Gaggia Espresso Machine with a nasty blockage

A Gaggia Espresso machine gets a rebuild.

Home coffee machines are very cool.  Home espresso machines are even better as they’re the closest you can get to a coffee shop brew, in my opinion.  Due to heat, water and coffee mixing up on a regular basis, they need ownership with care for long life.

IMG_9039
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Gaggia Espresso Machine.

Top tips for longer coffee machine life:

  • Use filtered water, especially if you live in a hard water area
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Keep all rubber seals, especially those around the main coffee making area, clean with a damp cloth

Someone got in touch with a machine that was a few years old, but had once made a lovely cup of coffee.  The owner had used it daily but recently it had begun to leak and not perform at its best.  The machine had also been to a UK repair specialist, but sadly, they couldn’t solve the problems.  I always test appliances when they arrive to confirm the fault and as expected, water came out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

I’ve worked on a few of these machines, so I know the drill.  Remove the lid, make a note of the wiring connectors, the pipes and remove the bolts holding the main boiler in place.  I also ordered a service kit (new seals) for a reasonable £7.99.

The main boiler separates into two halves which reveals the main boiler chamber and exit for hot water.

This boiler was in poor condition and years of corrosion and scale had built up and was probably blocking the main group head, the bit where you attach the group handle/ filter bit to make coffee.

Time for more dismantling.  The group head is held in position with a couple of screws, but years of corrosion had taken their toll and this head was going nowhere.  Great care was needed as the soft metal is easily damaged.

Thinking about this a bit more, I decided to cut a screw thread into one of the water holes in the head and use a bolt to lever the group head apart.  It worked.  Once off the head revealed loads of debris and scale.

The next job was to give all parts a thorough clean, re-faced with wet and dry paper as needed and use new seals as part of the reassembly.

Once back together, the boiler was reinstalled and reconnected.  After a few blasts of fresh water through the machine, it was ready to make its first proper brew.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cost of replacement:  £100-300.  Cost of repair:  £7.99, my time, one tin of elbow grease, one cup of coffee and a ginger nut.

 

 

Generic Battery Mantel Clock

A battery clock returns to the mantel.

A friend of the family was very upset that her mantel clock had decided to stop and despite changing the battery, it refused to start ticking.

IMG_9122
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Clock.

Now, this clock was not an expensive item, but it matched the décor of the room it was in and so the owner was very keen for it to be returned to its place above the fire.

Battery clocks like this are ubiquitous and often, like this one, don’t even carry a makers’ brand logo or name.  I was thinking; if the clock’s motor was unsavable, I would replace it using a generic replacement from eBay.

I’ve fixed many battery powered quartz clock motors.  They all work in a similar way.  An electromagnet which is pulsed using a simple circuit, regulated by a quartz crystal.  Add-in some gears and pointer hands and you’ve got yourself a clock.

After removing clock motor from the housing, just two screws, the motor comes apart by peeling back two plastic tangs.  Care should be taken not to force anything at this stage as the parts are very small and delicate.

The motor gears and electromagnet out of the way, the printed circuit board popped out and the fault became clear.  At some point in the past, I suspect that a battery had leaked just a little and the vapour from the leak had corroded the contacts.  A little dab of contact cleaner on an old toothbrush and a little bit of scrubbing and the corrosion was gone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A little bit of jiggery pokery again and the motor was back together and refitted to the clock’s frame.  It just goes to show that something as simple as this can be fixed with basic tools and patience.

Job done!

Cost of replacement:  N/A.  Cost of repair:  Just 30 minutes tinker time and a cuppa.

Money, that’s what I want

A cool 1980s toy robot money box gets repaired.

Who doesn’t like a toy robot? I mean, everyone loves a toy robot, especially one with pop up eyes and one that eats coins.  No?  Well, you’re wrong if you don’t agree!

Money 2
FixItWorkshop, March’19, Tomy Mr. Money.

This is my own Tomy Mr. Money, which I’ve had since about 1988 ish, so it’s getting on a bit.  Like me.

Back then, I wasn’t that diligent about leaving batteries in situ for long periods and when I dusted off this piece of retro cool for my daughter to play with, we discovered that the passing of time had not been kind to the old battery or insides.  Which was a bit of a shame.

However, I wanted to show everyone that old toys are way cooler than new ones, so out with the screwdrivers, cleaning stuff and hammer (well, not the hammer) to see what could be done.

Luckily for me and Mr. Money, the battery compartment hadn’t fared too badly with just light corrosion to the battery terminals, which soon cleaned off with brake cleaner and some light filing to near good as new standard.

With a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money didn’t really respond that well to having money placed on his hand.  In years gone by, a coin placed on his hand would trigger his eyes to open, the hand to raise to his mouth, the coin to be eaten and lips to be licked, as well as doing a little side to side dance.  Mr.Money was now looking a bit arthritic.  Could it be that new money is a lot lighter than the 1980s money he was designed for or was it just that the battery corrosion had run deeper than first appeared.  I suspected the latter.

I took Mr. Money apart and found that the microswitch that triggers the mechanism was corroded and needed cleaning and that some of the moving parts also needed a quick brush up, all of which had Mr.Money back to rude health.

IMG_5190
FixItWorkshop, March’19, Tomy Mr.Money, in pieces.

While doing the repair, I decided that it wasn’t obvious how the toy came apart and that some owners might decide to scrap theirs due to similar problems.  So, I decided to make a little slide show of the dismantling, to help others.  Enjoy.

Cost of replacement:  £ priceless/ eBay if you’re lucky.  Cost of repair:  One IPA beer.

 

Explosive Chef

Another Kenwood Chef A901 gets the Workshop treatment…

There’s been a steady flow of poorly Kenwood Chefs through the workshop of late and the new year started off with yet another.  A customer got in touch with reports of smoke coming from her Chef A901, a machine which had given years of faithful service to her family.  As a result, she was very keen to see what could be done.

img_7876
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’19, Kenwood Chef A901.

As usual with Chefs of this age, the 5 machine feet had deteriorated and now resembled squashed dry Blu-Tac, so had to be replaced.  I replace the feet to most Chefs that come in.  Not only do the feet prevent the machine from moving all over the place when in use, they provide a gap for air to be drawn in to the motor for cooling, so it’s essential the feet are in good condition.

img_7868
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’19, replacing the feet on a Chef A901 (others similar).

The feet are inexpensive and are easy to fit.  If you decide to replace yours, consider coating the existing ones with something like WD-40, a few days before you try to extract the centre pin or you risk snapping it off in the machine base, as it will likely be ceased.

On with the repair.  The speed control circuitry had failed, specifically a capacitor and resistor, a common problem on older machines, had gone pop.  As usual, the correct repair kit was bought and fitted. With careful soldering and a dab of heat transfer gel on the new triac and the job was complete.  Nice.

With any Kenwood Chef, I always check the motor end-float, the allowable spindle movement north and south.  The end float in this case was a little lose and required adjustment.  A small grub screw with Allen key head allows this adjustment and with a bit of trial and error, the end float was now spot-on.  Poor end float on these machines usually makes the speed control ‘wobbly’, especially at lower speeds.  With this one adjusted correctly, the motor now ran smoothly through all speeds.

Job done.  The owner of the machine was so pleased with my work, she even bought me a new packet of Custard Creams.  Fab.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cost of replacement: £400 and up.  Cost of repair: £11.24, plus my time and Custard Creams!

Another smoking Kenwood Chef A901E sorted in time for Christmas…just

Another Kenwood Chef gets the treatment in the Workshop

How about another Kenwood Chef story?  I know I’ve covered this machine a few times now, but I’ll try and make it as interesting as I can.  I just LOVE Kenwood Chefs.

IMG_7700
FixItWorkshop, December’18, Worthing, Kenwood Chef A901E on the bench.

A customer got in touch with me via the FixItWorkshop ‘contact us’ link asking if I could fix his family’s much beloved Chef.  While last in-use, it started smoking and smelling terminal.  How could I refuse.  I’m located in Worthing, but the customer was based in North London, quite a distance for a repair and would have been usually cost prohibitive using the Royal Mail.  However, using local drop-off points, carriers such as Hermes and DPD offer (slightly slower) courier services for about £7.00 one way, which starts to make more fiscal sense.  This is what we did.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the box the Chef came in, because the customer had clearly gone to a lot of effort to make sure it was well protected!

On with the repair.

The Chef has been in production many years and although they can often appear similar on the outside, they do vary on the inside, depending on the year of manufacture as small tweaks and improvements are made.  Evolution, rather than revolution, usually the backbone of any successful design.

The A901E is different from the previous A901 as it features an electronic speed controller, rather than a centrifugal affair.  While the later design is an improvement, it wouldn’t deter me from buying an earlier model; the improvement is small.

The A901E still features similar components to previous models which can and do fail, especially with age.  The subject here is about 30 years old, give or take.

IMG_7678
FixItWorkshop, December’18, Worthing, A901E, motor removed.

The motor on the A901E comes out quite easily; first remove the motor cover, remove the mains cable (disconnect first of course), remove the top cover, belt, then the four screws holding the motor in.  The motor then pulls down from inside, out through the gap left by the hinge.  Easy.

The motor circuit board showed traces of component catastrophe with dust and dirt left by exploding components.  Nasty.  Pre-empting the fault, I ordered a repair kit before I’d taken the machine apart, together with replacement feet as the ones on this machine were knackered.  The kit includes capacitors, resistor and triac as these are the main components that tend to fail.

These kits are available on eBay and are worth the money as they are often cheaper than buying the components separately and they contain instructions for newbies.  Here’s a little slide show showing the process.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

With the kit fitted, the motor re-installed, mains reconnected, the Chef ran well again, this time without burning or smoking.  However, all was not well as the speed control was a bit wobbly at lower speeds, which was just plain wrong.  Having worked on a good few Chefs, this problem is usually down to excess end-float on the motor spindle.  Working with the motor still in situ, the motor fan, which controls end-float could be adjusted with an Allen key.  Sorted.

Just the replacement feet to fit and after a quick clean-up, the Chef was reassembled, ready to go home.

A top tip for you.  If you intend to replace the feet on your machine and you probably should if they are old as they go hard or fall apart, then soak the area around the feet recesses with WD-40 or similar a day or so before as this will make getting the remnants of the old feet out, much easier.

Cost of a replacement:  £400 up.  Cost of repair:  £12.65 plus my time and tea.