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General Troubleshooting

Updated on May 7, 2015
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Neil grew up in Smithfield, Utah, on a hobby farm and learned gardening from his father and other area farmers that he worked with.

Making sure the device is plugged in (and the power strip or outlet is turned on) is the easiest trouble-shooting step there is.
Making sure the device is plugged in (and the power strip or outlet is turned on) is the easiest trouble-shooting step there is.
A day or two in a ziplock bag of rice may revive an electronic device that has gotten wet.  Likewise fresh batteries may be the solution to a device that is not working.
A day or two in a ziplock bag of rice may revive an electronic device that has gotten wet. Likewise fresh batteries may be the solution to a device that is not working.

Batteries and Water

If a device runs on batteries, checking to make sure the batteries are good (or charged) is the first thing to check if the device stops working. Rechargable batteries can be by-passed by plugging the unit into the charger. For disposable batteries, try a set fresh from the pack (a set that powers another device may not have the required power left to power the device).

Unlike devices that need to be plugged in, many devices (like cell phones and remote controls) take batteries, either disposable, or rechargeable. Because of their portability, these devices are also more prone to taking baths (or at the very least, getting wet). If this happens, the first action should be removing the batteries. (The very first step is really to not panic, but that has probably already happened.) The next step is to place the device in a ziplock bag full of rice. Then just walk away for the next day or so. After a day or two in the rice (the rice will pull the moisture from the device), pull the device out, replace the batteries, and if luck was with you the device will power up.

The TV won't turn on. The sewing machine won't light up. The lamp won't stay on. These and similar comments are generally the precursor to a call to the repairman or a trip to the store to replace a defective item. But wait, a bit of troubleshooting can eliminate many of those calls.

The basics:

These are steps anyone can take.

1. Read the directions. In the process of getting the model and make of a flatscreen TV we found a tag that read if remote won't work flip switch below. We found and flipped the switch, and the TV turned on.

2. Is it plugged in and is the power strip on? Are there batteries in it and are they in the right way? It's amazing how often this simple little element is overlooked. It can't work if there isn't power getting there.

3. Is the light bulb burned out? Is the light-bulb screwed in all the way? A sewing machine or serger will work just fine even with out the light. Press the pedal to make sure that it's not just the light bulb before taking it to the repairman.

4.Find the owners manual, and refer to step 1. I know, you tossed the manual into a box of manuals that you lost or threw away last winter. Go online. The Internet has many sources for owner’s manuals.

Advanced troubleshooting:

These ideas are not for the feint of heart. Proceed only if you’re comfortable with tools and technology, and realize that some things were not built to be fixed.

The simple art of remembering what was wrong the last time and how you or someone else fixed it will make the next occurrence much less stressful. The main key is, try the simple stuff first, then try what worked last time.

Go back online and search for a hub about your appliance. If that doesn’t work, look at a regular search engine. You will likely find a web-site with someone on the other end who can walk you through the rest of the simple fixes for your particular appliance.

Troubleshooting is a skill that is learned, often through hard experience, but just as often through watching someone else (perhaps even that repairman you called) walk through the process. Be forewarned the professionals make it look easier than it really is, but if you use the same methods to determine the problem, it can be done. Whatever you do make sure to un-plug the item or turn off the power to the appliance before doing anything.

Read the owners manual again! Many manuals have an advanced troubleshooting section. It may take advanced tools and skills to complete the steps, but that’s why you’re reading this section.

And finally, know when you can fix it yourself and when to call a professional or to replace it. Is the pride in having fixed it yourself, worth the time and possibly the extra cost? Will it be functional when you're done?

Is troubleshooting worth it? That depends. Do you really want to have to pay a repairman to tell you it was unplugged?



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