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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Smoky Kenwood Chef A901E

Another Chef enters the workshop with a smoking habit that’s hard to kick.

Top tips for keeping your Chef running smoothly, for longer:

  • Keep all moving parts free from dirt and old cake mix
  • If the feet are squashed, change them.  The gap allows airflow to the motor
  • Keep the hinge mechanism lightly lubricated
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19.  Kenwood Chef A901E (1980’s model)

This A901E Chef had a developed a smoking habit.  Due to age, one of the capacitors had failed on the speed control circuitry making a lot of smoke while in use.  An adjacent resistor had also split in half during the failure.

Despite a smoky situation, there was hope for the Chef.

Removing the motor on these mixers is pretty straightforward.  Just remove the blender accessory power take off cover and remove some screws.  Lift up the top half of the mixer on the hinge and you’ll get access to the base of the motor area.  After you’ve removed the belt, the motor should come out.  There’s a bit more to it actually, but there isn’t much holding that motor in.

The later A901E features a better speed control circuit than the earlier A901 and it’s also made on proper circuit board, rather than just soldered-together components.

With this machine, the correct repair kit was obtained and fitted, so the circuit was as good as new and wouldn’t smoke anymore.

I treated this Chef’s motor to new motor brushes since the old ones were worn.  I also fitted new feet, as the existing ones were squashed and one was completely missing.

I was about to sign the job off , when I noticed a small tear in the outer cable flex.  I couldn’t let the Chef out of the workshop like that, so I had to replace it with a new piece.

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After some fettling, the machine was running like clockwork, once again.

Cost of replacement:  £000s.  Cost of repair:  £12.74 plus my time and several ginger nut biscuits.

JD Bug Scooter gets a light service

A bit of TLC to bring a scooter back from the brink.

We were very lucky to be given a ‘micro style’ JD Bug scooter for one of the kids, by a kind neighbour.  It features mini wheels, a solid metal foldable frame, which makes for easy portability and height adjustable handles.  It’s easy to see why loads of kids have these scooters as they’re easy to ride and very manoeuvrable.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, JD Bug Scooter.

This one had been well used, but had been kept clean and tidy.  However, before issuing it to the child concerned, it needed a few ‘bugs’ addressing.

First and foremost was the wheels.  Both wheels are fitted with standard skateboard bearings (a total of four).  Both wheels were noisy and tight when spun, which would affect speed and handling of the scooter.  Now, I might eventually change the bearings as they’re pretty cheap and easy to obtain, but for now, I just removed the wheels, popped out the bearings and regreased them, once I’d removed the dust cover.  Refitted, they sounded much better.

Next was the frame and the locking mechanism.  It was rattly and weighward which again would have affected handling.  After a light application of spray white grease and a small adjustment to the lock, the frame was much more rigid.

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The last thing was the headstock, which is similar to those found on a bicycle.  This one sounded hideous and clearly had no lubrication whatsoever.  Again, access was straightforward and just involved basic tools, although I did have to dig out my 36mm spanner- serious stuff.  Just a couple of pinch clamps and two locking nuts held the headstock together and after a clean up with penetrating oil, an oily rag and some new grease, it was as good as new.

So after some light TLC, this scooter was ready for another child to enjoy, for little cash.

Cost of replacement:  £40.00  Cost of repair:  Some oil, grease and a bit of fettling, one cuppa.

Kenwood Chef repair: Real time video

A Chef repair gets it’s own video!

I carry out a few Kenwood Chef repairs a year and usually, they can be brought back to full health with simple tools and repair components.  I’ve not had a faulty Chef brought in to the workshop which hasn’t left ready for service.  Yet.

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Fixitworkshop, March’19, Kenwood Chef A901 with a repaired motor.

One common theme with all older machines is that the motor speed control circuitry can fail which either manifests itself with symptoms including, but not restricted to; electrical burning smells and smoke, the motor not running smoothly or not running at all.  While the failure of a Kenwood Chef may look spectacular when it happens, the repair is fairly straightforward, if you have some basic skills, tools and some patience.

This particular A901 came in with four faults; poor feet condition, cracked cowling, the speed control knob was loose and once I opened up the motor unit to look further, burned-out capacitors.

To some, this list of faults might seem a bit daunting, but it’s standard fare on a Chef of this age and to be expected after thirty plus years service.  Due to the excellent design of the product, the faults are all repairable with commonly available parts.

After about an hours’ work, the feet were replaced, the motor circuitry repaired and the replacement cowling refitted.  The speed control knob had come away from the motor body and only required the pin that held it in place ‘pressing’ back in to the housing, resulting in one happy mixer.

One of my aims on this website is to share my experience and best practice so for the first time, I made a video of the complete motor repair in real-time.  So, if you have a Chef to repair and twenty minutes, grab yourself some popcorn, a notepad and pen and enjoy.

Cost of replacement:  £150.00 and up.  Cost of repair: £30 plus my time and tea.

Leave the light on…

A Philips outdoor wall lamp with a major case of built-in obsolescence, gets a cheap fix.

A mate of mine mentioned that his outdoor wall light had given-up-the-ghost, despite not being more than three years old.  He’d put them up around his house as part of an extension and exterior restoration project.  The trouble was that despite only being a few years old, the product now seemed to be discontinued.  This meant that, should the lamp need to be replaced, he would need to replace all of them (three in this case) to keep them matching.  Annoying quite frankly.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, working.

He’d read that the bulb within the Philips lamp was not replaceable, in which case a faulty lamp would render the whole thing broken, which seemed very daft to me.  Items made in such a way that prevents even the most basic of repair get me very annoyed.  Sometimes an item is developed in such a way for safety reasons but I suspect that most of the time, the motive is just pure greed.  It’s such a shame.

At my mate’s house, over a cup of tea, I removed the lamp from the wall to take back to the workshop, to see what Philips had been getting up to.

Opening up the casing was straightforward, just a few simple screws and retaining nuts holding the casing together, before finally revealing the bulb itself, under a lamp diffuser.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, lamp unit.

The bulb/ lamp unit itself appeared to be a custom/ bespoke disc light, that wasn’t user serviceable.  It had blown and there was evidence of scorching on a few of the LEDs, linked in series, indicating the failure of the entire circuit.

I couldn’t find any replacement disc LEDs suitable for the lamp from any of the usual sources, which I expected.  It could be that Philips can supply a replacement disc, but this was not evident on their website.

Not wanting to be beaten by a bespoke part, I thought about what else might work, within the lamp’s enclosure, to have the same effect.  I had a spare GU9 LED bulb, about the same brightness, sitting on the shelf, left over from another project which was going spare, so I set about fitting it in the space.

The generic GU9 bulb, available from most hardware shops, fitted in the existing disc mounting bracket, with a small modification and once connected to the lamp’s circuitry, worked well, albeit with a slightly warmer glow.

In case anyone else has the same problem, I made a little video of the repair.  I hope it gives others inspiration if faced with a similar problem.

Cost of replacement (with something similar): £50.00.  Cost of repair:  £1.50 for the bulb and a couple of Belgian beers for my time.

 

Karcher WV50 avoids the bin, just

An alternative, cheaper, motor fix.

My dad donated a rather sick Karcher WV50 window vacuum, water sucky-uppy-thing which he’d taken half way to the bin before thinking, I know, I’ll give it to Matt.

How thoughtful.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Karcher WV50 Window Vac, in bits.

The vacuum sucky-uppy-thing worked of sorts, but when operated, made a noise not to dissimilar to a distressed cat riding a trolley with wobbly wheels, if you get what I mean.  I wish I’d recorded it.

Anyway, opening up the WV50 was pretty straightforward.  Just several crossed-head screws held the two plastic halves of the unit together, revealing a simple electronic board, battery, switch, motor and fan with exhaust.

The principle of the WV50 is the same as any other domestic vacuum cleaner.  A fan drives air in one direction through a smaller hole (exhaust) creating a vacuum, in this case at a small wiper blade for glass cleaning.  Water is then drawn towards the fan, with the vacuum created and then diverted to a holding tank, for emptying later.

The tank on this product is quite crude and I suspect that should it be knocked over, the water within the tank could spill over in to the exhaust and in to the motor.  This is what I suspected had happened and caused the motor bearing on this device to wear excessively, causing the noise.

The cost of a motor and fan replacement on the WV50 was about £30.00 (where I saw them listed) but this would make the repair un-economical.  After an email conversation with Mabuchi, the makers of the motor, the original equipment K-280SA-3525, unique to the WV50, was no longer being made.

I don’t like being ‘beaten’, but having spent far too much time with batteries, bulbs and motors as a child than is entirely healthy, I realised that the casing and bearing on the K-280SA-3525 was pretty standard fare and if the spindle on our motor was OK, then all that would be required would be a new bearing.  It turned out that the spindle and motor brushes were OK, so I ordered a same size motor from eBay, via a very efficient and friendly Chinese electronics specialist with the intention of swapping the motor body and bearing over.

The motor arrived quickly and the transplant only took a few minutes.  Once reassembled, the motor and fan sounded like new once again.  A nice cheap fix, to keep this vacuum cleaning windows for another day.

I even made a short video, showing what I did.  Enjoy.

Cost of replacement: £50.00 (equivalent model)  Cost of repair: £1.50, some international emails and a couple of cuppas.  Nice.

 

A Challenge Circular Saw

A tool gets saved from the bin!

I had a slightly unusual request to do a ‘bit of soldering’ on a circular saw recently.  As I’m not one to say no to a broken item, I said “yes, I’ll have a look” as I was intrigued.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Challenge Xtreme Circular Saw.

This Challenge Xtreme Circular Saw was working fine, but the spring-loaded safety guard had split at one of the ends and was now dangerous to use.

I guess this saw was originally sold at the ‘budget’ end of the market and some of the materials used on it were light-weight to say the least.  But having said all that, for light use, this saw was a very good tool with features like a laser to guide cutting.

The guard was made of a ‘mazak’ style alloy, which would have been pressed together at the factory and therefore quite difficult to re-attach.  Definitely not for soldering, welding or brazing.

I could have used a chemical metal compound as a glue or even epoxy resin, but in the end, I opted for making a simple couple of neat drilled holes with a small cable tie to bring the separated halves together, a neat mechanical and cheap fix to get the tool usable once more.  Sometimes, simple is best.

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Cost of replacement: £40.00 Cost of repair:  One cable tie. One cup of tea.