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Appliance and power tool repairers, often called service technicians, repair home appliances such as ovens, washers, dryers, refrigerators, window air-conditioners, and vacuum cleaners, as well as power tools such as saws and drills. Some repairers only service small appliances such as microwaves and vacuum cleaners; others specialize in major appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers; and others only handle power tools or gas appliances.
To determine why an appliance or power tool fails to operate properly, repairers visually inspect it and run it to check for unusual noises, excessive vibration, fluid leaks, or loose parts. They may have to consult service manuals and troubleshooting guides to diagnose particularly difficult problems. They may disassemble the appliance or tool to examine its internal parts for signs of wear or corrosion. To check electrical systems for shorts and faulty connections, repairers follow wiring diagrams and use testing devices, such as ammeters, voltmeters, and wattmeters.
After identifying problems, they replace or repair defective belts, motors, heating elements, switches, gears, or other items. They tighten, align, clean, and lubricate parts as necessary. Repairers use common handtools, including screwdrivers, wrenches, files, and pliers, as well as soldering guns and special tools designed for particular appliances. When servicing appliances with electronic parts, they may replace circuit boards or other electronic components.
When servicing refrigerators, repairers must use care to conserve, recover, and recycle chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants used in their cooling systems. The release of CFC's and HCFC's contributes to the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects plant and animal life from ultraviolet radiation. Repairers conserve the refrigerant by making sure that there are no leaks in the system; they recover it by venting the refrigerant into proper cylinders; and they recycle it for reuse with special filter-dryers.
Repairers servicing gas appliances may check the heating unit and replace pipes, thermocouples, thermostats, valves, and indicator spindles. They also answer emergency calls for gas leaks. To install gas appliances, they may have to install pipes in customers' homes to connect the appliances to the gas line. They measure, lay out, cut, and thread pipe and connect it to a feeder line and to the appliance. They may have to saw holes in walls or floors and hang steel supports from beams or joists to hold gas pipes in place. Once the gas line is in place, they turn on the gas and check for leaks.
Repairers also answer customers' questions about the care and use of appliances. For example, they demonstrate how to load automatic washing machines, arrange dishes in dishwashers, or sharpen chain saws.
Repairers write up estimates of the cost of repairs for customers, keep records of parts used and hours worked, prepare bills, and collect payment.
Home appliance and power tool repairers who handle portable appliances usually work in repair shops which generally are quiet, well lighted, and adequately ventilated. Those who repair major appliances usually make service calls to customers' homes. They carry their tools and a number of commonly used parts with them in a truck or van and may spend several hours a day driving. They may work in clean comfortable rooms such as kitchens, but sometimes the appliance is in an area of the home that is damp, dirty, or dusty. Repairers sometimes work in cramped and uncomfortable positions when replacing parts in hard-to-reach areas of appliances.
Repairer jobs generally are not hazardous, but they must exercise care and follow safety precautions to avoid electrical shocks and injuries when lifting and moving large appliances. When servicing gas appliances and microwave ovens, they must be aware of the dangers of gas and radiation leaks.
Many home appliance and power tool repairers work a standard 40-hour week. Some work early mornings, evenings, and Saturdays. During hot weather, repairers of air-conditioners and refrigerators are in high demand by consumers and many work overtime. Repairers of power tools such as saws and drills may also have to work overtime during spring and summer months when use of such tools increases and breakdowns are more frequent.
Home appliance and power tool repairers usually work with little or no direct supervision, a feature of the job that appeals to many people.
Home appliance and power tool repairers held about 70,000 jobs in 1994. More than 1 out of 10 was self-employed. Almost 2 out of 3 salaried repairers worked in retail establishments such as department stores, household appliance stores, and fuel dealers. Others worked for gas and electric utility companies, electrical repair shops, and wholesalers.
Appliance and power tool repairers are employed in almost every community, but jobs are concentrated in the more highly populated areas.
Employers generally require a high school diploma for home appliance and power tool repairer jobs. Many repairers learn the trade primarily on the job. Mechanical aptitude is desirable, and those who work in customers' homes must be courteous and tactful.
Employers prefer to hire people with formal training in appliance repair and electronics, and many repairers complete 1-or 2-year formal training programs in appliance repair and related subjects in high schools, private vocational schools, and community colleges. Courses in basic electricity and electronics are becoming increasingly necessary as more manufacturers are installing circuit boards and other electronic control systems in home appliances.
Regardless of whether their basic skills are developed through formal training or on the job, trainees usually get additional training from their employer. In shops that fix portable appliances, they work on a single type of appliance, such as vacuum cleaners, until they master its repair. Then they move on to others, until they can repair all those handled by the shop. In companies that repair major appliances, beginners assist experienced repairers on service visits. They may also study on their own. They learn to read schematic drawings, analyze problems, determine whether to repair or replace parts, and follow proper safety procedures. Up to 3 years of on-the-job training may be needed to become skilled in all aspects of repair of the more complex appliances.
Some appliance and power tool manufacturers and department store chains have formal training programs which include home study and shop classes, where trainees work with demonstration appliances and other training equipment. Many repairers receive supplemental instruction through 2- or 3- week seminars conducted by appliance and power tool manufacturers. Experienced repairers also often attend training classes and study service manuals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all repairers who purchase or work with refrigerants must be certified in its proper handling. To become certified to purchase and handle refrigerants, repairers must pass a written examination. Exams are administered by organizations approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as trade schools, unions, and employer associations. Though no formal training is required for certification, many of these organizations offer training programs designed to prepare workers for the certification examination.
To protect consumers, some States and areas require repairers to be licensed or registered. Applicants for licensure must meet standards of education, training, and experience; they also may have to pass an examination, which can include a written examination, a hands-on practical test, or a combination of both.
Repairers in large shops or service centers may be promoted to supervisor, assistant service manager, or service manager. A few advance to managerial positions such as regional service manager or parts manager for appliance or tool manufacturers. Preference is given to those who demonstrate technical competence and show an ability to get along with coworkers and customers. Experienced repairers who have sufficient funds and knowledge of small business management may open their own repair shop.
Employment of home appliance and power tool repairers is expected to decline slightly through the year 2005. Although the number of home appliances and power tools in use is expected to increase as the number of households and businesses grows and new and improved appliances and tools are introduced, increasing use of electronic parts such as solid-state circuitry, microprocessors, and sensing devices in appliances reduce the frequency of repairs. Nevertheless, prospects should continue to be good for well-trained repairers, particularly those with a strong background in electronics. Most people with the electronics training needed to repair appliances go into other repairer occupations. Employment is relatively steady because the demand for appliance repair services continues even during economic downturns.
Home appliance and power tool repairers who usually worked full time had median earnings of about $427 a week in 1994. The middle 50 percent earned between $308 and $674 a week. The lowest paid 10 percent earned $249 a week or less, while the highest paid 10 percent earned $838 a week or more. Earnings of home appliance and power tool repairers vary widely according to skill level, geographic location, and the type of equipment serviced. Trainees usually earn less and senior technicians more. Earnings tend to be highest in large firms and for those servicing gas appliances. Repairers are compensated when working overtime, weekends, or holidays. Many receive commission in addition to their hourly wage salary.
Many larger dealers and service stores offer benefits such as health insurance coverage, sick leave, and retirement and pension programs. Some home appliance and power tool repairers belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Other workers who service electrical and electronic equipment include heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics; pinsetter mechanics; office machine and cash register servicers; electronic home entertainment equipment repairers; and vending machine servicers and repairers.
For information about jobs in the home appliance and power tool repair field, contact local appliance repair shops, appliance dealers, and utility companies, or the local office of the State employment service.
For general information about the work of home appliance repairers contact:
Appliance Service News, P.O. Box 789, Lombard, IL 60148.
National Association of Service Dealers, 10 East 22nd St., Suite 310, Lombard, IL 60148.
Service Dealers Newsletter, 1400 Easton Rd., Roslyn, PA 19001.
Professional Service Association, 71 Columbia St., Cohoes, NY 12047.
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