Monday, October 25, 2010

RTFM - True Cause - And yes, I am bored. . . . .

The Wind has really picked up here, getting sustained mid 25's, and gusts to 40 MPH (according to NOAA).  Kristi and I are on the boat, catching up on things.  And yes, I am a bit bored - hence all the posts lately :-)

About 3 weeks ago our Equator Washer/dryer stopped working.  More correctly it stopped drying.  It would start, and then 'fault out' showing an error code of F05.  Digging into the service manual, this combination indicated a failed Water Level Switch.  Now, I really have no idea why the water level would matter during drying, but then I also have no idea why the machines brings in a small amount of what as it begins the dry cycle either.  (and this is NOT one of those condensing units that use water during drying, it is a vented model).

Anyway, I placed the new part on order for when we arrived back to Portland and we have been making do as best we can.  Including Kristi doing some hand washing.  Well, today I was bored and decided to play some more.  1st by running an empty load.  Guess what - it worked!

OK, this was actually a problem for me.  See, while I worked for Epson, I learned the concept of True Cause.  One should never feel comfortable about resolving a problem just by the symptoms - one needs to see the True Cause of the issue.  And in this case, well the problem went away without me discovering the True Cause (I had planned on investigating that level switch more when we got back and opened up the washer/dryer).

OK, so we went ahead and put in a load (actually, Kristi sorted out 6 loads) and guess what. . . .  It did not work this time!  Faulting with a F05 during Drying.

Hum. . . .

Then I had a thought, and checked the dock voltage.  We were a bit low, around 114v.  Under load it got down to 108, 107v, and if the heater was also on, down to 105v.  Well, this is where RTFM comes in:  (Read The F---- Manual).  It clearly says Min voltage 108v.

A few more trial runs, watching the voltage, trying combinations of heater / dryer, etc. and we could get it to fail 100% of the time with low voltage 104 to 107v..  Even more so, we switched over to the inverter and those large batteries.  A nice 117v, and the Washer/Dryer is happy as a clam!

Though do not know the True Cause (failure mode is sympathetic, True Cause would require knowing WHAT inside the machine objected to the low voltage), it does seem promising.

Oh, and there is another lesson here:  Viking Star is equipped with an isolation transformer that could boost the incoming voltage back into acceptable range.  But this is located under the Starboard V-Berth, the one which is serving it's natural purpose not as a guest bed, but as storage. . . .

So, for now we are just running off of the inverter / batteries.  Will recharge over night.

But I for one am VERY happy to have the onboard washer/dryer working again.


  1. Hey Skipper, Since I just responded to a newer post from the First Mate, I thought it only proper to respond to the cap'n: I am glad you learned to RTFM!!!! Looking forward to a visit when you get back down river!

  2. This reminds me of our troubleshooting of Dave Larson's "Tortoise" last weekend---we've had a long standing problem of the steamboat's burner failing to start or restart---turns out that the main problem we've never resolved is due to an obscure inverter parameter: Minimum Output AC Power. Turns out that this was set for 100watts, meaning that if the AC load drops below 100watts, the inverter could shut down, figuring it wasn't needed. In our case, this meant that if the only thing drawing AC power was the boiler's burner control electronics, after a delay, the inverter would cycle the AC off, then restart, then delay, then restart... We always figured it was due to old batteries, long cable lengths, poorly charged batteries, excess motor current draw, etc. Not so---or rather, sure, those are issues, but the big issue is that the control electronics use about 80-100watts evidently and so the burner controls "might" or might not stay on long enough for the motor to kick in. Changing the inverter parameter to 50watts saw the burner starting up every time. Changing it to 150watts saw it fail every time unless we kept an AC service lamp plugged in---which explains why we rarely saw this problem for most of the years we've operated the boat----we generally would leave an AC lamp plugged in for many years...only recently did we start turning it off on a regular basis. And it's funny---turn lamp off, walk away, system fails to start, walk downstairs, turn on light so you can see what's going on, system works fine, turn light off, 5 minutes later, system isnt working again...we had to look in the "advanced parameters" menu to find that parameter to adjust...lucky.

    Hope to see you both back in portland soon!

    -Myles Twete