Why are some spare parts more expensive than a complete product?!

I struggle to buy a replacement part for a reasonable price.

I’ve been meaning to do a little article on this problem for a while and I apologise in advance if (you’re still reading) this seems like a rant.

Why-o-why-o-why are manufacturers still allowed to price spare parts dearer than a complete product?

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara and Enrich Showers.

Recently our electric wall shower gave up the ghost and tripped the electrical breaker in the fuse cupboard.  Not great when it happens mid-wash.

The shower was a few years old and registered with the manufacturer for support for things like recalls and so on.  I had fitted the shower myself and it it had been a reliable product until this point.

Out with the screwdrivers and multimeter.

The 8.5kW heating element is split into two circuits, one for half-power and one for full.  Most people would use full power, but you might be able to get away with using it on half or economy mode in summer, when the water feed is generally warmer.

All micro switches seemed to be working OK, which was a bit of a shame actually as it meant that the heater can was probably faulty.  It was.  Half the heater can tested OK, the other half was dead.  Oh dear.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara heater can.

After visiting some shower spares suppliers and the manufacturers’ own website, I discovered that the spare part I needed wasn’t cheap at over £50 delivered.  I saw some advertised for £70 on some third-party sites.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Cara replacement heater can spare part.  Price sourced from triton.co.uk, correct 10/08/19.

I was fuming.  Why so expensive?  I mean, you’d have to be out of your mind to part with your hard-earned cash on a spare part like this when you can buy the whole unit for less.  See below.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, Triton Enrich/ Cara – new price listing.  Price sourced from Screwfix.com, correct 10/08/19.

The Cara shower has been replaced by the Enrich and is basically the same product, by another name.  Therefore, the high price of the spare part in this instance cannot be blamed on low manufacturing volumes as the showers are still made, are widely available and have been in production for a long time.   Something is ethically wrong with Triton’s spare parts pricing policies.

Now, I don’t want to beat-up Triton, they’re not alone and many manufacturers do the same, but there are now many forward-thinking companies out there getting it right.  Maybe Triton will revisit their spares listings.

Despite my natural leaning to repair and recondition, I had to admit that simple logic won the day and I bought a whole new unit from Screwfix.  The Enrich shower fitted exactly where the Cara had been and worked perfectly.

I thought about this situation long and hard and decided that for this type of appliance, a spare part should not cost more than 30% of the current retail price.  In this instance, I would have been prepared to pay about £15.00 for a spare part. 

In a world where we need to encourage people to repair appliances (and anything else) manufacturers need to facilitate a reasonable and proportionate spares back up service.  It’s as simple as that.

Still, there is a bright side to this tale.  The old shower’s solenoid, mixer, control knobs and switches all work fine and I’ll keep those as spares to be used again in a shower or something else that comes along.

Kenwood FP220 easy fix

An easy fix for a change

Every now and then an enquiry drops into my inbox where my heart sinks.  It sinks as I know that many products on sale are poorly supported for specific spares which means that when the product fails, it can be impossible to repair.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m surprised!

Make and model:  Kenwood FP220 Food Mixer

Fault reported: Mixer not working when main jug used

Cost of replacement:  £120.00 (equivalent new machine)

Cost of parts:  £17.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes (test and cleaning)

Tools needed:  None.

Sundry items: 1 X Grimex cloth

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Kenwood FP220.

The mixer was a good quality item which had cost over £100 when new and upon inspection, the mixer has failed due to a single component, the main jug.  A little clue from the owner that the blender attachment (not pictured) worked, but the jug didn’t, set me off on the right track.

The mixer features a safety mechanism which is designed to prevent the main drive assembly spinning accidently, potentially with a cutting tool, if the switch is operated without the mixer jug attached.  Many mixers of this type feature such a device.

The FP220 features a double-armed safety mechanism which means that the jug must be fully engaged in the mixer base, with the lid in the correct position.  It’s an unobtrusive and fail-safe design.  A part of the jug’s base, made of a composite plastic, had sheared off, so the jug could not attach to the mixer properly.  The safety device had worked as it should.

At first, I thought that there was no chance of obtaining a spare jug, but after a bit of Googling, I found a brand-new replacement jug, in the right colour, from Sussex Spares (via eBay).  It soon arrived and fitted perfectly, which allowed the machine to work again, once more.  The old lid was still serviceable and fitted the new jug without problems.  I recommended that owner keep the old jug for spares as the handle and drive coupling were still servicable and might come in handy if the new handle gets broken.

After a quick clean up and test, the machine was ready to make Victoria Sponges again.  It just proves that with a bit of research, even seemingly unrepairable items can get a second chance.

Smoky Kenwood Chef A901E

Another Chef enters the workshop with a smoking habit that’s hard to kick.

Top tips for keeping your Chef running smoothly, for longer:

  • Keep all moving parts free from dirt and old cake mix
  • If the feet are squashed, change them.  The gap allows airflow to the motor
  • Keep the hinge mechanism lightly lubricated
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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19.  Kenwood Chef A901E (1980’s model)

This A901E Chef had a developed a smoking habit.  Due to age, one of the capacitors had failed on the speed control circuitry making a lot of smoke while in use.  An adjacent resistor had also split in half during the failure.

Despite a smoky situation, there was hope for the Chef.

Removing the motor on these mixers is pretty straightforward.  Just remove the blender accessory power take off cover and remove some screws.  Lift up the top half of the mixer on the hinge and you’ll get access to the base of the motor area.  After you’ve removed the belt, the motor should come out.  There’s a bit more to it actually, but there isn’t much holding that motor in.

The later A901E features a better speed control circuit than the earlier A901 and it’s also made on proper circuit board, rather than just soldered-together components.

With this machine, the correct repair kit was obtained and fitted, so the circuit was as good as new and wouldn’t smoke anymore.

I treated this Chef’s motor to new motor brushes since the old ones were worn.  I also fitted new feet, as the existing ones were squashed and one was completely missing.

I was about to sign the job off , when I noticed a small tear in the outer cable flex.  I couldn’t let the Chef out of the workshop like that, so I had to replace it with a new piece.

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After some fettling, the machine was running like clockwork, once again.

Cost of replacement:  £000s.  Cost of repair:  £12.74 plus my time and several ginger nut biscuits.

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.

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.

 

Karcher WV50 avoids the bin, just

An alternative, cheaper, motor fix.

My dad donated a rather sick Karcher WV50 window vacuum, water sucky-uppy-thing which he’d taken half way to the bin before thinking, I know, I’ll give it to Matt.

How thoughtful.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, Karcher WV50 Window Vac, in bits.

The vacuum sucky-uppy-thing worked of sorts, but when operated, made a noise not to dissimilar to a distressed cat riding a trolley with wobbly wheels, if you get what I mean.  I wish I’d recorded it.

Anyway, opening up the WV50 was pretty straightforward.  Just several crossed-head screws held the two plastic halves of the unit together, revealing a simple electronic board, battery, switch, motor and fan with exhaust.

The principle of the WV50 is the same as any other domestic vacuum cleaner.  A fan drives air in one direction through a smaller hole (exhaust) creating a vacuum, in this case at a small wiper blade for glass cleaning.  Water is then drawn towards the fan, with the vacuum created and then diverted to a holding tank, for emptying later.

The tank on this product is quite crude and I suspect that should it be knocked over, the water within the tank could spill over in to the exhaust and in to the motor.  This is what I suspected had happened and caused the motor bearing on this device to wear excessively, causing the noise.

The cost of a motor and fan replacement on the WV50 was about £30.00 (where I saw them listed) but this would make the repair un-economical.  After an email conversation with Mabuchi, the makers of the motor, the original equipment K-280SA-3525, unique to the WV50, was no longer being made.

I don’t like being ‘beaten’, but having spent far too much time with batteries, bulbs and motors as a child than is entirely healthy, I realised that the casing and bearing on the K-280SA-3525 was pretty standard fare and if the spindle on our motor was OK, then all that would be required would be a new bearing.  It turned out that the spindle and motor brushes were OK, so I ordered a same size motor from eBay, via a very efficient and friendly Chinese electronics specialist with the intention of swapping the motor body and bearing over.

The motor arrived quickly and the transplant only took a few minutes.  Once reassembled, the motor and fan sounded like new once again.  A nice cheap fix, to keep this vacuum cleaning windows for another day.

I even made a short video, showing what I did.  Enjoy.

Cost of replacement: £50.00 (equivalent model)  Cost of repair: £1.50, some international emails and a couple of cuppas.  Nice.

 

Explosive Chef

Another Kenwood Chef A901 gets the Workshop treatment…

There’s been a steady flow of poorly Kenwood Chefs through the workshop of late and the new year started off with yet another.  A customer got in touch with reports of smoke coming from her Chef A901, a machine which had given years of faithful service to her family.  As a result, she was very keen to see what could be done.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’19, Kenwood Chef A901.

As usual with Chefs of this age, the 5 machine feet had deteriorated and now resembled squashed dry Blu-Tac, so had to be replaced.  I replace the feet to most Chefs that come in.  Not only do the feet prevent the machine from moving all over the place when in use, they provide a gap for air to be drawn in to the motor for cooling, so it’s essential the feet are in good condition.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’19, replacing the feet on a Chef A901 (others similar).

The feet are inexpensive and are easy to fit.  If you decide to replace yours, consider coating the existing ones with something like WD-40, a few days before you try to extract the centre pin or you risk snapping it off in the machine base, as it will likely be ceased.

On with the repair.  The speed control circuitry had failed, specifically a capacitor and resistor, a common problem on older machines, had gone pop.  As usual, the correct repair kit was bought and fitted. With careful soldering and a dab of heat transfer gel on the new triac and the job was complete.  Nice.

With any Kenwood Chef, I always check the motor end-float, the allowable spindle movement north and south.  The end float in this case was a little lose and required adjustment.  A small grub screw with Allen key head allows this adjustment and with a bit of trial and error, the end float was now spot-on.  Poor end float on these machines usually makes the speed control ‘wobbly’, especially at lower speeds.  With this one adjusted correctly, the motor now ran smoothly through all speeds.

Job done.  The owner of the machine was so pleased with my work, she even bought me a new packet of Custard Creams.  Fab.

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Cost of replacement: £400 and up.  Cost of repair: £11.24, plus my time and Custard Creams!