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Getting Service on Your Electronic Product

6759 Views 2 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  lcaillo
First gather the information recommended in the What to Do When Something Breaks sticky thread.

Look in the Manufacturer and Vendor Reference Information forum
for contact information for your manufacturer.

Look for authorized service centers (ASCs) for your brand first. They will not always be the best servicer in your area, but you should check them out. If the product is under warranty, it will be necessary to use a servicer that is authorized by the manufacturer. If not, ASCs often have access to information that others do not, or at least have access to it more efficiently. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions, such as how familiar a servicer is with the brand and model.

When you are choosing a service center, be sure that you understand the servicer's policies and procedures. Ask some of these questions:
Are there estimate charges up front? Do they apply to the repair? What information do you provide in the estimate, such as specific parts and procedures, breakdown of parts and labor?
How do you determine labor charges? Hourly rate? Flat rate for certain repairs?
What is the time expected to first evaluate and then repair the product?
What kind of experience and training does the technician working on the product have?
What is your warranty on your repairs?

Not sure what to do? Not confident in the answers that you are getting? Do your homework as suggested in these threads and post a question in the forum. Include as much information as you can about the product, the problem, and what you have done to get a solution. Someone will likely be able to offer advice.

Good places to start looking for a good shop are:
http://www.theprosquad.com/index2.aspx (The Pro Squad, the best independent shops that I know)
http://www.tvrepairpros.com/ (NESDA)

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Component vs Board Level Repair

One way to identify a "good" shop is to ask how they complete most repairs. Experienced and skilled technicians still try to repair most products by troubleshooting down to the specific components rather than replacing entire circuit board assemblies. The trend among manufacturers is to "dumb down" troubleshooting and repair by replacing modules or large assemblies rather than individual components. There are several reasons for this, but the most significant one is that it reduces support costs and allows less skilled servicers to complete repairs. Ship enough boards and swap them until it is fixed. With the demise of thousands of repair shops, many vendors end up using techs with little experience or "national service providers" with techs who have little or no troubleshooting or basic electronics training.

The shop that you want to use is the one who will look beyond the board level for more complete solutions. I'll give an example. In the Mitsubishi sets of the last few years, that use what they call the DM module, there have been failures of capacitors in the DM power supply. It has become apparent that Mitsubishi got a bad batch of caps (from Jamicon) that failed long before expected. The stock solution from Mitsubishi is to replace the DM module. The board alone will cost several hundred dollars. Taking it apart, one often finds that the problem is simply 4-7 electrolytic capacitors that swell up and fail. A good tech will have looked for obvious problems BEFORE concluding that the set needs a new module. The result is a far less expensive repair. The repair may actually be more effective because when you get that new or rebuilt DM module from Mitsubishi, guess what kind of caps will likely be on it...that's right, Jamicon. Who knows how many of those replaced modules will be failing in a few years.

Many times these days, it is impossible to repair at the component level. For instance, common failures on many LG PDPs are Y-Sustain boards. The individual chips that typically fail are not available. Similarly, many light engines in RP and FP televisions simply do not have individual parts available. This is one of the "dirty little secrets" of the industry that manufacturers don't like to discuss. Many times this creates the habit in techs to just assume that no repairs are possible. Sometimes, if you look a little deeper, and are creative, there are more reasonable solutions. The tech that will do so is the guy you want working on your set.

Correction: Many of the IPM chips on the YSus boards have now become available. The smartest and best servicers are now considering the relative cost of the boards vs the chips and labor. In some cases it makes sense to repair the boards, in some cases the chips are close enough to the cost of the board that it does not make sense to do so. The best servicer stays up to date on this type of information and checks to find out. Some, even very good servicers, are not compfortable with the the process for changing these, as it is very difficult because of the mounting method and construction of the boards. The way servicers make these decisions is informative, however, as it tells you whether they actively seek out the latest info and make decisions that affect your repairs and costs wisely.
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The Value of Certification

There are certifications that you can look for that may give you a hint about the qualifications of a servicer. While not all quality servicers will have these, being affiliated with national, regional, state, or international organizations, and going to the trouble and cost to get certified indicates something about the professionalism of a servicer and his/her willingness to keep up with the technology.

The most widespread certifications are administered by NESDA (National Electronics Servicing Dealers Association) and ISCET (International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians). NESDA membership is a good place to start, and if a NESDA member has a CSM (Certified Service Manager), CET (Certified Electronics Technician), Multimedia Systems Technician) or the center is a CSC (Certified Service Center), you can feel pretty good that they try to operate as a professional servicer.

You can find NESDA servicers by going to www.TVRepairPros.com.

For decades I never bothered with membership in NESDA, nor with becoming a certified technician. In recent years however, there seems to be a trend toward "dumbing down" service so that any appliance repairman or untrained "trunk monkey" who can swap boards can run a truck for a servicer. There are many problems with this sort of business, but the bottom line is that the end consumer usually gets less value than from the independent, trained professional service tech. I have, along with many in the field, decided that we need to do more to differentiate ourselves so that it is easier for consumers to make good choices about who they choose to use for service. Many other techs like myself have been becoming members of NESDA and their state and regional affiliates, and receiving their certifications. Those who do are not gauranteed to be the best techs, but I have found that the best techs are far more likely to be among them, which is why I have associated myself with NESDA and ISCET.

Update Feb 2014...I am no longer in the service business. I still recommend going to professionals who are aligned with other pros in various organizations or groups if you can. Currently the best servicers I know are those who are part of The Pro Squad, http://www.theprosquad.com/index2.aspx
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