As I illustrated by writing about building a shed (here and here) I tend to view everything through the lens of a tester. So when our dryer broke over Christmas it was no great surprise that as I went through the diagnosis and repair process I was mentally comparing things to testing. In no particular order:
- Use the appropriate tools – I took the skin off my knuckle using a pair of pliers getting a screw off instead of an appropriately size socket.
- Know how to use your tools – because my dryer is electric, I needed to check the various fuses, elements and thermostats to find the problem. The problem is of course that I know very little about electricity and while I have a snazzy new multimeter I have no idea how to use it.
- Consult your oracles – I took a suspect fuse into the appliance parts store along with my multimeter and got a quick lesson on how to use it from the woman at the counter. In this context, I consider her my oracle (and is a great example I can resuse regarding how oracles do not have to be software based).
- Fancy does not equal better – I paid an extra 20% on my multimeter to get the digital one over a similarily equipped analog model. Digital is better than analog, right? Well, the one they use at the appliance store is analog which is the one they prefer since you can ‘see the bar move’. Doh.
- Upon analysis, most things are pretty simple – I had no idea how a dryer worked until Wednesday (never had to think about it before). But once I took off the back cover I realized that it just sucks air in the back over an element and into a spinning drum. Thats all. I’ve found that a lot of the technologies I have worked with over the years are very similar.
- Instructions are there for a reason – The part I needed was actually 2 parts. I could have replaced only the dead part, but the other one would have killed it again in a couple weeks. Apparently there is someone around this area the parts woman has sold 3 kits in the last couple months to because he doesn’t follow instructions to replace both components.
- The obvious problem is not always the correct one – Since the drum was turning but there was no heat, I figured the heating element was dead. It seemed logical at the time. That wasn’t it though. Had I just bought a new coil I would have spent ~ $70 and still not had a working dryer. (For the records, I initially went to the parts store to do just this but the guy at the counter sowed enough doubt in my mind about the soundness of the diagnosis that I went back and investigated more).
- Credibility counts – A credible tester is one whose bugs are dealt with in a better light than non-credible ones. They also get greater freedom to do funner testing than rote script execution. On a marketing basis, credibility also leads to loyalty. I’ve dealt with Oshawa Appliance Parts on a couple times and have no problem recommending them.
- Rabbit holes are fun, but have an exit strategy – Even though I was trying to fix things myself, I had already executed my plan b which was to get a professional repair person to look at the dryer. One thing I must constantly watch for is heading down a rabbit hole exploring a problem or implementing a solution when there is someone better suited for the task. By calling someone (who I later cancelled) I had ensured that there was an end solution.
- An oracle might not actually be an oracle – While tinkering during the ‘repair person might arrive’ window, a high school friend of my wife dropped by for a visit. I had completely forgotten he was coming so when he I got called up from the basement and she introduced me to someone at the door who wanted to look at the dryer I figured it was the repair person. Turns out he is just friendly and has fixed a dryer or two in his day.
- Oracles can be wrong – Remember, oracles are a heuristic which means they are fallible. When the friend said “I’ve never seen a dryer with only one element” I raise a bit of an eyebrow. When he said a few minutes later he said “I’m not an electrician, but…” I got nervous. As the point about mentions, at this time I thought he was the person I had called so was my oracle. Turns out he also misdiagnosed the problem so I would have spent $12 incorrectly if I had followed his advice.
- Screenshots are great – I took pictures of which wires plugged into where any time I disconnected something. This is no different than us capturing a screen with something interesting happening on it.
Oh, and in the end I did manage to get it fixed, much to my wife’s amazement. It was the high temperature thermostat that had broken which fried a safety fuse ($45). And it actually works better than ever.