Learning to Deal with Electrical Repairs

Electrical Appliance RepairsYou may be handy or mechanical, but you may have avoided electrical repairs.

Getting over your nervousness about electrical repairs is a hurdle, but the more you know about it, the more comfortable you will get.

These basic tips from the UPenn Electrical Systems Engineering Labs lab safety guidelines on principles of conductivity of the human body, precautions when dealing with high voltage, and avoiding electrical shock might help.

By the way, they mention that you should put your left hand in your pocket or behind your back if you work on any high voltage electrical component or connection.   The reason you do this is because it encourages the current to flow through your arm and down your leg to the ground instead of through your heart to your other arm if an electrical mishap occurs.  Read the lab safety guidelines, it could save your life!

Who the Heck is Uncle Harry?


Start An Appliance Repair Business I had been reading the appliance repair bible Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances, by Eric Kleinert) for about a week, and I realized I needed more practical training.

I needed to see a real appliance being worked on, how they figure out what’s wrong with it, get the dang thing open and what they do once they’re inside.

More than just knowing about the machines I would be working on, I needed to familiarize myself with the basics of the appliance repair business. What do you charge?  How do you get customers?  What do you say to your customers?  What tools and parts do you need?

To start with, I kept thinking maybe there were some videos available on the internet where I could just watch somebody working on different models of machines so I could just familiarize myself with how a service call is handled.

I Googled “appliance repair videos” and I saw, “Uncle Harry’s Online Appliance Repair Manuals, Videos and Training.”

I went over to Uncle Harry’s website to review some sample videos.

Here was this veteran of the appliance repair business who used to be a teacher, working on actual appliances and showing you the ropes in his videos – it was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

I couldn’t believe it.  He had put 12 years into his manuals and videos showing actual machines and actual repairs.  Best of all, he had the thing I wanted most, which was the running your own appliance repair business stuff.

If I studied this, it would cut MONTHS off of my startup time!

OK, it wasn’t free, so I spent about a week mulling it over.  His self-study technician training and business start-up programs sell for $499, $699.00, $1298.00 and $1898.00.

But I really liked Harry’s style.  The more I watched his sample videos, the more I realized how clear he was, and how easy it was to understand what he was teaching.  He kept everything on the practical side, never got too technical or theoretical, just told you what you needed to know to get the job done.

I called Harry and he answered the phone.  Harry will talk to you.  Hey, he does answer your calls, your questions, your e-mails.  That was huge.

With his money back guarantee to reassure me, I went ahead and bought the course.

Uncle Harry is the virtual version of the mentor I was looking for.  Watching his videos and reading his step-by-step manuals is the closest thing you can get in a home study course to going on service calls with a veteran appliance repair guy.

Appliance Repair Makes the Cut

Starting an Appliance Repair BusinessAfter realizing that appliance repair might be a good option, I started to look at it more closely.

First, it’s not regulated, so you don’t need a license or a 4 year apprenticeship or anything like that.  Second, you can make some good money doing it.  So far, so good.  How do I start?

First thing I did was get a really good book on appliance repair: Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances, by Eric Kleinert.  This thing is like reading an encyclopedia, but I started doing it.  I needed some serious basic knowledge as fast as I could get it.

I started looking at training options, and there were some expensive techincal programs, but I kept on thinking what I really needed was someone to show me the practical side of the appliance repair business.

I live in an extremely remote rural area, about two hours from the nearest major city.  I don’t have a father, brother, neighbor or friend in the appliance business.  How could I get someone to show me the ropes?

Not only do I need to get a look at all of the makes and models of appliances I’m going to be repairing, I need to know how to run an appliance repair business – what to charge, how to get customers, the tricks of the trade.

I started thinking maybe I could contact some established appliance repair businesses in my area, and see if I could offer my services for free just so I could ride along with them and learn how it’s done.  Of course, they’d be training their competition, so I knew it would be a tough sell.

I could make a deal with them to refer all the calls I was nervous about handling to them so I wouldn’t get stuck in over my head or trying to service something that would take me three days.  Hopefully they would see the benefit of our association.

I didn’t know exactly how this was going to work, so I kept chewing on it.

Looking for more training resources online, I discovered a guy called Uncle Harry that seemed like he might be the virtual version of what I was looking for.  He had step-by-step manuals for all types, makes and models of appliance repairs.  He also had the practical, running the business stuff I was looking for.

I called Uncle Harry to find out if he would even answer the phone, and he did.  He sounded in person like he does in his demos, a real nuts and bolts guy with just a ton of experience.

After thinking about it for a week, I bought  the training manuals and the videos.

I’ve been very satisfied.  Harry has been in the appliance repair business for over 40 years, and used to be a teacher, so he’s easy to understand and what he says sinks in because it makes sense.  He’s basically done a brain dump of everything he knows about appliance repair, and there’s really nothing else like it out there on the market.

Uncle Harry has been the bridge between reading technical material about appliance repair, and feeling like I could actually start a business.

Now, how can I get my hands on some appliances?

Choosing Appliance Repair

Should I Start an Appliance Repair BusinessI have owned rental property and been my own property manager for 15 years, but with the real estate meltdown, economizing on hiring outside help became critical.

During the past year, I began repairing appliances myself whenever I could, the fixes I was comfortable with.  I also found out I could buy my parts inexpensively online.

This year we had an extremely hot summer, and about eight of my properties blew air conditioning capacitors.  Every time the HVAC technician came out is was $200.   This made such an impression on me, I decided to shoulder surf while he changed a capacitor one day, and saw that it only took him about 15 minutes.

I asked him for the old capacitor and looked up the part online.  He had told me it was a $125 part, but actually it was about a $25 part.  I started to do the math.  15 minutes for $200 is not a bad way to make a buck, I thought, and  you’re clearing most of that.  And, I was not his only client.

With real estate in the tank, I had been looking for some way to earn some income, so I started thinking about becoming an HVAC technician.  At the very least, I could fix my own air conditioners and save a bunch of money, and maybe even make some cash fixing them for other people.

I started looking into it.  I found some good training programs, and started to get excited.  Then I hit the deal killer.  It turns out that an apprenticeship of 4 years is required in my state in order to become a licensed HVAC technician.  I was not looking for a lengthy apprenticeship.  I was just trying to make some cash.

But it had gotten me thinking.  What could I do for that kind of income?

At the same time, I had a refrigerator in my basement that was broken, and I had been putting off replacing it.  I had called an appliance repair guy and he had asked me could I hear the compressor running, and I said, “no.”   He said I may need to replace the relay, which would cost $140, or at the very worst the compressor was shot and I would need a new fridge.

I went and looked at some used and scratch and dent fridges, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one.  It was a little beyond my comfort zone, but I wanted to try and fix it.

I had been reading about basic electronics, and I had come across a couple of DIY articles online that told me to test continuity and resistance, but I had been skipping that step and making educated guesses about what was broken.  I had gotten lucky so far, but I was nervous about buying parts that wouldn’t solve my problems, since you can’t return most electrical parts.

I studied my model, and I confirmed that if it the relay assembly wasn’t working, the compressor wouldn’t come on either.  I went down to the basement and ripped out the relay.   In order to test if the relay was the problem, I found a site davesrepair.com that teaches you how to make a refrigeration compressor test cord, and I went out and bought the parts and made one.

You know what?  When I plugged my test cord in, the compressor came on.  Bought a relay online and fixed my refrigerator for about $65.

It was at that point I realized I liked appliance repair enough to see what it took to become an appliance repair technician.

Customers Expect a Fast Diagnosis

Appliance Repair CustomersHow do you deal with customer expectations for a fast diagnosis and resolution of their problem when you’re new to appliance repair?

Prevention is most of the solution.

Get the basic problem information and the model number over the phone from the customer, then set the service time a couple of hours out so you can research the possible issues and resolutions ahead of time.

If it sounds like a doozy and it’s not an emergency, try to set the service call up for the next day to give yourself plenty of time.

If you can narrow it down to a short list of likely sources for the problem, you can study those more in-depth and check them first when you get on site.

Google the model number to find a manual online if possible, and go to a good parts supplier like PartSelect that has explosion diagrams of the appliance components.   Check online repair forums, your training materials and repair books to find those specific types of cases.

By the time you get on site, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for, so you can confirm it relatively quickly.

But you still may get a curve ball, or it may just turn into a difficult repair.

If they are not already aware, mention to the customer that you have a flat rate so they don’t feel the meter is running while you’re working on the problem.  Tell them you charge a flat rate so you can be thorough and check everything carefully.

If you just can’t get it done, you can say you ran into some complications, go back and do some more research, get a night’s sleep and try again the next day.   Most people are nice and understanding, and will be patient.  Remember, the worst that could happen is you don’t get repeat business from the customer.

At the end of the day, you probably know more than you think after all your training, and can probably solve the problem in a  reasonable amount of time.

Get a Website Up Quickly

Start an Appliance Repair WebsiteThe internet has become the significant resource for finding information, replacing printed phone books.
It helps customers to quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.
The internet levels the playing field.  With a well-designed site, your small business can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company.   And remember, even if you don’t have a website, your competition does.

A well designed web site can instill confidence in your business by representing your image and professionalism to your customers.

You are open for business 24/7, providing information about your services and the around-the-clock opportunity for sales.

Your website will allow you to attract new customers that may not have otherwise known about your services.  A website providing a continuous source of new customers means increased revenue.

According to the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewinternet.org/), in 2009:

– Over 74% of US adults are online

– 81% research products or services they are considering buying

– 75% buy a product or service

If you can drag and drop, you can set up a free website (with advertising – nothing’s really free) at :

If you don’t want advertising on your website, some great resources for inexpensive hosting, domains, and web page templates are:

  • GoDaddy.com offers great prices on domain registration and economical hosting for single site owners.

  • Lunarpages.com
    offers economical hosting with more unlimited resources for owners with multiple sites.

Free Online Business Directories

 

Free Online Business Directories for Your Appliance Repair BusinessThese are links to websites that are free to submit your business listing to so you can get phone calls coming in and traffic to your website.

You have to join to submit listings to all of them, but they do generate free leads.

  • Manta is a business directory that gets high search rank on Google.   This link takes you to the “Add Company” page, or you can get to it from the main page.
  • Merchant Circle is another directory of business listings that gets high search rank on Google.  Enter your phone number on the home page and it searches to see if your business is already listed, then takes you through the steps if it isn’t.
  • Yellow Pages Superpages – yes it’s free!  It also gets high ranking on Google, but people just go here directly to look up stuff like they used to in the phone book.  If you click on “Advertise” from the main page, it takes you to SuperMedia.  From there, you need to enter your telephone number in the “Claim Your Business Listing” box on the left to get started.
  • Google Places can be accessed from the Business Solutions link off the Google main page.  It’s free, and when you first sign up you will show up in the listings, but it requires a review before your listing becomes permanent (which may take several weeks!).  Google Places listings are those ones with the maps that show up at the top of a Google search, and are the businesses listed when you search under Google Maps.
  • Yahoo Local can be accessed by going to the Yahoo main page, clicking on the “Local” link at the top, and entering your business type and your location, then clicking “Search.”  This will take you to a local page, where you can “Add a New Business” from a link at the bottom, or just click here.  There is a review period for Yahoo also, but it’s only 3-5 days.

Cheap Online Sources for Printing

Appliance Repair Business CardsYou are going to need business cards, invoices, etc., to manage your business professionally.

Online resources have basically changed everything from researching and troubleshooting repairs, to generating leads, to printing services.

We have found some good cheap, excellent service online sources for the fundamental printing jobs you will have in the appliance repair business.

Many of these resources have ready-made templates you can use to design your business cards and invoices.

  • Business cards: nextdayflyers.com has great prices for full color, coated, two sided business cards, great customer service and they’re FAST!
  • Invoices: carbonlessondemand.com has great prices for your invoices.
  • Stickers: sheet-labels.com for putting service date labels in your serviced appliances
  • Door Hangers: cheapdoorhangers.com – one of Uncle Harry’s marketing tips is using door hangers to generate customers.

Low Cost Toll Free Numbers

Ring Central Has Toll Free NumbersA low cost toll free number can give your company a professional and credible appearance. 

Toll free numbers encourage your clients to call you, especially if you live in a rural area where long distance charges are frequently incurred.

The toll free number can be forwarded to your cell phone with a code indicating it’s coming from your business line.  

The automated receptionist sounds professional, and voice mails can be emailed to you so you can listen to them.  

We use Ring Central, which is very economical for a startup business with one line. 

Some of the features they offer for only $9.99 a month are:

  • 100 local, long distance or toll-free minutes
  • 4.9¢/min additional minutes
  • 10 Extensions

Additional FREE features:

• Internet Fax

All of their plans include:

  • Use with any existing phone system
  • Toll free or local number for voice + fax
  • Voicemail with free email delivery
  • Internet fax – send and receive
  • Advanced call forwarding
  • Cloud based PBX with multiple extensions
  • Auto-receptionist
  • Flexible answering rules
  • Call queues
  • Mobile phone integration
  • Keep your existing number, at no cost

Tools to Carry Into the Home

This kit will fix 3/4 of what you find in a house and it’s all you need to carry in with you (according to Uncle Harry):

  • Philips tip long shank screwdriver
  • Flat long shank screwdriver
  • 1/4″ nut driver
  • 5/16″ nut driver
  • 15 torx driver
  • 20 torx driver
  • insulated cutters
  • needlenose pliers
  • large channel lock pliers
  • multimeter
  • wd 40
  • stubby phillips
  • stubby flat
  • stubby 1/4″ nut driver
  • stubby 5/16″ nut driver
  • adjustable open end wrench
  • wire stripper and crimper
  • medium phillips
  • electrical tape
  • thermometer
  • razor knife
  • wire
  • cable ties
  • knee pads
  • work light
  • clipboard & invoices
  • promotional stickers, pens, refrigerator magnets

Harry also has a video on special tools you want to keep in the truck.

Free Training Resources

Free training can backfill your paid training, but it’s hit and miss unless you know where to look. Here are some good resources:

  • YouTube Videos (search on “appliance repair training”)
  • Repair Forums (try appliantology.org)
  • Free Online Service Manuals (a good free source is appliancejunk.com)
  • Parts Sites (repairclinic.com has videos & partselect.com has DIY installation advice)

You may also want to consider some paid training because it can cut MONTHS off your startup time.  Take a look at:  Free Training vs. Paid Training to review some of the options available out there.