Ever Have That Feeling You’re Being Watched?

Being Watched on an Appliance Repair Service CallIt was a conspiracy of ironic bad luck that sent me on my second ever service call.  I had no idea when I rang the doorbell just how challenging fate was going to make my next experience.

It was not because the customer was some terrible jerk that demanded unreasonable results with no intention of paying for my services.

No, it was because they were nice, really nice!  Too nice…and too “hands on” involved with the repair of their Maytag Neptune dryer.

My second customer was a retired diesel tractor mechanic of 27 years and knew a whole lot about how to tear things apart and put them back together again.  He called me because his attempts to locate and repair the no spin problem of his Maytag dryer were somehow beyond his mechanical capabilities and he needed an EXPERT in on this one – me!

He thought he would just hang by my side watching every move I made and learn a thing or two.  After all we’re fellow mechanics, right?  Holy smoke, I needed this like a hole in the head right now.  It was show time and the curtain was up.

I must stop and say I would normally welcome nurturing the customer/technician relationship, but this was my second call…ever!  I was nervous, unfamiliar, a little unsure, and grasping at anything that smoke screened my baby fresh newness and projected confidence and experience to my customer.

Now Bob was a very nice guy, and not even being a nuisance. The problem is I didn’t really have what he was expecting from me – lots of war stories about other machines with similar problems or possibly some editorializing about the good ole days before all this PCB technology took a stranglehold on the future of appliance design.  At the very least maybe he was hoping I could just chat about what makes some appliances better than others and how to avoid these costly problems in the future.

Nope, can’t help there.  Those gems all come from years of experience.  All I have to offer is that I know I can diagnose and fix this dryer, and charge a reasonable price to do it.  That is all I know my friend, and I never said it would be pretty getting to that result.

I had just studied the specific problem in its entirety in the Uncle Harry video course and the Maytag service manual.  I only hoped to not be too distracted as I fumbled about to find all the relevant parts in 3-D.  I only hoped to disassemble the dryer in a manner in which I could remember to reassemble it without much noticeable head scratching or any parts left over. I did not expect to do this in front of a qualified audience, one who had enthusiastically taken on the role of my assistant, ready and eager to help me fetch a torx 20 driver or extra flashlight if needed.

OK, so with Bob tightly welded to my side I now needed to open this unit up and get to the prime suspect, which was the wax motor.  My research had told me that historically the Maytag Neptune has problems with the locking mechanism failing and that results in the dryer not advancing into the high speed spin mode. I needed to check the operation of the wax motor, but there were a number of panels that need to be disassembled to get to the section that exposed the wax motor for service.

Now bear in mind that I have NEVER disassembled a dryer before, and this was my first opportunity to do so.  Bob was busy being very social and telling me stories of various tractors he has repaired and kind of waiting for my responses, but I could not really focus on his banter.  I could only try to focus on the flow chart in the service manual regarding this repair.

It was at that point that something clicked in my head.  I became very aware that this is all part of the process.  It’s unrealistic to expect to enter into somebody’s home and always be given lots of space and uninterrupted privacy.  On some jobs I’m going to be left very much alone (like my first repair job) and others are going to be much more socially interactive, like this one.  It turns out that this is very much a people business, and those skills need just as much development as the technical skills.

Finally getting access to the wax motor, I could start the spin cycle and observe its operation.  Lo and behold, just like my research said, I could see that the actuator was not making full contact with the door lock micro switch.  Looked like a classic wax motor failure.  I got the bright idea to shim the actuator so it could make good contact to test my results.

Oops, the dryer was still not advancing to high speed spin.  Now that pointed to the control board.  After I thought I was going to get out of this one neatly, the fact was that I was not done here.  Deeper disassembly and more diagnostics would be needed just when Bob was getting ready to make more coffee and get distracted with his police scanner.

Visual inspection of the board showed charring on the R-11 resistor and that spelled a much bigger expense for Bob.  I explained that typically the failing wax motor sends a bad signal to the control board and is responsible for frying its circuitry.

Bob looked frustrated and told me that he only paid $250 for the entire unit and didn’t want to spend what the control board would cost on the repair.  I told him that I could understand his frustration but it may be hard to replace a stacking washer and dryer unit for any less than that.  He agreed with me about that but said he wasn’t very happy with the darn thing anyway and chose not to repair it.

I told him I understood perfectly and he would only be responsible for my diagnostic fee since he chose not to do the repair.  With many thanks he wrote me a check for my diagnostic fee and even added $10.00 as a thank you for my terrific service.

I was pleased enough with that.  After all, I had a chance to test my diagnostic skills, physically tear down and rebuild a complex stacking unit, season myself with the social side of my new career, and even get paid for all that experience and education.  I even survived the stress test of having an experienced mechanic shoulder surf my entire service call.  I’ve never been paid to learn stuff before, so that’s a good deal – I can’t wait for the next call!

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