Samurai’s Big Three Troubleshooting Secrets

Posted on September 17, 2019 by - Academy Talk, Tech Talk

It's tough for appliance techs today. Our biggest competition is from cheap replacement machines. The proliferation of pricey electronic boards in appliances means that if you can't quickly do a slam-dunk diagnosis, you are at risk of losing customers and your profitability.

Meanwhile, electrical troubleshooting is largely a lost science. What exactly have we lost? The Old Skool troubleshooting techniques that us old timers learned way back. And guess what: these same Old Skool troubleshooting skills still apply to modern, computer-controlled appliances! There's a good reason for that: because there is no other way to troubleshoot ANY electrical circuits in appliances. The Big 3 troubleshooting secrets I'm going to talk about in this post are foundational principles that will always apply to any electric circuit, no matter how many control boards the appliance has. 

If you understand just three things, I guarantee you can successfully troubleshoot ANY appliance electrical problem:

  1. The distinction between voltage and voltage drop
  2. How loads and switches function in circuits
  3. How electrons move around a circuit

Let's take 'em one at a time:

Voltage vs. Voltage Drop

Understanding this distinction is key to correctly interpreting what your volt meter is showing you when you make a measurement. For example, in this video where I showed troubleshooting an inop evap fan in a jazz board refrigerator, the correct diagnosis entirely hinged on whether I understood the voltage measurement on my meter as voltage or voltage drop

Voltage is just the difference in electrical potential between two points. It's called "potential" because voltage creates the potential for electrons to move. Electrons WILL move in response to this voltage difference, always seeking the relatively more positive voltage, IF there is a complete circuit between those two points and the power supply. Voltage is the prime mover in any circuit; it is the first cause for everything else that happens in that circuit. 

Voltage Drop, on the other hand, is an effect produced when a voltage difference forces electrons through the resistance of a load. The supply voltage is said to be "dropped across the load." If there are loads in series, the supply voltage will drop across each load in direct proportion to the resistance of that load. The sum of the voltage drops will always add up to the voltage supply.

Understanding voltage vs. voltage drop is key to making the correct conclusion based on what your meter is showing you and you can almost always avoid unnecessary disassembly and do all your troubleshooting from a convenient location, such as at the timer or control board.   Efficient and accurate troubleshooting leads to happy customers and good profits.

Loads and Switches

In appliance repair, we are troubleshooting very simple circuits: just loads and switches.

"Simple" used here is a technical term. It means that we don't deal with reactive circuits where voltage and current are out of phase with each other.

Yes - there's a very deep rabbit hole in electricity that involves reactive components like capacitors and inductors which have complex effects in the imaginary plane (I'm not making this up!).

Fortunately, in the circuits appliance techs troubleshoot, we are only dealing with real voltage and current. That's why the circuits we deal with are called "simple". 

Even the circuit boards we deal with just function as software-controlled switches for various loads around the appliance with some data communications between boards. The software control doesn't change the fact that a switch is still just a switch and functions the same way in all electric circuits. 

If you understand how loads and switches each function and work together to do useful work in appliances, you're a third of the way to troubleshooting mastery

How Electrons Move Around a Circuit

A long time ago, the movement of electrons was given the unfortunate name "current". I say unfortunate because many techs take this to mean it moves like water. It does not. Electrons have nothing to do with water. Just forget about that whole silly analogy.

You need to understand what those electrons actually are and why they move the way they do in a circuit. This is all settled science and, for the types of circuits we work on, electron movement is completely described by easy-to-use Ohm's Law equations.

Electricity is neither visual (you can't see it) nor intuitive (you can't understand it or predict its behavior by intuition, gut feel, or beliefs). Electrons move in accordance with very specific rules (Ohm's Law) that you need to understand. Once you do, you'll be able to pull up a schematic for an appliance and read it as easily as you are reading this article and your troubleshooting mojo will go off the charts!

"This seems a bit 'sciencey' for appliance repair..."

We sometimes hear a bizarre criticism of our training - that it's too much into the science of electricity for what most appliance techs need. That would only be accurate if someone's idea of appliance repair is "parts changing". But we are training folks to be appliance repair technicians. A technician understands the basic technology he or she is working with deeply enough to be an effective troubleshooter, even on machines they've never worked on before.

And believe me - we are not going very deep into the world of electricity and circuits in our courses. The Samurai was trained by the US Navy to troubleshoot electronic circuitry that their pilots depended on, and has two engineering degrees. He knows how deep the rabbit hole goes. He also knows the portion of that information that he relied on when he began his appliance repair career to quickly become a slam-dunk troubleshooter, and that portion is what we teach.

Interestingly, the "old school" techs that we knew back in the day (before the internet) were often ex-military and approached appliance repair the same way we do.

But things have changed since then. In the more than 20 years that the Samurai has been helping techs online, he has seen where the pain points and knowledge gaps are, and has figured out what you need to know and how to communicate it most effectively to you.

You know what the biggest obstacle to becoming an ace tech is? Ego. Someone who has some years of experience under his belt and thinks there's nothing that he needs to learn from us. We've seen it too many times. Fortunately, we've also worked with plenty of techs who value success and profitability over false pride, who take our courses to become masters.

Your path to mastery

The Master Samurai Tech Academy offers structured courses of training in appliance repair. Begin with the Core course, which teaches the knowledge and skills that are fundamental to being a successful tech. It explains the Samurai's "secrets" in much more detail, along with quizzes and exams to help keep you accountable. Then continue on with our other courses to take a deeper dive into the technology specific to various types of appliances, and get more troubleshooting instruction and practice.

 

Top 3 Rookie Mistakes in Appliance Repair

Posted on September 11, 2019 by - Business Talk, Tech Talk

Making mistakes is part of learning, but making mistakes on the job is also expensive. An appliance tech can only afford to make so many before they are out of business or looking for a new job.

We want to help you avoid this! Here are 3 common rookie mistakes that you should watch out for.

Not a rookie? Then it’s even that much more painful when you catch yourself acting like one. Be honest - have you made one of these mistakes?

Wanna know which ones the Samurai himself has made? Keep reading...

1. Not verifying the customer’s complaint

This is a classic mistake. Even seasoned veterans sometimes get ahead of themselves and dive into their troubleshooting without first verifying the complaint. This usually means getting the customer to show you how they were using the appliance so you can see/hear/measure what is really happening.

There are few things that will make you smack your head and say “D’oh!” like spending an hour taking things apart and making electrical measurements only to realize you missed something obvious to start with - or you didn’t have the data you needed to draw a proper conclusion.

A common blunder is not taking temperature readings in both compartments of a refrigerator before doing anything else regardless of the original customer complaint! A customer report of “warm” can mean many things. Compartment temperatures tell the story that a technician needs to know. Freezers should be right around 0℉. If you see a freezer compartment at 10℉ or higher when you first shoot the temperatures, you need to find out why before you do anything else.

Pro tip: when scheduling a “warm” refrigerator call, ask the customer to leave the refrigerator plugged in and running, and to refrain from opening the doors within an hour of your expected arrival.

2. Making diagnostic conclusions based on a “good” ohm’s test

One of the worst feelings in an appliance tech’s world is to order a part for a customer, go back to install it, but the appliance still doesn’t work. You increase your risk of this mistake when you don’t know which electrical measurements will give you the slam-dunk answer for the situation you’re facing.

“Ohms testing” has fooled many a rookie (and even those who should have learned better).

If a component tests “bad” (open, or ohms much higher than specifications) on a resistance test, then you know it has failed. But if something tests “good” on ohms, more testing needs to be done before you can make a conclusion.

Why is that? Resistance (or continuity) measurements are done without energizing the circuit. Many loads and switches can start failing in a way that they pass a continuity test, but will fail open when electrons start blasting through it.

Pro tip: Remember the expression “ohms lie”. Resistance tests can be useful and appropriate, but you’ve got to understand their limitations.

3. Going on a job without prediagnosing the appliance

A job that should go “bip-bap-boom” often grinds to a halt when a tech realizes that the tech sheet is not on the appliance, or the tech sheet he downloaded ahead of time was for the wrong model, and he has to try to find a copy online, but he doesn’t have good signal and the customer can’t remember the password to their WiFi, and so on. Then he finally gets the right tech sheet, only to have to scratch his head for awhile figuring out his plan of attack for troubleshooting, and how to do that complicated key-dance to get the dang thing into service mode.

Meanwhile, the customer is not impressed.

What a rookie move! All of that downloading and head scratching should be done at the office, NOT in front of the customer.

Master Samurai Tech's Ten-Step Tango troubleshooting procedure is taking the appliance repair world by storm, helping to organize the thoughts of many a tech so they can zero in on the failed component with speed and assurance.

In most scenarios, the first 7 steps of the Tango can be done ahead of time - a technique we call “prediagnosis.” You’ll know what tests you want to make, and you’ll know which parts are likely to be needed. You will wow your customer with your competence and efficiency, while increasing your First Call Complete rate and profitability.

Pro tip: Make sure you get a model number from the customer when you book the call. Check it right away with one of the parts retailers online (RepairClinic, AppliancePartsPros, for example) to make sure it’s valid. Then use Appliantology to get the documents you need for the job, and proceed with your prediagnosis using the Ten-Step Tango. You will be ready to rock that service call!
-------
What do you think of our list? Are there other rookie mistakes that you think we should warn others about?
--------

The Master Samurai Tech Academy specializes in teaching rookies and veterans alike how appliance technology works and how to troubleshoot, so that you can kick butt on any appliance - even those you haven’t worked on before. Knowledge is power!

 

So, which rookie mistakes do you think the Samurai has made? All 3, of course. Back in the day, when we started our appliance repair business, he had a firm foundation in electricity and electronics from his Navy training, but was learning appliance repair on the fly. He quickly realized that our fledgling business wouldn't survive many of these rookie mistakes, so he began creating a system for troubleshooting and running service calls efficiently and profitably. Fast-forward to today - that system is perfected and you can learn it in the Master Samurai Tech appliance repair courses rather than learning by trial and error!

12.3% Off All Enrollments— September Only!

Posted on August 30, 2019 by - Academy Talk

Our goal here at Master Samurai Tech is to teach you the skills that make appliance repair easy as 123 -- and in our largest sale of the year, we've decided to drive that point home by offering a 12.3% discount on tuition to anyone and everyone through the month of September.

To get this limited time discount, use the coupon code EasyAs123 when you enroll.

You can check out all the courses we offer by clicking here. From that page, simply click the Enroll button on the course you want to enroll in. Make sure you enter the coupon code EasyAs123 on the enroll page to get the discount!

 

Troubleshooting a no water heat or heated dry problem in a Whirlpool dishwasher

Posted on August 20, 2019 by - Tech Talk, Video Repair Tips

We troubleshot a weird no-heat complaint on a Whirlpool-built (Kenmore branded) dishwasher. This was Whirlpool's newer Global Wash System (GWS) platform dishwasher. Watch how we use the schematic to identify our Load of Interest and pick test points on the control board for measuring voltage, current, and resistance.

 

You know that complicated-looking cycle sequence chart on the techsheet you saw us using in the video? The one that no one uses because they don't understand it? Yeah, that one. We explained how to use it in an Appliantology Tips and Tricks webinar. It really is a powerful troubleshooting aid that lets you check all the functions and loads in the machine in just a few minutes. Premium tech members at Appliantology may watch this webinar recording here.

screenshot
 

 

Get World-Class Tech Help at Appliantology.org for FREE with your MST Enrollment

Posted on July 14, 2019 by - Academy Talk, Tech Talk

Team Samurai maintains and develops two different websites: Master Samurai Tech and Appliantology. Each site is designed to assist you in different stages of your appliance repair journey.

Master Samurai Tech is an online school that provides state-of-the-art appliance repair training, both for new techs and techs who have been in the business for decades.

Appliantology is a tech support community that provides peer-to-peer tech help, service manual downloads, and live training webinars to techs who are hard at work plying their trade. This is the daily information tool that helps to keep you at the top of your game after you've completed your training. Or, if you are already working in the trade, you can use it while you are also taking your MST courses.

While the sites' missions are distinct, they are interconnected in powerful ways. If you enroll with us at the Master Samurai Tech Academy, you can earn premium membership at Appliantology 100% for free.

These memberships are the Master Samurai Tech Student membership and the Master Samurai Tech Alumnus membership. Here's how they work:

When you enroll in any course at Master Samurai Tech, you immediately become eligible for the MST Student membership. That's 6 months of premium membership, giving you access to everything Appliantology has to offer with no extra charge.


How to sign up: your Appliantology 101 course will step you through the process.


Once that half a year is up, you can either transition to one of our other tech membership options, or, if you earn Certification in our Core course at Master Samurai Tech, you can upgrade to the prestigious MST Alumnus membership.

An MST Alumnus membership is just like a Student membership, empowering you with access to all of Appliantology -- but it can be renewed indefinitely for no charge. All you need to do to keep up an Alumnus membership is participate in the forums (more info on that here).

Enrollment at the Master Samurai Tech Academy doesn't just teach you invaluable repair skills; it also opens the door for access to all the great tech help at Appliantology forever.

Want to take advantage of all these powerful knowledge tools? Start with an enrollment at Master Samurai Tech today.

And remember, if you're shooting to earn the MST Alumnus membership, you need to get certified in the Core Appliance Repair Training course.