Domestic Appliance Self Repair Guides
- Published: Tuesday, 30 November 1999 00:00
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Washing machine and washer dryer timers, control PCB's or electronic control units are, very often, ASSUMED to be faulty when in fact this is not the case.
All too often we see people assuming that the controller has a problem when, in fact, the fault is nothing remotely to do with the programmer. This is not a new thing when it comes to DIY repairs by any stretch, we've seen this phenomena for decades where people can't work out what the actual fault with their appliance is, so they guess. Most often that guess is an incorrect diagnosis of the fault.
Washing Machine Fault Code Confusion
This is something that is only exasperated by the increasing, almost universal, use of fault codes being displayed these days. An E1, F2 or whatever other error code is displayed is often utterly meaningless to most people, trade included at times.
The normal error codes or flashing lights or blinking LEDs are explored in other articles in more detail of course in other articles on the site but the one question to remember in looking at an error code is simply this, if an error code is being reported by the electronic controller then what are the chances of that controller being faulty?
Think about it logically, if the electronics are reporting an error it means that the controller has encountered an error. Now, it's obviously possible that the error is with the electronic controller itself and that's a given but, if it is reporting what appears to be a genuine error code then the chances are that it has detected a fault of some nature and is reporting it, quite properly, the way that it should do. The trick is being able to understand what the electronics are telling you and what to do about it to resolve the fault.
Guessing is useless.
Before you assume the worst think about what you're doing and try to logically work out what the fault actually is.
The Shocking Figures
Because of some of the stuff we do we get more information on returned appliances that are supposedly "faulty" than many people. Added to which, unlike most in this industry including the largest retailers, we test the returned appliances we find that 20-30% of all returned appliances just work. No work done to them, no spares replaced, they just work straight out the gate.
Some have blocked filters and the likes and, we suspect strongly, that people are throwing machines away just because they ASSUME that the machine is faulty due to an error code says there's a problem and it is ASSUMED that it is a programmer fault that will cost more than the machine is worth to repair.
On top of that, a further 20-30% of the returns are repaired with under £15 worth of spare parts!
If you've been keeping count, that means that anything between 40 and 60% of all the hundreds, if not thousands, of machines we test every year have been thrown out for no good reason.
Now, environmental reasons aside, this is costing people an absolute fortune and tells us that, logically, anything up to 60% of all failures could have been easily and cheaply repaired, electronic timers, programmers or other expensive spare parts were not required.
How To Diagnose A Faulty Washing Machine
Of course there are huge differences in washing machines in terms of how they execute what they do but, equally, there are huge similarities in what they will actually do, how they will operate and what sequence of events takes place. With a little application of logical deduction you can very often work out what the issue is or where to begin looking for the problem if you do what to have a go at a DIY repair.
Please do note all the safety advice given and understand that you will often be on your own diagnosing some faults. But, before jumping in and buying a programmer, it's worth going through the motions.
When a washing machine or washer dryer is first switched on and set to operate, here's what will usually happen:
As you can see from the very simplistic flowchart, the machine will normally check each component as it energises each one and, if it's an older electro-mechanical timer, it will simply stop at the point that it cannot energise a part of the program and fail to advance to the next part of the program. In the case of an electronic programmer it will, these days, most often just display a meaningless fault code well, meaningless unless you know what it is trying to tell you.
The point is however, a failure of any component, including a wiring problem, can give you an error code or cause the programmer to halt.
What the programmer is looking for is a complete circuit and any feedback from the components to report correctly it's status, if that doesn't happen for whatever reason; error and halt.
Washing Machine Fault Diagnosis
Now, here's the problem with all these sorts of codes as well as older programmers, people that don't know this or fail to think about the problem in a rational and logical manner, just assume that the programmer is faulty as we've said but, worse still, the fault codes of stopping only gives you the first clue in diagnosis of the fault.
Normally fault codes especially, such as a simple "F3" error on an ISE10 washing machine as an example, simply means that there has been a failure to drain or that the drain sequence has timed out. By timed out and, this is common with electronic machines, is that the machine energised the drain pump and it has appeared to drain but that the pressure switch hasn't released, detected the fact that the water has drained basically. So, if you get an "F3" error it could be something blocking the pump, the pump itself, something blocking the pressure switch hose, the pressure switch itself or the wiring to any of them!
You might understand now when I say that fault codes are no match for good old human fault diagnosis!
The simple fact of it is this, you have electronics or electro-mechanical parts interacting with what is, primarily, a mechanical device in nature and without using a plethora of different sensors combined with complex electronics you cannot exactly pinpoint many failures and, this is especially so where it is user error.
To highlight this as an example, using too much detergent can create over-foaming. Some of this foam gets up into the pressure switch hose and holds the pressure switch open. The washing machine drains okay but "times out" on drain as the pressure switch doesn't release and you get an "F3" error, using the ISE code from the example above. This is not a fault of the machine, the machine cannot detect the fact that there is some foam blocking what it can measure and it cannot control what detergent or how much the user put in the machine, all it can do is report the error as it sees it.
Of course, when things like this happen, people usually blame the machine and then ASSUME that there's a fault when, there isn't.
This is really an explanation of how to think about a fault on your washing machine and how to think about finding what the problem actually is in reality. You have to think about what the machine was doing, or supposed to be doing when it stopped and reported an error.
You have to realise that the machine cannot self-diagnose every problem and that the diagnostic routines are only a guide to where the problem lies, not a magic bullet that will pinpoint the problem. In other words, as I've said before in this article, it's no match for human fault diagnosis by any stretch of the imagination, it's merely a service aid.
With all this in mind, you now have to figure it out.
The chart above gives you a clue of how to go about trying to pinpoint the cause of the fault code but, it will not work for every machine I'm afraid as some are not so user friendly.
Held To Ransom!
Some manufacturers choose to make their fault codes some kind of big secret, not releasing what they mean to anyone outside their own servicing organisations. As things stand at the time of writing the main ones are Miele, The Indesit Company (Indesit, Ariston, Hotpoint & others) and BSH Group (Boch, Neff, Siemens). These aren't the only ones, but it's a huge swathe of the most popular UK washing machine and washer dryer market.
These companies are, reluctant will we say, to release any servicing information to the trade or public thereby creating their own little servicing monopoly.
Although we manage to fathom a lot of what they mean this is down to ingenuity on the part of the repairers, good old fashioned fault diagnosis.
Do be careful if you choose to buy a replacement machine and make sure that the information is actually available or you may find you have little option but have the choice of only one repair option, who can charge whatever they like.