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  Hacking Appliances

Why hacking appliances, altering them or modifying them might not be the best plan


Electric shocks are not a lot of fun and, as an appliance repairers, we've had our share of them over the years that have usually been a result of our own stupidity or lack of attention to what we're doing. That's a professional appliance repairers that've gotten shocked, not a layperson and we really have an aversion to getting electric shocks.

The problem these days usually isn't the shock as, after all, a lot of homes have RCD safety devices that prevent the shock from actually killing as it may have done in the past but even they will not negate all the risk of death by electricity. 

One of the big problems is the way that humans react to the pain and surprise of a shock.

You see your first reaction and, you won't be able to control it, is to withdraw from whatever you touched and zapped you as quickly as is humanly possible, it's a lizard brain thing you can't help yourself. And this is a very real problem with appliances as you are working in a confined space full of sharp metal edges and jaggy things that will rip apart your hand or arm as you get it out quickly.

We all have numerous scars that can prove this fact.

Look at any appliance engineers hands, you'll normally see a nice collection of scarred tissue from various misadventures with appliances, usually from dishwashers and washing machines but there are sharp edges on ovens, cookers and fridges as well.

The bottom line is, if you don't know what you're doing, prepare to pick up the odd cut and in some cases a serious one. Have a first aid kit to hand, we keep one in our vans or patch up cuts with electrical tape and kitchen roll, it's that common we all know how to do it and avoid a trip to A&E for stitches.

  Appliance Modification

The reason that we have that little health and safety warning above is that we are often asked about modifying appliances or by-passing certain components and, aside from the obvious, it is fair to say that if you aren't fully aware of what you are doing then your chances of injury will increase dramatically.

Getting an electric shock from appliances when repairing them is commonIn some cases, you not only risk your own welfare by tinkering about with something you haven't a clue what you're doing with but, you risk trashing the appliance as well.

Before you perhaps go barging in and swapping about wires and so on, consider that you might not fare too well if you mess it up. In fact, you might even manage to kill yourself.

Obviously we value the safety of our readers and don't really want to see you getting zapped, cut or otherwise injured so we're very, very blunt on the subject of safety and simply say that, if you are not capable then leave it alone, get a professional repairer. It isn't worth the risk for a few pounds.

To put appliance modification into perspective for you we'll offer you up one example.

We had this smart person who decided that he would by pass the safety thermostats on his tumble dryer in order to save money and stop the non-resettable safety thermostat from blowing, thereby saving him money.

The fact that it was blowing because the user wasn't allowing the dryer to cool down we'll gloss over for now.

Anyway, this chap inadvertently (because he hadn't a clue) mucked up the wiring and the casing of the tumble dryer was made live.

He powered it up and tested it but didn't touch the casing so, feeling all chuffed with himself for his super duper "free" fix no doubt with information from the internet, declared the tumble dryer sorted.

His wife went to use it and on loading the dryer with clothing got a shock.

I'm sure that many of us that have a wife or long term partner can picture how that went.

Unless you know exactly and, we do mean EXACTLY what you are doing, do not attempt a modification or, accept the fact that everyone will disown you and you are completely on your own if it all goes South.

  Bypassing Components

It is true that some components can be bypassed for testing but, with modern machines running more on electronics than electro-mechanics this is becoming rare. The electronics often detect the circuit isn't right and just throws up an error code.

And again, if you connect the wrong wires, bang.

If you connect the wrong wires and it doesn't go "bang" there's still the distinct possibility that the machine either simply won't work or that what you have attempted to do won't.

The biggest area that we get asked about bypassing is, like the above example, a safety thermostat or such in ovens, cookers, tumble dryers, fridges and even the odd washing machine.

But, the clue's in the name… safety thermostat!

Yes, it is correct that the thermostat (or numerous other components) were actually placed there to enhance your safety and stop anything untoward from happening like, you know… fire, electrocution and other unpleasantness that can happen.

And if you've read this site at all you will know that most manufacturers wouldn't spend a cent, penny or a single Yaun putting in something that they didn't absolutely have to. So, it's there for a good reason for that part being there if money was spent getting it there. Mainly, to prevent the above fires, electrocutions and so on. By-passing the part isn't such a smart play ordinarily.

Therefore, when people ask us to give instructions on how to bypass these components, we will usually politely decline to do so. 

We're not being rude or obstructive, we're trying to stop people that perhaps think they know what they're doing from damaging themselves, the people around them or their property.

Remember, threads in the forums and articles on the site get read hundreds and often thousands of times and we have no way to control who reads them or judge either their technical ability for working with appliances or, it appears in some cases, their sanity.

  Just To Test It

Okay so again, another forum favourite is, "I just want to bypass it to test" or words to that effect. 

Yeah okay, you might but what about the other few hundred people that read the thread?

And then how do we know that you actually replaced the part that was faulty and left the appliance in a safe condition afterwards?

Short answer is, we don't.

Next thing we know we're getting a letter from some solicitor saying that "One of your members advised our client to carry out the procedure below and he ended up in hospital with serious injuries and wishes to seek compensation and damages…."

We are sorry, but we're not going there.

  Do I Cut The Red Or The Blue Wire?

Do you cut or move the red wire or the blue wire?This is like defusing a bomb for us as there are a large number of people out there that honestly shouldn't be repairing any appliance. They have not the skills in diagnostics nor the fundamental knowledge of electricity and mechanics to be able to do so safely.

What we see is a number of people that have attempted a repair and completely bodged it. That makes our job harder when we get called as we have to work out not only what the fault actually was in the first instance but also what has been done beyond that. Then we have to sort the mess, then repair.

These days we get a lot of people ordering the spare part online, getting it and discovering that they have not the ability to replace it themselves or, they got it wrong and want to return it to try another part.

The former is a no-no and most spares sites will have that in their terms.

The latter is what we call "Parts Bingo", where people simply swap out parts until they guess correctly and replace the one that really was at fault. Bingo!

Either are an expensive way to maintain your appliances.

It is also astonishing how many people over the years have appeared at a spares counter with a timer in their hand, sometimes with the wiring hanging off it as it's been cut out the machine. Or, the people that return a thermostat as they cut the phial. Or… you get the picture. 

We are constantly amazed at some people's ability to do harm to themselves and their appliances.

  Appliance Self Repair

These are the reasons that we cannot give you exact blow-by-blow instructions on how to repair your washing machine, tumble dryer or whatever and why we are telling you completely openly not to tamper with things that you don't know about or be able to repair.

The reality is, many people are perfectly capable of repairing an appliance, by-passing or testing components but we have to assume that you have enough knowledge to carry out the simple stuff without having to be walked through the process step by step. If you need the step-by-step instructions then what you really need is a professional appliance technician to repair it for you.

A lot of the information that you need is already published on this site and, if you can't join the dots and work it out then you probably shouldn't be repairing it yourself.

That said, we all need a pointer from time to time and that's where the forums come into play. Asking in there you will get a general "check XXXX. Test YYYY" but you will not usually get full instructions for the reasons outlined above.

You will find similar if you read a lot of the articles, they tell you what to do. You just have to be able to do the simple stuff for yourself.

If you are prepared to take that onboard then the chances are you will be able to repair it yourself. Safely.

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