Gaggia Espresso Machine with a nasty blockage

A Gaggia Espresso machine gets a rebuild.

Home coffee machines are very cool.  Home espresso machines are even better as they’re the closest you can get to a coffee shop brew, in my opinion.  Due to heat, water and coffee mixing up on a regular basis, they need ownership with care for long life.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Gaggia Espresso Machine.

Top tips for longer coffee machine life:

  • Use filtered water, especially if you live in a hard water area
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Keep all rubber seals, especially those around the main coffee making area, clean with a damp cloth

Someone got in touch with a machine that was a few years old, but had once made a lovely cup of coffee.  The owner had used it daily but recently it had begun to leak and not perform at its best.  The machine had also been to a UK repair specialist, but sadly, they couldn’t solve the problems.  I always test appliances when they arrive to confirm the fault and as expected, water came out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

I’ve worked on a few of these machines, so I know the drill.  Remove the lid, make a note of the wiring connectors, the pipes and remove the bolts holding the main boiler in place.  I also ordered a service kit (new seals) for a reasonable £7.99.

The main boiler separates into two halves which reveals the main boiler chamber and exit for hot water.

This boiler was in poor condition and years of corrosion and scale had built up and was probably blocking the main group head, the bit where you attach the group handle/ filter bit to make coffee.

Time for more dismantling.  The group head is held in position with a couple of screws, but years of corrosion had taken their toll and this head was going nowhere.  Great care was needed as the soft metal is easily damaged.

Thinking about this a bit more, I decided to cut a screw thread into one of the water holes in the head and use a bolt to lever the group head apart.  It worked.  Once off the head revealed loads of debris and scale.

The next job was to give all parts a thorough clean, re-faced with wet and dry paper as needed and use new seals as part of the reassembly.

Once back together, the boiler was reinstalled and reconnected.  After a few blasts of fresh water through the machine, it was ready to make its first proper brew.

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Cost of replacement:  £100-300.  Cost of repair:  £7.99, my time, one tin of elbow grease, one cup of coffee and a ginger nut.

 

 

Leave the light on…

A Philips outdoor wall lamp with a major case of built-in obsolescence, gets a cheap fix.

A mate of mine mentioned that his outdoor wall light had given-up-the-ghost, despite not being more than three years old.  He’d put them up around his house as part of an extension and exterior restoration project.  The trouble was that despite only being a few years old, the product now seemed to be discontinued.  This meant that, should the lamp need to be replaced, he would need to replace all of them (three in this case) to keep them matching.  Annoying quite frankly.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, working.

He’d read that the bulb within the Philips lamp was not replaceable, in which case a faulty lamp would render the whole thing broken, which seemed very daft to me.  Items made in such a way that prevents even the most basic of repair get me very annoyed.  Sometimes an item is developed in such a way for safety reasons but I suspect that most of the time, the motive is just pure greed.  It’s such a shame.

At my mate’s house, over a cup of tea, I removed the lamp from the wall to take back to the workshop, to see what Philips had been getting up to.

Opening up the casing was straightforward, just a few simple screws and retaining nuts holding the casing together, before finally revealing the bulb itself, under a lamp diffuser.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, lamp unit.

The bulb/ lamp unit itself appeared to be a custom/ bespoke disc light, that wasn’t user serviceable.  It had blown and there was evidence of scorching on a few of the LEDs, linked in series, indicating the failure of the entire circuit.

I couldn’t find any replacement disc LEDs suitable for the lamp from any of the usual sources, which I expected.  It could be that Philips can supply a replacement disc, but this was not evident on their website.

Not wanting to be beaten by a bespoke part, I thought about what else might work, within the lamp’s enclosure, to have the same effect.  I had a spare GU9 LED bulb, about the same brightness, sitting on the shelf, left over from another project which was going spare, so I set about fitting it in the space.

The generic GU9 bulb, available from most hardware shops, fitted in the existing disc mounting bracket, with a small modification and once connected to the lamp’s circuitry, worked well, albeit with a slightly warmer glow.

In case anyone else has the same problem, I made a little video of the repair.  I hope it gives others inspiration if faced with a similar problem.

Cost of replacement (with something similar): £50.00.  Cost of repair:  £1.50 for the bulb and a couple of Belgian beers for my time.

 

Karcher WV50 avoids the bin, just

An alternative, cheaper, motor fix.

My dad donated a rather sick Karcher WV50 window vacuum, water sucky-uppy-thing which he’d taken half way to the bin before thinking, I know, I’ll give it to Matt.

How thoughtful.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Karcher WV50 Window Vac, in bits.

The vacuum sucky-uppy-thing worked of sorts, but when operated, made a noise not to dissimilar to a distressed cat riding a trolley with wobbly wheels, if you get what I mean.  I wish I’d recorded it.

Anyway, opening up the WV50 was pretty straightforward.  Just several crossed-head screws held the two plastic halves of the unit together, revealing a simple electronic board, battery, switch, motor and fan with exhaust.

The principle of the WV50 is the same as any other domestic vacuum cleaner.  A fan drives air in one direction through a smaller hole (exhaust) creating a vacuum, in this case at a small wiper blade for glass cleaning.  Water is then drawn towards the fan, with the vacuum created and then diverted to a holding tank, for emptying later.

The tank on this product is quite crude and I suspect that should it be knocked over, the water within the tank could spill over in to the exhaust and in to the motor.  This is what I suspected had happened and caused the motor bearing on this device to wear excessively, causing the noise.

The cost of a motor and fan replacement on the WV50 was about £30.00 (where I saw them listed) but this would make the repair un-economical.  After an email conversation with Mabuchi, the makers of the motor, the original equipment K-280SA-3525, unique to the WV50, was no longer being made.

I don’t like being ‘beaten’, but having spent far too much time with batteries, bulbs and motors as a child than is entirely healthy, I realised that the casing and bearing on the K-280SA-3525 was pretty standard fare and if the spindle on our motor was OK, then all that would be required would be a new bearing.  It turned out that the spindle and motor brushes were OK, so I ordered a same size motor from eBay, via a very efficient and friendly Chinese electronics specialist with the intention of swapping the motor body and bearing over.

The motor arrived quickly and the transplant only took a few minutes.  Once reassembled, the motor and fan sounded like new once again.  A nice cheap fix, to keep this vacuum cleaning windows for another day.

I even made a short video, showing what I did.  Enjoy.

Cost of replacement: £50.00 (equivalent model)  Cost of repair: £1.50, some international emails and a couple of cuppas.  Nice.

 

Morphy Richards smoky heater

A heater with a broken motor gets a clean up…

I like the classic, function-over-form design of this heater.  Simple, clear, chunky controls and nothing included that isn’t needed.  Less is usually more.

This 1980s heater, although very well made and clearly designed with longevity and repair in mind was a little bit, er smoky.

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Fixitworkshop, February’19, Morphy Richards fan heater.

It appeared that the fan wasn’t running and the smoke was coming from old dust which had settled inside the machine.  I don’t think that the heater had been used in many years.

The heater came apart very easily, just three self-tapping screws holding the sides together to the main shell.

On first examination that the shell was out of shape and that it had come in to contact with the fan itself, forcing it to far down the motor shaft on to the motor body.  So, all that would be needed would be reposition the fan and re-shape the outer heater shell, a simple fix then.  Not quite.

The motor did not spin easily and even with a little penetrating oil on it, it was turning slowly, with the mains applied.

The motor was an induction type, with no brushes and didn’t obviously have anything restricting the motor’s spin.  I know that even apparently clean motor parts can have deposits of unseen oil and muck that can stop an otherwise good motor from working properly.  In situations like this, I tend to use brake cleaner or similar to break down the dirt.  Once cleaned, just a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the moving parts and that usually cures things.  I was in luck and after performing a mild service on the motor, it was spinning at full speed once again.  Quite literally warming.

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With the parts all back together, the heater was ready to run for many years to come.

Cost of replacement:  £15.00    Cost of repair:  £0.00, one cup of tea and a Bourbon.

Another smoking Kenwood Chef A901E sorted in time for Christmas…just

Another Kenwood Chef gets the treatment in the Workshop

How about another Kenwood Chef story?  I know I’ve covered this machine a few times now, but I’ll try and make it as interesting as I can.  I just LOVE Kenwood Chefs.

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FixItWorkshop, December’18, Worthing, Kenwood Chef A901E on the bench.

A customer got in touch with me via the FixItWorkshop ‘contact us’ link asking if I could fix his family’s much beloved Chef.  While last in-use, it started smoking and smelling terminal.  How could I refuse.  I’m located in Worthing, but the customer was based in North London, quite a distance for a repair and would have been usually cost prohibitive using the Royal Mail.  However, using local drop-off points, carriers such as Hermes and DPD offer (slightly slower) courier services for about £7.00 one way, which starts to make more fiscal sense.  This is what we did.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the box the Chef came in, because the customer had clearly gone to a lot of effort to make sure it was well protected!

On with the repair.

The Chef has been in production many years and although they can often appear similar on the outside, they do vary on the inside, depending on the year of manufacture as small tweaks and improvements are made.  Evolution, rather than revolution, usually the backbone of any successful design.

The A901E is different from the previous A901 as it features an electronic speed controller, rather than a centrifugal affair.  While the later design is an improvement, it wouldn’t deter me from buying an earlier model; the improvement is small.

The A901E still features similar components to previous models which can and do fail, especially with age.  The subject here is about 30 years old, give or take.

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FixItWorkshop, December’18, Worthing, A901E, motor removed.

The motor on the A901E comes out quite easily; first remove the motor cover, remove the mains cable (disconnect first of course), remove the top cover, belt, then the four screws holding the motor in.  The motor then pulls down from inside, out through the gap left by the hinge.  Easy.

The motor circuit board showed traces of component catastrophe with dust and dirt left by exploding components.  Nasty.  Pre-empting the fault, I ordered a repair kit before I’d taken the machine apart, together with replacement feet as the ones on this machine were knackered.  The kit includes capacitors, resistor and triac as these are the main components that tend to fail.

These kits are available on eBay and are worth the money as they are often cheaper than buying the components separately and they contain instructions for newbies.  Here’s a little slide show showing the process.

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With the kit fitted, the motor re-installed, mains reconnected, the Chef ran well again, this time without burning or smoking.  However, all was not well as the speed control was a bit wobbly at lower speeds, which was just plain wrong.  Having worked on a good few Chefs, this problem is usually down to excess end-float on the motor spindle.  Working with the motor still in situ, the motor fan, which controls end-float could be adjusted with an Allen key.  Sorted.

Just the replacement feet to fit and after a quick clean-up, the Chef was reassembled, ready to go home.

A top tip for you.  If you intend to replace the feet on your machine and you probably should if they are old as they go hard or fall apart, then soak the area around the feet recesses with WD-40 or similar a day or so before as this will make getting the remnants of the old feet out, much easier.

Cost of a replacement:  £400 up.  Cost of repair:  £12.65 plus my time and tea.

Classic (asthmatic) Dyson DC01

A tired DC01 gets some TLC

Starting a new job is always fun and when a new colleague of mine mentioned that the office vacuum cleaner had packed up, I rose to the challenge.

I’m quite fond of Dyson products as some of you know, mainly because:

  • They’re well-engineered, by engineers
  • They’re designed to be repaired easily with simple tools, which is better for everyone
  • Parts are readily available at reasonable prices

The DC01 was launched in the early 90’s and was Dyson’s first market clean-up, competing with the established market leaders.  Although this machine is over 20 years old and Dyson no longer supports it directly, reasonable quality pattern parts are available on eBay.  If you have one, love it and keep it going.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Dyson DC01

This one is actually an ‘Antarctica Solo’ model (grey and light blue instead of yellow), which commemorated Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ solo trek across Antarctica and raised money for Breakthrough Cancer.  It had been abandoned and was moments away from the skip.  I felt quite sorry for it.

Faults reported included; no suction, excess noise and smell!

The first thing to check on the DC01 is the filters, as like many other Dyson products, people forget to clean or change the filters.  Both filters were totally choked and full of all sorts of detritus.  A quick shake out and wash with warm soapy water and they were as good as new.  Following that, I inspected the seals around the join between the cylinder and the main body.  All the seals were dirty, so a clean up and quick spray with silicone spray and they were as good as new.  Great.

The noise seemed to be coming from the front beater/ rollers which usually means, noise bearings.  The beater on this model uses a two bearing set up.  One was fine, but the other was seized.  As I didn’t want to spend any more than I needed, I cleaned the bearing, after removing it and the dust cover, re-greased it with LM High-Melt Point grease (general automotive stuff) and it was ready to roll and beat again.

 

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Once the filters were dry and re-installed, the Dyson ran like new again.  Very satisfying.

Cost of replacement:  £15 second hand, £100’s for an equivalent-ish new model.

Cost of repair:  Patience, washing up liquid, two cups 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.