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.
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.
A small mix up nearly resulted in some body modification…
Make and model: Hetty Vacuum Cleaner (HET200-22)
Fault reported: Not working
Cost of replacement: £100-£140
Manufacturer support: 10/10
Cost of parts: £21.59, inc. carriage
Hours spent on repair: 1 hour with service
Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc
Sundry items: Silicone spray, cleaning materials
Repair difficulty: 4/10
Cups of tea: 1
Biscuits: Ginger Nut X2
If only everything was as well made and built to last as a Henry (or Hetty!) hoover. Simple as a knife and fork, with tried and tested technology, it’s a machine created by an engineer, for everyone to own, use and repair themselves, when needed.
A neighbour got in touch to say that their broken Hetty was about to be scrapped and asked if I could do anything with it. Of course, I said. To be honest with you all, I’m not that confident with all repairs, but I knew that in the case of this one, I should be fine as Numatic products are pretty well supported by the manufacturer. And this is the thing:
How many purchases do we make that consider; “will I be able to get parts for that one day”?
We all do it, but as a tinkerer I try and consider the longevity and likely need for replacement components when I’m considering handing over my hard earned wedge, at point of purchase.
The Hetty had been working fine, but had then conked out, mid clean. No drama, no noise, no smoke, it had just stopped. The owner had already checked the fuse, but that was fine (as they often are).
When things just stop and won’t restart, that symptom is often trying to tell you something and if you’re listening, capturing the way something fails and acting on the information can save you time and often money. It’s a trick I’m always trying to perfect, although one can be caught out anytime- but that’s half the fun.
The machine stopped suddenly…
Maybe the cable broke?
Maybe the plug is damaged
Maybe a component failed quickly
Expensive things like motors tend to start making noises, run slower than usual or smell bad before failing. They can ‘just stop’ of course, but it’s likely that there will be a build-up, so I proceeded with some confidence that the motor was probably fine. I always check motor bearings and brushes anyway, when servicing this type of thing.
Since the mains cable and plug were fine, it was time to delve inside. The Hetty top is simply held together with a few screws (normal cross head) which then frees the cable winder and motor assembly, when undone.
I suspected the two-speed control PCB as these can fail suddenly without warning and since I have no Numatic PCB tester (if there is such a thing), all I could do is prove the component as faulty, beyond reasonable doubt. A quick check with my multi-meter revealed that there was no output, when connected to the mains. Suspicious.
It is also possible to by-pass the speed control PCB on these machines, which I did. I connected the motor up without it’s 600W/1200W control circuit in the loop and the motor spun up just fine.
Often, I like to go direct to the manufacturer (where possible) for spare parts as you often get the truth about an appliance as well as the latest version of a part. Often, manufacturers continue to iron out bugs and develop upgrades for spare parts as these will be fitted to the latest models. A company such as Numatic seem to apply those upgrades retrospectively to older models too, so that all customers new and old, can enjoy the benefits. For information; UK spec speed controller part 208436 (red) replaces part 206735 (orange) for model HET200-22.
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Numatic PCB old and new (back)
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Numatic PCB old and new (front)
As I couldn’t find the part I needed on any website, a quick call to Numatic UK, gave me the information I needed. Even during Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK, the lady in Numatic’s spares department, working from her kitchen, was able to advise me on the upgraded part I now needed and arrange for it to be with me for the next working day. If that’s not good service, I don’t know what is. http://www.numatic.co.uk
With the new part installed, the motor spun once more, at the correct two speeds. Happy days.
All fine then. Not quite.
Hetty had been supplied with a red base, not the original pink one that Hetty should have.
As we all know… no? Just me then, Henry is red and Hetty is pink and there is a range of names and colours to choose from in the range.
When I tried to fit the Hetty top to the supplied red base, it didn’t fit. Quite a head-scratching moment, if I’m being frank with you. Had it never fitted? Had the owner simply just put up with it the way it was? Had there been some kind of strange swapping incident that I wasn’t aware of? Time to get some answers!
It turns out that my neighbour have both Henry and Hetty models and had given me the wrong base. They had assumed they are all the same. They’re not actually, see below.
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’2020, Numatic Hetty & Henry backs
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’2020, Numatic Hetty lid without cut-out
The latest Henry and Hetty tops have a cut-out for the tool storage bracket moudling as shown on the red base above. The earlier Hetty I had in the workshop had no such bracket in the plastic. I did offer to modify the Hetty top I had with my Dremel saw, but this offer was declined!
With the right top and base paired up once more, I was happy, the neighbours were happy and another vacuum cleaner had been saved from being scrapped needlessly.
A Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner gets the kiss of life…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve repaired a few Kenwood Chefs recently, but this one seemed worthy of a mention on these pages as it’s slightly different to the ones I’ve repaired so far.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904, front.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904, label.
Many Kenwood Chef accessories are usable on Chefs from all eras, due to logical thinking by the designers over the years and this is something to be applauded as it reduces waste. For example, the beater on a 1970s machine will fit one from today. An interesting fact for any occasion.
I’ve repaired many A701s and A901s, but this was the first A902/4, so I thought I’d share some of my repair experience in order to help others.
The owner contacted me explaining that she’d been using the family’s cherished Chef to make a cake when a plume of smoke started coming from the mixer. The smell was bad and she’d quickly disconnected the unit from the mains. The owner then contacted me to ask ‘was the Chef worth repairing’? Of course it was!
I suspected the infamous speed control components which tends to fail with age. However, this model featured extra components all mounted on a neat printed circuit board (PCB) which is fixed near the motor. A reasonably priced repair kit, with new rubber feet was available online so I ordered one up straightaway.
Opening up the A902/4 is a similar job on many Chefs and after removing a few screws, the motor and gubbins is available for maintenance.
As suspected, two out of the three capacitors on the PCB had blown visibly, due to crystallisation and general fatigue, so these needed to be replaced.
As all the components are PCB mounted, each part must be de-soldered first, contacts cleaned before re-assembly which is time consuming, but satisfying and even though I’ve done this kind of work many times before, I always take a couple of photos and mark wires with a pen or label, as it’s very easy to make mistakes later.
The kit included replacements for the faulty bits, plus some additional parts which should be changed as a matter of course. I also chose a kit with replacement rubber feet for the machine as the ones fitted had squashed ‘flat’ with age, a very common problem with the Chefs of this vintage.
New components fitted, the motor ran sweetly once again, without smoke, wobble or extra noise. It’s worth noting that the A902/4 is quieter than earlier Chef models and is probably worth seeking out if you’re in the market for a second-hand unit.
Another ‘happy little Chef’ leaves the workshop.
Cost of new machine: £400 plus. Cost of new parts: £15.24 plus my time.
A couple of years ago, I made a light for our porch. I wanted to ‘back-light’ the area under the porch with a subtle glow, when coming back home in the dark, handy when trying to find the front door keys. I used a clear section of hose pipe, several clips and a strip of LED tape, commonly available from lighting suppliers. I used a standard 12V power supply unit (PSU) from an electrical wholesalers’ and controlled the whole thing with a neat little PIR motion/ day-night detector. It all worked quite well until the other day.
FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, LED strip light outside light.
FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, LED strip light outside light/ PIR.
Whilst walking past the PIR detector the light came on in the usual way, but there was a strange ‘arcing’ noise, coming from the inspection panel, behind which I’d mounted the PSU. The PSU seemed a sensible place to begin investigation.
It’s really irritating when manufacturers’ chose to make it so that a casing for something does not come apart, without breaking in to it. This PSU was made this way and to gain access, I had to carefully lever the two halves of the glued casing apart with a screwdriver, breaking the glue holding it together. It wasn’t working anyway, so what did it matter.
Looking at the printed circuit board (PCB) within the plastic casing revealed that the mains feed, presented as an IEC Kettle type connector in this case, had a ‘dry-joint’ and had begun arcing (small sparks) which left unchecked, would have caused permanent damage to the PSU.
FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, LED strip light outside light, dry joint.
FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, LED strip light outside light, evidence of arcing.
With a small clean-up of the affected joint and a little soldering, the PSU was as good as new. Sadly, the casing won’t be the same again, but as it’s hidden out of sight, I decided that a good wrapping of electrical tape around the two halves of the PSU casing was all that was needed.
Cost of a replacement PSU: Circa £15. Cost of repair: A bit of solder and my time.
I seem to be having a run of failed repairs at the moment and while it’s disappointing to write-up a repair that didn’t succeed, it’s important to learn from failure.
A colleague asked me to look at a Parrot camera drone recently as one of the drone’s motors wasn’t running correctly. The fault developed after a visit to a lake where it got a little wet. It turns out that this model isn’t water-proof, despite the £300.00 price tag!
After drying out, when powered back up, one of the four motors wouldn’t spin at full speed. These motors seem to operate in several phased windings and it would appear that one of the motor’s phases was missing.
Upon opening up the drone, I discovered that the PCB had indeed suffered water damage along its main processor. However, three of the motors were fine and camera was working OK.
The double-sided printed circuit board (PCB) presented me with a dilemma. This PCB was fitted with extra tiny components and multi-layered board technology, presumably to save weight and cost, so a repair using conventional soldering techniques was unlikely to get good results as the excessive heat would more than likely damage other components. Located near the wiring connector that connects to the motor that wasn’t working properly, were several tiny surface mount fuses, one of which appeared to have failed. Assuming I could locate the right component, attempting a repair on a PCB like this would more than likely yield a molten mess! At this stage I could have used a conductive glue to bond in a new component or temporarily bridge the fuse, but on the basis that I couldn’t guarantee a repair and the fact that there seemed to be water ingress to the whole PCB, I decided that a complete PCB replacement was probably needed. Sadly, I had to return the drone back to the owner with the bad news.