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Dave's Repair Service
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Dave's Dictionary of Appliance Terms
The 'S' page

NEW! Download this entire 28 page dictionary in one ebook!

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Saddle valve – a small valve commonly used to connect refrigerator icemaker water supplies. Clamps onto, or ‘saddles’ a water line, from which it obtains its water supply. There are basically two types: those that pierce the water line, and those that require drilling a hole into the line.

Sealed system – An entire refrigeration system, consisting of compressor, evaporator, condenser, drier-filter, connecting tubing, and the captive oil and refrigerant charge.

Selector switch – a multi-position electrical switch that routes current flow to different circuits depending on the user’s choice. Usually either rotary or pushbutton type switches.

Self-leveler – usually seen on the rear legs of automatic top-load washers, these devices simplify the leveling process during installation. The front feet are leveled side to side, then the machine is tipped forward a bit and dropped down onto the rear feet. This mechanism is designed to cause the rear feet to conform to the floor and level the washer.

Shelf peg – A short plastic support post that anchors to a refrigerator or freezer liner and upon which the shelves rest. Most turn clockwise to install, and clockwise again to remove. Come in (too) many different shapes and sizes

Side by side – Refrigerator with the fresh food and freezer sections next to each other. Traditionally the freezer section is on the left side.

Silverware basket – In dishwashers, a coarse screen container, usually made of plastic, that holds silverware and other small items, keeping them from falling into the sump area.

Simmer – Lowest setting of a cooking appliance burner. In newer gas models, this is adjustable by means of a small screw in the center of each burner valve. Pulling a burner control’s knob off allows insertion of a screwdriver into the valve shaft to turn the adjustment screw so the flame is as low as possible on ‘simmer’ without going out when the control is turned from high to simmer quickly. 

Siphon break – A small check valve that allows air into a drain system to prevent a siphon from becoming established. Used mainly in clothes washer drains.

Slinger ring – A disc attached to a motor to prevent water from getting into it and causing damage, by throwing it away from the motor shaft via centrifugal force. Often seen above dishwasher motors to help protect them if the rotary seal should fail. 

Smooth top – Please, no jokes about us old guys with increasingly ‘reflective’ domes! We’re thinking here of electric ranges with some version of glass over their surface burners. Nice to look at, these are easier to clean than conventional cooktops - but not terribly practical if you’re a serious cook.

Snubber – A device that adds some friction to a suspension system to dampen vibration. Most often used on washers in one form or another.

Soil sensor – My Mom had one of these, very finely honed, when I was a kid. These days, they’re used mainly in high-end dishwashers to ‘read’ suspended dirt in wash water.

Spark module – Electronic circuit that provides the high voltage to spark ignite modern gas burners. Usually built as one completely sealed unit.

Spin seal – A large rotary seal (which see) in a clothes washer that protects the main shaft and bearings.

Spline – One of the longitudinal grooves machined into a shaft to locate whatever attaches to it, to keep it from turning.

Spray arm – In dishwashers, this is a rotating, perforated tube, usually flattened, through which the wash water recirculates during the wash cycle to distribute it over the dishes.

Stirrer – A rotating metal device in microwave ovens that ‘mixes’ or randomizes’ the RF waves as they enter the cooking cavity, to distribute them properly for more even cooking. Often turned by airflow from the Magnetron cooling fan, although some older units used separate, small motors.  

Sublimation – The changing of a solid to a vapor without first passing through the liquid state. Ice cubes do this in the dry air of a frost-free refrigerator over time, shrinking in size if left in the freezer very long. Mothballs also sublime.

Suction line – The ‘low side’ tube that connects a refrigeration system’s compressor to the evaporator. The larger of the two tubes that make this connection, and the biggest tube seen connected to the compressor. The compressor ‘pulls’ on this line, causing refrigerant in the evaporator to boil off, and absorbing heat in the process.

Suds lock – Compressors are intended to move only vapor, while pumps are meant to pump liquid. When a water pump encounters soapsuds – air bubbles – it can’t handle them, and this is what we call it. The result is no water pumped.

Sump – The lowest point in a water-handling system, where liquids collect and are moved upward.

Surface unit – Electric range top burner. These come in several sizes, in ‘conventional’ spiral-shaped exposed coils and similar coils of smaller gauge wire under ‘smooth top’ cooktops. Most operate on 240 volts, and will glow a bright red on the ‘high’ setting. Many ‘conventionals’ plug into their own receptacle for easily removal for cleaning.

Surface unit receptacle – Special Bakelite or plastic block, usually two-wire, into which a conventional surface unit plugs.

System access valve – any of the many types and sizes of valves, usually with Schrader style inserts, used to connect to the inside of a refrigeration system. Some of these are soldered onto the various sizes of copper refrigeration tubing, then an interior needle pierces the tubing to gain entry to the system without losing any refrigerant. Other styles are inserted into the cut tubing after a repair is done and the system’s been opened. They all allow a servicer to connect diagnostic gauges, vacuum pumps, refrigerant bottles, etc, to the sealed system. Soldered-on types can be left on the system in case future service is needed. Clamp-on types should not be left permanently connected, because most rely on a rubber pad seal that will deteriorate over time, causing a leak. This type valve should be used only as a diagnostic tool - to temporarily add a small ‘diagnostic charge’, etc.

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