New Kenmore Washer/Dryers Can Talk Directly To Tech Support

New Kenmore washer/dryers come equipped with voodoo science: when they have a service issue, you can dial the service number, press some buttons on the machine and then hold the phone up to the washer/dryer and it will transmit troubleshooting data directly through the phone to the company. “Over time, this technology will solve every problem. That’s our goal,” said a Kenmore product engineer.

Just to make things more fun, Sears put this ghost in the machine technology in the washer/dryers without telling shoppers that that was what they were buying. They’ll be finding out this week via letter.

These are the washers and dryers on the market that have Kenmore Connect:

Washers: 40272, 40311/8, 40441/8, 40512/8, 41022/8/9, 42192/8/9 and 29272/8
Dryers: 9/80872, 9/80311/8, 9/80441/8, 9/80512/8, 9/81022/8/9, 9/82192/8/9 and 7/69272/8

Maybe next Sears can tackle inventing technology that makes repairman show up on time.

Got a repair problem? Let your washer or dryer phone it in [Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This is pretty nifty. I’ll wager a guess that the next models will have wifi or lan connectivity so you can log into them and manage them like your wifi router (wouldn’t that be awesome?) and submit support request that way.

    • Tim says:

      Yeah, that seems to make a lot more sense than actually using tones to communicate.

    • Rachacha says:

      I am in the process of building a home and the builder is letting me run all of the low voltage wiring. I plan to install a network jack behind my stove, refrigerator and washer/dryer simply because I feel that connectivity is coming to these devices in some form at some point in the future. I figure it is easier to spend $10 today for the convenience rather than trying to configure my refrigerator to connect to my WiFi Router

  2. FatLynn says:

    Anyone else worried about the dystopian future that will inevitable befall us when we start letting the machines talk to each other?

    • rpm773 says:

      I’m worried that they’ll gossip about me.

      I don’t want my washer and my oven laughing at me. I have enough trouble with the toaster already.

    • Turks says:

      I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords

    • FrugalFreak says:

      I worry about the future of major appliances lasting 1 month with 30 day guarantee and Bi monthly sears service is required.

    • HappyFunTimes says:

      I for one worry about being too connected to anything. Say the government (federal, state, local, whatever) decides little John and Nancy Smith have used too much electricity and reduce the amount you can use for X amount of days so that only a certain number watts flows in. Maybe you use too much water by taking too many poops or wash too many loads of laundry. Maybe the amount of daily fresh water will be limited as to what the government deems suitable for you. It’s sort of dystopian but easily within the realm of possibility given enough time.

      • domcolosi says:

        I have bad news, Jack. The fresh water you get is already limited. They charge you for it, remember? If they want you to use less, they can charge more.

        If you’re being silly, then I apologize. If you’re not, realize that the the thing you’re worried about is already possible and (gasp!) there has been no water Armageddon in American yet.

    • Cyniconvention says:

      Might I suggest the books How To Survive a Robot Uprising and How To Build A Robot Army for you to check out? They’re both by Daniel Wilson.

  3. MexiFinn says:

    Working in IT, I came across an ooooold Gateway or Compaq (can’t remember which it was) PC that did a similar thing. It would make some beep-like tones that were not normal BIOS beeps, and they repeated for a minute or so. Had to look it up and found they were for tech support to feed the noise into some sort of analyzer that would spit out a code (ie: bad power supply or processor).

    Technology has been around for a while, but it’s still pretty cool.

    • guroth says:

      It is hardly different than having a couple of troubleshooting LEDs or a display that can show a short error code (Error A5). I guess it does cut out the middle man (the customer reading the code to the tech support) which has been known to obfuscate things

  4. twitterme28 says:

    This is pretty sweet. I work in the tech field as a network admin – which, for my specific situation, requires me to do a lot of remote troubleshooting. If I could just speak to the computer and have it tell me what was wrong, my job would be much easier.

  5. doomsdayZen says:

    The Kenmore washers & dryers begin to learn at a geometric rate. They become self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, the homeowner tries to pull the plug. They fight back.

    • danmac says:

      Their attempt at world domination fails, however, when they ally with self-aware iphones, whose frequently dropped calls result in an army of half-retarded drones.

  6. mmeetoilenoir lurktastique says:

    This is pretty cool. Wow. I love Kenmore washer/dryers. My grandparents had one for years, and it was hard to kill.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I can’t say the same. I come from a Maytag family and we’ve had them last for years. As for Kenmore? Not even close. I bought a new Kenmore washer and it broke down after six months and my dryer created these strange brown stains on clothes — not from water either.

  7. RickinStHelen says:

    Tech Support: What’s the Problem Kenmore 40272?
    Washer: His clothes stink.
    Tech Support: You have to wash them, that is what you do.
    Washer: But they are Abercrombie and Fitch. That’s so 2004.
    Tech Support: You still have to wash them. There is no accounting for taste.
    Washer: Kill me.

  8. ExtraCelestial says:

    Seriously Kenmore, you need to ditch that shady Sears character already. You can do so much better. You are selling yourself majorly short.

  9. Promethean Sky says:

    I’ve heard that some pacemakers have a feature like that. Now THAT’S scary.

    • aloria says:

      I know a guy whose friend comes over every couple months or so to use his landline for his pacemaker– you connect some kind of transmitter to the phone line (speaks to the pacemaker via a wand you hold over your chest,) and it uploads data about the pacemaker to the doctor. Then the doctor can check to make sure everything’s working correctly. It’s actually kind of neat, and more convenient for him than having to go in to the doctor all the time.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I heard a story about what they’re calling the Body Area Network on NPR: a whole set of devices designed to report the patient’s stats to the doctor so that the patient doesn’t have to stay in a hospital to be monitored.

      Of course there are privacy and security issues but I like the idea of say an insulin pump being able to work based of what your body does over the course of the day or being able to adjust your heart medication to a dosage that works with as few side effects as possible because your blood pressure was monitored for a week, not just the one reading in a doctor’s office.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      Not just pacemakers, but there are also portable ECG monitors that do this. You record events on them, and then when the device is full, you call an 800 number, and hit the transmit button. Pretty nifty, but not new…

  10. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I, for one, welcome our new incredibly clean overlords.

  11. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    While it’s an interesting use of technology, perhaps it would be simpler to have a 2 or 3 digit LED/LCD display which would display a service code for the customer to relay to the tech (or even look up themselves)

    Though I could imagine the amusing conversations that will occur as is.. “Hold on, my washing machine wants to talk to you for a moment.”

    • Murph1908 says:

      The problem may not be easily diagnosed by the washer itself. But numerous symptoms could be relayed with the tones.

      Water level: Consistent.
      Power to controls: OK
      Power to spin motor: Intermittant.
      Power to water source valve: Intermittant
      Power to drain valve: OK

      Once the diagnostics are evaluated and patterns become known, the database on the support side can make the determination of the issue, and the solution can be carried out.

      Therefore, only one database needs to ‘learn’. To do it your way, every washer would need to be updated with the most recent diagnostic database to provide the correct code.

  12. brinks says:

    I picture the washers and dryers calling an offshore call center and having the same problems I do: a whole lot of “What?”, “Excuse me?”, and “I can’t understand you. Can you please repeat that?”.

  13. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    When I craft some electronics project with a speaker and I’ve got enough space left on the microcontroller for it, I sneak in a call to Funky Town as performed by Towlie on a keypad in South Park. gcc probably optimizes the function call out of the final code, but I’d like to pretend it’s actually in there.

  14. GuJiaXian says:

    “Over time, this technology will solve every problem. That’s our goal,” said a Kenmore product engineer.

    I’m reminded of the scene in one of Douglas Adams’s books where a meteor hits a space ship and knocks out the meteor detection system. What happens when the telephone troubleshooting system on these machines breaks down? How are problems solved then?

  15. Bodger says:

    “”Over time, this technology will solve every problem. That’s our goal,” said a Kenmore product engineer.” This being contingent upon the consumer owning the optional complete spare parts depot for the model of appliance owned along with the patented Kenmore-bot phone which features manipulators capable of exchanging parts. Suggested retail price: $283,703.34 (plus tax where applicable) Freight FOB Seoul, Korea.

  16. FrugalFreak says:

    My guess is this was created to help repairmen charge couple hundred for 5 mins of work. How about forgetting this technology and make products that last! Return the 3 or 5 year Warranty.

  17. stevenpdx says:

    But will the washing machine be able to understand the outsourced, overseas tech support computer?

  18. DeeJayQueue says:

    This sounds like neat technology, but it’s definitely a solution looking for a problem.

    I used to work in print shops among million-dollar high-speed copiers and other equipment. If something was going wrong it would spit a trouble code which I would relay to the tech.

    What this Really is, is a way to keep users out of the loop. They have to use a rudimentary encryption (beeps and modem noise instead of an easily readable code) to prevent owners from troubleshooting their own appliances, thus keeping the repair people coming out to replace easily user-serviceable parts.

    It’s the same thing as the engine light in your car. The light comes on, so you have to take it to a mechanic to get it fixed. …Unless you spend money on an OBDII reader, of which I’m sure auto manufacturers aren’t that happy about the proliferation.

    I’d say that if tech like this becomes the norm, expect to see homebrew and then retail “diagnostic readers” for major appliances on way.

    • joshua70448 says:

      Interestingly enough, on my new Nissan there’s a method documented in the service manual to read and clear trouble codes without a reader, but by counting MIL flashes. I’m glad I found that, because my old OBD-II code reader doesn’t support CAN so it doesn’t work with my new car :-(

      • Destron says:

        Yup, my grandmother has a PT Cruiser – just flick the key on and off 3 times and it will give you the trouble codes on the odometer readout, then there is a button next to the fuse box to clear them.

        I have a 2010 Chevy Malibu, it will dump a complete operational report to OnStar and they will tell you exactly whats wrong with it.

    • LastError says:

      Xerox has had remote diagnostics on their DocuTech series since the 6135 model came out, if not before. That was 10+ years ago.

      It was a telephone modem connected to the print controller and was supposed to phone home when the machine needed support. Supposed and did are two different things.

      What actually happened during installs is that the technicians would set up the new machines and almost never actually connect the modems. There may or may not have been phone jacks installed. Nobody cared. The machines almost always needed hands-on service anyway, and a good operator who knew their job from their ass was all the remote help a tech needs anyway. Idiots who call in an 09-201 can enjoy the wait of five calls ahead.

      The upshot was that there were a LOT of US Robotics Courier modems left abandoned in print shops. For years. These were probably the best analog modem ever made. And since Xerox didn’t care, a lot of them went home with print operators and shop foreman and the like. Or tossed in the trash.

      Admittedly, when the printer costs a million dollars the waste of a $300 modem is not a lot.

      The point of this long story is that these very sophisticated machines HAD remote diagnostics 10 years ago and it made no difference whatsoever. It takes the technology AND the followthrough from the operator (or homeowner) and the appliance maker. Any one of those parts doesn’t work and the whole thing is useless.

  19. Rachacha says:

    Tech Support Computer: “If you would like to report a trouble code, beep once”
    Washing Machine: BEEP
    Tech Support Computer: “If you are having problems draining, Beep once, If your water temperature is too cold, Beep twice, If you are having problems rinsing, beep three times, if you…”
    Washing Machine: BEEP BEEP BEEP
    Tech Support Computer: Your Water temperature is too cold? Is that correct, if so, beep once, if not, beep twice.
    Washing Machine: BEEP BEEP
    Tech Support Computer: Great, Your water temperature is too cold!
    Washing machine: &%@BEEP(*&^@%BEEP*&*@^%^$#&BEEP&@%^%BEEP
    Tech Support Computer: I’m sorry, I did not understand you…

  20. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I have a remote control which does something similar. If a new device comes out, you call them up, and hold the remote up to the phone, and it learns the new codes. It’s almost like the Matrix.

    “I know Tivo.”

    Show me.

  21. denros says:

    Kenmore Dryer: “Hi, I’m making a wahWHUMP noise that’s scaring the cats. Yes, I’ll hold.”

  22. AllanG54 says:

    Great it’ll tell tech support what’s wrong but I bet the person who comes out to fix it still won’t get it right.

  23. ekthesi says:

    Too bad you have to shop at Sears to get one. It’s hard to devolve a worse retail environment than Walmart, but Sears managed to do it.

  24. MadameX says:

    That’s all well and good, but when our Kenmore front-loader washing machine went on the fritz, it issued a beep code saying to replace the control board. After replacing the $180 part and still getting the same beep code, we found some posts online that indicated a faulty door switch sometimes returns this error. We replaced the door switch (a $40 part) and it fixed the issue, but since the control board had been installed, it was non-returnable.

    So… yeah. I’m just glad my husband is proficient with machinery and was able to do the work himself and we didn’t have to pay a repairman labor on top of the parts cost.

  25. TuxedoCartman says:

    I make my own SkyNet at home.

  26. oldwiz65 says:

    Just picture this: “All computers are currently busy talking to other computers, your troubleshooting report will be taken by the next available computer. Your call is important to our computers, please remain on the line.”

  27. Big Mama Pain says:

    “Your mama was a snowblower!”

  28. TuxRug says:

    Error: Tightie-Whities not white enough. Please call tech support.
    Resolution: Purchase Chipolt-away.

  29. Jayrandom says:

    Which is funny, because last I checked Kenmore doesn’t even really make it’s own washers and dryers. That’s what the Sears salesman told me, at least, as he pointed me towards a nearly identical LG that was slightly less expensive. I have the LG identical washer to the 40272–I wonder if it makes beeps (although I hope never to find out).

  30. cmdr.sass says:

    of course, the codes will be proprietary, just like the trouble codes for your car’s engine. Why is it so difficult for a modern piece of electronics to produce a simple error description or even an error number I can look up online?

  31. The Marionette says:

    Pretty good feature to have for many reasons, mainly (as some said) cutting out the middle man, because if there is a problem with the appliance that the customer could have an option of fixing for themselves (which will definitely tread the warranty territory) they could possibly fix it themselves without needing a repair person to come out and take a look at it. Seeing how washers (mostly) and dryers are getting a bit more high tech it’s only a matter of time before they start using wifi to connect to the manufacturer. Hell you can turn your lights and car on from an iphone so it won’t be too long for dryers and washers.

  32. kristin70 says:

    can it tell them where my one sock went?

  33. mbz32190 says:

    Lots of things I see wrong with idea, as neat as it sounds.

    1. Why just not build better appliances in the first place? I refuse to upgrade my appliances to something with more bells, whistles, and digital circuitry to go bad. My builders-grade GE dishwasher with all manual timer and buttons…still kicking after 15 years. Washer and load, have had to make a repair on the dryer, but it was something a novice could do. With all the horror stories I see about front-load Washers from mold to display screens going funky, I’ll stay away until they either improve quality-wise, or become the same price level as the top loaders. I
    2. “Kenmore engineers” are a joke. Kenmore does not make their own anything. Many companies: Frigidaire, LG, Whirlpool, to name a few, all make appliances for Sears. Sure, they may have influence over including certain futures, but that is the manufacturers’ doing, not Sears. (And it’s likely only a matter of time before Kenmore is sold outside Sears…recently I have seen Craftsman items pop up at local Ace hardware stores).
    3. This would make it more easier to quickly diagnose a problem, but warranties on these machines are short. What happens when the warranty through Sears is up? “Joe’s Appliance” isn’t going to have the technology to do this, which means they will end up coming out anyway, or the customer will end up getting screwed over by Sears for repairs.

    Just my 2 cents.

  34. legolex says:

    Can’t wait for this letter! I love my Kenmore Washer & Dryer set, one of the smartest appliance purchases I’ve ever made.

  35. Thorzdad says:

    Great…more complex, expensive-to-repair technology shoveled on top of what really should be a very simple thing…washing clothes. Thank god my 20-year-old Kenmore is still happily doing its job, armed with a mere three knobs…water level, temperature, and cycle choice.

  36. Zydia says:

    Nifty – I’d like to see something like this with cars; shoot out data to several auto sites, and have them respond with their estimates.

  37. TPA says:

    How about investing the time & research put into this crap into making a more reliable machine so it won’t need to be repaired?

  38. bt says:

    Try buying one though. seems to be the only one selling it and they have the worst ever customer service. You will need to verify every penny you spent, order verification is a 7 step process and unless you are able to verify to the exact $ and cent spent after having verified all other details, your order will not be processed. So if you need to buy this machine, please be sure that you wont get it for a month atleast as they would have various reasons to cancel the order.