Appliance Repair Show Transcript - March 16, 2008

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Amana Side by Side Refrigerator Water Dispenser and Ice Maker Not Working

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Right to the phones we go with James, in Royal Oak, with a question about an Amana ice dispenser here on the Appliance Repair Show.  Good morning, James. Go ahead please.

 

JAMES

My Amana side by side refrigerator, about two months ago the water dispenser in the door would work intermittently, and then just stopped working.  And now the ice dispenser, the ice maker has stopped working. There's no water in the trays. So I have a water problem, I would suspect.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, at first when you said that one was working and the other wasn't, I suspected possibly the water tank inside the refrigerator section could have been freezing up. You might want to check the temperatures and make sure it's not too cold. But if both now have failed, you have either a water inlet valve problem, or the water supply line to the refrigerator itself is restricted.  If you have one of the shutoff valves downstairs that you mount to the copper pipe and pierce a small hole in it, it's not uncommon for those to get plugged up over time with water sediment. You might find that just by screwing the cap all the way in and then back out you could clear it. I generally recommend if that's the style shutoff you have, that you take it completely off and put what they call a drill style water valve (part # 5305519684). You drill a three sixteenth or quarter inch hole into the pipe and then mount another shutoff to it and you get much better water flow to the valve that way.

 

JAMES

I took the saddle valve (part # 5305510264) that was there and disconnected the water supply line to it. And then opened it back up to make sure I had water flow, and I did.  But that didn't solve the problem. So most likely you suspect it's the water inlet valve, then? 

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, that's the only other thing for both portions of the machine that it goes through besides the incoming water supply is the water valve.  It's a dual valve-one side for the water in the door and the other side for the icemaker. Normally one side will fail over the other. It sounds like both of yours have failed. It could be restricted. Do you have hard water where you're from?

 

JAMES

No.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Normally if you get sediment in the valve or the diaphragms in the valve itself they get tired and they won't open. You can check the solenoids with an ohmmeter (part # DM10T) to see, but generally if you're pressing on the dispenser and you hear a buzzing and no water is coming through, then I would suspect the water valve has had it. Again, you want to check the tank, which is a holding tank for the cold water. It's normally behind the crisper drawers in the back of the refrigerator, you have to remove a little panel and see if there's any ice buildup in there. But since both have failed I'd suspect the valve.

 

JAMES

I've got to check that. Thanks for your help.

 

Washer/Dryer Question about Purchasing a Combo Washer/Dryer Ventless or Stackable Unit

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Here's a question about a combo washer and dryer from Kathleen in her car. Hi Kathleen, go ahead please.

 

KATHLEEN

My question is, I've had a stacked washer and dryer, full size and the washer part of it has just conked out. It's in a small space, so my question is about the combination washer/dryer ventless:  how good are they, how long do they last, what do I need to know about them?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

You have a washer/dryer combination currently in your home?

 

KATHLEEN

Well, I had up until a week and a half ago when the washer part of it conked out.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay. And when you say combination, were there two separate units, or was it all one unit?

 

KATHLEEN

It was all one unit-a stacked washer/dryer.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. They have a lot of stacked washer/dryers that are actually two separate units, where you can take the dryer off and buy a new washer and put your old dryer on top of the new washing machine.

 

KATHLEEN

Oh, no. This is all one part.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

And you want to replace it with another stack unit?

 

KATHLEEN

If I replace it with a stack it will have to be an apartment size. It's myself only now since my husband died so I want something smaller, but what I'm looking at and wanting to know is the combination washer/dryer with the ventless system. It's a two-in-one system.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Oh, it's just one machine that does both?

 

KATHLEEN

That does both, right!

 

JOHN SOWDEN

What brand are you looking at?

 

KATHLEEN

I've not looked at one specifically. I just wanted to know about the ventless. I mean I've looked at them with the titanium drums. I don't know about the ventless system. Is it good? How long does it last?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Most of the ventless ones, they're called condensing dryers, where they circulate the exhaust air and it actually condenses and goes into a drain pan or something that you'd have to empty out.  They're good for small applications. If you don't do a lot of laundry, if you are looking for something to do a lot of jeans, you're not going to put a comforter or something like that in it. So for limited application and not a lot of use they're good thing.  But you may, if you have room, want to go with just another stack unit and look at the possibility of purchasing the washer and dryer separately, which you can stack on each other so in the future if one portion becomes beyond repair you only take half a hit financially. 

 

KATHLEEN

Right. Unfortunately, my dryer was working fine. But my concern is that I've had remodeling done in the last couple years and the space is smaller, so it's really hard to vent with the dryer without it getting kinked or kind of squished. So that's why I was looking at the ventless

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. A lot of it just has to do with the vent being too long.

 

KATHLEN

No, that's not the problem. The problem is the space of the machine and space for the vent behind the machine is not much. When you push in the bi-fold doors then there just isn't a lot of space between the back of the machine and the wall.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

But you do have a vent accessible to the unit?  It's just a matter of when you push the dryer back, you don't have much clearance between the wall and the dryer and by using the standard round venting, and you kink the vent.

 

KATHLEEN

Right.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, there's a solution for that.

 

KATHLEEN

Good.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

There are a lot of different transition pieces you can buy for venting. If you go to our website, RepairClinic.com, and go to the accessories section in the dryer section, they have a lot of transition pieces that are actually square or rectangular. They are made for that application, which is to give you two or two and a half inches clearance behind the unit. And it's meant to go from the dryer to the existing wall. You can normally get two or three more inches out of it versus the standard venting.  So you might want to look at that as an option as well.  Just in case you do have company or want to wash something heavier at times, you'd probably be better off to get something that you could vent outside. You might want to take a look at that.

 

KATHLEEN

Well, the dryer does run outside. It's an outside wall and it goes right out.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. My point is versus having internal venting or ventless units, if you decide you want to tax it a little more in use, then you'd have that option.

 

KATHLEEN

So the stackable two part system?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

That would be my recommendation if you plan on staying there.

 

KATHLEEN

I plan on staying here at least another five or six years.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So that way, if one part was beyond economical repair, like your washer, then depending on the brand you buy, you can buy a new washing machine and just put your old dryer on the new washing machine, and away you go.

 

KATHLEEN

Okay. Well, I appreciate your help very much.

 

2003 Maytag Neptune Front Loading Washing Machine Making Loud Noise in Spin Cycle

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

And here with a question on a Maytag washer, here's Bob, in Brown City, on the Appliance Repair Show.

 

BOB

Yes, I have a Maytag washer that's probably got bearing issues. It's really noisy when it spins. I'm just wondering what I'm looking at to repair that, or is it even worth it considering the history of those washing machines?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

This is a Neptune that you have?

 

BOB

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, the rear spin bearing, if you need to replace that, you need to replace the rear shell of the unit and it's a complete teardown of the machine. You have to pull the tub assembly out, separate it, and then replace the rear shell (part # 22004465) of the unit. The bearing is pressed into the plastic outer tub. You can't just push in a new bearing. I don't think they even make it available that way. You have to get a new outer shell.  If you can get the shaft off the stainless steel drum out of the old bearing. If it's been leaking by the bearing or if the main water seal has failed, it's quite possible that's rusted into place. If you remove the back of the machine you may be able to see where water might have been dripping off the bottom of the tank, and that's usually coming from the rear bearing assembly. So normally what happens is, the rear water seal fails, and small amounts of water over a long period of time leak into the bearing assembly, which rusts the shaft to the bearing.

 

BOB

At that point then, is it worth repairing?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

If you do it yourself and you can get all the components, if you need a new inner drum, or at least the rear spider assemblies, then you're going to invest three or four hundred bucks in parts and that's if you do it yourself. If you have somebody come out and do it, you can add probably another couple hundred bucks to that.  So the unit's, what, five or six years old?

 

BOB

At least that old, yeah.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

And have you had other issues with it?

 

BOB

Well, you know, just the general smell from them, they've been kind of problem children all their lives.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, the smell and the moldy boot (part # 34001432) and all that good stuff are not uncommon for a lot of front loaders out there. You just need to keep them up, run them through the sanitary cycle periodically, and they do make some tablets you can put in there these days called Affresh (W10135699). You throw a few tablets in there and run it through hot wash and it helps kill all the bacteria and slime and that may help with a lot of the front loaders, especially the newer ones. But I guess my advice to you would be to look real hard at a new washing machine. There are a lot of top loaders made today that are still energy saving that may be easier to access.

 

BOB

That's kind of what I wanted to know. It's been kind of a disappointment from the get-go, so maybe it's time to cut our losses.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Do you have the matching dryer?

 

BOB

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Are they stacked on each other or are they separate?

 

BOB

They're separate.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay, so you could buy a new washing machine and put it in there. The top loaders use a lot more water. If you get a regular or standard top loader versus a front loader, but they also have a lot of top loaders today that are made to use a lot less water by the way they re-circulate water inside. So you may want to take a look at something like that.

 

BOB

Alright, thank you.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Sorry to be the bad news guy.

 

Top Loading White Westinghouse Washing Machine That's Not Level and Is Shaking Violently

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

We'll go now for a question on a washer that's not level with Diane in Flat Rock.

 

DIANE

I just can't seem to level my washer. We do it the way you're supposed to:  we pull up on it and the levels are supposed to come down. But they don't stay in place. So is there some other way we can level it without...?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

What kind of washer do you have?

 

DIANE

It's a Westinghouse.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

A Westinghouse.

 

DIANE

It's old.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah. Is it a top loader or a front loader?

 

DIANE

Top loader.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So is it walking during spin? Is that the issue?

 

DIANE

Yes, only when it spins, the heavy spin. The final spin.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, as far as leveling the machine goes, my general advice is the farther you have the leveling legs up inside the machine, the better off you are because that lowers the center of balance of the whole machine. A lot of people in leveling the machine will say alright, I have to screw the leg down to hit the floor and they'll do that, and then the next one needs to match it, and by the time they're done they've unscrewed the legs an inch or two away from the machine. So my advice is to start with trying to get the legs as far up inside the machine as a starting point, and then from there level it to the floor.  Is this a first floor laundry or a basement?

 

DIANE

It's on a cement floor.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay. That's always better. First floor laundries are great but the floors just obviously aren't as sturdy as a nice slab of cement would be.

 

DIANE

Right. That's what we have.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So I would start by getting the legs as far up into the machine as possible. And if there's a locking nut on the leg, once you have it in place, then you need to reach in there and tighten that so it doesn't vibrate loose.

 

DIANE

Wow! Thank you!

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It's not so much that you need it level as in you put a level (part # 930-9) across the top and the machine is perfect, as much as it's stable to the floor. It can be off a little bit, but as long as it's not rocking, as long as when it goes into spin there's no variation and it's sitting nice and solid on the existing floor.  I do recommend you use a level and put it across the top and try to get it as close as possible. But that's again where people get into the mistake of trying to keep the level perfect by messing around with the legs and it starts rocking. So again, I would go with putting the legs up inside the machine as best you can and then trying to secure them to the cement floor. The existing floors have a little slope to them. If it keeps doing it then I would look more at something in the tub structure that could have failed. You could have a broken spring inside; some of them have what they call a snubber, which is a plastic ring that the outer tub rides on against the plate. That could be worn, so it's actually the machine itself is going to shake no matter what, but always start with making sure it's level.

 

DIANE

Thank you very much! You've enlightened me.

 

Lennox Furnace Flow-Through Humidifier with Mineral Buildup

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

And here with a question on a furnace humidifier, Mike in Novi, on the Appliance Repair Show. Go ahead please, Mike.

 

MIKE

I have a Lennox furnace and humidifier, and I get a lot of calcium and other mineral buildups when I go to clean it. My question is, it's running off Novi city water, but if I pull a line through my reverse osmosis system, will that eliminate the mineral buildup?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Does this unit have a solenoid valve on it or does it have a float on it?

 

MIKE

It has a solenoid valve.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, it depends on what kind of water pressure you have in your RO system.

 

MIKE

It's not high, I can tell you that.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah. What you might run into then is not enough back pressure on that solenoid valve to seat it. So that might cause it to just run and drain your tank and your RO and you might not have water for anything else. But normally most water valves need fifteen or twenty pounds of back pressure, depending on the valve, to help seat the plunger in there. The incoming water supply against it actually holds it down, so without that water pressure you might run into some problems.

 

MIKE

That was my concern, so I guess that answered my question because the water pressure, I don't even think it's five PSI coming out.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right.  Now they do make pumps available for the RO systems, which, again the last time I looked at a price was three or four hundred bucks.

 

MIKE

Haha! I could clean this a lot for three or four hundred bucks!

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, it takes a twenty nine cent bottle of vinegar to clean it out. I don't know what the pro-rate on that is, but it would be a couple of centuries as far as savings go.  At any rate, you can buy a pump for that. I run into the same problem with people hooking them up to icemakers. There's not enough water pressure but they want the nice, clean water for their ice and water in the door, and their icemaker, without that constant back pressure on it, you run into other issues.

 

MIKE

Well, I've got the RO running to my icemaker and it works fine, except the icemaker isn't working right now- it's broken and I have to replace it.  But it did work fine.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

I would have a hard look at that. Because normally you run into low water fills, and again the water valve sticks open and/or the tube in the back ends up freezing because the water just trickles in; there's not enough force to give it a good shot of water and then shut off positively. Most often if you start running into water related issues with that, I would start right at the RO.

 

MIKE

Well, is that pump installed at the out end of the RO line?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Of the tank? I do believe so. It's been a long time since I put one of those RO systems in. I used to install them. But yeah, it's something that, if you go to a water supply place they'll have different configurations. Sometimes you have to get a different tank to deal with the different pressure, but there are things you can do, and of course they're expensive to get so the RO system will feed your other appliances. And that can also get pretty costly. Your furnace humidifier doesn't use a lot of water; I'm assuming this is a flow-through model. You've got a honeycomb in there?

 

MIKE

It's like a foam element and the nozzle sprays into it.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. So anytime it calls for it you've got water, even if it's just a trickle going through it. It's something that, over time, because you have to replace your filters and you're membrane and your RO can get kind of costly to put the humidifier on that line because it's going to be a draw, at least for half the year in Michigan.

 

MIKE

I see. Is there anything you can put in the humidifier, like a treatment or something you spray on like that microbium stuff?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

I'm not aware of anything for the flow-through units. For the ones that have a tank and a pad that spins in it, they make tablets that sit in the bottom of the tank that dissolve. It's basically a cleaner or de-calcifier. But for the flow-through I'm not aware of anything. You might want to try first to see if you can get some of the stuff out of there, put a smaller filter, like a small inline filter. Try that separately; see if you can stop some of the buildup. You can normally get one at a home store for under thirty bucks that's for an under the sink application. Get a real fine, five micron or less water filter for that, and you might be able to stop some of the hardness and impurities from getting to that.

 

MIKE

Yes. I think I'll try that.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So that's the cheaper way to try.

 

MIKE

Oh, absolutely, yeah. We use that for our drinking water for the cottage up north, so it should be pretty simple.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So you have experience with that?! That's good! There's your project for today!

 

1990 Kitchen Aid Double Oven Push Button Light Switch on the Control Panel is Hard to Turn On

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Well, let's try Vince, in Farmington Hills, with a Kitchen Aid question. Go ahead, Vince.

 

VINCE

I have a Kitchen Aid double oven, and there's a switch that turns on the lights in both ovens. This oven's about eighteen years old, and we've been struggling with this switch for years. My wife has to lean on that switch big time to get it to work either on or off, and I can't seem to figure out what I might be able to do to correct that short of taking it all apart.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

The switch is on the control panel and not on the door?

 

VINCE

Correct.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Alright. So it's a push button switch on the control panel?

 

VINCE

Yes. There's a control panel across the top.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right and it's the push button switch that's giving you problems?

 

VINCE

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, I would recommend replacing the switch. You will have to get inside the control panel, and normally you have to remove the glass first. There might be a collar on the switch so the button will stick out, and yours is, what, black?

 

VINCE

The little push button switch itself is plastic and black and it looks like there should be a collar there but there isn't. There's a metal screw mechanism.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

A ring?

 

VINCE

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

That unscrews. Some of them have a plastic collar, or yours has a metal collar.  That unscrews, and then you can get the glass plate off and you can then get at the screws to get the control panel, and there might be another retaining nut or collar to get that switch off.  Really all you can do is just replace the switch. Obviously, you want to turn the power off before you get started on that, and at times you may have to even slide the unit out. Normally if you slide those out halfway, a foot or so, the top of the unit, the control panel, the covering at the top, you can just take the first half of the cover off, and not have to pull the unit out all the way to get at the control panel area.

 

VINCE

Okay.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

And that again can be fun because those are heavy.

 

VINCE

Yeah, I'm a little concerned about that but I'll give it an effort in any case.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, and the other thing is that I know for just a problem like that, you can always call for service. They actually make an oven cart; they have for several years now, which are made to go underneath the front of the unit. So you take the screws out that mount it to the cabinet and you slide it out four or five inches and you put this cart underneath it, and then you can slide the unit out two thirds of the way and then put the other part of the cart underneath it, and you can roll it right across the room. It's pretty slick. But they're three or four hundred bucks. Most companies that service these on a daily basis will have one or two trucks that will have something like this. And other people will just use two men, or both, because like I said, those things are heavy.

 

VINCE

But it's not certain that I'll have to go through that extreme?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

No, no, to just replace the switch you won't have to do that. Slide it out, eight to ten inches at most if you have to remove the top cover on the control panel.

 

VINCE

Okay, great. There is, by the way, a plastic collar that's black. I thought it was part of the glass, but there is a collar!

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yes, that unscrews. And that's where most people hit the wall, because they look at that and they try to pull on the glass and they can't see that, yes that unscrews counter-clockwise. That's how you get the glass off.

 

VINCE

And that would be step number one, to get that plastic cap off of that?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, you have to get that off, and then behind, after you get the glass off, there's another lock nut that holds the threaded shaft of the switch into place.

 

VINCE

Wonderful. Well, one last question then. As we speak I'm attempting to turn it without success. It doesn't look like any wrench (part # D506-8) will fit over it. What do you suggest in terms of trying to get that to turn?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, it's probably somewhat baked on there. You can try a pair of pliers (part # D203-5). You may end up having to order a new collar when you order the switch. It just depends if you can get it off or not. Normally, you can get around the edge of it with a pair of pliers. Once you break it free it's certainly not too bad.  But yeah, ideally you could get in there and with your thumb and forefinger and unscrew it. However, a lot of times that's not going to happen, so use pliers. As I said if you break it or destroy it, it's better to break that than the glass, as far as replacement costs and grief goes. Before you get started make sure that the collar is still available. You said this was what, eighteen years old?

 

VINCE

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So, I'd look and see if that's the case.

 

VINCE

And that's RepairClinic.com?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

That's correct!

 

VINCE

Well I'll look on there and see what I can accomplish.

 

1981 Hotpoint Electric Range With Attached Microwave That's Intermittently Working

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH
Let's go now to Nancy, in Southfield, who's got a question on a microwave, here on the Appliance Repair Show.

 

NANCY

We have a twenty-seven year old Hotpoint electric high low range. The microwave is attached to the range. It has worked fine until last week when it abruptly, just the microwave stopped, the range is working. And we had a service man out Friday and he replaced a fuse. It cost a hundred and some dollars and he said it would never wear out. It stopped again this morning, and my husband fiddled around with the knobs and got it started, but I wanted your opinion on whether we're just throwing money away by putting money into a twenty-seven your old microwave.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, into as in your microwave is also your stove. This is one of those all-in-one units, correct?

 

NANCY

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

That style was popular during the late seventies to early eighties, with the microwave on top. Now you say that it's still intermittent as far as the working goes?

 

NANCY

Well, you know I didn't think it was going to be intermittent. I thought it was just going to continue and we warmed up something this morning, opened it, took it out, put something else in and pushed the button and nothing happened.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Now, does this have a digital display on it?

 

NANCY

No.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It's got the timer?

 

NANCY

I guess the microwave part does have a digital display.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

From what it sounds like, does it count down and not heat?

 

NANCY

No, it just doesn't go on. It's like dead.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Normally what causes the fuse to blow is the door switches are not hitting in sequence. When you close the door, there are normally three switches in there, and they have to hit in order for the unit to work. If one sticks, then it creates a direct short and takes out the fuse. That's intentional, so you can't run your microwave with the door open. It's a safety. And also the door switch might cause it to not work at all, if it was stuck open. So from what you're describing, I would lean more towards the door switches or possibly the door alignment being the problem, especially if it's working intermittently and it's taken out the fuse. You could also-

 

NANCY

Would that blow the fuse if that sequence were off?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yes. If one of the door switches is sticking open, depending on which one, what would happen is you'd get your display, but the power then would not go through the door switches to the system and work. So an open door switch can cause it to be dead in the water.

 

NANCY

The digital part is just a clock, but the microwave part you turn a knob.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

A timer?

 

NANCY

And run it up to however many minutes you want.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

And if you have an old timer like that, then the timer could have a dead spot in it as well, where it only sometimes makes contact. Most often for that vintage, those parts are probably going to be discontinued. You may be able to send the timer out and have it rebuilt. There are companies that do that. To be honest with you, most often when this happens, what I've found in the past is most people use, they buy a small countertop microwave and they use that as a breadbox.

 

NANCY

Well, that's an idea! How about just buying a new range and microwave?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, you could do that too. But again, you can also get something for thirty nine dollars or less and get some extra storage space. I've seen that done before.

 

NANCY

Okay. Alright. What I've learned is that the door switch could be the problem.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yes. Anything intermittent is the worst thing to diagnose. You have to catch it when it's doing it.

 

NANCY

I know. If it doesn't misbehave when he's here, then...

 

JOHN SOWDEN

I know.

 

NANCY

Thanks so much for your help.

 

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