Zen and the art of Kitchenaid mixer maintenance
Tonight, my Kitchenaid Classic Plus stand mixer (13 years old, according to the serial number) started to really heck up in some really obnoxious ways, to the extent that I thought I might need to buy a new mixer. But it turns out that there’s just some simple maintenance tasks that need to be performed, and that all of the issues I was having are very common!
Tilt pin comes loose
This is actually a problem I’d had with the mixer ever since I bought it, although it wasn’t that big of a deal until recently. Basically, as mixing happens, the head naturally tilts up and down a little bit, which causes the tilt pin to slowly work its way out.
The fix for this is pretty simple: simply put the mixer on its side, line the pin up correctly, and tighten a screw in the base.
It turns out that this was not set correctly when I bought the thing.
Tilt head won’t lock down (or is loose when locked down)
This issue is a little more complicated, but still pretty easy to fix. The tilt head has a set screw that adjusts how far forward it goes when entering the locked position. This is primarily to set the beater-to-bowl clearance, but if it goes too far out of whack it’ll also prevent the head from locking into place correctly.
The correct amount of tilt is such that the paddle attachment comes within 1/16" (about 1.6mm) from the bottom of the bowl; Kitchenaid’s recommendation is to put an American dime at the bottom of the bowl, and the paddle attachment should just barely touch it, causing it to move just a little bit on each pass of the paddle.
It turns out that this, too, was not set correctly when I bought the thing.
Maybe I should have read the manual more thoroughly.
However, this doesn’t tell the whole story; on my mixer, if the clearance is sufficient that the paddle doesn’t scrape the bottom of the bowl, the tilt head doesn’t go down quite far enough for the latch to stay in position. So I’ve had to do a compromise, where the paddle barely scrapes the bowl (wearing it down a little bit) but also allowing the lock to fully engage. Tightening the bowl a bit further helps, at least. Life is a series of compromises.
Motor won’t turn at all
In my initial attempts at fixing the tilt head lock, I thought I’d have to dismantle the entire mixer. Which I started doing by removing the prominent screws at the sides of the top. Which turns out to not be anything that keeps the casing together, but is what holds the carbon motor brushes in place. And the orientation on them matters!
Look down the screwhole for a square detent. This is where the notch on the carbon brush is supposed to go. On my mixer, the one on the speed select side is on the top left of the hole, and on the tilt latch side is on the lower right.
Also, while they’re out, it’s worth measuring them to see how long they are, as they wear down over time. Brand-new ones are 20mm (just over ¾") long. If they’re only a few millimeters long, it’s definitely time to replace them. (Mine were still a good 18mm. Clearly I don’t use my stand mixer nearly enough.)
Bowl is stuck
Sometimes the bowl gets stuck in the base. Heating the base up with a hot towel seems to be Kitchenaid’s suggestion, if elbow grease fails. After getting the bowl unstuck, it’s a good idea to put some mineral oil within the base to help prevent that from happening again.
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