This indeed is a sorrowful story to tell, grasshoppers. Y’all go grab yerselves a brewski and settle in for one gawd-awful sorry tale.
It was a stormy afternoon when the call came in. The wind was kickin’ up somethin’ fierce and the trees were a-bowin’ and a-bendin’. The sky was black with angry clouds just itchin’ to unleash their besotted fury on the fair New Hampshire landscape beneath. We barely heard the phone ring over the howling of the wind outside; I shoulda never put down my Old Milkwaukee to answer that phone. But, I am the Samurai–if I hear it ring and I’m sober enough, I always answer the phone.
This customer was calling with an emergency of the highest order: a dead dishwasher. C’mon people, it’s 2004–no one washes dishes by hand anymore! She frantically explained that the dishes were piling up in the sink even as we spoke and begged me to please hurry over and fix her dishwasher. So I let out a big ol’ beer belch (but I let it rumble quietly through my nose, so’s not to offend her delicate sensibilities–I’m mannerly thata way) and assured her that I’d be over there as soon as I finished my 40-ounce Old Milwaukee. I realized as soon as I mentioned the fohty that I’d made what them Frogs call a faux pas, which is French for…I dunno, something like puttin’ your foot in your mouth. But I cleverly recovered by assuring her that it was only my third one since lunch. See, to be good at this bidness, you gotsta know how the fix the appliance and the customer.
So I tapped a kidney and staggered, er, I mean, walked with complete balance and control to my service van and drove to the customer’s house, with perfect lane control and observing the speed limit the entire way (just in case any of New Hampshire’s Finest are reading this, heh heh.)
When I arrived, I verified the customer’s complaint: dead dishwasher. Nice one, too. One of them Kitchenaids. Always wanted me one o’ them. Wonder how much…anyway, I had to stay focused on the problem at hand. Well, my laser-like, albeit slightly fermented, mind zeroed in on checking the power supply first thang. So I pulled the kickplates and opened the power junction box to measure the voltage, fully expecting the find no voltage. But my meter showed a full 120v at the power wires.
Hey, I done see’d this before: prob’ly a bad door switch or a blowed thermal fuse on the control board. They’s alots of ’em go bad thata way. So, I removed the control panel to check them thangs out but they were both good. In fact, I was getting 120v clear up to the control board. So, I put my awesome powers of deduction to work and figgered that if I was getting good voltage past the thermal cutoff, clear up to the control and the board wasn’t doin’ it’s dance, then it’s a bad electronic control board, slam-dunk, case-closed.
Well, I didn’t have one of them electronical boards on my van so I had to order one. I advised my customer to buy paper plates so as to avoid piling up dirty dishes and attracting ants and vermin and such ’cause it was gonna be a week before the part came in.
So a week goes by and, sho ’nuff, Donny, my UPS man, brung me a brand new board. I love how he brangs me parts. And he always brangs treats for my dawg, Bubba, too. Bubba likes that. Yeah.
Anyway, to make a short story long, I diddy-bopped on over to my customer’s house and popped in that new control board. Then I prepared to receive gushing accolades of praise as I closed the door and pushed the start button…’cept nothing happened. No lights, nuttin’.
Well, I stood up blushing and scratched myself (but stoically resisted the temptation to sniff my fingers). I stammered and hammered something about a bad touch panel ’cause that’s the only other thang it could be. Then I got outta there as quick as I could. When I got back to the office, I called my supplier and had ’em overnight a touch panel to me.
Next day, I went back out and installed that touch panel, relieved that this job was coming to an end…but nooooo! Still nothing! Now my face had turned a rare shade of deep crimson and I began sweating profusely; not entirely out of embarassment, but more from straining to hold back some powerful flatulence that I tend to get when I’m tense and nervous. But the power of the spicy buffalo wings I had for lunch proved to be too much to withstand and a tiny but pungent squeaker broke free. As the essence de fecal filled the kitchen and her eyes teared up with olfactory recognition, the situation became, well, unbearable. I was, how shall I say, in the horns of an enema.
Then, like a poacher’s lamp at midnight, inspiration cut through the sweat and stench and did shine its light on the swirling muck ‘twixt my ears: “What if,” I could hear an angelic voice saying, “the neutral wire in the circuit breaker box is not connected?” Of course! Without a neutral connected, you’d still read 120v on the hot wire but there’s no return path for the current to flow so nothing would run. It takes electrical current to make things happen–voltage just creates the potential for current to flow. No path, no flow.
So I went down to the breaker box and took off the cover panel. Sho nuff, bigger n’ life, the neutral wire on the dishwasher circuit was disconnected from the neutral bus strip. Turns out she’d had some electrical work done and the electricians musta been gettin’ close to Miller time ’cause they got sloppy with their work. I re-connected the neutral wire to the neutral bus and that Kitchenaid is still running to this day.
Now, this same problem with an open neutral can happen in all kinds of other ways besides sloppy electricians: broken wires, corroded connections, mice, to name but a few.
This problem has befuddled many a fine appliance repair man; this one took real kidneys to catch. Moral of the story: checking voltage is good, but checking current is supreme.