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Tundra’s Tech Talk helps you learn how to fix you restaurant & food service equipment on your own – DIY. Ask one of our experienced technicians a question, or learn about other equipment we’ve already helped other readers with.

How Refrigeration Thermostats/Cold Controls Work

How Refrigeration Thermostats/Cold Controls Work

The first step to understanding how refrigeration thermostats (aka cold controls) work is to understand a counter-intuitive fact about refrigeration physics:
Cooling is achieved by sensing and removing warm air, not by adding cool air.

A thermometer, then, measures how much heat is present. If the heat level reaches a certain, um, level, the refrigeration mechanism kicks, and the refrigerant starts its trip through a maze of intestine-like coils, and the warm air is removed.

That’s the big picture, anyway. Let’s dive in and explore the process in greater detail.

A refrigerator thermostat/cold control is basically the brains of the refrigerator cooling system—it runs the show.

Thermostats are typically found inside the refrigerator and have a knob that allows users to adjust the temperature setting. Once a user sets the desired temperature, the thermostat maintains that temperature by controlling the flow of electricity to the compressor. If the thermostat is the brain, the compressor is the heart of the operation, responsible for pumping the refrigerant through the coils.

When the air inside the refrigerator is at the desired temperature, the thermostat stops the flow of electricity to the compressor. When the thermostat senses too much heat, it allows electricity to flow, activating the compressor.

How does the thermostat control the electricity, you ask?

In most commercial refrigerators, the thermostat has a capillary tube filled with gas. As the temperature in the fridge increases, the gas expands and pushes on a diaphragm, which operates a set of contacts which in turn operates the compressor.

Pretty cool, huh?

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Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Here’s a lesson we’ve learned about the restaurant and food service business:

The more stuff you can fix on your own, without having to hire pricey contractors, the more money you can save. And when you save money, you feel good. Fix stuff, feel good. Rinse and repeat.

Fortunately, food service professionals are already a handy lot. We’re used to solving problems and getting things done. What’s more, we use “tools” to ply our trade every day.

But if you’re going to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself, you’re going to need the right tools for the job, and that’s where we can help you. (You didn’t know Tundra carried tools? Yes, yes we do!)

Tundra’s toolbox features high-quality wares from brands like Alfa, Commercial, CHG, Winco and others. Whether you need a basic item like an adjustable wrench or a specialty piece like a cutting board refinishing tool, we’ve got you covered.

And for those of you just getting started, our tool collections, such as this 27-piece kit, will help you tackle all but the most challenging DIY projects.

If you’re brave enough to troubleshoot electrical and gas issues, we even have a couple of helpful books to guide your efforts.

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To DIY or Not to DIY: Should You Make That Repair?

To DIY or Not to DIY: Should You Make That Repair?

When Tundra started, more than 20 years ago, we were a simple plumbing parts distributor.  Working out of a garage, our founder, Michael Lewis, began going door to door to see how he could help different businesses in the food service industry get the parts they needed to stay up and running, which quickly expanded Tundra to house more parts to serve its customers needs.

What he learned was that a lot of people in charge of running a kitchen were intimidated to make repairs, even simple ones.  Being the honest man he was (and still is), he took this as an opportunity to help teach people how they could make the repairs on their own.  The idea was that there were parts that you should have no problem installing yourself, while there were others that should be left to a professional.  Michael called them always DIY parts, sometimes DIY parts, and never DIY parts.

Always DIY Parts

Always Do It Yourself Parts require very little research and no technical skill to install. In general, if a part can be installed without the use of tools, it’s an Always DIY Part. Some typical examples include knobs, fryer baskets, light bulbs and hood filters.

If you’re trying to cut operating expenses in your kitchen, these are great items to start with. Because Always DIY Parts don’t require a service tech for installation, you start saving immediately on service labor, and you avoid the usual tech markup. Additionally, these parts can typically be used on multiple pieces of equipment and are generally in-stock ready for same-day pick-up or delivery. Usually, it would not make sense for a kitchen to stock replacement parts, but Always DIY Parts are one of the exceptions. Since most of these parts are multi-use (items like knobs), it may make sense to keep a few extras on hand.

To DIY or Not to DIY: Should You Make That Repair?

Sometimes DIY Parts

Sometimes Do It Yourself Parts require a small amount of research and little to no skill to install. These parts typically require the use of basic tools for installation, such as a screwdriver or wrench. The skill level for Sometimes DIY Parts is rather broad and spans from screwing in a refrigeration latch to installing a thermostat. While a thermostat is more difficult to install than a latch, the process can easily be taught. Everyone’s range for Sometimes DIY Parts is really determined by their confidence and comfort with making repairs.

Examples of typical Sometimes DIY Parts include refrigeration gaskets, switches, light fixtures, and high limits. While a lot of these items are typically multi-use parts, they are not necessarily needed as frequently so may not always be in stock. It is important when purchasing this category of parts to have a conversation with one of our sales team members to gauge the required technical knowledge for your specific part need.

With these parts, a little confidence and experience can go a long way to save time and money. This being said, most individuals can install Sometimes DIY Parts. If the installation is more difficult, you can always call a service tech to assist and still purchase the part yourself to save you the tech’s part mark-up.

To DIY or Not to DIY: Should You Make That Repair?

Never DIY Parts

Never Do It Yourself Parts require the highest level of research and advanced technical knowledge to ensure the installation is done properly. Some common Never DIY Parts are refrigeration compressors, steamer boilers/generators, and parts for any 480 volt equipment. Odds are, you’ll want to contact an experienced service tech for these repairs.

Never DIY Parts are typically not in stock, because the parts are linked heavily to specific OEMs, making it unlikely multiple people will need the same part on a frequent basis. While it is best to use a service tech for these types of repairs, you can still look to purchase the necessary parts. To speed up the ordering process, present our sales team with the make and model number of your piece of equipment, as well as the item you need.

To DIY or Not to DIY: Should You Make That Repair?

Have DIY Questions?

We know that this only slightly covers how to gauge if you should be doing repairs yourself, but as it was Michael’s intention, we do hope that this helps you walk away with a slightly better understanding of what you should have in stock in your own kitchen.  And of course, if you have any questions on how to DIY on any of your food service equipment, let us know, we are lucky enough to have a lot of team members with years of experience in equipment repair.

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Fixing Commerical Fryers [Video]

With almost 300 comments on our Repairing Commercial Fryers post, we figured it was time to get a video out there to better illustrate how easy it can be to fix a fryer yourself.  In this video, Chris Tavano, walks you through calibrating the thermostat, bypassing the hi-limit, taking out the thermopile, taking out the combination safety gas valve, and other troubleshooting tips for commercial fryers.  Please note, before fixing any kitchen equipment, you should ensure the power and/or gas is off first (in the example below, you’ll calibrate the thermostat before turning off power and gas).

For more information, please see our previous post on how to fix commercial fryers.

Transcription

Hello, welcome to Tundra Restaurant Supply.  I’m Chris Tavano and I’m here to troubleshoot some fryer maintenance today.  Common problems we tend to see are thermostat controls and calibration; in other words, your pilot light won’t stay lit, your burner won’t ignite, your oil is too hot or is too cold.  A lot of common problems associated with that are the gas burner safety valve, as well as, the hi-limit control and thermopile [Chris said thermopiler, but it is indeed formally called a thermopile].  Today, we will be using our Frymaster MJ35 for our example maintenance.

Calibrating the Thermostat: Checking the Oil Temperature Against the Fryers Thermostat

Alright, so first thing we’re going to talk about is the thermostat and how to calibrate the thermostat to help calculate exactly what the problem is.  So, a lot of times you’ll have your thermostat, and your hi-limit shutoff is around 450⁰.

So, what you want to do is set your thermostat to 350⁰, get a thermometer and put it in the oil basin itself, and you want to make sure that, that comes up to the temperature of 350⁰. At the same time, when that temperature has reached on the thermometer, you’re going to lower your thermostat down to about 250⁰ until it clicks off.  And then you’re going to turn it slightly up, and let the oil cool down.  And when that valve kicks back on for the fire, you’re going to make sure that, that temperature on your thermostat is also what’s reading in the thermometer that’s sitting in the oil.

Hi-Limit

Once you’ve identified the problem of your thermostat being off from the actual fryer oil temperature, the first place to look is your hi-limit switch.  And what the hi-limit does is a safety precaution saying that it’s going to turn off your fryer at exactly 450⁰, and never go higher than that. 

What we’re going to do in here is, you take your two-wires that go to your hi-limit switch, and we’re just going to unscrew them, and switch them in place to bypass that [we’re bypassing the hi-limit switch here].  We’re going to take the one that gives us the source to the thermopile.  This one is our actual limit, and we’re just going to bypass it and go instead to the thermopile.  Really, all you need to do is get the one that connects back to the thermopile so we have a constant source again of that flame.

Thermopile

Alright, if you found out that your hi-limit switch is not the problem, the next place to look is your thermopile.  A thermopile converts your thermal energy into electrical energy.  It is the source of your thermostat.

Back in this corner here we have our pilot light and our thermopile. The thermopile is the rod that is connected to this snaked wire.  Takeout [usually unscrew] the probe itself and there’s your thermopile. [The thermopile needs to be checked for corrosion or broken wires and replaced if damaged.]

Combination Gas Safety Valve

If you’ve found out that the hi-limit and thermopile are not the culprit of your thermostat controls, the next place to look is the combination safety gas valve.  That is not an easy thing to replace, it is not a quick thing to replace, and it’s not necessarily cheap, but it is something that needs to be done, and it’s much better than buying a whole new fryer itself.

If you look at this particular model, the whole unit of the [combination] safety gas valve itself cannot be removed from right here, so what you’re going to do is find your closest joints.  Unscrew those, and your other one right here.  And your actually going to pull out the entire device with all of the component pipes associated with it.  Once you pull that out, you can replace these pipes [take the pipes off of the combination safety gas valve] so that way you have the actual safety gas valve itself.  And then you can get that replaced, you can hook it back up to your previous pipes, and then again, you can screw that back on to the actual gas lines themselves.

Thermostat

Alright, so your last troubleshooting tip would be the thermostat itself.  If you find that you’ve gone through all of that stuff, and your pilot light is staying lit, but however, you aren’t holding temperature through what you had calibrated earlier, and it’s not being consistent, odds are the thermostat itself is bad and needs to be replaced.

Other Common Problems

Alright, so other common problems to try and troubleshoot with your fryer tend to be [small] explosions, it’s too hot or metal fatigue.  A lot of times, you’ve got to check the basin of your fryer itself, and make sure that there are no thin spots, worn out spots or any holes within the basin.  If that exists, you have to get a new fryer.

Other places you need to look are in your exhaust manifolds and in the flume burners themselves.  A lot of times they get caked with grease and excess runoff, and over time, those just don’t get cleaned out the same way that the oil basin itself gets cleaned.  So you’re going to want to check those on a monthly or quarterly basis, and try to clean out the soot.  If it’s caked in there, odds are you might need a new fryer as well.

Another common mistake is liquid propane to natural gas conversions.  Those are one-way valves, so to convert from natural gas to liquid propane, there’s one valve for that.  To go from liquid propane to natural gas, there’s a different valve for that.

For more information, please see our previous post on how to fix commercial fryers.

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Vintage Range With Broken Thermostat

Question

I have a vintage Detroit Star range from the 30’s or 40’s.  It has a Robertshaw thermostat control for the oven, but I think that the therm or tube is defective. Any ideas on someone that can check it out?  I live in Duluth, MN.

Thanks,  Richard

  • Hey Richard, Is there a possibility you can send me a couple of pictures of the thermostat? Or can you get any numbers off of it? With pictures or numbers I may be able to find it for you. 

Vintage Range With Broken Thermostat

Vintage Range With Broken Thermostat

Vintage Range With Broken Thermostat

Answer

Hey Richard,

The BJWA type thermostat replacement you can use is item #461037. It comes as a kit.

You can get it through etundra.com or you can call them at 800-447-4941 and any of the sales people can help you with it. You would need to call them for pricing and availability.

Let whom ever you talk to know that this is the one that I have recommended.

Hope this helps!

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Fryer Fire Low

QuestionFryer Fire Low

When I put in a small batch of food in the fryer, the fire is perfectly normal; however, when I fry a large batch, the fire becomes so small that the fryer can’t even heat the food.  Do you think the problem is that the thermostat is bad?  How much would you say that part is?  Thank you.

Amie

Answer

Hi Amie,

Ok if you are putting in a lot of frozen product at one time it may be that your fryer does not have enough BTU’s to keep up. Even if it is a large amount of thawed product it may still be that your fryer does not have enough BTU’s to handle the quantity.

When you do large quantities it drops the oil temperature so much so quickly that it can not get back to temperature quickly enough to fry properly.

When you fry just a small amount and it works fine then I would say there is nothing wrong with the thermostat.

Hope this helps.

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When Restaurant Equipment Goes Down: 10 Ways To Save

When Restaurant Equipment Goes Down: 10 Ways To SaveKeeping your commercial kitchen humming along is not always an easy proposition.  You use this equipment every day, and sooner or later something is going to give out on you.  If the next step you’re used to taking is picking up the phone to call your service tech, this post is for you.

That’s because if you have the right tools and a little basic knowledge, you can handle the most common equipment failures yourself on everything from ranges to fryers to overhead warmers to faucets.  We’ve written several great guides to help you fix your restaurant equipment yourself.

Check out these posts, and if you have any questions about fixing equipment, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you with and answer!

1.  How To Fix Countertop Warmers

2.  How To Replace Door Gaskets on Refrigeration Equipment

3.  Identifying and Replacing Electric Thermostats

4.  Identifying Commercial Faucets and Parts

5.  Replacing Gas Safety Valves

6.  Converting Gas Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

7.  Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?

8.  Fixing Commercial Fryers

9.  Fixing Commercial Ovens

10.  Fixing Gas Ranges

Being able to handle minor equipment repairs will not only save you money, it will also reduce your downtime, meaning your busy kitchen won’t miss a beat.  Half the battle is having the skills to replace parts.  The other half is being able to get parts fast.  Go here for a complete inventory of restaurant equipment parts.

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Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets

The rubber door gasket on the inside edge of the doors of all your refrigeration equipment is very important. It prevents cold air from escaping, which means the unit will stay colder longer and use less energy.  Old refrigeration door gaskets wear out and lose their seal. Even worse, older gaskets can pose a food safety risk because they begin to collect grime and food bits and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Luckily, it’s easy to replace door gaskets!  There are several different styles of gaskets. To ensure you get the proper gasket, gather the following information:

1. Dimension of gasket – Measure from outside corner to outside corner for both height and width.

2. Manufacturer – Get the manufacturer’s name and the model and serial number of the piece of equipment (the serial number may not be needed).  Search for refrigeration door gaskets by manufacturer here.

3. Style –  Check to see if the gasket is magnetic or non-magnetic(compression). Almost all newer refrigeration equipment will have a magnetic gasket. A magnetic gasket will be hard and square at the point where it contacts the inside frame of the unit. Magnetic gaskets will also snap shut when you hold the door less than an inch from the frame because the magnet attracts to the metal.

Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets

Magnetic door gaskets are the most common

Compression gaskets usually need a door latch to hold them tight in place to get a good seal. These gaskets are soft and compress easily at the point where they contact the inside frame of the unit.

Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets

A compression style door gasket

Door gaskets are also categorized by how they attach to the door.  There are 3 ways a door gasket mounts on a door: snap in (or dart), push in, and screw in.

How To Replace Refrigeration Door Gaskets By Style

Snap in (or dart) door gaskets

Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets

Note the arrow shaped “dart” in the middle. This snaps into a slot on the door.

Removal – Remove the old gasket by grabbing a corner and pulling.  The dart section of the gasket, which fits snugly into a slot in the door frame, will pull out.

Installation – To install the new refrigeration door gasket, soak it in hot water for a few minutes. This will make it more flexible.  Begin by snapping in a top corner first. Then, using a mallet or a block of wood and hammer, tap into place the top of the gasket. Continue by installing the sides from top to bottom, and finally the bottom.

Note: Make sure the hinge side of the gasket does not roll under when you close the door.  If it does, push it into position and you may have to tape the door closed to get the gasket to seat itself. You might also try a hair dryer to heat the gasket as this will help it seat. (Make sure you don’t melt the gasket!)

Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets

A push in style door gasket

Push in refrigeration door gaskets

Removal – Remove the old gasket by grabbing a corner and pulling!

Installation – Push in gaskets may require vinyl cement. To install the new gasket brush some vinyl cement into the channel and press the gasket into the channel.

Note: Make sure the hinge side of the gasket does not roll under when you close the door.  If it does, push it into position and you may have to tape the door closed to get the gasket to seat itself.  You may also use a hair dryer to heat the gasket as this will help the gasket seat.  (Make sure you don’t melt the gasket!)

Screw in door gaskets

Removal – Simply remove screws.

Installation – Screw in the new gasket using retainer strips.

A screw in style door gasket. Note the strip for screwing in the gasket.
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Repairing Commercial Fryers

When your fryer needs to be repaired you probably want to get it up and running again fast.  Fortunately, commercial fryers are generally easy to repair, and parts are also pretty easy to come by.  There are 4 fryer parts that most commonly cause a fryer to fail:

1. Hi-Limit
2. Thermopile
3. Combination Safety Gas Valve
4. Thermostat

How to Determine What the Problem Is

BE SURE TO TURN OFF THE POWER AND/OR GAS FIRST!

If the pilot light will not stay lit, 1 of 3 things have failed:

  1. Hi-Limit. First, check to see if the hi-limit is the culprit by taking one wire off and connecting it with the other wire.  Do as you always do and light the pilot.  If the pilot remains lit, then the high limit is bad and needs to be replaced.  To replace the hi-limit, you first need to empty the oil from the tank.  This needs to be done because the sensing bulb for the hi-limit enters through the side of the tank.  There is a large nut in the side of the tank and a smaller nut inside the large nut, loosen and pull these off.  Now you can remove the defective high limit.  Reverse the procedure to install the new hi-limit.  Always screw the larger nut into the tank first and then the smaller nut.  Light the pilot and your unit should be working.Repairing Commercial Fryers
  2. Thermopile. If the pilot still will not stay lit, then the thermopile is most likely the culprit.  One end is attached to the pilot and the other is attached to the gas valve.  Remove the thermopile from both places and replace.  Light the pilot, and if it remains lit you are good to go.  Also, remember to reconnect the hi-limit wire.Repairing Commercial Fryers
  3. Combination Safety Gas Valve. If the pilot still will not stay lit, then the only thing left is the combination safety gas valve.  To replace the combo valve, you will need to have a couple of pipe wrenches.  This is the most difficult part to change, due to the limited space.  Remember to install the new gas valve in the same direction and replace all the connections.Repairing Commercial Fryers

If the pilot is lit, but the fryer still does not work, the thermostat may be faulty.  Only 3 things can happen:

  1. Either the burner will not light when turned on even though the pilot is lit.
  2. The oil will not get hot enough.
  3. When the oil reaches temperature it will not shut off.

Thermostat. In either case the thermostat will need to be replaced.  If it is running wild (will not shut off) the oil will overheat causing the hi-limit to trip out and shut everything off.  By resetting the hi-limit and relighting the pilot and it stays lit, then you will know that the thermostat is not good.  To replace the thermostat follow the same instructions for replacing the hi-limit.Repairing Commercial Fryers

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Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

Converting any piece of gas equipment from natural gas to propane or from propane to natural gas is fairly simple and can be accomplished in 5 easy steps.

Parts needed to convert the equipment:

  • Burner Orifices
  • Pilot Orifice
  • Regulator
  • Combination Safety Valve conversion kit
  • Nomenclature (tag on unit that has model and serial number on it).

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO TURN OFF ALL GAS TO THE UNIT!!

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

1.  Replacing burner orifices. First, the most important thing you need to know is the brand name, model and serial numbers of your unit.  Next thing you will need to know is what altitude the unit you are converting is at.  This will determine what orifice size you will need.  You will also need to know the number of top burners as well as any other burners such as oven burners and the number of oven pilots (if you are converting a range).  The conversion can be done one of two ways: either by using the manufacturer’s conversion kit or with individual parts.  The conversion kits can be more expensive than using individual parts.

The conversion can take some time because whatever piece of equipment you are converting has to be dismantled and then reassembled.  Begin by removing all the burners and then remove what is needed to be removed in order to access the burner valves.  The burner valves do not need to be removed.  Remove the old orifices and install the new orifices (orifices are screwed to the end of the valve).

2.  Replace pilot orifices. If you are converting an oven, you also need to change the pilot orifice.  The pilot tube is attached to the pilot with a nut.  Unscrew the nut and pull the tube out of the pilot assembly.  When the tube is pulled out, the orifice should fall out; if it does not, tap the pilot assembly.  Replace the pilot orifice and reassemble.  Reassemble the unit the same way you took it apart (you are almost done!)

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

3.  Replace the gas regulator. You must change the gas regulator usually found at the back of the equipment.  Remove the old regulator and install the new regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Reconnect the gas hose, turn on the gas and check all connections for leaks.  This can be done with soap bubbles – wipe soapy water onto the connections and look for places where it bubbles up, indicating a leak.  Light all your pilots (it may take a little time to purge out all the air).  Adjust the pilots to the correct flame height by turning the adjustment screw on the pilot valve.  Now turn on one burner at a time (you want a nice blue tip flame).  If there is yellow or orange in the flame you will need to adjust the air shutter on the burner to  correct the flame.   This goes for top burners as well as the oven burners.regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps4.  Converting combination safety valves. Some pieces of equipment have combination safety valves, most notably fryers.  There are conversion kits for them (there is no choice on this).  The kit contains a plate and gaskets.  There are instructions with each kit, and it is very simple to change.  Remove the old plate from the top of the safety valve and follow the instructions to install the new plate and gaskets.  The conversion is complete!

You can special order a conversion kit easily by calling 1-888-388-6372.

5.  Replace the unit’s nomenclature. By law, the nomenclature must also be replaced.  This is only available through the manufacturer of the piece of equipment being converted.  Sometimes it takes awhile to get them, so until you get the replacement, you should remove the word “natural” from the tag with a magic marker and write in large letters, “LP”.  When you receive the new tag, simply stick it over the old one.

You have now converted your equipment from natural gas to propane or vice versa.

Congratulations!

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