Repair, kettles and er, the Citroen 2CV

Less is usually more. Simpler devices can mean repair is more likely in the event of failure.

I keep a model of a Citroen 2CV car on my desk at work.  It’s about 30-odd years old and it’s a bit battered due to an incident involving a shelf, my old cat and an 8ft drop, but that’s another story.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, The 2CV (AZ series)

The 2CV is there to remind me to keep things simple, to the point.

To me (and many others) the 2CV represents pure function over form.  Nothing on the car is superfluous to its function as a capable load lugging, robust, ever-repairable and frugal vehicle. I have a soft spot for these cars. They encapsulate the phrase ‘less is more’.

Not every story from the workshop is rosy and my heart usually sinks when I receive something to fix that has tiny printed circuit boards fitted inside that do ‘something’ and nothing at the same time.

What the Tin Snail do I mean by that? Many appliances and machines manufactured in the last 20 years or so often contain ‘mini’ circuits that control ‘something’.

Take an electric kettle, something that most people have in their homes. Kettles generally are a water holding vessel, a heating system, and an on/off switch with a boiling water state detecting negative feedback loop (it switches off by itself when the water boils).  There’s also some wire and stuff.

Electric kettles haven’t really changed that much over the years, after all the basic need hasn’t changed:  You put water in, you switch it on, you get hot water to make a drink. Nothing has changed. However, many offered these days are fitted with things like filters, LED lighting and other electronic temperature control systems with bells on.

Trouble is, all these (kettle) gadgets tend to be controlled by a small circuit board which isn’t repairable or even replaceable. It only takes an accidental water spill, some static electricity or bump mishap and that tiny circuitry is toast.  Not even a professional circuit repair agent, let along home spanner wielder would have a chance of repairing the broken circuit. When failure occurs, many will just discard the appliance and go and buy another one, quickly. Who wants to be without tea or coffee?!

The tragedy is that the rest of the (kettle in this case) appliance is, nine times out of ten, OK and if it was made with more traditional components that one could see with the naked eye, the appliance would stand far more chance of being repaired easily and economically. Something to think about, next time you’re considering a new purchase.

 

 

 

Poorly Scalextric Sport Digital Lap Counter (C8215)…

Scalextric C8215 lap counter repaired in the workshop…

First off, I must confess, that this is part of my own Scalextric collection, not part of someone else’s.  I’ve always enjoyed slot car racing and a lap counter is an essential addition to anyone who wants to prove that they’re the fastest around the track!  Trust me, it can be very addictive, especially when racing against one’s better half.

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FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215

Anyway, I wanted to share this little repair in the hope that others might benefit.

My once reliable lap counter started to miss laps on lane two at very crucial stages of a race.  It started by only happening occasionally before completely missing several laps in a row, forcing a stewards’ enquiry to settle the race finish times.  Lane one was fine.

Time to get out the screw driver and delve in to the workings of the timer.  Once removed from the main track layout, the back of the unit has a cover which is held in place with six small self-tapping screws.  These come undone easily and removing the back reveals two sets of electrical switch contacts, operated by a lever on each track, just under the slot car rails.  The idea here is that the slot on the slot car operates the lever as the car passes the lap counter track piece, operating the switches contacts, completing a circuit, thus counting the laps.

Comparing the switch contact clearances, lane one’s was considerably closer than lane two’s.  This means that the ‘dwell’ time on lane two’s switch would be less that the switch on lane one, which was working ok, meaning a possible cause of the problem.  To anyone who’s adjusted contact breaker points on an old car, you’ll know what I mean here.

I had no idea what the correct clearance should be, so took an educated guess and closed the gap to about 0.5mm, done by eyesight alone.  I made sure that both sets of switches were the same (see photos).  While I had the counter in pieces, I cleaned the contact surfaces with a little electrical contact cleaner, just for good measure.

After re-assembly and re-fitting to the track, a few test laps with my fastest race Mini, proved that the counter was working as it should once again.

Cost of a replacement counter (second hand) circa £12.  Cost of the repair; 10 minutes tinker-time.