Electronic Control Modules
People all too often order the wrong part and it causes a lot of hassle and grief that can often be avoided so here's a brief guide before you spend a lot of money on a spare part that you may well not need.
We get asked all the time for a "programmer", "module", "PCB", "controller", "timer" or a "motor" simply because the washing machine or dishwasher stopped working or throws up an error message, of course this can happen on cookers and ovens as well as other appliances but the principle is the same for all. Now, please don't take offence, but more often than not the customer is wrong.
Don't get us wrong, these parts do fail and some are even renowned for doing so, but it simply doesn't follow that the most expensive part that you can think of is what's failed. The simple fact is that if any part fails whatsoever the first thing you will see is one of three symptoms:
- Machine is dead
- Machine stops part ways through a cycle or cuts out
- Machine throws up an error code
Bearing in mind that, for the most part, kitchen appliances are not the smartest machines on the planet, then it logically follows that almost any component failure or certainly quite a few failed, could cause any one of the above to manifest itself.
Please consider this very carefully. The aforementioned spares are expensive and, if fitted, are often non-returnable in fact they are very often special order parts and are not returnable without some form of penalty. It may come as a surprise to you but we can actually tell if the spares have been fitted, the packing alone tell us more often than not as they are sealed and there's other little tell-tale signs that we know to look for that give the game up. Almost any spares supplier can tell and most have been around long enough to tell a part has been used.
A few pictures of a blown Servis washing machine module
The above pictures show, from a Servis washing machine as they blow up modules pretty regularly, is that the cause may not always be so obvious as you may think. Was it just a short or was it water spillage? The point being that unless you know what caused the failure in the first place it may well happen again.
Bearing all that in mind please read on about what to look for and some appliance repair pitfalls that you don't want to fall into.
Before You Start To Repair
That may sound condescending (as may other parts of this article) but it's not intended to be at all, it's intended to be realistic and keep you safe as well as on the right track should you choose to dabble inside your washing machine, dishwasher, oven or whatever on your own and there's a few simple rules we need to get straight from the get go.
We cannot stress the importance of this enough. You're dealing with 240V AC, it can and will kill you if you are not careful, very careful. Even appliance engineers get a belt from time to time and some have even lost their lives. Be safe, not stupid.
Disconnect the appliance from the mains electrical supply before you even take the lid or any other panel off
Think about what you'e going to need to repair the appliance carefully, like specialist tools. Many washing machines and dishwashers in particular require nut runners, Torx bits or security Torx to even get into. So make sure you have all the tools you need to hand.
You need a multi-meter at the very least to check any electrical stuff. You need to be able to see if you have continuity etc.
If you're lost at this point, give up and call a professional repairer in!
Seriously, you could risk your life if you are not sure of what you're doing and even members of your family's lives, we don't want that and you don't want that. A simple mistake could cause a washing machine or tumble dryer cabinet to become "Live", I've seen it done and I've seen the results. You do not want you or one of your family to become a statistic.
If you are going to have a crack at it then read our basic electrical safety notes
Domestic Appliance Error Codes
Okay, the big myth is that error codes pinpoint the failure. They don't. Fact.
If they did most professional repairers would be pretty much out a job, but apart from that they cannot do so and probably never will as the machines just aren't that smart. All they offer is a rough guide to what MAY have failed or where to start looking for a failed part.
In general what they tell us is what circuit there' a failure or what the machine can't do and so what is preventing normal operation. But it's not unusual for this to be a red herring and these are no substitute for good old human fault diagnosis I'm afraid.
They do help and, on some washing machines and dishwashers, even some ovens now, you need them to simply test the appliance but many are closely guarded secrets by the manufacturers. Meile for example, you've got more chance of peace in the Middle East than getting technical information for a Meile. Indesit (Hotpoint, Indesit, Ariston, Scholtes etc.) are the same, no chance as even some of their own engineers don't seem to have all the technical information. These companies and others just will not supply these to the trade let alone the general public.
We publish a lot of them and, there's nore in the forums as well as help there too.
You may do well to remember the availability of service and technical information when you choose a new appliance as these companies know how to charge. The independents are almost always cheaper, faster and better.
You can find out more in this article about fault codes
Opening Up A Domestic Appliance
First thing to remember is that mains capacitors in many machines can hold a charge and pack a hefty wallop, be careful and discharge any capacitors. I've seen a few nasty burns on engineers that forgot.
Which reminds us, microwave ovens have capacitors in them that can hold up to a 20,000 Volt charge (yes, twenty thousand volts) they can kill instantly. Our advice, leave microwaves well alone as they're horrid and very dangerous things.
Normally on any appliance there will be access from the top and back, sometimes the front as well and if you've not got any experience with the appliance brand then, like us when you see something new, you have to work out how to disassemble the appliance and gain access to it.
Almost every integrated or built-in appliance will have to be removed from its housing and sometimes this can be a right pain. Some kitchen fitters never seem to consider that at some stage the machine will break and it will have to come back out, even to be replaced. Again something to consider when buying new gear, make sure you can get access to it.
Once you get in it's time to have a look about.
Finding Out What Went Wrong
First thing to do is look for obvious signs of burning or leaks on a washing machine or dishwasher on any of the internal components.
On ovens and cookers look for that as well as obvious signs that an element has failed, usually it will be "bubbled" and or distorted out of shape. Continuity of any oven element is pretty easy to check with a multi-meter and they either work or not pretty much.
On a washer or dishwasher if you see something obvious then you have to think about why it happened. It may well be a simple failure, but you never know and almost every brand or manufacturer has its own little quirks to contend with.
Leaks on washer and dishwashers are pretty easy, look for the tell-tale soap marks.
If you've gotten this far inside the appliance you'll see a whole heap of wires and bits in there that are electrically connected. Heaters, thermostats, switches, electronic controls, pressure switch, door lock, a motor and pump. Any one of these failing can throw up an error.
However, before we assume a part is faulty lets think a little.
Is the machine draining?
If not first open up the pump and filter to see if there's a blockage of some sort. If there is then clear it, but don't forget the drain pipe.
Is the machine totally dead?
If so look at the mains in, filter capacitor and mains switch for any obvious damage. Meter the bits out, make sure they work okay. Check the door lock. Check the mains switch. Look for additional safety devices, some machines, especially dishwashers and tumble dryers have them.
Not heating the water?
Check the heater with your trusty multi-meter. Then the thermostats or thermistor. Then the pressure switch.
Check the valves. Check that there's water getting to the inlet valve or valves.
In other words, go through the machine stage by stage logically eliminating the parts as you check them.
That's what we do. Okay, so we have heaps of experience and very often a kind of "sixth sense" when it comes to a bust appliance, but we do in ten minutes what takes someone with no experience on fixing a washing machine two hours or more. That knowledge is the very thing you are paying for when you call in a professional engineer as well as the guarantees.
The Spare Part You Need
So you see that there's a lot more to this appliance repairing lark than a bit of guesswork and if you're not sure then please, please, please call in a professional. All too often we have people buying parts, sometimes pretty expensive ones, that they just don't need and it's a waste.
Ask in the forums about the machine, but first use the search facility to see if it's come up before as the chances are it has. The search is free, you can read posts without having an account on UK Whitegoods and it saves annoying people with repeated questions.
Once you are sure and you've gone through all the different components then and, only then, when you know what's faulty then order the part you need, don't guess at it and be safe.
We've seen all sorts of mistakes being made, a common one is ordering a Smeg dishwasher PCB (timer) because it throws up an "E2" error code, there's an outside chance that the timer could be the problem of course, but in hundreds of repairs I've never seen one do it. The trouble is it would cost you, at today's prices, about £120 plus VAT for a replacement timer to find out and, if you're wrong, you cannot return the part. An engineer is considerably cheaper and it's likely just a blockage.
Of course it doesn't always work out that way, but you will generally find that the engineer that calls wants to repair the appliance on the spot as calling back more often than not will cost them money, we generally lose money if we have to call more than once believe it or not. So we have to get it right.
And all this comes down to wasting money. If you guess at the wrong spare part you need then the chances are that many people get frustrated and just throw the appliance out, often for no good reason other than they don't want to admit that they can't do it themselves and often for the sake of a part that may have only have cost a few pounds. So it then costs you the part and a new appliance. This isn't good for your wallet or the environment, not one bit.
So ensure that you don't guess, make sure you order the part you need.
Why We Tell You This
Simple, because we're an honest bunch and we respect our customers.
We're not out to fleece you or sell you stuff you don't need, if we did that we wouldn't be in business very long. Not exactly a good business plan from our perspective.
We have been pretty brutal, honest and straight talking in this article because, contrary to popular belief of the big corporations, we don't think that customers are stupid. We just think that all too often you don't get all the facts and nobody is brave enough to tell it like it is. Well we are.
Our businesses are small and local, we have to operate in the communities that we live in and to do that our reputation simply has to be good or we'd quickly perish.
UK Whitegoods is a national business, yes, but not in the traditional sense. We evolved from local repairers all working together towards common goals and we still maintain that our customers and, very importantly keeping them, is extremely important as we want you to come back to us. So we give advice freely, we try to help, we try to save you money and we are honest with you.
We also hope that you'll use us first for any spare parts or any repairs that you need, but that's the business part of what we do.