Swan tea urn off the boil

A cheap fix gets this essential tea making machine back in business…

I admit it. I do get some satisfaction when I divert an appliance, on a journey to the bin, to my workshop for repair.  I have been known to collect the odd item from skips or just dumped on the pavement while supposed to be doing something more productive. I think I just feel sorry for things. Weird, but true.

Make and model: Swan Hot Water Tea 20L Urn

Fault reported: Not staying hot

Cost of replacement: £80ish

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts: £1.70

Hours spent on repair: 45 minutes

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: Cleaning materials, heat transfer solution

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: X1

Biscuits: Malted Milk X1

This Swan hot water tea urn was one of those items.  Spotted during an office reorganisation in the ‘scrap pile’, it had been put there as it wasn’t working properly and a new one had now been ordered.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, Swan Hot Water Urn… shiny!

 

Being fairly light-fingered, I spirited the urn away to the workshop for some tinker time.  Not strictly staff policy, but you know, seek forgiveness after etc.

An urn is really just a big kettle.  This one has an all metal 20 litre tank with bar-style tap to brew up, when needed.  There are no real controls as such; just an on/off switch with neon light and two tell-tail lights to indicate boil and keep warm.  Keep warm is usually on all the time when switched on.

The fault seemed to be that the urn reached boiling temperature when switched on, but then switched off totally, allowing the water to cool again excessively.  Timing the switching intervals of the thermostat, 20 minutes or so, and a 15-200 hysteresis confirmed a fault. There was also no ‘keep warm’ green light on, when in use.  To push the thermostat further, I poured cold water into the urn to see if that sped up switching between hot and cold, it didn’t.

Opening up the urn’s base involved just three screws, allowing access to all components.  Such a nice change to not have layers of covers and things to move out of the way first!

Checking the wiring out for logic revealed that someone had been here before! The wiring was incorrect and the ‘keep hot’ element was not wired up correctly and effectively not in circuit with the power source. A small wiring change corrected this and meant that the ‘keep warm’ element was now working again.

The thermal reset fuse/ button seemed to be working OK- proved with a test meter and the thermostat did seem to switch on and off, albeit with excessive hysteresis.  Time to fit another one! Luckily, these thermostats are very common and I managed to get one from eBay, rated at 1000 (a couple of degrees over the one fitted) for less than £2. Fitting a new thermostat only involved a couple of screws, a light smear of heat transfer solution and reconnecting back into the wiring harness.

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With all wiring back in place and the cover refitted, it was time to test and brew up.  This time, the urn boiled, switched off and then stayed warm on the secondary ‘keep warm’ circuit.  To prove that the new thermostat was an improvement, I then topped up the urn with cold water and within 5 seconds, the thermostat clicked in and the boiling process started again.

Time for a brew.

(PS, the urn has now returned to its normal place of work)

Repair, kettles and er, the Citroen 2CV

Less is usually more. Simpler devices can mean repair is more likely in the event of failure.

I keep a model of a Citroen 2CV car on my desk at work.  It’s about 30-odd years old and it’s a bit battered due to an incident involving a shelf, my old cat and an 8ft drop, but that’s another story.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, The 2CV (AZ series)

The 2CV is there to remind me to keep things simple, to the point.

To me (and many others) the 2CV represents pure function over form.  Nothing on the car is superfluous to its function as a capable load lugging, robust, ever-repairable and frugal vehicle. I have a soft spot for these cars. They encapsulate the phrase ‘less is more’.

Not every story from the workshop is rosy and my heart usually sinks when I receive something to fix that has tiny printed circuit boards fitted inside that do ‘something’ and nothing at the same time.

What the Tin Snail do I mean by that? Many appliances and machines manufactured in the last 20 years or so often contain ‘mini’ circuits that control ‘something’.

Take an electric kettle, something that most people have in their homes. Kettles generally are a water holding vessel, a heating system, and an on/off switch with a boiling water state detecting negative feedback loop (it switches off by itself when the water boils).  There’s also some wire and stuff.

Electric kettles haven’t really changed that much over the years, after all the basic need hasn’t changed:  You put water in, you switch it on, you get hot water to make a drink. Nothing has changed. However, many offered these days are fitted with things like filters, LED lighting and other electronic temperature control systems with bells on.

Trouble is, all these (kettle) gadgets tend to be controlled by a small circuit board which isn’t repairable or even replaceable. It only takes an accidental water spill, some static electricity or bump mishap and that tiny circuitry is toast.  Not even a professional circuit repair agent, let along home spanner wielder would have a chance of repairing the broken circuit. When failure occurs, many will just discard the appliance and go and buy another one, quickly. Who wants to be without tea or coffee?!

The tragedy is that the rest of the (kettle in this case) appliance is, nine times out of ten, OK and if it was made with more traditional components that one could see with the naked eye, the appliance would stand far more chance of being repaired easily and economically. Something to think about, next time you’re considering a new purchase.

 

 

 

Dinner will be served in a flash…

A Tulip A350T Electric Rice Cooker is repaired

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20, Tulip A350T 12Y1EI (to be exact).

I particularly enjoy receiving something to fix that I’ve never come across before.  Indeed, I’d never used an electric rice cooker, let alone heard of Tulip, the manufacturer of this example.  To be frank, I haven’t often thought about the popularity of electric rice cookers in general as an additional labour-saving device in the kitchen.  Clearly, I must be slipping.

This actual machine was a family treasure, which had moved around a bit and had originally been purchased in Holland and had since been converted from using a standard Euro plug to IEC/ kettle UK mains plug at some point.  All very interesting you say (maybe), but how did it end up in my workshop?

Make and model: Tulip A350T Electric Rice Cooker

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £30

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts: £2.00

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter, heat shrink, looped crimps etc

Sundry items: Cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: Custard Cream X 2

After many years of reliable service, poor old ‘Tulip’ decided it had had enough of boiling up pilau rice and assorted vegetables and conked out.  When the owner tried to switch the cooker on, nothing happened, no light, no heat, no hope.

Most people would then usually have thrown in the towel, reached for their phone and within a couple of clicks, bought a new one on Amazon to be delivered the next day.

Perhaps it was the thought of poor old Tulip being crushed in the scrap metal pile at the tip which made the owner go online and find my website of strange domestic appliance tales instead of Amazon*…  But I’m glad they did.  *other online electrical retailers are available!

The machine is basically a large kettle with a removable bowl that holds whatever you wish to cook.  It has a thermostat for temperature regulation, a switch to change modes (cook/warm) and a safety cut-out mechanism, should something go wrong.  It was this safety system which had operated and caused the machine to fail-safe.

The design of the machine is quite simple, dare I say crude in places.  Within a few minutes, I had removed the base, exposing the wiring, switch, thermostat and other gubbins.

The earth bonding cable had melted which was the first alarm bell to ring.  Digging a little closer, the main issue revealed itself.  The heat-proof insulation on the ‘over heat’ one-shot thermal fuse had shorted out via a cracked piece of wiring on the metal casing of the unit.  Surprisingly, this had not overloaded the main plug fuse, but had heated the thermal fuse and had blown that instead.  Flash-bang, kaput.

The cooker’s switch, thermostat, element and other wiring checked out OK, so it was now worth fixing the failed system.

After purchasing a suitable replacement thermal fuse for a couple of quid, I set about installing this in place of the failed one, taking the time to upgrade the wiring harness with heat shrink to avoid a short again in future.  I removed the damaged earth and replaced it with fresh wire, securing it on to a better earth-bonded location and after some careful wire re-routing and fettling, the base of the machine was ready to be re-attached, ready for testing.  With the cooking bowl full of water and power applied, the ‘cook’ light lit up and the machine started to work.  Utter joy.  After a few cycles of heating and warming, I was satisfied that my work was done.

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Even though this device wasn’t marked as such, it’s a metal bodied Class One device here in the UK and ideally required a thorough integrety test of the safety system.  Using my newly-acquired Megger PAT150 tester, I was able to prove that the machine was compliant with current UK legislation for Portable Appliance Testing.  Ricely done.

 

 

 

Fetch me a coffee Parker… Yes Milady!

A Gaggia Milady gets unblocked

Despite various warning labels and advice from manufacturers, sometimes it’s better to ignore official advice and just dive in, especially if something has stopped working altogether.  Gaggia coffee machines of this vintage are well supported by various online parts suppliers, so when your machine stops making the perfect brew, the chances are that it can be sorted out with a little know-how…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20 Aloysius Parker from Thunderbirds (picture from Wikipedia)
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20, Gaggia Milady.

I couldn’t resist a reference to one of my favourite childhood programs…

Make and model: Gaggia Milady Coffee Machine

Fault reported: No coffee/ blocked group head

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts:  £0, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 0 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers, drill, tap set

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, water safe silicone lube, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 4/10

Cups of tea:  X 2 (and one coffee for testing purposes)

Biscuits: None (Ice Cream X 1)

Someone got in touch to see if I could repair their much loved Gaggia Milady, after receiving some unhelpful advice from the UK distributor.  A new Gaggia had already been purchased, but the owner was missing the ‘solidness’ of his original machine and wanted it back working again.

Fault reported:  Heater working, pump running, no water at all at the group head, therefore no coffee.

Opening the machine’s lid reveals lots of cables and pipes, so if you’re attempting this repair yourself, I recommend making notes and taking photos, carefully marking the location of all the positions.

I suspected a blockage from the boiler to the group head, as sometimes happens with older machines, as scale builds up on the inside.  In cases like this, de-scaler is usually no good and more drastic action is required.

Removing the boiler on this model is similar to many other Gaggia machines, the only variant differences usually being cosmetic.  Just four screws usually hold the boiler to the cabinet.  I suspected that there was a blockage between the boiler area and valve to group head ‘jet’ and in order to access it, a few layers of metal work needed to be removed.

 

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Just one screw holds the strainer, but removing the head involves removing two bolts, which secure two halves of the group head.  The trouble is that over the years, corrosion makes the two halves ‘weld’ together and the only way to split them is to use a little ingenuity.  Fortunately, there are four water holes in the head which make ideal leverage points and with a small M5 tap, those holes become anchor points for the two bolts holding the head together.  Winding those bolts into the new threaded holes forces the two halves apart…

…Revealing the brass valve base.  Using a 10mm spanner releases the valve’s spring and valve rubber.  In this case, it was full of scale and debris.  A thorough clean using WD40, wire brushes and wire wool and the group head was ready for reassembly.

All surfaces scrubbed, all rubber seals cleaned and treated to some water-safe lubricant, the group head back together, the boiler was ready to be re-installed into the machine.  After some careful re-plumbing and re-connecting, the machine was ready for testing.

Just one more job.  Make the coffee for Milady!

Another machine dodges the tip with only a small tin of elbow grease used. F.A.B!

An orange Kenwood Chef A901! I mean, what’s not to like?

More orange please!

Why oh why oh why are more kitchen machines not orange?  I mean, just look at this beauty.  Rare-ish and as a Chef spotter, I think the only time I’ve seen another is on the kids’ TV program, Waffle the Wonder Dog on Cbeebies, here in the UK.  Do you have one in another funky colour?  If so, please send me a picture!

An orange Chef in the workshop:  It was like Christmas had come early.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef A901.

 

Make and model: Kenwood Chef A901 (orange)

Fault reported: No go

Cost of replacement: About £300

Cost of parts: £13.74

Hours spent on repair: 2

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver, soldering iron, multi-meter, cleaning tools

Sundry items: Light oil

Repair difficulty: 5/10

Cups of tea: 1

Cheesecakes: 2

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Kenwood Chef Major in Orange.  Super rare?

The Chef had actually been working for a living since it provided daily assistance in the production of artisan cheesecakes, being sold at a local market.  Recently it had decided to start a smoking habit and then go on strike leaving the owner in a bit of a muddle and customers with rumbling tummies.  That simply wouldn’t do.

Anyway, on with the repair. Opening up the casing revealed the problem straightaway.  One of the capacitors had failed and a resistor had burned out, leaving a failed circuit.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, A901 failed components.

With a decent repair kit bought (from eBay), I replaced all components relating to the speed control circuit, which made the motor run again.  I also replaced all the machine’s 5 feet, since the originals had long since gone to mush, something they all do with age. Since the motor was out of the unit, I took the trouble to adjust the motor’s end float and oil the bearings, for ultra-smooth running.  Very satisfying.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef in bits.

With the casing all back together, I gave the machine a light T-Cut and polish to make it look as good as new and despite its 30-odd years and the odd bit of flaky paint, I think you’ll agree- it looks fab.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef A901, open, looking fab.

PS, thanks to Andrew for supplying the very yummy scrummy, lime cheescakes.

 

 

Kenwood FP220 easy fix

An easy fix for a change

Every now and then an enquiry drops into my inbox where my heart sinks.  It sinks as I know that many products on sale are poorly supported for specific spares which means that when the product fails, it can be impossible to repair.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m surprised!

Make and model:  Kenwood FP220 Food Mixer

Fault reported: Mixer not working when main jug used

Cost of replacement:  £120.00 (equivalent new machine)

Cost of parts:  £17.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes (test and cleaning)

Tools needed:  None.

Sundry items: 1 X Grimex cloth

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Kenwood FP220.

The mixer was a good quality item which had cost over £100 when new and upon inspection, the mixer has failed due to a single component, the main jug.  A little clue from the owner that the blender attachment (not pictured) worked, but the jug didn’t, set me off on the right track.

The mixer features a safety mechanism which is designed to prevent the main drive assembly spinning accidently, potentially with a cutting tool, if the switch is operated without the mixer jug attached.  Many mixers of this type feature such a device.

The FP220 features a double-armed safety mechanism which means that the jug must be fully engaged in the mixer base, with the lid in the correct position.  It’s an unobtrusive and fail-safe design.  A part of the jug’s base, made of a composite plastic, had sheared off, so the jug could not attach to the mixer properly.  The safety device had worked as it should.

At first, I thought that there was no chance of obtaining a spare jug, but after a bit of Googling, I found a brand-new replacement jug, in the right colour, from Sussex Spares (via eBay).  It soon arrived and fitted perfectly, which allowed the machine to work again, once more.  The old lid was still serviceable and fitted the new jug without problems.  I recommended that owner keep the old jug for spares as the handle and drive coupling were still servicable and might come in handy if the new handle gets broken.

After a quick clean up and test, the machine was ready to make Victoria Sponges again.  It just proves that with a bit of research, even seemingly unrepairable items can get a second chance.

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Problems

The right formula for a poorly Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine

The owner of this Perfect Prep machine had reported that it had not been used for a while, then filled with water, powered up and … nothing.

Make and model:  Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep

Cost of replacement:  £70

Cost of parts:  £3.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  6/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’18, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep.

I’ve repaired a machine like this before and I already had a theory about the problem, which went like this:

  • Machine not used for a while; watery scale deposits built-up in machine
  • Machine filled with water, with possible air-lock present
  • Air-lock causes bubble in heater, causing it to temporarily over-heat, safety thermal fuses blow

Dead machine.

At this stage, it was only a theory, so the only thing to do was to start wielding screwdrivers.

A few quick checks revealed that mains power was not getting to the main controller in the machine, which indicated that the safety thermal cut-out fuses had failed.  There are two on this machine.  A quick test with the multi-meter confirmed that both had failed.

After some dismantling, both fuses could be removed from the wiring harness.  Fuses like these are not available from the high street usually, but they are readily available online.  The manufacturer had used crimps to attach the fuses to the wiring, but I decided to solder the new ones back in place.  Care had to be taken as the melting point of solder is very close to the thermal rating of the fuses, so I came up with the idea of using a damp cloth wrapped around the fuse while doing the soldering.  A bit tricky!

Both fuses replaced meant that the unit powered-up and worked.  Great.

However, I wasn’t totally convinced that an air-lock wouldn’t happen again so I looked deeper at the machine’s plumbing.  There appeared to be a kink in one of the boiler tube feed pipes, so I decided to cut some material away, to prevent the pipe restricting water flow in future.

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All back together, the machine worked well once again.

 

Smoky Kenwood Chef A901E

Another Chef enters the workshop with a smoking habit that’s hard to kick.

Top tips for keeping your Chef running smoothly, for longer:

  • Keep all moving parts free from dirt and old cake mix
  • If the feet are squashed, change them.  The gap allows airflow to the motor
  • Keep the hinge mechanism lightly lubricated
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19.  Kenwood Chef A901E (1980’s model)

This A901E Chef had a developed a smoking habit.  Due to age, one of the capacitors had failed on the speed control circuitry making a lot of smoke while in use.  An adjacent resistor had also split in half during the failure.

Despite a smoky situation, there was hope for the Chef.

Removing the motor on these mixers is pretty straightforward.  Just remove the blender accessory power take off cover and remove some screws.  Lift up the top half of the mixer on the hinge and you’ll get access to the base of the motor area.  After you’ve removed the belt, the motor should come out.  There’s a bit more to it actually, but there isn’t much holding that motor in.

The later A901E features a better speed control circuit than the earlier A901 and it’s also made on proper circuit board, rather than just soldered-together components.

With this machine, the correct repair kit was obtained and fitted, so the circuit was as good as new and wouldn’t smoke anymore.

I treated this Chef’s motor to new motor brushes since the old ones were worn.  I also fitted new feet, as the existing ones were squashed and one was completely missing.

I was about to sign the job off , when I noticed a small tear in the outer cable flex.  I couldn’t let the Chef out of the workshop like that, so I had to replace it with a new piece.

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After some fettling, the machine was running like clockwork, once again.

Cost of replacement:  £000s.  Cost of repair:  £12.74 plus my time and several ginger nut biscuits.

A bit of 70’s fun: Sona J996 Coffee Percolator

An office find, escapes the scrap yard.

Despite the 1970’s kitsch-ness of the electric percolator, they are very good at making coffee and the delightful coffee smell you get when brewing-up is sublime.  Here’s an advert from the time.

Top tips for keeping your coffee percolator in good order:

  • Descale using a kettle descaling solution as needed
  • Keep the coffee strainer clear of debris
  • Make sure the lid always fits between the strainer and the percolator body

A colleague found this percolator while clearing out an abandoned office cupboard.  I suspect that this one might have been bought as a wedding present way back and had ended up in the office when someone had decided play the role of barista at work.

It was missing its power lead and was headed for the recycle bin, when I intervened.

The power lead needed was an obsolete design used on British appliances of the era and was similar in design to the more modern and current, IEC C13 or ‘kettle lead’.  However, modern kettle leads did not fit this percolator.

More drastic action was needed.  Luckily, I had an old appliance I no longer needed, so I scavenged a board mounted IEC C13 socket from it and replaced the one originally fitted.

After some soldering and a bit of jiggery-pokery, this Sona Percolator now brews coffee using an up-to-date power lead.

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Cost of replacement:  £40.  Cost of upgrade: £0.

Kenwood Chef repair: Real time video

A Chef repair gets it’s own video!

I carry out a few Kenwood Chef repairs a year and usually, they can be brought back to full health with simple tools and repair components.  I’ve not had a faulty Chef brought in to the workshop which hasn’t left ready for service.  Yet.

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Fixitworkshop, March’19, Kenwood Chef A901 with a repaired motor.

One common theme with all older machines is that the motor speed control circuitry can fail which either manifests itself with symptoms including, but not restricted to; electrical burning smells and smoke, the motor not running smoothly or not running at all.  While the failure of a Kenwood Chef may look spectacular when it happens, the repair is fairly straightforward, if you have some basic skills, tools and some patience.

This particular A901 came in with four faults; poor feet condition, cracked cowling, the speed control knob was loose and once I opened up the motor unit to look further, burned-out capacitors.

To some, this list of faults might seem a bit daunting, but it’s standard fare on a Chef of this age and to be expected after thirty plus years service.  Due to the excellent design of the product, the faults are all repairable with commonly available parts.

After about an hours’ work, the feet were replaced, the motor circuitry repaired and the replacement cowling refitted.  The speed control knob had come away from the motor body and only required the pin that held it in place ‘pressing’ back in to the housing, resulting in one happy mixer.

One of my aims on this website is to share my experience and best practice so for the first time, I made a video of the complete motor repair in real-time.  So, if you have a Chef to repair and twenty minutes, grab yourself some popcorn, a notepad and pen and enjoy.

Cost of replacement:  £150.00 and up.  Cost of repair: £30 plus my time and tea.