I hate repairing white goods!
Of necessity I fix things around the
house that I refuse customers point blank. These are so-called
.. washing machines, dishwashers, fridges and
the like. They are heavy and cumbersome and spare parts cost
The other day our washing machine started
to make a bit of a rumble. Then it sounded like a Morgan and
now it sounds more like a Harrier taking off. We shouldn't use
it after 9pm otherwise the local pressure group will be ringing
up Bournemouth Airport and complaining about late aircraft movements.
After considerable nagging I bought
a spider and bearing kit but it's still lying on the floor somewhere
where I unpacked it.
Not to be outdone, the Bosch dishwasher
which stands next to the washing machine, and which has stood
us in good stead for something like 28 years suddenly stopped
working. When any program was selected it made a noise like a
machine gun and rapidly went through all its settings in about
30 seconds. Like the washing machine it stood there unattended.
I kept getting asked to take my turn and wash the dishes but
my excuses were wearing a bit thin, "I can't I've got a
bone in my arm", etc. and then I couldn't find a clean beer
If you've never had a dishwasher then
you wouldn't realise that you need at least four times as many
knives and forks, spoons, plates and cups etc. This is so the
machine can be filling up for a decent load. So when I say there
weren't any clean glasses you can imagine the size of the heap
of dirty dishes!
After having exhausted my repertoire
of excuses I finally wheeled the dishwasher out of its cubby
I'd repaired it twice before. In 1970 something and 1980 something.
Unfortunately it was so long ago that I can't remember exactly
what I did so I had to start from scratch again. When I removed
the door front I was faced with the usual mass of strange looking
bits and of course the ubiquitous, pre-microprocessor, program
unit with its two small motors and into which a jumble of wires
First I took some pictures with our
digital camera so I could see how everything fitted back together,
then I wrote copious notes on where the dozens of various wires
went on the controller. As I recall having had some trouble in
the past, when I ended up with a couple of wires left over, I
called my better half to check my scribblings and call out the
wires, "blue with red stripe goes to the back row 4th down;
white with black hoops goes second to front 2nd row down etc.",
but as all was well I removed the controller and disconnected
it. Usually one finds burnt contacts inside these things but
I couldn't remember how it came apart and after some abortive
attempts, when a load of little cog wheels almost broke free
and flew into the air I remembered that the set of half a dozen
or so changeover contacts are demountable. I removed a fixing,
took them out and pulled them apart. Inside were lots of burnt
looking contacts. I cleaned them all up using a phosphor bronze
brush fitted in a small electric drill until they all gleamed
like new. Then, after studying the pictures from the camera,
it all went together and I even had the confidence to fit a new
mains plug, as the other was in a dreadful state, and to screw
up every loose bit in sight.
I wheeled it back into its cubby hole
and confidently switched on. It made one click and stopped. This
was different. I pressed the go button again and it made a noise
like a machine gun and stepped through all its programs in 29
I thought for a minute about packing in and having a lie down
but then I thought about having to wash the dishes and rough
red washday hands so I pulled it out and started all over again.
I removed the controller, detached the relay contact sets and
checked them by pushing the operating spring by hand and measuring
the resistance with a meter. All were OK except one which didn't
feel the same as the others. I checked and found I'd fitted its
return spring in the wrong place. I fitted it in the right place
and put everything back together, carefully making sure the million
wires went to the right places again. This time I didn't actually
fit the front and I didn't push the machine back into position.
At least, if it didn't work this time, I wouldn't have to take
the front off, I thought as I switched on. It made a noise like
a machine gun and went through its programs in 30 seconds. It
was now exactly as it had been when it had first gone wrong!
I thought about giving in and saving
up to buy a new one, but then imagined how many TV sets I'd have
to repair to make the money, and decided this was not a good
idea and I should look under the front panel. This is at floor
level and hides all the major bits. I tilted the machine backwards
at 45 degrees, propped it on a log and unscrewed the panel. Peering
in I could see what looked like a big relay, a motor, a couple
of solenoid operated water valves and several other, but unrecognisable,
bits and pieces. Well, on the principle that if the controller
contacts had been burnt, the relay contacts were probably in
the same condition, I noted the wiring, removed the relay and
prised it open. A little spring fell out and I found the contacts
were dreadful and the plastic in which they fitted was melted
and burnt. After cleaning the contacts up I reassembled the thing
and refitted all the wiring. I left the front off and the small
lower panel as by now I was getting a little pessimistic to say
the least. I plugged it in and switched it on. There was a noise
like a machine gun
I scratched my head yet again and peered
for inspiration into the space wherein resided all the major
bits. With vast intellectual effort, and just about exhausting
my power of logic, I recalled I'd never heard the relay operating
when I'd poked the "on" button; so after unplugging
the machine yet again I traced the wiring from the relay coil.
All the wires in the machine seemed to have unique colours so
tracing them was easy even though they disappeared from one harness
into another. Two wires, a blue and a pink, were connected to
the relay coil. One wire went to the controller via the door
safety switch (which I'd tested), the other went to one of the
pins on the controller next to its small, mains powered motors.
I checked continuity of the blue wire
and was rewarded with a squeak from the meter. I checked the
other, admittedly without much enthusiasm, and got no response.
Odd, it must be the wrong wire. From the relay the substantial
pink wire went across the bottom of the machine, up through a
plastic tube to emerge inside the drop-down door and then go,
via a harness, to the controller. Were there any other pink wires?
No there weren't so I decided to pull the end of the wire and
see if the other end moved as well. If it did it must be the
same wire. I gripped the pink wire and pulled. Not far! It had
only exited the plastic tube half an inch before a raw end was
revealed! I poked around in the tube and found the other end.
After pulling hard on this I was able to withdraw it far enough
to be able to solder it to the controller end. Opening and closing
the front door for 28 years had taken its toll. The wire had
broken from metal fatigue.
I plugged in the machine and was, thankfully,
rewarded by a reassuring clunk from the relay followed by the
sound of motors whirring. I screwed all the panels up and pushed
the machine back into its place. What a relief
have to wash the dishes after all. Now for the washing machine
I'll have that lie down, I'll fix the washing machine tomorrow.
Wife from the utility room... in front
of the dishwasher.
"There's something wrong with the
door... it won't close".
"The dishwasher door".
I groan and plod off to see what's she'd
done to my newly repaired machine... this time.
The door certainly wouldn't close. It
hinged upwards and just before it clunked into place it stopped
hingeing and stuck. I tried a little harder and it still wouldn't
close. I tried very hard but something really strong was stopping
the door closing. I muttered some rude words and went back to
watch the TV.
The next weekend after a kitchen perpetually
full of dirty dishes I unscrewed the door cover. At the lower
edge of the door are a couple of powerful hinge assemblies with
counterbalancing arrangements. I just couldn't see what was wrong
so I unscrewed the hinge that was causing the problem. I peered
at it but I still couldn't figure out what was wrong. There were
several chunky bits of metal and a very strong spring all jammed
together and covered in gunge. I clamped it in a large bench
vise and attempted to operate it. Naturally it hinged to about
80 degrees then jammed solid and wouldn't go any further.
I attacked it with a large hammer but
it just bounced off. I prised it with a large screwdriver but
it just wouldn't grip anything. The problem was the large spring
which was somehow holding things together but not properly together.
I tried to compress the spring but the vise jaws kept slipping
It reminded me of one of those chinese
puzzles that just drop apart if you twist them the right way.
Finally using the bench vise, a clamp, a screwdriver, a large
nail and a lot of fiddling the spring finally gave up its hold
and I was rewarded with a collection of metal parts and a large
spring. I went back and had a look at the other hinge, still
in-situ in the machine. Using a mirror and a flashlamp and after
several visits to compare the working hinge with my collection
of bits I discovered that a piece of metal had broken off the
main body. My son who was busy rebuilding his latest Land Rover
was consulted. "I can weld that", he said. I left the
thing clamped in the bench vise and went back to watch TV. An
hour later, after he had found a few minutes to cart his welder
out, I was called to view his handiwork. Now all that remained
was to fight with the spring and put the hinge back together.
It's one of those jobs where you really need to make up a jig
to do it, but after about and hour of fiddling and a large bloodblister
I had managed to fit the spring and it seemed to work when clamped
in the vise.
I fitted it back to the base of the
dishwasher door and tried it out. The door now seemed to be more
or less counterbalanced, something I'd noticed had been missing
for a few years.
"It's done", I called out
to no-one in particular and collapsed in front of the TV.
Later that evening there was a shout
from the utility room; "There's water pouring out the front
of the dishwasher all over the floor".
I pretended not to hear.
The next day there was the usual pile
of dirty dishes in the kitchen.
I didn't rush to look at the machine
and for some time things were a little strained.... until the
next weekend. I'd been thinking about what had gone on. The door
had been pushed rather hard against the broken hinge and had
probably distorted somehow and the door seals had possibly been
damaged or most likely the door framework had been bent out of
place. I thought about this on and off for most of the morning,
until later when I opened the door and checked the seal. It was
certainly frayed at the bottom on both sides and I found, after
I had positioned a piece of paper in one side and closing the
door, that I could pull it out easily with no resistance. Certainly
the right side of the door above the newly repaired hinge was
not shutting tightly. By now, in the well at the bottom, had
collected a lot of evil smelling water so I decided to flush
it out by running the machine in a quick rinse cycle before I
I settled down in front of the dishwasher
and turned it on. There was the sound of pumps whirring and water
gushing. I mused about things in general until water began to
trickle onto the floor from the base of the door. I was still
musing when water started to gush from the bottom of the door,
so I stopped musing and gathered an old towel with which I commenced
to mop up the spillage and wring out of the back door. After
several minutes I decided to find a bucket. After quarter of
an hour I began to think somethink was amiss. Water was still
gushing into the machine and there was an echoey sort of sound
which I recognised was a half-full dishwasher.
My bucket had been filled and emptied
more times than I could recall.
Now I don't think that these machines
are supposed to get full of water. For reasons of economy only
a few litres are used and these are circulated by a pump. Something
other than a leaky door was the problem. I seemed to recall this
event before when the washing machine did the same thing. Then
one could observe the water level rising to the top of the glass
window. Here one could only imagine the inside becoming full,
as there was no window.
After a lot of switching off and on,
and thumping the front, I managed to get the draining pump to
operate and the machine finally emptied itself.
I opened the door and removed its front
to gain access to the works. There were two pressure sensors,
connected to the base of the machine by plastic tubes, clipped
to the door top. I closed the door and pulled off one of the
tubes. Switching the machine on, I blew into the first sensor.
Immediately the water gushing sound ceased and the machine started
its program. This was certainly something I hadn't heard it doing
for the past hour squatting in front of the thing. I reconnected
the first sensor and tried the second. Blowing into it also produced
lots of motor activity and switching noises.
I removed tbe lower inspection panel,
after making sure the dishwasher had drained, and pulled off
the first tube from the large plastic container underneath the
machine. It popped off accompanied by a dribble of water. I poked
a small crochet hook into the tube and extracted some jelly-like
gunge. I also found a similar quantity inside the plastic fitting
to which the tube connected. I pulled off the second tube and
found a lot more of the greyish-black stuff. After making sure
all was removed I reconnected the tubes and for good measure
looked at the repaired hinge. The thing seemed to be about quarter
of an inch different to the one on the left so the door wasn't
closing tightly on that side. As there were no adjusting screws
I decided to batter it with a hammer. This proved to be a fruitless
action so I went off in search of something different. I came
back with a Land Rover high lift jack capable of raising several
tons. Inserting it under the right hand hinge I commenced to
crank it upwards expecting the assembly to slip into place. All
that happened was the dishwasher lifted off the floor. I decided
to call upon the services of my better half. "Stand on top
please but mind the live connections as you scramble up",
(the door front was still detached and all the mains wiring was
there to be touched by an unsuspecting knee). She climbed up
and sat on the machine. I cranked the jack handle and this time
I was rewarded by the hinge slowly moving into place. For good
measure I bashed it with a hammer. After removing my wife and
the jack I inspected my handiwork. The quarter of an inch discrepancy
was now three sixteenths.
I screwed up the door front and slid
the machine back into place and switched on. There was a familiar
sound of the main relay operating followed by water gushing into
the machine.... then, after what seemed an interminable wait,
there was a clunk and motors started whirring. After the cycle
had completed there had been no overflowing and all seemed well.
I wandered off and collapsed in front of the TV muttering something
about, "the last time" and, "I was going to buy
a new one if it went wrong again even if it did mean having to
fix an extra 20 TV sets".
Well it did go wrong again about 3 months
later. One morning I came down and heard the machine filling
up with water. It seems it had been doing it's rinse cycle continuously
since 11pm the previous night.....
I was quite prepared to set to and fix
it again but the boss said she wanted the washing machine fixed
before low flying aircraft heading for Bournemouth Airport reported
us for being in breach of noise abatement regulations from the
noisy bearings.... see story 36.
Post post script....
Suddenly the dishwasher went dead. I
pushed the on off switch to no avail.
There was a clue....
For the past week there had been a smell
of rotting fish and I had been trying to place it. I imagined
it was something the cat had dragged in and hidden and was saving
till later when it got really hungry.
I didn't immediately associate the smell
with the dishwasher which had been working OK but now I found
the mains plug, which went into a two way socket behind the machine
had a blown fuse and the pins of the plug looked rather tarnished.
I imagined the plug had been overheating and emitting the funny
smell. I fitted a new plug with a new 13amp fuse and all was
well for a day or two, then the power went off again. The two
way socket, into which it was plugged, was at the end of a short
cable which plugged into the wall behind the washing machine.
Many years ago this had suffered from a leak somewhere in the
water outlet piping from the two machines and I had stopped using
one of the two wall sockets. Anyway when the power went off again
I'd fitted a new fuse and was rewarded by a sharp bang from the
rear of the washing machine and a shout that the TV had momentarily
gone off and come on again.
I wheeled out the washing machinme and
removed the mains plug feeding the dishwasher via its intermediary
cable. There was a black sooty mark between the earth and live
I waited until the next sunny day, switched
off the mains power to the house wiring and removed the double
socket from the wall. Inside I found the cause of the rotting
fish smell. There was a large hole in the bakelite fitting at
the back of the sockets. After fitting a new double socket we
were back in business. Next I'll have to fit some sort of shield
over the sockets to prevent water from getting into the wiring.
Better safe than sorry!