Troubleshooting equipment—especially electrical equipment—has a certain mystique to it. Watching an experienced employee troubleshoot a piece of familiar equipment can make it seem as if the process is instinctive—an unwarranted conclusion that leaves some people believing troubleshooting cannot be taught, only experienced.

While experience is certainly an advantage when utilizing electrical troubleshooting methods and techniques, the process can be taught, benefiting both your facility, your employees, and your equipment.

Safety First

Safety lies at the heart of any successful electrical troubleshooting training, as improper use and maintenance of electrical equipment carries the risk of electrocution or dangerous arc flash events. Before employees work or perform any maintenance on electrical equipment, they must demonstrate a thorough understanding of both electrical safety procedures and your facility’s specific safety protocols.

Basic Troubleshooting Training

A basic electricity course should serve as a foundation for any electrical troubleshooting training. Once an employee has mastered the basic course, he or she should then be provided with training to identify common electrical problems and how to resolve such issues. Employees should also understand how to read electric schematics and equipment blueprints.

Assign Employees Specific Equipment

Even with training, it’s impractical to expect every member of your maintenance staff to fully understand the workings of every piece of electrical equipment in your facility. Instead, employees who have successfully completed some level of electrical troubleshooting training can be assigned responsibility for specific equipment.

Each employee needs to understand the function and construction of their assigned equipment. This understanding—which may require training in and of itself—should include:

  • How the equipment functions

  • The location and purpose of each component in the system

  • How components interact

  • All sources of power for the equipment.

  • How to safely power down and inspect equipment.

Electrical Troubleshooting Methodology

While electrical troubleshooting methods and techniques will vary depending on individual equipment, the following order of operations will help narrow down the cause of malfunctioning equipment. Remember that any equipment must be safely powered down at all appropriate times throughout troubleshooting.

  • Avoid Assumptions: Past maintenance history or employee reports may provide clues to the source of the trouble, but do not base troubleshooting decisions on either. Past problems are suggestive, but not conclusive, and the reporting employee may be mistaken about the source of the issue.

  • Identify the Problem: What is the result of the problem? This can often allow you to identify the operation that causes the unwanted result, narrowing your search.

  • Basic Observation: Many faults provide visual clues to their cause, such as signs of mechanical damage, loose components, or evidence of overheating. The smell of burned wires may be present, or abnormal noises may indicate the location of problems.

  • List Components: List all components involved in the operation causing the unwanted result, and identity the power source for each component. Determine which of these components could be responsible for the problem.

  • Test Components: Test all components which may cause the problem. This portion of the process is arguably one of the most dangerous, so all applicable safety procedures must be followed to the letter. Continue to rule out possible components until the problem is identified.

Advanced Electrical Troubleshooting Training

Electrical troubleshooting training extends to electrical controls such as variable frequency drives and programmable logic controllers, as well as specialized equipment such as photovoltaics, uninterruptible power supply systems, and emergency power. TPC Trainco offers intensive two-day seminars on all these topics to help you get your electrical troubleshooting training program up and running smoothly and effectively.