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Serviceman's Log

Warranty: true lies & confessions

By The TV Serviceman

At a glance...

  • Grundig Xentia 82 MFW82-490/9 TV set (Dolby CUC1931 chassis)
  • Nakamichi 630 FM Tuner Preamplifier
Click for larger image

I was chatting with an ex-technical liaison officer (TLO) for a major manufacturer the other day who was extremely comfortable with being made redundant. He had had just about enough of whinging clients and the deceit and dishonesty of people trying it on with warranty claims.

In fact, he was fed up with hearing the same outright lies over and over again and could recite some of the pathetic excuses by heart. For example, video cameras are often brought in for repairs under warranty when they have been immersed in the ocean, buried in sand or obviously abused in one way or another.

One classic was a camera with the ability to take still photos which the owner swore blind had hardly been used and had never been abused. When the technician looked at it, he found it was beyond repair because there was sand inside. Confronted with this, the client went ballistic and swore it had been nowhere near any sand whatsoever at any time – not ever. He was absolutely emphatic about this and even accused the company of planting the sand to wriggle out of its obligations.

It is amazing how the more guilty they are, the louder and more obnoxious they often become.

This time the client was really sprung. The idiot didn’t realise he had left the SD (Secure Digital) card inside the camera and that this still worked. The customer’s face had to be seen when confronted with the photographs the TLO showed him. They were all close-ups of a 2-year old in a very large sand box, including some with sand actually on the lens.

But it was the picture on his face that was priceless. He took his camera and left, tail between his legs, without so much as a whimper.

Now you may think that the TLO is just there to prevent warranty fraud but that’s not all he does. In many cases, of course, the client is given the benefit of the doubt. The TLO is also governed by what is available, the written rules of the warranty and of course, the law. He (or she) is the person who decides whether the item is to be repaired or replaced.

In some cases, it is just not possible to replace an item as it may be completely sold out and there’s nothing similar available. However, some customers get very agitated when told that a PC board must be replaced with a refurbished one because new boards are no longer available. Instead, they demand that a new board must be used, even though the refurbished board has been thoroughly tested and is guaranteed.

In stubborn cases, the client is offered the option of having his board repaired at the Service Centre and then sent back and reinstalled. The only problem is that this might take up to six months. Given this option, it’s surprising how quickly they change their minds – suddenly, a refurbished board that’s available right now is no longer such a bad deal.

Of course, if you are a particularly good whinger, the company may bend the rules and negotiate a deal just to get rid of you. But there’s a limit to a TLO’s patience as in the case of one over-demanding individual who insisted that his unit be replaced even though it was long out of warranty.

In the end, he was offered a free parts deal with the proviso that he would have to pay for the labour. However, the client continued to aggressively demand a new replacement and eventually went too far. Our TLO, who had had enough, stood up and said that the company was now withdrawing its offer and started to walk out.

Confronted with this, the customer instantly changed his mind and be-came all sweetness and light. Suddenly the offer was good enough. Our TLO, by now heartily sick of his antics, relented but that guy was dead lucky he wasn’t told to "get lost".

Out of time

On another occasion, a woman brought in an appliance from the country to a repairer in Adelaide, just within the warranty period. The repairer had the unit for six months before telling her he was unable to repair it. It then turned out that they weren’t an authorised service centre, so she took it to the correct place but by now it was well out of warranty and the claim was knocked back.

As a result, she got onto our TLO in Sydney and complained but rules are rules – the unit was well out of warranty and it wasn’t the company’s fault that she had taken it to the wrong place. What’s more, the address of the correct service centre was clearly stated on the documentation that came with the unit.

In the end, she reluctantly accepted her fate and the conversation ended.

Afterwards, our hero had a little think about the situation. First, she had been polite and not aggressively insistent. Second, she had reasonably tried to get the appliance back before the warranty had expired, which isn’t so easy if you live 100km out in the bush. The intent was there, so he called her back and said that the company had changed its mind and would cover the repair under warranty.

So you see, there is a heart there – somewhere!

Tool time

Another bloke I know was the service manager for a trade tool company for several years. And of course, some customers try it on there too.

Now this particular tool company catered mainly to tradesmen and was run by a big red-headed guy with a quick wit and an equally quick turn of phrase. And his service manager was a rather impatient hot-headed type who was not exactly known for tact or to suffer fools gladly.

One bloke came in one day with a hammer drill that wouldn’t hammer. The problem was simple enough and the drill was fixed a couple of days later and tested before being returned to the customer.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The very next day, he was back with the drill and did he jump up and down. This bloke could really whinge and it’s a familiar tune to anyone who works in the service industry . . . the @#$%^& drill still wouldn’t hammer, you pay good money to get things fixed and get dudded, you guys are all idiots and couldn’t fix a shopping trolley, a bloke wastes his time dropping something in and picking it up and it’s still not right, and on and on and on.

Or to use one of the boss’s favourite expression, he "carried on like a great big sheila".

"You don’t know much about power tools, do you mate?", snapped the service manager, snatching the drill from the customer and plugging it into the nearest power point. "It won’t bloody hammer unless you flick this lever to the hammer position" (service manager flicks lever, presses the trigger and the drill goes HAMMER, HAMMER, HAMMER).

"So what the hell is wrong with that, eh?"

"Oh, yeah . . . I musta forgot", says the customer. "Gee, after all that, I feel like a bit of a @#$%head".

"Yeah, you look a bit like one too", said the boss who was hovering in the background, a cheeky big grin on his dial. The customer quickly retrieved his drill and slunk from the shop, the laughter from several nearby tradesmen only adding to his embarrassment.

Poor bloke – it was a month before they saw him again!

He wasn’t the boss’s only "victim" that month. One guy who had a reputation for being a bit of a know-it-all came in a bought a good-quality electric planer. A few days later he returned to the store for something else and was loudly venting his ill-informed opinions. "You know that electric planer you sold me", he said to the boss. "Biggest @#$%^&* of a tool I’ve ever owned".

"Nothing wrong with the tool", shot back the boss. "Must be the @#$%^&* using it".

That took the fizz out of him – there was just no comeback to a statement like that.

Chainsaw Charlie

Another bloke came in with a chainsaw with an engine that refused to start and a chain that had obviously seen much better days. A carburettor overhaul fixed the engine problem and the chain was replaced with a new one and carefully tensioned.

The machine was now running like a bought one and the customer collected it and went on his way to attack who knows what.

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Well, you’ll never guess what he did attack. A few days later, Chainsaw Charlie turned up at the shop again and wanted the chain replaced under warranty because it had "gone blunt" in such a short time. It was blunt alright – in fact, the chain was utterly stuffed.

But that wasn’t all – the engine was covered in what looked suspiciously like cement dust and there were even bits of cement-like material stuck in the teeth of the chain!

When this was pointed out, Chainsaw Charlie freely admitted to using the chainsaw to cut aerated concrete blocks but was still aggressively demanding warranty on the basis of "it oughta be able to handle that!".

"You’ve gotta be kidding me mate", snarled the service manager. "You must be a complete moron – what sort of idiot uses a chainsaw to cut concrete? Get lost and annoy someone else".

And so Chainsaw Charlie’s warranty claim was firmly and tactfully rejected (well, it was tactful for this particular service manager). He picked up his wounded chainsaw and quickly left, never to return.

Tool in a bucket

This story will be familiar to lots of people in the service industry. It’s called the "tool in a bucket" and it’s a special collection of bits that’s created by blokes who overestimate their mechanical abilities.

Actually, those bits start off all joined together as one tool. But then, that tool fails for whatever reason (often through abuse) and so Bob or Mal or George (or whatever his name is) decides to dismantle it to find out what’s wrong. After all, he can fix anything, can’t he?

The trouble is, many professional power tools are quite complicated beasts inside, with more bits and pieces than you can poke a stick it. So even if he spots the problem (unlikely), Bob then can’t figure out how it all goes back together again.

And so it all goes into a plastic bucket to keep everything together and that’s how it’s brought in.

The big red-headed boss loved it – it was time for a bit of fun at someone else’s expense. "Ahaaa . . . another tool in a bucket. We get lots of these", he would loudly exclaim so that everyone in the shop could hear whenever one was brought in. "Are you sure you’ve got all the bits in there mate? You haven’t lost any springs have you?".

The customers’ reaction to this leg-pulling varied. Some would quite readily admit that they didn’t have a clue how to put all the bits back together again. Others would sheepishly admit that they’d bitten off more than they could chew while still others would try to weasel out with: "yeah, well I’ve pulled it down for you but I don’t have the time to put it back together. So I thought I’d get you to finish the job".

Yeah, right.

For those of you who have never seen a "tool in a bucket", it’s important to note that there are quite a few models in the range. They include the "tool in a shoe box", the "tool in an Esky", the "tool in a green garbage bag", the "tool in an old pillowcase", the "tool wrapped up in newspaper" and lots of other variations. But regardless of the container, they all begin life in much the same way.

Invariably, too, there will be bits missing. As the service manager put it, you had to lay all the bits out on the bench and go through it all bit by bit – just like an air-crash investigation!

Dragging the chain

I’ve saved the best until last.

A blue heeler dog came into the tool shop early one morning, accompanied by two young builders who knew exactly what they wanted. They forked out the best part of $800 for a 2.5kVA petrol-driven alternator and were last seen driving from the carpark in their old diesel truck, the alternator box in the back and the dog perched up on the seat between them.

A week later, the dog brought the two blokes back in and they wanted another identical generator. "I sold you one of these last week", observed the service manager. "How come you want another one?"

Click for larger image

"Yeah, well the first one failed, didn’t it", came the matter of fact reply. "So we want a new one".

"Why buy a new one?", quizzed the service manager. "It’s under warranty; bring it in and we’ll fix it free of charge."

"Not this time mate", one of the young blokes shot back. "You wouldn’t cover this one with warranty".

"I think I’d like to hear about this", said the service manager.

Well, it wasn’t all that complicated. The two young blokes had finished work for the afternoon and had loaded the generator onto the back of the truck where it was secured by a chain. And they and the dog were driving home with the stereo cranked up when motorists coming the other way started flashing their headlights at them.

After about 3km of this, they decided they’d better stop and see if anything was wrong with their truck. The first thing they saw when they went round the back was an open tailgate. The second thing they saw was the mutilated remains of their new generator lying on the road. It was still attached to the chain, the other end of which was still attached to the truck!

@#$%er. They’d just dragged their new $800 generator 3km along the highway. You can just picture it can’t you – the old diesel truck, the music, the dog in the front, and the shower of sparks against the setting sun. It must have been quite a sight – no wonder other motorists flashed their lights in appreciation.

As one of the young blokes put it: "mate, it was well and truly stuffed. There were bits of generator everywhere. So we thought we’d buy a new one and not worry about warranty".

They weren’t the slightest bit embarrassed about the mishap either. It was just one of those things that happens.

Has anyone else got any interesting warranty stories?

A tricky Grundig

Now back to some regular servicing stories. Having had difficulty troubleshooting a couple of later Grundig models, I am now rather wary of taking them on. My problems stem largely from the fact that I’m no longer a Grundig service agent and so not factory trained by them to service their sets.

However, I also need money and so I recently reluctantly took on a Grundig Xentia 82 MFW82-490/9 Dolby TV set using a CUC1931 chassis. Apart from the red LED, this set was otherwise dead.

With the set up on the bench, the next challenge was getting the chassis into a position where I could access the PC board. That’s not quite as easy as it sounds, as the set becomes a little unstable when the back is removed and the shortness of the wiring harness doesn’t make things any easier.

The first thing that struck me was that there were quite a few dry solder joints, especially around the flyback transformer. And in line with other European sets, the components positions are not marked on the solder side, making a complex set like this even harder to repair.

Unfortunately, the fault was still there after a major rework of the soldering and it didn’t take a mental giant to work out that the line output transistor (T53001, 2SC5331) was short circuit. Further investigation then revealed that R55014 (4.7W) to the east-west IC (IC55010, TDA8145) and R53008 (10kW) across D53008 had burnt out. The former was understandable but the latter was inexplicable.

These parts are hard to access so replacing them wasn’t all that easy. And it didn’t help matters when the transistor heatsink clamp fractured and broke.

You would have thought that after resoldering the dry joints and replacing the transistor, IC and resistors that all might be well. However, this set was in full blitzkrieg mode and fighting me all the way. At switch-on, the transistor failed instantly and the EW resistor started burning again.

As a result, I next removed and checked about a dozen capacitors in the line output deflection stage. C3006 and C3007 – both 0.25mF 250V polyesters – were open circuit and I changed C53009 and C53012 for good measure as well. You can imagine my frustration when I subsequently switched the set on again and nothing happened.

It took me quite some time to find the real cause of the problem but by then, my stiff upper lip had well and truly failed. In short, Murphy’s Law had struck again.

Murphy’s Law comes in a couple of variations, one of which is "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong". Another variation is "if there is a wrong way to possibly do something, someone will do it". Well, I did it.

Like lots of other manufacturers, Grundig decided to use crimped plugs without any markings on them. And despite the shortness of some leads, some of them will easily reach more than one identical socket. In this instance, a 3-pin lead and plug from ST-GM2 on the CRT board can comfortably reach a 3-pin socket on top of the deflection yoke correction board which is not shown anywhere in the service manual.

Unfortunately, it also fits a concealed socket on the righthand side of a coil on the neck of the tube, which is actually the correct one. This plug had to be removed to get the chassis in and out of the cabinet.

Anyway, I had plugged it into the wrong socket, causing the set to go dead. And in the course of all this work, I had also managed to kill the sound by carelessly breaking L40111, a 10mH coil which feeds +5V to IC40110 on the lefthand AF module.

I must admit I wasn’t a happy traveller.

The humming Nakamichi

Recently, we had a Nakamichi 630 FM Tuner Preamplifier brought into us with a number of problems, the first being a humming noise. The owner had had a variety of technicians look at this and by the time he brought it to us, it had developed two more symptoms. In addition to the hum, there was a loud bang in the loudspeakers when it was first switched on and then the volume would jump up to high and the sound would intermittently distort.

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Murphy's Law in action - plugging the Grundig's 3-way lead from the CRT board to matching socket on the deflection yoke correction board caused the set to go dead.
Click for larger image
This photo shows the correct location for the 3-pin plug which goes into a socket on the righthand side of the coil on the neck of the tube

Our audio technician tackled the latter faults first and soon worked out that the power-on muting circuit wasn’t working properly and was pulling the negative part of the signal to ground. This circuit is in the power supply and is designed to slowly release the mute circuit to avoid loud noises at switch-on.

In practice, this is done by a applying a positive voltage to the base of PNP transistor Q911, thereby switching it off and allowing C906 (22mF) in the collector circuit to charge from a -10V rail. When this voltage exceeds the base-emitter voltage of Q910 (PNP) the latter turns on, in turn switching Q909 on and releasing the mute. The time constant is determined by R914 (1MW) and C906.

Our technician soon discovered that someone had replaced Q909 (2SA945) and Q910 (2SA733) and had inadvertently swapped the transistors around. So that fixed the muting problem – all he had to do now was fix the hum.

His approach was to monitor var-ious sections of the circuit with a CRO while listening to the amplifier through headphones. It took a while but he eventually isolated the fault to the power supply when he moved the ground point for the CRO probe to the BLK GND fuseholder. By slightly moving the cartridge fuse in the holder, he found that he could make the hum come and go.

Fairly obviously, there was a certain amount of resistance between the holder and the fuse which was causing the problem. Cleaning both and reforming and crimping the holder so that it held the fuse more firmly finally fixed the hum.

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