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)

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.

 

 

Very leaky Renault Clio

A Clio gets it’s drains cleared

I’ve owned my fair share of banger material motors, but I’ve never known one as rain intolerant as my latest car.  I bought a ‘one owner’ Clio for not a lot of money, as a hack to get to work.  The car was very honest.  It honestly told me that not much in the way of maintenance had been done- in recent times.

Anyway, £60 or so on service and maintenance parts later and the 120K mile machine responded well, trouble was, that I needed a brolley and wellington boots to drive it, it leaked so much.  My 1983 Austin Mini was more water resistant, it was that bad.

After doing a bit of Googling, I found that the classic Renault fault with the sunroof seals had plagued my car, but that wasn’t the end of my problems.  Both door card gasket (the gasket between the door card and metal) had failed.  A reel of £6.99 mastic tape fixed both sunroof and door card leaks, happy days.

However, when it rained hard, I still needed wellies to drive.  This leak was eventually traced to a hidden drain hole, buried deep within the bulkhead/ scuttle area.  A few videos on YouTube mention this, but I thought it was still video worthy to cover again with the wiper mechanism and heater blower removed to see the drain more clearly, in the hope it might help fellow Clio Mk2 owners with perpetual Athletes foot.

Enjoy!

Parrot BeBop Drone knocked off perch

Sadly, I couldn’t save this Parrot

I seem to be having a run of failed repairs at the moment and while it’s disappointing to write-up a repair that didn’t succeed, it’s important to learn from failure.

A colleague asked me to look at a Parrot camera drone recently as one of the drone’s motors wasn’t running correctly.  The fault developed after a visit to a lake where it got a little wet.  It turns out that this model isn’t water-proof, despite the £300.00 price tag!

After drying out, when powered back up, one of the four motors wouldn’t spin at full speed.  These motors seem to operate in several phased windings and it would appear that one of the motor’s phases was missing.

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FixItWorkshop, Aug’17, Parrot BeBop drone

Upon opening up the drone, I discovered that the PCB had indeed suffered water damage along its main processor.  However, three of the motors were fine and camera was working OK.

The double-sided printed circuit board (PCB) presented me with a dilemma.  This PCB was fitted with extra tiny components and multi-layered board technology, presumably to save weight and cost, so a repair using conventional soldering techniques was unlikely to get good results as the excessive heat would more than likely damage other components.  Located near the wiring connector that connects to the motor that wasn’t working properly, were several tiny surface mount fuses, one of which appeared to have failed.  Assuming I could locate the right component, attempting a repair on a PCB like this would more than likely yield a molten mess! At this stage I could have used a conductive glue to bond in a new component or temporarily bridge the fuse, but on the basis that I couldn’t guarantee a repair and the fact that there seemed to be water ingress to the whole PCB, I decided that a complete PCB replacement was probably needed.  Sadly, I had to return the drone back to the owner with the bad news.

Porsche Boxster leaky window seal

A little water leak repair on a Boxster.

Not strictly a FixItWorkshop blog article really, but hey!  It’s a cheap fix.

My beloved 2003 Boxster developed puddles in the umbrella holder on the passenger side (RHD car) when it rained hard.

The window was adjusted correctly and the door aligned properly, but when it rained, water ran down near the door mirror, under the seal, down the door card and in to the umbrella holder area.  Water leaks like this, especially on the passenger side (RHD car) are a real problem on the Boxster, since the cars’ ECU is mounted on the floor on that side and is big £££ to replace/ repair if it fails.

Seemingly, the door seal rubber on the car adjacent to the door mirror area had worn and become slightly porous and was allowing water to get in between the glass and seal.

New door seals are very expensive and to prove the issue, I applied a small trace of tap (faucet) silicone grease to the area to restore the wax-like finish, the seal should have to seal properly.

This has fixed the problem for now.  The door seal is worn and will need replacing in the long-term, but for now, this is a very cheap fix.

 

Leaking Reginox Miami Tap

Reginox tap gets a new mechanism.

A friend of mine had long been complaining about a leaking tap in his kitchen for some time, so it was a long overdue job for me to tackle.

A quick look online revealed lots of videos and help, but nothing covering the actual problem in this instance.

The tap spout was leaking from the swivel joint where the spout body is allowed to move approximately 180 degrees to move from sink to sink, in this case.  This is a fairly common problem for taps (faucet if you’re in America) of this design and sooner or later they all seem to suffer.

I was interested to know if the parts were available, but Internet searches revealed nothing.  An email to Reginox UK was answered very quickly and I was referred to Mayfair Brassware Ltd, the manufacturers of the tap in this instance.  The parts were quickly identified and delivered next day. Both companies were very helpful and efficient, useful for a non-plumber, like myself.

The cost of replacing the tap was about £50, so the £5 spent on replacement seals was well worth it.  The whole job was done in 10 minutes using basic tools.