Inside The Real Repair Shop 3

Save time and money with a multimeter and a quick look at alkaline versus rechargeable batteries.

Batteries are needed for all kinds of toys, remote controls and the latest gadgets. With a smattering of basic awareness, a tool like a multimeter can be used by anyone, saving one time, cash and help to save waste and who wouldn’t want to do that?

For under £10 (GBP), a decent multimeter can be bought online and, armed with a few YouTube videos on your phone, you’ll be able to test batteries to see if they’re still up to scratch, test domestic fuses in plugs when the lights go out and prove that power adaptors are OK before buying new.  And that’s just the start, exciting eh?

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January’21, a basic multimeter, batteries, bulb and fuse. Many uses!

I’m not going explain every function on a general purpose multimeter, but I do want to dispel one myth: Multimeters are difficult to use. They simply are not. Assuming you can turn a dial and read a number display, then all you have to do is put the test probes on the right part and then voilà, you’ll be ready to measure things.

Take a standard 1.5V AA battery. It has a + (positive) end and a (negative) end. The red probe should touch the positive end and the black lead should touch the negative end, it’s that simple. Assuming that you’ve selected the DC voltage (10’s) range, a good AA (alkaline) battery will show between 1.5V and 1.68V when new. Anything less and the battery is starting to fade and may need to be replaced.

It’s worth noting at this point that some things are capable of running on less battery juice, for longer. Take a quartz clock with one AA battery. Chances are that it will run for years on a battery, even though over time, the voltage will fall below 1.5V. If you put that same aged battery from the clock into a toy car for example, the chances are that the toy wouldn’t work properly or even at all. To some things, battery voltage is critical, others not so much.

What about normal alkaline batteries versus rechargeable ones, I hear you say faintly, are they worth it?  As with all things, it depends.  Not all battery specifications are the same, so check details carefully when making a purchase.  It’s easier than you think.  Based on detailed shed-based experiments, I generally use rechargeable types in items that tend to use-up batteries quickly, such as radio control car toys and so on.  For something like a clock or a TV remote control handset, where batteries tend to last longer, I recommend conventional types as these items are sometimes more sensitive to voltage differences.  The aim overall is to buy fewer batteries and by using rechargeable ones, which are generally more expensive to get started with, in things that ‘eat batteries faster’, they begin to make economic sense.

Image left: Rechargeable batteries and conventional ones can look similar.  Image right:  Check battery specifications carefully, before deciding that something doesn’t work correctly.

Here’s something you’ll be familiar with.  You go to use something that takes batteries that you haven’t used for ages, only to find that it won’t work.  Upon opening up the little battery door, you’re then greeted with an unpleasant mass of rusty, acidic battery leftovers which have been festering since last Christmas.  In situations like this, many will simply throw away, but often, all that’s required is light restoration with contact cleaner, maybe some wire wool and something like kitchen roll.  More serious battery contact damage can often be solved with new battery contacts, which are available on eBay for small change.  Remember, remove batteries when something’s not in use.

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January’21, battery leakage has caused corrosion damage to the battery connections (repairable).

If you don’t already own one, make sure you add a digital multimeter to your birthday list this year. Now go and recharge your own batteries with a nice cup of tea.

Micro Mini Scooter tune up

A Micro Mini Scooter gets a little TLC

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Micro Mini Scooter.

I like Micro scooters and I would have loved one when I ‘were a boy’.  My daughters have them and they love zipping along the pavement on them to school.  The scooters handle well and are well screwed together.  They are also well supported from a spares point of view, so I like them even more.

Make and model: Micro Mini Scooter

Fault reported: Back wheel stuck

Cost of replacement: £55

Manufacturer support:  7/10

Cost of parts: £2.00

Hours spent on repair: 30 minutes

Tools needed: Cleaning tools/ cross-head screwdriver/ Allen keys

Sundry items: Silicone spray/ cleaning rags/ PTFE spray for steering

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 custard cream

The scooter in the picture belonged to my friend’s son who’d taken it through one too many puddles I think, as the rain water had taken its toll on some of the scooter’s moving parts.  Over time, the rear wheel’s bearing had suffered excess water ingress, had rusted and had seized.  I’m always amazed at how ‘stuck’ things can get with only a small amount of rust.

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In their wisdom, Micro have decided to fit their products with generic bearings commonly fitted to skateboards, roller boots, bikes, cars, photocopiers etc, which means that replacement bearings are a doddle to obtain.  I bought some upgraded bearings with better water seals for under £10, so I know that the repair will last longer than the original equipment fitted from the factory.

The front wheels were seemingly fine, so I left them alone. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

On this model, the rear wheel comes off with one Allen key bolt holding a retaining a stub axel, which slides out with a little persuasion.  The bearings just pop out of the wheel using a small screwdriver as a lever and before fitting new equipment, I always clean the area first to ensure that no dirt is trapped, which could cause premature bearing failure in future.

With the new bearings in, stub axel refitted, a quick wipe down with a strong cleaning wipe, a little PTFE lube applied to the scooter’s steering mechanism and it was ready to see another day.

Bonza.

Hotpoint ‘Rumble’ Tumble Dryer VTD01

A noisy tumble dryer gets fixed cheaply

Strange noises from machines play on my mind.  None more so than when that niggling noise starts to get worse.  Noises like that usually mean two things.  Catastrophic failure and expense.

Time to disconnect from the mains and fetch the tool box.

The patient in the surgery this week is our own Hotpoint tumble dryer.  We avoid using it at all costs, but with miserable English weather and two children, getting washing turned around efficiently, ready for use is mandatory.  To be frank, I’d noticed the excess whinning bearing noise coming from the dryer for a few uses, but it was getting to the point where it was hard to ignore.

Electric hot air tumble dryers are pretty simple things.  They work by sucking cool air in, heating it up under thermostatic control and then blowing it in to a rotating drum.  The moist air is then expelled via a filter and then hose, to atmosphere.  Tumble dryer models of this kind will have the following:  A motor, heater, thermostat circuitry, timer and a drum.  There isn’t much to go wrong and many parts for UK tumble dryers are available, cheaply from places like eSpares.co.uk.  Usually, no special tools are required if you want to have a go at fixing your machine and I recommend you do of course.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’18, Hotpoint VTD01 Tumble Dryer.

After opening up the cabinet, access to the drum and motor was available by the side panel which was held in position with several self-tapping screws and hooks.  Care must be taken if you attempt something similar on your machine since there are plenty of sharp edges to watch out for.  This dryer features an AC induction motor (which has no motor brushes).  It has a spindle which runs through the motor with a pully one side to drive the drum via the belt and a fan the other to blow the hot air.  Removing the belt and spinning the motor by hand revealed the problem.  The spindle spun OK, but sounded rough.

Replacement motors are available at a reasonable £90 or so, but you know me by now, I don’t like spending that kind of money, unless I have to.

The motor is attached to the appliance with simple bolts and is removed easily.  The motor is held together with self-tapping screws, which are easily accessible.  Just two bearings feature in this motor; one at each end to support the load.  Both bearings sounded rough, but seemed not to be worn too much.  The bearings are standard items and it would be easy to find exact replacements from a bearing supplier (rather than replacing the whole motor), for under £20.  However, as this was my own machine, I went for cheaper fix, to squeeze more life out of what I already had.  With the dust cover popped off from both bearings, I cleaned both with isopropyl alcohol cleaner and then re-greased with quality high-melt point bearing grease.  Much better.

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The motor re-assembled, re-installed back in the machine and it was time to switch on.  It now sounded as sweat as a nut.

If and when the bearings get noisy again (and they will eventually), I’ll replace the bearings with new ones.

Cost of replacement:  circa £200.  Cost of repair:  My time, two cups of tea, one custard cream, a bit of grease.  Not in that order.

fixitworkshop.co.uk repair service and blog

The diary of a tinkerer: Stories, advice, tips and sometimes the odd failure to inspire your own repair.

Repair shop | Repair blog | Repair information source | Making everyday things last longer

The tinkerer at FixItWorkshop.co.uk is Matt Marchant

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July 2020, Matt with a load of food mixers

You can follow me on Twitter (if you want)

I also write occasionally for Bangernomics (a car website)

I write for Inside Magazines (Worthing area) every other month

  • I write about things I fix and even those I can’t
  • I offer a repair service for a small fee
  • I occasionally volunteer at Repair Café and similar events in Sussex and surrounding area

I love repairing things and hate throwing things away that can be saved. There’s far too much waste in the world.  Many things that can sometimes appear unrepairable, are indeed repairable, with a little tinkering.

I want to encourage people who doubt their own ability to repair their things, to give repair a go.  After all, if ‘that thing’ isn’t working, grab a screwdriver, take it apart and investigate.  What have you got to lose?

I’ve been tinkering with bikes, cars, coffee machines, toys and vacuum cleaners and pretty much anything that can be dismantled since I could hold a screwdriver.  I’ve worked for BT as a senior engineer, and I’ve studied design, business and electronics.

Enjoy the repair diary of a tinkerer.  I hope it gives you a nudge to repair your broken thing.  If you can’t, I might be able to help.

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