Faulty Control Modules
Working in a busy spares department for many years we will often get people that woudl come to the spares counter or calling us daily asking how much a new programmer was for their machine. Without exception we would ask the simple question "What's wrong with it, are you sure you want that part?" because in more than 90% of cases we knew, even before asking the person, then the timer, programmer or module wasn't faulty at all.
We are going to be candid here, most people take a guess and haven't actually got a clue what the real problem is. So we often wonder, if you're having a guess at it why do people always pick the most expensive part to take a punt on?
So nothing much has changed in this respect over the past twenty years or so.
But what we try to do is help people with a gentle nudge in the right direction in an attempt to inform people that timer faults on washing machines and washer dryers, whilst they do happen, are not as common as people think they are.
Even engineers can sometimes be led to that conclusion incorrectly.
Of course there are exceptions to prove the rule. Take for example Servis washing machines and many of their washer dryers, over the past few years if they don't spin or do something untoward then the chances are that the module will be faulty and, from Servis, they are not what we would call cheap. But for the most part timers and modules are fairly reliable these days, the other bits that they rely on, well that can be a whole other story.
Would You Do The Same With Your Car?
Here's another question for you, let's say that your car suddenly stops working. A warning light comes up to tell you that there's a problem with the engine in some way. Do you just pop out and buy a new ECU (Electronic Control Unit) for it in the hope that replacing that will cure the problem?
Of course you don't, nobody with an ounce of common sense would do that as it is all too likely that all that's wrong is a sensor, a pump or another less major part had failed therefore, it is much cheaper to diagnose the fault correctly rather than just guessing at it.
Think the same way with domestic appliances.
When the machine stops doing something that it should, when it should, there is normally a reason for it and, yes, it may well be the controller that has gone faulty but, in a great many cases the actual problem will be nothing whatsoever to do with the timer, controller or PCB. Buying such parts in the "hope" that it will solve the problem is just madness and a waste of your money.
Just like a car you have to sit down, know a bit about electrical stuff, work methodically and logically work out what the actual problem is.
Modern Washing Machines And Other Appliances
Over the past decade or so appliances have changed massively, we have seen the introduction of the EU Energy Labels and this has (as well as many other reasons) led the industry away from electro-mechanical timers used in the past within appliances to more electronic forms of control. The reason for this is that electronic controls are more accurate than the old mechanical devices and so thermostats are replaced largely by NTCs and PTCs as well as tachometric generators being read from motors and so on. The machines require all this information to actually work, cause a problem with this information by way of a wiring break, contact fault or a faulty component and, bingo, you have a fault and the electronic programmer or PCB unit will tell you that, often in no uncertain terms.
What we despise is the way in which these faults are displayed.
If you have a read through the article appliance fault codes you will understand more on this subject but the basic premise of it is that the fault codes are utterly and totally meaningless to you, the owner of the appliance.
All you see in most cases is a flashing light, some meaningless error code and a machine that won't even start in a lot of cases let alone even try to work. Pretty useless isn't it?
So what do people do?
Yes, you got it. They think that the main timer or programmer is faulty and call up asking for a new one.
The snag here is that the machines have, to a large degree, become much cheaper to buy new and the spares have become more expensive (I'll leave you to work that one out for yourself) so these spares can be absolutely astronomical in price and, when looked at on balance, it may well seem more cost-effective to simply replace the machine.
Don't believe us? Have a read at this article from this link
Restricted Washing Machine Servicing
Getting back to fault codes, they must mean something right? Well they do, they tell us where to start looking for the problem, they're not a magic bullet telling us the exact fault, but they can help pinpoint a failure faster than not having them when they are used correctly.
Here's the problem though, many manufacturers simply will not tell you, their customer who bought one of their appliances, what these codes mean! We think that this is just plain crazy?
Worse still, they won't even tell anyone else unless they are employed by the company, so you have no choice at all except but to use their own service at whatever they choose to charge you.
So you paid good money for what you thought was a good appliance from a reputable company only to find that you cannot get any servicing information.
To name and shame the top culprits that have this policy you can start with the following:
As you can see, this is a very common practice indeed.
Of course some on this list do use independent service and the information can be obtained, but many do not.
What this means is that your choice is restricted in many cases to using just one service provider, the manufacturer and this is especially true of the top half of the list above with the top culprits sitting near the head of the list. In the case of Miele and Indesit/Hotpoint/Ariston you can't even read the fault codes in some washing machines and dishwashers without a special plug-in module or a laptop and diagnostic software, which of course you cannot buy or obtain in any way.
So here's what happens, a lot.
A person (you perhaps) has a problem with the appliance, the programmer starts going cuckoo and so the person tries to find out what the code means. They can't so they call up and ask for the price of a repair or a new part, thinking that the main timer is goosed, only to find that the cost to replace it is prohibitive.
That same person then decides to just buy a new one, it's just as cheap in the long run.
The machine goes to recycling.
Very often the machine that is sent to landfill has little wrong with it, thrown away for a £20 door lock or some such minor fault just because it was assumed that the fault was the timer. The cost to the environment in disposal of the old machine and the supply of the new one is just absolutely staggering as we are talking about hundreds of thousands of appliances a year, not just a few hundred.
All because of a silly fault code. Or is it?
If you stop and think about it, if you are a major retailer or you are a manufacturer that is concentrating on volume and market share then where does you r interest lie? It's not hard to work it out, it relies massively on selling more and more appliances. Do you honestly believe that many of these companies are there to save you money and will help you avoid buying a new machine from them?
Ah but, you say, I won't buy the same rubbish again! Well, actually, you very likely will or from another that's just as bad, have a read at this article called "What Is In A Name" or indeed read about own label brands as there aren't as many actual makers as there are brand names, not even remotely close.
You don't really think you will win do you against the might of massive corporations and international retailers they have all us, their customers, well sussed out? Well, you can in some small way escape some of this rat race by buying a bit smarter in the first place by getting good advice, buying decent appliances and not being tempted by fancy blue LEDs or some other funky feature and a low price.
Flashing Lights, Meaningless Washing Machine Fault Codes
So here's our best advice for you, the customer when you get these sort of problems and, also, when you decide to replace an old appliance.
When your washing machine goes faulty:
- Don't just assume the worst
- Do try to logically work out what the problem is
- Ask about, call a few repairers or use the repairers on the site
- If you don't want to call an engineer ask in the forums for advice, it's free!
When you do buy a replacement washing machine:
- Research, research, research as not all machines are the same
- Use an independent retailer, they know a LOT more about the machines
- Look for reviews, look for a history on the manufacturer and know who you are buying from and what
- Do ask the retailer to give you information on aftersales service when you are buying new appliances
- Don't buy machines from manufacturers that will not give you the meanings of their fault codes
- Don't buy machines from manufacturers that charge ludicrous prices for spares
- Don't buy machines from manufacturers that charge silly amounts for service
Safety First When Repairing A Washing Machine
Please remember to keep yourself and your family safe by following our simple basic electrical safety guide. Quite simply it is not worth someone's life or an injury just to save a few pounds calling in a professional repairer.
The problems here are frequently asked about in the forums and you may well be able to help yourself before posting a question or calling an engineer however we must stress, above all else, that your own safety is your primary concern.
If You Do Dare To Replace A Washing Machine Timer
If you do choose to have a go and replace a timer then DO NOT remove the old one until you have the new one. Doing so will, most likely lead to a wire being dropped or fitted incorrectly when it comes to fit the new one and, with many wiring diagrams not available, this can be a disaster. Still worse, make a mistake, blow another component or the timer itself and you have no recourse whatsoever, you will not be given a refund on the part.
You may well be beginning to see why we don't like selling these parts.
When you get the new timer go wire for wire, spade connection by spade connection unless there has been any modification to the wiring or time. Normally any modification is included with the timer if there has been any as the goods must be fit for purpose, in other words it has to be a suitable replacement, that does not however mean that it has to be easy.
It is worth noting that, under current UK legislation there is no legal requirement for a manufacturer of any product to supply technical or wiring information. So, if you do have a problem, in a great many cases don't expect a lot of help as, even if we can access the information and diagrams we are legally restricted in passing it on due to copyright legislation. Yes, we know, it's madness and we'd love to change it but that's the way it is for now.
Replacing A PCB, Electronic Module or Programmer
These are usually very easy to replace as they connector blocks for most PCBs are "keyed" so that they can only fit one way. That said, we have seen some coming back that were obviously not correctly fitted, so be careful and, if possible, label the connectors so that you can easily identify them. And take photos, detailed if possible of the whole affair before you begin any work.
Again, we strongly recommend that you do not remove the old one until you have the replacement so that you can compare and go terminal to terminal, connector to connector as this does minimise error.
Be aware that some modules do not come complete, notably Indesit Group (Indesit/Hotpoint/Ariston) are not supplied with the EEPROM in them and this has to be purchased separately.
Once fitted all you need to do is plug the machine back in and test.