Old vs new, which is best?

Having repaired more than 100 Kenwood Chefs, I compare newish and older machines. Which is best?

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Believe it or not, people do ask me which is best:  New or old machines?

There is of course, no right or wrong answer and the answer will vary, depending on the product and application.

But since the question comes up from time-to-time, I thought I’d give my opinion on the matter and have a bit of fun with the subject, a kind of shoot-out if you will.

My illustration focuses on an old favourite of mine; the Kenwood Chef.  My chosen opponents are a model from the early 1980s, the ubiquitous A901 Chef, made in England, and the much later 2000s KMC010 Chef, made in China.

The Chef is a good example for the shoot-out as the machine’s purpose hasn’t changed since it’s introduction to kitchens in the 1950s.  Many Chef accessories produced over the years are interchangeable, owning to the foresight of good design.

Some people think that new machines are best and more capable while other people think older machines are best as they were built to last. Since I’ve dismantled, used and admired 100s of these machines, here’s my take.

Round 1 – Performance

Older Chefs are less powerful than newer machines.  For example, the A901 has a 450W motor, whereas the later KMC010 has a much more powerful 1400W motor.  This means than the newer machine will be more capable to mix more stodgy mixtures for longer.  Counter-intuitively, the more powerful machine may be more efficient for some loads, compared to the lower power one, although I’ve never measured this.

A901 – 0   KMC010 – 1

Round 2 – Noise (from the machine)

Kenwood has tended to favour evolution rather than revolution with their product progression.  Many models available over the years appeared not to change much on the surface, but under the skin, small tweaks and improvements were taking place.  So, in general, the newer the machine, the quieter they tend to be.  There are some model variant exceptions to this, but the KMC010 is much quieter than my own good condition A901.

A901 – 0   KMC010 – 2

Oh dear, new things might be better after all..?

Round 3 – Durability

Now this is where things get interesting.  Many of the machines I receive in my workshop for repair are getting on a bit. Some of them are over 40 years old.  The machines have served their families well with faithful service.

Faulty older machines can often be turned around within a few hours in the workshop, to be back with the customer, to make more cakes.  The A901 Chef is a tough old beast.  The materials and finish rarely give any problems and major components rarely fail it seems.

KMC010 Chefs (and all newer models) that I see in the workshop are obviously much younger than the A901s.  While very capable and powerful, sadly, they seem to have failed, often only with occasional light use.

Seemingly, it’s true what they say, the older machines were built to last and I base that purely on customer enquiries and items I see to repair every week.  The newer machines often have features and buttons that don’t serve any real advantage, but have associated circuits which can and do go wrong, rendering the whole machine useless, if they fail.

A901 – 1   KMC010 – 2

Round 4 – Repairability

Now obviously, I am ‘repairability-biased’, this is a blog about repair after all.  However, the facts speak for themselves.  Older Chefs can be repaired with basic tools, reasonably priced components and a little know-how.

Newer Chefs, like the KMC010 are more complicated and have less user-serviceable parts.  This makes otherwise serviceable machines far more likely to end up in the scrapyard with seemingly minor faults, that were too hard to diagnose and repair.  The A901 wins hands down in the repairability stakes.

A901 – 2   KMC010 – 2

The feeling is tense and there’s an air of excitement as I get to call the decider on this slightly odd dual.

Round 5 – Value for money (the decider)

A new KMC010 Titanium costs over £600 today and it should be said that all Chefs are great machines and a worthy addition to any kitchen.  However, a decent second-hand Chef from the 1960s to the early 1990s is a worthy contender for a tenth of the cost.

Have a look on eBay and you’ll see A701s, A701a, A901, A901E, KM200 model Chefs, starting at £40, often with many accessories.  They’re just as useful and capable to serve most home needs.  Indeed, I have a customer who uses her standard A901 in an industrial kitchen, every day, with no problems.

A901 – 3   KMC010 -2

The non-scientific conclusion…

  • Buy an older machine and take satisfaction that it will last generations, can be easily repaired and work with most accessories available now.  Buying an older machine is probably less environmentally damaging than the manufacture of a new machine.
  • Buy a new machine and take satisfaction with additional performance and a manufacturers’ guarantee for the first year…

You know which machine I would buy…

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Time to put the kettle on.

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.

Raucous Kenwood Chef A701a

A noisy Kenwood Chef A701a gets a gearbox rebuild.

This Chef had been sleeping quietly in a kitchen cupboard for some time before being woken up to make cake mixtures once again.  The owner had owned the mixer for many years from new and was sentimentally attached to it.  I fully sympathise, they’re great machines.  It had been used many times in the past and then packed away as new machines came and went.  Having decided that there was still a place for the A701a, it was fired up.

The owner didn’t remember it being quite as noisy and wondered if something was wrong with it.  She got in touch and brought it in to the workshop.   After listening to the mixer at varying speeds, we agreed that perhaps it was a bit noisy and that further investigation was required.

 At this stage I must confess at this repair has been on the bench for a long while..!

I think the A701 is my favourite Kenwood Chef product as it’s very elegant, beautifully proportioned and almost over-engineered.  It comes from a time where built-in obsolescence was a swear word.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef, A701a.

On with the problem.  After disconnecting the gearbox by removing the drive belt, I checked the motor for general wear and tear, the brushes and speed control mechanism and I concluded that it all seemed OK and working smoothly.  The gearbox however did seem a bit noisy when turned manually, nothing hideously graunchy, but a little rough.  To be honest, it would have probably survived, but I wanted to open up the gearbox to make sure that it was as it should be.

Whilst removing the Chef’s casing around the gearbox, I’d noticed traces of grease around the joints and various power take-offs.  All models seem to do this to an extent, but this one seemed to be quite bad.  Closer inspection revealed that some of the grease had escaped out of the seal between the two halves of the gearbox casing.  Opening up the casing revealed that the grease that was left had been pushed to the corners of the space within the gearbox and that the gears were a bit dry, this was probably the root cause of the noise.  The planet wheel that drives the beater was also bone dry.

Luckily, there are plenty of suppliers who can supply rebuild kits for Kenwood Chef gearboxes, including new gears and grease.  The gears in this seemed serviceable, but it seemed very sensible to replace the lubricant with the correct 130g of Kenwood gearbox grease, which is food safe.  I used ‘Kenwood Chef Restore’, an eBay seller and the kit was a reasonable £10.99, including P&P.  The kit included the main gearbox grease, white grease for the planet gear and sealant for the gearbox casing.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, repair kit from Kenwood Chef Restore, eBay.

Before replacing anything, the first job was to clean out all traces of the original grease which had gone very sticky and was contaminated with general wear.   The first pass clean involved using paper toweling, followed by water and detergent, before a final clean with brake cleaner, which removed the last few traces of grease and dirt.

With the gearbox refilled and resealed making sure the spacers were re-fitted to the correct parts, the drive belt re-fitted with just enough slack, the gears sounded much sweeter with the final parts of the casing reassembled.  One last point to note is that I used silicone sealant on the blender attachment power take-off plate in replacement to the one fitted, since the original seal was well past it (see below).

As a finishing touch, I replaced the existing machine feet which had turned to mush with replacements from Sussex Spares (eBay shop) for a very reasonable £2.70, delivered.

The Chef was now ready to prepare cake mixtures again.

Cost of new machine: £300 and up.  Cost of replacement parts: £13.69 (plus my time).