Atco Consort 14 (CT14) self-propelled lawnmower repair

A mid-90’s take on a classic design, dodges the tip

When they say; “they don’t make things the way they used to”, they’re right… sadly.

With many repairs that I do, half the battle is identifying the correct or closest-match replacement part.  Half the fun is finding a part to do the job, when the original manufacturer can’t or won’t sell that part.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Atco Consort 14 (CT14)

Make and model: Atco (Qualcast) Consort 14 (CT14- 002107A)

Fault reported: Intermittent running

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts:  £24.44, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 1 hour

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea:  X 1

Biscuits: Custard Cream X 1

Some things are just a joy to work on because of the way the original design and engineering teams that came up with the product, saw their machines being used in real life.

Even though this machine was built in the 1990s, the Consort 14’s DNA comes from a long line of designs that include the famous ‘Suffolk Punch’ lawn mower created by Suffolk Iron Foundries of Stowmarket in 1954.  This machine is badged as Atco (and Qualcast in places) but the electric motor was made in Stowmarket, England.  The original factory had a reputation for making everything, literally everything, for its machines, right down to the nuts and bolts and this ethos lives on in the CT14.

I’m not going to bang on about sustainable design and circular economy here, but today, unless one pays serious money, garden equipment is simply not built to last any more than a couple of years.  Many of the mowers and strimmers you can buy for under £100 in B&Q, Tescos (here in the UK) and alike have a built-in obsolescence factor measured in months, not decades.  Personally, I believe that products like this should be banned.  Too many end up at my local tip with the price label still attached…

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A neighbour asked me to look at their Atco lawnmower, which had stopped mowing recently.  They were wondering if it was worth bothering with a repair, I of course said that the machine that they had was better than many machines available now, so it was absolutely worth repairing!

The mower is a self-propelled, cylinder type with speed control and clutch to engage the propulsion system, as desired.  It’s a neat design that’s hard to better.  The next time you are at Wembley or Wimbledon, just look at the mowers still used by professional grounds maintenance teams.

The Atco is designed to receive occasional maintenance and all items which might require the owner or maintenance engineer to inspect are easy to access.  Forward thinking again, shown by the designers.  The main issue in 2020 is that parts are only available from aftermarket suppliers and although there are still (thankfully) specialists ready to supply, part numbers and cross-referencing is a nightmare and despite me doing this work in the UK and this machine being made in the UK, the repair required a degree of investigation and sleuth work to get the parts needed.

The motor was my first port of call and with only a couple of bolts holding it in place, the motor was soon removed.  It was in good overall condition but the carbon brushes were a little short and needed replacing. This explained why the motor had suddenly cut-out.

You might think that finding carbon brushes for a UK made motor, might be easy.  You would be wrong.  Despite several conversations with mower experts, these brushes were seemingly unavailable, off the shelf.  I did order some brushes for an equivalent model produced a little later, but these were too large.  I could have filed them down to make them fit, but after rooting around in my collection of brushes (as one does) I found that a new pair of brushes from a Kenwood Chef A701 fitted perfectly.

While I had the mower in pieces, I decided to inspect the drive belts which were both in poor condition.  One was split and one had stretched badly.  For smooth, reliable operation, both required a replacement.

Again, the Consort 14 was not on many mower supplier inventories, so finding the correct belts required cross checking with other Qualcast and Bosch (Bosch later acquired Qualcast) models and a little bit of luck to match them up.  Fortunately, eBay sellers came to the rescue again and I managed to find the correct belts which fitted perfectly.

With the mower back together, it was ready to run for another 30 years.  Time for another cuppa.

Footnote:  I’m very aware that I sound like a stuck record…

Look, many products made and sold nowadays are much better than older ones.  I’m not saying that all old things are better. Take old cars for example (although I have a soft spot for old cars):  They were polluting, they didn’t have safety built-in (in general) they rusted-out and broke down, all the time.  New ones generally don’t break down, last for longer and you’ll walk away from many crash situations.

New things are usually safer, more efficient and capable.  However, many older machines were designed to be serviced, repaired and re-used over and over, which in my opinion, is more sustainable.  Many products today, especially mowers and alike are designed to last for 18 months hard-use and then the whole thing is scrapped, but it’s apparently acceptable to society as it ‘only cost 40 quid- I’ve had my monies worth’.

It’s this notion that doesn’t sit well with me and I see a growing cohort of people who are not prepared to accept this waste of resources either.  What say you?

 

A Dyson DC34 Animal dodges the bin

A repair and top tips for keeping your Dyson DC34 running for longer.

Every home should have one of these hand held dust busters.  Simple as that.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC34 Animal.

Why?  Because they are easy to use, easy to clean and last ages on a charge.

Top tips for keeping your Dyson DC34 running for longer

  • Keep the filter cleaned (wash regularly)
  • Remove any build-up of hair from the roller beaters
  • Keep all electrical connections clean (use WD40 or similar)

This one was admitted to the workshop with one fault, but the diagnosis revealed two problems.

When in use, the roller beaters would stop frequently and not restart.  The cure for this problem was to remove all the hair from the roller spindles and the internal motor belt drive, which was held together with a couple of screws.  Once all the hair was removed, the rollers worked much better, but not perfect.  A quick blast of air and a quick spray with contact cleaner into the motor and the rollers were once again, working as they should.

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On a full charge, one of these Dysons should run for about 20 minutes, but this one didn’t.  The battery wasn’t holding the charge, so after a quick look online, a new one was purchased for just under £20.  Great value.

It felt really good to save another product on its way to the bin.

Cost of replacement:  £200.  Cost of repair:  £20, plus one cuppa, ginger cake and ice cream.

Classic (asthmatic) Dyson DC01

A tired DC01 gets some TLC

Starting a new job is always fun and when a new colleague of mine mentioned that the office vacuum cleaner had packed up, I rose to the challenge.

I’m quite fond of Dyson products as some of you know, mainly because:

  • They’re well-engineered, by engineers
  • They’re designed to be repaired easily with simple tools, which is better for everyone
  • Parts are readily available at reasonable prices

The DC01 was launched in the early 90’s and was Dyson’s first market clean-up, competing with the established market leaders.  Although this machine is over 20 years old and Dyson no longer supports it directly, reasonable quality pattern parts are available on eBay.  If you have one, love it and keep it going.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Dyson DC01

This one is actually an ‘Antarctica Solo’ model (grey and light blue instead of yellow), which commemorated Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ solo trek across Antarctica and raised money for Breakthrough Cancer.  It had been abandoned and was moments away from the skip.  I felt quite sorry for it.

Faults reported included; no suction, excess noise and smell!

The first thing to check on the DC01 is the filters, as like many other Dyson products, people forget to clean or change the filters.  Both filters were totally choked and full of all sorts of detritus.  A quick shake out and wash with warm soapy water and they were as good as new.  Following that, I inspected the seals around the join between the cylinder and the main body.  All the seals were dirty, so a clean up and quick spray with silicone spray and they were as good as new.  Great.

The noise seemed to be coming from the front beater/ rollers which usually means, noise bearings.  The beater on this model uses a two bearing set up.  One was fine, but the other was seized.  As I didn’t want to spend any more than I needed, I cleaned the bearing, after removing it and the dust cover, re-greased it with LM High-Melt Point grease (general automotive stuff) and it was ready to roll and beat again.

 

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Once the filters were dry and re-installed, the Dyson ran like new again.  Very satisfying.

Cost of replacement:  £15 second hand, £100’s for an equivalent-ish new model.

Cost of repair:  Patience, washing up liquid, two cups of tea.

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.

 

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.

 

Dyson DC14 roller bearings and block/ bypass relief valve

This Dyson DC14 came into the workshop with a couple of problems.  The first was a lack of suction power and the second was a horrible noise from the front of the vacuum cleaner.  It got to the workshop just in time.

A bypass valve is fitted to most vacuum cleaners without a bag and is there to prevent damage if a blockage exists somewhere in the airways or the owner has neglected to empty the collection bin.  In this case, the valve seemed to be stuck open, causing suction power to be lost.

The valve on the DC14 (other Dyson models are similar) is a small device situated near the exhaust filter.  the valve itself is a clear tube with a rubber sealed cap controlled by a spring.  In normal operation, the cap seals a hole to the outside world, but if there’s a blockage, the pressure of the spring is overcome and air is allowed past the cap.

In this case, the valve was dirty and stuck.  Repair required dismantling with normal household tools (small screwdriver and pliers) and cleaning using a damp cloth.  A small squirt of silicone spray on the rubber seal ensured a smooth operation upon reassembly.

 

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FixItWorkshop April’17, Dyson DC14, repaired in the workshop

The noise was traced to the front of the vacuum cleaner.  The roller/ beaters were making a horrible noise when in use and it wouldn’t have been too long before complete failure would have occurred.

Spare roller/ beaters are readily available from Dyson directly and from many aftermarket suppliers at reasonable prices.  Since the beaters were in good condition, it seemed reasonable to have a go at a repair.  The small ball bearing races at each end of the beater are easily removed and upon inspection, both were very stiff in operation.  Fortunately, the bearings used by Dyson were of good quality and as the dust covers were easily removed, all that was required was a clean with solvent cleaner and a re-grease.  Once refitted, the roller/ beaters sounded as they should again.

Cost of a replacement Dyson vacuum cleaner, circa £250, cost of repair £1 (bit of cleaner, grease, silicone spray.