If knowledge is power…

Oven door diagram

Another incident which illustrates the fallibility of modern society.

I had decided to clean our built-in cooker thoroughly. This would mean taking the door off. I got out the instructions and read;

1. Fully open the oven door.
2. Move the catch levers on the right and left-hand sides to the fully open position.
3. Placing the door at an upward angle toward you, grasp the door with both hands and lift it out of the hinges toward you.

That was it. Sounds simple enough, so I followed the instructions and attempted to lift the door. Nothing happened. I pulled a bit harder. Still nothing happened.

At this point I had to make a decision; is the force needed to retract the hinges greater than is being currently applied (if it is, why doesn’t the instruction book mention it), or will applying extra force damage the hinges because I am not doing it right even though I have read the instructions (brief, as they are)?

Normally at this point I would have given up. The resulting inconvenience from a damaged oven door would not have been worth the benefit of a slightly cleaner oven but I remembered the repair man getting the oven door off with one swift movement (the element had blown, typically, two days before Christmas. Fortunately it was still under warranty). I also remembered a loud snapping sound when the door came off therefore I reasoned, powerful forces were at work in springs somewhere in the hinges, thus greater force was probably needed to ‘lift’ the door out of its hinges. I braced my knees and gave a powerful tug. This time the hinges ‘bounced’ on its fierce springs. After a dozen more attempts I discovered the door needed the strength of a champion all-in wrestler to writhe it from its hinge sockets.

When the door did finally come off there was the same loud snap as the hinges locked into their closed position. This immediately concerned me because I had not seen the repair man replace the door and so was not sure how the hinges were prized open. I trusted the instruction book however and continued cleaning the oven.

When it was time to replace the door I read the instructions;

Set both hinges into their respective receptacles on the left and right, and swing the oven door downward.
Close the catch levers on the left and right.
Close the oven door.

Well that sounded like I didn’t need to worry about prizing open any spring loaded hinges before offering it up to the receptacles. When I tried to do this however it soon became apparent that the hinges could not be inserted into their respective slots because they were in a closed position. When I experimented with pulling them down I couldn’t even make an impression on them, so fierce were the springs. Why didn’t the instructions say anything about opening the hinges and how to go about it?

I tried using a small screwdriver to get some leverage on the hinges but it quickly became apparent it was not strong enough and I was now going to need the services of a trapeze artist catcher with an iron grip. Nothing in the instructions about that either. After some experimentation I realised I could stand the door on its edge on the floor and get my foot on top of the locked hinge and use my weight to prize the thing open. I could only get it so far before the metal hinge penetrated my carpet slipper and hurt my foot. As I went to put on my work boots I was trying to think how I could keep the hinge open once I had prized it fully open.

With an inch of rubber between the metal hinge and my foot I could apply my full weight to the hinge. This time it opened fully and to my relief I heard a click and the hinge remained locked in the open position. At last, I thought, progress. I thought too soon.

On offering it up to the hinge slots there were several problems. The oven door was heavy and so both hands were needed to hold it. I could only locate one hinge slot at a time as they were on either side of the door and so as I positioned one and wiggled the door to try and find the other I discovered the hinge was on a hair trigger and snapped back shut at the slightest pressure. This meant putting the door down and opening the hinge again. After countless attempts at a ‘precise location’ approach, each time ending with the hinges reacting like a snapping turtle I decided to try a more brutal approach and I positioned the hinges in the approximate positions before shoving the door hard into the oven. This had some success and I was able to actually fit the door back onto the oven but when I tried opening the door fully I noticed it would not lie flat as it had previously done. Now it caught on a protruding metal flange. It clearly wasn’t sitting right, so I had to remove the door again with the wresting throw I had learnt earlier.

For the next thirty minutes I did what was effectively circuit training in a gym; writhe the door from its hinges, unlock the spring loaded hinges, attempt to push home the hinges, either unlock hinges again or check the positioning of the door, shout in frustration at the door, repeat the above.
At one stage I was going to leave the door as it was, imperfectly positioned but as I studied the mini oven door above the main oven I could see how the hinges were supposed to be seated and I wasn’t happy with what I’d done. The prospect of calling a repair man loomed as I studied the instructions one more time. Nothing new appeared from them. I was aware I had to try something different as countless attempts with the same configuration had not produced the desired result. What would happen, I thought, if I opened the catch levers as well before I attempted to fit the door? The same result. By now, I was wearing work boots to prize the hinges open, ear defenders for the loud snapping, a filthy work shirt because of all the grime coming off the oven door (which resisted my earlier cleaning) and I was sweating like a boxer on the twelfth round of a thorough beating, occasionally crying out in pain as if a particularly bone crushing blow had found its way through my paltry guard.

My young children had been watching this pantomime bemused and concerned before rushing to the front door when they heard their mother return from the supermarket. She was immediately drafted in to help. With a clear head she did the logical thing and read the instructions. From them she worked out that the catch levers had to be open before you attempted to fit the hinges. I said that didn’t seem to help and demonstrated all the problems. More circuit training ensued before we decided to co-operate. I would hold the door in place while my wife carefully guided the hinges into place. This had limited success and worryingly, the spring locks seemed to be weakening so the merest touch set them off.

Finally my wife seemed to figure out the method of insertion and a miraculous, effortless mating occurred. I opened the oven door and it laid flat. I checked the alignment and it was even all the way around. We had done it! All it needed was the assistance of another pair of hands that had the skills and sensitivity of a brain surgeon. What could be simpler?

I had embarked on this adventure because I had seen the repair man pull the door off. He hadn’t explained anything, I had simply seen him do it in exactly the same way one chimp might see another chimp use a tool. I had the experience of actually seeing it done. Had I not, the instructions would have been practically useless (they pretty much were anyway). This demonstrates the absolute truth that experience is essential for learning. You can read all the instructions you care to about something but until you try it out for real, the instructions are simply interesting theory and only manual operation wires the brain with the necessary connections to do it again successfully. Which brings me back to the instructions; who were they meant for? If they were meant for the householder with no experience of the equipment, they were useless. If they were meant for the fitter, they would have such experience and not bother with the instructions.

Clearly, when products are designed there is not a testing procedure where a complete stranger to the product is asked to try it out for real. Such deficiencies in the instructions would then be found and remedied. Presumably it would cost too much to have this extra testing but think of the anguish and frustration it would save.

I can only think Bosch never imagined any householder would be adventurous enough to actually try and remove the door.

Sure, knowledge is power but without experience to harness that power, it is simply a loose cannon.

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