The lemon

Here’s what a lemon looks like:  It’s my KitchenAid dual oven gas range, purchased in 2012 for a princely sum.

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It was an appealing purchase at the time.  Two ovens are cool and handy.  Gas stoves are easier to control, and evoke my grandmother’s kitchen.

Grandma’s gas range worked great.  Mine doesn’t.

The problem is technology, a blessing and a curse in the 21st century.  When it works great, yay.  When it fails, it is complicated and costly to fix.

My grandmother’s stove didn’t have a motherboard.  Mine does.  Two years ago, it went completely haywire.  Pushing buttons to turn on the oven would instead change the time on the clock.  Adjusting the temperature upward would sometimes shut the whole thing down.

Because it was under warranty, KitchenAid replaced the motherboard.

Last week, it failed again.  This time, the oven won’t heat beyond 170 degrees.

The oven heats, but not enough.  The technology is screwing it up, according to the appliance guy who visited this week.  He offered to install a new motherboard for $450.

KitchenAid is offering to install a new one for $300, with a one year warranty.

At this rate, I’ll be installing new $300 motherboards every two years into a range that is obviously a lemon.  Nice business model, KitchenAid.

Why does a stove / range need a motherboard?   Instead of twisting a knob to activate the oven or set the temperature (grandma’s stove), mine has digital readouts and buttons (that aren’t really buttons) that are embedded next to the readouts.  Its looks very sleek, very 21st century.

When it works, it works great — but not as great as grandma’s did.

In my business, technology has changed a lot in the last twenty years.  We used to edit video on tape machines.  Now we do it in computers, and videotape only exists in archives.  When video machines failed, a guy with a toot belt would open them up and fix them.  When our computers fail, a guy (or two or three) will poke around, scratch their heads and try to decode the problem.  They’ve wiped my computer more times than I can count.  Each time, I lose all the stuff I’ve stored and all the memory that helps me work faster.  (And I can’t count how many failed external hard drives I’ve got in my desk, hoping they’ll reanimate one day.)

I get why TV news technology has advanced.  When it works, it’s lighter and faster and more mobile.

But a kitchen appliance doesn’t need to be mobile or faster or lighter.  The range needs to get hot when I want it to, without the interference of a very flawed KitchenAid computer motherboard that seems completely superfluous to cooking.

I’ve got a KitchenAid guy coming next week to to replace the motherboard — again — for $300.  Maybe I’m behind the times.  But it seems a bit outrageous.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

4 thoughts on “The lemon

  1. Erik Bagby

    I’ve never liked overly complex controls on appliances. Touch pads are driven by logic and microprocessors which, by nature, are sensitive to temperature extremes, humidity and electrical imperfections: all three of those are common in a heating/cooling/washing appliance and are a recipe for early failures, you know, which usually occurs just outside the warranty period. It’s getting harder and harder to find a basic washing machine, dryer, refrigerator or range without logic driven controls. Even some with conventional dials drive electronic controls.

    All of this is by design. The manufacturers don’t want you to keep their products for 20-30 plus years with minimal service costs (replacing burners). They want you to dispose and buy new 1-5 years. The product life cycles have been shortened on purpose. Then there is the “internet of things” aspect which also by design, can render a perfectly functional device useless. Smart devices are smart for the corporations making and selling them, ensuring a continuous product replacement cycle of months not years.

    Reply
  2. Steve

    Exactly – we had a top of the line GE microwave and within days of the warranty expiring it crapped out. We called and paid the 80 bucks just for the tech to show up. He said it needed a new computer board. $300. The MW news was $450. I hounded GE on social media and they sent another repair person at their cost. The problem a bad door latch. He replaced it – GE paid. If The first guy took the easy way out – Blame the motherboard…

    Reply
  3. Jim Grey

    My wall oven is about 20 years old, and even it has two control boards in it. Two have fried in it. The second time, the repairman said, “They don’t make these control boards anymore, and I had to source this one from East Outer Timbuktu, so the next time this happens you’re buying a new oven.” Then he asked, “Did you run the self-cleaning cycle before this happened?” Surprised by the question, I said I had. “Never, ever, do it again,” he said. “In many ovens, the cycle runs so hot that it damages the control boards.

    Reply
  4. arky

    One reason for that change is cost control. You can buy button boards by the truckload that can work for all of the appliances you make. You just put a different overlay on each model. Then you buy motherboards by the truckload that can work for every machine. You just program them differently at the factory using an automated process that takes a couple of seconds. Very cost effective. With practical controls, you have to design and manufacture different dials, switches, knobs and linkages for each model.

    Reply

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