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Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Jennifer Campbell   1/30/2012 9:30:23 AM
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Given the history of the Made by Monkeys column, Bill made a big mistake in replacing his old washer/dryer set. I've wanted to replace my old washer for a very long time, but, again, after reading these columns for several years, I just can't pull the trigger. Washers, as well as other appliances, have come a long way, but there is something to be said for the old, reliable machine that doesn't have any bells and whistles. I do admire Bill for his forward-thinking approach - too bad it backfired.

naperlou
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Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
naperlou   1/30/2012 9:47:48 AM
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Jennifer, there are two answers to your comment.  First, it is a challenge.  I often find myself fixing something to get it working just for the challenge of it.  If that gets me a new capability, so much the better.  That seems like part of Bill's motivation.  Second, the new device offers new capabilities.  Actually, I should add a third.  The old device will break (most likely) and it won't be at a convenient time. 

Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Jennifer Campbell   1/30/2012 9:55:36 AM
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I can't say I disagree with you, naperlou, especially since we are on our third dyer in 3 years. I would love to have the capability/know how to fix these appliances myself when they break. (My husband tries, but usually nothing good will come of it.) Maybe next time I can call on you! =)

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/30/2012 4:19:11 PM
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When something breaks down, my mantra has always been, "How Hard Can it BE-?"  ,,,of course, I've gotten that thrown back in my face more than a few times, but ....

I had essentially the same scenario with our washer/dryer when I came across a scratch/dent sale on a new LG dryer -- one of those cherry red models you see in the appliance section touting the $999 price tag.  Home Depot had it clearance marked at $325, so I had to have it.  My wife balked at the purchase, reasoning that our 15 year old Kenmore W/D set was still perfectly fine.   I counter-reasoned that the electricity savings alone should justify the new dryer.

The electronic display offers way too many alternative settings, but the new dryer is much quicker and quieter than the old Kenmore.  Now, you can hear the TV over the new dryer, so, to my family, it was clearly superior. The old white Kenmore Washer, on the other hand, is what broke-down first, only 2 weeks after the new Red LG Dryer was standing proudly next to it. 

The washer stopped spinning.  Seemed like a simple repair, to fix the open-lid safety shut-off switch, but it turned into a bit more than anticipated when the entire side panel had to be removed just to gain access to the worn-out switch. This panel removal further mandated that two hose lines and a wire harness (with a dozen connections) be removal as well.  But, I have to say that you never know how easy (or difficult) a repair will be until you attack it. Just keep track of the parts you remove, in the order you remove them, and then work in reverse to re-assemble it.

 As for the broken bracket of our Washer's safety switch, my daughter now thinks I can fix anything with 2-part epoxy – (Natures potting element).  Old Washer and new dryer have been happily running at least 5 loads/week for over a year now. Meanwhile, still watching the scratch/dent floor models for a new matching Red Washer. . . .

 

hoytman
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Iron
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
hoytman   1/30/2012 5:47:33 PM
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A few years ago I was going to a "Big Box" home supply store a lot.  I would always see the same smart washers all lined up as I walked by.  I had read about some "secret" keypad code combos you could press to do "special" things.  One of them was to blink all of the LEDs & displays randomly in some sort of demo or test mode. So I set the code to see if it worked & it did--making a nice pattern of dancing lights

The only way to stop the blinking was to unplug the washer....since it was up against the wall, I didn't feel like moving it, so went about my business.  Two days later I went back to get some more items & noticed that that particular washer was gone and was just an empy hole in the lineup.   Later on it hit me; someone may have thought it was a defective unit & cleared it out.  Maybe someone got a deal.

jmiller
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Platinum
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
jmiller   1/30/2012 8:51:57 PM
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I think there's also something to be said for the fact that engineers generally just like to take stuff apart just to understand how it works, or goes back together, or find out how many trash bags it takes to through it away.

naperlou
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Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
naperlou   1/30/2012 9:17:16 PM
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At one company I worked at we had a senior engineer who liked to see what was inside everything.  So, once we put a trackball on his desk.  This was when trackballs were new.  These were used in submarines.  We took all the do not dissassemble stickers off.  Of course, he took it apart.  It was interesting to see what was inside, but it never got back together.  Another time we had a touch screen (again, when the technology was new).  We put it on his desk and he took it apart.  We did manage to get that back together (after some intense hours).  It helps to have someone like that around, just so you can see what is inside (without getting the blame).  I wouldn't try that at home with an essential appliance, though.

jmiller
User Rank
Platinum
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
jmiller   2/27/2012 7:51:09 PM
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I really enjoy taking things apart as well.  But you're correct that we need to be careful what you take apart.  Because there's nothing worse than having to take something you took apart into an expert to have it put back together.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
TJ McDermott   1/30/2012 10:04:44 AM
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Maintenance departments at almost every industrial manufacturing facility frequently work under this guideline; as a result they must make repairs at the most inconvenient time, under pressure, to get the line running again.

They should be working under the guidelines of preventative and predictive maintenance; replacing before something fails.  They then get to make this repair/replacement at planned, scheduled down times, without being under the gun of time pressure.

20 years is a nice long run, but one has to be looking over one's shoulder for the transmission or the pump of a washer to die catastrophically exactly when the tub is full of water.  Either you won't be able to drain it at all, or it drains all over the floor.

Bill DeVries
User Rank
Iron
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Bill DeVries   1/30/2012 1:56:02 PM
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The old washer was about 20 years old, and is probably still working for someone else. Hope this new High Efficiency model saves me some money, but for as long as a cycle takes, it may save on water, but I'm wondering about electic.

Some people are born to tinker and fix things. When I was in grade school my dad was attempting to rebuild the carburetor on his 1970 Dodge Polara. He woke me up at about 10:00 at night and needed me to help him put it back together so he could get the car going and go to work the next day.

Bill

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Rob Spiegel   1/30/2012 2:19:59 PM
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Oh, I've been there on the car repairs in the middle of the night, Bill. There with a light bulb running from an extension cord to the garage or house. It's the worst time to drop a critical oily part and have it not hit the ground. Then you're looking all over the engine for that little part that makes all the difference.

Bob Salter
User Rank
Iron
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Bob Salter   1/30/2012 4:11:50 PM
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We have a 15 year old washer that would not pump out the water after rinsing, so we had a repairman come to fix it. After checking all the mechanical and electrical components (including the timer) he could not find anything amiss. So, he offered to let us try out a new motor for a few days, and if this solved the problem, we could then buy it. When he pulled the power wire connection off the old motor terminal, he found the problem: corrosion on the male and female contacts. He told me if I cleaned it well, the washer should work. I thanked him and asked him how much I owed him for the two hours he spent on this problem. The answer was $35, and I quickly wrote him a check. Man, I really like living in the south. I cleaned the contacts with Scotchbrite and a thin file, smeared on anticorosion grease made for aluminum wiring, and the washer has worked fine for the last five years.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Rob Spiegel   1/31/2012 12:56:17 PM
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Bob, this story would make a good Sherlock Ohms posting. Are you interested in fleshing it out a bit? We would need it to be at least 400 words, but if you told the story step-by-step, that should be easy.

If you're interested, let me know at rob.spiegel@ubm.com

We would also need a short bio.

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Tim   1/30/2012 8:06:22 PM
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I once dropped an oil cap in the engine compartment on my VW Jetta which I could not see or find without a significant amout of tear down.  It required the removal of a heat panel on the botom of the engine where the cap had lodged itself.  It was well past dark thirty when the 30 minute job was finally done.

Curt Carpenter
User Rank
Gold
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Curt Carpenter   1/30/2012 4:08:52 PM
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My ancient Kenmore stopped doing stuff, so I decided I'd give fixing it a whirl.  A few hours later, the laundry room was wall-to-wall with parts, I'd skinned the knuckles on both hands and my favorite wrench was missing.  So I just put the whole lot in a trash bag and headed to a local appliance store to buy a new one. 

Damned shame, but it still makes me laugh.   Never did find the wrench.

kenish
User Rank
Platinum
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
kenish   1/30/2012 5:03:29 PM
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@Curt- Should have checked the trash bag for the missing wrench.

@Rob- Dropped parts and tools always roll to the geometric center of the car.  That's why motorcycles are more fun to work on than cars.   If the part wasn't on the floor, you should have looked for it in the house where the light was better :-)

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Alexander Wolfe   1/31/2012 12:02:13 PM
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Clearly, washers and dryers have entered the age of disposability -- as opposed to being repairable -- just like TVs and all electronics devices. They've just come to that point later in the game, which is why we're seeing various levels of outrage/annoyance. It's not really surprising, though, when you think about it. These are still essentially commodity items, albeit possibly with more viable profit margins than TVs (which have none). So it's obvious that manufacturers would try to cut costs. I also think that some of it is an unintended side effect of the supply chain, where certain older, more robust parts simply aren't made anymore.

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: If it ain't broke, why replace it?
Tool_maker   1/31/2012 6:48:09 AM
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@Jennifer. I could not agree with you more, particlarly when I see the prices on new washers. Our first washer was a Frigidaire that lasted 20+ years when I had to relace it because the bottom of the cabinet rusted away to such a degree that I could no longer prop it to stay in place. That was replaced by a used GE that cost me $50 and lasted 5 years, so we splurged and bought a brand new GE that is still in service. In all we have been married 45 years and have had 3 washers and 2 dryers.

I hope I do not jinx anything by posting this. Oh yeah about that red appliance, our first washer was Avacado and looked hopelessly dated when it died. The first dryer was Sierra Gold and our range and refigerator were Copper Toned. All looked ridiculous when that color fad died. Nothing but white after that.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Harnesses and connectors
Larry M   2/10/2012 5:14:27 PM
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Harnesses and connectors are the Achilles heel of too many products. After 15 or more years of running 10 Amps of heater blower motor current through 1 Amp connectors, GM has finally admitted a problem and is offering to replace the connectors for free when they fail.

A similar thing happened to my dishwasher. They used a four-pin Molex style connector (like the power connector to a 5.25" or 3.5" disk drive) to connect the harness to the board of switches in the door. Two of the four pins just carried current for the motor. The other two carried 10 or 15 Amps for the "Calrod" heater element. After a few years, these two burned up nicely, melting the plastic connector shroud and blackening the board. The board was no longer available. Re-forming the connectors for tighter grip solved the problem for a few years. Then a more serious arc-and-burn destroyed these two contacts completely. I cut these two wires of the harness from the connector and crimped high-current automotive-style bullet connectors on the wires. I soldered leads to the switch leads and installed mating bullets on them.

I made sure to install one bullet plug and one bullet socket on the harness, and one of each on the switch, so that if I had further problems I could simply plug the two harness leads to each other and avoid the switch board altogether.

Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
Building Code and Hidden Manual
Jon Titus   1/30/2012 12:34:35 PM
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Building codes now require a drain pan under washing machines so any leaks go directly to a drain line and not onto your floor.  It's worth the trouble to add such a pan in you can connect to a nearby drain. (You have a drain on the washer, so an added drain might be easier to add than you think.)

Recently a temperature sensor on our high-efficiency washer died, indicated by an error code, something like "E23," on the control-panel LEDs.  I had to find this error code and what it meant on the Internet.  When the repairman opened the washer cover, lo and behold, there was a maintenance manual taped inside.  It includes all of the error messages, diagnostic information, and other helpful information.  It might be worth 30 minutes to open your washer and see if it has such a manual.  Ours is now in the "Appliance Instructions" folder, not inside the washer. --Jon Titus

Bill DeVries
User Rank
Iron
Re: Building Code and Hidden Manual
Bill DeVries   1/30/2012 1:51:25 PM
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The house is 4 years old, so it has the drain pan, but wouldn't ya know it. I broke the drain pan moving washers in an out and had to replace that too.

Bill

LloydP
User Rank
Gold
Re: Building Code and Hidden Manual
LloydP   1/30/2012 9:43:37 PM
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Most of the large appliances I have repaired include a schematic, wiring diagram, and a timing diagram hidden somewhere in the guts of the appliance. The most recent was a dishwasher that quit Christmas Day, when my wife and I were hosting 15 people for dinner. Arghhh! Next day, I found the schematic hidden in the kick panel. Turned out to be a line capacitor on the control board that died, taking the board's power supply with it. Fortunately, we have a local appliance parts store that is very helpful. In 2 days, I had a replacement board (cheaper and faster than getting the part on-line) and had it working again. The old board was irreparable, due to burned traces, etc., but it went back to be re-manufactured. (there was a $30 core charge for the old board) The dishwasher was a 10 year old Maytag, but the replacement (remanufactured) board had a Whirlpool part number.

When my son's washing machine began overflowing on the fill cycle, I found the schematic hidden behind the control board. Again, very helpful. Turned out that a hose to a pressure switch (sensing how full the tub was) had slipped off. It was a simple fix to replace the hose, and tie it down with a clamp.

I prefer to keep the information with the appliance. That way it never gets "lost." As a backup, I often scan it and store the PDF.

 

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Building Code and Hidden Manual
Ann R. Thryft   2/7/2012 2:40:23 PM
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LloydP, thanks for that extremely useful information. My husband and I usually end up going online first to look for schematics and other diagrams. I don't think he's yet gotten all the way inside of either the washer or the dryer--so far we've just replaced smaller components or boards/modules, since both machines are only 11 years old. He will be *very* happy to learn that for the bold, there are instructions waiting.

I grew up with Depression-era parents, so maybe that's why I'd rather fix than replace. But these columns and their comments have completely convinced me!


William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Washer and dryer problems, + other issues as well
William K.   1/30/2012 9:26:57 PM
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Our friend called me with a strange problem which was that "the washer would not drain". So I grabbed a few tools and went to look at it. Sure enough, after the end of the spin cycle it was filled with dirty water. In order to properly diagnose the problem, I started a new cycle to wash the clothes that had gotten dirty again. At the end of the wash cycle it pumped out into the laundry tub, and started filling for the rinse. Then I watched in amazement as it also pumped the dirty water back out of the washtub into the machine. Suddenly the source of the problem was clear: The wash tub drain was plugged! I cleaned the drain, which was covered by lint, and the water drained out. Then I could see that the washer's drain tube had an extension that reached to the bottom of the tub, to reduce the splashing from the pump-out discharge. There was no shutoff valve in the drain line, just a simple direction reverser valve, so that the flow was in the opposite direction when it was not supposed to be draining. The result was that when the washtub failed to empty after the rinse cycle, the dirty water pumped back in during the spin cycle. 

So clearing the drain was the simple fix, and figuring it out made me look good to our friend.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Fatigued controller connections make washer useless
William K.   1/31/2012 8:31:09 PM
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I will soon be offering a similar tale of woe, but it will be about a Pioneer brand surround-sound receiver that has poor connector soldered joints. Cheap lead free solder will never be as good as average tin-lead solder. What were those fraidy monkey types thinking?

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Fatigued controller connections make washer useless
Rob Spiegel   2/1/2012 3:42:02 PM
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Hey William, please send your story along. We'd love to feature it. You can send it to rob.spiegel@ubm.com

We shoot for a minimum of about 400 words.



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