Making Mistakes with Money

Control Board for Maytag Dishwasher

Control Board for Maytag Dishwasher

This story has almost nothing to do with running, but it does have something to do with learning life lessons.

Our Maytag dishwasher stopped working.  It was only about four years old, but one day recently I tried to start it.  It was full of dishes and silverware, soap tab in the soap holder, ready to go.  The start button did nothing.  It would not light, click, nothing happened.  My first thought was that the circuit breaker had tripped, as has happened in the past.  I grabbed my flashlight and headed to the basement.  In the far corner, I opened the panel cover and took a look.  All of the breakers seemed to be intact.  I clicked a few, just to check, and went back upstairs to look at the dishwasher.  All the other lights and appliances were working, but as I recalled, the dishwasher was on a separate breaker.  Never mind that, it still wouldn’t work.  The front panel has two sides, one, on the left, which controls starting the machine and setting the cycle type.  On the right, things like sterilize, heated dry and other options are available.  I pressed the right side buttons and to my surprise they responded.  So, in fact, the breaker was not the problem as electricity was getting to the machine.

Time for a confab with my wife over what to do.  Our first thought was that repairing appliances is expensive, and rarely worth the money.  It usually is cheaper to replace the appliance unless one happens to have paid up front for a service contract.  Of course, those are only usually good for three years anyway, and we didn’t have one, so this was not pertinent to our discussion.  Although, we brought it up.  Should we have gotten one?  Well, we didn’t so why mention it?  But how can it be so expensive to fix the machine, when most of it is in good shape?  With the marvel of YouTube, it is easy enough to search what to do when the dishwasher won’t respond to ones caresses.  The problem is, one is faced with an entire algorithm to go through to figure out where the problem is.  This requires special screw drivers, electric meters, and the time to mess with it.

My wife called a repair man.  He had been at our house before, to fix our dryer, and to work on an old refrigerator, which we ditched shortly after he worked on it.  We still have the dryer.  He came over a few days after we called and did a service call for diagnostic purposes.  I was not at home, but spoke with him by phone afterwards.  He charged $143 for the combined visit plus diagnostics.  He said the control board was bad, needed to be replaced and that would cost a bit over $400.  Adding that to what we already spent on the service call, I decided I could replace this thing myself, and we would have a working machine and still not pay as much as it would cost to replace.

I went back online and looked for a control board, which is a circuit board, a computer which runs the dishwasher.  To my surprise, this was not a cheap item.  I wound up ordering one from Sears Parts Direct for $180.  There was a $10 shipping fee as well.  There were a few places cheaper, although not much, and this way I could be sure it would be the correct part, since we bought the dishwasher from Sears.  Completely tangential to the story of how I learned what I learned, our part did not arrive as planned.  It was supposed to be shipped by UPS.  We received a tracking number.  I checked online and saw it left the Sears distribution place and was headed to Horsham, PA.  This was about a week after we ordered the part.  Then, every day I checked, it was just sitting, or so it seemed, in Horsham, PA.  Meanwhile, expecting it to jump on a truck at some point, I purchased the special Torx screwdriver set and electric meter I would need to deal with this little job.

One day, the tracking information changed.  There was a notation that UPS had turned the parcel over to our local post office, and it would be delivered by the coming Friday, in three days.  Hallelujah! While hand washing dishes is quaint, and a way to have a joint activity with one’s spouse, we wanted to move on.  I found myself rinsing the same plate and coffee cup over and over to not have to wash too many items.  Of course, Friday came and went with no package delivered.  Back online I went, and found there was a USPS tracking number.  Clicking on that, I saw our package wound up somewhere in Cincinnati, Ohio.  There was a little subscript saying it was sent to the wrong post office, and a correction would be made.  Another week went by, and the message from the USPS had not changed.

I finally called Sears Parts Direct and told them of my plight.  They responded quite appropriately.  I was able to speak with a representative without a single menu item to get through.  He looked up my tracking numbers and saw the same thing I did.  He said he would have another part sent out right away, this time directly by USPS, and he would remove the shipping fee from our original order.  Sure enough, five days later my part arrived.  It was packed a little haphazardly, but it was there.

The next day, don’t want to rush into a job like this, I recruited my wife to check the dishwasher while I went in the basement to turn off the circuit breaker.  After finding the right one, I proceeded to make the switch.  It wasn’t too difficult to disconnect all the cables but one did have to keep them straight.  I installed the new circuit board, put everything back together, then flipped the circuit breaker back on.  As you might have guessed, nothing had changed.  The buttons on the right side of the panel worked, but the on/off button was dead.  Either the problem was with the front panel, or my new circuit board was defective.

At this point I decided not to throw more good money after bad, as the saying goes.  A few days later, my wife and I headed out to Sears and bought a new dishwasher.  We got a nice one, a Bosch, which is super quiet and cleans like crazy.  It cost a bit more than our old one, and had to be professionally installed, but it was completely worth it.  Life is back to, no better than, what it was before.  We can have a normal conversation in the kitchen with the dishwasher running and it doesn’t interfere at all.

So, what did my tuition for this lesson get me?  I learned it is expensive to try to repair an appliance, which I already knew, but had to learn again.  I also learned I can do it if I know what the problem is, but figuring that out is the hard part.  I also learned what a Torx screwdriver is, and I now have one that ratchets if ever I need it again.  Perhaps I’ll pass it to one of my children in my will.

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