Monthly Archives: September 2005

Samurai’s 12 Laws of Appliance Repair

Samurai’s Ichiban Law of Appliance Repair: Never replace a part unless you have proof that the part is bad.

This distinguishes the Samurai School of Appliantology from the Monkey Boy School of Appliance Repair. When I replace an appliance part, it’s because I have proven that the part is bad. This proof could be something subtle, like an electrical measurement, or something simple, like laying eyeballs on a burned wire connection.

Samurai’s 2nd Law of Appliance Repair: All machines break.

I don’t care how much you paid, who made it, or what the salesperson told you, appliances are just another type of machine. And all machines, like everything else in the physical world (including our bodies) tend inexorably toward entropy, i.e., they wear out and breakdown. The corollary to the 2nd Law is to buy appliances that are easy to repair because, at some point during its useful life, you will be repairing it. Speaking of useful life, how long should appliances last?

Samurai’s 3rd Law of Appliance Repair: Measure twice, order once.

Ok, you’ve diligently observed Samurai’s Ichiban Law of Appliance Repair and have proven that a part is bad based on some type of objective observation. If this observation involved making an electrical measurement, such as voltage, current, or resistance, then make that measurement TWICE just to be doubly-woubly sure that you didn’t make a mistake. Common mistakes in making electrical measurements include not making good contact with your probe and not removing at least one wire from the component before making a continuity or resistance measurement.

Samurai’s 4th Law of Appliance Repair: Beliefs are for religion, not appliance repair.

In appliance repair, we use test instruments to quantify the problem and draw definitive conclusions about cause and effect. Hope, beliefs, and wishful thinking don’t get stuff fixed, unless it’s by pure, blind luck.

Samurai’s 5th Law of Appliance Repair: Electronics and wet appliances do not mix.

Manufacturers love using fancy electronical boards for things that used to be done by simple, reliable mechanical switches. I see these boards fail frequently and at far greater expense than the good ol’ mechanical switches. But the failure rate of these cheesy, over-priced electronical boards in the wet appliances (washer, dishwasher, ice and water dispensers on refrigerators) is excessively high. If you have a choice when buying new appliances, opt for the models with few or no electronic boards.

Samurai’s 6th Law of Appliance Repair: Begin troubleshooting right at the problem.

Where else you gonna start? No water coming in your dishwasher? Start at the water inlet valve. Gas oven won’t bake? Start at the ignitor. Go right to the main thing that ain’t doing its thang.

Samurai’s 7th Law of Appliance Repair: All leaks are visual.

Let’s say your washer is leaking. You see the water seeping from under the washer cabinet. So you go online to the Samurai School of Appliantology and say, “my washer is leaking, what should I do?” And we’ll tell you to remove the front panel and get some eyeballs on where exactly the leak is coming from. Same deal with your dishwasher– remove the kickplate and peer underneath with a flashlight while it’s running to spot the source of the leak. Get the picture?

Samurai’s 8th Law of Appliance Repair: Fix the obvious problems first.

If you have an appliance that you think may have several things wrong with it, you have to break down the problem into smaller component problems and then fix each one. Usually, when you fix the obvious problem first, you find that it was the only problem all along. Other times, you cannot even diagnose the other problems until you’ve fixed the obvious one(s).

Samurai’s 9th Law of Appliance Repair: Nothing kills bio-gookus like chlorine.

Just remember this next time you’re dealing with a restricted condensate drain in your refrigerator. Bio-gookus loves to grow in dark, moist environments like condensate drain tubes and they’ll restrict the flow the same way plaque does in arteries.

Samurai’s 10th Law of Appliance Repair: Never move an appliance to make a repair unless you absolutely have to.

This is one I learned the hard way. You never know what you’re gonna run into (that you didn’t need to) when you move an appliance. And, worse yet, you may end up creating a new repair that you hadn’t planned on. The classic example is pulling a dryer out just a few inches only to find that it had some impossible dryer vent connection that requires a contortionist/gymnast to re-attach. Oy!

Samurai’s 11th Law of Appliance Repair: Raw power is dirty power.

All electricity is not created equal. Power quality varies widely from place to place. Depending on where you live, power at the wall outlets in your house could have all kinds of garbage on it. Stuff like voltage surges, sags, swells, and spikes can kill electrical and electronics equipment. In this modern era of using electronic control boards in appliances for the jobs that simple, reliable mechanical switches used to do, all your appliances should be protected by simple surge protectors at the least. Just like you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) plug your computer directly into the wall outlet without using some type of surge protection, neither should you expose your appliances to naked, raw power.

Samurai’s 12th Law of Appliance Repair: Neutral is not ground; ground is not neutral.

Under normal circumstances, neutral and ground should have the same, or close to the same, electrical potential. But, electrically, neutral and ground are not the same thing and serve entirely different purposes. Back in the old days, they were often used interchangeably, as with the old three-wire dryer and range cords. But, after lots of people got themselves fried or burned their houses down due to a ground fault, “They” decided it would be a good idea to respect the distinction between ground and neutral. Hence the new four-wire dryer and range connections.

Samurai’s Golden Rule of Appliance Repair: Never trust customer diagnostics.

I’m too embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve been burned by violating the Golden Rule. You’ll get some customers that are so eloquent and seem so erudite and technically proficient that you’ll be tempted to accept their diagnosis over the phone (at their insistence– to save money, of course). So when you bop on over with the special-ordered part that doesn’t fix the problem, you’re now in a quandary: how do you charge for this wasted repair effort and the cost of returning a special-ordered part…if you can even return it? Most electronic boards cannot be returned once they’re installed. The hard lesson is to always do your own diagnosis, no matter how much the customer insists otherwise.

Dishwasher Repair At Your Fingertips

Stephan wrote:

My dishwasher was not working tonight, Saturday, 10pm. What a pain in the a…

But no, I found a solution in 2 seconds on your webpage.

Thanks a lot!

Message sent from IP:

I assume you’re referring to my Dishwasher FAQ page. Glad to hear you whupped up on that bad boy!

And thanks for your feedback!

Gas Stove Goes Boom When It’s Turned Off; stove repair, range repair, oven repair

rvancott wrote:

I have a kenmore stove. Inconsistantly after the stove is turned on after several minutes I heard a boom from the stove. The kitchen smells like gas, but the stove is on. I would assume from your trouble shooting guide that the ignitor was the case. Do you have any insights/surgestions….Master

Message sent from IP:

Ahh, grasshoppah, the problem with your insolent range runs deeper than merely a bad igniter. What’s happening is the gas valve is not snapping shut the way it’s supposed to and it’s letting gas leak at the end of the cycle when it should be shut off. This rogue gas hits the igniter, which is still hot but cooling off, and flashes, creating the mini-boom that you report.

Solution: replace the gas valve; three mugs on the SUDs-o-meter.

Kenmore Washer Won’t Spin; washer repair

george gerrts wrote:

hi, have a kenmore washer model 110.20872990……unit agitates but won,t spin……..does it need a new pump and if so, which does it have?….thanks………george

Message sent from IP:

lid switch for your washer.  click it to git it, hoss.A no-spin condition on this washer, the top-loading direct drive washer built by Whirlpool (with a Kenmore name stuck on it, in your case) is almost always a sure sign of a bad lid switch. As far as repairs go, they don’t get much easier than this one– it rates a mere single mug on the SUDs-o-meter. Got illustrated instructions fer ya ratcheer.

Kenmore Electric Dryer Works for 5 Minutes Then Shuts off; dryer repair

Bern Williams wrote:

I have a Kenmore electric dryer-110.60612990. It was humming for a period of time. Yesterday when I push the start button it hums, works for about 5 mins then shuts off. Today, I pressed the start button, there is noise. Is it just the motor or could it be a variety of problems. I had this dryer since in 2000.

desperate need for help.

Thanks Bern

Message sent from IP:

Here’s whatcha do, compadre. Open the dryer door and try to turn the drum by hand. If it won’t turn or you have to be Hercules to get it to budge, then you have something stuck in the blower chute– clean it out.

motor for a whirlpool or kenmore dryerOn the other hand, if the drums seems to turn ok, then you got yerself a bad motor. Slam dunk. Come git you one.

Recommended reading: Dryer Disassembly.

Google Blog Search

Google has just added a new Blog search capability. Some of you are wrinkling your nose and asking, “What’s a ‘blog’?” Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, this website is a blog. The blurb you’re reading at this moment is called a “blog entry”or simply a “post.”

Anyway, you can play with Google’s latest search offering here.

Just for giggles, I searched “appliance repair” in the Google Blog Search and came up with this page. See anything familiar? 😉

Google Talk and iChat SSL Error – 9843

So I was happily using iChat to connect to the AIM and Google Talk instant messaging networks (RE: my previous post on the subject). Then one day, I go to log in to Google Talk and I get a weird error message: SSL error 9843. I didn’t know if the problem was in iChat or with Google Talk. I downloaded and installed Addium and it connected flawlessly to Google Talk. I figured the problem must be in iChat. Just for grins, I Googled, “ichat stopped working with google talk” and pulled up this page at the O’Reilly Mac Devcenter. Turns out the problem is with Google Talk and Google is aware of the problem and working on a fix.

XM DieFi

As you know, I’m a big fan of satellite radio and subscribe to both the major services, XM and Sirius. I subscribed to Sirius first and have previously described my travail when my Sirius Orbiter reciever crashed and burned. Then, late last year, I subscribed to XM and bought the XM MyFi setup. Well, now it was XM’s turn to crash and burn.

Since I had Sirius to listen to, this hardware crash wasn’t quite as traumatic (or dramatic) as it was when my Sirius Orbiter crashed– there was no driving to the store at 6am in my underwear and assaulting the olfactory of the clerk with my special vapors.

But still, losing XM was a psychologically damaging experience. I had gotten into a habit of listening to news and talk every evening at bedtime; shows like Phil Hendrie, Rollye James and Coast to Coast AM. Oh, it was a whole cozy ritual: Mrs. Samurai, Bubba, and I would snuggle down into our queen-size bed. Mrs. Samurai would usually read for a while, I’d be laying beside her ‘pooting on my Mac iBook (easily the coolest little compooter I’ve ever used), and Bubba would snuggle in betwixt us, lick himself a little bit, maybe nibble a paw or a rib and we’d all settle in for the night.

I also had my MyFi set up to record the Starstreams show on Ch. 77 (Audio Visions) which aired every day from 4 to 6 pm ET. So I always had five hours of fresh music stored in the MyFi ready to listen to anytime or even take with me. If you haven’t heard of Starstreams, you don’t know what you’re missing! You can also listen to them online via Live365. They play mostly ambient electronica from all your favorite artists such as Sounds from the Ground, Open Canvas, TUU, Bluetech, Omnimotion, Liquid Zen, Zero One and many others too numerous to name.

So, I had this nice assortment of news, talk radio, and music which I had become accustomed to having conveniently and readily available to me through XM radio on the MyFi receiver. Life was beautiful; life was precious.

And then it happened.

The XM MyFi shat the bed. In an instant, my six-month old MyFi melted down into a DieFi and our entire way of life was obliterated. Specifically what happened is that the receiver was no longer able to tune to channels 77 and above– which were the only ones I ever listened to. I could still get all the rock, rap, and other doo-doo music if I wanted to but half the channels available on XM radio were no longer available to me. The weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Oh, Death, where is thy sting?

Only by tripling my usual dose of lithium in the subsequent days, from 10,000 mg to 30,000 mg per day, was I able to pull myself together enough to undertake the arduous process of contacting Delphi to get a warranty return number and send it back. Ten days passed in what seemed like ten thousand years.

Then the golden day arrived when the UPS man in the nice brown truck brought me my replacement XM MyFi receiver. I was so ecstatic that I stayed up for five straight days, listening to XM radio the entire time, before collapsing into a heap in front of the toilet, breaking it in half with my head.

When I awoke in the hospital, the first thing I saw was my dear, dear wife… holding my XM MyFi receiver in front of my face. She told me that I had been in a coma for three weeks and that she had set up my XM MyFi docking station in my hospital room where it played constantly on Audio Visions. This is a testament to the sheer power of XM radio– it can pull people out of comas. I later heard from a guy in my group therapy sessions that XM radio brought a dead guy back to life. Healing the sick, raising the dead, could XM radio be the Second Coming…?

Then, it happened again: my replacement MyFi started flaking out on channels 77 and above. A cosmically cruel joke or merely an inherent flaw in the MyFi? I don’t know and don’t care to find out.

I decided I just could not risk another cold turkey deprivation of XM due to shoddy hardware so I ordered a Roady 2 from Amazon for a mere $50, which includes everything you need to set it up on your vehicle. And a mere $30 gets you the home docking and antenna kit. I’ll post a review of the Roady 2 after I’ve had a chance to use it for a while.