Tommee Tippee (not so) Perfect Prep

A formula machine is repaired in the workshop.

This fix was actually carried out during the summer, 2018.

A friend of mine brought over a broken formula making machine for me to look at.  It had been stored after their first child had out-grown it and since having another baby, it was now needed again, urgently.  Following a couple of years in storage, it was brought out, plugged in and after briefly coming on, it failed.  No lights, no hope.

These machines save time and effort by allowing water to be heated rapidly and mixed exactly with the formula powder, to produce consistent results every time, perfect for new exhausted parents in the middle of the night. So it was important that I got this working quickly.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’19, Worthing, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine

After removing the back, I was presented with an electronic control unit, some solenoid valves and a heater, plus some other environmental sensors such as thermostats.  The plug fuse was OK, so it was time to check if power was getting to the machine.  It wasn’t.

This machine features a couple of power control devices; two  thermal aluminium ‘can-style’ fuses in-line with the heater, plus a thermostat on the output of the heater itself (to regulate heat).  After testing for continuity, it appeared that one of the can fuses had failed.

These fuses are common across a wide range of appliances, such as coffee machines, fans etc and are cheap, just a few pounds.  It could be that a temporary air-lock in the heater caused a hot-spot and therefore that excess heat caused the 172 degree fuse to pop.  It was worth a try to replace it and see what happened.

I replaced the fuse and re-assembled.  After filling with water and powering it up, normal service was resumed.

Since I replaced the fuse, the machine has been in continuous service for many months, so I can conclude that it was probable that the over heating was temporary.

I created a short video to help others who may have similar problems with their machine.

Cost of a new machine:  £90.  Cost of repair: a few quid and a few beers.

 

 

Hotpoint ‘Rumble’ Tumble Dryer VTD01

A noisy tumble dryer gets fixed cheaply

Strange noises from machines play on my mind.  None more so than when that niggling noise starts to get worse.  Noises like that usually mean two things.  Catastrophic failure and expense.

Time to disconnect from the mains and fetch the tool box.

The patient in the surgery this week is our own Hotpoint tumble dryer.  We avoid using it at all costs, but with miserable English weather and two children, getting washing turned around efficiently, ready for use is mandatory.  To be frank, I’d noticed the excess whinning bearing noise coming from the dryer for a few uses, but it was getting to the point where it was hard to ignore.

Electric hot air tumble dryers are pretty simple things.  They work by sucking cool air in, heating it up under thermostatic control and then blowing it in to a rotating drum.  The moist air is then expelled via a filter and then hose, to atmosphere.  Tumble dryer models of this kind will have the following:  A motor, heater, thermostat circuitry, timer and a drum.  There isn’t much to go wrong and many parts for UK tumble dryers are available, cheaply from places like eSpares.co.uk.  Usually, no special tools are required if you want to have a go at fixing your machine and I recommend you do of course.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’18, Hotpoint VTD01 Tumble Dryer.

After opening up the cabinet, access to the drum and motor was available by the side panel which was held in position with several self-tapping screws and hooks.  Care must be taken if you attempt something similar on your machine since there are plenty of sharp edges to watch out for.  This dryer features an AC induction motor (which has no motor brushes).  It has a spindle which runs through the motor with a pully one side to drive the drum via the belt and a fan the other to blow the hot air.  Removing the belt and spinning the motor by hand revealed the problem.  The spindle spun OK, but sounded rough.

Replacement motors are available at a reasonable £90 or so, but you know me by now, I don’t like spending that kind of money, unless I have to.

The motor is attached to the appliance with simple bolts and is removed easily.  The motor is held together with self-tapping screws, which are easily accessible.  Just two bearings feature in this motor; one at each end to support the load.  Both bearings sounded rough, but seemed not to be worn too much.  The bearings are standard items and it would be easy to find exact replacements from a bearing supplier (rather than replacing the whole motor), for under £20.  However, as this was my own machine, I went for cheaper fix, to squeeze more life out of what I already had.  With the dust cover popped off from both bearings, I cleaned both with isopropyl alcohol cleaner and then re-greased with quality high-melt point bearing grease.  Much better.

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The motor re-assembled, re-installed back in the machine and it was time to switch on.  It now sounded as sweat as a nut.

If and when the bearings get noisy again (and they will eventually), I’ll replace the bearings with new ones.

Cost of replacement:  circa £200.  Cost of repair:  My time, two cups of tea, one custard cream, a bit of grease.  Not in that order.

Silent Singer Sewing Machine Pedal

A classic Singer foot pedal gets repaired.

My mum’s got an old electric Singer sewing machine which is about 40 odd years old.  Singer sewing machines are well supported generally and parts are readily available, but I find it’s sometimes fun to try and find the cheapest way to fix something myself.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Singer Sewing Machine Foot Control Pedal

The foot pedal on this machine went pop and smelled horrible after.  The machine then stopped working, oh dear.

The pedal is of high quality construction and easily better than any generic replacement on the market, so it was definately worth saving.

Opening up the pedal was just a few screws, which then exposed the whole mechanism.  The mains resistor was in tact and seemed to test with resistance.  A good start.  The contacts were in good condition as was the rest of all the components, except for the mains input capacitor, which has spectactularly failed and split open, a common problem on older mains capacitors.

Repair kits are readily available for about £5, but that seemed expensive to me!  Using the existing capacitor as a guide, I found a suitable component on eBay for £2.09 delivered.  That’s more like it.

The capacitor I used was:  Film Capacitor, 0.1 µF, 250 V, PET (Polyester), ± 5%, R60 Series (from eBay).

Here’s a little slide show that I hope will help others fix their pedal, should it fail.

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With the old capacitor cut out and the new one soldered in, the pedal was ready to run again.  Sorted.

Cost of a replacement:  £15-30 for a generic part.  Cost of repair, £2.09, 1 cup of tea.

Elna SP foot pedal went bang

Elna SP foot pedal to the metal

On the back of a previous article about a repair I did on the rather wonderful Elna SP sewing machine, a reader got in touch.  She was a genuine sewing aficionado and had several top of the range current machines, but she used the trusty Elna SP for many smaller jobs, where the other machines didn’t quite cut it.

All Elna SP machines are getting on a bit and parts are either re-manufactured, scarce or secondhand, if you can find them.  Having said all that, a well-maintained Elna will run for many years and last much longer than new metal on sale now.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Elna SP Special, in action

The foot pedal on this machine had gone pop, bang, finito.  It smelled terminal.

Knowing that parts for this machine are rarer than hens teeth and I do like a challenge, I took on the job.  I’m based in Worthing, West Sussex and the machine was located in Scotland, so after a short wait, the knackered pedal arrived in the post.

The pedal is held together with four small self-tapping screws and came apart easily.  The reason for failure was two-fold.  The copper leaf contacts had arced excessively and caused major pitting in the contact strip (see slide show) and the probably ensuing resistance had caused the main resistor to overheat, causing the winding to fail.

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The contact surfaces were easy-ish to fix, or rather breathe new life into as all they needed was cleaning and re-shaping.  The resistor was a bit trickier to mend.  Getting hold of a replacement was going to be near impossible, so the only thing to do was to try and repair it.  Without that particular style of resistor, of that value, it wouldn’t work again.  Luckily, there was some excess resistance wire on the thing and I managed to twist it in to the broken section.  Soldering was not an option, since the wire was an alloy that wouldn’t take to solder and in any case, these things get hot in normal service.  I twisted both ends of the break to form a new section, while maintaining the same length of windings on the resistor, essential if I was to match or get close to the original specification.  Difficult.  Luckily, after a few goes, I managed it and the applied a little heat-conducting (and therefore dissipating) paste to the join.

With the pedal reassembled, I was only able to test it with my meter, since the sewing machine was far too heavy to post.  The pedal tested as a closed circuit (OK), which was a result.  I then had to wait for the pedal to be collected, taken back to Scotland and tested.  Fortunately, my fix worked and the machine sprang in to life, without a hitch or missed stitch.

Now, a word of caution with this one.  This is NOT the best way of mending something like this and all I’ve probably done is prolong it’s life a little longer.  There are generic sewing machine pedals that would work with this machine and will be fine, when this one fails in future, but that’s not the point.  The main thing is that something that was broken is now working and even if it’s not the best fix, at least it will run for a bit longer.  Happy days.

Cost of replacement: (generic part) £15-30.  Cost of repair, my time, a bit of solder and several cups of tea.

Very quiet Bauhn DAB Radio from Aldi

A little DAB radio, repaired at the workshop.

A colleague of mine brought this cool little DAB radio in to the workshop as it’s once crisp DAB tones were now no more and all life from the little device, had seemed to have ceased.  It was, very much, a dead radio.  When working, it picked up every station available, really clearly and seemed to out-perform the much more expensive devices my colleague also owned.  However, after a few months in the hands of his son, the radio would no longer turn on when plugged in.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair.

It was brought from Aldi for under £10, which seemed like a bit of a bargain to me.  It’s amazing just how much DAB radios have fallen in price in the last 5 years or so.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, back of the radio.

The Bauhn UDABR-0197 (catchy name) is a compact, portable radio and is capable of being used with either a plug-in adaptor (supplied) or 4 x ‘AA’ batteries.  When powering this radio using either plug-in adaptor or batteries, the little radio refused to do anything.  Very sad.

I always start with the basics, so I checked the power from the plug-in adaptor first, which seemed to be delivering its 5.9VDC, pretty much spot-on. As a side note, I always check the condition of plug-in adaptor leads and plugs as they seem to almost always be made of the thinnest wire available in the Far East and prone to cracking causing poor connections.  This one was fine.

Opening up the radio was really easy, just 4 cross-head screws and the two halves of the radio came apart without any major dramas.

The first thing you notice about (cheaper) small appliances like this, is the ‘lack’ of anything inside.  The circuit boards in new small devices can sometimes be multi layered affairs, using micro components, making repair with normal workshop tools very difficult or impossible.

Luckily for this little radio, the designers have had the foresight to keep the power distribution board separate from the main ‘radio’ gubbins and this seemed to be of conventional construction.

On closer inspection of the power distribution board, it revealed a break in two of the pins from the ‘power-in’ jack socket meaning that power would not get through to the main circuit board.  The two pins were also shorting together, causing a local loop connection.  This meant than neither mains adaptor supply nor battery would power the radio.  Problem realised.

I was then able re-make the connection using a soldering iron on the board, reconnecting the pins to a spare section of copper detail on the power distribution printed circuit board.  Very satisfying.

Once the radio was back together, all screws back in place, power supply connected, the radio burst in to life, just in time for me to listen to my favourite station.  Happy days.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, all fixed.

Cost of a new radio; £10.  Cost of repair; A bit of soldering and a cuppa plus gingernut biscuit.

Unsteady Dyson DC24 Roller Ball

A neglected DC24 gets some badly needed maintenance…

I really enjoy working on Dyson products as they’re so well thought out.  The designers seem to take great care factoring-in easy maintenance for longevity.  There’s also a great sense of theatre when using Dyson products.  Take the roller ball on this design for example, a throwback to the earlier Dyson Ball Barrow which allows better manoeuvrability when combined with an upright vacuum cleaner.  There’s also the exposed mechanism which automatically switches suction between the roller pick-up and hose when using the foot pedal to select the desired mode.  Genius.  All of these design touches encourage the user to care for and enjoy using the product.

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FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24 (DC04 just in view too- how things have changed).

Sadly though, sometimes these touches are a bit lost on people and the design flares that appeal to some become misunderstood and neglected to others.

This DC24 had two problems.  It didn’t stand up properly when left and it didn’t really pick anything up that well either, failing as a vacuum cleaner on two fundamental points.

The first job was to find out why the DC24 was a little unsteady.  It seemed that all of the mechanism was intact and that nothing had snapped off.  Strange.  The red foot pedal operated lever that releases the latching system to move the main body from its locked position was stuck.  It seemed to be linked to a lever which operates the diverter valve, which switches suction from the roller beater foot to the flexible hose.  On closer inspection the lever on the diverter valve had come off its pin, probably by force.  The mechanism itself was also dirty which made operation rough.  The red lever is spring loaded with guides and pins which were also dirty and a little rusty.  I suspect this vacuum cleaner had been left somewhere damp.

After re-attaching the diverter valve leaver back on and giving all mechanisms a good clean-up with a light coating of silicone spray, it was as good as new again.

Once the mechanism was working, it was time to assess the vacuum’s performance.  It wasn’t that good.  As with most Dyson vacuum products, there are two filters.  One processes blow-by air from the motor and the other controls dust particles from the cylinder.  These filters can usually be cleaned with mild soap and water, but this set was well past it, requiring replacement and for under a tenner, it’s rude not to.  Dyson have made filter replacement very easy on the DC24 with good access to the motor filter via a small door on the roller ball itself and the lid on top of the cylinder.  I think there should be a massive sticker on these vacuum cleaners that says ‘don’t forget to clean the filters’ as I suspect that many of these products are chucked away by owners who forget to do the necessary.  Bag-less cleaner doesn’t mean maintenance-free!

With a couple of new filters, a clean-up of all of the rubber seals with silicone cleaner and this DC24 was fighting fit, ready to clean another carpet.

Cost of a replacement Dyson product:  £000’s.    Cost of new parts:  Under £10 plus my time.

 

Hybrid Hoover-VAX vacuum cleaner combination experiment…

Recycling vacuum cleaner parts.

A slightly unusual workshop repair this time.

My brother-in-law popped in to see us for a cuppa recently and mentioned he was off to the tip with an old VAX cylinder style bag-less vacuum cleaner, in pieces, not the carpet washer type.  It was on its way to the great scrap yard in the sky.  Luckily, I was on hand to divert the sick VAX via the workshop.

It was being disposed of due to the flex having gone faulty together with the opinion that it wasn’t working that well before the mains cable failed.  Well, I hate to see good machinery go to waste.

On this VAX, the mains flex is stored within the vacuum cleaner housing and is wound up on a spring-loaded coil during storage.  When in use, the user can pull the mains plug until the desired cable flex length is reached.  When the user is finished cleaning their carpet, a foot operated button causes the flex to speedily disappear back in to the vacuum cleaner.  My brother-in-law had already looked at the spring-loaded mains flex winding mechanism, which had resulted in the bi-metallic coil spring escaping from the enclosure, freeing itself in to an orbit.  It’s quite a shock and sometimes dangerous when this happens!

What to do.  I was very nearly tempted to dump this vacuum cleaner too as the build quality of the whole thing reminded me of the plastic toys one gets in Christmas crackers, but that’s not really in the spirit of The Workshop.

Then I remembered I had a defunct Hoover Telios that was minus a motor, perhaps this would be a suitable parts donor?  I liked the idea of making one working vacuum cleaner from two unhappy ones.

The Telios had a working mains lead flex, but the automatic spring loaded mechanism on that was past its best, so I decided to use the working lead on the VAX.  The VAX would be without its flex winding mechanism, but at least it would work.  I adapted a cable tie to make a cable grip, to prevent a user from pulling the cable from the VAX, when in use.  The cable would have to be stored, wrapped around the vacuum cleaner, after use, a small price for working machine.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner.

The other job was to address the poor performance.

This product is clearly an inferior Dyson rip-off and therefore has a couple of filters; one for the intake and one for the exhaust, like a Dyson.  As suspected, both of these were virtually blocked!  The filters on this model were not as easy to get at nor as easy to clean.  I’m not sure whether these filters are meant to be washed, but wash them I did and after 24 hours of drying on the radiator, they were as good as new.  Once refitted, full performance was restored, for the price of a bowl of warm water and Fairy liquid.

Finally, the VAX was missing its cleaning head for the hose, so I decided to use the Hoover one (which was quite a nice design) with the VAX’s hose.  After some jiggery pokery and some electrical tape, it fitted.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner- with Hoover parts.

What we’ve now ended up with is a working VAX vacuum cleaner, using some parts from a beyond economical to repair Hoover.  Whilst it’s not the most elegant repair I’ve ever completed, I now have  something working from two nearly condemned items and surely, that’s good thing?