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.
About a year ago, we bought an Early Learning Centre Freddy the Fish Bubble Machine for our daughter and it’s been a great addition to summer garden fun, as it unleashes thousands of bubbles per minute. It’s been truly bubble-tastic.
However, it’s decided to become a little temperamental of late when switched on. With good batteries and a full tank of bubble fuel, the machine would sometimes cough and sputter and generally be a disappointment in the bubble-making department.
The toy is shaped like a fish, like the name suggests and has a small reservoir for the bubble mix and a carousel of bubble wands operated by a motor which is ‘blown’ by a small fan inside, to inflate the bubbles to the optimal size.
The fault: The fan would sometimes, by itself, vary in speed, reducing the speed of the air though the bubble wand carousel, which would limit the quantity and quality of bubbles produced. Most disappointing.
The toy is held together by small Pozi-drive screws and the whole things comes apart in two halves. It gets a bit tricky inside as there are a few small components held in place using the internal plastic parts. After testing the batteries, I thought I’d start by testing the action of the on/off switch which seemed to click on/ off OK, but I wondered what the quality of the electrical mechanism was like. A quick test with the multi-meter revealed slightly variable resistances, indicating either damp or dirt had entered the switch, highly likely considering what the toy does.
The switch is reasonably well protected from the elements, but I suspect it had become immersed in water, not really what the switch or toy is meant to handle. It’s not Ingress Protected Rated (IP).
The switch isn’t really designed to be repaired, but after a few minutes bending the small tabs holding it together, I revealed the switch contacts. A quick clean with switch cleaner and blue towel and the switch was working as it should once more. Once reassembled, the toy performed well once again and was soon filling the garden with bubbly magic.
FixItWorkshop, Sept’17, Freddy Fish Bubble Machine, switch wipers
FixItWorkshop, Sept’17, Freddy Fish Bubble Machine, switch
FixItWorkshop, Sept’17, Freddy Fish Bubble Machine, in bits
FixItWorkshop, Sept’17, Freddy Fish Bubble Machine, switch inside
My daughter was kindly given a V-Tech Splash & Sing baby book and always enjoyed singing along to the music it made. It’s a splash-proof book which is suitable for bath time play, but not necessarily for complete submersion at 100 metres!
It’s a battery operated toy and has an on/off switch and volume control on the front. If the middle page of the book is squeezed in a couple of places, there are small switch buttons inside the book page itself, the corresponding the tune changes, relating to the picture on the page- I hope that makes sense.
The tunes on this book stopped changing with button presses and it became annoying to here the same tune constantly being played at bath time. Very annoying.
The casing is held together with a few Pozi-head screws and after a bit of wriggling, the pages came free from the spine (the bit with the batteries and on/off switch).
Upon testing, the wires between the pages and the spine had broken internally and no longer connected to the corresponding page buttons. They’d probably broken as the pages were turned over a good few uses.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book, buttons.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book,wire repair.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book, wire at spine.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book, opening up page.
This toy is definitely not designed to be repaired. The only way to get to the wiring was to cut open the page, cut out the damaged wiring and replace it with something a bit tougher. The previous wiring was very flimsy and it would only be a matter of time before it broke, too soon.
I decided to use some thin gauge speaker cable, the sort you find in cheap portable radios for the repair. This worked really well and after some careful soldering and gluing of the cut-open page, the toy was ready for reassembly.
This repair probably wouldn’t cost in, in the real world, but I hate extreme built-in obsolescence and this toy showed examples of it.
Cost of the toy, circa £14.00. Cost of repair; my time plus some old wire I had lying about.