Today’s equipment has the benefit of having “flash codes” to assist in the diagnosis of a problem. Too often, technicians look at these flash codes and think that that means change a part to solve the issue. This could not be further from the truth. Flash codes are there to provide a direction, a path, a starting point to help solve an issue whether it is with a furnace, A/C, or even roof top equipment.
There are some basic rules to troubleshooting. These rules are:
- KNOW WHAT IT SHOULD DO.
- FIND OUT WHAT IS NOT DOING.
- DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT ISN’T BROKEN.
- FIX ONLY WHAT IS BROKEN.
These rules sound so simple that no one should forget them, right? Yet time after time, people change parts that are not bad. In other words, they fix what isn’t broken (see rule # 3). In a panicked effort to just do something; many good service technicians reduce themselves to parts changers.
The key to proper troubleshooting starts with rule #1 – Know what it should do. Manufacturers produce literature and provide training on their products so the tech should know what it should do. Techs need to take time to “read the comics” that come with each product. If we know what a unit should do, then it is easy to follow rule # 2 — Find out what it is not doing.
Here is where the flash codes come in. Say a control has a flash code for an open pressure switch. Does that mean the pressure switch is bad? It could or could not be! — First we need to know what closes the pressure switch — sequence of operation. Then we need to see if the proper pressure is at the switch, if the proper sequence is present. If the inducer is not running, of course the pressure switch is open. Now why isn’t the inducer running? The pressure switch, in this case, is doing what it is supposed to do. It goes on and on which brings us back to rule # 3 —Don’t worry about what isn’t broken.
It is important to remember on any service job, we are paid for what we know. There is no dishonor in taking a few minutes to figure out what is wrong, to read the manual that came with the product, to figure out what could be causing it. Nobody can be expected to remember just how EVERY product out there works. There are too many different brands. Having the manual, and taking the time so review it, even if you have to do it at the job site, goes a long way to knowing what is wrong with a product. No one should ever berate you for taking the time to read the manual.
Having the proper tools and meters is absolutely necessary with today’s products. Too often, the tech does not have the proper tools, doesn’t know how to properly use them, or just doesn’t take the time to use them and then becomes a parts changer.
So, my questions to you are, are you truly a service technician, or are you a parts changer? We all need to take the time, gather the facts, understand what is happening and what is not happening, use our tools and meters, and make a proper diagnosis. Without all the facts and measurements, without knowing the sequence of operation, in an effort to look like we know what we are doing, techs lower themselves to becoming parts changers.
I was always told, “you have one chance to get it right and collect for that repair”. If you have to go back to the same job for the same problem, the customer is not going to want to pay for that. I attended A.C.C.A.’S Quality College many years ago but I always remembered this “word” which describes a QUALITY CONTRACTOR — D.I.R.T.FooT (dirt foot) — Do It Right The First Time. If we do it right the first time, then Rule # 4 — Fix only what is broken — will show that you know what you are doing and keeps you from becoming a parts changer.
We all need to remember the 4 rules. We all need to take the time to gather the information and facts and do a proper diagnosis. We need to know the correct sequence of operation and have the proper tools and USE them. If we all do this, we truly will be service TECHNICIANS and not just parts changers.