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

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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.

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All back together, the machine worked well once again.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Silent Singer Sewing Machine Pedal

A classic Singer foot pedal gets repaired.

My mum’s got an old electric Singer sewing machine which is about 40 odd years old.  Singer sewing machines are well supported generally and parts are readily available, but I find it’s sometimes fun to try and find the cheapest way to fix something myself.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Singer Sewing Machine Foot Control Pedal

The foot pedal on this machine went pop and smelled horrible after.  The machine then stopped working, oh dear.

The pedal is of high quality construction and easily better than any generic replacement on the market, so it was definately worth saving.

Opening up the pedal was just a few screws, which then exposed the whole mechanism.  The mains resistor was in tact and seemed to test with resistance.  A good start.  The contacts were in good condition as was the rest of all the components, except for the mains input capacitor, which has spectactularly failed and split open, a common problem on older mains capacitors.

Repair kits are readily available for about £5, but that seemed expensive to me!  Using the existing capacitor as a guide, I found a suitable component on eBay for £2.09 delivered.  That’s more like it.

The capacitor I used was:  Film Capacitor, 0.1 µF, 250 V, PET (Polyester), ± 5%, R60 Series (from eBay).

Here’s a little slide show that I hope will help others fix their pedal, should it fail.

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With the old capacitor cut out and the new one soldered in, the pedal was ready to run again.  Sorted.

Cost of a replacement:  £15-30 for a generic part.  Cost of repair, £2.09, 1 cup of tea.

Elna SP foot pedal went bang

Elna SP foot pedal to the metal

On the back of a previous article about a repair I did on the rather wonderful Elna SP sewing machine, a reader got in touch.  She was a genuine sewing aficionado and had several top of the range current machines, but she used the trusty Elna SP for many smaller jobs, where the other machines didn’t quite cut it.

All Elna SP machines are getting on a bit and parts are either re-manufactured, scarce or secondhand, if you can find them.  Having said all that, a well-maintained Elna will run for many years and last much longer than new metal on sale now.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Elna SP Special, in action

The foot pedal on this machine had gone pop, bang, finito.  It smelled terminal.

Knowing that parts for this machine are rarer than hens teeth and I do like a challenge, I took on the job.  I’m based in Worthing, West Sussex and the machine was located in Scotland, so after a short wait, the knackered pedal arrived in the post.

The pedal is held together with four small self-tapping screws and came apart easily.  The reason for failure was two-fold.  The copper leaf contacts had arced excessively and caused major pitting in the contact strip (see slide show) and the probably ensuing resistance had caused the main resistor to overheat, causing the winding to fail.

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The contact surfaces were easy-ish to fix, or rather breathe new life into as all they needed was cleaning and re-shaping.  The resistor was a bit trickier to mend.  Getting hold of a replacement was going to be near impossible, so the only thing to do was to try and repair it.  Without that particular style of resistor, of that value, it wouldn’t work again.  Luckily, there was some excess resistance wire on the thing and I managed to twist it in to the broken section.  Soldering was not an option, since the wire was an alloy that wouldn’t take to solder and in any case, these things get hot in normal service.  I twisted both ends of the break to form a new section, while maintaining the same length of windings on the resistor, essential if I was to match or get close to the original specification.  Difficult.  Luckily, after a few goes, I managed it and the applied a little heat-conducting (and therefore dissipating) paste to the join.

With the pedal reassembled, I was only able to test it with my meter, since the sewing machine was far too heavy to post.  The pedal tested as a closed circuit (OK), which was a result.  I then had to wait for the pedal to be collected, taken back to Scotland and tested.  Fortunately, my fix worked and the machine sprang in to life, without a hitch or missed stitch.

Now, a word of caution with this one.  This is NOT the best way of mending something like this and all I’ve probably done is prolong it’s life a little longer.  There are generic sewing machine pedals that would work with this machine and will be fine, when this one fails in future, but that’s not the point.  The main thing is that something that was broken is now working and even if it’s not the best fix, at least it will run for a bit longer.  Happy days.

Cost of replacement: (generic part) £15-30.  Cost of repair, my time, a bit of solder and several cups of tea.

Elna SP sewing machine… Totally stitched up.

A Sewing Machine Repair…

On first impressions, this machine didn’t have a lot going for it.  It had been stored in a garden shed, never the best place to store a sewing machine, it was dirty, neglected and broken.  However, the weight of it indicated that this was a quality item and worth investigating.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing Machine in case.

This machine comes from a different time in manufacturing where the focus was on quality rather than on price-point in the market and as a result, it’s made to outlive most people.  In fact, many electric sewing machines made by Elna, Singer, Toyota, Janome, Brother and so on, built until the 1980s, are items of sheer mechanical excellence inside and should be cherished.  Anyway, on with the problem and repair.

The owner had stashed the machine away many years ago and as a result, it had seized.  Details of the fault were scant, I was just told that it didn’t work!  Upon powering it up and operating the foot pedal, the hand wheel turned slightly before making a horrible mains AC hum.  It was time to un-plug, rapidly.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP.

There are exposed oiling points on the Elna SP, a nice maintenance touch, but clearly these hadn’t been used in many a year.  Opening up the machine’s lid on top of the motor and bobbin transmission cover below revealed a lot of dirt and neglect which I first cleaned and then oiled lightly with special oil, in to all the moving parts.  Automotive brake cleaner was used to remove old dirt and grease from the needle area and gears.  New grease was then applied to the parts that needed it and more oil to other ‘metal on metal’ parts.  The trick here is to not apply so much oil that it ends up on the fabric being stitched.

Once the machine was running smoothly again, I noticed that the bobbin shuttle wasn’t turning, not even a little bit.  Not ideal.  Time to delve a little deeper and on this machine, it meant complete disassembly of the bobbin shuttle assembly, which then revealed a stripped worm-drive hook gear (part 403030).  This seems to be a fairly common issue on these machines as they get older.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, part 403030 for Elna SP.

Obtaining a new hook gear was quite easy via eBay; BSK (Bedford Sewing Knitting Machines) supplied the part for a reasonable £15.99 including P&P within 24 hours.  Once fitted, it was a case of fine-tuning the bobbin/ hook timing to suit the needle.  It’s a similar principle to valve and ignition timing on a petrol engine car, a process that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever done any spannering on an old Mini or Escort for example.

With the timing complete, a few tests using old material revealed that the machine was working once again with no missed stitches.  I gave the machine a final polish with car wax before handing it back to the owner for my own satisfaction.

 

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing machine repaired.

Thanks also to More Sewing in Worthing, West Sussex for their advice on machine oil.  www.moresewing.co.uk.

Cost of a new machine (of this quality): £500 plus.  Cost of repair:  £15.99, plus time, plus a little oil and patience.

Gaggia Classic machine wakes up to smell the coffee.

A Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine repair…

A simple repair…. That’s what I thought when a friend asked if I could look at his Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, which had developed a nasty little leak when in use.  The coffee wasn’t all that good either, due to the lack of pressure available, caused by the leak.  In short, it needed attention.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, with a leak.

The owner had already bought a repair kit consisting of the main seals/ gaskets that commonly fail, so I thought no problem, take to pieces, replace seals, happy days.  Er, not quite.

Once I’d stripped the machine down, pretty straightforward on these machines, the bare parts were exposed, which revealed the problem.  After being fired up briefly, not to make coffee I’d like to point out, water could be seen escaping from the boiler unit, a alloy bodied lump of metal, split in two halves, held together by 4 screws.  The boiler, as the name suggests, heats the water up with one heating element  and creates steam for the steam wand, with another element, all part of the same module.

After separating the boiler halves, I traced the leak to a faulty gasket, but crucially, one side of the mating faces was heavily corroded and unlikely to re-seal with a new part fitted on its own.  Remedial action was required.

This model is a few years old and a replacement boiler is still available on a few websites and prices vary from £40 to £60 at the time of writing, so at that price, starts to make the cost of repair unviable.

I decided that the face with the corrosion had enough material to withstand loosing some, so went about sanding the worst of the corrosion away before gradually moving on to  smoother and smoother sandpaper.

Because Gaggia Classics are fairly common, I decided to video this repair process as I suspect the corrosion affects many machines with age and just fitting a repair kit won’t cure the problem on its own.  See below.  I hope it helps anyone else with the same machine facing the same problem.

 

Once I was happy with the new finish, I fitted a new gasket and reassembled the boiler.  After putting it all back together, I purged several tanks of water through the system to remove debris, before attempting a cup of coffee.  Once filled up with my favourite Lidl coffee, the machine performed well once again with no leaks and the end product tasted great.

Cost of a new machine:  £249.00.  Cost of repair:  £4.50, plus time.