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 repair: £3.69 (plus my time)
Hours spent on repair: 1 (plus testing)
Repair ease: 4/10
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
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.
All back together, the machine worked well once again.
A friend of the family was very upset that her mantel clock had decided to stop and despite changing the battery, it refused to start ticking.
Now, this clock was not an expensive item, but it matched the décor of the room it was in and so the owner was very keen for it to be returned to its place above the fire.
Battery clocks like this are ubiquitous and often, like this one, don’t even carry a makers’ brand logo or name. I was thinking; if the clock’s motor was unsavable, I would replace it using a generic replacement from eBay.
I’ve fixed many battery powered quartz clock motors. They all work in a similar way. An electromagnet which is pulsed using a simple circuit, regulated by a quartz crystal. Add-in some gears and pointer hands and you’ve got yourself a clock.
After removing clock motor from the housing, just two screws, the motor comes apart by peeling back two plastic tangs. Care should be taken not to force anything at this stage as the parts are very small and delicate.
The motor gears and electromagnet out of the way, the printed circuit board popped out and the fault became clear. At some point in the past, I suspect that a battery had leaked just a little and the vapour from the leak had corroded the contacts. A little dab of contact cleaner on an old toothbrush and a little bit of scrubbing and the corrosion was gone.
A little bit of jiggery pokery again and the motor was back together and refitted to the clock’s frame. It just goes to show that something as simple as this can be fixed with basic tools and patience.
Cost of replacement: N/A. Cost of repair: Just 30 minutes tinker time and a cuppa.
Top tips for keeping your petrol strimmer running like a ‘Rolls Royce’
Make sure the fuel you have in the tank is fresh and not from three years ago (it goes off)
Keep the spark plug gap set within the manufacturer’s tolerances
Lubricate all moving parts lightly with a generic spray oil each time you use the strimmer
Someone got in touch with a strimmer that would not start. Anything that involves moving parts and petrol always gets my attention, so I accepted the challenge. Once in the workshop, I tried to start it using the pull cord and as predicted, it wouldn’t run, not even a cough. A little bit of carb cleaner sprayed in to the barrel, a pull of the starter cord and the engine did fire, suggesting that the engine could run. More analysis was required.
The strimmer had not been started for many years, so the first job was to remove the old fuel from the tank as old fuel goes off after a while. The engine on this strimmer is a two-stroke design, so the special two-stroke oil must be pre-mixed with the fuel in the right proportion before re-filling the tank.
While sorting the fuel out, I noticed the first fault. Both flow and return fuel pipes were cracked and one had come apart in the fuel tank, meaning that no fuel would flow to the carburettor. No fuel, no work.
To start most petrol strimmers, mowers and chainsaws from cold, a petrol primer pump is usually used to fill the carburettor with the right amount of fuel and this one was no different, but in this case, the pump was cracked.
After fitting some new fuel lines, a fuel filter and primer pump, the engine fired up and ran well again, ready for more garden work. See slide show.
Cost of replacement: £80 and up. Cost of repair: £7.53 plus my time and custard creams.
A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.
A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny. But not this one.
Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:
Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray
Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.
I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products. They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.
This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop. The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly. The beaters were not spinning either.
The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip. The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control. The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit. So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit. As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection. Upon testing, it was not working.
The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony. Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem. The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.
Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.
After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more. Result.
After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.
Cost of replacement machine: £000’s. Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.
This fix was actually carried out during the summer, 2018.
A friend of mine brought over a broken formula making machine for me to look at. It had been stored after their first child had out-grown it and since having another baby, it was now needed again, urgently. Following a couple of years in storage, it was brought out, plugged in and after briefly coming on, it failed. No lights, no hope.
These machines save time and effort by allowing water to be heated rapidly and mixed exactly with the formula powder, to produce consistent results every time, perfect for new exhausted parents in the middle of the night. So it was important that I got this working quickly.
After removing the back, I was presented with an electronic control unit, some solenoid valves and a heater, plus some other environmental sensors such as thermostats. The plug fuse was OK, so it was time to check if power was getting to the machine. It wasn’t.
This machine features a couple of power control devices; two thermal aluminium ‘can-style’ fuses in-line with the heater, plus a thermostat on the output of the heater itself (to regulate heat). After testing for continuity, it appeared that one of the can fuses had failed.
These fuses are common across a wide range of appliances, such as coffee machines, fans etc and are cheap, just a few pounds. It could be that a temporary air-lock in the heater caused a hot-spot and therefore that excess heat caused the 172 degree fuse to pop. It was worth a try to replace it and see what happened.
I replaced the fuse and re-assembled. After filling with water and powering it up, normal service was resumed.
Since I replaced the fuse, the machine has been in continuous service for many months, so I can conclude that it was probable that the over heating was temporary.
I created a short video to help others who may have similar problems with their machine.
Cost of a new machine: £90. Cost of repair: a few quid and a few beers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My in-laws have an ornament on their drive, in the shape of a 2001 MGF roadster. I say ornament because it’s fairly stationery, all of the time. Even so, it’s battery gets topped up once in a while and the engine turned over when the urge presents itself. Because the car isn’t used, the battery’s only means of charge is via a plug-in charger, my father-in-law occasionally hooks up.
The battery charger in question is an Ultimate Speed (Lidl brand) universal battery charger. They’ve been on sale in the UK for a number of years at the £15 (approx.) mark. They’re really good value as they allow ‘smart charging’ of car and motorcycle batteries without the risk of damage at a fraction of the price of the ‘big brands’ or a replacement battery.
However, this charger decided that it wasn’t playing anymore and refused to offer it’s charging services when recently connected to the MG’s flat battery. On it’s way to the great bin in the sky, I managed to divert the charger via the workshop.
Once connected to the mains, the standby light illuminated, indicating something was actually happening, but upon connecting the low voltage side to a battery, making a charge selection via the single push-button switch, nothing changed and the whole unit remained on standby. Pretty annoying.
Luckily, I have the triangular screwdriver required to undo the six screws that hold the (IP) ingress protected casing together. Triangular screw heads are annoying and pointless as they prevent, in my opinion, people with a basic tool set having a go at a repair like this. If you do fancy getting one of these tools, they are easily available on Amazon and eBay.
FixItWorkshop, March’18, Ultimate Speed (Lidl) Battery Charger, all components cleaned before reassembly.
On with the fix. With the casing opened up, my first port of call was with the switch itself. Past experience has taught me to 1; start with the easy stuff and 2; these push to make switches fail all the time. They’re in everything from door bells to cookers at the moment and when faulty, make the most expensive item and expensive paper weight in the blink of an eye.
To test the switch, I connected the charger to the mains and hooked up the low voltage end to a battery and simulated the button push switch by shorting out the switches connections on the circuit board. Hey presto, the charger worked perfectly, every time. The switch either needed repairing or replacing.
Because I’m a skin-flint, I opted to see what could be done with the present switch. With care, these switches can be prised apart, using a sharp knife and the insides cleaned. I took the switch apart which revealed nothing more than slightly corroded switch surfaces. I can only assume that the product’s bold IP rated claim is a little over exaggerated and that some damp had wriggled its way to the switch and mucked it up. With a cotton bud and switch cleaner, the switch surfaces scrubbed up like new and I re-assembled the switch lever and securing plat using a soldering iron to re-melt the plastic nubs holding the switch together. No one would ever know it had been in bits.
With the circuit board returned to the housing, all six screws done up, the charger was back to rude health once more and ready to tend to the stranded MGF.