By Paul DeGuiseppi, MACS Manager of Service Training
I fancy myself an amateur appliance repairman. Over the years, I have performed repairs on radios, televisions, ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, clothes dryers, and most recently, my clothes washer.
A few years ago (July 2006, to be exact), while the washer was working just fine, a reddish-colored fluid started to seep out from under it. I popped off the front panel to find the source of the leak. Of course, it was the transmission, which is what I knew I would find.
Washing machine transmissions are expensive, and the machine’s basic warranty had long expired. But the transmission was still covered. I called the manufacturer’s consumer hotline, supplied the model and serial numbers, and the operator said a new transmission would be Fed Ex’d to me.
The operator cautioned that replacing a washing machine transmission was not an easy task, and asked if I needed contact information for a local appliance repair provider. I told her, “Thanks, but no. I’m a car mechanic, and since I’m capable of swapping out car transmissions, I’m confident I can do the same on a clothes washer.” That sparked a sidebar conversation, with her asking me about an overheating problem she was having with her car. I hope my advice was helpful to her.
The new transmission arrived the following afternoon. But I concluded that since the machine was still working fine, leakage aside, I would not do the swap until it started to show signs of malfunctioning. I figured why not use up the original transmission, to effectively extend my years of use from the replacement unit. It didn’t start to show signs of failure until recently, but even at that, everything still worked. It was just taking longer than normal for the agitation and spin cycles to reach their full speeds. But I decided it was finally time to dig in before it failed completely, which could leave us languishing at a laundromat.
The transmission swap was reasonably straightforward, and I did grab some (free) instructional help on the Internet. However, I did have to make a special tool to remove the transmission’s 11-and-1/16 inch, left-hand-thread gland nut. “Making a special tool” means I went to Harbor Freight and bought a $7.00 10-inch pipe wrench and whacked about four inches off its handle with a whizzer. Then, with a few well-placed blows on the remains of the handle with Mjöllnir (my four-pound mini-sledge) the nut loosened nicely.
With everything now apart, I found that the drive belt was also whooped. So I took it to my local auto parts store and they matched it up to a new Goodyear.
The only snag with the whole job was that during disassembly, I broke a pot-metal split ring, about which the free Internet instructions said, “Be careful, because the split ring breaks very easily.” They weren’t kidding – I barely touched it and it snapped in two.
You’d think a $5.00 easily-breakable part would be an on-the-shelf item in every appliance parts place, right? Wrong! I called three, and none had it in stock. I had to order it and wait a day for it to come in. So the job I started on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. didn’t finish until 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. As the sides of the hamper bulged out further and further, my wife said, “I knew we should have run the laundry before you started doing that job” Don’t you just hate it when they’re so darn right?
Now that all is said and done, the washing machine is working just like new, maybe even better than new. But why did I title this piece “Continuing Education,” and what does it have to do with working on cars? Actually, more than you might think. I learned a few things from the experience, and so can you.
First of all, always remember the Internet. I found concise, and best of all, free instructions for doing the job there. If you haven’t yet tried, you’ll be amazed at the oodles of (also free) car repair information floating around out there.
I also learned (re-learned?) to think outside the box. While the free instructions showed the actual special tool that should be used to remove the gland nut, some pondering allowed me to come up with a substitute. Yes, I know it’s nothing new that those of us in the car repair business make special tools— we’ve been doing it for years. But in this case, rather than destroy my Rigid 10-inch pipe wrench, I purchased and modified, shall we say, an inexpensive alternative.
But perhaps the most important thing I learned actually came from my wife. She pointed out that a job which was supposed to take an afternoon ballooned out to over three days, had me make two unexpected trips to purchase an additional part and tool, and almost resulted in (heaven forbid!) a lack of clean underwear. So maybe this time, we would have been better off paying a professional to do the job.
Don’t you just hate it when they’re so darn right?
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.
You can E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/cf7az8 to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit http://bit.ly/9FxwTh to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.
The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.