A broken massage belt, with a happy ending…

An Invitalis Massage Belt gets a simple repair at the workshop.

I was asked to repair a personal massage belt recently, which had developed an annoying habit of cutting out, mid-treatment.  Over email, I confessed that I did not know what a massage belt was, but was reassured that is was used to treat lower back ailments and nothing more personal.  Phew.

Make and model:  Invitalis Vitalymed Flexi massage belt

Fault reported: Cutting out

Cost of replacement:  About £40.00

Cost of parts:  £1.29

Hours spent on repair:  1

Tools needed:  Small flat-bladed screwdriver, soldering iron

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty:  2/10

Cups of tea:  1

Biscuits:  1 Goldbar

 

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Invitalis Vitalymed Flexi massage belt.

These devices are sold on Amazon and are usually available at events, such as the Ideal Home Exhibition and alike.  This belt offers the wearer a lower back massage by means of two rotating arms with smooth spheres, hidden behind a soft pad.  The spheres also emit infra-red, if required.

I don’t know much about this kind of thing, but I had noticed that the power cable for the belt was a standard female 12VDC connector, used on many types of domestic equipment.

With the power applied and with some wiggling, the belt would occasionally come on and then fail, indicating a loose connection.  The trick here was to find out where.

The belt is zipped together and access to the wiring was easy.  The belt’s power connector ran to a switch/mode box and then on to the motors and other gizmos within (see photos in slideshow).

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After cutting into the cable, testing continuity, I found two problems; A break within one of the cable cores and a faulty female power connector.  Luckily, connectors like this are abundant and a quick look on eBay revealed lots for under £2, delivered.  As it happens, I bought a high-quality connector and flying lead, intended for a CCTV camera, to fit the belt.

The last step was to reconnect some good cable, reconnect the new connector and make good with soldered joints and heat shrink, to keep everything nice and tidy.  Before I solder things, I always make sure I’ve not cross-wired anything, by proving continuity with a multimeter.  In the past, one has been known to blow things up by not taking this sensible approach!

After reassembly, it was just a case of powering up and switching on.  Gladly, I hadn’t crossed any cables and it now worked again, happily ever after.

Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Good thinking Batman, but I have a safety dilemma with a repair.

During a recent Toy Doctor surgery at a Dad La Soul/ Tot Rockin’ Beats event http://www.totrockinbeats.com/dad-la-soul I attempted a repair on a kids toy that I couldn’t get working in the two hours we had, so I asked if I could take it home to the workshop where I have more tools at my disposal.  Good thinking Batman.

The Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City (catchy title for a toy) was much loved, but the flying bit (circled in red below) had stopped working and no longer did anything when switched on.  No fun without the flight bit.

Imaginext Super Hero set
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August 2019, Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City. Image: Google/Amazon.

 

Make and model:  Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement:  £45.00 approx.

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About two hours- although to be honest, I lost count with this one

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file, soldering iron

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  6/10

Cups of tea:  4

Biscuits:  10, maybe the whole pack, I lost count (Custard Creams)

The battery-powered flying thing on a weighted boom should fly about in a circular fashion and be controlled by the city platform, presumably by remote control from the main city bit.

Upon opening up the battery compartment, the problem revealed itself.  The previous batteries had leaked and the spillage has corroded the battery terminals.  No bother I thought, just a matter of cleaning-up the metal surfaces and we’d be back in business.  How wrong I was.  Even with new batteries installed, nothing happened, how very dissapointing.

No, it wasn’t going to be that easy and that was the theme for the rest of the repair.  Everywhere I turned, whether it was trying to open up the casings, inspect wiring or generally take something apart, I was going to be met with glued shut fixings and more problems.

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Construction on this toy was very strange.  Surfaces on the casing were sometimes glued and screwed together, very odd, and I guess that method must have been used due to production time and cost saving.

The wiring between the flying bit and base checked out OK and the motor spun when I applied some charge briefly to the terminals, so that all seemed fine.

Upon opening up the gubbins where the switch was, the problem with the toy presented itself.  The mini printed circuit board had suffered from battery leakage corrosion and was shot.  Whatever it was meant to do was in the distant past.  So, this toy was for the WEEE skip, as there was no chance of getting a replacement.

Well, hang on a minute, we don’t give up like that do we.

I decided that I could make the toy work albeit without the printed circuit board by re-wiring the motor, using the existing loom and switch, so that the motor and therefore helicopter bit worked as it should.  This would mean that once the switch on the base of the unit was turned on, the helicopter would start and it would not be possible to turn it off without grabbing the moving base weight first.  It clearly wasn’t designed like that, but I had at least got it working again.

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So, here was my dilemma:  Give up with something I couldn’t get a part for or get it working again, albeit with a removed (percived) safety feature, so that the toy could still be enjoyed.  I went with the latter as I thought that the danger was negligable.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, flying high, once again.  Always read the safety label.

Was I right?

 

 

Dyson DC40 missing a beat

A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.

A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny.  But not this one.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40.

Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:

  • Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
  • Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
  • Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray

Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.

I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products.  They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.

This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop.  The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly.  The beaters were not spinning either.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40 beater head.

The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip.  The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control.  The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit.  So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit.  As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection.  Upon testing, it was not working.

The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony.  Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem.  The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.

Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.

After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more.  Result.

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After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.

Cost of replacement machine:  £000’s.  Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.

Leave the light on…

A Philips outdoor wall lamp with a major case of built-in obsolescence, gets a cheap fix.

A mate of mine mentioned that his outdoor wall light had given-up-the-ghost, despite not being more than three years old.  He’d put them up around his house as part of an extension and exterior restoration project.  The trouble was that despite only being a few years old, the product now seemed to be discontinued.  This meant that, should the lamp need to be replaced, he would need to replace all of them (three in this case) to keep them matching.  Annoying quite frankly.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, working.

He’d read that the bulb within the Philips lamp was not replaceable, in which case a faulty lamp would render the whole thing broken, which seemed very daft to me.  Items made in such a way that prevents even the most basic of repair get me very annoyed.  Sometimes an item is developed in such a way for safety reasons but I suspect that most of the time, the motive is just pure greed.  It’s such a shame.

At my mate’s house, over a cup of tea, I removed the lamp from the wall to take back to the workshop, to see what Philips had been getting up to.

Opening up the casing was straightforward, just a few simple screws and retaining nuts holding the casing together, before finally revealing the bulb itself, under a lamp diffuser.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, lamp unit.

The bulb/ lamp unit itself appeared to be a custom/ bespoke disc light, that wasn’t user serviceable.  It had blown and there was evidence of scorching on a few of the LEDs, linked in series, indicating the failure of the entire circuit.

I couldn’t find any replacement disc LEDs suitable for the lamp from any of the usual sources, which I expected.  It could be that Philips can supply a replacement disc, but this was not evident on their website.

Not wanting to be beaten by a bespoke part, I thought about what else might work, within the lamp’s enclosure, to have the same effect.  I had a spare GU9 LED bulb, about the same brightness, sitting on the shelf, left over from another project which was going spare, so I set about fitting it in the space.

The generic GU9 bulb, available from most hardware shops, fitted in the existing disc mounting bracket, with a small modification and once connected to the lamp’s circuitry, worked well, albeit with a slightly warmer glow.

In case anyone else has the same problem, I made a little video of the repair.  I hope it gives others inspiration if faced with a similar problem.

Cost of replacement (with something similar): £50.00.  Cost of repair:  £1.50 for the bulb and a couple of Belgian beers for my time.

 

Musical keys

A child’s set of keys gets repaired in the workshop

It makes a nice change to repair something like a childs’ toy.  I know that if the repair works out, it’ll usually make someone very happy.  However, having just said that, the repair I’m about to discuss, didn’t bring joy for all…

First off, I’ll get a moan out-of-the-way.  Too many kids toys take too many batteries – it’s been like that since I was a kid.  This does two things; makes the toy expensive to own and damaging for the environment when the batteries expire.  Now, I know there are some very cool kids toys that rely on sophisticated electronics to make them work, but manufacturers:  Please try to think harder about the toy’s overall impact on the environment and it’s in-life running costs.

OK, rant over.

On with the repair.  This kids-chew-musical-keys is supposed to mimic an adults’ set of car keys.  It doubles up as a teething chewy thing as well as an imitation car alarm blipper remote fob thing, that plays a tune.  Delightful.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, kids car keys.

This set of keys had stopped playing a tune, when any button was pressed.  To some, that might have been a good thing.

The battery compartment contained two LR44 coin batteries.  These are found in many items and are readily available, if you know where to look, but are not commonly stocked in supermarkets, where I suspect most people buy batteries.

Taking the batteries out revealed some light corrosion on one cell, but no dramas.  The other one was corrosion free.  However, a quick test with the multimeter revealed that both batteries were kaput.

I usually keep a pack of LR44s (as one does) in case of toy key emergencies like this and luckily on this occasion, I had two shiny new ones to fit.  But, upon installing them, replacing the cover and pressing one of the buttons for the first time there was still no sound.  How odd.  What I thought would be a quick battery change had escalated in to a full toolkit situation.

Whipping the back of the key fob apart revealed a simple integrated circuit with the battery terminals, all in good condition.  The small piezo speaker was held behind the main circuit board and on closer inspection, I saw that one of the soldered connections had broken away from the speaker.

Solder repair jobs like this are difficult as excess heat can quickly transfer from the joint being operated on, to the whole component, causing damage if too much heat is conducted.  I had to be careful.

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After some careful soldering, the broken wire was reconnected, circuit board re-installed, casing screwed back together and batteries re-fitted.  A quick tap of one of the buttons then revealed musical joy.  After a couple of presses I then began to regret the repair…

Cost of replacement:  Not sure, £5 ish?  Cost of repair: A bit of soldering.

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.