A flying barbecue problem

A rusty barbecue lives to cook another day.

My dad kindly donated an elderly Homebase Sorrento gas barbecue a few years ago and each summer since, it’s cooked a good few bangers and steaks in the garden.  Nice.  However, during the winter this year, the barbecue nearly met an unfortunate end.  The barbecue is always kept lightly sprayed with WD-40 when not in use and always covered with a generic tarpaulin, to keep the rain out.  However, one particularly windy day during the winter of 2018, the cover that was meant to protect the outdoor cooker turned in to a handy sail and briefly lifted it a few feet in to the air and then down again with a crash.  Oh dear.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Worthing, Homebase Sorrento/ Campingaz Eldorado.

At first glance, all appeared to be well but on further inspection it seemed that the gas burner within the main ‘charcoal’ area had taken quite a hit.  Years of use and damp storage had taken their toll and the rusty burner within had finally shattered and was no longer in good serviceable condition.  In fact, using the barbecue in this state could literally be explosive, since the gas would be flowing out all over the place, potentially un-burned.

Not holding out much hope for spares, I took to Google to see what parts were available for the nearly 20-year-old appliance.  It turns out that there are many spare parts available for gas barbecues, from spare handles to gas valves to replacement grilles, including burners of just about every variant.  With a bit more research, it appears that my Homebase Sorrento is in fact a re-badged Campingaz Eldorado.  As Campingaz is a well-known brand, the burner was readily available at a very reasonable £23.00, including delivery from Hamilton Gas Products www.gasproducts.co.uk.

Hamilton supplied the parts quickly and the part fitted as easily as the existing one, as it was a like for like spare part, more or less.  I had to cut-off the existing screw, as it was beyond help and replace it with something similar, once fitted and the height adjusted with a washer and nut or two, the burner was once again ready to cook.

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However, before I could sit back with a cool beer and admire my work, I decided to tackle the piezo push-button ignition, which had stopped working a while ago.  The wiring had broken away from the main spark anode and to be honest, even I nearly binned it.  I hate to be beaten by silly problems like this, so I soldered the wire to the base of the spark anode and then re-attached the bracket back to the barbecue.  After a little tinker time, the spark was close enough to light the gas, pretty much every time.  I was well pleased!

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Worthing, Homebase Sorrento/ Campingaz Eldorado.  Re-attached wiring.

So, if your gas barbecue needs parts, don’t assume it’s not worth repairing.  There is a wealth of direct replacement and generic spares that will get yours working again, cost effectively.

Cost of a replacement barbecue:  £100 upwards (although the range could be as dramatic as £30- £5000).  Cost of repair:  £23.00 for the burner and £1.00 for the nuts, bolts and washers (which I had already).

Re-vamped Micro Mini Scooter (just for fun).

A Micro Mini Scooter repair, just for fun!

I really had no idea that Micro Scooters have been a ‘thing’ for the last few years and as a result, there are lots to choose from on the second-hand market.  We picked up a ‘bargain’ for our oldest daughter for a princely sum of £5.00 via a local Facebook For Sale page.  With hindsight, it was overpriced.

Just about every part of the scooter was either nasty or plain broken.  The handle bar grips were missing, the wheel bearings were all shot to pieces, the steering mechanism seized and the rear brake was missing.  The back brake on this scooter type, I’ve since found out, have a habit of snapping off with hard use, so that should have been the clue to the low, low price.  But if you read these pages, you know me, I like a challenge.

First step was to address the static wheels.  An Allen key holds the wheels on to the stub-axels at the front of the scooter and there’s something similar on the trailing wheel.  The bearings on our wheels were beyond a re-grease as they’d appeared to have spent their entire life at the bottom of The Channel.

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Luckily, the bearings are easy to replace and good-quality generic items are available on eBay for under £5.00 for a whole set (6 bearings, 2 per wheel).

Next came the handlebar grips.  Ours were missing and again, generic ‘copy’ grips are available on eBay which are perfect for the job and are half the price of the original equipment.  While I was shopping on eBay, I also found an original Micro Scooter bell.  Just the job.

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FixItWorkshop, May’18, Micro Mini Scooter, new handlebar grips and bell fitted, prior to painting.

The steering mechanism was next and all it needed was a good clean up and light lubrication with some plastic-friendly white PTFE grease, readily available from Toolstation.

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The shabby foot plate area was once baby-blue but had since faded and had evidence of scrapes.  It looked a bit sorry for itself.  I decided to address this by giving surfaces a good clean up and then key with wire wool.  A couple of coats of good quality plastic primer and then a couple of coats of vinyl black paint, which now gave the scooter quite a ‘presence’.  I then decided to improve the foot plate ‘grippy-ness’ by applying a custom grip tape design.

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Before re-attaching the foot plate back to the chassis, the brake needed to be replaced.  As with some of the other fixings on the scooter, the brake’s fixings were so rusty, they needed to be drilled out and replaced.  Luckily the new original equipment brake came with new improved fixings which fitted perfectly.

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Thanks to the cool dudes at Alleyoops, Worthing for their help and advice www.alleyoopsskates.co.uk.  The UK Micro website is also very good as it lists spare parts www.micro-scooters.co.uk/spares-support.

Micro Mini Scooter (AKA ‘Triggers Broom’) renovation spend, May’18:

New good quality bearings                                                        eBay                      £4.15

Generic copy Micro Scooter handlebar grips                         eBay                      £9.75

Genuine Micro Scooter bell                                                        eBay                      £7.78

Paint and sundries                                                                        Shed                      £2.00 (approx.)

Grip Tape (customised to fit)                                                       Alleyoops            £8.00

Genuine Micro rear brake                                                            Alleyoops            £8.99

 

Total                      £40.67

I know what you’re thinking… for £40 more, I could have bought a brand-new scooter and saved myself the bother.  At times, I did question my own sanity.  But what we now have is a perfectly serviceable, one-off that no one else will have.  Can you put a price on that?!

Unsteady Dyson DC24 Roller Ball

A neglected DC24 gets some badly needed maintenance…

I really enjoy working on Dyson products as they’re so well thought out.  The designers seem to take great care factoring-in easy maintenance for longevity.  There’s also a great sense of theatre when using Dyson products.  Take the roller ball on this design for example, a throwback to the earlier Dyson Ball Barrow which allows better manoeuvrability when combined with an upright vacuum cleaner.  There’s also the exposed mechanism which automatically switches suction between the roller pick-up and hose when using the foot pedal to select the desired mode.  Genius.  All of these design touches encourage the user to care for and enjoy using the product.

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FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24 (DC04 just in view too- how things have changed).

Sadly though, sometimes these touches are a bit lost on people and the design flares that appeal to some become misunderstood and neglected to others.

This DC24 had two problems.  It didn’t stand up properly when left and it didn’t really pick anything up that well either, failing as a vacuum cleaner on two fundamental points.

The first job was to find out why the DC24 was a little unsteady.  It seemed that all of the mechanism was intact and that nothing had snapped off.  Strange.  The red foot pedal operated lever that releases the latching system to move the main body from its locked position was stuck.  It seemed to be linked to a lever which operates the diverter valve, which switches suction from the roller beater foot to the flexible hose.  On closer inspection the lever on the diverter valve had come off its pin, probably by force.  The mechanism itself was also dirty which made operation rough.  The red lever is spring loaded with guides and pins which were also dirty and a little rusty.  I suspect this vacuum cleaner had been left somewhere damp.

After re-attaching the diverter valve leaver back on and giving all mechanisms a good clean-up with a light coating of silicone spray, it was as good as new again.

Once the mechanism was working, it was time to assess the vacuum’s performance.  It wasn’t that good.  As with most Dyson vacuum products, there are two filters.  One processes blow-by air from the motor and the other controls dust particles from the cylinder.  These filters can usually be cleaned with mild soap and water, but this set was well past it, requiring replacement and for under a tenner, it’s rude not to.  Dyson have made filter replacement very easy on the DC24 with good access to the motor filter via a small door on the roller ball itself and the lid on top of the cylinder.  I think there should be a massive sticker on these vacuum cleaners that says ‘don’t forget to clean the filters’ as I suspect that many of these products are chucked away by owners who forget to do the necessary.  Bag-less cleaner doesn’t mean maintenance-free!

With a couple of new filters, a clean-up of all of the rubber seals with silicone cleaner and this DC24 was fighting fit, ready to clean another carpet.

Cost of a replacement Dyson product:  £000’s.    Cost of new parts:  Under £10 plus my time.

 

Nearly flaming 1986 Yamaha XT600 Ténéré

Beloved Yamaha XT600 Ténéré nearly goes up in smoke.

I’ve had my beloved Yamaha XT600 Ténéré for about 8 years and have deliberately kept it away from these pages as I’m always doing something to it.  It could have its own website with the amount of time, not to mention money and effort I’ve spent on it.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, Yamaha XT600 Ténéré.

This story is note-worthy as it’s a lesson for me and others who ride and maintain old bikes!

I don’t use the bike that much at the moment, but I always keep it ready for the road, just in case I get a chance to take it out.  Whilst doing a few checks recently, I decided to fire it up and get the oil pumping around the engine, so that things don’t seize up.

The tank was pretty full (over 20 litres) and upon opening up the manual fuel valves, giving it a bit of choke, the engine fired-up on the second crank.  It sounded quite sweet.

However, after about 30 seconds, I heard ‘running liquid’ before smelling the intense scent of super unleaded.  Looking down, I was standing in about 2 pints of fuel, on the wooden shed floor with a hot exhaust casually burning the fuel that was dripping on to it.  Nasty.

I won’t repeat what I said, but suffice to say, I hit the bikes’ kill switch virtually instantly.  I shut the flowing fuel off and wheeled the bike out in to the open air.

After several cups of tea, I found the cause of the problem.  The small fuel feed pipe which runs from the float chamber to the main jet on the carburettor had failed causing the leak.

When I bought the bike, I thought I’d changed all the fuel lines, but I’d missed one, quite an important one as it turned out.  It goes to show that even enthusiastic mechanics make mistakes.

The cost of the repair was £1 for a new piece of fuel hose, but the point of this story is:  If you have any petrol-powered things, especially old motorbikes; don’t run them in an enclosed wooden space.  Always run them outside.

A fan with a wobbly tale…

A fan with a wobbly tale…

Now, before I start the story, I have a confession.  I technically stole this room fan.  I didn’t pay for it, I just took it.

Just before Christmas 2017, I noticed that a room fan had been dumped in the small carpark at the end of my road.  At first, I assumed that it was being left on a temporary basis, ready to be taken to the tip in a responsible manner, but as the days and weeks rolled on, it became clear that someone had carelessly left it there to turn to rust, which seemed a shame.

I did the only responsible thing; pick it up off the ground and take it back to the workshop in broad daylight.

Once I’d allowed it to dry out, I plugged it in and guess what, it powered up and ran on all three speeds without an issue.  Its operation was very smooth and quiet.  On closer inspection, it didn’t seem that old to me.  How strange.

The major problem with the fan was that it didn’t stand up properly, in fact it would fall over easily.  The fan’s base stand was a simple cross-section of metal feet, supporting the main pole which holds the fan itself.  The whole assembly was loose and being held together with masking tape, which was far from ideal.

Once I’d removed half-a-roll of masking tape from the stand, it revealed that one of the screws that holds the main pole to the stand was missing and the remaining three were loose.  Could it really be that simple?

Once I’d straightened the slightly bent metal work in the vice, replaced the missing screw with one I already had in my nut and bolt pots, tightened the rest up, the stand performed as a stand once again and the whole thing worked without wobbling in a drunken manner.

Now, this probably wasn’t an expensive item.  It’s not the finest example of good design or build quality.  But it struck me then that the otherwise fine fan had been condemned on the one missing screw and the owners’ simple lack of screw driver aptitude.  Crazy.  I find it very sad that something with plenty of life left in it ends up dumped in a car park over one missing screw.  Some people have a very disposable and wasteful view of everyday items.

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FixItWorkshop, Jan’18, fan repaired.

I did repaint some of the rusty metal work after these photos were taken.

Cost of a new fan:  £15 to over £100.  Cost of repair; 5p.

 

 

Gaggia Classic machine wakes up to smell the coffee.

A Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine repair…

A simple repair…. That’s what I thought when a friend asked if I could look at his Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, which had developed a nasty little leak when in use.  The coffee wasn’t all that good either, due to the lack of pressure available, caused by the leak.  In short, it needed attention.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, with a leak.

The owner had already bought a repair kit consisting of the main seals/ gaskets that commonly fail, so I thought no problem, take to pieces, replace seals, happy days.  Er, not quite.

Once I’d stripped the machine down, pretty straightforward on these machines, the bare parts were exposed, which revealed the problem.  After being fired up briefly, not to make coffee I’d like to point out, water could be seen escaping from the boiler unit, a alloy bodied lump of metal, split in two halves, held together by 4 screws.  The boiler, as the name suggests, heats the water up with one heating element  and creates steam for the steam wand, with another element, all part of the same module.

After separating the boiler halves, I traced the leak to a faulty gasket, but crucially, one side of the mating faces was heavily corroded and unlikely to re-seal with a new part fitted on its own.  Remedial action was required.

This model is a few years old and a replacement boiler is still available on a few websites and prices vary from £40 to £60 at the time of writing, so at that price, starts to make the cost of repair unviable.

I decided that the face with the corrosion had enough material to withstand loosing some, so went about sanding the worst of the corrosion away before gradually moving on to  smoother and smoother sandpaper.

Because Gaggia Classics are fairly common, I decided to video this repair process as I suspect the corrosion affects many machines with age and just fitting a repair kit won’t cure the problem on its own.  See below.  I hope it helps anyone else with the same machine facing the same problem.

 

Once I was happy with the new finish, I fitted a new gasket and reassembled the boiler.  After putting it all back together, I purged several tanks of water through the system to remove debris, before attempting a cup of coffee.  Once filled up with my favourite Lidl coffee, the machine performed well once again with no leaks and the end product tasted great.

Cost of a new machine:  £249.00.  Cost of repair:  £4.50, plus time.

 

 

Raucous Kenwood Chef A701a

A noisy Kenwood Chef A701a gets a gearbox rebuild.

This Chef had been sleeping quietly in a kitchen cupboard for some time before being woken up to make cake mixtures once again.  The owner had owned the mixer for many years from new and was sentimentally attached to it.  I fully sympathise, they’re great machines.  It had been used many times in the past and then packed away as new machines came and went.  Having decided that there was still a place for the A701a, it was fired up.

The owner didn’t remember it being quite as noisy and wondered if something was wrong with it.  She got in touch and brought it in to the workshop.   After listening to the mixer at varying speeds, we agreed that perhaps it was a bit noisy and that further investigation was required.

 At this stage I must confess at this repair has been on the bench for a long while..!

I think the A701 is my favourite Kenwood Chef product as it’s very elegant, beautifully proportioned and almost over-engineered.  It comes from a time where built-in obsolescence was a swear word.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef, A701a,

On with the problem.  After disconnecting the gearbox by removing the drive belt, I checked the motor for general wear and tear, the brushes and speed control mechanism and I concluded that it all seemed OK and working smoothly.  The gearbox however did seem a bit noisy when turned manually, nothing hideously graunchy, but a little rough.  To be honest, it would have probably survived, but I wanted to open up the gearbox to make sure that it was as it should be.

Whilst removing the Chef’s casing around the gearbox, I’d noticed traces of grease around the joints and various power take-offs.  All models seem to do this to an extent, but this one seemed to be quite bad.  Closer inspection revealed that some of the grease had escaped out of the seal between the two halves of the gearbox casing.  Opening up the casing revealed that the grease that was left had been pushed to the corners of the space within the gearbox and that the gears were a bit dry, this was probably the root cause of the noise.  The planet wheel that drives the beater was also bone dry.

Luckily, there are plenty of suppliers who can supply rebuild kits for Kenwood Chef gearboxes, including new gears and grease.  The gears in this seemed serviceable, but it seemed very sensible to replace the lubricant with the correct 130g of Kenwood gearbox grease, which is food safe.  I used ‘Kenwood Chef Restore’, an eBay seller and the kit was a reasonable £10.99, including P&P.  The kit included the main gearbox grease, white grease for the planet gear and sealant for the gearbox casing.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, repair kit from Kenwood Chef Restore, eBay.

Before replacing anything, the first job was to clean out all traces of the original grease which had gone very sticky and was contaminated with general wear.   The first pass clean involved using paper toweling, followed by water and detergent, before a final clean with brake cleaner, which removed the last few traces of grease and dirt.

With the gearbox refilled and resealed making sure the spacers were re-fitted to the correct parts, the drive belt re-fitted with just enough slack, the gears sounded much sweeter with the final parts of the casing reassembled.  One last point to note is that I used silicone sealant on the blender attachment power take-off plate in replacement to the one fitted, since the original seal was well past it (see below).

As a finishing touch, I replaced the existing machine feet which had turned to mush with replacements from Sussex Spares (eBay shop) for a very reasonable £2.70, delivered.

The Chef was now ready to prepare cake mixtures again.

Cost of new machine: £300 and up.  Cost of replacement parts: £13.69 (plus my time).