Why is it so hard to figure out what’s wrong with an appliance?

Yesterday morning the house suddenly went black – except for the oven clock, which made it clear that the RCD had been tripped.  I went out and reset it, and then the fuse for one of the electrical circuits tripped.  After resetting that and having it not trip again, I checked a few suspects out and discovered that my washing machine was dead.  With a full load of water.  I powered it off at the wall and went about the rest of my morning, later siphoning it empty.  Checking again showed it still dead.

The next day I pulled the user interface off the front to diagnose which module had blown (fearing it was the notorious front panel), and in powering it up to check with a multimeter it came good.  Ish.  It mostly worked, but ended up lighting up the display in a way that was clearly an error code, and various combinations of functionality checking seemed to me that the agitator motor wasn’t working.

I suspected that the error code could tell me what exactly was the cause of the motor not working, but finding a Fisher & Paykel MW058U service manual is no easy task.  Finding the model number is surprisingly easy – wiggle the machine forward and on the back, helpfully slapped on upside-down is the full details of the machine (why it couldn’t be printed on the front panel art is beyond me).

Reading the manual made it clear that something bad had happened (one of motor wiring bad, motor bad, motor controller bad), and phoning a helpful call-out tech I discovered I could expect something around $300 to repair.  This is half the price of a new machine… so I guess we’ll go with repair.   As an aside: if I can provide a broad diagnosis, or at least model and error codes, why can’t some firms even provide a guesstimate on cost?

6 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to figure out what’s wrong with an appliance?

  1. Daniel

    Looks like the F+P web site http://www.fisherpaykel.com.au/customercare/ needs work. It only returns a few entries for washing machines (note separate category for front-loaders). Perhaps they’ve foolishly removed the older ones – eg the very ones you are more likely to have lost and need to download.

    There’s heaps of dishwashers in there though.

  2. Philip

    Fisher and Paykel have fixed our washing machine a couple of times and have been able to tell me the worst-case price each time over the phone, as long as I knew the fault (which was simple each time and didn’t need the codes). Until the technician reads the codes though, they don’t know what’s wrong. We’re not meant to be able to read the codes so they don’t have a mechanism in place for translating them to us over the phone. That would be nice, but it would lower their income wouldn’t it! Just like cars have computers that can tell someone exactly what’s wrong, but car companies keep the codes closely guarded so we have to use their service agents.

    I’ll have a read of that service manual though – it might help me with my GW701!

  3. Philip

    That manual is fantastic! Thanks for that link. I bet they don’t like that being on the web…

  4. mike smith

    “Smartdrive is not isolated. Even low voltage (5v and 15v) are live!”

    I wonder how many people realise the consequences of that warning. The optical data download idea is rather nice, anyone hacked the protocol?

  5. Philip

    Do you mean interpreting the binary code it puts on its front panel lights, or is there an optical connection port on it too?

  6. Philip

    The manual describes all of the codes and was useful to me again yesterday in diagnosing a faulty rotor position sensor, which I replaced and our machine is now working again. Also helpful were the people at Module Repair Service in Ringwood, who tested my motor controller (they repaired it last time for a very reasonable price, since it can’t be bought anymore) and found it was fine, confirming that the sensor was at fault. $63 for a new sensor and the machine is happy again. The design of these machines makes servicing very easy and I will definitely buy the same brand when this machine finally dies and can’t be resurrected with a cheap repair.

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