Gaggia Espresso Machine with a nasty blockage

A Gaggia Espresso machine gets a rebuild.

Home coffee machines are very cool.  Home espresso machines are even better as they’re the closest you can get to a coffee shop brew, in my opinion.  Due to heat, water and coffee mixing up on a regular basis, they need ownership with care for long life.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Gaggia Espresso Machine.

Top tips for longer coffee machine life:

  • Use filtered water, especially if you live in a hard water area
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Keep all rubber seals, especially those around the main coffee making area, clean with a damp cloth

Someone got in touch with a machine that was a few years old, but had once made a lovely cup of coffee.  The owner had used it daily but recently it had begun to leak and not perform at its best.  The machine had also been to a UK repair specialist, but sadly, they couldn’t solve the problems.  I always test appliances when they arrive to confirm the fault and as expected, water came out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

I’ve worked on a few of these machines, so I know the drill.  Remove the lid, make a note of the wiring connectors, the pipes and remove the bolts holding the main boiler in place.  I also ordered a service kit (new seals) for a reasonable £7.99.

The main boiler separates into two halves which reveals the main boiler chamber and exit for hot water.

This boiler was in poor condition and years of corrosion and scale had built up and was probably blocking the main group head, the bit where you attach the group handle/ filter bit to make coffee.

Time for more dismantling.  The group head is held in position with a couple of screws, but years of corrosion had taken their toll and this head was going nowhere.  Great care was needed as the soft metal is easily damaged.

Thinking about this a bit more, I decided to cut a screw thread into one of the water holes in the head and use a bolt to lever the group head apart.  It worked.  Once off the head revealed loads of debris and scale.

The next job was to give all parts a thorough clean, re-faced with wet and dry paper as needed and use new seals as part of the reassembly.

Once back together, the boiler was reinstalled and reconnected.  After a few blasts of fresh water through the machine, it was ready to make its first proper brew.

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Cost of replacement:  £100-300.  Cost of repair:  £7.99, my time, one tin of elbow grease, one cup of coffee and a ginger nut.

 

 

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.

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.

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?!

Satellite Bass Guitar that wouldn’t go to 11.

A Fender Precision style Satellite P Bass guitar repair…

A friend of mine, who plays in a Portsmouth-based Psychedelic Garage Rock & Roll band, brought in a Satellite Bass Guitar with a few issues.  Firstly the volume control was noisy and crackly and secondly, it was a little quiet.  Not good for those moments where you need to go one higher, to eleven.

The band are:  60th Parallel

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass.

Opening up the compartment behind volume, tone and jack plug socket revealed messy wiring and dodgy connections.  The owner had already supplied a replacement potentiometer for the volume control, so all I had to do was replace the one fitted, re-make the poor connections and give the wiring a general tidy-up.

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, wiring before work.

The guitar has Dimarzio ‘Model P’ pick-ups which can be wired many different ways, depending on the application and musical taste.  This particular guitar, circa 1976, is a Fender Precision style Satellite bass (P-Bass) and has a modified ‘through neck’.

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, volume (top) and tone (bottom) controls.

Testing the guitar before commencing work revealed a slightly quiet, but mainly crackly output from the amplifier, the tone control was fine.  The owner had also complained that the bass sometimes cut-out, mid song.  Not ideal.

Removing the volume control was straightforward and only required a spanner to remove the nut, after pulling off the volume knob.  The rest of the job just involved careful de-soldering, cutting out the poor wiring and replacing it with new wiring where needed and some heat shrink to tidy things up. Having not repaired an electric guitar before, I did make a quick wiring diagram for reference!

Once completed, I hooked it up to the amplifier again which revealed a much cleaner, crackle free note.  Sadly, I can’t play the guitar, so I wasn’t able to test it properly!

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, neater wiring.

Cost of a new bass:  Name a price.  Cost of the repair; about £2.00 plus tinker time.

 

Elna SP sewing machine… Totally stitched up.

A Sewing Machine Repair…

On first impressions, this machine didn’t have a lot going for it.  It had been stored in a garden shed, never the best place to store a sewing machine, it was dirty, neglected and broken.  However, the weight of it indicated that this was a quality item and worth investigating.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing Machine in case.

This machine comes from a different time in manufacturing where the focus was on quality rather than on price-point in the market and as a result, it’s made to outlive most people.  In fact, many electric sewing machines made by Elna, Singer, Toyota, Janome, Brother and so on, built until the 1980s, are items of sheer mechanical excellence inside and should be cherished.  Anyway, on with the problem and repair.

The owner had stashed the machine away many years ago and as a result, it had seized.  Details of the fault were scant, I was just told that it didn’t work!  Upon powering it up and operating the foot pedal, the hand wheel turned slightly before making a horrible mains AC hum.  It was time to un-plug, rapidly.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP.

There are exposed oiling points on the Elna SP, a nice maintenance touch, but clearly these hadn’t been used in many a year.  Opening up the machine’s lid on top of the motor and bobbin transmission cover below revealed a lot of dirt and neglect which I first cleaned and then oiled lightly with special oil, in to all the moving parts.  Automotive brake cleaner was used to remove old dirt and grease from the needle area and gears.  New grease was then applied to the parts that needed it and more oil to other ‘metal on metal’ parts.  The trick here is to not apply so much oil that it ends up on the fabric being stitched.

Once the machine was running smoothly again, I noticed that the bobbin shuttle wasn’t turning, not even a little bit.  Not ideal.  Time to delve a little deeper and on this machine, it meant complete disassembly of the bobbin shuttle assembly, which then revealed a stripped worm-drive hook gear (part 403030).  This seems to be a fairly common issue on these machines as they get older.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, part 403030 for Elna SP.

Obtaining a new hook gear was quite easy via eBay; BSK (Bedford Sewing Knitting Machines) supplied the part for a reasonable £15.99 including P&P within 24 hours.  Once fitted, it was a case of fine-tuning the bobbin/ hook timing to suit the needle.  It’s a similar principle to valve and ignition timing on a petrol engine car, a process that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever done any spannering on an old Mini or Escort for example.

With the timing complete, a few tests using old material revealed that the machine was working once again with no missed stitches.  I gave the machine a final polish with car wax before handing it back to the owner for my own satisfaction.

 

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing machine repaired.

Thanks also to More Sewing in Worthing, West Sussex for their advice on machine oil.  www.moresewing.co.uk.

Cost of a new machine (of this quality): £500 plus.  Cost of repair:  £15.99, plus time, plus a little oil and patience.

Testing, testing, 1-2-what?

My Fairlady sings again…

When my wife isn’t looking after our daughter, she sings part-time in and around Sussex and uses a simple portable microphone and amplifier set for gigs. The amp and the rest of the kit lead a hard life, being transported between the car boot and venue and on one occasion, the microphone was dropped from a height.  I guess things could have been worse, it could have been the amp!

The microphone now rattled badly and seemed to cut out when connected up, even when turned up to 11.  Not a good sound when she was in the middle of ‘Moon River’.

The microphone actually came from a Lidl karaoke set and is made by Silvercrest, a Lidl brand.  It’s a heavy, metal bodied microphone with a decent quality feel and metal grilled top.

The rattle seemed to coincide with the cutting out, so it seemed sensible to open up the mic.  Three Phillips screws hold the casing together and upon opening it up, the problem quickly became apparent.  The metal weight inside had come away from the inside of the casing and was occasionally ‘shorting’ the connections on the back of the on/off switch.  Not good.

While in bits, I checked all the wiring for continuity, no problems there and decided to clean the switch with contact cleaner for good measure.  Once all the electrical side of the mic was proved, I reassembled the casing with the parts, adding a little hot-melt glue to the metal weight to prevent it coming in to contact with the back of the on/off switch.

This wasn’t the end of the song (sorry).

Upon hooking the mic up to the amp, it now worked again without cutting out, but I couldn’t help but notice that the lead connecting to the base of the mic seemed to be causing a slight crackle.  Not a nice sound effect.

Opening up the three-pin mic connector revealed a simple design, three poles soldered to the microphone’s wiring, one core and one screen.  A quick cut, strip and re-solder and the lead was ready to roll once again.  Before I did the cable crimp back up, I added another dab of hot melt glue between the cable outer and flex guard, to ensure the cable couldn’t twist, which might cause the connector to fail again.

Cost of a new microphone £20+.  Cost of repair; Time plus soldering and a bit of glue.

‘My Fairlady’ sings again…