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?

 

Dyson: Please sell me the part I need

A DC32 Animal Vacuum Cleaner gets a second chance

One of these please, Dyson…

 

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, broken turbine/ fan.

All things made, will eventually break.  Things that are made eventually wear out and either must be replaced or repaired.  However, some things wear out a little faster than others.

Planned obsolescence and manufacturing budgets mean that parts within products can wear out faster than reasonably expected and fail totally, rendering the rest of a perfectly working item, useless.

This is where us repair folk come in.  We refuse to accept this problem and work away tirelessly in sheds and lockups everywhere, working on solutions to problems such as this, keeping things going, a little longer.

A friend’s DC32 Animal cylinder vacuum cleaner’s roller beaters had stopped turning and made nothing but a horrible noise, when the cleaner was in use.  Not cool.

The roller beaters on this model are literally vacuum operated by a turbine/ fan which spins fast when air passes across it, driving the beaters by a toothed belt and gear.  There is no separate motor to drive the roller beaters, which is quite an elegant solution to a complex problem.

Fast forward to the issue and despite identifying the broken part and then contacting Dyson directly for a replacement, they would not sell what I needed, a part that would probably cost no more than £10 to supply.  Such a shame.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, Dyson website screenshot 22/12/19.
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, a copy item on eBay for under £20, screenshot 22/12/19.

The price of the (original equipment quality) complete Dyson Turbine Head, suitable for the DC32 vacuum cleaner, is £60.00 as a direct replacement from Dyson, but the part is now copied by other manufacturers.  A pattern part design is available for under £20 and if this was my machine, I’d be tempted at that price.  Pattern parts have their place, but I suspect that at this price, performance won’t be quiet as good as the original.

So, a choice:

  • Replace the part with a brand new Dyson part – too expensive
  • Replace with a non-original part, that will probably do the job – unknown outcomes, unsatisfying
  • Attempt a repair on the original part.  Of course it’s what I’m going to do!

On with the repair.  The Turbine Head is screwed together using Torx head screws and the side vents that secure the main drive unit, pop-off the main casing, with some encouragement.

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A picture paints a thousand words and the above slide shows the dismantling and reassembly process for the Turbine Head.  If attempting this kind of thing yourself, remember to keep all components free of dirt and grime.

In the absence of a replacement, I attempted a repair to the existing fan and since it was made of plastic (some kind of nylon derivative I think) it was going to be difficult.  Not many glues will stick this type of plastic well, so my choice was going to be ‘make or break’, literally.  I considered an epoxy resin, but opted for Gorilla Glue, since it expands slightly in use, to all of the microscopic gaps.  I also used it to modify the fan by filling-in around the spindle to try and prevent slippage, when spinning.  When dry, I lightly sanded any high spots of glue away.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, glued turbine/ fan.

Once the whole unit was back together and reconnected to the main vacuum cleaner, the head roller beaters spun once again without a horrible noise.  Question is, how long will it run for?  If anyone thinks they can make a replacement using 3D printing, please let me know!

Hybrid Hoover-VAX vacuum cleaner combination experiment…

Recycling vacuum cleaner parts.

A slightly unusual workshop repair this time.

My brother-in-law popped in to see us for a cuppa recently and mentioned he was off to the tip with an old VAX cylinder style bag-less vacuum cleaner, in pieces, not the carpet washer type.  It was on its way to the great scrap yard in the sky.  Luckily, I was on hand to divert the sick VAX via the workshop.

It was being disposed of due to the flex having gone faulty together with the opinion that it wasn’t working that well before the mains cable failed.  Well, I hate to see good machinery go to waste.

On this VAX, the mains flex is stored within the vacuum cleaner housing and is wound up on a spring-loaded coil during storage.  When in use, the user can pull the mains plug until the desired cable flex length is reached.  When the user is finished cleaning their carpet, a foot operated button causes the flex to speedily disappear back in to the vacuum cleaner.  My brother-in-law had already looked at the spring-loaded mains flex winding mechanism, which had resulted in the bi-metallic coil spring escaping from the enclosure, freeing itself in to an orbit.  It’s quite a shock and sometimes dangerous when this happens!

What to do.  I was very nearly tempted to dump this vacuum cleaner too as the build quality of the whole thing reminded me of the plastic toys one gets in Christmas crackers, but that’s not really in the spirit of The Workshop.

Then I remembered I had a defunct Hoover Telios that was minus a motor, perhaps this would be a suitable parts donor?  I liked the idea of making one working vacuum cleaner from two unhappy ones.

The Telios had a working mains lead flex, but the automatic spring loaded mechanism on that was past its best, so I decided to use the working lead on the VAX.  The VAX would be without its flex winding mechanism, but at least it would work.  I adapted a cable tie to make a cable grip, to prevent a user from pulling the cable from the VAX, when in use.  The cable would have to be stored, wrapped around the vacuum cleaner, after use, a small price for working machine.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner.

The other job was to address the poor performance.

This product is clearly an inferior Dyson rip-off and therefore has a couple of filters; one for the intake and one for the exhaust, like a Dyson.  As suspected, both of these were virtually blocked!  The filters on this model were not as easy to get at nor as easy to clean.  I’m not sure whether these filters are meant to be washed, but wash them I did and after 24 hours of drying on the radiator, they were as good as new.  Once refitted, full performance was restored, for the price of a bowl of warm water and Fairy liquid.

Finally, the VAX was missing its cleaning head for the hose, so I decided to use the Hoover one (which was quite a nice design) with the VAX’s hose.  After some jiggery pokery and some electrical tape, it fitted.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner- with Hoover parts.

What we’ve now ended up with is a working VAX vacuum cleaner, using some parts from a beyond economical to repair Hoover.  Whilst it’s not the most elegant repair I’ve ever completed, I now have  something working from two nearly condemned items and surely, that’s good thing?