Discussion & Repairability

A place for my general repair related thoughts, questions and ideas.  Always interested in debate, new ideas and other viewpoints.

19/11/18  Really, what’s the worst that can happen?

I think I got the fixing bug from my dad.  When I was a kid, if something wasn’t working, he’d take it apart and try to work out what was wrong, regardless of any qualification seemingly needed to do so.  I guess that approach, stuck.

It’s completely rational, when you think about it.  Take a broken vacuum cleaner for example.  You might have spent over £200 on it when new and worry that you might ‘damage’ it further by trying to repair it yourself but here’s the reality; with the right approach, you’ll probably end up with a working machine again and acquired knowledge that will help you again, for the next time.  If you don’t get it working, so what, it wasn’t working anyway.  Think what might happen to that poor machine, with only a small, minor fault, if you don’t step in to help it?  Plus, if you don’t help, it’s only going one way.

Overcoming the fear.

It’s totally rational to be concerned about sharp items, delicate materials and electricity.  Mishandling and a lack of respect for mains power, kills.  But don’t let that put you off.  It’s all about taking precautions.  Wear protective clothing and eyewear, take your time and disconnect any powered items before you start work, it’s that simple.  From then on, it’s all about taking a few notes, a few pictures on your phone and maybe a little time on YouTube, for advice from others.  With the basics in place, you’re on your way to being empowered over the item that’s about to receive your handy work.

A word to the wise.  I’ve worked on thousands of items over the years, often with no exact knowledge of the item I’m about to start work on.  I enjoy it and get a kick out of bringing something back to ‘life’.  YouTube and Google searches save time and can provide extremely useful insights in to common issues affecting well, just about anything.  I use it all the time.  As with any diagnosis, symptoms may be common to many faults, so don’t think that the first video you come across with a seemingly similar problem to yours, will show you how to solve your problem.  Don’t be tempted into a snap-diagnosis.  I don’t like ordering parts for something, I just don’t need.  Plus, anyone can upload a how-to video on YouTube.  Here are 5 tips on becoming a make do and mend repair legend.

  1. Arm yourself with basic tools – things every home should have

Basic screw driver set, small cutters, electrical tape, super glue, cable ties, small self-tapping screws, small pliers, small spanner (set size 7-15 mm).  This kit does not need to be premium stuff as it won’t be used every day, so don’t spend any more than £30, if starting out today.  This list is just based on my own thoughts and totally non-exhaustive.

Find youself an old biscuit tin or similar and start collecting odd screws and fixings you find, as they can come in very handy for small repair jobs.

  1. Read-up on basic electricity handling

You don’t need to attend a two-year course to work on a toaster, although I’m sure toaster technicians do.  Read up on mains power, how to isolate equipment, what components can cause harm if touched and take your time.

  1.  Be prepared to fail

You will mess things up, make things go bang and sometimes spend money on something which still doesn’t work but hey, it didn’t work anyway, so chill out.  By investigating a fault yourself, you will have gained knowledge and become empowered, which will help in future, although it might not feel like it at the time.  That’s life.

  1. Ask around

There’s no such thing as an expert.  Slightly controversial, but bear with me.  Expertise is gained though study and experience, which takes time.  Expertise is usually specific to a particular field and this is why we take a car to a garage and not a plumber.  However, there are common principles between the two fields, which can be applied to both cars and boilers and that’s the point.  You’re never going to be able to have the knowledge to fix anything, that’s unlikely.  But the skills you learn in the repair of say, a food mixer, may well be applicable to a washing machine, both having motors, belts and control systems.  If you’re struggling with something, ask around, someone will know.

  1. Make repair a social event

Have that broken record player out on the table alongside your screwdriver set, ready for when your friends come over.  Two brains are better than one as they say and who wants to talk about Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing results anyway?  This way you can have fun and gain a sense of achievement together.  The same works well with kids, but remember to disconnect from the mains first of course.

The most important thing to remember is this:  You bought it, it’s yours, you own it and don’t listen to anyone who says it can’t be fixed.

14 thoughts on “Discussion & Repairability”

  1. Good advice that we also give. We attend community repair events around our State of Victoria, in Australia. We are tinkerer travellers known as Mend It, Australia. We read someplace that you fix at your local repair cafe. May we ask which one, please? Enjoying reading your posts and have shared your sites to our page on Facebook @mendaussie. Kaz+Dan Ellis


    1. Hi Kaz and Dan, thanks for writing. I saw you guys on Twitter and gave you a cheeky follow. It’s nice to share ideas in this space and even better to know that there are others out there, doing the same thing. I occassionally help our Repair Cafe Worthing via this group: http://www.ttworthing.org/ They are involved with many eco initiatives across our town. I also live in Worthing, West Sussex.

      PS, thanks for the share.

      All the best and keep up the good work. I guess you need to travel much further than we do here!


  2. I have nearly new Qualcast 30 ‘PUSH OPERATED’ Lawnmower I wish to convert To powered Roller version.
    Have old (still working but noisy) Roller powered machine I can use for spare parts. Main question Do both models share the same electric motor? Or is there a more powerful one?


    1. Morning Colin, I don’t know is the short answer. My experience of Qualcast mowers is that various motors were used over the years, so it’s just a case of seeing what works best with the parts you have. Good luck.


  3. So, filled with hope having read your posts and a load of other information, I tackled our Kenwood KM001 which is doing the ‘only running on maximum speed’ thing. I replaced the triac and then got worried that the variable resistor wasn’t varying very much so bought a new speed control unit. And it still only runs at full speed…. Could there be something wrong with the motor wiring?


  4. Hello – just the kind of site I was looking for! I was thrilled to be given an A701A Kenwood Chef today, very similar to the one I grew up with. The lady even dropped it off – so kind, shame she didn’t hang around so I could thank her properly… now I know why… I am now the owner of a hulking piece of machinery that jerks violently within a couple of minutes on speed 1 and emits a burning smell. First thought motor? I’m only a fixer-upper by necessity (low earner) and habit (I had that kind of dad), but in this case as a lone shielder with no car, I have no way of getting rid of this ‘gift’. I have time, patience and plenty of tools… is there anything I can do to repair my new baby?


    1. Hi Rachel, it’s very cool to receive a mixer like that. Your machine is entirely fixable, but its impossible to diagnose without listening to it. Those machines are old, so the motor and or gearbox may need some TLC. Its diy, if you have the tools


      1. Hi, thanks for getting back. Although the rotary motion is smooth there’s a consistent grinding sound in there. No ‘pulsing’ motor sound though. The initial side-to-side wobble of the top half settled slightly but it’s clearly a thing. The burning smell is plasticky and coming from the area behind the flip-up, but nothing was warm to the touch. However I was only using it in short bursts, knowing there was a problem. I also notice the lever at the top-front (red on some models) is stuck. Can I post video on here at all?


  5. So, filled with hope having read your posts and a load of other information, I tackled our Kenwood KM001 which is doing the ‘only running on maximum speed’ thing. I replaced the triac and then got worried that the variable resistor wasn’t varying very much so bought a new speed control unit. And it still only runs at full speed…. Could there be something wrong with the motor wiring?


  6. Love your attitude to repairing stuff, better than recycling.
    I’m always repairing stuff, never thro anything before having a go at sorting it, If it breaks or you fail you’ve lost nothing really, fixed micro wave twice, washing machine, countless small electrical gadgets, replace batteries in sealed rechargeable items, razors etc to give them another lease of life, only thing that stops me doing more is time !


  7. Hi, further to your repair on the Lidl 12v battery charger, and its troublesome microswitch, I had a very similar switch problem on a Friedland Response SA6 wireless house alarm, which is actually made by Novar in Taiwan. The alarm was falsely registering an ‘Accessory Tamper’ intermittantly, but due to the limitations of its design it was unable to tell me which sensor was alarming. The alarm is 14 years old now, and has been relatively reliable (I installed it, for what its worth).
    Well, the cause was a microswitch, just as your charger, with a wandering resistance (it is always held closed in normal use). The switch detects that a door sensor has had its battery lid cover removed, in this case spuriously.
    A small drop of WD40 (I’m not its biggest fan, but in this case it seems to work well) onto the button of the switch, then worked-in with a few button depressions, seems to have got the switch back to near 0 ohms.
    How did I find which door sensor? I had to go to each one with a digital volt meter and try them all until I found it!
    The alarm seems fine now, and I’ve put a drop of WD40 into the other door sensor microswitches as an insurance.
    If you are trying this on your Friedland alarm, don’t forget that you need to put the alarm into ‘Walk Test’ mode first, to stop it going off.


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