Monthly Archives: October 2012

Appliantology Newsletter: Special Weapons and Tactics in Appliance Repair

Appliantology Newsletter
Special Weapons and Tactics in Appliance Repair
October 19, 2012
Special Weapons and Tactics in Appliance Repair
All Master Appliantologists acquire advanced repair katas during their years of hand-to-machine combat with malfunctioning appliances. Examples of how some of these Special Weapons and Tactics are used in appliance repair include:

– diagnosing elusive or subtle problems

– gaining insight into the condition of a component and assessing its likelihood of future or imminent failure

– testing specialized components to see whether they’re good or bad

– facilitating or implementing a particular repair

In this special issue of Appliantology, I’ll reveal some of my personal, favorite SWATs that I use on some service calls which can also be useful for amateur appliantologists working on their own appliances.

The Hand-Held Steamer
Good for all kinds of household tasks such as cleaning and disinfecting, the mighty hand-held steamer is indispensable for some appliance repairs. For example, defrosting a frosted-up evaporator coil or clearing a clogged condensate drain in a refrigerator. In fact, since I’ve been using my steamer, I can’t imagine doing these types of repairs without it! It’s makes quick work of these messy jobs.

Take a look at the icy mess in the freezer in this video; this repair would have taken over two hours without a steamer but, with the steamer, I did this entire repair in less than an hour!

You can buy the very same steamer I used in the video at Amazon for $15 less than what I paid for it!

Refrigerator Temperature Data Logger
Sometimes I run into situations where I need a way to log temperature data inside a refrigerator for at least 24 hours to get a clear picture of what’s going on inside that box. A couple of examples are:

1. Customer complains of warm temperatures in the beer compartment of her Maytag side-by-side refrigerator but says that the freezer compartment is fine (and we know how accurate customer temperature measurements are… NOT!). You arrive and measure the freezer temperature using your infrared temperature gun and get readings that vary from +5F to +12F. Marginal temperatures for a freezer but was that because it was just coming out of a defrost or off-cycle? Was the door recently opened just before you got there? You don’t know, and all you have is the one data point: the measurement you just made. Wouldn’t it help your diagnosis if you could put a data logger inside the freezer for a day or so and then look at a graph of the actual temperature measurements inside that freezer over time?

2. Customer complains that the freezer temperature in her GE built-in refrigerator fluctuates over time from 5F to 10F to 20F and then back to hard freeze. You maybe even verified this yourself (if you spent enough time there to do this). But how much time in a typical service call day do you have to babysit freezer temperatures? And you still wouldn’t be able to gather enough temperature-time data points to discern whether or not there’s a pattern to the fluctuations which could then be correlated to some other process in the refrigerator (defrost cycles, compressor cycles, etc.). Even seeing that there is no pattern, that the fluctuations are random, is also helpful because it could indicate something as simple as the door not being closed all the way (hinge adjustment issue?).

In cases like these, you just gotta be able to look at the temperature inside the compartment over an extended period of time. Enter the Supco LT2 LOGiT Dual Channel Temperature Data Logger. Here’s a video of me showing you how to set up and use the data logger:

Here’s the link where you can buy the Supco LT2 data logger at Amazon:

and you’ll need this software kit to get the data to your Windows PC, also available at Amazon:

Special Meter Technique for Testing a Microwave Oven High Voltage Rectifier
You probably know how to use a multimeter to make simple electrical measurements, like voltage and resistance. (If not, then see this page at my blog for a simple tutorial on using a multimeter: ) But sometimes, you have to do a voltage test in an unusual way to check whether a component is good or bad. A common example of this is testing the high voltage rectifier (also called a diode) in a microwave oven. This is an inexpensive, common-fail part that will stop the microwave from heating if it breaks.

For most rectifiers, you test ’em by simply measuring the resistance and then switching the leads and checking it again– should read open (high resistance) in one direction and closed (low resistance) in the other. But microwave high voltage rectifiers are a special case because their internal resistance is so high that you’ll just read open in both directions and you can’t tell whether it’s good or bad that way. So, to test them, you have to actually do a voltage test using a 9 volt battery. This esoteric kata is fully revealed in this video:

The Mega-Ohm Meter (or “Megger”)
One of the common failures with a refrigerator compressor is that the varnish insulation on the motor windings starts to break down and then begins leaking current to ground. If the current leakage is large enough, you can deduce that this is happening by measuring compressor current draw– an abnormally high reading combined with the compressor running hotter than normal are sure signs that the insulation on the compressor motor windings is breaking down and the compressor is not long for this world.

Or you could directly test the compressor motor windings using an instrument called a mega-ohm meter, or “megger,” to directly test the integrity of the winding insulation. I use an inexpensive megger that cost less than $100 (back when I bought it a million years ago– it’s not much more than that now). This video shows using a megger to check the compressor motor:

You can buy the updated version of the Supco megger that I used in the video at Amazon:

The Clamp-On Amp Meter
Measuring current flow through a circuit or component is a powerful troubleshooting tool to have in your appliance repair SWAT bag.

For example, on a Bosch dishwasher that’s not heating, a quick current measurement a few minutes into the cycle will tell you whether or not current is flowing through the heater. If not, yet the control board is supplying 120 volts to the heater circuit, then you know the problem lies in the heating circuit itself because something in that circuit (heater, NTC, etc.) is open, stopping current flow.

Other times, the only way you can tell whether or not a part is bad is by measuring the current flow throughout that part. For example, the ignitor in a gas oven glows but the bake burner never fires up: is it a bad gas valve? Bad ignitor? Flip a coin and guess? No need to guess if you can make a simple current measurement. (Note that an ignitor can glow and still be bad– in fact, this is the most common case.) This video shows you how:

I prefer Fluke meters and I own two Fluke amp meters. Here’s the Amazon link to the one shown in the video, the Fluke T5, which is well under $100:

And I also own the Fluke 322 which is a little more expensive (still under $100) but also more versatile:

And Hey!…
You can find whatever appliance part you need through the parts search box at

No harm in buying and trying with our 365-day, no-hassle return policy, even on electrical parts that were installed! And now shipping to Canada, too!

I frequently make videos when I’m on service calls and upload them to YouTube. Keep up with my latest uploads by subscribing to my YouTube channel:

Reading this online and want your own, personal copy of Appliantology delivered to your inbox in a discreet brown wrapper? Subscribe here:
Samurai Appliance Repair Man,

Appliantology Newsletter: Front Load Washer Washouts

Appliantology Newsletter
Front Load Washer Washouts
October 1, 2012
The Wisdom of Master Samurai and Appliantologist, Miyamoto Mushashi
One thing I’ve learned after years of being an appliance repair Samurai is how to pick your battles. You don’t want to engage in hand-to-appliance combat with an appliance that’s not worth repairing, such as with a front loading washer with a failure in either the inner basket or outer drum.

An inner basket failure is a corroded or broken drum support spider assembly, like this one:

See this page for examples and further explanation.

The most common outer tub failure is a bad drum bearing, but it can take other, more subtle forms.

“But, wise and besotted Samurai,” you ask incredulously, “what is it about these particular failures that makes even you, a seasoned veteran of the Appliance Wars, slink away from these battles like a ninja in the night?”

Ahh, Grasshoppah, in the words of my venerable Master, Miyamoto Mushashi, “You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain [of Appliantology].”

The parts alone for these repairs can run well over $500 and can take several hours to repair, sometimes requiring a second man. And then there are other things that can fail in the washer at a later time: motors, motor control boards, door boots, etc. So I ask you, Grasshoppah, would you rather spend your precious time, blood, and money resurrecting a machine that has given up the will to live or would you rather spend about the same amount of money and far less time purchasing a new washing machine?

What appears to you as running away from a fight is in reality another path to the top of the mountain of Appliantology. And to get there, you must learn to, “Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye,” as my Master taught.

To help you “Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye,” I have assembled three videos from my various encounters with these types of catastrophic failures in front-load washers to help you discern the situation and make a wise decision. Watch and learn, Grasshoppah…
Diagnosing a Broken Drum Support Spider
In this first video, you’ll hear the noise that a broken drum support spider makes at low RPMs. The customer called in with the complaint that the drum would bind while running, stalling the cycle and causing the control to flash an error code. Watch and learn the distinctive noise this particular failure makes:

Diagnosing Bad Drum Bearings
Bad drum bearings in a front loading washer can manifest in a variety of ways. In this case, the customer called with the complaint that her Whirlpool Duet (Kenmore-labelled) washer was stopping during the cycle and, upon further questioning, also showing the F06 error code. The F06 error code is a tachometer error which, as it turns out in this case, was actually being caused by the drum bearings binding and interfering with the drum rotation. I could hear the bad drum bearings when I ran the washer in a spin cycle.

Bad bearings can make a variety of noises depending on exactly how they are failing; you could hear a roaring noise like a jet engine or a clanking noise like in this video. But they all have one thing in common: they originate from the back of the washer and manifest audibly during the spin cycle. Had she reported that the washer was making this noise during spin, I could have saved her a service call fee!

BTW, this particular washer is only 5 years old. Her daughter has the exact same washer, same age, and reports the same problem. An all-too common story with the Whirlpool Duet line of front loading washers.

Diagnosing Outer Tub Failure
This video is a great illustration of why it’s so important to properly identify cause and effect when troubleshooting. In this case, what the customer saw as the problem, a twisted door boot (or gasket), was actually an effect of an underlying, catastrophic cause: outer drum failure. You want to make sure you’re fixing the actual cause and not the effect.

Oh, Canada!
Finally, after years of travail and miles of paper work trails, we are now shipping parts to our cool neighbors in the Great White North! Same great prices, same awesome one-year, hassle-free return policy as we’ve always offered our customers here in the (once upon a time) Land of the Free! Come git you some using the Smart Parts Search Box at The Appliantology Academy:

Wisdom from The Oz Man
Heed the wisdom of The Oz Man and don’t let the beauty of this Autumn pass you by: get up off your duff, get outside and take a hike!

Samurai Appliance Repair Man,