On this blog, I’ll be writing about the things I fix and those I can’t, or are just beyond economical help. I hope my ramblings will at least inspire others to think twice before just accepting that something doesn’t work.
To those who doubt their own ability I say this: If ‘that thing’ isn’t working, grab a screwdriver, take it apart and investigate. What have you got to lose?
Within reason, I’ll try and repair most domestic items before condemning them to landfill or recycling and I hope there are many other shed-dwellers doing the same thing.
In our modern ‘throw it away culture’ one could be called ‘cheap’ for attempting to make-do-and-mend. This is madness as often good quality items end up on the scrap heap with little required to get them back in working order.
While throwing things in the bin and buying new is good news for the economy, we live in a world where the strains on our environment are increasingly evident and repairing things that can be repaired usually makes economic and ecological sense. I’m a Circular Economy advocate.
My aim here is to promote the art of repair and reuse. I also offer a local repair service in Worthing, West Sussex, UK, for a small fee, if I can fix it!
My dad kindly donated an elderly Homebase Sorrento gas barbecue a few years ago and each summer since, it’s cooked a good few bangers and steaks in the garden. Nice. However, during the winter this year, the barbecue nearly met an unfortunate end. The barbecue is always kept lightly sprayed with WD-40 when not in use and always covered with a generic tarpaulin, to keep the rain out. However, one particularly windy day during the winter of 2018, the cover that was meant to protect the outdoor cooker turned in to a handy sail and briefly lifted it a few feet in to the air and then down again with a crash. Oh dear.
At first glance, all appeared to be well but on further inspection it seemed that the gas burner within the main ‘charcoal’ area had taken quite a hit. Years of use and damp storage had taken their toll and the rusty burner within had finally shattered and was no longer in good serviceable condition. In fact, using the barbecue in this state could literally be explosive, since the gas would be flowing out all over the place, potentially un-burned.
Not holding out much hope for spares, I took to Google to see what parts were available for the nearly 20-year-old appliance. It turns out that there are many spare parts available for gas barbecues, from spare handles to gas valves to replacement grilles, including burners of just about every variant. With a bit more research, it appears that my Homebase Sorrento is in fact a re-badged Campingaz Eldorado. As Campingaz is a well-known brand, the burner was readily available at a very reasonable £23.00, including delivery from Hamilton Gas Products www.gasproducts.co.uk.
Hamilton supplied the parts quickly and the part fitted as easily as the existing one, as it was a like for like spare part, more or less. I had to cut-off the existing screw, as it was beyond help and replace it with something similar, once fitted and the height adjusted with a washer and nut or two, the burner was once again ready to cook.
However, before I could sit back with a cool beer and admire my work, I decided to tackle the piezo push-button ignition, which had stopped working a while ago. The wiring had broken away from the main spark anode and to be honest, even I nearly binned it. I hate to be beaten by silly problems like this, so I soldered the wire to the base of the spark anode and then re-attached the bracket back to the barbecue. After a little tinker time, the spark was close enough to light the gas, pretty much every time. I was well pleased!
So, if your gas barbecue needs parts, don’t assume it’s not worth repairing. There is a wealth of direct replacement and generic spares that will get yours working again, cost effectively.
Cost of a replacement barbecue: £100 upwards (although the range could be as dramatic as £30- £5000). Cost of repair: £23.00 for the burner and £1.00 for the nuts, bolts and washers (which I had already).
I really had no idea that Micro Scooters have been a ‘thing’ for the last few years and as a result, there are lots to choose from on the second-hand market. We picked up a ‘bargain’ for our oldest daughter for a princely sum of £5.00 via a local Facebook For Sale page. With hindsight, it was overpriced.
Just about every part of the scooter was either nasty or plain broken. The handle bar grips were missing, the wheel bearings were all shot to pieces, the steering mechanism seized and the rear brake was missing. The back brake on this scooter type, I’ve since found out, have a habit of snapping off with hard use, so that should have been the clue to the low, low price. But if you read these pages, you know me, I like a challenge.
First step was to address the static wheels. An Allen key holds the wheels on to the stub-axels at the front of the scooter and there’s something similar on the trailing wheel. The bearings on our wheels were beyond a re-grease as they’d appeared to have spent their entire life at the bottom of The Channel.
Luckily, the bearings are easy to replace and good-quality generic items are available on eBay for under £5.00 for a whole set (6 bearings, 2 per wheel).
Next came the handlebar grips. Ours were missing and again, generic ‘copy’ grips are available on eBay which are perfect for the job and are half the price of the original equipment. While I was shopping on eBay, I also found an original Micro Scooter bell. Just the job.
The steering mechanism was next and all it needed was a good clean up and light lubrication with some plastic-friendly white PTFE grease, readily available from Toolstation.
The shabby foot plate area was once baby-blue but had since faded and had evidence of scrapes. It looked a bit sorry for itself. I decided to address this by giving surfaces a good clean up and then key with wire wool. A couple of coats of good quality plastic primer and then a couple of coats of vinyl black paint, which now gave the scooter quite a ‘presence’. I then decided to improve the foot plate ‘grippy-ness’ by applying a custom grip tape design.
Before re-attaching the foot plate back to the chassis, the brake needed to be replaced. As with some of the other fixings on the scooter, the brake’s fixings were so rusty, they needed to be drilled out and replaced. Luckily the new original equipment brake came with new improved fixings which fitted perfectly.
I know what you’re thinking… for £40 more, I could have bought a brand-new scooter and saved myself the bother. At times, I did question my own sanity. But what we now have is a perfectly serviceable, one-off that no one else will have. Can you put a price on that?!
A colleague of mine brought this cool little DAB radio in to the workshop as it’s once crisp DAB tones were now no more and all life from the little device, had seemed to have ceased. It was, very much, a dead radio. When working, it picked up every station available, really clearly and seemed to out-perform the much more expensive devices my colleague also owned. However, after a few months in the hands of his son, the radio would no longer turn on when plugged in.
It was brought from Aldi for under £10, which seemed like a bit of a bargain to me. It’s amazing just how much DAB radios have fallen in price in the last 5 years or so.
The Bauhn UDABR-0197 (catchy name) is a compact, portable radio and is capable of being used with either a plug-in adaptor (supplied) or 4 x ‘AA’ batteries. When powering this radio using either plug-in adaptor or batteries, the little radio refused to do anything. Very sad.
I always start with the basics, so I checked the power from the plug-in adaptor first, which seemed to be delivering its 5.9VDC, pretty much spot-on. As a side note, I always check the condition of plug-in adaptor leads and plugs as they seem to almost always be made of the thinnest wire available in the Far East and prone to cracking causing poor connections. This one was fine.
Opening up the radio was really easy, just 4 cross-head screws and the two halves of the radio came apart without any major dramas.
The first thing you notice about (cheaper) small appliances like this, is the ‘lack’ of anything inside. The circuit boards in new small devices can sometimes be multi layered affairs, using micro components, making repair with normal workshop tools very difficult or impossible.
Luckily for this little radio, the designers have had the foresight to keep the power distribution board separate from the main ‘radio’ gubbins and this seemed to be of conventional construction.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, PCB repaired.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, PCB back in position after soldering.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Aldi Bauhn Radio, in for repair, broken pins.
On closer inspection of the power distribution board, it revealed a break in two of the pins from the ‘power-in’ jack socket meaning that power would not get through to the main circuit board. The two pins were also shorting together, causing a local loop connection. This meant than neither mains adaptor supply nor battery would power the radio. Problem realised.
I was then able re-make the connection using a soldering iron on the board, reconnecting the pins to a spare section of copper detail on the power distribution printed circuit board. Very satisfying.
Once the radio was back together, all screws back in place, power supply connected, the radio burst in to life, just in time for me to listen to my favourite station. Happy days.
Cost of a new radio; £10. Cost of repair; A bit of soldering and a cuppa plus gingernut biscuit.
I’ve repaired a few Kenwood Chefs recently, but this one seemed worthy of a mention on these pages as it’s slightly different to the ones I’ve repaired so far.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904, front.
FixItWorkshop, May’18, Kenwood Chef Excel A902/A904, label.
Many Kenwood Chef accessories are usable on Chefs from all eras, due to logical thinking by the designers over the years and this is something to be applauded as it reduces waste. For example, the beater on a 1970s machine will fit one from today. An interesting fact for any occasion.
I’ve repaired many A701s and A901s, but this was the first A902/4, so I thought I’d share some of my repair experience in order to help others.
The owner contacted me explaining that she’d been using the family’s cherished Chef to make a cake when a plume of smoke started coming from the mixer. The smell was bad and she’d quickly disconnected the unit from the mains. The owner then contacted me to ask ‘was the Chef worth repairing’? Of course it was!
I suspected the infamous speed control components which tends to fail with age. However, this model featured extra components all mounted on a neat printed circuit board (PCB) which is fixed near the motor. A reasonably priced repair kit, with new rubber feet was available online so I ordered one up straightaway.
Opening up the A902/4 is a similar job on many Chefs and after removing a few screws, the motor and gubbins is available for maintenance.
As suspected, two out of the three capacitors on the PCB had blown visibly, due to crystallisation and general fatigue, so these needed to be replaced.
As all the components are PCB mounted, each part must be de-soldered first, contacts cleaned before re-assembly which is time consuming, but satisfying and even though I’ve done this kind of work many times before, I always take a couple of photos and mark wires with a pen or label, as it’s very easy to make mistakes later.
The kit included replacements for the faulty bits, plus some additional parts which should be changed as a matter of course. I also chose a kit with replacement rubber feet for the machine as the ones fitted had squashed ‘flat’ with age, a very common problem with the Chefs of this vintage.
New components fitted, the motor ran sweetly once again, without smoke, wobble or extra noise. It’s worth noting that the A902/4 is quieter than earlier Chef models and is probably worth seeking out if you’re in the market for a second-hand unit.
Another ‘happy little Chef’ leaves the workshop.
Cost of new machine: £400 plus. Cost of new parts: £15.24 plus my time.
I really enjoy working on Dyson products as they’re so well thought out. The designers seem to take great care factoring-in easy maintenance for longevity. There’s also a great sense of theatre when using Dyson products. Take the roller ball on this design for example, a throwback to the earlier Dyson Ball Barrow which allows better manoeuvrability when combined with an upright vacuum cleaner. There’s also the exposed mechanism which automatically switches suction between the roller pick-up and hose when using the foot pedal to select the desired mode. Genius. All of these design touches encourage the user to care for and enjoy using the product.
Sadly though, sometimes these touches are a bit lost on people and the design flares that appeal to some become misunderstood and neglected to others.
This DC24 had two problems. It didn’t stand up properly when left and it didn’t really pick anything up that well either, failing as a vacuum cleaner on two fundamental points.
The first job was to find out why the DC24 was a little unsteady. It seemed that all of the mechanism was intact and that nothing had snapped off. Strange. The red foot pedal operated lever that releases the latching system to move the main body from its locked position was stuck. It seemed to be linked to a lever which operates the diverter valve, which switches suction from the roller beater foot to the flexible hose. On closer inspection the lever on the diverter valve had come off its pin, probably by force. The mechanism itself was also dirty which made operation rough. The red lever is spring loaded with guides and pins which were also dirty and a little rusty. I suspect this vacuum cleaner had been left somewhere damp.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24 diverter lever and valve.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, red foot lever.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, cleaning the lever mechanism.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, cleaning a lubricating the mechanism springs.
After re-attaching the diverter valve leaver back on and giving all mechanisms a good clean-up with a light coating of silicone spray, it was as good as new again.
Once the mechanism was working, it was time to assess the vacuum’s performance. It wasn’t that good. As with most Dyson vacuum products, there are two filters. One processes blow-by air from the motor and the other controls dust particles from the cylinder. These filters can usually be cleaned with mild soap and water, but this set was well past it, requiring replacement and for under a tenner, it’s rude not to. Dyson have made filter replacement very easy on the DC24 with good access to the motor filter via a small door on the roller ball itself and the lid on top of the cylinder. I think there should be a massive sticker on these vacuum cleaners that says ‘don’t forget to clean the filters’ as I suspect that many of these products are chucked away by owners who forget to do the necessary. Bag-less cleaner doesn’t mean maintenance-free!
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, cleaned up rubber seals.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, motor filter cover.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, motor filter cover.
FixItWorkshop, April’18, Dyson DC24, cleaned up rubber seals.
With a couple of new filters, a clean-up of all of the rubber seals with silicone cleaner and this DC24 was fighting fit, ready to clean another carpet.
Cost of a replacement Dyson product: £000’s. Cost of new parts: Under £10 plus my time.
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.
My brother-in-law popped in to see us for a cuppa recently and mentioned he was off to the tip with an old VAX cylinder style bag-less vacuum cleaner, in pieces, not the carpet washer type. It was on its way to the great scrap yard in the sky. Luckily, I was on hand to divert the sick VAX via the workshop.
It was being disposed of due to the flex having gone faulty together with the opinion that it wasn’t working that well before the mains cable failed. Well, I hate to see good machinery go to waste.
On this VAX, the mains flex is stored within the vacuum cleaner housing and is wound up on a spring-loaded coil during storage. When in use, the user can pull the mains plug until the desired cable flex length is reached. When the user is finished cleaning their carpet, a foot operated button causes the flex to speedily disappear back in to the vacuum cleaner. My brother-in-law had already looked at the spring-loaded mains flex winding mechanism, which had resulted in the bi-metallic coil spring escaping from the enclosure, freeing itself in to an orbit. It’s quite a shock and sometimes dangerous when this happens!
What to do. I was very nearly tempted to dump this vacuum cleaner too as the build quality of the whole thing reminded me of the plastic toys one gets in Christmas crackers, but that’s not really in the spirit of The Workshop.
Then I remembered I had a defunct Hoover Telios that was minus a motor, perhaps this would be a suitable parts donor? I liked the idea of making one working vacuum cleaner from two unhappy ones.
The Telios had a working mains lead flex, but the automatic spring loaded mechanism on that was past its best, so I decided to use the working lead on the VAX. The VAX would be without its flex winding mechanism, but at least it would work. I adapted a cable tie to make a cable grip, to prevent a user from pulling the cable from the VAX, when in use. The cable would have to be stored, wrapped around the vacuum cleaner, after use, a small price for working machine.
The other job was to address the poor performance.
This product is clearly an inferior Dyson rip-off and therefore has a couple of filters; one for the intake and one for the exhaust, like a Dyson. As suspected, both of these were virtually blocked! The filters on this model were not as easy to get at nor as easy to clean. I’m not sure whether these filters are meant to be washed, but wash them I did and after 24 hours of drying on the radiator, they were as good as new. Once refitted, full performance was restored, for the price of a bowl of warm water and Fairy liquid.
Finally, the VAX was missing its cleaning head for the hose, so I decided to use the Hoover one (which was quite a nice design) with the VAX’s hose. After some jiggery pokery and some electrical tape, it fitted.
What we’ve now ended up with is a working VAX vacuum cleaner, using some parts from a beyond economical to repair Hoover. Whilst it’s not the most elegant repair I’ve ever completed, I now have something working from two nearly condemned items and surely, that’s good thing?