Every week on UK Whitegoods we receive countless requests for the meaning of fault codes for many appliances, the most popular being Zanussi, Indesit, Ariston, Hotpoint, Whirlpool and Hygena appliances. But the fault code is not always what you think it is.
From what we've seen most people appear to believe that the fault code is a "smoking gun" as it were, pointing to the exact point of failure in the appliance, well in almost all cases it is not.
The best possible analogy that I can think on when it comes to appliance fault codes is simply this;
When a warning light comes on in your car to warn you of a possible fault, be it the engine management system, ABS or whatever problem the light happens to indicate, it tells you that there's a problem, but not what that problem is or what has failed and is causing it.
Appliance fault codes work in exactly the same manner and, just like your car, many now require hooked up to specialist diagnostic equipment to pinpoint the fault reported by the electronics.
Fault codes were always billed to the repairers, just as they are to car mechanics, as being a service aid, not a replacement for the technician's diagnostic skills. The fault code comes up when the appliance encounters some form of error that it can detect, often a blinking series of lights or a code displayed in the LCD or LED display indicates the nature of the fault, what it does not do generally is pinpoint the actual failure or the failed component that has caused the alarm.
For example the ever popular E2 error code on a Hygena or Smeg dishwasher can be caused by no less than twelve different failures, all that code has done is tell the engineer a general area to start looking in.
Of course manufacturers, in some cases but not all, guard this information quite rigidly presumably in the hope that they will capture their own repair work obviously, Meile is one such company and even the trade struggle to get the service information. They are protecting their own interests basically and there is (as far as I am aware) a stipulation that states, legally, that they have to hand out this information but that's not to say that the manufacturer will make it easy. Electrolux (Zanussi, Tricity Bendix, AEG) will allow the trade to access the information but only if you buy the service information DVD ROM, which isn't cheap!
It could be argued that buying this information is part of running a repair business in that field and that would be correct to a degree. But, independent repairers are generally small businesses, often family owned and run, that simply do not have the financial ability to keep up with multiple releases fro multiple manufacturers information in the course of a year and, quite simply, many customers will not pay the premium for the repairer to have proper information on their appliance. Often smaller repairers will find they would need the information on a few occasions in the course of the year and the cost of having it outweighs the number of appliances where they will actually need that information to fulfil a repair.
Manufacturers have tended to price the information in such a manner as to make it uneconomical for the repairers to keep up with it and therefore they will, in many instances, not accept call on particular brands. Thus limiting the choice of repairer to the manufacturers own service in many cases to the customer.
Of course a fault code will be generated on an appliance with an electronic control system, or a PCB/PCB timer in it and these do fail and give spurious error codes from time to time. If it is a fault code that's not listed then the chances are this may well be the fault and these spares are not cheap. Due to the very nature of these components the accepted way to test them is to swap them out as, currently, only one or two manufacturers actually offer a diagnostic program to plug in a PC and find out what's gone wrong, Meile is the only one I am aware of at the time of writing that offers this function in the UK. Whirlpool and Fisher & Paykell have their own dedicated diagnostic tools as far as I am aware, Whirlpool's costing nearly £300! So, this can be a very expensive way for a DIY repairer to find out that it isn't really the timer at fault given that the majority of these components will cost the best part of £100 or more.
However, should you call in a good repairer they will diagnose the problem and any spares replaced that are not required are at their cost, not yours. That's part of what you are paying the repairer to do.
Should you wish to complain about the lack of technical information available to the trade and general public then feel free to write to the manufacturer and make your case about it, or post a message in the forums as many manufacturers do read them.
Basically, almost all major appliances, if they have electronic control systems have some sort of error or fault reporting through the electronics either displayed as a series of flashing lights or LEDs or as a fault code shown in the display.
What we did about this for the trade was to compile and publish the UK whitegoods Fault Code Guide
The book includes many fault code meanings as well as many possible remedies for the code, diagnostic routines, handy references and loads more besides.
The second version has over 100 pages and includes fault codes for the list below and more:
We have made the second release as a download only and have not had the book printed due to a far higher demand for the fault code guide in that format and the standard edition is basically free and available to both trade and public in that format. An extended version is available to whitegoods Trade Association members only which includes extended fault code information, diagnostic routines and more.
The fault code guide has proved too difficult to maintain, costly to produce in a printed format and general pain as people are always wanting updates to the new fault codes and diagnostic routines that appear.
So we decided to kill it.
However all is not lost as we had rewritten a lot of the fault code information from the ground up, often translating from washing machine geek speak (or other appliances) into plain English that was easily understandable. Deciphering this stuff takes a fair bit of time, the original fault code guide took over three months of man hours to produce to the pre-print stage so, even charging what we were for the fault code guide, we lost money on it. Not that this bothered us all that much as it was a good thing to do.
But because we have all this stuff we've been busy rewriting a lot of it for the web and the revamped UK whitegoods through 2011.
Now you can find a lot of the most common fault codes in the new Fault Code Section of the site in the self repair section.
We also have other plans for the guide for 2012.