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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Qualcast strimmer issues

Always keep your garden tidy.

Top tips for keeping your petrol strimmer running like a ‘Rolls Royce’

  • Make sure the fuel you have in the tank is fresh and not from three years ago (it goes off)
  • Keep the spark plug gap set within the manufacturer’s tolerances
  • Lubricate all moving parts lightly with a generic spray oil each time you use the strimmer
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Qualcast Petrol Strimmer.

Someone got in touch with a strimmer that would not start.  Anything that involves moving parts and petrol always gets my attention, so I accepted the challenge.  Once in the workshop, I tried to start it using the pull cord and as predicted, it wouldn’t run, not even a cough.  A little bit of carb cleaner sprayed in to the barrel, a pull of the starter cord and the engine did fire, suggesting that the engine could run.  More analysis was required.

The strimmer had not been started for many years, so the first job was to remove the old fuel from the tank as old fuel goes off after a while. The engine on this strimmer is a two-stroke design, so the special two-stroke oil must be pre-mixed with the fuel in the right proportion before re-filling the tank.

While sorting the fuel out, I noticed the first fault.  Both flow and return fuel pipes were cracked and one had come apart in the fuel tank, meaning that no fuel would flow to the carburettor.  No fuel, no work.

To start most petrol strimmers, mowers and chainsaws from cold, a petrol primer pump is usually used to fill the carburettor with the right amount of fuel and this one was no different, but in this case, the pump was cracked.

After fitting some new fuel lines, a fuel filter and primer pump, the engine fired up and ran well again, ready for more garden work.  See slide show.

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Cost of replacement:  £80 and up.  Cost of repair:  £7.53 plus my time and custard creams.

 

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.

A bit of 70’s fun: Sona J996 Coffee Percolator

An office find, escapes the scrap yard.

Despite the 1970’s kitsch-ness of the electric percolator, they are very good at making coffee and the delightful coffee smell you get when brewing-up is sublime.  Here’s an advert from the time.

Top tips for keeping your coffee percolator in good order:

  • Descale using a kettle descaling solution as needed
  • Keep the coffee strainer clear of debris
  • Make sure the lid always fits between the strainer and the percolator body

A colleague found this percolator while clearing out an abandoned office cupboard.  I suspect that this one might have been bought as a wedding present way back and had ended up in the office when someone had decided play the role of barista at work.

It was missing its power lead and was headed for the recycle bin, when I intervened.

The power lead needed was an obsolete design used on British appliances of the era and was similar in design to the more modern and current, IEC C13 or ‘kettle lead’.  However, modern kettle leads did not fit this percolator.

More drastic action was needed.  Luckily, I had an old appliance I no longer needed, so I scavenged a board mounted IEC C13 socket from it and replaced the one originally fitted.

After some soldering and a bit of jiggery-pokery, this Sona Percolator now brews coffee using an up-to-date power lead.

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Cost of replacement:  £40.  Cost of upgrade: £0.

Dyson DC40 missing a beat

A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.

A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny.  But not this one.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40.

Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:

  • Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
  • Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
  • Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray

Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.

I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products.  They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.

This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop.  The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly.  The beaters were not spinning either.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40 beater head.

The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip.  The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control.  The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit.  So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit.  As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection.  Upon testing, it was not working.

The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony.  Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem.  The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.

Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.

After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more.  Result.

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After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.

Cost of replacement machine:  £000’s.  Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.

A Dyson DC34 Animal dodges the bin

A repair and top tips for keeping your Dyson DC34 running for longer.

Every home should have one of these hand held dust busters.  Simple as that.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC34 Animal.

Why?  Because they are easy to use, easy to clean and last ages on a charge.

Top tips for keeping your Dyson DC34 running for longer

  • Keep the filter cleaned (wash regularly)
  • Remove any build-up of hair from the roller beaters
  • Keep all electrical connections clean (use WD40 or similar)

This one was admitted to the workshop with one fault, but the diagnosis revealed two problems.

When in use, the roller beaters would stop frequently and not restart.  The cure for this problem was to remove all the hair from the roller spindles and the internal motor belt drive, which was held together with a couple of screws.  Once all the hair was removed, the rollers worked much better, but not perfect.  A quick blast of air and a quick spray with contact cleaner into the motor and the rollers were once again, working as they should.

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On a full charge, one of these Dysons should run for about 20 minutes, but this one didn’t.  The battery wasn’t holding the charge, so after a quick look online, a new one was purchased for just under £20.  Great value.

It felt really good to save another product on its way to the bin.

Cost of replacement:  £200.  Cost of repair:  £20, plus one cuppa, ginger cake and ice cream.