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.

 

 

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.

 

Leave the light on…

A Philips outdoor wall lamp with a major case of built-in obsolescence, gets a cheap fix.

A mate of mine mentioned that his outdoor wall light had given-up-the-ghost, despite not being more than three years old.  He’d put them up around his house as part of an extension and exterior restoration project.  The trouble was that despite only being a few years old, the product now seemed to be discontinued.  This meant that, should the lamp need to be replaced, he would need to replace all of them (three in this case) to keep them matching.  Annoying quite frankly.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, working.

He’d read that the bulb within the Philips lamp was not replaceable, in which case a faulty lamp would render the whole thing broken, which seemed very daft to me.  Items made in such a way that prevents even the most basic of repair get me very annoyed.  Sometimes an item is developed in such a way for safety reasons but I suspect that most of the time, the motive is just pure greed.  It’s such a shame.

At my mate’s house, over a cup of tea, I removed the lamp from the wall to take back to the workshop, to see what Philips had been getting up to.

Opening up the casing was straightforward, just a few simple screws and retaining nuts holding the casing together, before finally revealing the bulb itself, under a lamp diffuser.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Philips outdoor wall light, lamp unit.

The bulb/ lamp unit itself appeared to be a custom/ bespoke disc light, that wasn’t user serviceable.  It had blown and there was evidence of scorching on a few of the LEDs, linked in series, indicating the failure of the entire circuit.

I couldn’t find any replacement disc LEDs suitable for the lamp from any of the usual sources, which I expected.  It could be that Philips can supply a replacement disc, but this was not evident on their website.

Not wanting to be beaten by a bespoke part, I thought about what else might work, within the lamp’s enclosure, to have the same effect.  I had a spare GU9 LED bulb, about the same brightness, sitting on the shelf, left over from another project which was going spare, so I set about fitting it in the space.

The generic GU9 bulb, available from most hardware shops, fitted in the existing disc mounting bracket, with a small modification and once connected to the lamp’s circuitry, worked well, albeit with a slightly warmer glow.

In case anyone else has the same problem, I made a little video of the repair.  I hope it gives others inspiration if faced with a similar problem.

Cost of replacement (with something similar): £50.00.  Cost of repair:  £1.50 for the bulb and a couple of Belgian beers for my time.

 

Tommee Tippee (not so) Perfect Prep

A formula machine is repaired in the workshop.

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’19, Worthing, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine

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.