QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo August 14, 2021: More Info   Leave a comment

No Tools Troubleshooting presentation by Wayne Yoshida KH6WZ at the Third QSO Today Virtual Expo, August 14 and 15, 2021

Gene Kranz, my troubleshooting hero. Kranz, played by actor Ed Harris, is featured in the movie Apollo 13.
Gene Kranz NASA Flight Director (retired). Kranz celebrated his 88th birthday on August 17. NASA photo

Gene Kranz – my troubleshooting hero

My presentation is inspired by two things: Observing a problem during an emergency communications drill and the movie “Apollo 13,” starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell and Ed Harris as Gene Kranz.


Kranz’s experience, decision-making and guidance helped the massive team of experts to troubleshoot and resolve the crisis on the mission. All by “remote control” and without tools.


In our everyday operations no matter what the conditions or situations are, someday, something will go wrong. We must be prepared for this and try to get back on the air, sometimes quickly.


The basic concept to troubleshooting – anything – is the need to understand how the item works, in its most basic sense. For receivers and transmitters, it can be as simple as this:


Very basic receiver and transmitter concept

An increased understanding of how the item works often helps the troubleshooting process.

Next, consider why something is not working correctly – develop a theory – and then check to verify whether your assessment is correct.

Guessing and replacing parts is usually time consuming, expensive and often never solves the problem.

Another Way to Look At Things

Sometimes, we must think about what it is not, rather than what it is or can be.

For example, my front-loading clothes washer developed a problem: rinse water was in the compartment when the washer finished. At first, the bin was just moist, but when it was filled to the top, I decided to correct this to prevent a possible flood.

Doing some research on the internet, I found many entries about the detergent dispenser not working, and not adding soap into the washer.

Although this is not exactly like my issue, it is similar. All repair suggestions centered around the water supply not flowing properly into the detergent bin.

The solutions included making sure the water supply had enough pressure, cleaning the incoming water supply path into the dispenser using a piece of wire or a pipe cleaner, and cleaning the detergent dispenser.

This made the suggestions almost useless for solving my problem, since the fabric softener was going into the washer, and, since there was rinse water in the softener bin, water supply is not the problem.

I had to think about this some more: Water in the bin means water supply is fine. Softener is going into the washer. But why was the softener bin full, all the way to the top? Normally, the amount of liquid softener fills the bin at less than an inch.

So, something is not allowing it to drain, the opposite of filling it.

I checked to see if the washer was level. Maybe gravity helps drain the bin. Nope, a bubble level confirmed the washer was level in all directions.

Wait! There was something about cleaning the dispenser. I examined the dispenser tray unit and noticed the softener path was different from the detergent path.

I disassembled the dispenser tray and cleaned out the softener hole and mating tube. There was not much to clean, so I was not sure it would make a difference.

clothes washer dispenser bin wayne yoshida KH6WZ
Clothes washer fabric softener dispenser

I ran a batch of laundry. The problem is fixed!

Understanding how something works and observing symptoms when it does not work, will often lead to a solution.

A Question for Later

There was an excellent question from the session: “How do we prevent things from going wrong in the first place – what are some best practices to prevent things from going wrong?”

This will be the topic of a future CQ magazine “Ham Notebook” column.

If you have any questions on troubleshooting basics, or if you have a story about how you solved an equipment problem to get back on the air, let me know, and I will share your story in an upcoming update to this presentation!

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