It’s Not What You Study, It’s What the Customer Needs Fixed

What the Appliance Repair Customer Needs FixedAnother service call came in, but this one threw me way off!  Customer says she has a GE microwave that is dead and wants to know if I can come to take a look at it.

I kept a cool tone, but my stomach was in a spin.  I knew I hadn’t touched ANY of the materials in Uncle Harry course about microwaves because I figured those would be obscure and unlikely calls.  I figured wrong.

I couldn’t help but think, of all the stuff I studied what are the odds I get this call now?  Why couldn’t it just be a nice direct drive washer or side-by-side with a defrost problem?

One of the reasons I postponed the study of microwaves is they are really mostly about electronic circuitry and that is not my strong suit yet.  I guess in the back of my mind I hoped those calls would come later when I knew all about that.  I told myself I had other priorities in my study list and I would get to microwaves in due time.  Well, due time is right now.

I did my standard scheduling for the next day (so I could study that problem today).  Got the model number from the customer and looked it up in the service manual.  Oh, no…this is a fancy oven microwave combination built-in.  Now I’m starting to panic because I never opened up a microwave before let alone pulled out a built-in unit from the wall.

How am I going to do this?  I’m just one guy and this thing may be heavy!  No wait a minute, somebody installed this thing, probably by themselves, maybe there is some special dolly or stand I’m supposed to have to remove this thing with?  Now my mind is racing – I don’t own that equipment!

I’m desperately rifling through the service manual and I spot the answer.  The upper microwave detaches from the lower oven once the trim and assorted mounting screws are removed.  PHEW!  Suddenly this sounds do-able again.

I continue to cram on the subject.  Hmmm…not too bad, not as much as I thought inside one of these things.  The biggest problem is I may need to trace the voltage or continuity through the circuits – I guess this is as good a time as any for that hands-on lesson.

There is an unexplainable fear that comes with working on any type of appliance for the first time.  I mean like, the first gas stove, first dishwasher, first microwave.  I can’t wait to get that base level of experience behind me and get past this stage of my development!

I get as prepared as possible and go out on the call.  I arrive at a nice weekend home on the lake.  The customers are very nice and comfortable to work with.  I’m looking at the microwave trying to remember the order of disassembly to get the microwave out from the wall.  I’m very nervous and trying hard not to act it.

I had started keeping a file of relevant printed pages from the service manual in my toolbox just in case I needed it.  OK, this time I need it.  Along with the instructions for disassembly (which would make me look inexperienced to the customer), I have all the wiring diagrams and technical illustrations in that file.  I keep those on top so I can sneak a peek below at the basic stuff I need to refer to.  Turns out there is a fair amount of disassembly, and because it’s my first time I can’t remember all the steps in order.

I push forward and get the unit out of the wall and onto the kitchen countertop.  The first thing to check – are we are getting 240 VAC from the wall?  From what I’ve read, most electric ovens have a terminal block on the back where you can easily test this. Nope, not this one – the line runs straight into the unit and terminates somewhere not immediately accessible.  I’m going to need further disassembly to get to wherever the source is readable with my multimeter.

Because I don’t come from a technical or electrical background, this sort of thing does not come naturally to me.  I was naive enough to think that if you study technical manuals they will tell you exactly what needs to happen.  I never factored in the process of technical interpretation.

It’s becoming apparent to me that all the studying in the world will only get you the guidelines of what you need to do.  There is still an element of thinking on your feet and creativity that is going to be the biggest tool in your box.

With additional tear down, I gain access to the 240 VAC line inside the oven.  It’s time to get started.

Hey, L-1 and L-2 aren’t reading 120 VAC!  Problem is voltage supply and not in the unit.  Customer is going to need a licensed electrician for this one.  Gee, I was just getting started here.

OK, I put everything back together and tell the customer where the problem is.  I pepper it with “Good news, you don’t need an expensive control board.”  They happily write me a check, and I feel like I got paid for another day at school!

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