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Know-How from the Guys Who Know How

Tundra Restaurant Supply has been in the business of pleasing customers and sharing industry knowledge for almost 20 years. From the sales floor to your kitchen, our team of technicians and know-how gurus are here to make sure your restaurant equipment works properly, is installed correctly, and gets fixed when something fails.

Kevin Nakata, inside sales and technical support, has been with the company for nearly 3 years and frequently helps customers troubleshoot problems. Sharing some technician insight, Kevin has highlighted a handful of valuable products every restaurant can benefit from buying.

Know How from the Guys Who Know How

Kevin Nakata – Inside Sales and Technical Support

What are 5 products service technicians use regularly?

  1. Seat Washers (faucet part) – “Over time seat washers go bad, and this is the main reason for most faucet drips. Techs purchase seat washers because when you have a faucet that drips a seat washer usually takes care of the problem.”
  2. Silicone Sealant –“ Silicone Sealant is used to fill holes in walls or reseal around sinks and toilets. Techs also use silicone as filler in walls instead of spackle. Since silicone comes in a wide variety of colors and you can match it to walls easily techs don’t have to sand and paint the wall. You can use it on sinks to keep the mold from getting behind the sink and for keeping other debris from getting in to the cracks and causing bacteria growth. The reason they use it on toilets is to keep the sewer gases where they need to be. Nothing smells worse than the smell of sewer when you are trying to eat or use the bathroom.”
  3. Thermocouples – “This is the fix-all when a pilot light does not stay lit. Nine out of ten times when a pilot light does not stay lit the thermocouple is bad.”
  4. Faucet Parts – “Techs keep these on hand for the simple reason a faucet is easy to repair and it only takes 30 minutes or less to fix any faucet problem.”
  5. Pilots and Pilot Valves – “These parts are the most commonly used parts for gas range tops. Techs keep these on hand simply because pilot heads and valves go bad after time due to food debris getting to these pieces which causes them to clog. It’s easier to replace a bad pilot than trying to unclog one.”

Each of these technician go-to products can be purchased for less than $50, in some cases less than $1, and save you a ton of time and money. Calling in a technician to fix a small leak or a clogged valve automatically costs you big bucks, and you may be getting charged an hour’s wage for a 15 minute fix. Stock up on some technician essentials and be ready for that leak or clog. It’s smart to keep a tool kit on-site, and adding a few extras like faucet parts and seat washers help complete your kit.

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Troubleshooting Commercial Refrigeration Problems

Keeping product out of the danger zone and ready for preparation on the line is one of the most important tasks facing any commercial kitchen, and your Troubleshooting Commercial Refrigeration Problemscommercial refrigeration units play a critical role.

Maintaining and fixing the refrigeration units in your restaurant can be expensive, which is why it’s all the more important for you to be able to fix common issues that come up quickly without wasting a lot of time waiting for help.

Here’s a list of common commercial refrigeration issues and how to address them:

Did this troubleshooting guide help you?  Is there something that we missed here that will help others?  Leave a comment below and share your experiences fixing commercial refrigerators!

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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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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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Identify Commercial Faucet Parts

There are many different brands of faucets on the market.

Some of the most common faucet brands are:

Identify Commercial Faucet Parts

A T&S Faucet

Some faucets are easily identified and sometimes it is more difficult.  The best way to identify the faucet you have is by the manufacturer’s name found on the front of the base.  The base is the part that the stems and spout attach to.  If the brand name has been worn off from age you may find the name on the end of the spout.  If you are still not able to identify the type of faucet, then we move on to identifying portions of the stem faucet.  The shape of the spout would be another factor.

Identify Commercial Faucet Parts

A CHG/Encore Faucet

Most manufacturers have different shaped spouts.  This includes the angle at which they are bent to the curvature of the bends.  Another identifying factor is how it attaches to the body.  They all have a nut that either screws into the body (male threads) or screws over the outside of the body (female thread).  Most have the female threaded nut, so the last identifying possibility is whether there are o-rings on the part that inserts into the body.  Some may have a double or a single o-ring (rubber).  There are others that have a brass sealing ring.

Identify Commercial Faucet Parts

A Krowne Faucet

Sometimes you still may not be able to identify the faucet correctly.  The last means of identification are the stem assemblies.  Of course, they vary by manufacturer, and some may have different stem assemblies depending on whether or not they go into a standard duty or heavy duty faucet.  They may also vary if it is a wall mount or deck mount faucet.

There are three manufacturers (CHG, T&S, and Krowne) that use what is called a barrel type stem assembly.  The barrel inserts into the body of the faucet and the stems screw into the barrel.  They do differ and are not interchangeable. The T&S and Krowne can be confused with one another because of the bonnet assembly, although the handles are very different and the name may be embossed into the stem.  Encore/CHG is fairly easy to identify by the black plastic cap that covers the packing nut that screws into the bonnet nut.

Identifying other stem assemblies may be a little more difficult.  You would need to remove the stem for proper identification.  Look at the bonnet nut to see if it is a female or male thread.  Check to see if it has o-rings on it (single or double), or no o-rings.  Also check the spline on the stem, which is at the top of the stem where the handle attaches.  It can help sometimes.  For example, a Chicago stem has no spline and it is square.  A Perlick stem has no spline.  These are not interchangeable so be sure you are getting the right one.

If all else fails compare your stem to pictures of stems and assemblies online.    If you are unable to match up your stem, it may be a discontinued model or it may be a residential version.  If this is the case you may have to replace the entire faucet.

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Replacing Refrigeration Door Latches & Hinges

There are many different styles of hinges and latches for refrigeration equipment.Replacing Refrigeration Door Latches & Hinges

Both the hinges and latches have a number on the back.  In addition, they may say “flush” or have the offset size, e.g. 1 1/8, 1 ½, etc.  It is important to have that number on the back to ensure you get the proper replacement.

Let’s talk hinges!

Walk in cooler or freezer hinges are either flush or offset.  The easiest way to determine which style you have is to place your hand on the outside wall of the walk-in and slide it towards the door.  If the door stops your hand from moving across the door then you have an offset door.  If your hand slides across the door it is flush.

Determine the offset measure by measuring from the wall surface to the door surface.  The offset measure combined with the number on the back will ensure you receive the correct hinge.

Also, some walk-in hinges are reversible.  If you receive a hinge and it is the reverse of what you need, you can reverse the new hinge.

Replacing Refrigeration Door Latches & HingesLet’s talk latches!

Walk-in latches, like hinges, are for either offset or flush doors.  Use the same procedure as you would for a hinge to determine if it is an offset or flush latch.  Also make sure you find the number on the back of the latch.

Edgemount latches and hinges are most commonly found on reach-in type refrigerators and freezers.  Edgemount means they mount on the edge of the door.  The hinges and latches can mount on either side of the door.

Some hinges are spring assisted and some are self-closing:

  • Self-closing hinges use a cam system to close the door
  • Some of the edgemount hinges have spring assist kits available.  As with all latches and hinges, there’s a number on the back for identifying the correct replacement

There are two types of edgemount latches: Magnetic type or those that have a strike that the latch locks into.  These latches also have a number on them.

The best way to get the correct hinge or latch is to get that number off the back!

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Replacing Refrigeration Fan Motors & Blades

Refrigerators are the backbone of your kitchen.  They are usually durable and long-lasting, but when they go down, you have to have them fixed right away.  Some tips on replacing the fan motor in your commercial refrigeration unit:Replacing Refrigeration Fan Motors & Blades

There are two types of motors for refrigeration.

1. Condenser fan motor.
2. Evaporator fan motor.

First, we will discuss the condenser fan motor:

The condenser fan motor is mounted on the condensing unit located outside the refrigeration interior.  The size of the refrigerator unit will determine the motor size.  Motors vary in size, voltage and rotation.  All of this information is found on the motor, and is very important to have when ordering.  Rotation is vital to the operation of the unit.  Rotation will either be clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW).

The fan blade is also a critical part of the motor.  The blade is similar to the motor in that it is either CW or CCW.   Normally the rotation of a fan blade is stamped into the blade assembly.  When replacing either the motor or the fan blade be sure to use the same rotation type.

Replacing Refrigeration Fan Motors & Blades

Next, we will discuss the evaporator fan motor:

The evaporator is located inside the refrigeration interior, and will always be located on the ceiling or top of the unit.  There are two types of evaporative motors:

1. Open winding type.
2. Closed type.

On the open winding motor the copper wires are exposed and visible to the eye.  The open winding motors are usually reversible.  This is done by removing the bearing housing and pulling out the armature.  The armature is the part that has the fan blade attached to it.  Simply turn it around and put the shaft through the other direction and reassemble.  Now you have gone from CW to CCW motor or a CCW to a CW.  Each manufacturer will vary in what direction their motors rotate.

The closed winding motor has an encasement around it.  The rotation will be stamped on the back of the motor.  Mounting holes will be either on the side or rear of the motor.  If the motor fails, the motor will need to be replaced and cannot be repaired.

Buy general use fan motors or search by manufacturer here.

As with every piece of equipment the most important thing is the model and serial number on the equipment itself.  Generally, the model and serial numbers are found in the interior of an upright cooler/freezer, prep table or under counter cooler/freezer.  If the condensing unit is attached to one side or the other of the unit, the model and serial numbers may be found inside that area.

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The Quick Guide to Commercial Refrigeration Problems

Commercial refrigeration is key to the success of any restaurant and keeping your units properly running can save you both time and money. Whether your commercial refrigerator won’t stop running when you want it to or simply won’t run at all, this quick guide will help you to troubleshoot all of your refrigeration problems and find the right solution.

If your commercial refrigerator won’t run at all or won’t stop running, you’re probably looking at a defective thermostat.  You can test this easily. First, unplug the unit and open the evaporator housing. Locate the wires attached to the thermostat, remove and connect together with electrical tape. If the unit runs properly when turned back on, simply replace the thermostat.

Encountering difficulty with rising temperatures? The first step towards a solution is identifying what type of refrigeration thermostat your refrigeration unit uses.  If you’re dealing with either an air-sensing thermostat or evaporator-sensing thermostat, you can replace the part yourself. But be aware that the two are not interchangeable, so be sure to correctly identify which you’re working with first. If your commercial refrigerator uses a low pressure control, you’re going to have to call a service technician to get the part repaired.

The Quick Guide to Commercial Refrigeration Problems

Problems with a broken or malfunctioning fan motor need to be dealt with immediately, because without proper refrigeration your food is at risk of going bad quickly.  First off, you need to identify whether your unit uses a condenser fan motor or evaporator fan motor. A condenser fan motor will be found outside the refrigeration interior while an evaporator fan motor is found within the interior. Replace the motor fan by identifying the specific model of motor and blade (both are usually stamped into the back of the product and are easily accessible) and ordering a new one. Installation is usually brand-specific and can be found in your unit’s accompanying guidebook.

If the door to your commercial refrigeration unit is improperly closing, you could potentially be throwing away energy and money. The quick fix to this problem is simple: you need to update your gaskets. This do-it-yourself fix merely requires you to ascertain the dimension, brand and style of the existing gasket and order a new one. Replacing old gaskets is as easy as popping them off and snapping the new ones on.

The Quick Guide to Commercial Refrigeration ProblemsIf you need to replace faulty hinges or latches in your commercial refrigerator, start with simple identification. With both hinges and latches, you must determine whether you’re working with flush or offset parts, which is determined simply by running your hand over the part, looking to see if it is smooth, or flush, or not. If you’re working with offset hinges and the offset size is not available on the back of the part, you’ll need to measure the distance from the wall surface to the door surface to find the correct size. In terms of latches, there are two different types: magnetic  and those with a strike-and-latch lock. These latches will have an easy to identify number on them. With both latches and hinges, the easiest method is always to look for their ID number to order the right part the first time around.

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Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?

Any restaurateur who has dealt with equipment parts has heard of OEMCan You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts? (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and generic parts.  If you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown:

OEM parts are produced by the manufacturer of the piece of equipment or a subcontractor commissioned to make parts for the original manufacturer.  OEM parts are distributed by the manufacturer of your restaurant equipment.  If your equipment is under warranty, the manufacturer will replace broken parts using an OEM part and a certified service technician.

Generic parts are not made or distributed by the manufacturer of the restaurant equipment.  These parts are made using the same specifications as the original part and are equal or better in quality to the equivalent OEM part.

And this is where the whole thing gets a little complicated.  Restaurant equipment manufacturers have spent a lot of time and energy telling the entire food service industry that generic parts are inferior in quality and perhaps even dangerous to use.  There is an obvious economic incentive for them to say this: if you buy an OEM part from them, they make a lot of money.  Ironically, many “generic” parts are made in the same factory, and by the same company, that makes the OEM part (Robertshaw parts being the most common example of this).  The only difference between the two is the box the part comes in.  If it’s in a Southbend box, it’ll cost you as much as 50% more than the identical part in another parts distributor’s box.

I will say this again because the myth out there is a powerful one: generic parts are equal to or better in quality than the OEM part.  Really, there are only a few reasons why you would ever want to buy an OEM part over a generic part:

Warranty.  Your equipment is still under warranty and using anything besides an OEM part installed by a certified service technician will void the warranty.

Availability. Sometimes, due to the geographic location of your business in relation to parts distributors, you can get an OEM part faster than a generic.  And sometimes speed really matters, like when your fryer thermostat goes down the Friday before the Super Bowl.  In those situations you might be willing to pay more for the same part just so you can get it right away.

Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?Generic availability. Some parts, especially rare parts, are not manufactured generically and can only be purchased from the original equipment manufacturer.  That’s when you just have to grin and bear it.

Otherwise, there’s really no reason to not buy generic (and remember that in many cases “generic” means the same exact part from the same place in a different box).  Of course, always buy from a reputable restaurant equipment parts distributor no matter what kind of part you’re looking for.

There are many very common parts that go out all the time in the most common types of restaurant equipment.  These parts are easy to buy generically and easy to install.  Learn more about easy do-it-yourself restaurant equipment repair.

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