When they say; “they don’t make things the way they used to”, they’re right… sadly.
With many repairs that I do, half the battle is identifying the correct or closest-match replacement part. Half the fun is finding a part to do the job, when the original manufacturer can’t or won’t sell that part.
Make and model: Atco (Qualcast) Consort 14 (CT14- 002107A)
Fault reported: Intermittent running
Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)
Manufacturer support: 0/10
Cost of parts: £24.44, inc. carriage
Hours spent on repair: 1 hour
Hours spent on finding parts: 1 hour
Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers
Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials
Repair difficulty: 3/10
Cups of tea: X 1
Biscuits: Custard Cream X 1
Some things are just a joy to work on because of the way the original design and engineering teams that came up with the product, saw their machines being used in real life.
Even though this machine was built in the 1990s, the Consort 14’s DNA comes from a long line of designs that include the famous ‘Suffolk Punch’ lawn mower created by Suffolk Iron Foundries of Stowmarket in 1954. This machine is badged as Atco (and Qualcast in places) but the electric motor was made in Stowmarket, England. The original factory had a reputation for making everything, literally everything, for its machines, right down to the nuts and bolts and this ethos lives on in the CT14.
I’m not going to bang on about sustainable design and circular economy here, but today, unless one pays serious money, garden equipment is simply not built to last any more than a couple of years. Many of the mowers and strimmers you can buy for under £100 in B&Q, Tescos (here in the UK) and alike have a built-in obsolescence factor measured in months, not decades. Personally, I believe that products like this should be banned. Too many end up at my local tip with the price label still attached…
A neighbour asked me to look at their Atco lawnmower, which had stopped mowing recently. They were wondering if it was worth bothering with a repair, I of course said that the machine that they had was better than many machines available now, so it was absolutely worth repairing!
The mower is a self-propelled, cylinder type with speed control and clutch to engage the propulsion system, as desired. It’s a neat design that’s hard to better. The next time you are at Wembley or Wimbledon, just look at the mowers still used by professional grounds maintenance teams.
The Atco is designed to receive occasional maintenance and all items which might require the owner or maintenance engineer to inspect are easy to access. Forward thinking again, shown by the designers. The main issue in 2020 is that parts are only available from aftermarket suppliers and although there are still (thankfully) specialists ready to supply, part numbers and cross-referencing is a nightmare and despite me doing this work in the UK and this machine being made in the UK, the repair required a degree of investigation and sleuth work to get the parts needed.
The motor was my first port of call and with only a couple of bolts holding it in place, the motor was soon removed. It was in good overall condition but the carbon brushes were a little short and needed replacing. This explained why the motor had suddenly cut-out.
You might think that finding carbon brushes for a UK made motor, might be easy. You would be wrong. Despite several conversations with mower experts, these brushes were seemingly unavailable, off the shelf. I did order some brushes for an equivalent model produced a little later, but these were too large. I could have filed them down to make them fit, but after rooting around in my collection of brushes (as one does) I found that a new pair of brushes from a Kenwood Chef A701 fitted perfectly.
While I had the mower in pieces, I decided to inspect the drive belts which were both in poor condition. One was split and one had stretched badly. For smooth, reliable operation, both required a replacement.
Again, the Consort 14 was not on many mower supplier inventories, so finding the correct belts required cross checking with other Qualcast and Bosch (Bosch later acquired Qualcast) models and a little bit of luck to match them up. Fortunately, eBay sellers came to the rescue again and I managed to find the correct belts which fitted perfectly.
With the mower back together, it was ready to run for another 30 years. Time for another cuppa.
Footnote: I’m very aware that I sound like a stuck record…
Look, many products made and sold nowadays are much better than older ones. I’m not saying that all old things are better. Take old cars for example (although I have a soft spot for old cars): They were polluting, they didn’t have safety built-in (in general) they rusted-out and broke down, all the time. New ones generally don’t break down, last for longer and you’ll walk away from many crash situations.
New things are usually safer, more efficient and capable. However, many older machines were designed to be serviced, repaired and re-used over and over, which in my opinion, is more sustainable. Many products today, especially mowers and alike are designed to last for 18 months hard-use and then the whole thing is scrapped, but it’s apparently acceptable to society as it ‘only cost 40 quid- I’ve had my monies worth’.
It’s this notion that doesn’t sit well with me and I see a growing cohort of people who are not prepared to accept this waste of resources either. What say you?