Saturday, June 18, 2016

Still Life with Robin: It's the On-Off Switch, Stupid!

by Peggy Robin

There are things everyone should do before calling in a repair person – things so simple you might think no one could forget to do them. But any repair person could tell you a story about being called to someone’s house to fix a broken light fixture, and it turned out to be nothing more than a burned-out light bulb. That’s $60 for a few turns of the wrist [or three men and a ladder – insert your favorite light bulb joke here]. Or the time the computer tech guy came to find out why the printer didn’t work, and it turned out that it was no longer plugged in.

Sometimes you think you’ve checked to see that the plug hasn’t become dislodged – but you skip something else along the power route, something almost as obvious, such as an inadvertently flipped on-off switch on the power strip. Or a connector cable that’s not snugly pushed into the USB – it’s pulled out just by a millimeter and that’s all it takes to kill the connection.

Here’s my latest experience with the “check the switch” syndrome. I pressed the crushed ice button on the ice-and-water-through-the-door dispenser of my refrigerator – and nothing happened. It had worked just fine the day before. I tried the water dispenser, and water flowed – so at least part of the system was working. Next, I tried the cubed ice button – again, nothing. I thought maybe there was something clogged up inside, preventing the ice from coming through. As far as I could see, everything looked normal. But that was only as far as I could tell. What do I know about ice making? I very rarely put ice in my drinks. The trouble is, I use the ice dispenser so infrequently that I forgot how it works. There’s an ice bin in the freezer and the icemaker keeps on making ice until the bin is full; when the ice in the bin reaches a certain level, it pushes up a bar into the off-position to tell the icemaker there’s no room for more ice. While the ice-making is going on, the process is fairly noisy: you can hear the icemaker whirring and hear the cubes dropping into the bin, and sometimes you can hear water dripping. A long time ago, I must have decided that these noises were bothersome, and so I opened the freezer door, saw that the bin was almost full of ice, and manually pulled up the bar to stop further ice-making. Then forgot about it. That was so long ago, and I have used so sparingly over so many months, that I didn’t realize that I had finally used up all the ice in the bin. And the bar was still up, so the icemaker was not making any new ice.

Here's where the story could go either of three ways. I could do the dumbest thing and call a repair person. I could do the smartest thing, which would be to recall having turned off the icemaker, and turn it back on. Or I could take a middle course, and consult the wisdom of crowds (i.e., go to the Internet to try to find the answer).

I took Door #3 and Googled “refrigerator stopped making ice” and one of the first things to come up was a video showing me how to check the ice-making stop lever. The video is for a different brand of icemaker, which has a spring lever, not a drop-down bar, but the idea is the same. And the outcome is the same – no need for a visit from an expensive repair person, who would just move the bar back into the ice-making position, while simultaneously making me feel very stupid and $85 poorer!

Just to make sure this column is not limited to helping anyone who may have mistakenly turned off the icemaker, I will close with a few other basic to-do’s, also gleaned from the internet, that may be of help any time you are contemplating calling a repair person:

For anything involving electricity: check the power from the device/appliance through any cables, extensions, power strips, plugs/outlets, or circuit breakers. Is everything connected, plugged in, turned on? If there are batteries involved, are the batteries good? Are they firmly in place with compartment doors clicked shut? You checked for rust, dust, or chemicals on any of the contact surfaces? If there are red or green power lights, are they on?

For anything involving air or water flowing through ducts, hoses, filters, etc.: check for clogs and obstructions, kinks, or gaps. Are the cleanable parts clean (filters and coils have been vacuumed or dusted or de-linted or washed – whichever is applicable)?

And finally, if it’s something that can be re-booted (power-cycled off and re-powered), have you rebooted it? Don’t think this is just for your computer. You never know what kind of appliance now has a computer inside it, telling it what to do. It’s always worth a try!


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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