Four Case Studies Troubleshooting Computer-controlled Appliances

Our job today as appliance techs breaks down into two distinct functions: appliance mechanics and computer techs. To do our job effectively and profitably, we need high functioning skills in both areas. We go from service calls where we replace a transmission on a washer or do a sealed system repair (appliance mechanic skills). Then we go to other service calls where we are dealing with an error codes on digital display or maybe no display at all (computer tech).

Most of us in the appliance repair trade are already pretty good at mechanical skills and have been most of our lives. As kids, we worked on cars and motorcycles, tore apart other machines, and built structures. These mechanical skills we acquired as kids have served us well in our careers as appliance mechanics.

But then things started changing. Instead of simple electrical controls like timers and switches controlling loads, we started seeing centralized computer control. Today, we need to add another skill set to our mental toolbar: computer technician.

Pop quiz: How does a computer tech troubleshoot a Windows computer with the famous Blue Screen of Death? By entering diagnostic (or “service”) mode and “talking” to the computer.

But error codes and especially the components that it points to are just a first guess that has been programmed into the computer’s software pointing to a particular load or switch that some human thinks is likely at fault. And that’s exactly how we should view error codes: a best guess. The reason for this is that weird stuff happens in the field that the engineers and programmers cannot even conceive of: broken wires, corroded molex connectors, missing a crucial input that the computer needs to make a correct output, etc. You are the technician on the scene and you must still apply “tech mojo” to prove or disprove the computer software’s guess.

Got a special treat for you in this video from a recent Live Dojo workshop on troubleshooting computer-controlled appliances. We worked through four different real-world problems posted in the appliance tech repair forum at Appliantology:

  • Electrolux washer water heater problem
  • Kitchenaid refrigerator no defrost
  • GE washer stops during sensing
  • LG dryer overheating

All four are computer-controlled appliances. Since we’re working with a computer first and an appliance second, we have to put on our computer tech hat and approach the problem that way. But we still have to do our job as appliance techs: identify the Load of Interest, read that circuit on the schematic, make confirming electrical tests, yada, yada.

And here’s a shorter bonus video showing how I read the schematic to troubleshoot an inop evap fan in a Maytag refrigerator. I did this without tearing down the freezer to measure voltage at the evap fan. I actually had PCMs with self-proclaimed 40 years of experience telling me that what I did was too complicated– I should have just torn down the freezer to check voltage at the evap fan. The problem turned out to be the easily-accessible Jazz board from which I did all my troubleshooting. The 40-year PCM would have torn down the entire freezer needlessly instead of doing what real technicians do: read the schematic and troubleshoot right from the computer. Don’t be that arrogant a$$– work smarter not harder. And be humble enough to admit to yourself when you don’t know something. Watch how real troubleshooting can make your life easier:

Learn how to troubleshoot today’s computer-controlled appliances at the Master Samurai Tech Appliance Repair School. Online, on demand, and cost effective appliance troubleshooting training