It was a cold December day when the call came in. Just a few days before Christmas. Gas oven no bake and loads of family coming to visit from out of town. The customer was desperate, hoping for a Christmas miracle. Things were looking grim when it turned out NOT to be the igniter, but the control board. Not only was the board not available for several weeks, but it didn't even make sense to spend that kind of money on this older, POS range. And yet, there was no time to get a replacement range installed before the Christmas festivities. But all was not lost. Come watch the illuminating and heart-warming repair saga of how the Samurai saved Christmas for a family by repairing the control board in their gas range.
If you've been reading this blog or following my Youtube channel for a while, you know my opinion on doing field repairs on electronic boards: it's a repair you do in a pinch to get the customer going but it can never be a routine part of an appliance repair company's long-term profit with growth potential.
The reasons have to do with two things: time and money. I'm not going to start shopping around for and stocking relays, triacs, capacitors, etc., to repair a control board in a customer's appliance. Why? Because the profit margin is too slim on these repairs to make it worth my time.
There are only two board field repairs that I will do, and only under specific circumstances:
1. Fuses: if a fuse that’s hardwired onto a board has blown, with no other damage evident, I’ll replace it. It’s easy to do and for about 5 bucks you can have an assortment of fuses on hand - no specialty components to get.
2. Burnt solder joints: this just requires a simple soldering kit. I’ll do this to temporarily buy the customer some time until the replacement board arrives or they are able to replace the whole appliance. I don’t guarantee this repair, so I make sure my customer knows it’s considered a temporary fix.
I learned to solder when I was a teenager, playing around with electronics kits, so I’m surprised when I see techs who seem to think repairing control boards is "sexy." Yet many of these same techs cannot use a timing chart and schematic to troubleshoot an old skool Whirlpool direct drive washer. First things first!
Working on boards isn't difficult--anyone can learn to solder. There may be an obvious, visible fault on the board (as I show in the video above), but you aren't going to be able to know if the event that led to the fault you can see caused other damage that you can't unless you really understand circuit boards and how to test them. There's a reason that companies that repair circuit boards charge what they do. And their business model only works because of volume - they have guys sitting at benches cranking out repaired boards all day long.
When you install a new OEM board, you can guarantee that job. When you do a board repair, you really can't, unless you've tested all the other components on that board. And if you're spending all that time doing that, then you're going to have to charge more to cover the time and capital costs for the required equipment, all of which erodes the supposed savings you're trying to pass along to the customer.
Some techs are attracted to doing control board repairs because they see it as additional income to their meager bottom line. The reality is that doing a low-margin repair like this is a drag on your bottom line. You can’t charge much more than your service call fee, and maybe a bit of labor. There’s little to no parts to markup. Calls like this have to be rare to remain profitable.
And then there’s the “opportunity cost” of doing board repairs. We have a limited amount of time each day that we need to wisely parcel out. The better we are at this, the more money we make. Consider the time you spend repairing a board— even buying new components if you go that far with it— is time that could otherwise have been spent repairing a Wolf or other high-end range. But that slice of time is gone. Forever. And you sold it cheap. Way to go.
The video above shows one of the few exceptions when I’ll do a control board repair: four days before Christmas, customer without an oven and no time to buy the board. Also, on this low-end POS range, I actually recommended that the customer NOT spend the money for a new control board and instead put the money toward a whole new range. So, it’s the classic “in a pinch” situation that I could easily overcome with a dab of solder.
After troubleshooting the problem to a burnt solder joint at the bake relay on the control board, I told the customer we would repair the board at no additional charge beyond the normal service call fee. I also explained that this means the repair carries no warranty-- could last a week, could last a year, only the Lord knows!
We got the oven working again, customer was delighted, and Christmas was saved by Samurai Santa!