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the phyisics of Breaking ( and fixxing) a dishwasher


Ben Shelton

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So my snow day was going perfect untill after lunch. I was doing my dishes and then I heard this metalic clang and the dishwasher door became twice as heavy. I investigated and I saw that the Door is (was) attatched to two springs that slow it down as it nears the floor. One of those had snapped. I should add that I am always extremely carefull with that device and it is 14 years old, so it's not my fault (but I still had to fix it). The phyisics behind the contraption are interesting. Before we did the spring unit I thoght that a springs only purpose was to launch things, as illistrated in various sicentificly accurate educational cartoons. But clearly this spring's purpose was to absorb force and slow the heavy door down. To figure out why it broke, and how to fix it, I used the equation Fs ( force on the spring) equals k(spring constant) times X (change in spring leght from the equilibrium position.) Unfortanately, I was not able to find the constant of the spring, so I could not find the force acting on it. However, I noticed that the spring that broke was set up so that there was always at least a small ammount of tension on it. It went from 12 inches from equilibrium when the door was open to one inch when it was closed. It had not been in an equilibrium position for 14 years! It's a wonder it did not break sooner. Fixing the spring was a simple (well, I say that..) matter of getting the spring to an equilibrium position by attatching it closer to the door without getting it so close that the spring would be comppresed and push back on the conecter peice holding it in place and fly off into the dark underbelly of pipes and hoses and dust and spiderwebs that lies underneath the dish washer. It was a trial and error process (with some cursing). The moral of the story? A. Never keep a spring tense longer than it needs to be; and B; anything will always take you twice as long as think it will if you are inexperienced (and dumb enough to tell your parents about the funny noise you heard your dishwasher make)

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