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.

 

 

Old school iPod Nano battery replacement

Apple really don’t want you to get into their products- but they’re not alone.

We have two Apple products in our house from the early 2000s; one iPod Nano 1st generation and the 1st generation iPod colour.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Apple iPod Nano.

Apple tech polarises opinion as it’s always premium priced and is quite locked-down to ‘Apple only platforms’.  Some people love the ease of use that their products seem to offer, others get frustrated with the lack of integration with other products.

Despite being an Android house, we keep the iPods as they are quite robust, but due to age, battery life has recently become an issue.

Make and model:  Apple iPod Nano

Fault reported: Battery not holding charge

Cost of replacement:  eBay, loads out there

Cost of parts:  £8.00

Hours spent on repair:  1

Tools needed:  Spudger, small flat-bladed screwdriver, soldering iron

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty:  4/10

Cups of tea:  1

Biscuits:  2 (Custard Creams)

Let’s just get it out of the way now.  Apple really don’t want anyone opening up their devices and it was a wrestle to open up the casing, without snapping something (the iPod, not one of my nails or something).

The battery in the Nano is situated beneath the metal cover, which must be removed using a spudger.  A spudger is a small lever with a fine edge that can be used to gently open up small, usually plastic, push-fit, ‘clicked-together’ things.  Spudgers are kind of disposable and I always seem to break one on each job.  I must look out for a strong, stainless steel item.

Using the spudger on the Nano isn’t easy, since (as I later found out) all of the metal tangs located around the metal casing, dig in to the plastic face.  Trying the separate the two halves is a real battle and there’s a real risk of damage should you use too much force.

After a good 15 minutes of wrangling with the Nano, the casing popped off.

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The battery on this model uses a small fly lead which is soldered to the main PCB, again more evidence to suggest that Apple had no intention of making the Nano’s battery replaceable by most users.  Extreme care had to be taken with the soldering too since the PCB’s components are so close and small, making it too easy to use too much heat, causing irreparable damage.

I took my time and was able to fit the new battery (push fit) and solder the connections OK.

The cover popped back on and fortunately, the screen lit up once more, when the menu button was pressed.  Phew. Tea time.

 

Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Good thinking Batman, but I have a safety dilemma with a repair.

During a recent Toy Doctor surgery at a Dad La Soul/ Tot Rockin’ Beats event http://www.totrockinbeats.com/dad-la-soul I attempted a repair on a kids toy that I couldn’t get working in the two hours we had, so I asked if I could take it home to the workshop where I have more tools at my disposal.  Good thinking Batman.

The Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City (catchy title for a toy) was much loved, but the flying bit (circled in red below) had stopped working and no longer did anything when switched on.  No fun without the flight bit.

Imaginext Super Hero set
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August 2019, Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City. Image: Google/Amazon.

 

Make and model:  Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement:  £45.00 approx.

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About two hours- although to be honest, I lost count with this one

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file, soldering iron

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  6/10

Cups of tea:  4

Biscuits:  10, maybe the whole pack, I lost count (Custard Creams)

The battery-powered flying thing on a weighted boom should fly about in a circular fashion and be controlled by the city platform, presumably by remote control from the main city bit.

Upon opening up the battery compartment, the problem revealed itself.  The previous batteries had leaked and the spillage has corroded the battery terminals.  No bother I thought, just a matter of cleaning-up the metal surfaces and we’d be back in business.  How wrong I was.  Even with new batteries installed, nothing happened, how very dissapointing.

No, it wasn’t going to be that easy and that was the theme for the rest of the repair.  Everywhere I turned, whether it was trying to open up the casings, inspect wiring or generally take something apart, I was going to be met with glued shut fixings and more problems.

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Construction on this toy was very strange.  Surfaces on the casing were sometimes glued and screwed together, very odd, and I guess that method must have been used due to production time and cost saving.

The wiring between the flying bit and base checked out OK and the motor spun when I applied some charge briefly to the terminals, so that all seemed fine.

Upon opening up the gubbins where the switch was, the problem with the toy presented itself.  The mini printed circuit board had suffered from battery leakage corrosion and was shot.  Whatever it was meant to do was in the distant past.  So, this toy was for the WEEE skip, as there was no chance of getting a replacement.

Well, hang on a minute, we don’t give up like that do we.

I decided that I could make the toy work albeit without the printed circuit board by re-wiring the motor, using the existing loom and switch, so that the motor and therefore helicopter bit worked as it should.  This would mean that once the switch on the base of the unit was turned on, the helicopter would start and it would not be possible to turn it off without grabbing the moving base weight first.  It clearly wasn’t designed like that, but I had at least got it working again.

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So, here was my dilemma:  Give up with something I couldn’t get a part for or get it working again, albeit with a removed (percived) safety feature, so that the toy could still be enjoyed.  I went with the latter as I thought that the danger was negligable.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, flying high, once again.  Always read the safety label.

Was I right?

 

 

Blinking GHDs!

A pair of GHD 3.1B hair straighteners gets fixed

GHD hair straighteners are not something I’ve ever had the need to use, but they are seemingly very popular among the long-haired kind, none the less.  There are cheaper alternatives out there, but devotes tell me that the ceramic plates seem to have a better finish and run hotter for longer, all essential features for taming unruly curls.  So they tell me.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, GHD 3.1b hair straighteners.

Make and model:  GHD hair straighteners 3.1b

Fault reported: Buzzing noise, not warming up

Cost of replacement:  £97.00

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour (ish)

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  4/10

Cups of tea:  2

Biscuits:  1 (Ginger Nut)

Someone got in touch to ask if I could fix their GHDs and to be frank, I’ve had mixed success with these repairs in the past as in general, the newer the model, the harder it is to fault-find and subsequently order parts for, something I find very frustrating.  However, the 3.1bs discussed here are pleasingly old-school.

Dismantling these GHDs involves just one small cross-head screwdriver and one small flat blade screw driver, none of your fancy Torx heads here, thank you very much.

Strangely, the GHDs made a disconcerting buzzing noise when switched on, which to my fairly trained ear sounded distinctly 50Hz-like.  That means that the mains electricity feed was causing some component to ‘arc’ or resonate- the buzzing noise, in plain English.

Fearing imminent catastrophe, I unplugged the GHDs and went to work.  The main PCB is pretty simple on the 3.1b.  Most of the solder joints were OK, but some of the joints around the switch had discoloured, showing that heat had built up, indicating a problem.  To be on the safe side, I re-soldered all the joints to avoid a dry-joint situation.

The buzzing noise still prevailed.  The switch seemed to be the next logical place to look and being of quality, the designers had provided easy access to the switch mechanism via a small metal cover with sprung tangs.  A quick bit of jiggery-pokery and the switch was in bits.

The problem was revealed in an instant.  Both switch contacts and corresponding wipers were burned and needed re-finishing and cleaning.  A quick whizz with a fine file and clean with special electrical contact cleaner and the switch was as good as new.  Since the GHDs were already in pieces, I gave the same clean up treatment to the 3600 flex mechanism, as a precaution.

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So, this set of GHDs were saved from the bin, ready to straighten locks once more, thanks to a few basic tools and cleaning.  Very satisfying.

 

 

That thing just eats money!

Tomy (UK) /Robie (US) Mr. Money repaired in the Workshop

I have a real soft spot for novelty toy robots that actually do something.  I think I’ll make a point of collecting more.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Tomy/ Robie Mr. Money.

Make and model:  Tomy (Robie in U.S.) Mr. Money  children’s money box

Fault reported: Not eating money

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  3/10

A lady got in touch with me on the back of an article I wrote a while ago about a faulty Mr. Money toy robot money box.  My Mr. Money had gone wrong as I’d left an old battery inside which had then leaked.  A major clean-up and tinker was then required to get it working again.

This particular Mr Money belonged to the lady’s husband and was to be ‘given to him again’ as a 40th birthday present.  What a nice thought.  The only problem was that Mr. Money had stopped working long ago; put away and forgotten about.  He needed bringing back to life.  Perhaps there was a hidden message to the husband to save for something?  Who knows.

Mr_Money_Quick_Strip

Mr. Money arrived well packed at the workshop and I wasted no time in taking him apart.  There was no evidence of battery leakage or accidental Cadbury Button ingestion and he was generally in good condition with no bits broken off.  A good start.

Mr. Money is getting on a bit and when taking apart any toy, let alone one that’s over 30 years old, one must be careful not to accidently snap-off any lugs or tangs that hold things like casing and levers together.  Very tricky.  It’s not something I usually attempt after a day at work, when I’m shattered.

After some rooting around in the depths of the mechanism, I noticed that the ‘limit switch’ was a little dirty and that some of the contacts needed a little clean.  Using some fine cloth and switch cleaner, all metallic switch surfaces and battery connections were cleaned up and with a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money worked again.

Being 30 years old, there’s no silly use of electronics or other USB excesses which are, I think, ‘over used’ on modern toys.  It all adds up to something which can be repaired with basic tools and parts.

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I carefully reassembled the workings, casing, switches, arms, head, eyes and lid.

Mr. Money was ready to feast.

After testing a couple of quid through the Mr.Money’s eating cycle, I was happy for him to start his journey home.  I hope he gets used regularly and never put away in a box again.

 

 

 

Kenwood FP220 easy fix

An easy fix for a change

Every now and then an enquiry drops into my inbox where my heart sinks.  It sinks as I know that many products on sale are poorly supported for specific spares which means that when the product fails, it can be impossible to repair.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m surprised!

Make and model:  Kenwood FP220 Food Mixer

Fault reported: Mixer not working when main jug used

Cost of replacement:  £120.00 (equivalent new machine)

Cost of parts:  £17.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes (test and cleaning)

Tools needed:  None.

Sundry items: 1 X Grimex cloth

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Kenwood FP220.

The mixer was a good quality item which had cost over £100 when new and upon inspection, the mixer has failed due to a single component, the main jug.  A little clue from the owner that the blender attachment (not pictured) worked, but the jug didn’t, set me off on the right track.

The mixer features a safety mechanism which is designed to prevent the main drive assembly spinning accidently, potentially with a cutting tool, if the switch is operated without the mixer jug attached.  Many mixers of this type feature such a device.

The FP220 features a double-armed safety mechanism which means that the jug must be fully engaged in the mixer base, with the lid in the correct position.  It’s an unobtrusive and fail-safe design.  A part of the jug’s base, made of a composite plastic, had sheared off, so the jug could not attach to the mixer properly.  The safety device had worked as it should.

At first, I thought that there was no chance of obtaining a spare jug, but after a bit of Googling, I found a brand-new replacement jug, in the right colour, from Sussex Spares (via eBay).  It soon arrived and fitted perfectly, which allowed the machine to work again, once more.  The old lid was still serviceable and fitted the new jug without problems.  I recommended that owner keep the old jug for spares as the handle and drive coupling were still servicable and might come in handy if the new handle gets broken.

After a quick clean up and test, the machine was ready to make Victoria Sponges again.  It just proves that with a bit of research, even seemingly unrepairable items can get a second chance.

Qualcast Hover Safe 25, left out in the cold

An old hover mower avoids the great lawn in the sky.

Another email popped in to my inbox asking if I would have a look at a Qualcast Hover Safe 25 which had stopped working.  It had been working intermittently for a while before giving up the ghost and now it had thrown in the towel.  Bad news.  It had literally been kicked into the long grass.

Make and model:  Qualcast Hover Safe 25

Cost of replacement:  £40.00 (ish)

Cost of parts:  £0.00 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Tools needed:  Basic screw drivers, multimeter, pliers, hair dryer

Sundry items: WD40, silicone spray, wet and dry sanding cloth

Repair difficulty:  4/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Qualcast Hover Safe 25.

The owner of this mower had reported that the handle mouted switch (dead-mans handle) had been a ‘bit tricky’ to use and that it didn’t always work.  These kinds of statements make me wonder what kind of life a device has had.  Judging by the rust and discolouration on the metal and plastic parts, I think this mower had been left in a shed with a leaky roof!

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The water had not been kind and the mechanism had seized.  The only thing to do was to open up the switch, clean up any moving parts, lubricate the switch with switch cleaner and lubricate the sliding plastic parts with a little silicone spray.  The small lever which actuates the main on/ off switch was also slightly bent, so after a little straightening, using a hair dryer, it was as good as new. After the switch was repaired, the lawnmower’s motor still wasn’t working.

The cable running from the switch to the motor housing appeared to be in good condition, so the only thing left was to remove the motor itself.  Removing the motor means removing the blade and 4 small screws (see photos).  Once exposed, the motor was revealed.  Power was indeed reaching the motor when the switch was operated, as confirmed with a quick dab of the multimeter.

The motor itself seemed to have little resistance when manually spun, which led me to suspect the motor brushes had worn out.  Doubting that brushes were available, I decided to remove them anyway for closer inspection.  This revealed seized motor brushes, which backed up my theory about the mower’s damp environment.  A quick bit of jiggery pokery and a clean up and the motor brushes were as good as new.  A quick clean up of the motor commutator, I refitted the brushes and the motor was ready to be refitted.

Now, this mower is not in the first flush of youth and the motor bearings were a little noisy, but after a quick spray of grease in the bearing area it sounded fine.  The mower will never be perfect, but at least it will work for a little longer, which has got to be the point, hasn’t it?