Bagpuss, oh, Bagpuss, oh, flat battery cat puss…

A much loved soft toy gets new (apparently non-replaceable) batteries…

For a change, this one’s just for me. I don’t often write-up repairs on my own items, but I couldn’t resist dedicating a few words to our beloved Bagpuss soft toy. He’s been around in the family for a good few years and when my youngest daughter decided to dust him down and make his voice work, I wasn’t surprised when no noise came out. Our Bagpuss has an electronic voice box which is activated with a gentle squeeze around the belly. After many years and many hugs, the batteries had gone kaput.

I grew up in the 1980s and remember watching Bagpuss on BBC1. I must have been about four I guess. Bagpuss lived in a shop window, a shop that was owned by a child, a shop that didn’t sell anything. Emily, the shop owner, would bring Bagpuss and friends broken objects to restore and explore. The story would begin once Emily had left and Bagpuss woke up…

Well, this Bagpuss wasn’t waking up anytime soon and to make matters worse, the batteries within appeared to be non-replaceable. Well, that’s not very good is it? So, in the spirit of the original TV program, I decided to take an unpicker tool to the cat and carefully dismantle his seams…See how I get on.

Make and model: Bagpuss talking toy

Fault reported: No talking, no sound

Cost of replacement machine: £10.00 if you can find one

Manufacturer support (in the UK): 0/10

Cost of parts (for this repair): £1.00

My time spent on the repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Needle and thread, small flat screwdriver

Sundry items: None

Cleaning materials: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Beverages: 1 tea (as usual)

Biscuits consumed: No biscuits, just a slice of chocolate cake (I think)

There’s always that moment with a fix like this when you think; shall I just leave it as it is? I mean, it was still a loved toy right? But as my regular reader will know, that’s not quite how we do things in the workshop. Things must work correctly and if there’s a reasonable chance of success, then the repair must go on.

So, here it goes.

I knew that this Bagpuss ran on batteries, but had no battery compartment to gain access etc. He’s a soft toy, made from a mixture of polyester and cotton fabric, which is all neatly stitched together. All I could do is roughly locate the sound box within his chest and neck area and then chose a suitable seam to unpick, in the hope that it would allow me some access to the box without causing too much damage.

Using a standard stitch un-picker tool, I was able to gently cut into the neck and part of the chest area which gave me access to a small red and black smooth polyester bag, which contained the voice box. At this point, I was starting to feel a bit sick, I mean, what had I done!?

Moving on, the voice box just slide out of the red and black bag and from then on in, it was standard toy-fare. The plastic voice box had a switch on one side and a battery compartment on the other side, all perfectly normal. The battery door was held in place with a small screw and once removed, revealed three LR41 coin cell batteries. Very normal stuff, nothing non-replaceable here.

Luckily, I had some spare batteries in stock and with a little contact cleaner applied to the slightly tarnished battery contacts and the new cells fitted, Bagpuss’ voice was heard for the first time in ages.

Now it was just a case of putting the voice box back in the right place, so that the switch to make the sound work could be reached easily. Once that was done, it was just a case of carefully re-stitching the neck and chest bag together using white cotton thread and lots of neat tack-stitches that would be invisible, once tight.

After a few minutes of finger-pricking sewing, Bagpuss’ head was back on and it was time for a squeeze…

See what you think.

When a label or someone tells you that a battery cannot be replaced, ignore it and try anyway.

Once Bagpuss was back together, I couldn’t help but wonder why the manufacturer hadn’t fitted a hidden zip to allow simpler battery replacement. Perhaps it’s got something to do with safety standards. Who knows. What I do know is that Bagpuss isn’t alone, and I suspect that many toys like this are discarded needlessly each year due to short-term, lazy design.

Inside The Real Repair Shop 2

Practical vacuum cleaner maintenance advice from the workshop!

I have 5 vacuum cleaners, each kept for specific tasks, as you can imagine.  No, seriously I love vacuum cleaners.  From friendly faced Henrys and Hettys to ‘frickin’ Sharks, I love ‘em all.  Why you ask? Well I guess that using a hoover is sheer joy to me.  You take your machine to a grubby area, run it around the floor, and you are rewarded with instant gratification! The carpet is returned to near pristine condition.  Better still, with many machines, you can see all the muck that was once on the carpet, swirling around in mesmerizing dust-storms, in the see-through debris collection bin!  Cosmic stuff.

Decent vacuum cleaners cost a few quid and far too many repairable machines end up at tips across the country, prematurely.

I suspect that many machines could be saved with basic skills. Most people could manage light servicing with basic tools and a small dusting of knowledge so here are some top tips to help you keep your hoover running well for longer.

Models vary, but you are likely to need the following: 

  • Big flat-head screwdriver
  • a cross-head screwdriver
  • damp cloth bowl of hot soapy suds

Before you start work on any appliance, always unplug from the mains. 

Brush heads: Upright vacuum cleaners probably have a rotating brush head. Remove any dog, cat, child hair, Lego etc from the brushes, especially the stuff stuck at the sides, where it can cause damage to things like bearings.  Use a knife or some old scissors to cut-away trapped hair etc.  This will improve performance and prevent damage. 

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January’21, Dyson DC07 brush head- looking clean.

Filters:  Many vacuum cleaners have at least one, sometimes three filters to prevent dust entering back into the environment it was sucked-up from, preventing sneezes.  Usually all you need to do is see where the filters are located and to remove any retaining clips/covers.  Some machines use screws to hold the filters in-situ, so you’ll need to familiarise yourself with your instructions. 

If you’ve held on to your instructions, well done.  If you’re like most people and have chucked the instructions away, you might need to Google your model and download them. These filters need to be cleaned every three months in warm soapy water and left to dry for at least 24 hours or until bone dry.  Clean filters not only prevent dust build-up in the air, but are essential for the free flow of air into your machine and out again.

A blocked motor filter could cause overheating and damage to the motor bearings and brushes.  Suction can be reduced by a blocked cylinder filter. HEPA filters need to be replaced and can’t be cleaned, however eBay is awash with good quality, cheap alternative filters, so there’s no excuse for not lavishing your machine with some filter-love to let your machine breathe easy.

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January’21, old and new filters.

Seals:  All vacuum cleaners rely on good seals between joints to ensure perfect performance.  Rubber and foam seals need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of dirt. Get a bowl of hot soapy water and an old cloth to clean up joints and seal-like surfaces, no special skills required.  Don’t scrub too hard as you might damage the smooth surfaces, just a gentle clean is all that’s needed.  Remember, dirty seals equal vacuum loss.

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January’21, keep seals clean with a damp sponge or cloth.

Just a small tune-up in the way of basic servicing will mean that your trusty vacuum runs sweeter for longer, saving you time, money and valuable resources.  You’ll also bond with your machine, which is a good thing.

After all that cleaning, you’ve earned yourself a cup of tea. Time to put the kettle on, make a brew and grab a custard cream.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Repair club in Worthing? A good idea?

An new idea for Worthing?

I enjoy repairing stuff.  Anything within reason.  Even if I don’t fully understand how something works when it comes in to the workshop, I enjoy the learning process, getting to know how and why something works.  Am I the only one? No.

There are existing groups that meet around the UK with the aim of promoting the ‘art of repair’, re-kindling the idea that things can be mended. This ultimately enriches skills while getting more life and enjoyment from every day items we often take for granted.

I’ll bet that 70% of vacuum cleaners alone that get dumped at Worthing’s Amenity Tip could be repaired and therefore saved from landfill.  I have no actual evidence for this statistic, I just made it up based only on my experience of the things I see for repair with minor faults.

Organisations like the Restart Project https://therestartproject.org hold meetings to promote electrical repair and waste reduction at various locations around the country.  I haven’t met the organisers yet, but it looks like a great scheme that’s doing really well.

Do you think a regular ‘FixIt’ meeting in Worthing would work?  Perhaps a ‘pub meet’ where people can share knowledge, tools and a drink over an appliance repair. That probably sounds like a weird idea, but many households have items that need repair or fettling every week, so there must be a demand of some sorts.

Could this work?  If you think I’m mad, get in touch.  If you think it’s a good idea, definately get in touch!

Email me…

Matt.

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November’18.

Since I wrote that blog post a year or so ago, a Repair Cafe has been launched in Worthing, brilliant news.  Repair Cafe are a world-wide organisation, operated locally by volunteers who can offer repair sessions and training.  Fab.

Hillbilly Compact Light / lite Golf Trolley going nowhere (motor needs new brushes)

A frustrated customer brought this ‘stationary’ mobile golf trolley in to the workshop recently.  He’d replaced the control unit along with the hand controller.  The battery was also new, but the trolley wouldn’t respond to the controls.

A systematic test of the wiring revealed no problems and power was getting to the motor OK.  However, with the unit switched on, every now and then, the motor would make a noise, a faint hum.

This indicated that the motor, a Lemac 65178-101, was trying to do something.  A few searches online revealed that the Hillbilly Compact is no longer made and parts, including the motor, are hard to obtain for reasonable money, this is a shame as the unit is only just over 10 years old.

The customer likes this particular model due to its lightweight and compact folding ability.  New ones are several hundred pounds and usually heavier.

Since the rest of this trolley is serviceable, it seemed sensible to have a go at a repair.  With the motor removed, the cause of the fault became clear.  The commutator was heavily blackened and scored and one of the brushes had burned away, probably due to the heavy weight the trolley had lugged around a golf course.

Being realistic about spend on parts, I thought it would be a good idea to order some replacement brushes from Amazon.  These brushes will come from Hong Kong via Sourcingmap (an excellent source of hard to get parts) and I will let you all know how I get on with the repair.  The motor’s back-plate is available online for just over £15 plus P&P, but I like to repair the problem, rather than waste components that still work.

More to come… I expect you can’t wait.

One the new brushes are fitted and the commutator cleaned, I hope the motor will spin once again.

20/08/17

The brushes arrived and fitted perfectly.  Time will tell if the brush material stands up to the tough punishment of lugging golf clubs across a green, but for £2.41, the repair was worth a try.  See video.

Here are a few photos of the motor refitted to the golf trolley.

Cost of a replacement golf trolley is circa £300+; The cost of the parts to repair this one; £2.41.

04/09/17

Well after some ‘light use’ the owner of the golf trolley contacted me to report that it had failed again, my heart sank!  After a few hundred yards, the trolley came to a halt, which caused some amusement on the fairway…

After testing all the wiring again, I suspected the motor once more.  After removing the motor, I saw that one of the brushes had stuck to the carrier, hmm, interesting.  It seemed that the brushes I’d fitted had run ‘hot’ and started to deteriorate prematurely, which was a shame.  When I ordered these to ‘fit’ this motor, there was always a risk that they wouldn’t last as long, since I didn’t know the exact specification for the motor- I took an educated guess, which turned out to be wrong!

I looked online again and discovered another set of brushes available for this Lemac motor, from http://www.lambeggolfshop.com, for a very reasonable £8.48, including delivery within 48 hours. I didn’t find these brushes the first time, so I must have used different search criteria, this time.

The motor now spins freely and it’s fitted back to the trolley and I hope this time, it makes a round to the 19th hole!

 

Kaput Bosch AL1450DV Drill Battery Charger

An old Bosch battery charger gets a new lease of life.

These chargers often lead a hard life, working in dusty, hot and noisy conditions, so I guess many of these fail in time.

This Bosch unit is fairly common among Bosch DIY drill sets and this one had died catastrophically.  With the power applied, this one refused to give the slightest charge to a drill battery, once plugged in.

After some basic testing, I decided to change four components which would have caused the other to fail in a ‘domino effect’.  The cost of the replacement parts was just shy of £10, but definitely worth saving since second-hand units seemed to be changing hands for £40 on eBay, with their condition largely unknown.  The parts (two resistors, MOSFET transistor and diode/ transistor) were readily available online.

I recorded a short video to help others who might have a similar problem with theirs…

 

Dyson DC33 repaired in the workshop

A Dyson DC33 gets treated to a new motor

Conked out Dyson DC33

This Dyson presented with a pretty terminal case of ‘no go’.  The owner had run this relatively new machine in to the ground with little maintenance so it was little wonder what happened next.

Whilst in use, the machine spectacularly went bang and tripped the main fuse board of the house.  The noise and following smell was quite something I was told.

The owner had nearly rushed out and bought a new machine and was budgeting between £300 and £400 for a replacement.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Feb’17. Dyson DC33 motor replaced

I was glad I could help since I was fairly certain I knew what the problem was without seeing it.  After giving the cable, switches and casing a visual inspection, it was time to delve deeper.  The filters were in poor condition and the general smell of it indicated that overheating had been an issue, probably leading to premature wear on the motor.

With the motor out, the true extent of the damage became apparent.  Both motor bushes had worn away to nothing and part of the brush holder had broken up inside the motor, probably while it was running, causing the noise.

I suspect that the owner had ignored the warning signs of burning smells and occasional cutting out (as the thermal overload circuitry performed its fail-safe role).

Being only a few years old, the owner had a couple of options; either replacing the faulty part with a genuine Dyson replacement (a very reasonable £40) or pattern motor kit with filter pack for under £25.  The owner chose the latter on the basis of the machine’s age and the fact that both filters in the machine were also ruined.

The job took an hour, including testing before the machine was back performing its cleaning duties once more.

A note to all vacuum cleaner owners (that don’t take bags):  Keep your filters cleaned every couple of months or so.  Your machine will last much longer if you do.