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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Dim Lumie Bedbug

Lumie bedbug glows once again.

A short repair tale about a little bedtime bug.

A friend mentioned that their son’s Lumie Bedbug lamp was intermittently working and that it was shortly going to be visiting the bin if it didn’t buck its ideas up.

Er, no I said.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Lumie Bedbug.

The bug night light was meant to glow orange, once switched on, but it only lit up when the cable was wobbled about.

The power connection on this model is a standard USB (B) connector, the ones commonly used to charge Android phones.  If the power lead was faulty, it would be easy to find a suitable replacement.

The bug comes apart by removing the silicone outer layer and releasing the tangs holding the two halves of the bug together.  One screw holds the PCB in place and once removed, the whole thing comes to pieces.

The USB socket was a little out of shape, presumably from some rough handling.  A quick nip with a pair of pliers and it was back as it should be.

The plug was also a little out of shape, but with a bit of careful re-shaping, it fitted the socket perfectly.

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Once reassembled, reconnected and powered up, the bug glowed without flickering.  Result.

Cost of replacement:  £50.  Cost of repair:  One tea and one custard cream, that I made myself.

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.

 

Non-starter: Pure Evoke H2 DAB radio

My own radio gets the workshop treatment.

Who wouldn’t love a new DAB radio for your birthday?  Well, that’s what I had this year and I was thrilled to receive this Pure Evoke H2.  After choosing a suitable location on my desk, I quickly unpacked it, plugged it in and…nothing.  Booooooo!

The display backlight appeared to glow a little, but that was it and I was missing Today on Radio 4.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Pure Evoke H2 DAB radio.

To save a quite frankly dull story, the returns and replacement process offered by the company who supplied the radio was hopeless.  But, after 2 months, I ended up with a replacement radio, in addition to the one I already had.  The second radio worked, albeit with some fettling required to the speaker to make it sound ok (another story).

Time to dig out the screw drivers as I had nothing to lose.

Just 6 screws hold the back on and with these removed, the radio’s innards were exposed.  Now, I’ve made radios from kits in the past using components I can hold with my fingers, but with this radio, the circuitry was teeny-weeny and I would have to have some luck to fix it.

I was in luck.  The radio is made up like a sandwich.  The front fascia is screwed to the cabinet and the back, that I’d removed, was screwed to the cabinet, from the other side.  There are data-style cables between the two halves and one of them appeared to be loose.  I carefully pushed the connector ‘home’ and then re-applied the power lead and wouldn’t you know it, the display lit up and it burst in to life.  Now we’re talking.

Thinking I’d sussed it out, I screwed the radio back together and had about a week or two of unbroken service, until the screen froze and then nothing. Oh no.

Re-opening the back of the radio, I suspected that the tiny soldered pins on the back of the multi-way connectors on the data-style cables, had been dislodged.  I have average sized hands for a bloke, but I needed tweezers to get the connectors on during assembly.  I wonder how much it would have cost to add an inch or so to each cable, to make manufacture easy.  As a consumer, I would have gladly paid the extra penny.  I suspected that this is how the original fault came to be as it wouldn’t have taken much more than a shove in the wrong direction to break the delicate connectors, due to the short length of the internal cables.

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Since this circuit board is a tiny stamped component affair, I had to be quick and neat with my re-soldering.  Each pin to PCB connector re-soldered, cables re-attached, back screwed back on and the radio worked once more.

Pure have a reputation for easy to use, excellent sounding products.  It’s just a shame they have seemingly penny-pinched on some of the internal gubbins on this model.  If yours develops similar symptoms, don’t give up, take the back off and have a look.

Cost of a new radio:  £40-90.  Cost of repair:  5 mins tinker time, one cup of tea.

Ultimate Speed Battery Charger from Lidl, on standby

Battery charger repaired at the workshop

My in-laws have an ornament on their drive, in the shape of a 2001 MGF roadster.  I say ornament because it’s fairly stationery, all of the time.  Even so, it’s battery gets topped up once in a while and the engine turned over when the urge presents itself.  Because the car isn’t used, the battery’s only means of charge is via a plug-in charger, my father-in-law occasionally hooks up.

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FixItWorkshop, March’18, Ultimate Speed (Lidl) Battery Charger.

The battery charger in question is an Ultimate Speed (Lidl brand) universal battery charger.  They’ve been on sale in the UK for a number of years at the £15 (approx.) mark.  They’re really good value as they allow ‘smart charging’ of car and motorcycle batteries without the risk of damage at a fraction of the price of the ‘big brands’ or a replacement battery.

However, this charger decided that it wasn’t playing anymore and refused to offer it’s charging services when recently connected to the MG’s flat battery.  On it’s way to the great bin in the sky, I managed to divert the charger via the workshop.

Once connected to the mains, the standby light illuminated, indicating something was actually happening, but upon connecting the low voltage side to a battery, making a charge selection via the single push-button switch, nothing changed and the whole unit remained on standby.  Pretty annoying.

Luckily, I have the triangular screwdriver required to undo the six screws that hold the (IP) ingress protected casing together.  Triangular screw heads are annoying and pointless as they prevent, in my opinion, people with a basic tool set having a go at a repair like this.  If you do fancy getting one of these tools, they are easily available on Amazon and eBay.

On with the fix.  With the casing opened up, my first port of call was with the switch itself.  Past experience has taught me to 1; start with the easy stuff and 2; these push to make switches fail all the time.  They’re in everything from door bells to cookers at the moment and when faulty, make the most expensive item and expensive paper weight in the blink of an eye.

To test the switch, I connected the charger to the mains and hooked up the low voltage end to a battery and simulated the button push switch by shorting out the switches connections on the circuit board.  Hey presto, the charger worked perfectly, every time.  The switch either needed repairing or replacing.

Because I’m a skin-flint, I opted to see what could be done with the present switch.  With care, these switches can be prised apart, using a sharp knife and the insides cleaned.  I took the switch apart which revealed nothing more than slightly corroded switch surfaces.  I can only assume that the product’s bold IP rated claim is a little over exaggerated and that some damp had wriggled its way to the switch and mucked it up.  With a cotton bud and switch cleaner, the switch surfaces scrubbed up like new and I re-assembled the switch lever and securing plat using a soldering iron to re-melt the plastic nubs holding the switch together.  No one would ever know it had been in bits.

With the circuit board returned to the housing, all six screws done up, the charger was back to rude health once more and ready to tend to the stranded MGF.