Appliance Repair Show Transcript - March 30, 2008

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1998 Kenmore Gas Range Right Side Burners Do Not Light

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

We're going to take Doug's call from Sterling Heights here on the Appliance Repair Show. Go ahead please, Doug.

 

DOUG

We have a Sears Kenmore stove, approximately ten years old. It's gas. And the newer design where the top is right up against the burners.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Is it a sealed burner?

 

DOUG

The top plate of the stove is right up against the burners, where years ago there used to be a gap in between.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. I think they refer to those as a sealed burner unit. It's easier for cleaning oil off and things like that.

 

DOUG

What my question is, when you're standing in front of the stove, the burners on the left hand side when you turn the dial on, it lights like it's supposed to. The burners on the right hand side, it clicks and you smell the gas coming out, but it won't ignite.

 

JOHN SOWDEN
But they do click?

 

DOUG

Yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Because normally, from what you describe, one side lighting and the other side not is a sign that the spark module has failed. They're wired in different configurations, but a lot of them are wired where the left side is one part of the spark module and the right side is the other part. So, it's possible for it to have partially failed, where you don't get ignition electrically from the two. From what you describe, a problem with it sparking and not lighting is that the burner itself is dirty. There's been some sort of a spill, or even cleaning it aggressively and leaving debris or soap in the holes or the ignition ports in the burners that they use to pull the gas in and light. The other thing is that there's a small ceramic piece called an electrode that is mounted to the burner. What happens is, when you turn on the stove and the spark module fires, it sends a current through the wire, through the electrode. If the electrodes are cracked, meaning the insulation around the metal core of it is cracked, then you'll get sparking, but it won't be directed towards the burner but instead will go underneath the main top or spark to a different spot on the burner other than to ignite it.  So I would make sure, start with that, making sure the pilot holes on the burner are clear.

 

DOUG

Well, the flame will come on instantly if you use a match.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. You're getting gas, but the question is: are you getting gas through the proper ignition ports in the burner? And is the spark directed properly towards the burner? The spark jumps between the electrode and the burner itself and it's looking for a ground. Again, if the electrode is cracked, and at times it's really hard to see that, it will be sparking internally, or it will be jumping to a different spot on the burner other than the ignition port part of it. So I would start by inspecting them visually and seeing if you can find any spillovers, any holes that are plugged up.  If there are holes that are plugged up in there, a lot of times there are three or four small holes that act for ignition. If that's the case, if you decide to clean them out, do not enlarge the hole. Sometimes people get in there with a pen or something and actually increase the size of the hole, and then you have other ignition problems. So normally, a real fine piece of wire or something is all you want to use to clean those out. It really doesn't take much for a spillover or any debris caught in there for it to not fire properly.

 

DOUG

All right.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So that's your project for today.

 

Maytag Top Mount Refrigerator with Water Accumulation In the Back of the Refrigerator

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Here's a question from Tom, in Harper Woods, about a refrigerator leaking on the Appliance Repair Show.  Hello Tom, go ahead please.

 

TOM

I told your screener that I didn't know what kind of refrigerator it was. I called my wife because I'm on the road currently, and she said it's a Maytag.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay.

 

TOM

What we've noticed is that there's water inside in the refrigerator part, not in the freezer part, in the refrigerator part. And also, on the hinge side of the refrigerator on the floor...

 

JOHN SOWDEN

You've got rust?

 

TOM

Now the seal isn't exactly in great shape. It's not broken off but it is cracked. But it does seem to be sealing. The water does not appear to be leaking out of the seal. Where the water is in the refrigerator, it's in the back.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

This is a freezer on top?

 

TOM

The freezer is on the top, yes.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay.

 

TOM

I took apart the back. I thought maybe the defroster hose...

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Exactly.

 

TOM

Everything seemed to be intact. The pan was dry. It didn't seem as though the hose had any water around it. It doesn't happen every day, but it's very frequent.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, the problem is from the defrost cycle, the water that's being melted off the evaporator coils normally travels through a trough underneath the coils and then travels through either a tube, or sometimes they have a small ramp that the water is supposed to travel down through and then drip off the back of the refrigerator and then into a pan underneath it. Normally what happens in the condition you're describing is that the trough or the drain hole underneath it could be misaligned, which requires a visual inspection. Or, it's possible that it's plugged up with debris, if you've had any spills in the freezer or anything of that nature.  You need to disassemble it and get at the cooling coil evaporator area and look at the trough. A lot of times if you just take a turkey baster with some hot water, just tap water hot or warm, and flush that tube out, you'll solve the problem.

 

TOM

Now, where does that tube start off? Because it seemed as though-if I'm remembering correctly, I haven't done this for a while-But it seemed as though I could only take apart so much of the back of the refrigerator.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It really just depends on the style that you have. Some have the coils mounted to the back wall of the refrigerator section. Some are in the freezer, in what they call the divider section. Or, the coils are actually underneath the freezer floor. So between the refrigerator ceiling and the freezer, it just depends on the style that you have. One is a matter of removing the back panel to gain access, the other you have to remove the divider. That entails removing both the doors and then there's a strip between the two sections, refrigerator and freezer, and you have to remove that metal strip. There's normally a heater that's wired into this. Turn the power off obviously before you do this, and unplug that heater.  And then, you can remove the freezer floor to gain access. That's a little more involved than the ones mounted to the back wall.

 

TOM

I believe that's the kind I have.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah. And so that's how you get started on it, you need to take the doors off. That's the easiest way, believe it or not. And when you take the doors off, make sure if there are any spacers on the hinge. Sometimes they'll have a few small plastic washers to shim the door up, so make sure you take note of where they go. Then when you put them back your door doesn't drag. As far as your door gasket problem goes, if it's not torn, and just kind of folded over, you can normally loosen up the door frame and re-attach the gasket, and then you can use a food-grade silicone based lubricant in that area and it will help as you close the door to keep it from folding over.  One way you can do that is to apply a little bit there once you get the door closed properly, and then take a hairdryer and gently go over that area to conform the door gasket to the frame again. If you hold the hairdryer there for too long, you start smelling burned plastic and then it turns into a mess, so it's just too kind of relax the gasket a little bit. You might get a few more miles out of it.

 

TOM

Well thank you so much! I love your program.

 

Speed Queen Washing Machine Started Smoking and Will Not Turn On

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Here's James, in Detroit, with a washer problem on the Appliance Repair Show. Good morning James, go ahead.

 

JAMES

Yes, I have a Speed Queen Marathon washer. And yesterday when I put the washer on, it started to cycle and filled it with water, and it began to smoke right there near where you turn to adjust the cycle right. And then it won't come on at all now.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It started to smoke, huh?

 

JAMES

Yeah.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

And did you hear anything happening, or did you hear a loud humming noise when this happened?

 

JAMES

Nothing. It just started smoking and it just shut off. I tried to put it back on and it just wouldn't come on at all.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

But when it started to smoke when you turned it on, you didn't hear it try to turn, you didn't hear it running?

 

JAMES

It started for a second, and then it shut down.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay.  Most often the smoking can be caused from either the belt burning, which makes a pretty nasty smell, or the motor itself is overheating and causing the burned electrical smell, if you have a failed motor.

 

JAMES

Motor?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah. On this unit you've got a pump belt and a drive belt, and it's possible that something is locked up in the drive system; either something caught in the pump and not allowing the motor to turn or something in the transmission is locked up, not allowing it to turn. Or, the motor itself has failed. In this particular unit there are two screws at the base of the front panel, and after you unplug the appliance and you remove those, you can gain access to the internal workings of the washing machine.  The belts on this are mounted underneath. You can tilt it back a little bit and remove the belts, and then you might want to start out by just removing the one on the drive train that goes to the center pulley or the transmission. And then you can try and see, if the motor starts up and starts running, then I would think that the transmission is locked up.  And that center pulley on the transmission, you should be able to move it in both directions. If it's locked up and doesn't move in one direction, then you have a problem with the brake for spin being locked up or the internal workings of the transmission are locked up, depending on which way it doesn't turn.

 

JAMES

Okay.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

If you do that, I'd recommend putting on a leather glove or something because that pulley is sharp, and if you reach under there and try to give it a good tug, you might find yourself pulling back a hand with a nice cut on it. So, I would put a glove on before you start reefing on that center pulley.

 

JAMES

Oh, yeah, oh yeah.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So if that's okay, you can again turn the pump pulley, which is the other belt on the unit, and see if the pump turns freely. If both of those turn freely, I would recommend that the motor has probably failed. And that's not too bad a repair to do. It's not that hard to put it in, but while you're in there, I would grab a flashlight and look at where the transmission goes up into the outer tub of the washing machine. If you see any signs of a water leak, or you see any spots that it's obvious over a period of time you've had water leaking there, then you have other problems, because the tub seal has failed. And I'd inspect that first before I put a motor into it, because you'd hate to put a motor into a machine that has a slow leaking tub seal and then six months or a year from now you're going to do another repair on it.

 

JAMES

Okay. Thank you.

 

Window Air Conditioner Question about Locating a 220 Volt Circuit Timer

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Here's Dale, in Wixom, with a window unit air conditioner question, on the Appliance Repair Show. Good morning Dale, go ahead please.

 

DALE

I live in an apartment and I've got one of those window type air conditioners that are on a 220 volt circuit. I want one of those (and we've all seen them) little timers that you use at Christmas and stuff like that.  We're only running the air conditioner part of the day, but I've gone everywhere to try and find one. I've seen all sorts of permanent ones, but I just want one where you can...I live in an apartment and obviously they'd never let me put a permanent one on there.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

So you want one of the ones that you'd use for your Christmas tree lights. They do make a beefier version of those for window air conditioners that are able to handle a higher current draw through the contacts.

 

DALE

Yeah, and this is a 220, where it's got that different type of plug on it there. Do you know where I could get one?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

You know, I don't. Almost all the ones I've seen that are not a fixed type are a 120 volt unit. Have you tried Googling, trying the Internet and see if you can find something like that?

 

DALE

Yeah. That's a good idea, because I've gone to all the box stores and I've even contacted some of the electrical suppliers and everyone just has the one that you mount permanently.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, most of the ones I've used in the past are for more commercial refrigeration units and they're more permanent timers and you would have to wire it in. They're also a hundred and fifty dollars and up. They're made for constant duty and having a lot of current pass through them. So I honestly, on this one I don't know. I'm assuming that somewhere you might be able to find one, but it's not a real common need, so I haven't seen anything mass produced that you would find in a home store.

 

DALE

Okay. Well, I thought I'd try anyway.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Let us know how you do.

 

DALE

Googling, that's a good idea. That's a very good idea, so I'm going to do that.

 

Stackable Washer/Dryer Question on How to Evaluate a Used Machine for Purchase

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Colleen, from Flushing, has a question on buying a washer and dryer, here on the Appliance Repair Show. Good morning Colleen, go ahead please.

 

COLLEEN

We have a regular washer and dryer in the upstairs, which we actually turned into a laundry room but it, takes up too much space. In the paper, and it's still there, it says there's a stacked washer and dryer that is seven years old. And that's exactly what I want. They say excellent condition. I'm going to look at it, and I'm just wondering, do you have any tips that could clue me in as to whether there are any problems with it or anything I can look for? Or is that a silly question?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It's not a silly question. Is this is going to be a secondary washing machine? You're going to use this upstairs and you're still going to use your other ones, or are you going to use this as your primary unit?

 

COLLEEN

No, the other ones I would just probably sell.  I want this one because it's stackable; it's not going to take up much space. So this is why I want it. And they say it's in excellent condition and I was just wondering how do I really know? Is there anything I can look for, listen for, and look at?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, there are a few things to consider. There are two versions of a stacked washer and dryer. One is the unit is all one piece: the washer and dryer are mounted to a single frame and normally if one fails, you're buying a new stacked unit. Meaning if the washer conks out and it's beyond economical repair, then the dryer goes out to the curb with it, because it's all one piece.

 

COLLEEN

Oh, okay.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Other stacked units are two individual, washer and dryer, and then they use a stacking kit to mount the dryer on top of the washer. If one machine fails, you can normally, depending on brand, go buy a new version of whatever you have that's beyond repair and still mix and match. So if your washer goes out and the dryer's working fine, you can still go buy a new washing machine, and then put your old dryer on top of it. So as far as economics go, it's one thing to consider, especially with a unit that's seven years old.

 

COLLEEN

It says they want two hundred and fifty for it. I thought that was a good price.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

It depends on what it is and how it was used. Is it a family three; is it a family of six?

 

COLLEEN

Good idea to find out, yeah.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

How many miles are on it? And where it's located. What kind of water conditions did they have coming into it? A lot of times with hard water you have restricted water valves and rust buildup inside the tubs. There are a lot of things as far as you don't know really how it was used. The price for a stacked unit sounds pretty reasonable. But again, at seven years old, you're looking at no warranty and if you needed a major repair that would cost three or four hundred dollars, for instance if the main bearing on the tub went out or something in the washer. You're then at half the cost at least of going out and buying a new one, which has a warranty and you know where it's been.  So, it's really a crap shoot. It's like buying anything else used.

 

COLLEEN

I got you. One more question please?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Sure.

 

COLLEEN

If this is all one piece, and let's say the washer or dryer goes out, is it really hard to fix that if it's all one unit?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Again, it depends on what brand you have.  Most of the time you're going to pay more money to have a stackable washer repaired for one basic reason, and that is:  most people stuff them in a closet because of space constraints, so when the poor service guy comes out, he's looking at this huge washer and dryer unit that, on some occasions, you have to pull out of it's space in order to service it, either by having to access the back or the top on some units. Or on some, if you have to service the washer, there's certain components, like the water valve, where you have to remove the dryer on top of it in order to get at them.  So you end up paying a fee that's a two man job where they have to bring out a couple of guys to try to wrestle this thing out of wherever it's at.

 

COLLEEN

You've been wonderfully helpful. Unless I can bargain them down to a hundred and fifty dollars or something, I think I'll keep what I have. Yeah, wow, those are things I didn't consider. I'm glad I called.

 

2007 Upright Manual Defrost Freezer with Uneven Frost Pattern

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Some freezer questions from Barbara, in West Bloomfield, on the Appliance Repair Show.

 

BARBARA

I have a one year old upright freezer. I try to keep it filled all the time, and I do have to defrost it.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay. It's a manual defrost unit?

 

BARBARA

Manual, yeah.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay.

 

BARBARA

Should the frost buildup be big if I'm only opening it sometimes less than once a month? If I open it once a month that's a lot.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay. Well, as far as the frost buildup, normally once it gets to a half inch or up to an inch of frost is when you need to turn it off and defrost the unit. You say you've had it for a year; have you defrosted it since you put it in operation?

 

BARBARA

I just defrosted it and there was a buildup. But I wondered because there's months that I don't open it. Should it be building frost or not?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yes, it will continue to build frost. Door openings add to how often you have to defrost it, because every time you open the door you're going to normally have hot moist air coming in and heating those cold coils and it's going to generate frost.  Other things that can cause it to have it to be manually defrosted more often is if you've got a door seal that's leaking, or on occasion just the cabinet itself, when they produced it, it could have an air leak where one of the wiring harnesses that goes through the cabinet isn't sealed up properly. As far as the frost pattern goes, is the frost completely, is it uniform throughout all the cooling shelves, or is only half of it frosting up?

 

BARBARA

Only part of it is frosting up, right. The very top got a lot, and then the second shelf got a lot, and then the others barely got anything.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, normally an incomplete frost pattern can be a result of several factors.  One is intermittent run times. It can also be an inefficient compressor. And the other one could be a leak in the system, where there's not enough refrigerant to complete the full path of all the evaporator coils, or the shelves in your case.  Normally, half a frost pattern is a sign of another issue, usually in the refrigeration system itself.

 

BARBARA

That can happen on a brand new unit, too?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Just like a brand new car or anything else, there's always stuff that can go wrong. Again, because of the door openings, I'm assuming this thing doesn't run very often. That, on occasion, can cause it to only really get only half the passes going, because it runs for a short period of time and then turns off, and then it would continue to stay off for a long period of time.  I would recommend that you look at possibly opening it more often.  Once a week or whatever, for the next month or so after you defrost it, open the door more, make it run a bit more and then observe the frost pattern.  If it's still only half a frost pattern, you could have other problems. It's one of those things where as long as it's keeping zero to eight degrees in there, I wouldn't be too alarmed. But the worst thing about a freezer is, if it's starting to have problems and you go out and buy a side of beef or something like that and fill it up and come home from vacation and it decides to quit, then you've lost not only the cost of putting in a new freezer but also whatever's inside it. From what you're telling me there's a few things that point to other problems. To defrost it after a year's time is certainly not abnormal-I'm just a little more concerned about the defrost pattern being half of the evaporator coil.

 

BARBARA

Okay. That was one of my questions. And two, the number we set on the dial hasn't changed, so I should go and buy a thermometer and check it?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, I would recommend that for any freezer or refrigerator. It doesn't hurt to put in a thermometer, and that way whenever you open the door you have an idea of where you're at, especially for long-term food storage.

 

BARBARA

Any thermometer or does it have to be for a freezer?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Well, you need one that has a range of zero to eight degrees, so if you were to buy a thermometer for an oven, it wouldn't go down that far. So, you need one that's made for a refrigerator or freezer, and they're readily available. You can even find them on our website, Repairclinic.com, in the accessories section.

 

BARBARA

Okay. And then one other question, I think. I took everything out of the freezer, I turned it off, and I used a hairdryer in there. That didn't hurt it, did it?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

No. It's much better than a butcher knife.

 

BARBARA

Right. It said be careful not to scratch it, so I didn't do that.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

A butcher knife defrost is an ongoing thing that keeps a lot of service people busy. As long as you gently get in there with a hairdryer, do not hold it in one spot for very long or you'll start melting the plastic liner. It will speed things along. You don't want to put a lot of heat inside the interior because most of them are plastic. But to gently go back and forth with a hairdryer, not directed in any one spot, is just going to speed things up. Where most people go astray is they see a big chunk of ice and they get in there with a knife or a screwdriver and they poke a hole in one of the refrigerant lines and then it's time to buy a new one.

 

BARBARA

Okay. In the back corner of this unit there's heavier wiring that goes down, and then there's a hole in the bottom in the cabinet that it goes through. There was a foam type item that fit around this hole but could be taken off, so it had a hole in it so you could slide it around that. But it wasn't filling the hole. And I tried to push it in to fill the hole and it wouldn't stay in. Is that for shipping?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

To insulate vibration from the wiring harnesses during shipping, and also to seal up the cabinet. You can...

 

BARBARA

So it really should fit down into that hole?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Yeah, if it's blocking the exit of the wiring harness on the cabinet itself, it should probably be in place to keep warm moist air from migrating up into the cavity. The other thing you can do is they make a stuff called Permagum, it's like play dough, and you can just take a small ball of that and stuff it into that area to seal up the cabinet. Or just a small dose of silicone, just to seal up the cabinet in that area.

 

BARBARA

The hole is probably an inch and a quarter in diameter.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Right. And the thing is it could be sealed up on the underside of the cabinet where you still don't have an air leak. It might have been put in there, to keep as you pointed out, the vibration between the refrigerant lines and the wiring to keep from rubbing on the cabinet during shipment.

 

BARBARA

Okay, because I didn't see anything about that in the instructions.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

No, they wouldn't put that in there. That's something that they would just in production put in there for that reason. I would just look at the underside where it comes out, and if you see what looks like a big wad of play dough on the underside then I wouldn't be too concerned. If not then you might want to try just putting something there to help it seal up.

 

BARBARA

Where would it be coming out?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Normally wherever it comes out of the cabinet. I'd have to see the unit. Normally, it's on the underside.

 

BARBARA

So I'd have to tip the unit backward to find out?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

You might have to slide it out and if there's a rear panel, maybe remove it to view it.

 

BARBARA

Oh. Okay.

 

2005 Whirlpool Dishwasher with Broken Glass Caught Inside

 

JOHN MCCULLOCH

Let's talk to Christian, in Howell, about a dishwasher problem.

 

CHRISTIAN

Thank you. We were loading a dishwasher a couple days ago and dropped a dish into the dishwasher and it broke and had glass all over.  We took the dishes out and removed all the glass that we could see. But it appears that there might be something down there, and there's kind of a grill down at the bottom where there's just a plastic ring with the holes in it. My wife says that she can hear glass in there. I can't. We cycled it three or four times. I just wondered will that glass be pushed down the drain if I keep running it, or do we need to take it all apart and see if there's glass there down at the bottom?

 

JOHN SOWDEN

You say that you have run the machine since you broke the glass?

 

CHRISTIAN

Yeah. I took all the dishes out of there and just cycled it on the quick cycle. I've done that two or three times.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

What type of dishwasher is this, what brand? Do you know?

 

CHRISTIAN

It came with the house and the house is only three years old. It's a Whirlpool.

 

JOHN SOWDEN

Okay. Most of them will have a filter system that will catch most of it. But the problem with glass is it doesn't take a very big piece at all to cause a lot of problems. And even some of the smaller pieces might even go through the filters, because what happens is, that small piece can pierce the rubber portion of the motor shaft seal, and then it creates a small leak. Which you probably won't find until either the motor seizes up, or if you have a wood floor, until your floor buckles underneath your dishwasher from it leaking and you're not being able to see it.  So, I would recommend that you don't continue to run it. Now, it's possible that it could push it all out through the drain and everything is good, but if it's not that old a unit, I would recommend dismantling the filter system and get in there and see if you can clean out everything. The motor pump assemblies on the newer Whirlpools are a kind of twist and turn to pull that out, and you might want to do that and just try to physically remove all that you can. Especially since she said she heard it in there, it could be just beating around in there now and then, and then it's pushed off into another part of the pump housing where it's not an issue.  So, I would recommend not running it anymore and dismantling it. Get in there and try to physically remove all the glass pieces you can find.  And then, I would monitor it during operation for one, unusual noises, and two, just periodically every several months or so, remove the lower panel and have a look and see if you see any leaks. Again, it doesn't take more than a small shard of glass to poke that motor seal, and it doesn't create an instant flood. It might even be worth a situation where if you take the pump assembly out and clean it all out, you might even want to replace the motor seals.  A lot of them will have a rebuild kit that you can put into it. It just depends on what you find. If you find a lot of glass in the lower assembly, then I would at least remove it all, and/or even replace the seals as a precautionary measure.

 

CHRISTIAN

Okay. Thanks! We'll take it apart tomorrow and see what we can do with it.

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