Or, how we took apart and reassembled my KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer.
If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know that I love my KA Artisan stand mixer and that I use it ALL THE TIME for just about EVERYTHING. This kitchen workhorse has a permanent place on my counter and it’s been one of the focal points of our kitchen since we moved here five years ago. I asked for a KA because they’re supposed to last forever, and do just about every kitchen job. Or so I thought.
Last year when we were making the wedding cake, Eileen noticed that my mixer ran much, much faster than her Artisan. In the six months since then, my mixer has just started to run faster and faster. After Amelia’s birthday cake nearly exploded in my face while mixing last week (the mixer went from off to waaaay too fast!) I had had enough. I decided to stop ignoring the problem and get it fixed.
So I called the KA *customer experience center*. After three attempts, I finally got through, and the woman I talked to told me that since my mixer was out of warranty (that only lasts 1 year) it would be $32 for me to mail the mixer to them, plus a $25 diagnostic fee. The repairs would likely be over $100. Frustrated, I told her I would think about what I wanted to do next. I went to SeriousEats and posted a query there, to see if anyone had suggestions. Some very nice people posted links to a couple of tutorials on how to take apart your mixer. I read them, thought it didn’t look too hard, and then decided to take my mixer apart. In the end, I’m glad we did. It seemed to fix the problem, and it only cost about $10. And that was for the solvent to clean off the old grease and for the new grease to regrease the machine.
KitchenAid Deconstruct and Repair
If you’re worried about taking your mixer apart because you think you’ll break it, don’t. The whole thing is pretty solid, and there aren’t a ton of teeny tiny parts. The whole thing comes apart with a couple of screwdrivers and some patience. I am not handy at all and my husband is a bit handier. But my husband and I took the whole thing apart, cleaned it up, and put it back together in a couple of hours.
What you’ll need before you start:
Something to protect your work surface (we used a brown paper bag on my white countertops)
Small and Large Phillips Head Screwdriver
Small and Large Flat Head Screwdriver
Oil Solvent (we bought some that came in a can at Home Depot)
All-Purpose Grease (this came from an auto parts store)
H1 grease (as noted below, DON’T use All-Purpose Grease from an auto parts store.
Visit this site for an awesome step by step tutorial on how to get your mixer apart. Although the author has an older, classic Kitchenaid, his steps still work for taking apart your Artisan. Also, he has some great tips for regreasing.
Look at the manual for the Artisan here. This will give you a good idea of how it all fits together, and when you’re putting it back together and can’t figure out where [insert part here] goes, this will help you out.
Visit this site, which talks about how to replace the worm gear on a KA. I started this whole process thinking it was my worm gear that was busted. It wasn’t, but I’m glad we looked at this, because you have to take the whole gear tower apart to clean it, and this helped us get it back together.
Okay, Let’s get started!
Use the instructions on the first website to take your mixer apart. This is really just a bunch of unscrewing and popping off of the shiny silver bits. I recommend that you also take off the base off your mixer. This will make it easier to handle the head when you’re cleaning it out.
As you’re taking the mixer apart, be mindful of the wires at the back of the machine, especially the ones that connect into the plug. These are your main power source, and unless you’re an electrician, if you break em, you’re buying a new mixer!
Here is my first look at the cracked open mixer. Yeah, that stuff’s not chocolate or cake batter–it’s gross, thick, sticky, tar like grease. I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that either. Clean grease looks like Crisco. This stuff was not anything like Crisco–it was more like that stuff that’s washing up on shore in the Gulf from the oil spill. Inside my mixer. Don’t think that’s help the mechanical operation at all, do you?
Close ups of the inside:
Main gear tower
After you get to this point, it’s time to clean it up. You want to do this outside, because solvent it noxious stuff, but it’s the only thing that is going to get the mixer clean. Don’t use water, because it won’t remove the grease and it could damage your motor. Make sure you clean out all of the original grease, including any stuff that is stuck down in corners. We just kept spraying solvent until our mixer was clean, whipping out the inside with a paper towel to remove any solvent residue.
The cleaned up inside, after we let it air dry for a couple of hours:
See that white-ish gear? It’s the worm gear, which I thought was what was broken on my mixer, but it was fine. Worm gears are often what breaks though (they’re designed as a fail safe to keep the engine of your mixer from breaking) so if you open your KA up and it is broken or sheared, don’t panic, you can order another one online for fairly cheap.
Now, it’s time to put it back together. But first, the grease.
We used this white all purpose grease we bought at an auto parts store. The grease says it’s for all uses, including kitchen uses. You can also order KA brand grease from them, but we decided to use this.
UPDATE: As noted by Noah Coccaro in the comments below, that grease is H2 – and is not safe for incidental contact with food (such as if you get dough stuck in the joint.) What you want is H1 grease (so we probably should have gone with KA grease). Try searching on Amazon for H1 grease. On the plus side, we’ve semi-retired this blender, and occasionally use it. So far, no one has gotten ill – but to be on the safe side….
You want to grease up all of the mechanical surfaces really well, making sure you get grease in all the nooks and crannies. Anywhere there was grease before, you want to reapply it. With the gears, it’s a good idea to grease as you reassemble them to make sure it’s in there really good, and that you turn the gears to make sure the grease is well distributed.
As you’re greasing, you’re putting the thing back together. If you can’t remember where something goes, don’t panic, just look at the manual–it will tell you where to put it.
When you get to the point where you’re ready to put the two halves together, make sure you wipe around the edges so you don’t get grease where the two halves join. This will just make a mess! Carefully fit the two halves together. The seal will tighten once you put the screws back in.
Now, if you’re having the same problem as I did [loss of speed control] the solution to that problem is actually at the back of the mixer body, behind the first panel you took off during your deconstruction. If you move the speed control lever, you’ll see that the black piece at the back of the mixer moves in and out as you move the lever. There’s a screw at the base of the panel that helps to control the tension of the panel. If the screw is too far in or out, your speed control won’t work properly.
After some trial and error (and some microscopic turns of the screw) we discovered that the screw has to be about 1/4 unscrewed for the speed mechanism to work properly. Our guess is that this screw can jiggle itself in or out if you’re making something that puts a lot of strain on the mixer (like say, bread or marshmallows). I’m planning to keep this in mind so I can check the screw after I make something heavy duty. That back panel pops right off, so it’s easy to check on the adjustment. Just make sure the mixer is unplugged first!
So now the mixer is back together, and back in operation. I made cookie dough yesterday and everything worked great! So happy I decided to give it a go and troubleshoot my KA!