Swan tea urn off the boil

A cheap fix gets this essential tea making machine back in business…

I admit it. I do get some satisfaction when I divert an appliance, on a journey to the bin, to my workshop for repair.  I have been known to collect the odd item from skips or just dumped on the pavement while supposed to be doing something more productive. I think I just feel sorry for things. Weird, but true.

Make and model: Swan Hot Water Tea 20L Urn

Fault reported: Not staying hot

Cost of replacement: £80ish

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts: £1.70

Hours spent on repair: 45 minutes

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: Cleaning materials, heat transfer solution

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: X1

Biscuits: Malted Milk X1

This Swan hot water tea urn was one of those items.  Spotted during an office reorganisation in the ‘scrap pile’, it had been put there as it wasn’t working properly and a new one had now been ordered.

IMG_20200621_214203
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, Swan Hot Water Urn… shiny!

 

Being fairly light-fingered, I spirited the urn away to the workshop for some tinker time.  Not strictly staff policy, but you know, seek forgiveness after etc.

An urn is really just a big kettle.  This one has an all metal 20 litre tank with bar-style tap to brew up, when needed.  There are no real controls as such; just an on/off switch with neon light and two tell-tail lights to indicate boil and keep warm.  Keep warm is usually on all the time when switched on.

The fault seemed to be that the urn reached boiling temperature when switched on, but then switched off totally, allowing the water to cool again excessively.  Timing the switching intervals of the thermostat, 20 minutes or so, and a 15-200 hysteresis confirmed a fault. There was also no ‘keep warm’ green light on, when in use.  To push the thermostat further, I poured cold water into the urn to see if that sped up switching between hot and cold, it didn’t.

Opening up the urn’s base involved just three screws, allowing access to all components.  Such a nice change to not have layers of covers and things to move out of the way first!

Checking the wiring out for logic revealed that someone had been here before! The wiring was incorrect and the ‘keep hot’ element was not wired up correctly and effectively not in circuit with the power source. A small wiring change corrected this and meant that the ‘keep warm’ element was now working again.

The thermal reset fuse/ button seemed to be working OK- proved with a test meter and the thermostat did seem to switch on and off, albeit with excessive hysteresis.  Time to fit another one! Luckily, these thermostats are very common and I managed to get one from eBay, rated at 1000 (a couple of degrees over the one fitted) for less than £2. Fitting a new thermostat only involved a couple of screws, a light smear of heat transfer solution and reconnecting back into the wiring harness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With all wiring back in place and the cover refitted, it was time to test and brew up.  This time, the urn boiled, switched off and then stayed warm on the secondary ‘keep warm’ circuit.  To prove that the new thermostat was an improvement, I then topped up the urn with cold water and within 5 seconds, the thermostat clicked in and the boiling process started again.

Time for a brew.

(PS, the urn has now returned to its normal place of work)

Dinner will be served in a flash…

A Tulip A350T Electric Rice Cooker is repaired

IMG_2609
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20, Tulip A350T 12Y1EI (to be exact).

I particularly enjoy receiving something to fix that I’ve never come across before.  Indeed, I’d never used an electric rice cooker, let alone heard of Tulip, the manufacturer of this example.  To be frank, I haven’t often thought about the popularity of electric rice cookers in general as an additional labour-saving device in the kitchen.  Clearly, I must be slipping.

This actual machine was a family treasure, which had moved around a bit and had originally been purchased in Holland and had since been converted from using a standard Euro plug to IEC/ kettle UK mains plug at some point.  All very interesting you say (maybe), but how did it end up in my workshop?

Make and model: Tulip A350T Electric Rice Cooker

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £30

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts: £2.00

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter, heat shrink, looped crimps etc

Sundry items: Cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: Custard Cream X 2

After many years of reliable service, poor old ‘Tulip’ decided it had had enough of boiling up pilau rice and assorted vegetables and conked out.  When the owner tried to switch the cooker on, nothing happened, no light, no heat, no hope.

Most people would then usually have thrown in the towel, reached for their phone and within a couple of clicks, bought a new one on Amazon to be delivered the next day.

Perhaps it was the thought of poor old Tulip being crushed in the scrap metal pile at the tip which made the owner go online and find my website of strange domestic appliance tales instead of Amazon*…  But I’m glad they did.  *other online electrical retailers are available!

The machine is basically a large kettle with a removable bowl that holds whatever you wish to cook.  It has a thermostat for temperature regulation, a switch to change modes (cook/warm) and a safety cut-out mechanism, should something go wrong.  It was this safety system which had operated and caused the machine to fail-safe.

The design of the machine is quite simple, dare I say crude in places.  Within a few minutes, I had removed the base, exposing the wiring, switch, thermostat and other gubbins.

The earth bonding cable had melted which was the first alarm bell to ring.  Digging a little closer, the main issue revealed itself.  The heat-proof insulation on the ‘over heat’ one-shot thermal fuse had shorted out via a cracked piece of wiring on the metal casing of the unit.  Surprisingly, this had not overloaded the main plug fuse, but had heated the thermal fuse and had blown that instead.  Flash-bang, kaput.

The cooker’s switch, thermostat, element and other wiring checked out OK, so it was now worth fixing the failed system.

After purchasing a suitable replacement thermal fuse for a couple of quid, I set about installing this in place of the failed one, taking the time to upgrade the wiring harness with heat shrink to avoid a short again in future.  I removed the damaged earth and replaced it with fresh wire, securing it on to a better earth-bonded location and after some careful wire re-routing and fettling, the base of the machine was ready to be re-attached, ready for testing.  With the cooking bowl full of water and power applied, the ‘cook’ light lit up and the machine started to work.  Utter joy.  After a few cycles of heating and warming, I was satisfied that my work was done.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even though this device wasn’t marked as such, it’s a metal bodied Class One device here in the UK and ideally required a thorough integrety test of the safety system.  Using my newly-acquired Megger PAT150 tester, I was able to prove that the machine was compliant with current UK legislation for Portable Appliance Testing.  Ricely done.

 

 

 

Magic Lamp

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

IMG_20200206_210036
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Cold GHD hair straighteners

GHD 4.2b hair straighteners with a new fuse.

Someone got in touch with a set of GHD 4.2B hair straighteners, which wouldn’t warm up.  Not even the light would come on.

Make and model:  GHD 4.2b hair straighteners

Cost of replacement:  £85.00

Cost of parts:  £2.89 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  5/10

IMG_9120

 These older hair straighteners are well supported with spare parts and their design means that, with a systematic approach and basic test gear, the fault can be identified and parts replaced, fairly easily.

The thermal fuse on these straighteners can fail, even though the heating elements and associated wiring and circuitry is just fine.  A combination of age and accidental rough handling can affect the life of the fuse, so it was the first thing I checked on these straighteners.

It was first time lucky in this case.  The fuse tested open-circuit.  To prove that the rest of the circuit was working, I made a temporary short circuit to the fuse connection and the straighteners powered up OK.

Time to order a new fuse.  Using an eBay shop (SiriusHairUK), a fuse was ordered and it arrived very quickly, great service.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With the fuse re-fitted and the heating element re-installed the rest of the hair straighteners were ready for reassembly.  Using basic tools, the straighteners went back together well and after final testing, they were ready for use again.

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Problems

The right formula for a poorly Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine

The owner of this Perfect Prep machine had reported that it had not been used for a while, then filled with water, powered up and … nothing.

Make and model:  Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep

Cost of replacement:  £70

Cost of parts:  £3.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  6/10

IMG_8972
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’18, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep.

I’ve repaired a machine like this before and I already had a theory about the problem, which went like this:

  • Machine not used for a while; watery scale deposits built-up in machine
  • Machine filled with water, with possible air-lock present
  • Air-lock causes bubble in heater, causing it to temporarily over-heat, safety thermal fuses blow

Dead machine.

At this stage, it was only a theory, so the only thing to do was to start wielding screwdrivers.

A few quick checks revealed that mains power was not getting to the main controller in the machine, which indicated that the safety thermal cut-out fuses had failed.  There are two on this machine.  A quick test with the multi-meter confirmed that both had failed.

After some dismantling, both fuses could be removed from the wiring harness.  Fuses like these are not available from the high street usually, but they are readily available online.  The manufacturer had used crimps to attach the fuses to the wiring, but I decided to solder the new ones back in place.  Care had to be taken as the melting point of solder is very close to the thermal rating of the fuses, so I came up with the idea of using a damp cloth wrapped around the fuse while doing the soldering.  A bit tricky!

Both fuses replaced meant that the unit powered-up and worked.  Great.

However, I wasn’t totally convinced that an air-lock wouldn’t happen again so I looked deeper at the machine’s plumbing.  There appeared to be a kink in one of the boiler tube feed pipes, so I decided to cut some material away, to prevent the pipe restricting water flow in future.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All back together, the machine worked well once again.

 

The heat is on…

Dimplex DX300T heater gets repaired in the workshop.

I acquired this Dimplex heater as the previous owner had reported that it had tripped their electrics and smelled of burning, it was perfect material for the workshop.  The owner had given up on it and I felt like I could give it a second chance.  This is the usual way we end up with much of the stuff in our home.

Now, this heater is only a few years old and on the face of it, it looked in reasonable condition, with just a couple of scratches, so it would be a shame if I couldn’t get it working.

With electrical faults like this, I always check the basics; the condition of the flex and mains plug etc.  I then measure for resistance to earth from either live or neutral to see if there has been any electrical shorts, that would have triggered the reported fuse incident.  All clear.

Through the top heat vent, I had a quick look at the inside of the heater to see if any stray paperclips or other metallic item had found its way to the heating element or wiring creating an electrical problem, again, all clear.

Upon checking the mains plug again, something didn’t seem quite right.  It felt a little ‘warped’.  I’d already checked the fuse for continuity via the live and neutral (there was resistance), but it was time to take it out to have a proper look.  The plug on this heater was a ‘moulded-on’ type, with no screws and the fuse carrier was accessible from the outside, should it need replacing.  Upon levering the fuse holder out, the plastic carrier sheared off, revealing burned plastic and signs of melting.  The plug was toast.

I decided to break the plug cover off and see what was going on.  The plug had ‘run hot’ for some time causing the casing to melt and smoulder and the excess heat had probably caused excess resistance, exacerbating the problem, making the previous owners’ electrics to go pop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With the cover ‘broken off’ the plug, I was then able to cut back the internal connections and remove the cable from the mouldings, without sacrificing the cable length, which was a good job as the flex was quite short anyway.

I always keep a few replacement ‘quality’ mains plugs in the workshop for occasions like this, as not all moulded plugs are terribly well made and the melted one I had here was a good example of what can happen when the quality of the plug can’t match the potential current flow required.  The heater is rated at 3K Watts (max), which would mean a current of 12.5 Amps, which is close to the 13 Amps fuse fitted.  Poor quality materials and connectors would generate excess resistance and therefore heat.  The resistance was probably detected by the sophisticated minature circuit breaker in the previous owners’ electrics board, which was a good job as who knows what could have happend if the plug had been next to something flamable.

With a new plug fitted, the old fuse re-fitted, the heater sprung to life and didn’t seem to draw excess current when checked.  A nice cheap fix and I didn’t even have to take the heater apart.

Cost of a replacement heater:  £50 (circa)  Cost of repair:  One cup of tea.

Tommee Tippee (not so) Perfect Prep

A formula machine is repaired in the workshop.

This fix was actually carried out during the summer, 2018.

A friend of mine brought over a broken formula making machine for me to look at.  It had been stored after their first child had out-grown it and since having another baby, it was now needed again, urgently.  Following a couple of years in storage, it was brought out, plugged in and after briefly coming on, it failed.  No lights, no hope.

These machines save time and effort by allowing water to be heated rapidly and mixed exactly with the formula powder, to produce consistent results every time, perfect for new exhausted parents in the middle of the night. So it was important that I got this working quickly.

IMG_6428
FixItWorkshop, Jan’19, Worthing, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine

After removing the back, I was presented with an electronic control unit, some solenoid valves and a heater, plus some other environmental sensors such as thermostats.  The plug fuse was OK, so it was time to check if power was getting to the machine.  It wasn’t.

This machine features a couple of power control devices; two  thermal aluminium ‘can-style’ fuses in-line with the heater, plus a thermostat on the output of the heater itself (to regulate heat).  After testing for continuity, it appeared that one of the can fuses had failed.

These fuses are common across a wide range of appliances, such as coffee machines, fans etc and are cheap, just a few pounds.  It could be that a temporary air-lock in the heater caused a hot-spot and therefore that excess heat caused the 172 degree fuse to pop.  It was worth a try to replace it and see what happened.

I replaced the fuse and re-assembled.  After filling with water and powering it up, normal service was resumed.

Since I replaced the fuse, the machine has been in continuous service for many months, so I can conclude that it was probable that the over heating was temporary.

I created a short video to help others who may have similar problems with their machine.

Cost of a new machine:  £90.  Cost of repair: a few quid and a few beers.

 

 

Parrot BeBop Drone knocked off perch

Sadly, I couldn’t save this Parrot

I seem to be having a run of failed repairs at the moment and while it’s disappointing to write-up a repair that didn’t succeed, it’s important to learn from failure.

A colleague asked me to look at a Parrot camera drone recently as one of the drone’s motors wasn’t running correctly.  The fault developed after a visit to a lake where it got a little wet.  It turns out that this model isn’t water-proof, despite the £300.00 price tag!

After drying out, when powered back up, one of the four motors wouldn’t spin at full speed.  These motors seem to operate in several phased windings and it would appear that one of the motor’s phases was missing.

WP_20170831_08_25_23_Pro
FixItWorkshop, Aug’17, Parrot BeBop drone

Upon opening up the drone, I discovered that the PCB had indeed suffered water damage along its main processor.  However, three of the motors were fine and camera was working OK.

The double-sided printed circuit board (PCB) presented me with a dilemma.  This PCB was fitted with extra tiny components and multi-layered board technology, presumably to save weight and cost, so a repair using conventional soldering techniques was unlikely to get good results as the excessive heat would more than likely damage other components.  Located near the wiring connector that connects to the motor that wasn’t working properly, were several tiny surface mount fuses, one of which appeared to have failed.  Assuming I could locate the right component, attempting a repair on a PCB like this would more than likely yield a molten mess! At this stage I could have used a conductive glue to bond in a new component or temporarily bridge the fuse, but on the basis that I couldn’t guarantee a repair and the fact that there seemed to be water ingress to the whole PCB, I decided that a complete PCB replacement was probably needed.  Sadly, I had to return the drone back to the owner with the bad news.

Pump, ready for the dump

This asthmatic car tyre pump came in to the workshop with little going for it.  The owner had been very close to throwing it away when he came across my website.

This AirMan pump is designed to be plugged in to a car’s cigarette lighter socket and provide quick and convenient car tyre inflation.  This one was dead.

On first inspection, the fuse was OK, the switch seemed to work and all connections seemed sound, when tested with a multi-meter.

IMG_3604.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’17 AirMan Car Tyre Pump, repaired

Off with the cover…

IMG_3598.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’17 AirMan Car Tyre Pump, repaired- cover removed

When the motor was removed from the cam driving the piston, the bit that drives the pump, it spun freely when power was applied, using a battery in the workshop.

IMG_3588.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’17 AirMan Car Tyre Pump, repaired- gear wheel

Seemingly, the centre spindle was protruding far beyond it’s specified reach, causing the pump connection rod to it it during rotation.  Why?  To be frank, I wasn’t sure. I can only surmise that the vibration and heat had caused the flywheel/ toothed drive to slide outside of specification.

IMG_3596.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’17 AirMan Car Tyre Pump, repaired- washer

There appeared to be room for a small washer to take up the excess space, so I fitted one I had lying around.

IMG_3597.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’17 AirMan Car Tyre Pump, repaired- pump now in line with washer

The washer, once fitted, allowed the flywheel/ toothed drive to sit ‘square’ in-line with the pump.

Once resembled, the pump ran freely and was ready to inflate, once more.

Cost of a new pump, circa £20.  Cost of the washer, circa 5p.

Sterling Power Products Pure Sine Wave Inverter repaired

Inverter, repaired in the workshop

For those wondering what an ‘inverter’ is, let me give a quick explanation:  It allows one to use a mains operated device on the move, using a power supply from a motor-home, car or boat, as an example.  An inverter ‘inverts’ a smaller voltage to a larger one, usually for most applications.  Most inverters sold turn either 12 or 24VDC to 240VAC or 110VAC.

IMG_3517.JPG
FixItWorkshop, April’17, Worthing, Sterling Power Products Pure Sine Wave Inverter Pro Power SB 600W

The owner of this one had accidentally connected the input wires the wrong way around, effectively reversing the polarity.  Not good.  Upon hearing a little ‘pop’ the owner quickly disconnected the power!

Having never worked on an inverter before, I turned to the manufacturer for advice.  Sterling Power (UK) were not able to supply any product information on the phone nor via email and were generally not very helpful at all.  They did offer a very reasonable 25% discount on a replacement, but were not able to offer much else to save the one I had in the workshop.  Never mind.

Back to the problem.  Checking the basics, the ‘accident’ had appeared to knocked-out three 25A soldered PCB fuses.  Temporarily by-passing the fuses revealed a working unit, so replacing the defective fuses was a good idea at a very reasonable £1.50.

The fuses are mini-blade 25A automotive fuses.  Once removed and the new ones soldered in place, the unit worked once more.

Cost of parts, £1.50, cost of replacement unit, circa £160.00.

I’ve also covered this repair overview in a video:  https://youtu.be/nmnSRwQdSvY