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  1. A recent topic in the tech forums here at Appliantology illustrates perfectly a point I’ve made in the past that replacing components on electronic control boards, rather than replacing the whole board, is a bad idea both for the customer and for the technician. The discussion was about a power supply problem on the main control board in a Kitchenaid KSCS25INSS refrigerator which is NLA. This topic pointed out three specific reasons why replacing components on electronic control boards is in neither the customer’s nor the technician’s best interest In this case, we’re not talking about merely re-soldering a burnt solder connection (which I do often). We’re talking about identifying a visibly damaged component, such as a bulging electrolytic capacitor, spending time to source the replacement component(s), unsoldering the old component(s) and soldering in the new ones. Some techs see this component replacement on electronic boards as the new cash cow. I hope to disabuse you of this notion as well and show you how you are actually losing money when you do this. In this particular case, there is a tech bulletin out about a service kit Whirlpool has released for the replacement board (PN W10823804). As one of the techs, @Rob Fowler, pointed out: In this one statement, Rob neatly points out the three reasons why it is not a good idea to do component replacement on electronic control boards. Let’s break it down: 1. You lose the markup on the replacement kit. A replacement capacitor costs maybe $0.23 or so. How much markup can you charge for a replacement cap? $1.00, maybe? How much can you charge for the entire repair? Service call plus skill fee, maybe $175? On the other hand, the service kit retails for over $350 and the completed job can easily sell for $600. Loser: Technician. 2. The customer misses out the latest engineering improvements in the service kit. Depending on the specific board and service kit in other situations, this may also include upgraded software on the board. The customer gets a much better repair with the latest hardware and software. If all you do is a bandaid repair by replacing a bulged cap, they get neither. In the case of refrigerators, you’re talking about better food preservation, user operability, and reduced chances of food loss. Loser: Customer. 3. The service kit is recommended and supported by the factory; the field repair is not. This means that if there’s a problem with the new service kit during the warranty period (usually a year), the factory will cover it. Both the customer and the technician are protected. Otherwise, the customer is paying for an inferior repair that you, as the tech, are on the hook for. Loser: Customer and technician. Replacing components on electronic control boards sounds sexy to some techs because electronics are mysterious to most of them. Maybe it gives them a sense of knowing more than they actually do. But at the end of the day, it’s the same old Parts Changing Monkey (PCM) game that so many techs today like to play. Replacing a visibly damaged component on an electronic board does not require any troubleshooting skills-- just unsolder the old one and solder in the new one. No complicated schematics and specifications to deal with. No need to understand the technology being used on modern, computer-controlled appliances. Just plug n' chug. In addition to all the foregoing, consider the time spent researching the needed components to buy, placing the order, storing and stocking the parts--- they’re chasing pennies and losing dollars. Learning how to troubleshoot electric circuits is the high income but difficult skill to acquire because you need to learn Ohm's Law, basic circuits, and a disciplined mental troubleshooting approach to problem solving. Low skill techs would rather replace an obviously damaged part than troubleshoot an invisible problem any day. But, as a general rule: high skill = high income. This situation also illustrates the value of being an active tech member at Appliantology and asking the right question when faced with a failed NLA board situation. Instead of asking, “Which component on the board should I replace?” ask, “Is there a service kit available for this board?” You may be asking, "Are there situations where component replacement on boards make sense for both the customer and the technician?" In situations where the board is NLA and there is no service kit available, the answer is another question: what’s your time worth? If you’re slow and you service mostly low-end appliances, maybe you have more time than money. If you’re busy and your business is focused on high-end appliances, you probably don’t have time to waste playing trivial pursuit and replacing caps on boards— too much money to make on the next job. One last thing I want to mention is that we have various contacts with manufacturers and know that they do not like techs doing component replacements on control boards, mostly for Reason 2 listed above. Some techs have a hostile attitude toward manufacturers. I’ve heard techs say juvenile things like, “We have to beat the manufacturers at their own game.” This is an asinine statement and if you listen to such petty-minded people, you will end up playing a chump-change parts changing game and never realize your full potential as a tech. Some manufacturers are aware they need to do a better job communicating with non-warranty techs. This is going to happen and has already started (announcement coming soon-- stay tuned). Some of this is being driven by Right to Repair laws. Meanwhile, your time is better spent improving your troubleshooting skills. Learn how to price your services according to your actual cost of doing business, not what seems “fair.” Finally, set your sights higher than PCM repairs, focusing on high-end and more complicated appliances that require higher skills to repair-- this is the single best way to increase your average repair ticket.
  2. 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!
  3. The Samurai and Mrs. Samurai share some highlights from the inaugural Appliantology Peer Group meeting. One of the topics discussed was the idea of doing electronic control board repairs as part of an appliance repair business. To hear just the audio portion, subscribe to the podcast: http://mstradio.com/
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