Swan tea urn off the boil

A cheap fix gets this essential tea making machine back in business…

I admit it. I do get some satisfaction when I divert an appliance, on a journey to the bin, to my workshop for repair.  I have been known to collect the odd item from skips or just dumped on the pavement while supposed to be doing something more productive. I think I just feel sorry for things. Weird, but true.

Make and model: Swan Hot Water Tea 20L Urn

Fault reported: Not staying hot

Cost of replacement: £80ish

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts: £1.70

Hours spent on repair: 45 minutes

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: Cleaning materials, heat transfer solution

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: X1

Biscuits: Malted Milk X1

This Swan hot water tea urn was one of those items.  Spotted during an office reorganisation in the ‘scrap pile’, it had been put there as it wasn’t working properly and a new one had now been ordered.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, Swan Hot Water Urn… shiny!

 

Being fairly light-fingered, I spirited the urn away to the workshop for some tinker time.  Not strictly staff policy, but you know, seek forgiveness after etc.

An urn is really just a big kettle.  This one has an all metal 20 litre tank with bar-style tap to brew up, when needed.  There are no real controls as such; just an on/off switch with neon light and two tell-tail lights to indicate boil and keep warm.  Keep warm is usually on all the time when switched on.

The fault seemed to be that the urn reached boiling temperature when switched on, but then switched off totally, allowing the water to cool again excessively.  Timing the switching intervals of the thermostat, 20 minutes or so, and a 15-200 hysteresis confirmed a fault. There was also no ‘keep warm’ green light on, when in use.  To push the thermostat further, I poured cold water into the urn to see if that sped up switching between hot and cold, it didn’t.

Opening up the urn’s base involved just three screws, allowing access to all components.  Such a nice change to not have layers of covers and things to move out of the way first!

Checking the wiring out for logic revealed that someone had been here before! The wiring was incorrect and the ‘keep hot’ element was not wired up correctly and effectively not in circuit with the power source. A small wiring change corrected this and meant that the ‘keep warm’ element was now working again.

The thermal reset fuse/ button seemed to be working OK- proved with a test meter and the thermostat did seem to switch on and off, albeit with excessive hysteresis.  Time to fit another one! Luckily, these thermostats are very common and I managed to get one from eBay, rated at 1000 (a couple of degrees over the one fitted) for less than £2. Fitting a new thermostat only involved a couple of screws, a light smear of heat transfer solution and reconnecting back into the wiring harness.

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With all wiring back in place and the cover refitted, it was time to test and brew up.  This time, the urn boiled, switched off and then stayed warm on the secondary ‘keep warm’ circuit.  To prove that the new thermostat was an improvement, I then topped up the urn with cold water and within 5 seconds, the thermostat clicked in and the boiling process started again.

Time for a brew.

(PS, the urn has now returned to its normal place of work)

Repair, kettles and er, the Citroen 2CV

Less is usually more. Simpler devices can mean repair is more likely in the event of failure.

I keep a model of a Citroen 2CV car on my desk at work.  It’s about 30-odd years old and it’s a bit battered due to an incident involving a shelf, my old cat and an 8ft drop, but that’s another story.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’20, The 2CV (AZ series)

The 2CV is there to remind me to keep things simple, to the point.

To me (and many others) the 2CV represents pure function over form.  Nothing on the car is superfluous to its function as a capable load lugging, robust, ever-repairable and frugal vehicle. I have a soft spot for these cars. They encapsulate the phrase ‘less is more’.

Not every story from the workshop is rosy and my heart usually sinks when I receive something to fix that has tiny printed circuit boards fitted inside that do ‘something’ and nothing at the same time.

What the Tin Snail do I mean by that? Many appliances and machines manufactured in the last 20 years or so often contain ‘mini’ circuits that control ‘something’.

Take an electric kettle, something that most people have in their homes. Kettles generally are a water holding vessel, a heating system, and an on/off switch with a boiling water state detecting negative feedback loop (it switches off by itself when the water boils).  There’s also some wire and stuff.

Electric kettles haven’t really changed that much over the years, after all the basic need hasn’t changed:  You put water in, you switch it on, you get hot water to make a drink. Nothing has changed. However, many offered these days are fitted with things like filters, LED lighting and other electronic temperature control systems with bells on.

Trouble is, all these (kettle) gadgets tend to be controlled by a small circuit board which isn’t repairable or even replaceable. It only takes an accidental water spill, some static electricity or bump mishap and that tiny circuitry is toast.  Not even a professional circuit repair agent, let along home spanner wielder would have a chance of repairing the broken circuit. When failure occurs, many will just discard the appliance and go and buy another one, quickly. Who wants to be without tea or coffee?!

The tragedy is that the rest of the (kettle in this case) appliance is, nine times out of ten, OK and if it was made with more traditional components that one could see with the naked eye, the appliance would stand far more chance of being repaired easily and economically. Something to think about, next time you’re considering a new purchase.

 

 

 

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.

Erratic GHD hair straighteners

Straight GHDs

GHD hair straighteners are a premium product which retail for a minimum of £100 in the UK.  However, over time they suffer from common annoying faults which cause owners to condemn the set they have.

This set of straighteners presented ‘as working’ when first switched on.  After warming up, hair straightening temperature was reached within the normal time.  However, after 5 minutes of use, the temperature reduced and failed to re-heat in a reasonable time.  Leaving the straighteners to cool completely would effectively reset the problem, only for  the cycle to repeat again.

GHD faults are well documented on YouTube and the fault turned out to be a faulty thermocouple or thermofuse, which should regulate the temperature and cut power in the event of a fault.  They do however wear out and this set of straighteners was no exception.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’17, Worthing, GHD Hair Straighteners …repaired!

After dismantling, the thermal fuse was replaced for £2.70.  The whole job took half an hour and saved the owner nearly £100 on a replacement.

Chilly Hotpoint Tumble Dryer (VTD00)

A cheap fix for an old tumble dryer.

A tumble dryer that didn’t dry

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing,  Feb’17.  Hotpoint (VTD00) tumble dryer (Ariston, Creda, Indesit similar.  Now drying once more…

This machine is our very own, which decided to stop drying clothes.  Everything seemed to work; the drum was going around, the timer was working and nothing sounded out of sorts, but it started taking longer and longer to dry clothes.  In short, it wasn’t well.

This particular model is well documented online as it’s the same one with a world-wide model recall.  Fortunately, Hotpoint/ Indesit/ Creda/ Ariston have an excellent recall process and information service.  In fact if you’re concerned about yours, please visit http://www.hotpointservice.co.uk/safety-notices/ to see if your machine is listed.  This machine had been modified and was cleared safe for use.

Anyway, it was time to dig out the tools.  There’s not much to a tumble dryer really, the most expensive and important part being the motor, which in this case was fine.  Having tested the heating elements for suitable resistance, it was time to check the wiring, which also tested fine.

Since the machine would heat up and then cool, it suggested a temperature control system fault.  This machine has three temperature sensors; one in the exhaust and two on the back of the heater, the latter two to act as heat control and safety cut out.

If you’re still reading,  it turned out that the exhaust thermostat sensor was at fault.  Once it has allowed a brief heat cycle, it would shut down for ages.  It had excess temperature switch ‘hysteresis’.  The spare part was about £12, so versus the cost of a replacement machine at about £170, it was well worth spending time on the machine.