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How to Know the Limits of What You Can Troubleshoot

Son of Samurai

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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 only way to properly troubleshoot. If you don't know what a "good" measurement should look like, then how are you going to tell when one is "bad"?

To be clear: analytical troubleshooting is getting a number from an electrical measurement and comparing it to a number in the specifications. You can't compare something to nothing!

Life ain't perfect, and sometimes we run into situations where the manufacturers omit vital specifications. Here's an example:

Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 8.21.37 PM.png

Look at those connectors between the keypad, the UI board, and the appliance manager (the main control board). No labels whatsoever, nothing anywhere telling us what's happening on any of those wires. All the information we get from this is that there are harnesses connecting those components -- never would have guessed that!

This is a serious problem if you're trying to analytically troubleshoot any kind of data communications problem. Got an unresponsive keypad? Good luck figuring out which line corresponds with which pad. Got a weird logic problem? Nothing on this schematic (or the rest of the tech sheet) tells you what data you should read on any of those lines.

What do you do in situations like this?

The only sane thing to do is to stop your troubleshooting where the specifications stop. You narrow down the problem as much as you can, and then you make a repair that will cover all the bases that are left. Sometimes this will mean replacing multiple components, because it's impossible to track down the issue to just one of them. Recognizing where the specifications stop is just as important as looking for them in the first place!

I know, I know, it feels PCM-y, but it's not. You've done your job to the best of your ability, and it's not your fault that the manufacturer didn't give you enough info to troubleshoot further. Rather than making your "best guess" at which of the possible two or three parts needs replacing, you make the best move for yourself and the customer and go for the surefire fix. It makes the customer happy, and it keeps you from bankrupting yourself on botched repairs.

We're going to be covering these kinds of tough troubleshooting decisions and much more in a webinar this coming Sunday! Click below for details.

 

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ksamana684

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I know that manufacturer. Unfortunately you have no choice but to replace 1 to 2 parts. At this point  as discussed, you have to make your best educated choice based on limited information. 

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Son of Samurai

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18 minutes ago, ksamana684 said:

I know that manufacturer. Unfortunately you have no choice but to replace 1 to 2 parts. At this point  as discussed, you have to make your best educated choice based on limited information. 

I wouldn't call it an educated guess, since you're replacing all parts that are possible causes of the issue. The repair that you make should be one that you know for certain will solve the problem. The point I was trying to make in the original post is that sometimes, due to a lack of specifications, you can't narrow the problem down to a single component.

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@Son of Samurai"I know, I know, it feels PCM-y, but it's not."

Can a authorized servicer make a phone call and (get the specs) that we can't? Giving that authorized servicer a leg up on us?

If so, does that make us a parts changing monkey?

 

 

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Son of Samurai

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41 minutes ago, Quick said:

Can a authorized servicer make a phone call and (get the specs) that we can't?

Not usually, no. Tech line operators aren't the swiftest techs, generally speaking, and even if they are, they're almost always stuck with the same specs that we are.

Even if an authorized servicer could call in and get some double-extra-special secret specs, that doesn't make any difference for us non-authorized servicers. As long as we exhaust all the implicit and explicit specifications that we're provided with, we've done our job. There's nothing more we can do.

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Denver Todd

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Is this video saved somewhere on the website?

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Son of Samurai

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@Denver Todd It is! You can find it (and all our past webinars) in the handy-dandy list of webinar recordings in the blue bar near the top of the page. And here's the direct link:

 

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