Why are some spare parts more expensive than a complete product?!

I struggle to buy a replacement part for a reasonable price.

I’ve been meaning to do a little article on this problem for a while and I apologise in advance if (you’re still reading) this seems like a rant.

Why-o-why-o-why are manufacturers still allowed to price spare parts dearer than a complete product?

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara and Enrich Showers.

Recently our electric wall shower gave up the ghost and tripped the electrical breaker in the fuse cupboard.  Not great when it happens mid-wash.

The shower was a few years old and registered with the manufacturer for support for things like recalls and so on.  I had fitted the shower myself and it it had been a reliable product until this point.

Out with the screwdrivers and multimeter.

The 8.5kW heating element is split into two circuits, one for half-power and one for full.  Most people would use full power, but you might be able to get away with using it on half or economy mode in summer, when the water feed is generally warmer.

All micro switches seemed to be working OK, which was a bit of a shame actually as it meant that the heater can was probably faulty.  It was.  Half the heater can tested OK, the other half was dead.  Oh dear.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara heater can.

After visiting some shower spares suppliers and the manufacturers’ own website, I discovered that the spare part I needed wasn’t cheap at over £50 delivered.  I saw some advertised for £70 on some third-party sites.

Price of part
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara replacement heater can spare part.  Price sourced from triton.co.uk, correct 10/08/19.

I was fuming.  Why so expensive?  I mean, you’d have to be out of your mind to part with your hard-earned cash on a spare part like this when you can buy the whole unit for less.  See below.

price new
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Enrich/ Cara – new price listing.  Price sourced from Screwfix.com, correct 10/08/19.

The Cara shower has been replaced by the Enrich and is basically the same product, by another name.  Therefore, the high price of the spare part in this instance cannot be blamed on low manufacturing volumes as the showers are still made, are widely available and have been in production for a long time.   Something is ethically wrong with Triton’s spare parts pricing policies.

Now, I don’t want to beat-up Triton, they’re not alone and many manufacturers do the same, but there are now many forward-thinking companies out there getting it right.  Maybe Triton will revisit their spares listings.

Despite my natural leaning to repair and recondition, I had to admit that simple logic won the day and I bought a whole new unit from Screwfix.  The Enrich shower fitted exactly where the Cara had been and worked perfectly.

I thought about this situation long and hard and decided that for this type of appliance, a spare part should not cost more than 30% of the current retail price.  In this instance, I would have been prepared to pay about £15.00 for a spare part. 

In a world where we need to encourage people to repair appliances (and anything else) manufacturers need to facilitate a reasonable and proportionate spares back up service.  It’s as simple as that.

Still, there is a bright side to this tale.  The old shower’s solenoid, mixer, control knobs and switches all work fine and I’ll keep those as spares to be used again in a shower or something else that comes along.

Blinking GHDs!

A pair of GHD 3.1B hair straighteners gets fixed

GHD hair straighteners are not something I’ve ever had the need to use, but they are seemingly very popular among the long-haired kind, none the less.  There are cheaper alternatives out there, but devotes tell me that the ceramic plates seem to have a better finish and run hotter for longer, all essential features for taming unruly curls.  So they tell me.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, GHD 3.1b hair straighteners.

Make and model:  GHD hair straighteners 3.1b

Fault reported: Buzzing noise, not warming up

Cost of replacement:  £97.00

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour (ish)

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  4/10

Cups of tea:  2

Biscuits:  1 (Ginger Nut)

Someone got in touch to ask if I could fix their GHDs and to be frank, I’ve had mixed success with these repairs in the past as in general, the newer the model, the harder it is to fault-find and subsequently order parts for, something I find very frustrating.  However, the 3.1bs discussed here are pleasingly old-school.

Dismantling these GHDs involves just one small cross-head screwdriver and one small flat blade screw driver, none of your fancy Torx heads here, thank you very much.

Strangely, the GHDs made a disconcerting buzzing noise when switched on, which to my fairly trained ear sounded distinctly 50Hz-like.  That means that the mains electricity feed was causing some component to ‘arc’ or resonate- the buzzing noise, in plain English.

Fearing imminent catastrophe, I unplugged the GHDs and went to work.  The main PCB is pretty simple on the 3.1b.  Most of the solder joints were OK, but some of the joints around the switch had discoloured, showing that heat had built up, indicating a problem.  To be on the safe side, I re-soldered all the joints to avoid a dry-joint situation.

The buzzing noise still prevailed.  The switch seemed to be the next logical place to look and being of quality, the designers had provided easy access to the switch mechanism via a small metal cover with sprung tangs.  A quick bit of jiggery-pokery and the switch was in bits.

The problem was revealed in an instant.  Both switch contacts and corresponding wipers were burned and needed re-finishing and cleaning.  A quick whizz with a fine file and clean with special electrical contact cleaner and the switch was as good as new.  Since the GHDs were already in pieces, I gave the same clean up treatment to the 3600 flex mechanism, as a precaution.

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So, this set of GHDs were saved from the bin, ready to straighten locks once more, thanks to a few basic tools and cleaning.  Very satisfying.

 

 

That thing just eats money!

Tomy (UK) /Robie (US) Mr. Money repaired in the Workshop

I have a real soft spot for novelty toy robots that actually do something.  I think I’ll make a point of collecting more.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Tomy/ Robie Mr. Money.

Make and model:  Tomy (Robie in U.S.) Mr. Money  children’s money box

Fault reported: Not eating money

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  3/10

A lady got in touch with me on the back of an article I wrote a while ago about a faulty Mr. Money toy robot money box.  My Mr. Money had gone wrong as I’d left an old battery inside which had then leaked.  A major clean-up and tinker was then required to get it working again.

This particular Mr Money belonged to the lady’s husband and was to be ‘given to him again’ as a 40th birthday present.  What a nice thought.  The only problem was that Mr. Money had stopped working long ago; put away and forgotten about.  He needed bringing back to life.  Perhaps there was a hidden message to the husband to save for something?  Who knows.

Mr_Money_Quick_Strip

Mr. Money arrived well packed at the workshop and I wasted no time in taking him apart.  There was no evidence of battery leakage or accidental Cadbury Button ingestion and he was generally in good condition with no bits broken off.  A good start.

Mr. Money is getting on a bit and when taking apart any toy, let alone one that’s over 30 years old, one must be careful not to accidently snap-off any lugs or tangs that hold things like casing and levers together.  Very tricky.  It’s not something I usually attempt after a day at work, when I’m shattered.

After some rooting around in the depths of the mechanism, I noticed that the ‘limit switch’ was a little dirty and that some of the contacts needed a little clean.  Using some fine cloth and switch cleaner, all metallic switch surfaces and battery connections were cleaned up and with a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money worked again.

Being 30 years old, there’s no silly use of electronics or other USB excesses which are, I think, ‘over used’ on modern toys.  It all adds up to something which can be repaired with basic tools and parts.

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I carefully reassembled the workings, casing, switches, arms, head, eyes and lid.

Mr. Money was ready to feast.

After testing a couple of quid through the Mr.Money’s eating cycle, I was happy for him to start his journey home.  I hope he gets used regularly and never put away in a box again.

 

 

 

Tone-deaf VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

VTECH kids toy gets a little help.

We love a musical singing book toy, don’t we.  They’re great for encouraging children to form words, read and follow a narrative.  We have a few of these and they’re all great fun, all the time the batteries hold up.

We’re not so fond of musical books when they seemingly start by themselves, at one o’clock in the morning, when there’s no one else in the house.  Very creepy.

Make and model:  VTECH Electronics Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

Fault reported: Poor sound quality

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes

Tools needed:  Small file, cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’19, VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book.

This toy was a hand-me-down and had enjoyed a few years of use already, before it came in to our household, but it was in good condition and still has many more years left in it yet.

Recently though the singing emanating from the book was becoming a bit off-key and to be frank, rather than bringing joy the noise coming from the toy was enough to induce nightmares.  I keep a ready supply of rechargeable ‘AA’ batteries in this house and after popping out the old ones, the new ones fitted, I assumed all would be well, but not so.

Despite fresh power, the singing was still horrible and wobbly.  A quick test of both sets of batteries (old and new) revealed that the original batteries were fine and that something else was at play.

Time to delve a little deeper.

Galvanic corrosion can occur when two different metals in close contact with each other, chemically react.  The corrosion forms a barrier, in this case between the electrical contacts of the toy and battery to form a resistance.  This means that the toy, with the corroded contacts, wouldn’t get the full power it needed.

There was some minor corrosion on the contacts that needed a quick clean with some cloth and contact cleaner, something I keep on the shelf for such an occasion.

This did the trick and with the original batteries fitted, the toy was back on song once more, ready for another performance.

Small home improvements…

A loved children’s toy house with the longest house number ever, gets glued back together.

On the last weekend in June 2019, I decided to do some home improvements, on a small scale.

My kids are lucky; they have their own stash of toys to play with, at members of our family’s homes.  This means that we travel a little lighter when visiting.

My mum had reported that the toy house (pictured below) had developed a case of plastic wall subsidence and had started to literally, fall apart.  Time for site clearance or wall ties?  Nah, just a few drops of glue and a dose of patience.

Make and model:  Generic toy (there’s no maker’s mark on it, it’s that good)

Fault reported: Broken hinge

Cost of replacement:  £haven’t a clue

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes

Tools needed:  3 X clamps

Sundry items: Some Gorilla glue

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Toy House

Kids toys usually lead a hard life and many, sadly, have short lives.  I see loads of dumped toys at our municipal tip which could, with a little love, be fixed-up to be enjoyed once again.

With so much in the media about our collective love affair with plastics and how long the material stays in our environment and food-chain, I think it’s important to preserve what has already been made for as long as possible, for its original purpose or to be re-purposed.  That way, plastic things will avoid being sent to landfill, for longer.

The toy house in question is not a high-end product and the materials and finish used are not the finest available, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to enjoy.  I mean, most of the windows open, the front door has working lights and the whole thing opens up to reveal a two-floor mini wonderland.  I mean, what’s not to like?

The opening up bit was the problem.  The main hinge that holds both halves of the house together had become semi-detached.

It would have been easy to call it a day with this one, but as my youngest daughter had recently taken a shine to it, I decided that all the broken hinge needed was; glue, some clamps and patience.  Gluing plastic is tricky as some glues react badly, depending on the type of plastic, which unless you’re someone who has Masters in Plasticology, is hard to work out for most diy’ers.  It’s a bit of trial and error and with this repair I decided to use Gorilla glue, rather than a 2-part epoxy resin as I had a bottle of that open already.  I’m afraid, it wasn’t very scientific with this fix

With the two halves of the hinge lined up, a dab of glue in the right places, I used three clamps, spaced along the hinge to hold it in place while it glued.

Now, this toy will always be delicate and will never be quite as strong as it once was, but at least it can now be enjoyed once again and more importantly, it won’t be going in the bin.

 

 

 

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.

Qualcast Hover Safe 25, left out in the cold

An old hover mower avoids the great lawn in the sky.

Another email popped in to my inbox asking if I would have a look at a Qualcast Hover Safe 25 which had stopped working.  It had been working intermittently for a while before giving up the ghost and now it had thrown in the towel.  Bad news.  It had literally been kicked into the long grass.

Make and model:  Qualcast Hover Safe 25

Cost of replacement:  £40.00 (ish)

Cost of parts:  £0.00 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Tools needed:  Basic screw drivers, multimeter, pliers, hair dryer

Sundry items: WD40, silicone spray, wet and dry sanding cloth

Repair difficulty:  4/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Qualcast Hover Safe 25.

The owner of this mower had reported that the handle mouted switch (dead-mans handle) had been a ‘bit tricky’ to use and that it didn’t always work.  These kinds of statements make me wonder what kind of life a device has had.  Judging by the rust and discolouration on the metal and plastic parts, I think this mower had been left in a shed with a leaky roof!

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The water had not been kind and the mechanism had seized.  The only thing to do was to open up the switch, clean up any moving parts, lubricate the switch with switch cleaner and lubricate the sliding plastic parts with a little silicone spray.  The small lever which actuates the main on/ off switch was also slightly bent, so after a little straightening, using a hair dryer, it was as good as new. After the switch was repaired, the lawnmower’s motor still wasn’t working.

The cable running from the switch to the motor housing appeared to be in good condition, so the only thing left was to remove the motor itself.  Removing the motor means removing the blade and 4 small screws (see photos).  Once exposed, the motor was revealed.  Power was indeed reaching the motor when the switch was operated, as confirmed with a quick dab of the multimeter.

The motor itself seemed to have little resistance when manually spun, which led me to suspect the motor brushes had worn out.  Doubting that brushes were available, I decided to remove them anyway for closer inspection.  This revealed seized motor brushes, which backed up my theory about the mower’s damp environment.  A quick bit of jiggery pokery and a clean up and the motor brushes were as good as new.  A quick clean up of the motor commutator, I refitted the brushes and the motor was ready to be refitted.

Now, this mower is not in the first flush of youth and the motor bearings were a little noisy, but after a quick spray of grease in the bearing area it sounded fine.  The mower will never be perfect, but at least it will work for a little longer, which has got to be the point, hasn’t it?