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Diagnosing Appliance Fault Codes

When the display panel on your appliance flashes strange numbers, grab your owner’s manual. It may be flashing a fault code that’ll help diagnose a problem.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Diagnosing Appliance Fault Codes

When the display panel on your appliance flashes strange numbers, grab your owner’s manual. It may be flashing a fault code that’ll help diagnose a problem.

Solve appliance problems with fault codes

Do you have an appliance flashing some weird cryptic message on its digital display? Is your oven saying F3, or your dishwasher announcing that C5? These short repeating messages are actually fault codes—your appliance telling you what's wrong with it—and they're found on many newer appliances. For instance, F3 on a Maytag oven display means the oven temperature sensor needs to be replaced. A GE dishwasher that says C5 has low water pressure and probably needs a new water inlet valve.

When you see a code number flashing, look it up in the owner’s manual or at the manufacturer’s Web site, or check the online appliance repair sites below. You can also usually find a list somewhere in or on the appliance (see below). Armed with a diagnosis and a make and model number, you can purchase the right part from a supplier and make the fix yourself. Or at least save some time on the service call by letting the repair service know what they’ll need to bring along to make the fix.

Appliance repair site: repairclinic.com/0078.asp

Locating fault code instructions for a computerized appliance

Many newer appliances include computerized touch pads and control boards. You may think they’re too complicated to repair yourself. Wrong. They’re actually easier to work on because the computer does all the diagnostic work for you. Once the computer detects a problem, it stores a fault code in memory. All you have to do is put the computer into readout mode and consult the fault code chart to discover which part failed. Fortunately, most manufacturers pack the code retrieval procedure and code translation information right inside the machine.

The trick is to find them. The diagrams here show typical locations. Remove the cover panel and look for the fault code instructions in a plastic bag. Follow the instructions to put the computer into code retrieval mode, then count the blinks or read the fault code from the display. Once you learn which part failed, copy the model and serial number off the tag and buy a replacement part.

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January 08, 7:58 PM [GMT -5]

Unless you have experience with changing out control boards or oven sensors it might be a good idea to hire a professional. F3 codes could turn into more than a sensor and then you have an over all apart and costing more than you expect. However knowing what is the fault code is important to having a starting point to talk to a appliance tech.


January 02, 7:08 PM [GMT -5]

I found this suggested "fix" that might help you repair your microwave: http://www.ehow.com/list_7281796_kenmore-elite-microwave-error-codes.html
However, I have found that replacing the circuit board on a microwave frequently costs more then replacing the device itself. Good luck!

December 12, 8:49 PM [GMT -5]

My fault code is not listed. What does it mean when I get a SE code on my microwave oven from sears

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