai

Son of Samurai

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