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What Steps Should You Take to Troubleshoot Your ATM?

Woody Allen once said, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

If that’s not iconic enough, the poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men/ Often go astray.”

No matter which quotation speaks to you more, both address the same idea: despite proper planning and faithful execution, things can still go wrong.

Sadly, both quotations are relevant to ATMs. Even with sufficient preventative maintenance and regular service, things do occasionally go wrong. And when they do, you’ll need to take steps to troubleshoot your ATM.

So, if (or when) that happens, you’ll need to follow several steps to troubleshoot your ATM. Here’s what those steps look like.

Five Steps to Troubleshooting ATMs

ATM troubleshooting typically falls under First Line Maintenance (FLM) or Second Line Maintenance (SLM). Usually, this maintenance is performed by either the financial institution themselves, armored car personnel, or their service & maintenance provider.

If you need to troubleshoot your ATM, following these five steps will help.

1. Assess the situation

In order to troubleshoot anything, something has to go wrong. So, the first step in troubleshooting your ATM is recognizing that something has gone wrong.

Typically, the ATM doesn’t function. Someone at the bank or credit union will need to identify that the machine is indeed in need of service. They might check to see if there’s an error code.

2. Identify the problem

Once you’ve identified that there is a problem, it’s time to figure out what’s causing it. Some problems may be more immediately obvious than others.

The ATM should also provide an error code, which will assist you with troubleshooting. If the error code can’t identify the problem outright, it should at least help you make an educated guess to get in the right ballpark.

3. Create a plan

A surprising number of people begin building their Ikea furniture without first reading the instructions. And, while that’s a relatively low-stakes way to approach a bookshelf, you wouldn’t want to take the same tack toward ATM troubleshooting.

It’s best to create a plan to resolve the problem. If you’re not sure what that plan might look like, you can consult outside resources, such as:

  • Experienced branch personnel

  • An ATM technician

  • Your ATM manual

It’s important to have a plan so that you don’t waste time (or make mistakes) by fixing the wrong thing. Depending on whether you need FLM or SLM, you may need to bring in a technician.

4. Resolve the problem 

After creating your plan, it’s time to follow through with it. If the issue requires only FLM, you may be able to fix the problem quickly yourself. For example, you may need to clear a jam or replace receipt paper. Not only is it faster than calling in a technician, but it will save money, too.

SLM may require opening up the ATM. Once tools and specialized knowledge are in play, it’s best to call in the experts.

5. Document everything

Document what went wrong, what you did, and how it turned out. You may need this information later for warranties, for equipment audits, for your FLM provider, or to advise your employees on how to approach future ATM troubleshooting.

Protecting Your ATM Fleet

So, even with regular preventive maintenance, you can expect that something might go wrong. And when it does, these general troubleshooting tips should help you get your ATM functioning again with minimal downtime.

However, sometimes your institution might have to troubleshoot ATMs a little too often. Or an ATM or two might require an expensive repair. Worse yet, one may be completely irreparable!

When that happens, you’ll need to find a replacement to shore up your fleet. Sourcing an affordable replacement is no small task—nor is managing the logistics thereof. Your institution may be best served by partnering with an ATM lifecycle management provider or looking at refurbished ATMs.


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