Fetch me a coffee Parker… Yes Milady!

A Gaggia Milady gets unblocked

Despite various warning labels and advice from manufacturers, sometimes it’s better to ignore official advice and just dive in, especially if something has stopped working altogether.  Gaggia coffee machines of this vintage are well supported by various online parts suppliers, so when your machine stops making the perfect brew, the chances are that it can be sorted out with a little know-how…

Parker
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20 Aloysius Parker from Thunderbirds (picture from Wikipedia)
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20, Gaggia Milady.

I couldn’t resist a reference to one of my favourite childhood programs…

Make and model: Gaggia Milady Coffee Machine

Fault reported: No coffee/ blocked group head

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts:  £0, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 0 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers, drill, tap set

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, water safe silicone lube, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 4/10

Cups of tea:  X 2 (and one coffee for testing purposes)

Biscuits: None (Ice Cream X 1)

Someone got in touch to see if I could repair their much loved Gaggia Milady, after receiving some unhelpful advice from the UK distributor.  A new Gaggia had already been purchased, but the owner was missing the ‘solidness’ of his original machine and wanted it back working again.

Fault reported:  Heater working, pump running, no water at all at the group head, therefore no coffee.

Opening the machine’s lid reveals lots of cables and pipes, so if you’re attempting this repair yourself, I recommend making notes and taking photos, carefully marking the location of all the positions.

I suspected a blockage from the boiler to the group head, as sometimes happens with older machines, as scale builds up on the inside.  In cases like this, de-scaler is usually no good and more drastic action is required.

Removing the boiler on this model is similar to many other Gaggia machines, the only variant differences usually being cosmetic.  Just four screws usually hold the boiler to the cabinet.  I suspected that there was a blockage between the boiler area and valve to group head ‘jet’ and in order to access it, a few layers of metal work needed to be removed.

 

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Just one screw holds the strainer, but removing the head involves removing two bolts, which secure two halves of the group head.  The trouble is that over the years, corrosion makes the two halves ‘weld’ together and the only way to split them is to use a little ingenuity.  Fortunately, there are four water holes in the head which make ideal leverage points and with a small M5 tap, those holes become anchor points for the two bolts holding the head together.  Winding those bolts into the new threaded holes forces the two halves apart…

…Revealing the brass valve base.  Using a 10mm spanner releases the valve’s spring and valve rubber.  In this case, it was full of scale and debris.  A thorough clean using WD40, wire brushes and wire wool and the group head was ready for reassembly.

All surfaces scrubbed, all rubber seals cleaned and treated to some water-safe lubricant, the group head back together, the boiler was ready to be re-installed into the machine.  After some careful re-plumbing and re-connecting, the machine was ready for testing.

Just one more job.  Make the coffee for Milady!

Another machine dodges the tip with only a small tin of elbow grease used. F.A.B!

Dyson: Please sell me the part I need

A DC32 Animal Vacuum Cleaner gets a second chance

One of these please, Dyson…

 

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, broken turbine/ fan.

All things made, will eventually break.  Things that are made eventually wear out and either must be replaced or repaired.  However, some things wear out a little faster than others.

Planned obsolescence and manufacturing budgets mean that parts within products can wear out faster than reasonably expected and fail totally, rendering the rest of a perfectly working item, useless.

This is where us repair folk come in.  We refuse to accept this problem and work away tirelessly in sheds and lockups everywhere, working on solutions to problems such as this, keeping things going, a little longer.

A friend’s DC32 Animal cylinder vacuum cleaner’s roller beaters had stopped turning and made nothing but a horrible noise, when the cleaner was in use.  Not cool.

The roller beaters on this model are literally vacuum operated by a turbine/ fan which spins fast when air passes across it, driving the beaters by a toothed belt and gear.  There is no separate motor to drive the roller beaters, which is quite an elegant solution to a complex problem.

Fast forward to the issue and despite identifying the broken part and then contacting Dyson directly for a replacement, they would not sell what I needed, a part that would probably cost no more than £10 to supply.  Such a shame.

Website
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, Dyson website screenshot 22/12/19.
Copy head
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, a copy item on eBay for under £20, screenshot 22/12/19.

The price of the (original equipment quality) complete Dyson Turbine Head, suitable for the DC32 vacuum cleaner, is £60.00 as a direct replacement from Dyson, but the part is now copied by other manufacturers.  A pattern part design is available for under £20 and if this was my machine, I’d be tempted at that price.  Pattern parts have their place, but I suspect that at this price, performance won’t be quiet as good as the original.

So, a choice:

  • Replace the part with a brand new Dyson part – too expensive
  • Replace with a non-original part, that will probably do the job – unknown outcomes, unsatisfying
  • Attempt a repair on the original part.  Of course it’s what I’m going to do!

On with the repair.  The Turbine Head is screwed together using Torx head screws and the side vents that secure the main drive unit, pop-off the main casing, with some encouragement.

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A picture paints a thousand words and the above slide shows the dismantling and reassembly process for the Turbine Head.  If attempting this kind of thing yourself, remember to keep all components free of dirt and grime.

In the absence of a replacement, I attempted a repair to the existing fan and since it was made of plastic (some kind of nylon derivative I think) it was going to be difficult.  Not many glues will stick this type of plastic well, so my choice was going to be ‘make or break’, literally.  I considered an epoxy resin, but opted for Gorilla Glue, since it expands slightly in use, to all of the microscopic gaps.  I also used it to modify the fan by filling-in around the spindle to try and prevent slippage, when spinning.  When dry, I lightly sanded any high spots of glue away.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, glued turbine/ fan.

Once the whole unit was back together and reconnected to the main vacuum cleaner, the head roller beaters spun once again without a horrible noise.  Question is, how long will it run for?  If anyone thinks they can make a replacement using 3D printing, please let me know!

Dyson DC40 missing a beat

A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.

A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny.  But not this one.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40.

Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:

  • Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
  • Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
  • Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray

Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.

I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products.  They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.

This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop.  The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly.  The beaters were not spinning either.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40 beater head.

The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip.  The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control.  The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit.  So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit.  As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection.  Upon testing, it was not working.

The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony.  Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem.  The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.

Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.

After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more.  Result.

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After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.

Cost of replacement machine:  £000’s.  Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.

Hotpoint ‘Rumble’ Tumble Dryer VTD01

A noisy tumble dryer gets fixed cheaply

Strange noises from machines play on my mind.  None more so than when that niggling noise starts to get worse.  Noises like that usually mean two things.  Catastrophic failure and expense.

Time to disconnect from the mains and fetch the tool box.

The patient in the surgery this week is our own Hotpoint tumble dryer.  We avoid using it at all costs, but with miserable English weather and two children, getting washing turned around efficiently, ready for use is mandatory.  To be frank, I’d noticed the excess whinning bearing noise coming from the dryer for a few uses, but it was getting to the point where it was hard to ignore.

Electric hot air tumble dryers are pretty simple things.  They work by sucking cool air in, heating it up under thermostatic control and then blowing it in to a rotating drum.  The moist air is then expelled via a filter and then hose, to atmosphere.  Tumble dryer models of this kind will have the following:  A motor, heater, thermostat circuitry, timer and a drum.  There isn’t much to go wrong and many parts for UK tumble dryers are available, cheaply from places like eSpares.co.uk.  Usually, no special tools are required if you want to have a go at fixing your machine and I recommend you do of course.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’18, Hotpoint VTD01 Tumble Dryer.

After opening up the cabinet, access to the drum and motor was available by the side panel which was held in position with several self-tapping screws and hooks.  Care must be taken if you attempt something similar on your machine since there are plenty of sharp edges to watch out for.  This dryer features an AC induction motor (which has no motor brushes).  It has a spindle which runs through the motor with a pully one side to drive the drum via the belt and a fan the other to blow the hot air.  Removing the belt and spinning the motor by hand revealed the problem.  The spindle spun OK, but sounded rough.

Replacement motors are available at a reasonable £90 or so, but you know me by now, I don’t like spending that kind of money, unless I have to.

The motor is attached to the appliance with simple bolts and is removed easily.  The motor is held together with self-tapping screws, which are easily accessible.  Just two bearings feature in this motor; one at each end to support the load.  Both bearings sounded rough, but seemed not to be worn too much.  The bearings are standard items and it would be easy to find exact replacements from a bearing supplier (rather than replacing the whole motor), for under £20.  However, as this was my own machine, I went for cheaper fix, to squeeze more life out of what I already had.  With the dust cover popped off from both bearings, I cleaned both with isopropyl alcohol cleaner and then re-greased with quality high-melt point bearing grease.  Much better.

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The motor re-assembled, re-installed back in the machine and it was time to switch on.  It now sounded as sweat as a nut.

If and when the bearings get noisy again (and they will eventually), I’ll replace the bearings with new ones.

Cost of replacement:  circa £200.  Cost of repair:  My time, two cups of tea, one custard cream, a bit of grease.  Not in that order.

Bissell Powerlifter Pet noisy roller beaters

Now, some of you will remember that I’ve written about a similar issue before, but I think it’s worth covering again as often, complete replacement items need to be purchased, which can be costly.

This Bissell Powerlifter Pet vacuum cleaner had snapped a belt, due to an obstruction in the roller/ beater area and while the casing was open to replace the belt, I removed the beater to see how smoothly it turned.  It was noisy.

Seemingly, Bissell will only supply a complete unit for around £30, with shipping, so given the overall value of the machine, it seemed sensible to have a look at the noisy component on the bench.  The bearing housings, located at each end of the roller, come out easily and with some careful manipulation, each bearing can be removed.

On this unit, both bearings were dirty and dry.  Now, I could have replaced them with a generic bearing, but in the spirit of thrift, I decided to clean the bearing races with brake cleaner and then repack with high-melt-point grease.  When reassembled to the roller/ beater, it ran very smoothly and was much quieter, once re-fitted to the vacuum cleaner.  Job done.