Why to NOT buy a Whirlpool appliance
This is the ongoing, rather irritating saga of having made the mistake of purchasing
a major KitchenAid appliance - or rather, a Whirlpool appliance. KitchenAid is one of their
brands. Here is the chronology of events.
- Fall, 1995 - I buy a house. And immediately buy a dishwasher - a Bosch 3000 series,
if I recall correctly.
- Late May, 2012 - the dishwasher develops a serious fault in the intake line - some
part of the system is opening and closing the intake valve rapidly (probably a bit of
unfiltered grit) to the point where the entire plumbing feed line to it is shaking.
I call the place I bought it from - they understand the problem, and estimate $250-$300
to fix it. But they also point out that it is 17 years old, so is going to be subject to
more future failures - am I sure I really want to repair it?
Good Point. And because they were honest/candid, they are first on my list of
places to check for a new dishwasher.
- I end up buying a new KitchenAid dishwasher (model KUDE20IXSS8) from Lowes on
11 June, 2012. It is installed 22 June, 2012
- Feb, 2013 - Whirlpool sends out a recall notice for a variety of models, for a
failure of the "crimp on the hose connecting the dishwasher sump to the motor. This
reduced crimp could allow the hoses to loosen over time, causing a water leak."
While I am part of the model range, I am not part of the serial number range.
My serial number is F22303060. I reasonably expect that I will not suffer this failure.
- 1 June, 2013 - I empty the dishwasher from the previous nights run, and start a
load of dishes in the morning. It starts beeping. Okaaay - I have no idea what this
means. I open it up, see nothing visibly wrong, and restart it. Problem recurs.
Hmmm - I'll debug the problem later. Time to shift the laundry to the dryer.
I descend into the basement, and something is obviously wrong - I hear "drip, drip, drip"
and it is more humid than normal. Uh, oh. There is water coming from the first floor
in the vicinity of the dishwasher/sink, but I can't tell where it is coming from. The
hot/cold wather pipes feeding the half-bath there are also dripping. Panic
as this may be a feed leak - I'm not going to take any chances.
It is Saturday, so emergency rates apply. Ouch, but it HAS to be professionally
diagnosed. Local plumber arrives. Out of pocket $182.50. But he verifies that the
leak is coming from the dishwasher, and is not from the heating/feed pipes. I show
him the (saved) recall notice. The dishwasher gets pulled, and he verifies that it
really is this exact failure mode.
- I try to call the recall phone number, but it is not operational except
Monday-Friday. I try whirlpool support, but that is similarly not available
excepting for hours of Whirlpool's convenience. So my plumber cannot even
call for parts!
- Because a custom part (clamp) has been used, the plumber cannot effectively
repair the problem, even when modifying a normal hose clamp. He re-attaches
and temporarily fixes it, but recommends I not use the dishwasher until I get
Whirlpool to service it (it is under warranty after all).
- Monday, June 3, 2013
I call the phone number given on the recall notice. They "verify" that my machine
is not subject to this failure mode. I describe the symptoms of the failure I
have (which exactly match the described failure). The call center sets up a visit
by a 3rd party repair firm for June 5.
- Wed, June 5, 2013
The service tech arrives looks it over, confirms that it really is the recall failure.
But he can't do anything about it! because it is a special part which is
not carried, and must be ordered. He puts in an overnight order in. So why, if this
is a common failure, is the authorized service company NOT CARRYING a sub $1.00
part as common practice?
- Thurs, June 6, 2013 - the parts arrive.
- Friday, June 7 - tech arrives - I'm the first stop. He makes the fix. It appears
- Saturday, June 8, I start a load of dishes. Greaat - same leak symptoms, water
in the basement and on stuff I have stored there. But it's saturday, so I can't
do anything about it.
- Monday, June 10 - I'm really rather irked. I call the 800 number for whirlpool
service at 8:45AM EST. The voice recognition system seems to have problems recognizing
the word "No". I'm on hold until 8:50, talked to Shanika (spelling?). She sets
up a service call for June 12.
- Wed, June 12 - a different tech shows up. Able to recreate/diagnose the problem.
This time, it is a tear in the hose itself. He has to order an entire motor assembly,
and another clamp (I think). Parts wont arrive until 18/19 June.
- Tues, June 18 - 1st part arrives
- Wed, June 19 - 2nd part arrives
- Thurs, June 20 - service call again - same tech as last time. Repair affected,
thoroughly tested. (And No leaks). Yaay! Finally. A mere three weeks later.
Whirlpool does not actually care about its customers, based
upon the implementation of its "support".
- The 800 number is not available except by the convenience of Whirlpool.
Plumbing failures are NOT something which can be left sitting for multiple days.
- Professional plumbers are not able to call and get parts except for
Monday-Friday hours. (Grrrr).
- Responding to actual bad experiences with syrupy "we love you, and are
sorry you don't like our Mon-Fri only support" email/postings is inept.
- I find it utterly incomprehensible that long-established consumer appliance
companies do not have well established engineering and manufacturing processes
which focus on durability and maintainability. Or were those processes removed
as part of "cutting the way to profitability"? (I've seen that happen at
This particular failure is due to a bad clamp. The replacement clamp is 'special' but
is only a hose clamp. I can buy hose clamps at Home Depot/Lowes for under $2.00 retail.
And even though the recall is a common problem - the service techs can't/don't carry
them on their trucks?
4 service calls over 21 days? Really? If it were a car, I would invoke the state's
- Investors: bail out NOW!
While applicances can/do fail, and can be subject to recalls, failures which
involve plumbing require additional consideration on the part of the manufacturer.
The downside is that plumbing failures can end up in significant damage to the house.
In fact, one of the appliance repair folk indicated that this particular failure mode
(and they have seen a lot of these failures) typically end up being subject to home-owner
insurance claims. If this is a pattern, there is a valid class-action suit lurking...
Again - another reason for investors to flee.
- Fixing it: for recalls involving significant damage to customer property, make
the 800 line available 24x7.
- Fixing it: provide a specific web site describing the failure and the fix, to point
customers at relevant repair partners. Having a specialized repair partner is not
going to be a viable solution for everyone - so provide enough details that pertinent
professionals (in this case, plumbers) can perform the repair.
That is, if I am 100 miles from a repair partner, a general plumber needs to be
able to perform the corrective action.
- Fixing it: enable professionals (plumbers, designated appliance repair firms) to be able
to Gasp! actually order replacement parts on the weekend.
- Fixing it: tooling. Distribute the repair parts and any special
tools required to fix common problems, with particular emphasis on failures which
result in a recall. In this case, make the replacement part trivially available.
- Fixing corporate internals: the approach smacks of "cutting the way to profitability"
Having worked in high-tech firms, this never works. A better fix is to sack
Senior/Corporate/Executive VPs. Focus on the customers, and not on the profit margins.
- Fixing it: engineering - why was a truly custom part used, instead of a commonly
available part? There seems to be minimal attention paid to design-for-maintainabilty.
I suggest the development process needs to add some phase for maintainability issues.
- Customer satisfaction: Have the techs carry the replacement part for this recall in
their trucks as a matter of practice. It saves visits (good service means happy repeat
- Fixing it: bottom line - if the techs carry this part on their trucks, it means that
repeat visits are not necessary, which saves Whirlpool money (4 visits for an under-warranty
fix is really pretty pathetic).
- Fixing it: 800 line. Fix your voice recognition software. It is pretty badly broken to
not be able to recognize "Yes" and "No".