Is 12 years too long to keep a toothbrush?

A Braun Oral-B electric toothbrush gets a new lease of life.

Let’s just clarify one thing straightaway; I’m talking about an electric toothbrush with changeable brush heads.

I was given an Oral-B/ Braun electric toothbrush as a birthday present years ago, which when you think about it, is a bit of a strange thing to receive as a gift.  Maybe the gift contained a hint?  Back then, these toothbrushes were not cheap, starting at about £60.00 if I remember correctly.  Today, a new equivalent is quite a bit cheaper.

In the time I’ve owned it, it’s had about 40 new brush heads and it’s just about to start it’s third non-replaceable battery.

Make and model:  Oral-B/ Braun 3756 931 41306

Fault reported: Battery won’t hold charge

Cost of replacement:  About £20.00

Cost of parts:  £6.60

Hours spent on repair:  1

Tools needed:  Small flat-bladed screwdriver, soldering iron

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty:  5/10

Cups of tea:  2

Biscuits:  2 Gingernuts

Electrical items with non-replaceable batteries are so annoying.

A message to manufacturers:  There’s simply no excuse for it as all batteries are replaceable.

In my experience, items with ‘non-replaceable batteries’ contain entirely replaceable items.  The batteries might not be standard ‘AA’ items, but there’s a host of online suppliers that are ready to supply just about any power cell for any application, you name it, usually for a reasonable price that costs-in for the repair process.

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Now, I don’t know how long one of these toothbrushes is meant to last, but as a long-term test, I thought it would be interesting to find out.  After the first battery died, I decided to take the toothbrush apart, to see what was going on inside.

As you can see from the photos, there’s more within than one might think.  There’s a switch, charging circuit, timer circuit, over-pressure circuit, gearbox, motor, mini crankshafts and a battery.  Not to mention all of the tiny connecting parts all neatly engineered to work together, reliably.  It’s a small work of art really.

It makes me very sad that most of these toothbrushes will end up in landfill, after a few years.

The designers had clearly designed this toothbrush as a disposable item as the battery, despite being readily available from spares suppliers, was hidden, out of sight, under all of the gubbins.

To extract the battery (a simple nickel cadmium item) a full dismantle was required, in this order.

  • Prise off the top collar
  • Prise off the bottom cap
  • Pull out the main mechanism
  • De-solder the main pressure switch, charging coil, LED, and some other joints,
  • Take PCB off of battery carrier,
  • Split battery barrier from the main motor area
  • Remember the polarity of the battery, negative near the coil (a misleading ‘+’ there)
  • Reassembly, with the new battery is the same in reverse.  See pictures for hints.

Twelve years down the line and now on its third battery cell, the toothbrush is still going strong which proves that with a little tinkering, disposable items can be repaired and made to last longer.

It’s just a shame that Braun, the manufacturer, decided to ignore any notion of consumer maintenance.

 

 

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.

Price of part
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.

price new
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.

Blinking GHDs!

A pair of GHD 3.1B hair straighteners gets fixed

GHD hair straighteners are not something I’ve ever had the need to use, but they are seemingly very popular among the long-haired kind, none the less.  There are cheaper alternatives out there, but devotes tell me that the ceramic plates seem to have a better finish and run hotter for longer, all essential features for taming unruly curls.  So they tell me.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, GHD 3.1b hair straighteners.

Make and model:  GHD hair straighteners 3.1b

Fault reported: Buzzing noise, not warming up

Cost of replacement:  £97.00

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour (ish)

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  4/10

Cups of tea:  2

Biscuits:  1 (Ginger Nut)

Someone got in touch to ask if I could fix their GHDs and to be frank, I’ve had mixed success with these repairs in the past as in general, the newer the model, the harder it is to fault-find and subsequently order parts for, something I find very frustrating.  However, the 3.1bs discussed here are pleasingly old-school.

Dismantling these GHDs involves just one small cross-head screwdriver and one small flat blade screw driver, none of your fancy Torx heads here, thank you very much.

Strangely, the GHDs made a disconcerting buzzing noise when switched on, which to my fairly trained ear sounded distinctly 50Hz-like.  That means that the mains electricity feed was causing some component to ‘arc’ or resonate- the buzzing noise, in plain English.

Fearing imminent catastrophe, I unplugged the GHDs and went to work.  The main PCB is pretty simple on the 3.1b.  Most of the solder joints were OK, but some of the joints around the switch had discoloured, showing that heat had built up, indicating a problem.  To be on the safe side, I re-soldered all the joints to avoid a dry-joint situation.

The buzzing noise still prevailed.  The switch seemed to be the next logical place to look and being of quality, the designers had provided easy access to the switch mechanism via a small metal cover with sprung tangs.  A quick bit of jiggery-pokery and the switch was in bits.

The problem was revealed in an instant.  Both switch contacts and corresponding wipers were burned and needed re-finishing and cleaning.  A quick whizz with a fine file and clean with special electrical contact cleaner and the switch was as good as new.  Since the GHDs were already in pieces, I gave the same clean up treatment to the 3600 flex mechanism, as a precaution.

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So, this set of GHDs were saved from the bin, ready to straighten locks once more, thanks to a few basic tools and cleaning.  Very satisfying.

 

 

That thing just eats money!

Tomy (UK) /Robie (US) Mr. Money repaired in the Workshop

I have a real soft spot for novelty toy robots that actually do something.  I think I’ll make a point of collecting more.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Tomy/ Robie Mr. Money.

Make and model:  Tomy (Robie in U.S.) Mr. Money  children’s money box

Fault reported: Not eating money

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  3/10

A lady got in touch with me on the back of an article I wrote a while ago about a faulty Mr. Money toy robot money box.  My Mr. Money had gone wrong as I’d left an old battery inside which had then leaked.  A major clean-up and tinker was then required to get it working again.

This particular Mr Money belonged to the lady’s husband and was to be ‘given to him again’ as a 40th birthday present.  What a nice thought.  The only problem was that Mr. Money had stopped working long ago; put away and forgotten about.  He needed bringing back to life.  Perhaps there was a hidden message to the husband to save for something?  Who knows.

Mr_Money_Quick_Strip

Mr. Money arrived well packed at the workshop and I wasted no time in taking him apart.  There was no evidence of battery leakage or accidental Cadbury Button ingestion and he was generally in good condition with no bits broken off.  A good start.

Mr. Money is getting on a bit and when taking apart any toy, let alone one that’s over 30 years old, one must be careful not to accidently snap-off any lugs or tangs that hold things like casing and levers together.  Very tricky.  It’s not something I usually attempt after a day at work, when I’m shattered.

After some rooting around in the depths of the mechanism, I noticed that the ‘limit switch’ was a little dirty and that some of the contacts needed a little clean.  Using some fine cloth and switch cleaner, all metallic switch surfaces and battery connections were cleaned up and with a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money worked again.

Being 30 years old, there’s no silly use of electronics or other USB excesses which are, I think, ‘over used’ on modern toys.  It all adds up to something which can be repaired with basic tools and parts.

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I carefully reassembled the workings, casing, switches, arms, head, eyes and lid.

Mr. Money was ready to feast.

After testing a couple of quid through the Mr.Money’s eating cycle, I was happy for him to start his journey home.  I hope he gets used regularly and never put away in a box again.

 

 

 

Qualcast Hover Safe 25, left out in the cold

An old hover mower avoids the great lawn in the sky.

Another email popped in to my inbox asking if I would have a look at a Qualcast Hover Safe 25 which had stopped working.  It had been working intermittently for a while before giving up the ghost and now it had thrown in the towel.  Bad news.  It had literally been kicked into the long grass.

Make and model:  Qualcast Hover Safe 25

Cost of replacement:  £40.00 (ish)

Cost of parts:  £0.00 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Tools needed:  Basic screw drivers, multimeter, pliers, hair dryer

Sundry items: WD40, silicone spray, wet and dry sanding cloth

Repair difficulty:  4/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Qualcast Hover Safe 25.

The owner of this mower had reported that the handle mouted switch (dead-mans handle) had been a ‘bit tricky’ to use and that it didn’t always work.  These kinds of statements make me wonder what kind of life a device has had.  Judging by the rust and discolouration on the metal and plastic parts, I think this mower had been left in a shed with a leaky roof!

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The water had not been kind and the mechanism had seized.  The only thing to do was to open up the switch, clean up any moving parts, lubricate the switch with switch cleaner and lubricate the sliding plastic parts with a little silicone spray.  The small lever which actuates the main on/ off switch was also slightly bent, so after a little straightening, using a hair dryer, it was as good as new. After the switch was repaired, the lawnmower’s motor still wasn’t working.

The cable running from the switch to the motor housing appeared to be in good condition, so the only thing left was to remove the motor itself.  Removing the motor means removing the blade and 4 small screws (see photos).  Once exposed, the motor was revealed.  Power was indeed reaching the motor when the switch was operated, as confirmed with a quick dab of the multimeter.

The motor itself seemed to have little resistance when manually spun, which led me to suspect the motor brushes had worn out.  Doubting that brushes were available, I decided to remove them anyway for closer inspection.  This revealed seized motor brushes, which backed up my theory about the mower’s damp environment.  A quick bit of jiggery pokery and a clean up and the motor brushes were as good as new.  A quick clean up of the motor commutator, I refitted the brushes and the motor was ready to be refitted.

Now, this mower is not in the first flush of youth and the motor bearings were a little noisy, but after a quick spray of grease in the bearing area it sounded fine.  The mower will never be perfect, but at least it will work for a little longer, which has got to be the point, hasn’t it?

Cold GHD hair straighteners

GHD 4.2b hair straighteners with a new fuse.

Someone got in touch with a set of GHD 4.2B hair straighteners, which wouldn’t warm up.  Not even the light would come on.

Make and model:  GHD 4.2b hair straighteners

Cost of replacement:  £85.00

Cost of parts:  £2.89 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  5/10

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 These older hair straighteners are well supported with spare parts and their design means that, with a systematic approach and basic test gear, the fault can be identified and parts replaced, fairly easily.

The thermal fuse on these straighteners can fail, even though the heating elements and associated wiring and circuitry is just fine.  A combination of age and accidental rough handling can affect the life of the fuse, so it was the first thing I checked on these straighteners.

It was first time lucky in this case.  The fuse tested open-circuit.  To prove that the rest of the circuit was working, I made a temporary short circuit to the fuse connection and the straighteners powered up OK.

Time to order a new fuse.  Using an eBay shop (SiriusHairUK), a fuse was ordered and it arrived very quickly, great service.

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With the fuse re-fitted and the heating element re-installed the rest of the hair straighteners were ready for reassembly.  Using basic tools, the straighteners went back together well and after final testing, they were ready for use again.

Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Problems

The right formula for a poorly Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine

The owner of this Perfect Prep machine had reported that it had not been used for a while, then filled with water, powered up and … nothing.

Make and model:  Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep

Cost of replacement:  £70

Cost of parts:  £3.69 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  1 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  6/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’18, Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep.

I’ve repaired a machine like this before and I already had a theory about the problem, which went like this:

  • Machine not used for a while; watery scale deposits built-up in machine
  • Machine filled with water, with possible air-lock present
  • Air-lock causes bubble in heater, causing it to temporarily over-heat, safety thermal fuses blow

Dead machine.

At this stage, it was only a theory, so the only thing to do was to start wielding screwdrivers.

A few quick checks revealed that mains power was not getting to the main controller in the machine, which indicated that the safety thermal cut-out fuses had failed.  There are two on this machine.  A quick test with the multi-meter confirmed that both had failed.

After some dismantling, both fuses could be removed from the wiring harness.  Fuses like these are not available from the high street usually, but they are readily available online.  The manufacturer had used crimps to attach the fuses to the wiring, but I decided to solder the new ones back in place.  Care had to be taken as the melting point of solder is very close to the thermal rating of the fuses, so I came up with the idea of using a damp cloth wrapped around the fuse while doing the soldering.  A bit tricky!

Both fuses replaced meant that the unit powered-up and worked.  Great.

However, I wasn’t totally convinced that an air-lock wouldn’t happen again so I looked deeper at the machine’s plumbing.  There appeared to be a kink in one of the boiler tube feed pipes, so I decided to cut some material away, to prevent the pipe restricting water flow in future.

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All back together, the machine worked well once again.