Proper Troubleshooting

One of my very early post was titled Are You A Parts Changer and I had a couple of calls today that made me think it was time to re-post this with some changes.

There are some basic rules to troubleshooting. These rules are:


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. 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.

If we know what a unit should do, then it is easy to follow rule # 2 — Find out what it is not doing.  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.

I had a case today where the tech changed the gas valve, ignition control, flame sensor, and igniter and still could not get the unit to light. This was on a roof top unit.  I asked him if he could see the pilot flame on the cross over tube and what his micro-amp reading was — he didn’t have a meter.  Turns out, there was a blockage in the pilot cross over tube so the spark would spark but there was no gas to light.  Since there was no flame — the sensor could not let the unit run. Once he cleaned that, the unit lit fine every time.

Which brings us back to rule # 3 –Don’t worry about what isn’t broken. All the parts he changed probably had nothing wrong with them. His only problem was a plugged pilot cross over. Instead of having the proper tools, he started to change all the parts that made up the ignition system despite the fact that he could hear the ignition control spark and could hear the gas valve “click”, he changed them anyway.

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. 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 then allows you to make recommendations to the owner if you see something that may need attention later. That person will appreciate the fact that you fixed their problem and are looking out for them down the road.

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. Above all, we need to follow the 4 RULES.

About yorkcentraltechtalk

I have been in the HVAC industry most of my life. I worked 25 years for contractors on anything from residential to large commercial boilers and power burners. For the past 23+ years I had been employed by York International UPG Division ( a division of Johnson Controls) as a Technical support/Service Manager but I am now retired. One of my goals has always been to "educate" dealers and contractors. The reason for starting this blog was to share some knowledge, thoughts, ideas, etc with anyone who takes the time to read it. The contents of this blog are my own opinions, thoughts, experiences and should not be construed as those of Johnson Controls York UPG in any way. I hope you find this a help. I always welcome comments and suggestions for postings and will do my best to address any thoughts, questions, or topics you may want to hear about. Thanks for taking the time to read my postings! Mike Bishop
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One Response to Proper Troubleshooting

  1. resorts says:

    You really nailed it again my buddy keep up the
    excellent work I often get entertainment from your content.
    ! . !

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