I like the classic, function-over-form design of this heater. Simple, clear, chunky controls and nothing included that isn’t needed. Less is usually more.
This 1980s heater, although very well made and clearly designed with longevity and repair in mind was a little bit, er smoky.
It appeared that the fan wasn’t running and the smoke was coming from old dust which had settled inside the machine. I don’t think that the heater had been used in many years.
The heater came apart very easily, just three self-tapping screws holding the sides together to the main shell.
On first examination that the shell was out of shape and that it had come in to contact with the fan itself, forcing it to far down the motor shaft on to the motor body. So, all that would be needed would be reposition the fan and re-shape the outer heater shell, a simple fix then. Not quite.
The motor did not spin easily and even with a little penetrating oil on it, it was turning slowly, with the mains applied.
The motor was an induction type, with no brushes and didn’t obviously have anything restricting the motor’s spin. I know that even apparently clean motor parts can have deposits of unseen oil and muck that can stop an otherwise good motor from working properly. In situations like this, I tend to use brake cleaner or similar to break down the dirt. Once cleaned, just a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the moving parts and that usually cures things. I was in luck and after performing a mild service on the motor, it was spinning at full speed once again. Quite literally warming.
With the parts all back together, the heater was ready to run for many years to come.
Cost of replacement: £15.00 Cost of repair: £0.00, one cup of tea and a Bourbon.
I love a good radio. I used to collect them as a kid, working or not, do them up, get them working and I eventually ended up with, er… lots. I’ve since scaled my collection back a bit these days to around 10 or so, quite frankly more than is healthy really.
So when someone got in touch recently with a broken DAB radio to fix, I got quite excited.
These Bauhn DAB radios (available from Aldi or Lidl in the UK, I think) were on the market for about £10 and at that price they represent great value when compared to more expensive devices.
However, the one in the workshop appeared to have a problem power connector, which when wobbled, made the radio work intermittently. Suspicious.
Having already repaired a similar radio with a similar fault before, I decided to video the repair to encourage others to check theirs, if something similar happens. I hope you find it useful.
Cost of a new radio: £10. Cost of repair: One cuppa and a bit of tinker time.
Another Kenwood Chef A901 gets the Workshop treatment…
There’s been a steady flow of poorly Kenwood Chefs through the workshop of late and the new year started off with yet another. A customer got in touch with reports of smoke coming from her Chef A901, a machine which had given years of faithful service to her family. As a result, she was very keen to see what could be done.
As usual with Chefs of this age, the 5 machine feet had deteriorated and now resembled squashed dry Blu-Tac, so had to be replaced. I replace the feet to most Chefs that come in. Not only do the feet prevent the machine from moving all over the place when in use, they provide a gap for air to be drawn in to the motor for cooling, so it’s essential the feet are in good condition.
The feet are inexpensive and are easy to fit. If you decide to replace yours, consider coating the existing ones with something like WD-40, a few days before you try to extract the centre pin or you risk snapping it off in the machine base, as it will likely be ceased.
On with the repair. The speed control circuitry had failed, specifically a capacitor and resistor, a common problem on older machines, had gone pop. As usual, the correct repair kit was bought and fitted. With careful soldering and a dab of heat transfer gel on the new triac and the job was complete. Nice.
With any Kenwood Chef, I always check the motor end-float, the allowable spindle movement north and south. The end float in this case was a little lose and required adjustment. A small grub screw with Allen key head allows this adjustment and with a bit of trial and error, the end float was now spot-on. Poor end float on these machines usually makes the speed control ‘wobbly’, especially at lower speeds. With this one adjusted correctly, the motor now ran smoothly through all speeds.
Job done. The owner of the machine was so pleased with my work, she even bought me a new packet of Custard Creams. Fab.
Cost of replacement: £400 and up. Cost of repair: £11.24, plus my time and Custard Creams!
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.
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.
Another Kenwood Chef gets the treatment in the Workshop
How about another Kenwood Chef story? I know I’ve covered this machine a few times now, but I’ll try and make it as interesting as I can. I just LOVE Kenwood Chefs.
A customer got in touch with me via the FixItWorkshop ‘contact us’ link asking if I could fix his family’s much beloved Chef. While last in-use, it started smoking and smelling terminal. How could I refuse. I’m located in Worthing, but the customer was based in North London, quite a distance for a repair and would have been usually cost prohibitive using the Royal Mail. However, using local drop-off points, carriers such as Hermes and DPD offer (slightly slower) courier services for about £7.00 one way, which starts to make more fiscal sense. This is what we did.
I wish I’d taken a photo of the box the Chef came in, because the customer had clearly gone to a lot of effort to make sure it was well protected!
On with the repair.
The Chef has been in production many years and although they can often appear similar on the outside, they do vary on the inside, depending on the year of manufacture as small tweaks and improvements are made. Evolution, rather than revolution, usually the backbone of any successful design.
The A901E is different from the previous A901 as it features an electronic speed controller, rather than a centrifugal affair. While the later design is an improvement, it wouldn’t deter me from buying an earlier model; the improvement is small.
The A901E still features similar components to previous models which can and do fail, especially with age. The subject here is about 30 years old, give or take.
The motor on the A901E comes out quite easily; first remove the motor cover, remove the mains cable (disconnect first of course), remove the top cover, belt, then the four screws holding the motor in. The motor then pulls down from inside, out through the gap left by the hinge. Easy.
The motor circuit board showed traces of component catastrophe with dust and dirt left by exploding components. Nasty. Pre-empting the fault, I ordered a repair kit before I’d taken the machine apart, together with replacement feet as the ones on this machine were knackered. The kit includes capacitors, resistor and triac as these are the main components that tend to fail.
These kits are available on eBay and are worth the money as they are often cheaper than buying the components separately and they contain instructions for newbies. Here’s a little slide show showing the process.
With the kit fitted, the motor re-installed, mains reconnected, the Chef ran well again, this time without burning or smoking. However, all was not well as the speed control was a bit wobbly at lower speeds, which was just plain wrong. Having worked on a good few Chefs, this problem is usually down to excess end-float on the motor spindle. Working with the motor still in situ, the motor fan, which controls end-float could be adjusted with an Allen key. Sorted.
Just the replacement feet to fit and after a quick clean-up, the Chef was reassembled, ready to go home.
A top tip for you. If you intend to replace the feet on your machine and you probably should if they are old as they go hard or fall apart, then soak the area around the feet recesses with WD-40 or similar a day or so before as this will make getting the remnants of the old feet out, much easier.
Cost of a replacement: £400 up. Cost of repair: £12.65 plus my time and tea.
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without having to fix last years’ tree lights and this year was no exception. It’s a tradition I look forward to and savour.
Gone are the days spending hours trying to find a faulty bulb, now due to the wide availability of cheap LED products, the thing that’s often likely to fail is the wiring, something which was much more unusual, a few years ago. Manufacturers must make savings somewhere and I often wonder how retailers can offer new decorative lights, so cheap. Compromises must be made somewhere I guess.
Being cheap, like a lot of things, makes them more disposable, which is a shame when things fail, often for trivial reasons. This year’s blackout was caused by a couple of broken wires on the control box, which didn’t appear to have any obvious way to get inside.
We don’t like to be beaten in the workshop and sealed units and tamper-proof items are just seen as a challenge, rather than a deterrent.
Like many multi-function sets, the lights are operated via a control box with a switch, mounted in a plastic enclosure which appears sealed. The fault was obvious here, just the main wire from the transformer had broken ‘flush’ with the control box, meaning that there was not enough wire either side of the break to re-join it.
The control box has no screws nor visible clips, holding it together, so it was time to break it open, using a small flat-bladed screwdriver. The small section covering the wires snapped off cleanly, revealing several terminals covered in hot melt glue, annoyingly. This meant that before any repair, the glue must be removed. Several minutes picking this off with the screwdriver, revealed some conventional post terminals. The fix was easy from there, just cut down the wire to make a new connection, remembering which way round they went, clean up the terminals and solder back together. A little bit of fresh hot-melt glue to seal the connection and a bit more on the surface to be stuck together, and the cover was refitted. I also fitted a little heat shrink to repair to reduce the chance of the cable from breaking again.
As I had the soldering iron out, I also did a small repair to the control box wire to transformer plug, which had also broken. It was a case of cutting back two sides of the break, soldering, isolating with a small amount of electrical tape and sealing with heat shrink.
Now that’s all done, Christmas can now officially start.
Cost of replacement: £ 5.00 up. Cost of repair: 1 cup of tea, heat shrink, tape and solder.
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.
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.
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.