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The Cara shower has been replaced by the Enrich and is basically the same product, by another name.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.

Tone-deaf VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

VTECH kids toy gets a little help.

We love a musical singing book toy, don’t we.  They’re great for encouraging children to form words, read and follow a narrative.  We have a few of these and they’re all great fun, all the time the batteries hold up.

We’re not so fond of musical books when they seemingly start by themselves, at one o’clock in the morning, when there’s no one else in the house.  Very creepy.

Make and model:  VTECH Electronics Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

Fault reported: Poor sound quality

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes

Tools needed:  Small file, cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’19, VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book.

This toy was a hand-me-down and had enjoyed a few years of use already, before it came in to our household, but it was in good condition and still has many more years left in it yet.

Recently though the singing emanating from the book was becoming a bit off-key and to be frank, rather than bringing joy the noise coming from the toy was enough to induce nightmares.  I keep a ready supply of rechargeable ‘AA’ batteries in this house and after popping out the old ones, the new ones fitted, I assumed all would be well, but not so.

Despite fresh power, the singing was still horrible and wobbly.  A quick test of both sets of batteries (old and new) revealed that the original batteries were fine and that something else was at play.

Time to delve a little deeper.

Galvanic corrosion can occur when two different metals in close contact with each other, chemically react.  The corrosion forms a barrier, in this case between the electrical contacts of the toy and battery to form a resistance.  This means that the toy, with the corroded contacts, wouldn’t get the full power it needed.

There was some minor corrosion on the contacts that needed a quick clean with some cloth and contact cleaner, something I keep on the shelf for such an occasion.

This did the trick and with the original batteries fitted, the toy was back on song once more, ready for another performance.

Dyson DC25 with various problems

Another Dyson dodges the dump

An email dropped into my inbox about a poorly Dyson DC25, that needed a bit of a clean up.  I said no problem, I’ll take a look.  What turned up was a vacuum cleaner that needed a bit more than a quick clean up with a J-Cloth.

Make and model:  Dyson DC25 (blue/ grey)

Cost of replacement:  £N/A, price when new £300

Cost of parts:  £6.89 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  2.5 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  5/10

It soon became apparent, that the Dyson was quite ill.

Here’s a summary of the problems:

  1. The mains cable flex was split, exposing the internal cables risking electric shock
  2. The roller beaters would not spin
  3. Suction was limited

None of these features were useful in vacuum cleaner, so out came the screw drivers.

The mains flex damage was about 90 cms from the handle end, so rather than replacing the whole cable at about £30, I decided to shorten the one already fitted on the Dyson.  This involved removing three screws on the reverse of the handle to expose the wiring.  From there, the broken flex could be cut-out and the sound part of the flex, reattached to the Dyson’s wiring.  See below.

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The DC25 features a roller-ball, enabling the beater head to twist and turn in to tight spots on the floor.  This means that mains power must navigate the various joints and hinges on the way from the main body to the roller beaters.  A quick test revealed that the power was not getting through.  After removing one of the side covers, there was evidence of a previous repair.  One of the mains cables had broken and had then been twisted back together.  Clearly, an improvement was needed.  Using a section of repair cable, a small joint was soldered back in to place with some mains-rated heat shrink around the connection for insulation and reinforcement.  See below.

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The beater head also needed a good clean, which meant a strip-down and re-build.  All parts were cleaned, inspected and reassembled.  During that process, a small break in the beater head wiring was found, repaired and put back together.  See below.

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Finally, the machine needed a good clean up.  The main cylinder was washed, the filters washed (although I later decided to replace these) and the main seals on the vacuum system, cleaned and silicone sealed.  See below.

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During clean up, the spigot-yoke that holds the roller ball in place on one side was found to be missing.  Luckily the owner had kept this and dropped it back to me to re-fit.

This Dyson was on the brink, but with a little bit of spanner-time, it’s now ready to serve many more years.

 

 

 

 

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.

Morphy Richards smoky heater

A heater with a broken motor gets a clean up…

I like the classic, function-over-form design of this heater.  Simple, clear, chunky controls and nothing included that isn’t needed.  Less is usually more.

This 1980s heater, although very well made and clearly designed with longevity and repair in mind was a little bit, er smoky.

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Fixitworkshop, February’19, Morphy Richards fan heater.

It appeared that the fan wasn’t running and the smoke was coming from old dust which had settled inside the machine.  I don’t think that the heater had been used in many years.

The heater came apart very easily, just three self-tapping screws holding the sides together to the main shell.

On first examination that the shell was out of shape and that it had come in to contact with the fan itself, forcing it to far down the motor shaft on to the motor body.  So, all that would be needed would be reposition the fan and re-shape the outer heater shell, a simple fix then.  Not quite.

The motor did not spin easily and even with a little penetrating oil on it, it was turning slowly, with the mains applied.

The motor was an induction type, with no brushes and didn’t obviously have anything restricting the motor’s spin.  I know that even apparently clean motor parts can have deposits of unseen oil and muck that can stop an otherwise good motor from working properly.  In situations like this, I tend to use brake cleaner or similar to break down the dirt.  Once cleaned, just a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the moving parts and that usually cures things.  I was in luck and after performing a mild service on the motor, it was spinning at full speed once again.  Quite literally warming.

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With the parts all back together, the heater was ready to run for many years to come.

Cost of replacement:  £15.00    Cost of repair:  £0.00, one cup of tea and a Bourbon.

Aldi Bauhn Radio with no power

A cheap radio gets a cheap fix.

I love a good radio.  I used to collect them as a kid, working or not, do them up, get them working and I eventually ended up with, er… lots.  I’ve since scaled my collection back a bit these days to around 10 or so, quite frankly more than is healthy really.

So when someone got in touch recently with a broken DAB radio to fix, I got quite excited.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, February’19, Bauhn DAB Radio.

These Bauhn DAB radios (available from Aldi or Lidl in the UK, I think) were on the market for about £10 and at that price they represent great value when compared to more expensive devices.

However, the one in the workshop appeared to have a problem power connector, which when wobbled, made the radio work intermittently.  Suspicious.

Having already repaired a similar radio with a similar fault before, I decided to video the repair to encourage others to check theirs, if something similar happens.  I hope you find it useful.

 

Happy fixing!

Cost of a new radio:  £10.  Cost of repair:  One cuppa and a bit of tinker time.

Alesis (DM Lite) Drum kit without kick

Alesis Drum Kit gets a cheap repair.

A neighbour of mine is a talented musician in a local band and also teaches school children various instruments.  Some of his students learn the drums, which is most parent’s nightmare as any notion of a peaceful evening is shattered.  Luckily, electronic drum kits are an excellent way to learn with headphones, while keeping happy parents and neighbours.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Alesis DM Lite Electronic Drum Kit
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FixItWorkshop,  Worthing, November’18, Alexis DM Lite main drum module

This kit was missing several beats and was hampering learning, so time for a visit to the workshop.  I’m no musical instrument repair specialist, but I thought that the drum kit must use electrical contacts, switches and rudimentary electrical components and I was right.

Two faults were reported; The kick/ foot pedal was intermittently not working and one of the drum pads was hardly working at all, unless you hit it with a sledge-hammer.  Time to see what was going wrong.

First up was the faulty drum pad.  Opening up the back of the pad was simplicity itself, just a few screws held the back to the pad.  Sandwiched between two halves was a sensor, a bit like a piezo flat speaker, similar to the type found in many toys with sounds.  I guess the principle here is that vibration detected by the piezo sensor is converted to analogue variable voltages by the drum kit’s circuitry.  While apart, I noticed that some of the copper detail tracks on the printed circuit board which had a standard 3.5mm jack socket (to allow a connection back to the rest of the kit) had cracked.  Looking again through my magnifying glass revealed quite a bit of damage, probably as a result of many Keith Moon wannabes.  Testing these tracks with my meter confirmed an intermittent fault, so out with the soldering iron, to repair the connection.  Plugging the pad back in, it was ready once again for more drum solos.

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Next up was the dodgy kick/foot pedal.  As the with the drum pad, the pedal would cut out intermittently.  A few screws held the pedal together, so only basic tools required.  See the slide show below for an idea of the construction.

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The fault with the pedal was similar to the drum pad.  Some of the copper detailing around the 3.5mm jack socket had failed and required some careful soldering.  I say careful, as applying too much heat at once would, likely as not, melt the casing of the socket.  One had to take care.

Once soldered, the pedal was much better.  I didn’t get a full 10/10 repair with the pedal since I think there was wear on the kick sensor, but it was an improvement none the less.

Cost of replacement:  £lots.  Cost of repair, my time, two cups of tea and some solder.