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.

Non-starter: Pure Evoke H2 DAB radio

My own radio gets the workshop treatment.

Who wouldn’t love a new DAB radio for your birthday?  Well, that’s what I had this year and I was thrilled to receive this Pure Evoke H2.  After choosing a suitable location on my desk, I quickly unpacked it, plugged it in and…nothing.  Booooooo!

The display backlight appeared to glow a little, but that was it and I was missing Today on Radio 4.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Pure Evoke H2 DAB radio.

To save a quite frankly dull story, the returns and replacement process offered by the company who supplied the radio was hopeless.  But, after 2 months, I ended up with a replacement radio, in addition to the one I already had.  The second radio worked, albeit with some fettling required to the speaker to make it sound ok (another story).

Time to dig out the screw drivers as I had nothing to lose.

Just 6 screws hold the back on and with these removed, the radio’s innards were exposed.  Now, I’ve made radios from kits in the past using components I can hold with my fingers, but with this radio, the circuitry was teeny-weeny and I would have to have some luck to fix it.

I was in luck.  The radio is made up like a sandwich.  The front fascia is screwed to the cabinet and the back, that I’d removed, was screwed to the cabinet, from the other side.  There are data-style cables between the two halves and one of them appeared to be loose.  I carefully pushed the connector ‘home’ and then re-applied the power lead and wouldn’t you know it, the display lit up and it burst in to life.  Now we’re talking.

Thinking I’d sussed it out, I screwed the radio back together and had about a week or two of unbroken service, until the screen froze and then nothing. Oh no.

Re-opening the back of the radio, I suspected that the tiny soldered pins on the back of the multi-way connectors on the data-style cables, had been dislodged.  I have average sized hands for a bloke, but I needed tweezers to get the connectors on during assembly.  I wonder how much it would have cost to add an inch or so to each cable, to make manufacture easy.  As a consumer, I would have gladly paid the extra penny.  I suspected that this is how the original fault came to be as it wouldn’t have taken much more than a shove in the wrong direction to break the delicate connectors, due to the short length of the internal cables.

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Since this circuit board is a tiny stamped component affair, I had to be quick and neat with my re-soldering.  Each pin to PCB connector re-soldered, cables re-attached, back screwed back on and the radio worked once more.

Pure have a reputation for easy to use, excellent sounding products.  It’s just a shame they have seemingly penny-pinched on some of the internal gubbins on this model.  If yours develops similar symptoms, don’t give up, take the back off and have a look.

Cost of a new radio:  £40-90.  Cost of repair:  5 mins tinker time, one cup of tea.

Concord Transformer-T ‘Ejector’ Child Seat

A Concord Transformer T Ejector Child Seat

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on my blog and for that I apologise.  The lack of writing doesn’t mean that the workshop has been gathering dust, far from it.

Ages ago, a former colleage of mine asked me to look at a Concorde Child Seat, which seemed to be automatically adjusting to it’s maxmimum height setting, in an ‘ejector’ seat style.  This kind of action is OK for 007, but no good for a family trip to the seaside.

Child seat repairs are not my usual thing, but since this one was unusable, what did I have to lose?  These seats are normally well over £140.00 too, so it seemed like a good idea to have a go.

The Concord Transformer-T features a neat trick in that it can adjust it’s height to suit the growing child, with the touch of a button.  This is especially handy when different children share the same seat.  Up and down height settings are achieved by a ‘Transformer’ (the toys) style of action, controlled by a gas damped srump strut, similar to that used on hatch back tail gates.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Concord Transformer-T

This seat’s gas strut seemed to go to maximum height, without warning, extending seat in an ejector seat style.  Time to dig out some tools.

The seat’s cover came off easily, thanks to to some hook and loops around the plastic backing.  Lucky as the cover on this seat had some dubious stains.

Once off, several T20 Torx screws removed and a cable operated plunger to a button on a gas strut was revealed.  This seemed like a good place to start.  Despite the premium price tag, the inner workings of the seat seemed quite flimsy, I assume to minimise weight and to comply with safety standards.  The moving headrest, back support and centre arms all moved on a scissor action mechanism, which seemed to working fine.

Disconnecting the cable/ button/ lever involved a T20 Torx screwdriver and 10mm spanner.  Once removed, there was good access to the button on the end of the gas strut.  It appeared that the button was working just fine and one could manually adjust the size of the seat with a finger.  Interesting.  Time to inspect the adjustment of the cable and lever mechanism.  Luckily, there was adjustment on the cable and lever and after a little fetling, the mechanism was restored.

 

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Price when new:  £140.00ish.  Cost to repair, 30 minutes tinker time, 1 cuppa and a ginger nut biscuit.

Ultimate Speed Battery Charger from Lidl, on standby

Battery charger repaired at the workshop

My in-laws have an ornament on their drive, in the shape of a 2001 MGF roadster.  I say ornament because it’s fairly stationery, all of the time.  Even so, it’s battery gets topped up once in a while and the engine turned over when the urge presents itself.  Because the car isn’t used, the battery’s only means of charge is via a plug-in charger, my father-in-law occasionally hooks up.

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FixItWorkshop, March’18, Ultimate Speed (Lidl) Battery Charger.

The battery charger in question is an Ultimate Speed (Lidl brand) universal battery charger.  They’ve been on sale in the UK for a number of years at the £15 (approx.) mark.  They’re really good value as they allow ‘smart charging’ of car and motorcycle batteries without the risk of damage at a fraction of the price of the ‘big brands’ or a replacement battery.

However, this charger decided that it wasn’t playing anymore and refused to offer it’s charging services when recently connected to the MG’s flat battery.  On it’s way to the great bin in the sky, I managed to divert the charger via the workshop.

Once connected to the mains, the standby light illuminated, indicating something was actually happening, but upon connecting the low voltage side to a battery, making a charge selection via the single push-button switch, nothing changed and the whole unit remained on standby.  Pretty annoying.

Luckily, I have the triangular screwdriver required to undo the six screws that hold the (IP) ingress protected casing together.  Triangular screw heads are annoying and pointless as they prevent, in my opinion, people with a basic tool set having a go at a repair like this.  If you do fancy getting one of these tools, they are easily available on Amazon and eBay.

On with the fix.  With the casing opened up, my first port of call was with the switch itself.  Past experience has taught me to 1; start with the easy stuff and 2; these push to make switches fail all the time.  They’re in everything from door bells to cookers at the moment and when faulty, make the most expensive item and expensive paper weight in the blink of an eye.

To test the switch, I connected the charger to the mains and hooked up the low voltage end to a battery and simulated the button push switch by shorting out the switches connections on the circuit board.  Hey presto, the charger worked perfectly, every time.  The switch either needed repairing or replacing.

Because I’m a skin-flint, I opted to see what could be done with the present switch.  With care, these switches can be prised apart, using a sharp knife and the insides cleaned.  I took the switch apart which revealed nothing more than slightly corroded switch surfaces.  I can only assume that the product’s bold IP rated claim is a little over exaggerated and that some damp had wriggled its way to the switch and mucked it up.  With a cotton bud and switch cleaner, the switch surfaces scrubbed up like new and I re-assembled the switch lever and securing plat using a soldering iron to re-melt the plastic nubs holding the switch together.  No one would ever know it had been in bits.

With the circuit board returned to the housing, all six screws done up, the charger was back to rude health once more and ready to tend to the stranded MGF.