Friday, October 23, 2009

Dishwasher Question - Dirty Dishes at the end of the cycle

Kyle writes:
I found your blog in Real Simple and am hoping you can help me with a really exasperating issue.

I have a three year old Jennair JDB1100AWS dishwasher. For the past two years the dishwasher has been cleaning the dishes and then redepositing grit and what looks like sandy food particles back on the dishes. I have had Service Plus (our local utility appliance repair plan) technicians out here at least six times. I have had the motor replaced, changed dishwasher soap brands, made sure the water is hot and the garbage disposal is flushed before starting the cycle. I have used Glisten to clean it out regularly and this still persists. I have tried everything and still the dishes come out dirtier when they went in. I used JetDry, and still they come out with this grit on them.

We did get a new sink installed two years ago. We were told maybe the hose needed to be lopped up, so that debris didn't come back in the system, and we did that.

Any suggestions? Ideas? Things to ask Service Plus to try?

My response to Kyle is:
Thank you for reading my blog. Sounds like you tried the most common types of fixes but,I hope I can help you with the cleaning issue on your dishwasher.
On occasion, there might be some food particles left on the dishes at the end of the cycle.
Possible cause: Water temperature might be too low. Remember, the water temperature
should be 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit as it enters the dishwasher tub.
Solution: Check the water temperature at the closest faucet. Let the water from the hot water
tap run before starting the dishwasher in order to clear the water line of any cold water.
Possible cause: Not enough detergent for the degree of water hardness or for the amount of
dirty dishes to be cleaned.
Water hardness is measured in grains:
• 0 to 3 grains: soft water
• 4 to 9 grains: medium-hard water
• 10 to 15 grains: hard water
• Over 15 grains: very hard water.
If you do not know the hardness of the water supply, contact the local water department.
Solution: Use 1 teaspoon of detergent for each grain of hardness, with 3 teaspoons of
detergent, at a minimum, in soft water. The dishwasher will require extra detergent for
greasy pans.
Possible cause: The detergent was placed in the wrong side of the dispenser cup.
Solution: Instruct the user on how to fill the dispenser, and have the user reread the use
and care manual so that the detergent is placed in the correct dispenser for the cycle that
is selected.
Is the detergent dispenser functioning properly? Does the soap remain in the dispenser?
Possible causes: Improper loading of the dishes into the dishwasher.
1. Blocking the spray nozzle. If a large bowl or pot is placed over the center of the lower
rack, this will block the spray nozzle washing action when the lower rack is pushed in.
2. Larger items that shield smaller items from the washing action.
3. Observe to see if there is a nesting of the bowls or silverware so that the water
cannot reach all surfaces.
4. The spray arms are blocked from turning. For example, tall items or an item that fell
through the racks.
5. If an item blocks the detergent dispenser from opening, this will not allow the
detergent to mix with the water.
Solution: Instruct the user to reread the use and care manual for the proper instructions on
how to load the dishes for proper cleaning.
Possible cause: Improper filling of water in the tub. Water pressure must be between 15
and 120 pounds per square inch. After the fill has stopped, check the water level in the
tub. On most models, it should be even with the heating element in the bottom of the
Solution: If the water pressure is low, be sure that no other faucets are in use while the
dishwasher is operating.
Possible cause: Not enough hot water.
Solution: Instruct the user to use the dishwasher when the hot water is not being used for
laundry, baths, or showers.
Possible cause: If the dishwasher detergent is old and caked, it will not dissolve
Solution: Instruct the user to always purchase fresh detergent and store it in a dry place. Try using the dishwasher soap recommended in the use and care manual.

The Jenn-Air JDB1100 series dishwasher has extra features over the middle to bottom of the line other dishwashers. Listed below are some additional tips that might help you.

One feature is a turbidity sensor. This sensor is located on the bottom and to the left of the pump motor assembly. The sensor measures the soil level in the water. A service technician will have the check the sensor.

Another feature is called an over pressure filter. The purpose of this filter is to filter sediment missed by the lower filter than circulating it back through the wash cycle. This filter is located inside the tub straight in the back of the dishwasher. Spread the locking tabs. Rotate the filter down and remove from the manifold. clean or replace it.

If your problem is in the upper rack, check the docking station. The purpose of the docking station is to seal the water flow to the upper rack wash arm.

If everything checks out, try using the heavy cycle with an extra rinse.

Kyle, I hope these tips are helpful. Good luck, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Book Review: Troubleshooting & Repairing Major Appliances 2nd ed.

Lisa's book review on Amazon:
I have a 13 month old dishwasher that cost me $650. It started making a loud noise while in use. I called the company's repair center and they gave me a rough estimate of about $400-500 to repair. According to Consumer Reports, I should have trashed the washer and bought a new one! I had to search high and low to find any books on appliance repair. Evidently, this knowledge is a state secret! I guess our disposable society doesn't want to fix anything. I did a lot of searching on the web and did find some general info on dishwasher repair, but they didn't offer any concrete details. This book saved the day. I read the repair chapter on dishwashers, grab my tools and removed the dishwasher, diagnosed the problem (bad motor--after ruling out other issues), went to the company's web site, located the motor and ordered it for $225. The motor arrived, I removed the old motor and popped the new one in, reconnected the electricity and water supplies, restored the power, ran a cycle and eureka, IT WORKED! The cost of the book, some of my time and I was able to saved my self hundreds of dollars and not be a prisoner of some repair person. The book offers chapters on using the tools, multimeter, etc. you will need to diagnose the problem. They are clearly written and not overburdened with "technobabble". The chapters on each appliance help you troubleshoot and rule out other possibilities. To be fair, I do have a strong tool background, so I have the equipment needed. If you don't have a multimeter, etc., you would be better off calling a repair tech, but if you do have to tools for the job, grab this book and fix the problem yourself. The sense of satisfaction and competence you feel by doing something for yourself and saving your appliance from the landfill make the effort worthwhile!

Thank you Lisa for your honest opinion on the book -" Troubleshooting & Repairing Major Appliances 2nd ed.".

You can purchase a copy of my book from

Remember to send your appliance questions to

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome Real Simple Readers!

The latest copies of Real Simple magazine have hit the shelves.

Check out our advice on when to fix appliances and when to replace them. We'll update with a link once the article becomes available online, but in the meantime, pick up your copy of the October issue today.

As always, if you have questions about your appliance repair, please e-mail me at eric at erickleinert dot com.

Want to know about multiple appliances? Buy the book for information on how to repair any major appliance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Repairing Microwave Ovens

A lot of people have written to me about repairing their own microwave oven. But, there are some safety precautions that must be observed first.

First let me tell you a short true story about my friend that tried to repair a microwave oven. He did not follow any of the listed safety precautions or technical training and was electrocuted. Thanks to rapid medical treatment and a lots prayers he was still alive. After a month in the hospital and a pacemaker installed he returned home never able to work again. When I spoke to him and asked him what had happened, he responded by saying that he new everything but forgot to follow the safety precautions. That was 35 years ago and I never forgot what happened to my friend. Do not let this happen to you. I strongly recommend that microwave oven repairs should be left up to a certified technician to repair.

WARNING: Any person who cannot use basic tools or follow written instructions should not attempt to install, maintain, or repair any microwave oven. Any improper installation, preventive maintenance, or repairs could create a risk of death, personal injury, death to others, or property damage. If you do not fully understand the installation, preventative maintenance, or repair procedures on this blog, or if you doubt your ability to complete the task on the microwave oven, do not attempt to make the repairs. Call a certified company or the manufacturer instead.

WARNING: First, before attempting any repairs, unplug the microwave. Then when you remove the outer cover or gain access to the electrical components, you must discharge the high-voltage capacitor or inverter. Do not attempt any repairs if you do not discharge the capacitor or inverter first. The high voltage circuit can have up to 5,000 volts stored in the microwave oven circuitry when the electricity is turned off.

WARNING:If you do not know how to properly and safely discharge the high-voltage capacitor or inverter, do not attempt removing or gaining access to the electrical components.

I have listed additional safety precautions below for you to follow if you attempt to make any repairs.
* Do not operate the microwave oven with the door open.
* Do not operate the microwave oven if the glass in the door is broken.
* Do not allow children under the age of 10 to operate a microwave oven.
* Do not jump out or by pass any components to operate the microwave oven.
* Do not operate the microwave oven if the door hinges and door assembly are loose.
* Always perform a microwave leakage test before and when repairs are made.
* Before you begin to service any high-voltage components within the microwave oven, you must discharge the high-voltage capacitors and inverter first.
* Never touch any wires or components with your hands or tools when the microwave oven is operating.
* Never run the microwave oven with the oven cavity empty. The microwave energy needs to be absorbed into food or a liquid, otherwise, the energy will bounce around, making its way to the high-voltage system and causing damage.

Before continuing, take a moment to refresh your memory of the safety procedures in the use and care guide that comes with your microwave oven.

Microwave oven repairs should be left up to the certified technician or the manufacturer to repair.

Preventive maintenance of the microwave oven is left up to the consumer to perform according to the use and care guide from the manufacturer. Please follow the instructions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Refrigerator/Freezer question?

Kellie writes:
I found your blog while reading a column about home appliance repair in Real Simple magazine, and I have a question for you. I acquired a 1940's Hotpoint refrigerator in nearly mint condition from a woman who damaged it while defrosting it with a knife. The hole is very tiny, and a refrigerator repairman told me that it could be easily repaired with some epoxy, but that he couldn't get a replacement dryer (perhaps I'm using car terminology) for it, and since we had to lay the fridge on its side to get it home, it was likely junk.

I'm an automotive technician and therefore think like an automotive technician, so my question is: can I do a motor swap? Can I install the guts from a modern refrigerator into this one? Or is there a better way to get it working again? I'm not afraid of projects or fabricating, and I have a pretty good understanding of automotive air conditioning systems which aren't terribly different. This refrigerator is absolutely beautiful, and it would be a shame to scrap it over a tiny little hole. I know that there are people who restore and update vintage refrigerators, but they charge thousands of dollars and I'd love the satisfaction of doing it myself. If it's doable, what exactly would I have to install, and where do you suggest I purchase parts?

I have included links to photos of the fridge and the puncture.

Thanks so much for your help,

My response to Kellie is:
Nice antique frig. Since you are an auto technician, I assume you know how to repair a leak in a sealed refrigeration system. Since the Hotpoint refrigerator is from the 1940's, first look for the name plate on the box. Determine what type of refrigerant was used (R-12 or some other type). The holes look like you can patch it with a epoxy repair kit if the whole is only on one side. Similar to the automobile evaporator coil. If you know how to work on a sealed refrigeration system then the repair would be simple for you. A refrigerant filter dryer is available. Just remember that the old type of refrigerant is no longer available due to the EPA requirements for phased out refrigerants.

As far as replacing the entire sealed system with a more modern type, the challenge will be to try a find an evaporator coil that will fit in the same area as the old evaporator coil along with a matching compressor and condenser coil.

Another possibility might be is to contact an aluminum welder and see if they can weld the holes. I once had to do this type of repair on a 1950's three door refrigerator. Then you can complete the remainder of the sealed refrigeration system repair yourself.

Good luck. If there is anything else I can help you with, please write back.

I wanted to also add to this response by telling my viewers, to repair a refrigerant leak in the refrigeration sealed system requires an EPA certified repair technician to make the repairs. Please do not try this type of repair if you are not EPA certified. It can be dangerous and it is against the law. Look up the following web page. This web page will explain the 608 rules and regulations for refrigerants.

Kellie, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Dryer question - marks on clothing

Ann writes:
Our dryer has started to leave brown marks, almost looks like a burn, on our clothes. The dryer is 4-5 years old. Is there anything we can do to fix this?

My response back to Ann is:
Take a look inside the dryer and look at the drum itself. If the paint finish came off the drum it's possible the marks you see on the clothes looks like rust. Also, take a look inside the dryer where the drum meets the front and rear bulkhead (front panel and rear panel). It is possible that the felt gasket has worn out and the clothes are getting caught between the bulkhead and the drum. I recommend also not to leave the clothes in the dryer when the machine stops if the drum or bulkhead is rusted. If the gasket is worn out, it can be repaired. If the drum and blukhead is scratched and rusted, you will have to purchase a new dryer soon.

Ann, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Refrigerator/Freezer question?

On September 7, Elizabeth writes:
I have Kenmore refrigerator (bought in 2006) with dual door refrigerator on top and freezer drawer on bottom. Every 2 months or so, the back of the freezer (where the vent is?) ices over causing the entire unit (refrigerator and freezer) to stop cooling. This problem began probably 1 year ago, and we have solved the problem in the past by leaving the freezer drawer open overnight to defrost it. This seems to work, but it is annoying and results in me having to discard a lot of perishable food from the refrigerator each time it happens. Is there a longer-term solution? What's causing this bi-monthly freeze up?

We have thought that it resulted from not getting the doors of the unit shut all the way, but I have been really careful about that in the past few months and the inside of my refrigerator is room-temperature today. Arg.

I appreciate any advice you have.

My response back to Elizabeth is:
What you are describing sounds like the refrigerator is not going into a defrost cycle. Every so often the refrigerator must go into a defrost cycle to defrost the ice off of the evaporator coil (the rear of the freezer section). I recommend that you call Sears to take a look at your refrigerator.

Elizabeth, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm out of work what do I do now?

I have received a email from a concerned parent that I would like to share with everyone.


Have a son, 30, just been laid off. I think he would be totally happy fixing appliances as he is super-clever, can fix/repair about anything, knows tools, electricity, plumbing, but no electronics. Great with customers too.
I want him to be happy and make a decent living. What would you do to train yourself and become a bright prospect for a good comapny (A&E, GE, Sears, etc). He says he has called some of the local servicers but they all want experience and don't have rookie training.
Any suggestions you share will be greatly appreciated.


I responded back saying:


If your son has a interest in becoming an appliance technician, have your son check out a copy of my book from the library. Ask him to read it. If he still shows an interest then locate a technical school in your area that teaches major appliance technology. Visit the school and check out the campus and the courses. Remind your son that he will have to do a lot of studying and hands on repairs while he is in school.
Here is some food for thought, maybe father and son can go into business together and repair major appliances together? There is more to the appliance field than just repairing appliances. There is sales, service, installations, service contracts, sub-contracting, parts, warranty repairs and working for A&E, Sears or GE.
Good luck


I know times are hard and some folks will be making a change in work fields. Major appliance repairs and installations is a great field to choose. Over the past decades I have never gone hungry and my family has never gone without.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summertime cooling - Room Air Conditioners

Room air conditioners are self-contained units that can be installed in a window, through a wall, or moved around on wheels. The smaller air conditioners are designed to cool the immediate area of a room. However, manufacturers are designing room air conditioners from 4,000 BTU/hour to over 30,000 BTU/hour. These larger-sized units will cool a larger area or cool multiple rooms in a home or office at one time.

The standard features are manual or electronic controls, straight cool only, electric heat and cooling, or reverse-cycle air conditioning (heat pump). Air flow circulating from the air conditioners discharge grill might have fixed, directional, or motorized louvers.

Some models are available with wireless remote control handheld units. The remote control makes it easier to control the on/off, fan speed, and temperature of the air conditioner from across the room. Room air conditioners are available in 120 volts or 230 volts.

To properly install a room air conditioner, it is strongly recommended that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations or call a qualified contractor or an authorized air conditioner service company to install the air conditioner. I have seen over the years many improperly installed air conditioners fall out of the window or wall.

Factors that should be taken into account when purchasing an air conditioner include the following:

  • Size
  • Energy rating
  • Location of air conditioner within the home or office
  • Location of the electrical outlet and voltage needed to run the air conditioner
To properly size a air conditioner for a room, I recommend that you pick up a copy of my book "Troubleshooting & Repairing Major Appliances 2nd edition" where I will explain to you how to size a room air conditioner for your home or office.

Please send me your how-to questions ( and I'll answer them in this forum, helping you decide if you can fix your appliances yourself or if you need to call a professional.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garbage Disposers

The garbage disposer provides a convenient and sanitary way to dispose of food waste. No sorting or separating of the food waste is necessary. It is designed to handle all types of food waste. If, however, the garbage disposer drains into a septic tank, organic wastes, such as egg shells, lobster, crab, and shrimp shells should be kept at a minimum. Items such as tin cans, glass, china, bottle caps, metal, etc., should never be placed in the garbage disposer because they might damage the appliance and plug the drain.

There are two types of operating methods available in garbage disposers: continuous feed
and batch feed.

Continuous Feed Disposers
A continuous feed disposer requires an on-off electrical switch that is remote from the
disposer. Before food is placed into the hopper, the user must turn on the cold water faucet
and turn on the electrical switch. Then the food waste is placed into the hopper. The food
waste will be ground up and expelled into the drain.

Batch Feed Disposers
In a batch feed disposer, the on-off operation of the disposer is controlled by the stopper.
The on-off switch is built into the hopper. The stopper is the component that completes the
circuit that allows the disposer motor to run. The hopper will hold the food waste until the
user is ready to dispose of it. The food waste will be ground up and expelled into the drain.

Garbage Disposer Maintenance
The garbage disposer is permanently lubricated; thus, it never has to be oiled. When the
disposer is used properly, it cleans itself. If there is an odor coming from the inside of the
disposer, you can deodorize it. To do this, take some orange or lemon rinds and grind them
up in the disposer. This will dispel unpleasant odors and leave the sink with a sweet smell.
Another way to deodorize the disposer is to take about a dozen or so ice cubes sprinkled
with a generous amount of household scouring power and grind them up in the disposer without running the water. Flush the disposer for one minute. This will allow any debris to
be expelled into the drain.

Installation of Garbage Disposer
Every newly purchased garbage disposer comes with installation instructions, a use and care manual, and a warranty.
The steps taken to install a new disposer are as follows:
1. Read the use and care manual.
2. Clean out the sink’s drain line.
3. Disconnect the electrical supply:
a. Continuous feed disposers need a wall switch and a receptacle.
b. Batch feed disposers need a receptacle or must be wired directly.
4. Be sure to observe all local codes and ordinances for electrical and plumbing connections when installing or repairing disposers.
5. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
6. After completing the installation, check for water leaks.
7. Turn on the electricity, and test the operation of the garbage disposer.

Drain Blockage
To avoid drain blockage when using the garbage disposer, allow the cold water to flow for a
sufficient time after grinding the food waste to be sure that all of the waste is flushed away.
The ground waste and water mixture flows at the rate of two seconds per foot in a horizontal
drain line. It is recommended that the user allow the water to flow for a minimum of 15 to 30
seconds after grinding the food waste.
The use of cold water in the garbage disposer will congeal and harden the grease,
making its disposal easier. Never use chemicals or solvent drain compounds, because they
can cause serious damage to the disposer.
The disposer should be used daily to flush the lines. If the dishwasher drain hose is
connected to the disposer, it, too, should be used daily to prevent the dishwasher drain hose
from becoming clogged.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Appliance Recalls

There are times when a product might have an electrical, gas, or mechanical issue that might
be hazardous to the consumer. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was
created to protect the consumer from serious injuries, unreasonable risks, death, and property
The CPSC’s Web site ( includes information on appliance, air
conditioner, and other product recalls. It also includes other information beneficial
for the consumer.
Other Web sites helpful to the consumer and technician include:
In addition, the list below provides a listing of Web sites for major appliance and air conditioner manufacturers. You can also look in the use and care manual that comes with the product for the manufacturer’s Web site. Remember, safety and education must be considered at all times when operating or repairing any major appliance or air conditioner.