Why are some spare parts more expensive than a complete product?!

I struggle to buy a replacement part for a reasonable price.

I’ve been meaning to do a little article on this problem for a while and I apologise in advance if (you’re still reading) this seems like a rant.

Why-o-why-o-why are manufacturers still allowed to price spare parts dearer than a complete product?

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara and Enrich Showers.

Recently our electric wall shower gave up the ghost and tripped the electrical breaker in the fuse cupboard.  Not great when it happens mid-wash.

The shower was a few years old and registered with the manufacturer for support for things like recalls and so on.  I had fitted the shower myself and it it had been a reliable product until this point.

Out with the screwdrivers and multimeter.

The 8.5kW heating element is split into two circuits, one for half-power and one for full.  Most people would use full power, but you might be able to get away with using it on half or economy mode in summer, when the water feed is generally warmer.

All micro switches seemed to be working OK, which was a bit of a shame actually as it meant that the heater can was probably faulty.  It was.  Half the heater can tested OK, the other half was dead.  Oh dear.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara heater can.

After visiting some shower spares suppliers and the manufacturers’ own website, I discovered that the spare part I needed wasn’t cheap at over £50 delivered.  I saw some advertised for £70 on some third-party sites.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara replacement heater can spare part.  Price sourced from triton.co.uk, correct 10/08/19.

I was fuming.  Why so expensive?  I mean, you’d have to be out of your mind to part with your hard-earned cash on a spare part like this when you can buy the whole unit for less.  See below.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Enrich/ Cara – new price listing.  Price sourced from Screwfix.com, correct 10/08/19.

The Cara shower has been replaced by the Enrich and is basically the same product, by another name.  Therefore, the high price of the spare part in this instance cannot be blamed on low manufacturing volumes as the showers are still made, are widely available and have been in production for a long time.   Something is ethically wrong with Triton’s spare parts pricing policies.

Now, I don’t want to beat-up Triton, they’re not alone and many manufacturers do the same, but there are now many forward-thinking companies out there getting it right.  Maybe Triton will revisit their spares listings.

Despite my natural leaning to repair and recondition, I had to admit that simple logic won the day and I bought a whole new unit from Screwfix.  The Enrich shower fitted exactly where the Cara had been and worked perfectly.

I thought about this situation long and hard and decided that for this type of appliance, a spare part should not cost more than 30% of the current retail price.  In this instance, I would have been prepared to pay about £15.00 for a spare part. 

In a world where we need to encourage people to repair appliances (and anything else) manufacturers need to facilitate a reasonable and proportionate spares back up service.  It’s as simple as that.

Still, there is a bright side to this tale.  The old shower’s solenoid, mixer, control knobs and switches all work fine and I’ll keep those as spares to be used again in a shower or something else that comes along.

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Problems

The right formula for a poorly Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine

The owner of this Perfect Prep machine had reported that it had not been used for a while, then filled with water, powered up and … nothing.

Make and model:  Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep

Cost of replacement:  £70

Cost of parts:  £3.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  6/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’18, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep.

I’ve repaired a machine like this before and I already had a theory about the problem, which went like this:

  • Machine not used for a while; watery scale deposits built-up in machine
  • Machine filled with water, with possible air-lock present
  • Air-lock causes bubble in heater, causing it to temporarily over-heat, safety thermal fuses blow

Dead machine.

At this stage, it was only a theory, so the only thing to do was to start wielding screwdrivers.

A few quick checks revealed that mains power was not getting to the main controller in the machine, which indicated that the safety thermal cut-out fuses had failed.  There are two on this machine.  A quick test with the multi-meter confirmed that both had failed.

After some dismantling, both fuses could be removed from the wiring harness.  Fuses like these are not available from the high street usually, but they are readily available online.  The manufacturer had used crimps to attach the fuses to the wiring, but I decided to solder the new ones back in place.  Care had to be taken as the melting point of solder is very close to the thermal rating of the fuses, so I came up with the idea of using a damp cloth wrapped around the fuse while doing the soldering.  A bit tricky!

Both fuses replaced meant that the unit powered-up and worked.  Great.

However, I wasn’t totally convinced that an air-lock wouldn’t happen again so I looked deeper at the machine’s plumbing.  There appeared to be a kink in one of the boiler tube feed pipes, so I decided to cut some material away, to prevent the pipe restricting water flow in future.

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All back together, the machine worked well once again.

 

Tommee Tippee (not so) Perfect Prep

A formula machine is repaired in the workshop.

This fix was actually carried out during the summer, 2018.

A friend of mine brought over a broken formula making machine for me to look at.  It had been stored after their first child had out-grown it and since having another baby, it was now needed again, urgently.  Following a couple of years in storage, it was brought out, plugged in and after briefly coming on, it failed.  No lights, no hope.

These machines save time and effort by allowing water to be heated rapidly and mixed exactly with the formula powder, to produce consistent results every time, perfect for new exhausted parents in the middle of the night. So it was important that I got this working quickly.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’19, Worthing, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine

After removing the back, I was presented with an electronic control unit, some solenoid valves and a heater, plus some other environmental sensors such as thermostats.  The plug fuse was OK, so it was time to check if power was getting to the machine.  It wasn’t.

This machine features a couple of power control devices; two  thermal aluminium ‘can-style’ fuses in-line with the heater, plus a thermostat on the output of the heater itself (to regulate heat).  After testing for continuity, it appeared that one of the can fuses had failed.

These fuses are common across a wide range of appliances, such as coffee machines, fans etc and are cheap, just a few pounds.  It could be that a temporary air-lock in the heater caused a hot-spot and therefore that excess heat caused the 172 degree fuse to pop.  It was worth a try to replace it and see what happened.

I replaced the fuse and re-assembled.  After filling with water and powering it up, normal service was resumed.

Since I replaced the fuse, the machine has been in continuous service for many months, so I can conclude that it was probable that the over heating was temporary.

I created a short video to help others who may have similar problems with their machine.

Cost of a new machine:  £90.  Cost of repair: a few quid and a few beers.

 

 

Opening a can of worms (or not)

A little repair for my trusty Probus can opener…

Readers of this blog would have worked out by now that I’m a little bit sentimental.

A short story:

When I moved away from home, many years ago, my mum made me a ‘moving out kit’ in which contained a trusty Probus Butterfly can opener, the classic British design can opener type.  Today, it broke.  I was gutted.

You can still buy the same tool for just over £1, so it clearly doesn’t usually cost-in to repair such an item.  However, all that seemed to be wrong was a broken pivot or spindle.  The original riveted fixing had worn and eventually sheered off today when opening the cat food.

All that was needed was to re-rivet the can opener and all would be well again.  Luckily, I had some rivets lying around of the right size.  I grabbed my pop-rivet gun and 5 minutes later, it was ready to open cans once again…joy.