My mum’s got an old electric Singer sewing machine which is about 40 odd years old. Singer sewing machines are well supported generally and parts are readily available, but I find it’s sometimes fun to try and find the cheapest way to fix something myself.
The foot pedal on this machine went pop and smelled horrible after. The machine then stopped working, oh dear.
The pedal is of high quality construction and easily better than any generic replacement on the market, so it was definately worth saving.
Opening up the pedal was just a few screws, which then exposed the whole mechanism. The mains resistor was in tact and seemed to test with resistance. A good start. The contacts were in good condition as was the rest of all the components, except for the mains input capacitor, which has spectactularly failed and split open, a common problem on older mains capacitors.
Repair kits are readily available for about £5, but that seemed expensive to me! Using the existing capacitor as a guide, I found a suitable component on eBay for £2.09 delivered. That’s more like it.
The capacitor I used was: Film Capacitor, 0.1 µF, 250 V, PET (Polyester), ± 5%, R60 Series (from eBay).
Here’s a little slide show that I hope will help others fix their pedal, should it fail.
With the old capacitor cut out and the new one soldered in, the pedal was ready to run again. Sorted.
Cost of a replacement: £15-30 for a generic part. Cost of repair, £2.09, 1 cup of tea.
On the back of a previous article about a repair I did on the rather wonderful Elna SP sewing machine, a reader got in touch. She was a genuine sewing aficionado and had several top of the range current machines, but she used the trusty Elna SP for many smaller jobs, where the other machines didn’t quite cut it.
All Elna SP machines are getting on a bit and parts are either re-manufactured, scarce or secondhand, if you can find them. Having said all that, a well-maintained Elna will run for many years and last much longer than new metal on sale now.
The foot pedal on this machine had gone pop, bang, finito. It smelled terminal.
Knowing that parts for this machine are rarer than hens teeth and I do like a challenge, I took on the job. I’m based in Worthing, West Sussex and the machine was located in Scotland, so after a short wait, the knackered pedal arrived in the post.
The pedal is held together with four small self-tapping screws and came apart easily. The reason for failure was two-fold. The copper leaf contacts had arced excessively and caused major pitting in the contact strip (see slide show) and the probably ensuing resistance had caused the main resistor to overheat, causing the winding to fail.
The contact surfaces were easy-ish to fix, or rather breathe new life into as all they needed was cleaning and re-shaping. The resistor was a bit trickier to mend. Getting hold of a replacement was going to be near impossible, so the only thing to do was to try and repair it. Without that particular style of resistor, of that value, it wouldn’t work again. Luckily, there was some excess resistance wire on the thing and I managed to twist it in to the broken section. Soldering was not an option, since the wire was an alloy that wouldn’t take to solder and in any case, these things get hot in normal service. I twisted both ends of the break to form a new section, while maintaining the same length of windings on the resistor, essential if I was to match or get close to the original specification. Difficult. Luckily, after a few goes, I managed it and the applied a little heat-conducting (and therefore dissipating) paste to the join.
With the pedal reassembled, I was only able to test it with my meter, since the sewing machine was far too heavy to post. The pedal tested as a closed circuit (OK), which was a result. I then had to wait for the pedal to be collected, taken back to Scotland and tested. Fortunately, my fix worked and the machine sprang in to life, without a hitch or missed stitch.
Now, a word of caution with this one. This is NOT the best way of mending something like this and all I’ve probably done is prolong it’s life a little longer. There are generic sewing machine pedals that would work with this machine and will be fine, when this one fails in future, but that’s not the point. The main thing is that something that was broken is now working and even if it’s not the best fix, at least it will run for a bit longer. Happy days.
Cost of replacement: (generic part) £15-30. Cost of repair, my time, a bit of solder and several cups of tea.
Readers of this blog (I know there are millions of you) will recognise this golf trolley and I’m pleased to report that my first repair, the one to the motor, is still working perfectly. However, the owner of the trolley contacted me with a (funny) problem. Whilst recently enjoying a round of golf on the local fairway, the trolley decided to, by itself, begin to edge away from the second tee and then with some speed, head off in to the distance, without any operation of the dial switch, situated on the handle. Whilst this seemed funny at first, I remembered that the motor on this trolley had the kind of torque that, coupled to small gearbox and wheels on a heavy frame, could do some serious damage, left unchecked.
Original photo taken in Aug’17, below.
Unlike many modern electric golf trolleys, it doesn’t feature GPS guidance, remote control or amazingly, a dead-man’s switch, which seems like a major safety oversight to me. I’d have expected either a kill switch or dead-man’s switch* fitted to the handle on a trolley like this as the runaway scenario could never occur due to fail-safe nature of the switch being operated. With one, the trolley would only run when the operators’ hand was on the handle or cut out when the kill switch is activated, as with the saftety cord mechanism, on a jet ski for example. Perhaps the Mk2 Hillbilly Compact featured this.
*For example, a dead-man’s switch is usually fitted to something like an electric saw where the operator must old a handle-type switch to make it run. Once the operator lets go of the handle, the motor automatically fails-safe and cuts-out.
On with the repair. The trolley features some exposed connectors and cabling and it seemed sensible to check the continuity of the cables running up and down the handle shaft, as repeated trolley folding might have caused a problem with the wiring. Fortunately, the cabling was OK.
The owner had mentioned that the handle, where the speed control switch is located, had got wet in the past, which made my alarm bells ring.
Opening up the handle, which only required a basic tool kit, revealed evidence of water damage and corrosion to the speed control terminals. Luckily the owner of the trolley had stocked up on spare switches!
FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, Hillbilly Compact handle.
FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, Hillbilly Compact switch.
Removing the existing switch revealed intermittent continuity and varying amounts of resistance, which was not good. A fault most likely to have been caused by water ingress or excessive shock. The owner had supplied two ‘new old stock’ (NOS) switches. Which one to fit?
From time to time, it’s downright sensible to either fit NOS or second-parts as they’re usually cost-effective and are more likely to fit over pattern parts. But time can also affect apparently shiny parts. This was a case in point. I knew that the switch should vary resistance from open circuit to 10KOhms in either direction from COMM. The old one didn’t and one of the ‘new’ parts only went to 2KOhms, so was not in specification. Luckily, the remaining NOS switch worked fine and once refitted, and the handle reassembled, the golf trolley was ready to make the job of carrying clubs easier, once again.
Cost of replacement trolley: ££££ Cost of repair; £10 plus time. Moral of the story; don’t assume NOS parts will work. Test them first.
A Fender Precision style Satellite P Bass guitar repair…
A friend of mine, who plays in a Portsmouth-based Psychedelic Garage Rock & Roll band, brought in a Satellite Bass Guitar with a few issues. Firstly the volume control was noisy and crackly and secondly, it was a little quiet. Not good for those moments where you need to go one higher, to eleven.
Opening up the compartment behind volume, tone and jack plug socket revealed messy wiring and dodgy connections. The owner had already supplied a replacement potentiometer for the volume control, so all I had to do was replace the one fitted, re-make the poor connections and give the wiring a general tidy-up.
The guitar has Dimarzio ‘Model P’ pick-ups which can be wired many different ways, depending on the application and musical taste. This particular guitar, circa 1976, is a Fender Precision style Satellite bass (P-Bass) and has a modified ‘through neck’.
Testing the guitar before commencing work revealed a slightly quiet, but mainly crackly output from the amplifier, the tone control was fine. The owner had also complained that the bass sometimes cut-out, mid song. Not ideal.
Removing the volume control was straightforward and only required a spanner to remove the nut, after pulling off the volume knob. The rest of the job just involved careful de-soldering, cutting out the poor wiring and replacing it with new wiring where needed and some heat shrink to tidy things up. Having not repaired an electric guitar before, I did make a quick wiring diagram for reference!
Once completed, I hooked it up to the amplifier again which revealed a much cleaner, crackle free note. Sadly, I can’t play the guitar, so I wasn’t able to test it properly!
Cost of a new bass: Name a price. Cost of the repair; about £2.00 plus tinker time.
If your Kenwood Chef A901 starts to smell of burning, don’t despair, it can usually be saved.
I had an enquiry via this site from a fisherman who was very upset that his trusty Kenwood Chef A901 had given up the ghost. Rather than using the Chef to make Victoria sponges, it had been used to prepare fishing bait. It just demonstrates how versatile these machines are.
Whilst it was in use, the owner witnessed a bang then the smell of burning before the machine came to a halt. The plug was quickly pulled!
Whilst discussing the fault on the phone, I suspected that the fault was probably due to the failure of the motor speed control circuitry, which is known to fail with age. I had carried out similar repairs to other machines, including my own (in this blog) so agreed to take a look.
I received the machine quickly and upon inspection, the machine had obviously been cared for and considering its age, was in good condition. The smell of burned-out components was clear, lifting it out of the box.
Dismantling the machine and removing the motor on the A901 is fairly straightforward, providing you allow time and make notes on where things go. The components that need to be replaced are very accessible and anyone with moderate soldering skills would be OK with this task.
Luckily, the Chef is very well supported by long-term aftermarket suppliers and I bought an off-the-shelf spares kit at £14.10 delivered, from KAParts (www.kaparts.co.uk) via eBay, featuring upgraded components. This kit is a little dearer, but component technology has moved on since this machine was first on the market, so fitting anything else is a false economy in my opinion.
With the old components removed and replacements fitted, the motor ran smoothly and fully reassembled, the machine is now ready to mix bait mixtures once again. Lovely.
Cost of a new machine: Circa £300 and up. Cost of repair: £44.10 (kit plus my time).
This Kenwood Chef developed a nasty little problem. The failure smelled expensive and the Chef even puffed out some smoke when it began to fail, it would operate, but noisily and badly, so it to the workshop it had to go.
It was in decent overall condition and has loads of accessories, so definitely worth saving since a new one is over £300 new.
Since the speed control circuitry is a common failure on models of this age, it seemed sensible to start there. On this unit, access wasn’t a problem and the issue was quickly diagnosed. Both capacitors had failed (spectacularly) and one of the resistors had become weak by about 20 Ohms or so. Repair kits are readily available online for those who are willing to save these excellent machines, so after removing the faulty components, new items were fitted.
Another little annoying problem with the Chef, was the main drive belt. It was intermittently rubbing the main plastic body of the unit, making a horrible sound and melting some of the casing (only cosmetic). The motor mounting spacer had compressed on one side causing the belt to not run correctly. This was fixed with a small washer to correct the belt’s alignment.
With a little bit of grease, WD40, Brasso, contact cleaner, repair kit and washer, the whole job took a couple of hours (including fettling time) and cost me under £8. Definitely worth the effort considering the price of a replacement Chef.
Here’s a picture of the new components fitted in situ…