Christmas blackout

A Christmas treat for me…

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without having to fix last years’ tree lights and this year was no exception.  It’s a tradition I look forward to and savour.

Gone are the days spending hours trying to find a faulty bulb, now due to the wide availability of cheap LED products, the thing that’s often likely to fail is the wiring, something which was much more unusual, a few years ago.  Manufacturers must make savings somewhere and I often wonder how retailers can offer new decorative lights, so cheap.  Compromises must be made somewhere I guess.

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FixItWorkshop, December’18, Worthing, Christmas Lights.

Being cheap, like a lot of things, makes them more disposable, which is a shame when things fail, often for trivial reasons.  This year’s blackout was caused by a couple of broken wires on the control box, which didn’t appear to have any obvious way to get inside.

We don’t like to be beaten in the workshop and sealed units and tamper-proof items are just seen as a challenge, rather than a deterrent.

Like many multi-function sets, the lights are operated via a control box with a switch, mounted in a plastic enclosure which appears sealed.  The fault was obvious here, just the main wire from the transformer had broken ‘flush’ with the control box, meaning that there was not enough wire either side of the break to re-join it.

The control box has no screws nor visible clips, holding it together, so it was time to break it open, using a small flat-bladed screwdriver.  The small section covering the wires snapped off cleanly, revealing several terminals covered in hot melt glue, annoyingly.  This meant that before any repair, the glue must be removed.  Several minutes picking this off with the screwdriver, revealed some conventional post terminals.  The fix was easy from there, just cut down the wire to make a new connection, remembering which way round they went, clean up the terminals and solder back together.  A little bit of fresh hot-melt glue to seal the connection and a bit more on the surface to be stuck together, and the cover was refitted.  I also fitted a little heat shrink to repair to reduce the chance of the cable from breaking again.

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As I had the soldering iron out, I also did a small repair to the control box wire to transformer plug, which had also broken.  It was a case of cutting back two sides of the break, soldering, isolating with a small amount of electrical tape and sealing with heat shrink.

Now that’s all done, Christmas can now officially start.

Cost of replacement: £ 5.00 up.  Cost of repair: 1 cup of tea, heat shrink, tape and solder.

 

Classic (asthmatic) Dyson DC01

A tired DC01 gets some TLC

Starting a new job is always fun and when a new colleague of mine mentioned that the office vacuum cleaner had packed up, I rose to the challenge.

I’m quite fond of Dyson products as some of you know, mainly because:

  • They’re well-engineered, by engineers
  • They’re designed to be repaired easily with simple tools, which is better for everyone
  • Parts are readily available at reasonable prices

The DC01 was launched in the early 90’s and was Dyson’s first market clean-up, competing with the established market leaders.  Although this machine is over 20 years old and Dyson no longer supports it directly, reasonable quality pattern parts are available on eBay.  If you have one, love it and keep it going.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Dyson DC01

This one is actually an ‘Antarctica Solo’ model (grey and light blue instead of yellow), which commemorated Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ solo trek across Antarctica and raised money for Breakthrough Cancer.  It had been abandoned and was moments away from the skip.  I felt quite sorry for it.

Faults reported included; no suction, excess noise and smell!

The first thing to check on the DC01 is the filters, as like many other Dyson products, people forget to clean or change the filters.  Both filters were totally choked and full of all sorts of detritus.  A quick shake out and wash with warm soapy water and they were as good as new.  Following that, I inspected the seals around the join between the cylinder and the main body.  All the seals were dirty, so a clean up and quick spray with silicone spray and they were as good as new.  Great.

The noise seemed to be coming from the front beater/ rollers which usually means, noise bearings.  The beater on this model uses a two bearing set up.  One was fine, but the other was seized.  As I didn’t want to spend any more than I needed, I cleaned the bearing, after removing it and the dust cover, re-greased it with LM High-Melt Point grease (general automotive stuff) and it was ready to roll and beat again.

 

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Once the filters were dry and re-installed, the Dyson ran like new again.  Very satisfying.

Cost of replacement:  £15 second hand, £100’s for an equivalent-ish new model.

Cost of repair:  Patience, washing up liquid, two cups of tea.

Elna SP foot pedal went bang

Elna SP foot pedal to the metal

On the back of a previous article about a repair I did on the rather wonderful Elna SP sewing machine, a reader got in touch.  She was a genuine sewing aficionado and had several top of the range current machines, but she used the trusty Elna SP for many smaller jobs, where the other machines didn’t quite cut it.

All Elna SP machines are getting on a bit and parts are either re-manufactured, scarce or secondhand, if you can find them.  Having said all that, a well-maintained Elna will run for many years and last much longer than new metal on sale now.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Elna SP Special, in action

The foot pedal on this machine had gone pop, bang, finito.  It smelled terminal.

Knowing that parts for this machine are rarer than hens teeth and I do like a challenge, I took on the job.  I’m based in Worthing, West Sussex and the machine was located in Scotland, so after a short wait, the knackered pedal arrived in the post.

The pedal is held together with four small self-tapping screws and came apart easily.  The reason for failure was two-fold.  The copper leaf contacts had arced excessively and caused major pitting in the contact strip (see slide show) and the probably ensuing resistance had caused the main resistor to overheat, causing the winding to fail.

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The contact surfaces were easy-ish to fix, or rather breathe new life into as all they needed was cleaning and re-shaping.  The resistor was a bit trickier to mend.  Getting hold of a replacement was going to be near impossible, so the only thing to do was to try and repair it.  Without that particular style of resistor, of that value, it wouldn’t work again.  Luckily, there was some excess resistance wire on the thing and I managed to twist it in to the broken section.  Soldering was not an option, since the wire was an alloy that wouldn’t take to solder and in any case, these things get hot in normal service.  I twisted both ends of the break to form a new section, while maintaining the same length of windings on the resistor, essential if I was to match or get close to the original specification.  Difficult.  Luckily, after a few goes, I managed it and the applied a little heat-conducting (and therefore dissipating) paste to the join.

With the pedal reassembled, I was only able to test it with my meter, since the sewing machine was far too heavy to post.  The pedal tested as a closed circuit (OK), which was a result.  I then had to wait for the pedal to be collected, taken back to Scotland and tested.  Fortunately, my fix worked and the machine sprang in to life, without a hitch or missed stitch.

Now, a word of caution with this one.  This is NOT the best way of mending something like this and all I’ve probably done is prolong it’s life a little longer.  There are generic sewing machine pedals that would work with this machine and will be fine, when this one fails in future, but that’s not the point.  The main thing is that something that was broken is now working and even if it’s not the best fix, at least it will run for a bit longer.  Happy days.

Cost of replacement: (generic part) £15-30.  Cost of repair, my time, a bit of solder and several cups of tea.

Very quiet Bauhn DAB Radio from Aldi

A little DAB radio, repaired at the workshop.

A colleague of mine brought this cool little DAB radio in to the workshop as it’s once crisp DAB tones were now no more and all life from the little device, had seemed to have ceased.  It was, very much, a dead radio.  When working, it picked up every station available, really clearly and seemed to out-perform the much more expensive devices my colleague also owned.  However, after a few months in the hands of his son, the radio would no longer turn on when plugged in.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair.

It was brought from Aldi for under £10, which seemed like a bit of a bargain to me.  It’s amazing just how much DAB radios have fallen in price in the last 5 years or so.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, back of the radio.

The Bauhn UDABR-0197 (catchy name) is a compact, portable radio and is capable of being used with either a plug-in adaptor (supplied) or 4 x ‘AA’ batteries.  When powering this radio using either plug-in adaptor or batteries, the little radio refused to do anything.  Very sad.

I always start with the basics, so I checked the power from the plug-in adaptor first, which seemed to be delivering its 5.9VDC, pretty much spot-on. As a side note, I always check the condition of plug-in adaptor leads and plugs as they seem to almost always be made of the thinnest wire available in the Far East and prone to cracking causing poor connections.  This one was fine.

Opening up the radio was really easy, just 4 cross-head screws and the two halves of the radio came apart without any major dramas.

The first thing you notice about (cheaper) small appliances like this, is the ‘lack’ of anything inside.  The circuit boards in new small devices can sometimes be multi layered affairs, using micro components, making repair with normal workshop tools very difficult or impossible.

Luckily for this little radio, the designers have had the foresight to keep the power distribution board separate from the main ‘radio’ gubbins and this seemed to be of conventional construction.

On closer inspection of the power distribution board, it revealed a break in two of the pins from the ‘power-in’ jack socket meaning that power would not get through to the main circuit board.  The two pins were also shorting together, causing a local loop connection.  This meant than neither mains adaptor supply nor battery would power the radio.  Problem realised.

I was then able re-make the connection using a soldering iron on the board, reconnecting the pins to a spare section of copper detail on the power distribution printed circuit board.  Very satisfying.

Once the radio was back together, all screws back in place, power supply connected, the radio burst in to life, just in time for me to listen to my favourite station.  Happy days.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, all fixed.

Cost of a new radio; £10.  Cost of repair; A bit of soldering and a cuppa plus gingernut biscuit.

G.E.T. Dehumidifier with damp issues…

GET dehumidifier with damp issues…

Over a cuppa, my mother in law mentioned that she was chucking out a dehumidifer this weekend and had already replaced it.  This was a shock to me since it hadn’t started it’s journey to Worthing tip via my shed yet.  Time to intervene.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, GET Dehumidifier repair.

Aparently it had overflowed water all over the floor and had cut out and not restarted.  It had probably been left to its own devices in their cellar, totally neglected in the run up to its demise.

Before worrying my toolbox, I usually plug things in and press buttons to see what happens.  When connecting this dehumidifier to the mains, it fired-up and seemed to run perfectly.  Strange.

Looking at the device in more detail revealed three tell-tale LED lights (cooling, empty the tank and running).  The tank was removable from the front and featured a small float operated level which married up to a small microswitch.  The idea being that when the water rose to the top, the switch would be activated by the float and the machine would cut out safely, all being well.

The lever mechanism on the float seemed to be stiff and all that was required to restore service was a good clean with a brush and Fairy liquid and some silicone spray, once dried.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, GET Dehumidifier repair, microswitch.

While giving the unit a general inspection, I noticed dirt in the units’ grille.  Fortunately, the grille had a removable filter which had clearly never been cleaned, so in effect had been chocking the dehumidifer in normal operation.  Bad news.

Piecing the evidence together in my mind surrounding the causes of failure, I came up with the following theory.  The float had failed, causing the unit to leak.  The unit had then run hot, probably for a while and had probably tripped a thermal protection fuse.  I have no evidence for the latter idea as I never opened up the unit fully, but the theory fits the sequence of events.

In any case, the dehimidifier now switches on and switches off when full and doesn’t seem to run hot.  I was pleased with that.  I wasn’t so pleased that my in-laws wanted the unit back.

Cost of replacement: Circa £100.  Cost of repair; cleaning stuff.

 

Gaggia Classic machine wakes up to smell the coffee.

A Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine repair…

A simple repair…. That’s what I thought when a friend asked if I could look at his Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, which had developed a nasty little leak when in use.  The coffee wasn’t all that good either, due to the lack of pressure available, caused by the leak.  In short, it needed attention.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, with a leak.

The owner had already bought a repair kit consisting of the main seals/ gaskets that commonly fail, so I thought no problem, take to pieces, replace seals, happy days.  Er, not quite.

Once I’d stripped the machine down, pretty straightforward on these machines, the bare parts were exposed, which revealed the problem.  After being fired up briefly, not to make coffee I’d like to point out, water could be seen escaping from the boiler unit, a alloy bodied lump of metal, split in two halves, held together by 4 screws.  The boiler, as the name suggests, heats the water up with one heating element  and creates steam for the steam wand, with another element, all part of the same module.

After separating the boiler halves, I traced the leak to a faulty gasket, but crucially, one side of the mating faces was heavily corroded and unlikely to re-seal with a new part fitted on its own.  Remedial action was required.

This model is a few years old and a replacement boiler is still available on a few websites and prices vary from £40 to £60 at the time of writing, so at that price, starts to make the cost of repair unviable.

I decided that the face with the corrosion had enough material to withstand loosing some, so went about sanding the worst of the corrosion away before gradually moving on to  smoother and smoother sandpaper.

Because Gaggia Classics are fairly common, I decided to video this repair process as I suspect the corrosion affects many machines with age and just fitting a repair kit won’t cure the problem on its own.  See below.  I hope it helps anyone else with the same machine facing the same problem.

 

Once I was happy with the new finish, I fitted a new gasket and reassembled the boiler.  After putting it all back together, I purged several tanks of water through the system to remove debris, before attempting a cup of coffee.  Once filled up with my favourite Lidl coffee, the machine performed well once again with no leaks and the end product tasted great.

Cost of a new machine:  £249.00.  Cost of repair:  £4.50, plus time.

 

 

V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath book

This toy wasn’t singing at its best…

My daughter was kindly given a V-Tech Splash & Sing baby book and always enjoyed singing along to the music it made.  It’s a splash-proof book which is suitable for bath time play, but not necessarily for complete submersion at 100 metres!

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FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book.

It’s a battery operated toy and has an on/off switch and volume control on the front.  If the middle page of the book is squeezed in a couple of places, there are small switch buttons inside the book page itself, the corresponding the tune changes, relating to the picture on the page- I hope that makes sense.

The tunes on this book stopped changing with button presses and it became annoying to here the same tune constantly being played at bath time.  Very annoying.

The casing is held together with a few Pozi-head screws and after a bit of wriggling, the pages came free from the spine (the bit with the batteries and on/off switch).

Upon testing, the wires between the pages and the spine had broken internally and no longer connected to the corresponding page buttons.  They’d probably broken as the pages were turned over a good few uses.

This toy is definitely not designed to be repaired.  The only way to get to the wiring was to cut open the page, cut out the damaged wiring and replace it with something a bit tougher.  The previous wiring was very flimsy and it would only be a matter of time before it broke, too soon.

I decided to use some thin gauge speaker cable, the sort you find in cheap portable radios for the repair.  This worked really well and after some careful soldering and gluing of the cut-open page, the toy was ready for reassembly.

This repair probably wouldn’t cost in, in the real world, but I hate extreme built-in obsolescence and this toy showed examples of it.

Cost of the toy, circa £14.00.  Cost of repair; my time plus some old wire I had lying about.