If It Jams
Troubleshooting Car Problem and Laptops with Diagnostic Flowcharts
Copyright 2012 by Morris Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
Once we troubleshoot a problem, the next challenge is repairing it. In some cases, especially with late model appliances, parts are either unavailable or cost a prohibitive amount, in terms of replacement cost. Who would buy a new timer for a washing machine that costs 70% as much as a whole new washing machine? So the question becomes, "Can I epoxy this piece of junk back together so it lasts until the cheap electric motor fails?" I've been writing computer troubleshooting and repair texts since the mid-90's, always with the goal of helping people save money and keep stuff out of the landfill. Then I wrote a book about laptop repair that's intended for a broader audience, including people who don't aspire to any "beyond the warranty label" skills, and realized I had a problem. How could I tell somebody with a three or five year old laptop that it's worth spending several hundred dollars to have a technician repair something that can't be cured with a USB add-on? For those of us who do our own work, fixing it is more than half of the fun, but for people who pay for repairs, they have a right to expect fair advice about value. So I bit my lip and wrote a couple sections about the value, or lack thereof, in used computer equipment, and on how to shop for new stuff. I moved those laptop troubleshooting flowcharts over to this website a couple months ago..
But the idea of throwing away stuff that still works just sticks in my craw, and from an environmental standpoint, it usually doesn't make sense. People forget about the energy cost of manufacturing new stuff when they throw away their old appliances to replace them with higher efficiency units, not to mention the disposal of the old equipment. Certainly, if you can replace an old 50% efficient oil burner with a new unit pushing 90%, it's gong to make sense for both your pocketbook and the environment. But trading in washing machines every few years doesn't make a bit of sense, it's bad enough that the don't last nearly as long as they should. I've included pricing guides for second hand PCs and laptops on this site, just to give you a practical idea of market value.
When the problem you're trying to fix isn't obvious, it can help to have a flowchart that logically takes you through the process of elimination. Several of my published computer repair books feature a troubleshooting approach based on flowcharts. I've been working on a new series of automotive diagnostic flowcharts, with drafts completed for starting problems, overheating and coolant loss, and ticking noises. Click on the miniature troubleshooting flowcharts to expand for the full size, with expanded text explanations for every decision point.