Lazy Appliance Repairmen

, posted: 8-Aug-2011 17:13

I had noticed that mum's smart drive washing machine was not filling properly, it would eventually give up trying with the trickle it managed and beep.

So today as I was going past and noticed it was stopped I decided to heft it out and check the obvious things, hoses not kinked, water flowing, filters not blocked, give it a whack, that kind of thing, unknowledgable but logical lay-person diagnosis.  So nothing seemed out of place and nothing helped.

Mum happens past and I told her she might have to get an appliance guy in to have a look because I figured there was probably a poked solenoid not opening properly

She says that she already did, last Friday, the guy came in, lifted off the top cover, said something apparently along the lines of "it'll be the control board, too old, don't make them any more, can't fix, that'll be $65".

Ok, so given I thought it was the valve and everything else worked fine, it even tried to fill, I simply didn't believe that.

I jumped on google, and in literally under 3 minutes I had found that on the smart drives, the cold water valve (solenoid) commonly fails, just as I had assumed would be the case.  The post even had a helpful tip on replacing it easily.

As it so happens, I had an old really dead (pump failure from memory, from plenty of years before, never throw anything out!) smart drive (totally different model though) in the shed, so, 2 minutes to take the top off that and pull out the valve, 2 minutes to take the broke one out, and 2 minutes to put it back together.  

Bash bash bosh, one good as new washing machine filling itself happy as larry.

This is not the first time I have encountered lazy good for nothing "repairmen" who think everything can be solved with "replace the control board" and that it's not worth their time to fix even a ridiculously simple and clearly common fault.

If I, a computer programmer, not a washing machine repairs expert, can fix this problem, with just the help of Google, 10 minutes time, and a philips head screw driver, while you can't be bothered, AND charge for the privileged of not being bothered, then you need a jolly good wake up call!

Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt that they knew it was the valve, and also give the benefit of the doubt that these valves are not available, and that this has just got lost in translation, but even if I give that leeway, SURELY for a clearly very common fault on an I'd imagine really common machine (smart drives in general, as I mention, the part is almost certainly identical across a huge range of machines), they'd have a few from disassembled wrecks in their back room.  

Or is it not worth their time to get the apprentice to pull wrecked machines to bits for parts any more.

Hmm, the replaced valve has also now died.  Possibly just bad luck.  For the moment I've replaced the hot water valve also and hooked cold water feed to it (but still wired as hot, given the valves are apparently different), I think the machine beeps while filling to complain that the water isn't getting hot, but still seems to carry on with the wash.

Update 2:
Ok, apparently even if you use fully hot, it still wants to rinse with cold.  So against advice I have swapped the valves so the hot valve from the old washer is now connected to the cold valve's power.  The valves really do look identical to me, perhaps this is an older machine where they are the same (FWIW, it's a Frigidaire badged machine).  Either way, nothing to loose and it's working so far.

Update 2.1:
As a commenter advised, google got me this...

which indicates that the valves are or at least should be different, with cold being the proportional one, maybe it'll work anyway they are both rated at 12V, and I guess the proportionals work from something less than 12 to 12 but probably only when they need to mix in some cold with 12 being normal operation.  I'll run a multi-meter over them and check resistances against the references in that manual, when I find my multi-meter.

Update 3:
Almost 4 months later, the valve swap (hot valve swapped to cold valve) is still working fine, the valve does drip a tiny bit of water when off perhaps because I guess of the differences between the Hot and Cold valves, but it's not really a problem.

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Comment by freitasm, on 8-Aug-2011 17:57

The problem is the lack of "hacking" in this world. People don't hack any more - and not in the sense the mass media use for "hacking", but the other one, about knowing how things work, tinkering with the insides  of a machine, etc.

The hacking spirit is gone...

Comment by CYaBro, on 8-Aug-2011 18:07

Can you give a link to the page you found on Google as I have a machine that is doing the same thing and also have another dead one that I could take the part out of hopefully.

Author's note by sleemanj, on 8-Aug-2011 18:15

@CYaBro, link is below but it's really simple.

Two screws at the back, lift off the control panel.
Another two screws between the inlets, lift out the pice of plastic those screws were holding in place (locks the inlets in place.
Pull out the valve, easiest to grab a breadknife and cut a chunk out of the back panel above the valves to get the clearance  (it's just a friction fit, not very tight just pull it up).
Do the same on the other machine. 
Put the good valve in the good machine.

Author's note by sleemanj, on 8-Aug-2011 18:16

Author's note by sleemanj, on 8-Aug-2011 18:17

And if your other machine's valves are poked too, get one from TradeMe

Comment by mckenndk, on 8-Aug-2011 18:34

Just like in the PC support business there are people that know what they are doing or know what route to go to find the issue, then there are the cowboys who can talk the talk but not do the work.


Comment by nickb800, on 8-Aug-2011 19:41

Thats really poor work from the repairman. I guessed that the solenoid was the problem based on your description in the first 2 paragraphs. And I dont get paid to fix the things every day!

They are incredibly easy to come across, and they fit in easily, and are accessible from the back in some cases.

Ive got a few smartdrive solenoids lying around - they are great for setting your garden irrigation system on a timer.

Comment by Bung, on 8-Aug-2011 19:45

Searching for service manual 517735 should find a PDF copy and the series 6 supplement to it.

There is a difference between hot and cold as the hot is an on or off valve but the cold should be a proportional type.

Comment by skewt, on 8-Aug-2011 21:04

Another good thing to remember about F&P is they will happily send parts to anyone for a pretty good price,

so if its simple things, just fix it yourself

If its not on the website and you have the part number, just call them up

Comment by johnr, on 8-Aug-2011 23:04

Call and request the service back from the company!

Comment by Athlonite, on 9-Aug-2011 16:59

Simple fix Don't pay the bill when they ask why tell them you found the "real" problem and fixed it yourself

Comment by Skolink, on 9-Aug-2011 21:11

Smartdrive washing machines actually give an error code in binary on the LEDs. The codes can easily be found online. 

The rotor position sensor has twice failed on ours. The symptoms are similar - pulsing the valve, then no filling and beeping. I assumed it would be a faulty valve, so it was great to have the error code. A brand new sensor was ~$100, secondhand was $30, but to fit it a large wrench was needed. The secondhand part installed was $80 (quoted on the phone based on error code).

Comment by Cloudmelon, on 9-Aug-2011 21:13

Used an old washing machine on the farm...

It now serves as a stirrer for the colostrum milk.

Can program it from the old wachine machine display, speed/time etc.

Works great! cost nothing.

Comment by tchart, on 9-Aug-2011 21:45

Yup had a the same experience when our Whirpool top loader stopped spinning.

Lazy ass repair guy wasnt interested in sorting it. A few phones calls later I had sourced the part and changed it myself. Did this 2 or 3 more times (its a common failure part - a little plastic thing that shears under heavy use) before the gearbox shat itself.

But goes to show that we are a "throw away" society. Ive done it myself too; why would I bother getting a repair guy in for $100-$200 when I can replace the appliance for $500.

Comment by mattwnz, on 10-Aug-2011 00:02

I would ask for a refund from the repair company, and complain to F&P too if they are an authorised F&P repairer, as it appears they have given you incorrect information. Otherwise the same thing could happen to other people.

Comment by networkn, on 10-Aug-2011 09:28

I don't think you are being fair, ok you guessed well this time, and maybe in this instance you were right (There are actually other things that need to be considered), and luckily you had a suitable part, and your mother didn't need to pay your time and materials, but this guy has a business to run, and accountability to worry about. IF he had spent that time, and it HADN'T of fixed it, you would have been pissed this guy ripped your mother off and didn't get it right the first time.

It's easy to see only one side of a picture like that.

Comment by TinyTim, on 10-Aug-2011 14:03

+1 to telling F&P, and also let Fair Go or Consumer know too.

Comment by Bung, on 10-Aug-2011 14:30

@networkn How long would it take to put the washer into diagnostic mode?

"The WASH TEMPERATURE DOWN  button turns the Cold Water Valve on. The Cold Water LED
will also turn on.
The WASH TEMPERATURE UP  button turns the Hot Water Valve on. The Hot Water LED will also
turn on.

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James Sleeman
New Zealand

PHP Programmer Extraordinaire

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