Magic Lamp

Rub the lamp release the genie, make three wishes (make ’em good)

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Dimmable Projector Lamp

I’d say that 8 out of 10 repairs commissioned by folk who get in touch are for sentimental reasons.  Take this unusual lamp.  It’s not worth a great deal of cash, it doesn’t use the latest luminescence technology and it doesn’t even have a makers’ mark (we think it came from Aldi or Lidl).

Yet, it had been a family favourite for years and the owners were keen to see it light their world, once more.

Make and model: Dimmable ‘projector ball’ lamp

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £30ish

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts: £15.30 plus £3.25 for bulb

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Spanner, screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: 1 Gold Bar

Firstly, we all make mistakes and here’s one of mine!

It’s easy to fall into traps or ‘snap diagnosis’ when doing a repair and I want to share a ‘little accident’ that I had with this one.  Even an experienced repair bloke can make mistakes.

Here goes.

After checking the mains plug (all fine) and cable to the lamp for continuity and potential shorts to earth, I was convinced that the supply lead was fine.  All good so far.

Next, I checked continuity from the dimmer module to the lamp socket.  Ah ha, that’s the problem, that link in the circuit is dead.  A quick repair job, on to the next?  Not quite.

As a temporary test, I decided to by-pass the dimmer and rig a temporary wire to the lamp, to prove the wiring was OK and that the dimmer was the fault.  Upon plugging the mains plug in, the bulb nearly exploded.  Bang!  My safety circuit breakers then stopped the power to the whole workshop.  I was now in darkness, but luckily, my heart was still ticking.

I had failed to realise that the dimmer on this light was actually doing two jobs; dimming the lamp as well as stepping down from the (UK) mains 240VAC supply to a safer 12VAC operating power.  I had connected 240 Volts to a 12 Volt bulb!  What a simple mistake to make.  If I had simply inspected the dimmer more closely, I would have realised this.  The original sticker and badges on this lamp had long disappeared.  An important lesson, relearned.  Time for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The repair.

With the power back on, it was time to see what the original dimmer was doing.  Not much as it turned out and due to the tininess of the dimmer’s components and build type, I was unable to say why it had failed.  I suspect that one of the power sink control components (maybe a Zenner diode) had failed, causing an overload to the onboard one-time blow fuse.  However, that’s just an unproven theory.  The fact was that I now needed a replacement dimmer with step-down 240/12VAC capability.

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It turns out that only a couple of manufacturers make such a dimmer module and I chose one made by Relco as it seemed to match the original specification quite well.  It would have been tempting to convert the lamp to mains power and just fit a simple on/off switch, but I’m not keen on this as technically, the lamp would need to be re-subjected to British/ EN Standards, not something I was prepared to do.  Unless impossible otherwise, all kit leaving the workshop must be original specification or better.

With a new (correct) dimmer wired-in and replacement MR11 bulb fitted, the lamp came to life once more.  I’d also fitted a proper mains on/off switch, since the replacement dimmer did not have one.  The new switch would isolate the flow of power to the whole thing when not in use, hopefully prolonging the life of the dimmer module.

The owners of this lamp were very pleased to have it back as they had missed the lovely light patterns it projected on to their ceiling.

Horray for Henry!

A Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner gets the kiss of life…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Numatic ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a (to be exact).

There are times when only no-nonsense suck will do.  Other vacuum cleaners offer the moon on a stick, but rarely live up to the repeated abuse of everyday life.  Henry on the other hand is tough, no-nonsense and above all, reliable.

Reviewers of this kind of thing, seem to agree.

Make and model: Numatic International ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a

Fault reported: Dead/ not running

Cost of replacement: About £130, give or take

Cost of parts: £17.25

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Cleaning tools/ cross-head screwdriver

Sundry items: Silicone spray/ cleaning rags

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 bourbon, I think

I have friends in trades who will only buy and use Henry ‘hoovers’ as they last, always work and are easy to use. And above all, who doesn’t like an appliance with a smiley face?

The example in the picture above had been used by a local Worthing taxi driver everyday for the last 15 years without any problems and was in pretty good nick.  The filter was clean and apart from some wear and tear scratches, still looked like the current model.

One day, Henry failed to switch on and after the owner had checked the fuse in the plug, he decided to get in touch with the workshop.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Henry’s on switch.

The HVA200a has two speed settings, one at 600 Watts power and one at 1200 Watts power, selectable by a red switch and indicated in a red tell-tail lamp.  When plugged in, nothing was happening.

Time to perform surgery.

Opening up Henry’s casing was straightforward and top marks to the designers for creating sensible parts that fit together logically.  Henry is designed to last and be repaired.  All very pleasing.

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With the lid removed, all electrical checks were made from the plug to the end of the flex, down to the motor.  The flex was in good condition with no snags, shorts or earth faults.  The cable winder on this model is a simple handle operating spindle and was a bit sticky.  The contacts inside the gubbins were also tarnished, so while it was all in pieces, I decided to clean all of the electrical contacts with cleaner and make sure all the sliding parts of the cable winder were clean and had a small dab of silicone spray for smoothness.

Testing for current around the circuit revealed that the speed control board was where things stopped.  The speed control board was dead and required replacing.

To prove this fact, I was able to temporarily by-pass the controller and connect the mains switch to the motor, which revealed that the motor was strong.

A quick bit of shopping with my favourite parts suppliers yielded a replacement (updated) speed control PCB for under £20, which seemed like good value to me.  After making a note of the wiring (see slideshow), the new PCB was connected up, the casing back together and Henry was ready to run, once more.

I also decided to give Henry a little polish too, just because.

 

 

Check your plug! A simple Miele PowerLine Vacuum Cleaner repair

Mains plugs lead a hard life, make sure yours are safe. If they are damaged, replace!

Before and after…

A quick 15-minute job, with a satisfying result.

Sometimes, it’s not a complicated fault preventing an otherwise good machine from working.  It’s just a case of taking the plunge and getting stuck in as the owner of this vacuum cleaner had proved.

Make and model: Miele PowerLine Vacuum Cleaner

Fault reported: Not running/ occasional sparks(!)

Cost of replacement: About £139.99

Cost of parts: £0.00

Hours spent on repair: ¼

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver and soldering iron

Sundry items: Silicone spray, T-Cut

Repair difficulty: 1/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 Ginger Nut

 

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November ’19, Miele S5211 Vacuum Cleaner.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.  This machine had been working well when sparks began coming from the mains plug.  The owner had reacted quickly by turning off the power and then removing the plug from the wall socket.  Good job.

The owner then bought a new plug from a local hardware shop to replace the damaged (cracked) plastic plug fitted.  She then fitted the new plug to the vacuum cleaners’ flex but nothing happened when she switched it back on.  Frustrating!  It’s reassuring to hear that folk still bother to get screwdrivers out and attempt a repair.  It makes it all worthwhile.

When I saw the vacuum cleaner and heard the back story, I immediately inspected the plug wiring and spotted that a bit of insulation was still trapped on the live connecter, preventing the electrical connection.  30 seconds with a pair of cutters and a small flat blade screw driver and the machine was working again.

Me being me, I then decided to give the Miele’s plastic casing a quick polish with T-Cut and wax, to bring it up to the correct standard.

It made me think:  How often do people change plugs these days?  Not often.  So, if you’re wondering what the correct position of the wires should be, it’s this (UK specification).

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FixItWorkshop, November’19, UK plug – not my image.

General hints

  • Make sure all screws are tight
  • Ensure the cable grip clamps the cable insulation
  • Don’t trap wires in between the casing

If in any doubt, consult a friendly shed-dweller or spanner spinner.

Genuine or pattern parts? A Dyson DC40 gets a little tune-up.

Genuine or pattern parts? What to do!?

Article 100!

It’s a dilemma sometimes.  Should you always fit genuine replacement parts or is it OK to fit quality aftermarket or pattern parts.  My answer:  It depends.

Make and model: Dyson DC40

Fault reported: Torn hose and loss of suction

Cost of replacement: About £200.00

Cost of parts: £16.53 (hose and filters)

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Screwdrivers

Sundry items: Silicone spray, PTFE spray, rag

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: 1 McVities Gold Bar

A mate of mine contacted me to ask if it was worth fixing his 6 year old Dyson DC40 and as always, I said yes it was.  A couple of days later, it was working again, like new.

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FixItWorkshop, November’19, Dyson DC40.

The DC40 is still supported by Dyson and parts are readily available direct from them.  Problem is that, as my mate did, the price of some spares (although quite reasonable actually) can put some people off, which means that serviceable machinery can end up at the local dump, prematurely.  Which is a shame.

This is where pattern parts can help.  Often, aftermarket manufacturers will make spares for popular models and the advantage of these is that they are often much cheaper than the original part.  However, it’s not as simple as that.

I’ve fixed 100s if not 1000s of things and have used and continue to use a mixture of genuine original (often called OE or Original Equipment) and pattern parts for different reasons.  Assuming original equipment parts are the best, here are my thoughts, in no particular order, to help you if facing a similar dilemma.

In favour of pattern parts:

  • They can make a repair viable, financially
  • Parts can be available, long after original parts become obsolete
  • They can provide enhanced features that were not part of the original design

In favour of genuine/ original equipment parts:

  • They will fit exactly as the specification will be to the original design
  • They maintain manufacturers warranties, where applicable
  • They normally last well and perform as expected

As a further example, I will only fit genuine water pumps (on car engines) but will fit pattern air filters.  Water pumps must work within very exact performance tolerances whereas air filters, although important, don’t so much.  It’s a personal thing at the end of the day.

Back to the repair.  This Dyson wasn’t picking up dirt and the extension hose was torn, so a new hose was ordered from a supplier on eBay for under £10, a genuine part was over £25.  The hose just clicks out and in, so all that was required was a small flat bladed screwdriver to remove and refit the hose.  Nice and easy.

The next job was to sort out the lack of suction.  As with all Dysons with a problem like this, I always check filters.  As suspected, both filters were expired and needed to be replaced as they were too far gone to be washed.  Again, pattern part filters were available on eBay for under £7, genuine ones were much dearer.  All new parts fitted well and soon the vacuum cleaner was breathing easily again.

Another issue with the DC40 is the switch lever which diverts suction from the beater head to the hose, which was sticking on this machine.  A quick clean up and a small spray of silicone spray on all the moving parts had it all working again.

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I always clean-up the beaters on any vacuum cleaner in for a service and this one seemed to have half a head of hair stuck in it, which would have impeded performance.  The hair was so bad, I had to remove the beaters (just one screw) and cut off the hair with a knife.

With all the remedial work completed, the Dyson ran well proving once again that it’s usually worth repairing, rather than replacing.

 

Minimum Cash for a Maxi Micro Scooter

A Maxi Scooter Gets a Refresh!

Before and after…

This is exactly the kind of job that I should have done with my daughter, but I had to do this repair in secret on this occasion as the scooter was to be a present for her.

Birthdays can be expensive times, but Dad is a shed-dwelling-repair-mad-penny-pinching fiend and it means that his children’s presents don’t need to be new. Take this Micro Maxi Scooter. £129.99 when new, second-hand for £10. Wheelie good value.

However, a £10 Micro Scooter isn’t going to be as fresh as one costing £129.99 is it, so time for a few service items and light renovation.

Make and model: Micro Maxi Scooter

Fault reported: Tatty, noisy wheels, brake rattles

Cost of replacement: About £129.99

Cost of parts: £16.68 (bearings, grips and tassels)

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Allen keys, screwdriver, drill

Sundry items: Silicone spray, PTFE spray, rag

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 0 (I was being good for a change)

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It’s amazing what a bit of spit and polish, mixed with a little elbow grease can achieve. A rattily, untidy Micro scooter that might have end up at the tip prematurely is now as good as new, thanks to some time spent and basic new parts, which only cost just over £16, or just over 10% of the value when new.

Rattily wheels

The four wheels on this model can take a pounding as kids take their scooters off kerbs and through puddles, just as they should. But the small bearings that allow the wheels to spin freely and smoothly can suffer with age and wear. Due to sensible design, the bearings fitted are readily available online and a complete set can bought for a fiver. After removing the wheels using an Allen key, the old bearings simply pop out using a large screwdriver and the new ones can be pushed in using your thumbs or a small vice. If you do this job yourself, don’t forget to clean all of the surfaces with a rag and something like WD40.

Tatty grips

The grips on older scooters can get mucky and after oil and sunshine have worked on them, they tend to suffer with discolouration and cracking. Again, the handle bars are a standard size and you won’t have any trouble sourcing the official replacements or aftermarket replacements

Noisy brake

The brakes on these scooters tend to become noisy with use as the small steel rivets rust and become lose with time. Although this issue doesn’t affect operation generally, it sounds horrible. On this scooter I decided to drill-out the existing rusty rivets and after a quick clean up, replace them with some alloy alternatives. These look better and will last much longer.

During this repair, I couldn’t do much about the chipped Micro Scooter logo, but even a new one would end up like this example after 5 minutes use!

A very satisfying repair and something any parent could do with their kids at home using basic tools.

Is 12 years too long to keep a toothbrush?

A Braun Oral-B electric toothbrush gets a new lease of life.

Let’s just clarify one thing straightaway; I’m talking about an electric toothbrush with changeable brush heads.

I was given an Oral-B/ Braun electric toothbrush as a birthday present years ago, which when you think about it, is a bit of a strange thing to receive as a gift.  Maybe the gift contained a hint?  Back then, these toothbrushes were not cheap, starting at about £60.00 if I remember correctly.  Today, a new equivalent is quite a bit cheaper.

In the time I’ve owned it, it’s had about 40 new brush heads and it’s just about to start it’s third non-replaceable battery.

Make and model:  Oral-B/ Braun 3756 931 41306

Fault reported: Battery won’t hold charge

Cost of replacement:  About £20.00

Cost of parts:  £6.60

Hours spent on repair:  1

Tools needed:  Small flat-bladed screwdriver, soldering iron

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty:  5/10

Cups of tea:  2

Biscuits:  2 Gingernuts

Electrical items with non-replaceable batteries are so annoying.

A message to manufacturers:  There’s simply no excuse for it as all batteries are replaceable.

In my experience, items with ‘non-replaceable batteries’ contain entirely replaceable items.  The batteries might not be standard ‘AA’ items, but there’s a host of online suppliers that are ready to supply just about any power cell for any application, you name it, usually for a reasonable price that costs-in for the repair process.

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Now, I don’t know how long one of these toothbrushes is meant to last, but as a long-term test, I thought it would be interesting to find out.  After the first battery died, I decided to take the toothbrush apart, to see what was going on inside.

As you can see from the photos, there’s more within than one might think.  There’s a switch, charging circuit, timer circuit, over-pressure circuit, gearbox, motor, mini crankshafts and a battery.  Not to mention all of the tiny connecting parts all neatly engineered to work together, reliably.  It’s a small work of art really.

It makes me very sad that most of these toothbrushes will end up in landfill, after a few years.

The designers had clearly designed this toothbrush as a disposable item as the battery, despite being readily available from spares suppliers, was hidden, out of sight, under all of the gubbins.

To extract the battery (a simple nickel cadmium item) a full dismantle was required, in this order.

  • Prise off the top collar
  • Prise off the bottom cap
  • Pull out the main mechanism
  • De-solder the main pressure switch, charging coil, LED, and some other joints,
  • Take PCB off of battery carrier,
  • Split battery barrier from the main motor area
  • Remember the polarity of the battery, negative near the coil (a misleading ‘+’ there)
  • Reassembly, with the new battery is the same in reverse.  See pictures for hints.

Twelve years down the line and now on its third battery cell, the toothbrush is still going strong which proves that with a little tinkering, disposable items can be repaired and made to last longer.

It’s just a shame that Braun, the manufacturer, decided to ignore any notion of consumer maintenance.

 

 

A broken massage belt, with a happy ending…

An Invitalis Massage Belt gets a simple repair at the workshop.

I was asked to repair a personal massage belt recently, which had developed an annoying habit of cutting out, mid-treatment.  Over email, I confessed that I did not know what a massage belt was, but was reassured that is was used to treat lower back ailments and nothing more personal.  Phew.

Make and model:  Invitalis Vitalymed Flexi massage belt

Fault reported: Cutting out

Cost of replacement:  About £40.00

Cost of parts:  £1.29

Hours spent on repair:  1

Tools needed:  Small flat-bladed screwdriver, soldering iron

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty:  2/10

Cups of tea:  1

Biscuits:  1 Goldbar

 

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Invitalis Vitalymed Flexi massage belt.

These devices are sold on Amazon and are usually available at events, such as the Ideal Home Exhibition and alike.  This belt offers the wearer a lower back massage by means of two rotating arms with smooth spheres, hidden behind a soft pad.  The spheres also emit infra-red, if required.

I don’t know much about this kind of thing, but I had noticed that the power cable for the belt was a standard female 12VDC connector, used on many types of domestic equipment.

With the power applied and with some wiggling, the belt would occasionally come on and then fail, indicating a loose connection.  The trick here was to find out where.

The belt is zipped together and access to the wiring was easy.  The belt’s power connector ran to a switch/mode box and then on to the motors and other gizmos within (see photos in slideshow).

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After cutting into the cable, testing continuity, I found two problems; A break within one of the cable cores and a faulty female power connector.  Luckily, connectors like this are abundant and a quick look on eBay revealed lots for under £2, delivered.  As it happens, I bought a high-quality connector and flying lead, intended for a CCTV camera, to fit the belt.

The last step was to reconnect some good cable, reconnect the new connector and make good with soldered joints and heat shrink, to keep everything nice and tidy.  Before I solder things, I always make sure I’ve not cross-wired anything, by proving continuity with a multimeter.  In the past, one has been known to blow things up by not taking this sensible approach!

After reassembly, it was just a case of powering up and switching on.  Gladly, I hadn’t crossed any cables and it now worked again, happily ever after.