A resource for safe and effective troubleshooting from the leaders in simulation training.

Welcome back, Troubleshooters! We are moving right along in learning the steps to troubleshooting electrical circuits safely and efficiently. You should now have a firm understanding of the first three steps of Simutech Multimedia’s systematic troubleshooting approach; “Observation”, “Define the Problem Area” and last week’s lesson “Identifying the Possible Causes.” However, before we can move on to the significant step of “Perform Testing” it is important to prioritize our possible causes. Today’s  TsT will be a continuation off of the third step of “Identifying Possible Causes” in which we will discover how to determine the most probable cause.

Simutech Multimedia’s systematic troubleshooting approach:

  • Preparation
  • Step 1: Observation
  • Step 2: Define the Problem Area
  • Step 3: Identify Possible Causes
    • Determine the Most Probable Cause
  • Step 4: Perform Testing
  • Step 5: Repair and Confirm
  • Follow-up


Continuation of Step 3: Determine the most probable cause

The usual suspects

Steps to troubleshooting

Once the list of possible causes has been made, the next step to troubleshooting is to prioritize the prime suspects that could cause the malfunction at hand. Prioritizing the items by the probability of them malfunctioning will help you further hone in on the fault. To simplify this process, there are some logical guidelines to aid you in finding the most probable cause.

The following are some rules of thumb when prioritizing possible causes. Although it could be possible for two components to fail at the same time, it is not very likely. So, the best place to start is by looking for one faulty component as the culprit. The following list shows the order in which you should check components based on the probability of them being defective:

  • First look for components which burn out or have a tendency to wear out, i.e. mechanical switches, fuses, relay contacts, or light bulbs. (Remember, that in the case of fuses, they burn out for a reason. You should find out why before replacing them.)   
  • The next most likely cause of failure are coils, motors, transformers and other devices with windings. These usually generate heat and, with time, can malfunction.   
  • Connections should be your third choice, especially screw type or bolted type. Over time these can loosen and cause high resistance. In some cases, this resistance will cause overheating and eventually will burn open. Connections on equipment that is subject to vibration are especially prone to coming loose.   
  • Finally, you should look for defective wiring. Pay particular attention to areas where the wire insulation could be damaged causing short circuits. Don’t rule out incorrect wiring, especially on a new piece of equipment.
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