Appliance Repair Basics

Appliance Repair Instructions 5 Basic Rules.
These basic rules for appliance repair assume that the do-it-yourselfer completing the repair is familiar with basic tools, and will follow the appliance repair instructions listed here using the following safety recommendations. Always wear shoes when working on major appliances. In some installations washers and dryers are located in basements or on concrete floors. If you did not disconnect an appliance from the electrical supply when servicing it, the electrical path could be going through you into the moist concrete floor. It's not a bad idea to wear some gloves, preferably thin gloves, to prevent getting cut from sharp edges. Also remove all jewelry when working on major appliances, and make sure that you have adequate light to see what you're working on.

FixAppliance Five Rules of Appliance Repair.

Rule Number 1 - Stand back from the appliance, put your hands in your pockets, and whatever you do, don't open your toolbox. Inexperienced appliance service technicians and homeowners believe that the first thing they should do when attempting to repair a broken appliance, is to open their toolbox and start taking the appliance apart. Countless appliances have been taken apart only to find out that there was some minor problem such as, that it was unplugged, or the water was turned off, or it was a person unfamiliar with the appliance that had it on the wrong setting. The very first thing you should do to troubleshoot any major appliance problem, is to ask yourself what is supposed to happen. It sounds simple but it's very important. For example, if the customer says, "my dryer will not heat", the smart technician with his hands in his pockets will ask himself, how does this particular model dryer heat. Then he will look at the temperature selector switch and confirm that it is set for heat, only to find out it was set for air fluff.

Rule Number 2 - Confirm that there is electricity to the appliance. This is not as easy as you think. As a starting point, you can use a voltmeter to confirm that there is electricity at the receptacle. Most appliances used in the United States today, are connected by a cord to a receptacle on the wall. Dishwashers are the main exception to this rule. Let's assume for a second that we have a washing machine that will not start. Believe it or not, just putting your meter in the wall socket to check for voltage is not adequate. That's because there may be a breakdown in the electrical supply line. A meter has a very high resistance preventing any major current from flowing through it. If it did not, you would cook your meter the very first time you used it. Reading electricity at a wall receptacle for a major appliance will not tell you if that electrical supply will allow adequate current flow to operate the appliance. Here's a good way to visualize this. Imagine for a second that an electrical supply to a major appliance was made up of 25 smaller pieces of copper wire. Under normal conditions it takes all 25 pieces of wire intact to operate the appliance. If 24 of those pieces of wire somehow became defective, electrons passing through the wire would get held back at the point where it was broken. This would not prevent a small amount of electricity from passing through the one intact section. Therefore, reading voltage at the receptacle without the appliance attempting to start, would show adequate line voltage. Technicians use alligator clips on the leads to their voltmeters to check for voltage. Here's how to do that. Plug the appliance in, and slide the plug slightly out, so that you can attach your alligator clips from the leads under the voltmeter to the prongs that slide in the receptacle. At this point, your meter should read the appropriate line voltage, whether that is 120 volts or 220 volts. Watch your meter as you attempt to start the appliance. If you see a significant drop-off in the voltage, then you have an electrical supply problem. Not an appliance problem.

Rule Number 3 - Go to the component that is supposed to do the work, and verify that it has the correct voltage to it. For example, if the heater on the dryer is not heating, and you have already eliminated rule number one, and rule number two, verify that the heater has voltage to it. If the heater on the dryer has voltage to it and it is not heating, it's defective. It's as simple as going to a lamp and checking the light bulb because there is no light. It would not make sense to start disassembling the switch on a lamp, because there is no light. The component that does the work is the light bulb. On appliances, the components that do the most work are the components that fail the most.If you are unsure of your ability and do not want to check for voltage at the heater, you can check the element for resistance. Before you attempt this next procedure, verify that the appliance is disconnected from the electrical supply. You can isolate the heater by removing one of the heavy wires to the terminals on the heater, use an ohmmeter, and check for the resistance of the element.

Rule Number 4 - Backup your diagnosis. Backing up your diagnosis will help prevent you from buying an appliance part, installing it, and then attempting to return it, because that was not the problem. As a rule, appliance parts dealers do not allow the return of parts that have been installed. This is because electrical parts that are installed on appliances can be damaged, and that damage isn't always obvious.

So what do we mean by backing up your diagnosis? It means to use whatever is necessary to confirm that the part you are calling defective is actually defective. For example, if you find that an operating thermostat on a dryer has an open set of contacts, you can use a jumper wire across the contacts to confirm that the heater will heat. Never use a backup device such as a jumper wire to operate an appliance for any length of time. This is simply unsafe. If you use a jumper wire, to jump across a set of contacts, whether that be a selector switch, door switch, lid switch, or timer contacts, you can use your ohmmeter to check for resistance. To do that, you would put your ohmmeter on the line cord coming from the appliance to check for resistance. If you made a mistake and accidentally jumped out the wrong set of contacts on a timer, plugging it in will damage the timer and possibly other components. An appliance is a device that does work and it must have resistance to electrical current flow. The resistance of an electrical wire is zero. Therefore, the resistance of an appliance has to be something other than zero. Zero resistance on an appliance cord indicates a dead short.

Rule Number 5 - When you have found the problem, you have found the problem. What do we mean by this? Very few times on appliances, especially with electrical problems, is there more than one component defective. If you followed rules one through four, and diagnosed a dryer with a defective heater, then you found the problem. Don't complicate the issue by trying to make it more than that. Sometimes a heater on a dryer will be defective because of an external issue, or even a stuck thermostat. But most of the time when you have found the problem, you have found the problem. Rarely do you find a situation where you have a heater on a dryer that is defective, and the timer is also defective. The reason for this is that in order for the heater to become defective, it must have adequate voltage to it. If there was another component causing problems within dryer, chances are it would not get its full 220 volts. If you find a drain solenoid on a dishwasher is stuck because it is burned up, that's going to be the problem. The chances of anything else being defective on that dishwasher are extremely low. And this goes for almost all electrical problems, on all appliances, any brand, any model. And finally, by going to the component that is supposed to do the work, you are most likely to find the problem. For example, on a dryer where the motor is humming when you push the start button, by going to the motor and inspecting it, you may find that the motor is defective, but you may find that it is simply covered in dust and the motor centrifugal switch is hanging up. By the way, this is why you should never run a dryer without a properly installed vent to the outside.

Use Caution
To prevent serious injury or death, always make sure that the power to the appliance is either turned off, or that the appliance you are working on is unplugged from the electrical supply. Unless otherwise noted, all of the troubleshooting techniques listed are to be performed with the power disconnected from the appliance. When working on washing machines and dish washers, it's also a good idea to turn the water supply off, just to be safe.