Atco Consort 14 (CT14) self-propelled lawnmower repair

A mid-90’s take on a classic design, dodges the tip

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Atco Consort 14 (CT14)

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…

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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?

 

Nilfisk GM80 industrial vacuum cleaner

This ‘vacuum beast’ from the 1960s gets serviced, ready for today

Sometimes big is best and when it comes to longevity, this machine is tough to beat.

I wasn’t born when this machine was made, but good quality designs and engineering foresight, means that new parts fit retrospectively.  Why aren’t all machines made this way?

Make and model: Nilfisk GM80 (large)

Fault reported: Poor running

Cost of replacement: £600-800 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  8/10

Cost of parts: £14.94, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1.5 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter, soap and water etc

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials, wire wool

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of coffee:  X1

Biscuits: X2 Chocolate Hobnobs (that don’t dunk that well in coffee, truth be told)

Recently, I got the opportunity to tackle an industrial vacuum cleaner in need of a proper service, which had been in continual use since the late 1960’s.  Judging by the condition it was in when I first received it in the workshop, I doubt that some parts of the machine had received any care since its first day at work.

The machine in question is a Nilfisk GM80 (large).  It’s a ‘large’ as it has a milk-churn sized base to it, which means it can swallow a lot of dust.  The large base has long been discontinued, but you can still buy the current smaller base, should yours be damaged.  Indeed, the Nilfisk GM80 range of vacuum cleaners are all quite modular and feature different levels of filtration, depending on the specific environment they are put to use in.  This means you can easily swap parts from donor machines to keep older machines going. The design means that parts seldom go obsolete, new parts just get improved and fit older models.  Great news for sustainability.

Back to the machine in question.  It had been covered for many years under a service contract, but for whatever reason, that company were no longer taking quite as much time as they should and applying as much care with each inspection.  This ‘serviced’ machine had recently had a new motor (hence later model motor housing) but the basics of vacuum principles had been overlooked.

I won’t go into the repair blow-by-blow, so here’s a summary of the work completed:

  • clean of all rubber seals and mating surfaces, essential to avoid air leaks
  • check and adjust all housing clips and adjust as necessary (all of them in this case)
  • wash motor diffuser (this had been changed within the last year)
  • wash main cotton filter (this had never been done, it was so clogged)
  • wash motor intake filter
  • check condition of motor brushes and bearing end-float (all fine)
  • check and tighten electrical IEC connection
  • inspect flex for damage (all OK)

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The previous service agent had stated that the damaged hose (original 1960’s rubber item) was now unavailable and that a replacement was impossible.  Impossible eh?  That’s two letters too long.

Upon taking the old hose connectors apart (and removing layers of gaffer tape), I discovered that the internal diameter was similar to a Nilfisk-to-Numatic aftermarket adaptor and with a little adjustment, this 1960’s Nilfisk machine could be made compatible with Numatic’s vacuum cleaner hose design, which is much more abundant, here in the UK.  So, with a little jiggery pokery, this machine is ready to work for its living, once again, with a shiny new hose.

So yet again, when an ‘expert’ tells you that something cannot be repaired, don’t necessarily take their word for it.  A second opinion can sometimes save you time and money.

The repair didn’t break the bank either and I have since taken on more machine service work for this organisation.

Qualcast Hover Safe 25, left out in the cold

An old hover mower avoids the great lawn in the sky.

Another email popped in to my inbox asking if I would have a look at a Qualcast Hover Safe 25 which had stopped working.  It had been working intermittently for a while before giving up the ghost and now it had thrown in the towel.  Bad news.  It had literally been kicked into the long grass.

Make and model:  Qualcast Hover Safe 25

Cost of replacement:  £40.00 (ish)

Cost of parts:  £0.00 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Tools needed:  Basic screw drivers, multimeter, pliers, hair dryer

Sundry items: WD40, silicone spray, wet and dry sanding cloth

Repair difficulty:  4/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Qualcast Hover Safe 25.

The owner of this mower had reported that the handle mouted switch (dead-mans handle) had been a ‘bit tricky’ to use and that it didn’t always work.  These kinds of statements make me wonder what kind of life a device has had.  Judging by the rust and discolouration on the metal and plastic parts, I think this mower had been left in a shed with a leaky roof!

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The water had not been kind and the mechanism had seized.  The only thing to do was to open up the switch, clean up any moving parts, lubricate the switch with switch cleaner and lubricate the sliding plastic parts with a little silicone spray.  The small lever which actuates the main on/ off switch was also slightly bent, so after a little straightening, using a hair dryer, it was as good as new. After the switch was repaired, the lawnmower’s motor still wasn’t working.

The cable running from the switch to the motor housing appeared to be in good condition, so the only thing left was to remove the motor itself.  Removing the motor means removing the blade and 4 small screws (see photos).  Once exposed, the motor was revealed.  Power was indeed reaching the motor when the switch was operated, as confirmed with a quick dab of the multimeter.

The motor itself seemed to have little resistance when manually spun, which led me to suspect the motor brushes had worn out.  Doubting that brushes were available, I decided to remove them anyway for closer inspection.  This revealed seized motor brushes, which backed up my theory about the mower’s damp environment.  A quick bit of jiggery pokery and a clean up and the motor brushes were as good as new.  A quick clean up of the motor commutator, I refitted the brushes and the motor was ready to be refitted.

Now, this mower is not in the first flush of youth and the motor bearings were a little noisy, but after a quick spray of grease in the bearing area it sounded fine.  The mower will never be perfect, but at least it will work for a little longer, which has got to be the point, hasn’t it?

Smoky Kenwood Chef A901E

Another Chef enters the workshop with a smoking habit that’s hard to kick.

Top tips for keeping your Chef running smoothly, for longer:

  • Keep all moving parts free from dirt and old cake mix
  • If the feet are squashed, change them.  The gap allows airflow to the motor
  • Keep the hinge mechanism lightly lubricated
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19.  Kenwood Chef A901E (1980’s model)

This A901E Chef had a developed a smoking habit.  Due to age, one of the capacitors had failed on the speed control circuitry making a lot of smoke while in use.  An adjacent resistor had also split in half during the failure.

Despite a smoky situation, there was hope for the Chef.

Removing the motor on these mixers is pretty straightforward.  Just remove the blender accessory power take off cover and remove some screws.  Lift up the top half of the mixer on the hinge and you’ll get access to the base of the motor area.  After you’ve removed the belt, the motor should come out.  There’s a bit more to it actually, but there isn’t much holding that motor in.

The later A901E features a better speed control circuit than the earlier A901 and it’s also made on proper circuit board, rather than just soldered-together components.

With this machine, the correct repair kit was obtained and fitted, so the circuit was as good as new and wouldn’t smoke anymore.

I treated this Chef’s motor to new motor brushes since the old ones were worn.  I also fitted new feet, as the existing ones were squashed and one was completely missing.

I was about to sign the job off , when I noticed a small tear in the outer cable flex.  I couldn’t let the Chef out of the workshop like that, so I had to replace it with a new piece.

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After some fettling, the machine was running like clockwork, once again.

Cost of replacement:  £000s.  Cost of repair:  £12.74 plus my time and several ginger nut biscuits.

Hillbilly Compact Light / lite Golf Trolley going nowhere (motor needs new brushes)

A frustrated customer brought this ‘stationary’ mobile golf trolley in to the workshop recently.  He’d replaced the control unit along with the hand controller.  The battery was also new, but the trolley wouldn’t respond to the controls.

A systematic test of the wiring revealed no problems and power was getting to the motor OK.  However, with the unit switched on, every now and then, the motor would make a noise, a faint hum.

This indicated that the motor, a Lemac 65178-101, was trying to do something.  A few searches online revealed that the Hillbilly Compact is no longer made and parts, including the motor, are hard to obtain for reasonable money, this is a shame as the unit is only just over 10 years old.

The customer likes this particular model due to its lightweight and compact folding ability.  New ones are several hundred pounds and usually heavier.

Since the rest of this trolley is serviceable, it seemed sensible to have a go at a repair.  With the motor removed, the cause of the fault became clear.  The commutator was heavily blackened and scored and one of the brushes had burned away, probably due to the heavy weight the trolley had lugged around a golf course.

Being realistic about spend on parts, I thought it would be a good idea to order some replacement brushes from Amazon.  These brushes will come from Hong Kong via Sourcingmap (an excellent source of hard to get parts) and I will let you all know how I get on with the repair.  The motor’s back-plate is available online for just over £15 plus P&P, but I like to repair the problem, rather than waste components that still work.

More to come… I expect you can’t wait.

One the new brushes are fitted and the commutator cleaned, I hope the motor will spin once again.

20/08/17

The brushes arrived and fitted perfectly.  Time will tell if the brush material stands up to the tough punishment of lugging golf clubs across a green, but for £2.41, the repair was worth a try.  See video.

Here are a few photos of the motor refitted to the golf trolley.

Cost of a replacement golf trolley is circa £300+; The cost of the parts to repair this one; £2.41.

04/09/17

Well after some ‘light use’ the owner of the golf trolley contacted me to report that it had failed again, my heart sank!  After a few hundred yards, the trolley came to a halt, which caused some amusement on the fairway…

After testing all the wiring again, I suspected the motor once more.  After removing the motor, I saw that one of the brushes had stuck to the carrier, hmm, interesting.  It seemed that the brushes I’d fitted had run ‘hot’ and started to deteriorate prematurely, which was a shame.  When I ordered these to ‘fit’ this motor, there was always a risk that they wouldn’t last as long, since I didn’t know the exact specification for the motor- I took an educated guess, which turned out to be wrong!

I looked online again and discovered another set of brushes available for this Lemac motor, from http://www.lambeggolfshop.com, for a very reasonable £8.48, including delivery within 48 hours. I didn’t find these brushes the first time, so I must have used different search criteria, this time.

The motor now spins freely and it’s fitted back to the trolley and I hope this time, it makes a round to the 19th hole!