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Samurai Appliance Repair Man's Blog

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Twas the night before Christmas and the oven control board was repaired…

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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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! :samurai:

 

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That was awesome! Thank you for sharing.

Merry Christmas!

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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." 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.

 

great to see the repair but the quality of the joints on that pcb ex factory is garbage , it’s no surprise it failed 

now I’m really curious about these bench techs 

are they techs just PCM’s ? , monkey see money do 

many moons ago i used to do board repairs on various equipment , and it was usually dried out caps or dry joints, solder and  never seen again and I suspect those bench techs that do the board repairs today do the same thing 

so what you could do is do the board repair at home if you have an exchange unit and charge the full price for a refund board that you soldered the dry joints or replaced the faulty relay , now there’s some extra margin for your time right there 

 

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Thanks for your reply comments, Brother J5*. 

2 hours ago, J5* said:

great to see the repair but the quality of the joints on that pcb ex factory is garbage , it’s no surprise it failed 

That solder joint lasted over 15 years so saying they’re “garbage” seems like an overstatement. 

2 hours ago, J5* said:

so what you could do is do the board repair at home if you have an exchange unit and charge the full price for a refund board that you soldered the dry joints or replaced the faulty relay , now there’s some extra margin for your time right there 

Still not enough money for the time. And now you’re talking homework in addition to still having to spend the time sourcing components?  And for what? Peanuts!

Younger techs don’t think twice about pissing away time for peanuts. It’s not till they get older and the realization finally starts to dawn on them that they have limited time. And capabilities they take for granted now, like good eyesight and a strong back, start fading away.

At that point, they take a good hard look the decisions they made when they were younger about earning an income. Some guys got so caught up in trivial details early in their careers that they neglected to build a real business that earns money for them while they’re at home relaxing, watching football, reading a good book, taking a hike, or enjoying life.

Trading personal time for money is not a business- it’s a gig. Caterers and musicians do gigs.

Future-thinking appliance techs in their 20s and 30s should be acquiring all the technical and professional skills they can with an eye toward starting their own company and hiring techs. Then there’s a shot at building a real business that leverages your time with other people to generate some serious coin instead of the peanuts repairing an old control board. 

It’s one thing to do these repairs as a hobby or because a tech thinks it’s “cool” or as an occasional repair for a customer in a pinch, as I did in this case.  But let there not be any illusions that one-man shop control board repairs is the path to wealth and success. 

 

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On 12/23/2018 at 11:45 PM, Samurai Appliance Repair Man said:

That solder joint lasted over 15 years so saying they’re “garbage” seems like an overstatement. 

It might have lasted 15 years bu it doesn’t mean it was good 

I have a background in electronics and smd manufacture ,

you will note despite your best soldering efforts that your  joints are really nice and shiny unlike that crap that was manufactured  , 

if we allowed that sort of thing through production then someone’s balls would be on the line 

Edited by J5*

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On 12/23/2018 at 11:45 PM, Samurai Appliance Repair Man said:

Still not enough money for the time. And now you’re talking homework in addition to still having to spend the time sourcing components?  And for what? Peanuts!

Younger techs don’t think twice about pissing away time for peanuts. It’s not till they get older and the realization finally starts to dawn on them that they have limited time. And capabilities they take for granted now, like good eyesight and a strong back, start fading away.

At that point, they take a good hard look the decisions they made when they were younger about earning an income. Some guys got so caught up in trivial details early in their careers that they neglected to build a real business that earns money for them while they’re at home relaxing, watching football, reading a good book, taking a hike, or enjoying life.

 Trading personal time for money is not a business- it’s a gig. Caterers and musicians do gigs.

Future-thinking appliance techs in their 20s and 30s should be acquiring all the technical and professional skills they can with an eye toward starting their own company and hiring techs. Then there’s a shot at building a real business that leverages your time with other people to generate some serious coin instead of the peanuts repairing an old control board. 

It’s one thing to do these repairs as a hobby or because a tech thinks it’s “cool” or as an occasional repair for a customer in a pinch, as I did in this case.  But let there not be any illusions that one-man shop control board repairs is the path to wealth and success. 

It all  depends on what you call peanuts 

I’m not sure what you pay or charge for a swapover board and I some cases could be just as simple as dry joints Or a fuse replacement , pump out 6 boards an hour at $200 a Pop I wouldn’t call peanuts ;) 

business decisions are dependant on your financial plan and end goal 

i started in appliances in my 30’s and have no desire whatsoever in running   a workshop or multiple techs or intend to run into my old age running staff or dealing with cranky customers 

i started my own business realising that if I didn’t I would work for the man and if I was lucky I might pay off my small house by the time I retire in my 60’s

my choice has been invest in real estate and that will be my passive income without being involved in a day to day running of a business and multiple staff till when I die 

At no point do I suggest doing board repairs will be your ticket to wealth and happiness although it could be , like everything you do on a day to day basis you need to make an assessment that you are getting a return on your investment of your time 

Edited by J5*

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

8 hours ago, J5* said:

It all  depends on what you call peanuts 

I’m not sure what you pay or charge for a swapover board and I some cases could be just as simple as dry joints Or a fuse replacement , pump out 6 boards an hour at $200 a Pop I wouldn’t call peanuts ;) 

Yes, that’s peanuts and I’m having to trade my time to source and repair  those boards.

The reality is that in the normal course of running your service calls, you’re not going to come across 6 boards a week with the two specific failures raised in this post: burnt  solder joint or fuse replacement. Boards with these specific failures are a once in a while event, maybe 6 a month. 

OTOH, if I had an arrangement with Whirlpool or some other company to send me all their bad control boards and if I had a workshop with a minimum of 10 work stations all manned by techs cranking out 10 boards a day, 5 days a week at $200 per board that’s: 

10*10*5*200= $100,000/week or $5,200,000/year  

Maybe during parts of those weeks, I’m out of town on business, or for several weeks, I’m hiking in the Swiss Alps. And the money keeps rolling in every week.

That’s a real business scenario with significant earnings potential.

If the story doesn’t end something like that, I’m just chasing my own tail, doing some busy work hoping to make enough fixing old control boards to pay this month’s rent— a loser’s game. 

Don’t take any of this as directed at you personally (or anyone else)— I’m just trying to use hypothetical but realistic  examples to compare and clearly contrast the hobby vs business approach to repairing control boards. 

 

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Good job Samurai. Nice to be the hero! And insightful comments how about the financial aspect. I think I'm only partially starting to grasp that concept.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

7 hours ago, Bintiwangu said:

I think I'm only partially starting to grasp that concept.

Gotta start somewhere and a partial grasp is way better than none at all! 

Main thing is I just want to encourage my breverens to think about what they do in a larger context and with a longer time line in view. Instead of thinking in terms of the next repair or earnings for next week, think in terms of 10, 20, and 30 years. How will you earn an income when your eyes start going, your back goes out, or other physical ailments that come with age but mentally you’re still sharp and maybe even at the top of your game? The time to start planning and preparing for that inevitability is in your 20s and 30s while you still have time to develop skills and to make/recover from mistakes (also inevitable). 

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Yes, my oldest son is at the, "age of invincibility". (18) And I am constantly telling him how he has only one back and one set of eyes Etc.  and he better take care of them. And how trading his life for so much an hour limits what you  can earn compared to working for yourself. 

I was wondering last night what made that solder joint fail? All I can think is that it got hot. But if it was a good connection how did it get hot? I can imagine some component pulling too many amps and getting it hot but then it seems like simply soldering The Joint wouldn't fix that issue. Inquiring minds want to know.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

36 minutes ago, Bintiwangu said:

I can imagine some component pulling too many amps 

Not too many amps—  just rated amps for long durations over the years. That joint has to carry about 3 amps (ignitor current) all during the time the bake burner is on. It’s one of the most heavily stressed solder joint in most gas oven control boards based on typical use patterns (most people bake far more frequently than they broil). Any little defect in that joint will present a resistance to electrons being pushed through it (ie., current flow). Electrons being forced through a resistance produces heat. That heat can in turn induce other defects, like cracks, in the joint. And so it goes right up until failure.  

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 Okay so basically a slight imperfection in the solder joint stressed over time.  

I've replaced various Bosch vp44 fuel injection pumps on Cummins turbo diesels in Dodge pickups. It's almost never the pump itself, but the control board that knocks them out. People claim they had some kind of govt mandated, no lead solder that didn't work as well. And apparently you can't replace the board without calibrating it to the pump- which requires a couple hundred thousand dollar test bench.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

1 minute ago, Bintiwangu said:

basically a slight imperfection in the solder joint stressed over time.  

Yes but here’s the thing: whatever imperfection was in that joint is also in all the joints. This is a mass produced board and the soldering is done by robots. (Pretty amazing process to behold!) So all the solder joints are made the same way: same heat level, same pretreatment, same solder material. There wasn’t necessarily anything uniquely wrong with the way this joint was made. It’s just that this particular joint had a bigger work load that most of the other joints. 

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I see,  so it's not necessarily a,  "bad" joint in the normal sense of the word. it's just that this joint with this load has this approximate service life.

Just like a bad tire, bad belt,  or bad bearing.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

44 minutes ago, Bintiwangu said:

I see,  so it's not necessarily a,  "bad" joint in the normal sense of the word. it's just that this joint with this load has this approximate service life.

Just like a bad tire, bad belt,  or bad bearing.

Yep, that’s the more common picture. 

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