KONGMAN lives again!

A classic 1980s Tomy Kongman game pays a visit to the workshop, for some much-needed TLC.

Every now and again, a little gem drops right into my inbox and I think; Christmas has come early. My eyes light-up! It’s nice to get something different to work on, and hopefully repair, especially when it involves motors, batteries, ball bearings and a gorilla.

A customer contacted me after rediscovering Kongman in his attic, not literally you understand, but the 1980s hit toy from Tomy. The toy was in wonderful condition, despite being a little dusty. A new battery had been installed, but upon switching it on, nothing happened. Not even a peep.

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’21, Kongman box

I should really kick this thing off by saying what Kongman (the game) is. Kongman is an animated vertical game with the objective of getting a small metal ball bearing from the bottom of the wall to the top. The player must defy gravity and move the ball up-stairs, across a bridge, along several steps to a magnetic swing and then into a lift. The zenith of the game is reached with a quick flick of the ball on to Kongman’s magnet hand, which then gets dropped down a hole, ringing a bell on the way down. Fun really doesn’t get any better. If you’ve ever played Screwball Scramble, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I am talking about. Did I mention that this infuriating game can be set against the clock too? Bonkers!

Tomy’s Kongman comes from a time just before kids games started to contain many electronic gizmos and wizmos within, parts that when kaput, render a toy useless, forever. Luckily, Kongman uses an electro-mechanical animation movement; elegant and clever. Old, but good.

Kongman is powered by a single D-cell, 1.5V battery and the motion of the toy is actuated with a reassuringly simple little motor, connected to a compact gearbox driving a series of levers and rods, which make up the games’ animation. On a slightly different note; are D-cell batteries an endangered species? I mean, really, ‘what the 1980s torch’ takes D-cell batteries any more?!

Make and model: Tomy Kongman, circa 1981

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement machine: £40.00 if you can find one working

Manufacturer support (in the UK): 0/10

Cost of parts (for this repair): £0.99p

My time spent on the repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Small knife, pliers, small screwdriver

Sundry items: None

Cleaning materials: Silicone spray, contact cleaner

Repair difficulty: 5/10 (fiddly)

Beverages: 2 teas

Biscuits: 2 custard creams

So, on to the repair.

The toy wouldn’t run and after checking the basics like battery contacts and proving that the local wiring from the battery compartment to the main gubbins was OK, it was time to dive in.

One of the things that makes this already difficult game to complete, is the fact that as a player, you’re up against the clock. This seemed to be the next logical place to check.

The timer seemed to be part of the gearbox which is responsible for driving the rest of the game’s motion. I found this a most practical application of sound and efficient design. You can trace the DNA of this toy back to early pinball machines and jukeboxes, something I also love. Anyway, I seem to be getting romantic, not the workshop way.

The gearbox was easy to remove, just a few screws, and it was out. The timer’s switch contacts were situated within the ‘box and came apart with a gentle prod of a small screwdriver. This allowed me to apply a small amount of additional tension to the switch’s spring and to clean the contacts with cleaner. Reassembling was pretty much the reversal of the disassembly.

With the gearbox back in, it was time to turn some attention to the mechanism, to ensure smooth, reliable performance. With nearly 40 years’ worth of dust to contend with, it was time to clean all of the game’s nooks and crannies with a small brush and treat some of the sliding parts to a little silicone, plastic-friendly, lube.

With the D-Cell battery installed, a deft twist of the timer’s knob, and the game sprang to life.

I’ll be honest with you now. I tried several times to get the ball the whole course to ring the bell, against the clock, but alas, I failed. I did complete the game, but only with the timer set to ‘auto’… which provides as much time as you need, or at least until the battery runs out.

Until the next time…

Unsteady Dyson DC24 Roller Ball

A neglected DC24 gets some badly needed maintenance…

I really enjoy working on Dyson products as they’re so well thought out.  The designers seem to take great care factoring-in easy maintenance for longevity.  There’s also a great sense of theatre when using Dyson products.  Take the roller ball on this design for example, a throwback to the earlier Dyson Ball Barrow which allows better manoeuvrability when combined with an upright vacuum cleaner.  There’s also the exposed mechanism which automatically switches suction between the roller pick-up and hose when using the foot pedal to select the desired mode.  Genius.  All of these design touches encourage the user to care for and enjoy using the product.

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FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24 (DC04 just in view too- how things have changed).

Sadly though, sometimes these touches are a bit lost on people and the design flares that appeal to some become misunderstood and neglected to others.

This DC24 had two problems.  It didn’t stand up properly when left and it didn’t really pick anything up that well either, failing as a vacuum cleaner on two fundamental points.

The first job was to find out why the DC24 was a little unsteady.  It seemed that all of the mechanism was intact and that nothing had snapped off.  Strange.  The red foot pedal operated lever that releases the latching system to move the main body from its locked position was stuck.  It seemed to be linked to a lever which operates the diverter valve, which switches suction from the roller beater foot to the flexible hose.  On closer inspection the lever on the diverter valve had come off its pin, probably by force.  The mechanism itself was also dirty which made operation rough.  The red lever is spring loaded with guides and pins which were also dirty and a little rusty.  I suspect this vacuum cleaner had been left somewhere damp.

After re-attaching the diverter valve leaver back on and giving all mechanisms a good clean-up with a light coating of silicone spray, it was as good as new again.

Once the mechanism was working, it was time to assess the vacuum’s performance.  It wasn’t that good.  As with most Dyson vacuum products, there are two filters.  One processes blow-by air from the motor and the other controls dust particles from the cylinder.  These filters can usually be cleaned with mild soap and water, but this set was well past it, requiring replacement and for under a tenner, it’s rude not to.  Dyson have made filter replacement very easy on the DC24 with good access to the motor filter via a small door on the roller ball itself and the lid on top of the cylinder.  I think there should be a massive sticker on these vacuum cleaners that says ‘don’t forget to clean the filters’ as I suspect that many of these products are chucked away by owners who forget to do the necessary.  Bag-less cleaner doesn’t mean maintenance-free!

With a couple of new filters, a clean-up of all of the rubber seals with silicone cleaner and this DC24 was fighting fit, ready to clean another carpet.

Cost of a replacement Dyson product:  £000’s.    Cost of new parts:  Under £10 plus my time.

 

Dyson DC14 roller bearings and block/ bypass relief valve

This Dyson DC14 came into the workshop with a couple of problems.  The first was a lack of suction power and the second was a horrible noise from the front of the vacuum cleaner.  It got to the workshop just in time.

A bypass valve is fitted to most vacuum cleaners without a bag and is there to prevent damage if a blockage exists somewhere in the airways or the owner has neglected to empty the collection bin.  In this case, the valve seemed to be stuck open, causing suction power to be lost.

The valve on the DC14 (other Dyson models are similar) is a small device situated near the exhaust filter.  the valve itself is a clear tube with a rubber sealed cap controlled by a spring.  In normal operation, the cap seals a hole to the outside world, but if there’s a blockage, the pressure of the spring is overcome and air is allowed past the cap.

In this case, the valve was dirty and stuck.  Repair required dismantling with normal household tools (small screwdriver and pliers) and cleaning using a damp cloth.  A small squirt of silicone spray on the rubber seal ensured a smooth operation upon reassembly.

 

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FixItWorkshop April’17, Dyson DC14, repaired in the workshop

The noise was traced to the front of the vacuum cleaner.  The roller/ beaters were making a horrible noise when in use and it wouldn’t have been too long before complete failure would have occurred.

Spare roller/ beaters are readily available from Dyson directly and from many aftermarket suppliers at reasonable prices.  Since the beaters were in good condition, it seemed reasonable to have a go at a repair.  The small ball bearing races at each end of the beater are easily removed and upon inspection, both were very stiff in operation.  Fortunately, the bearings used by Dyson were of good quality and as the dust covers were easily removed, all that was required was a clean with solvent cleaner and a re-grease.  Once refitted, the roller/ beaters sounded as they should again.

Cost of a replacement Dyson vacuum cleaner, circa £250, cost of repair £1 (bit of cleaner, grease, silicone spray.