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!
A noisy Kenwood Chef A701a gets a gearbox rebuild.
This Chef had been sleeping quietly in a kitchen cupboard for some time before being woken up to make cake mixtures once again. The owner had owned the mixer for many years from new and was sentimentally attached to it. I fully sympathise, they’re great machines. It had been used many times in the past and then packed away as new machines came and went. Having decided that there was still a place for the A701a, it was fired up.
The owner didn’t remember it being quite as noisy and wondered if something was wrong with it. She got in touch and brought it in to the workshop. After listening to the mixer at varying speeds, we agreed that perhaps it was a bit noisy and that further investigation was required.
At this stage I must confess at this repair has been on the bench for a long while..!
I think the A701 is my favourite Kenwood Chef product as it’s very elegant, beautifully proportioned and almost over-engineered. It comes from a time where built-in obsolescence was a swear word.
On with the problem. After disconnecting the gearbox by removing the drive belt, I checked the motor for general wear and tear, the brushes and speed control mechanism and I concluded that it all seemed OK and working smoothly. The gearbox however did seem a bit noisy when turned manually, nothing hideously graunchy, but a little rough. To be honest, it would have probably survived, but I wanted to open up the gearbox to make sure that it was as it should be.
Whilst removing the Chef’s casing around the gearbox, I’d noticed traces of grease around the joints and various power take-offs. All models seem to do this to an extent, but this one seemed to be quite bad. Closer inspection revealed that some of the grease had escaped out of the seal between the two halves of the gearbox casing. Opening up the casing revealed that the grease that was left had been pushed to the corners of the space within the gearbox and that the gears were a bit dry, this was probably the root cause of the noise. The planet wheel that drives the beater was also bone dry.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, gearbox before cleaning.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, before cleaning- dirty sticky grease.
Luckily, there are plenty of suppliers who can supply rebuild kits for Kenwood Chef gearboxes, including new gears and grease. The gears in this seemed serviceable, but it seemed very sensible to replace the lubricant with the correct 130g of Kenwood gearbox grease, which is food safe. I used ‘Kenwood Chef Restore’, an eBay seller and the kit was a reasonable £10.99, including P&P. The kit included the main gearbox grease, white grease for the planet gear and sealant for the gearbox casing.
Before replacing anything, the first job was to clean out all traces of the original grease which had gone very sticky and was contaminated with general wear. The first pass clean involved using paper toweling, followed by water and detergent, before a final clean with brake cleaner, which removed the last few traces of grease and dirt.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, adding new gearbox grease.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, adding new gearbox grease- note spacers.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, showing idle gear.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, new grease.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, before grease.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, planet wheel grease.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, parts before reassembly to the main body.
With the gearbox refilled and resealed making sure the spacers were re-fitted to the correct parts, the drive belt re-fitted with just enough slack, the gears sounded much sweeter with the final parts of the casing reassembled. One last point to note is that I used silicone sealant on the blender attachment power take-off plate in replacement to the one fitted, since the original seal was well past it (see below).
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, belt in situ.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, adjustment.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, cover fitted.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, silicone sealant.
As a finishing touch, I replaced the existing machine feet which had turned to mush with replacements from Sussex Spares (eBay shop) for a very reasonable £2.70, delivered.
The Chef was now ready to prepare cake mixtures again.
Cost of new machine: £300 and up. Cost of replacement parts: £13.69 (plus my time).
If your Kenwood Chef A901 starts to smell of burning, don’t despair, it can usually be saved.
I had an enquiry via this site from a fisherman who was very upset that his trusty Kenwood Chef A901 had given up the ghost. Rather than using the Chef to make Victoria sponges, it had been used to prepare fishing bait. It just demonstrates how versatile these machines are.
Whilst it was in use, the owner witnessed a bang then the smell of burning before the machine came to a halt. The plug was quickly pulled!
Whilst discussing the fault on the phone, I suspected that the fault was probably due to the failure of the motor speed control circuitry, which is known to fail with age. I had carried out similar repairs to other machines, including my own (in this blog) so agreed to take a look.
I received the machine quickly and upon inspection, the machine had obviously been cared for and considering its age, was in good condition. The smell of burned-out components was clear, lifting it out of the box.
Dismantling the machine and removing the motor on the A901 is fairly straightforward, providing you allow time and make notes on where things go. The components that need to be replaced are very accessible and anyone with moderate soldering skills would be OK with this task.
Luckily, the Chef is very well supported by long-term aftermarket suppliers and I bought an off-the-shelf spares kit at £14.10 delivered, from KAParts (www.kaparts.co.uk) via eBay, featuring upgraded components. This kit is a little dearer, but component technology has moved on since this machine was first on the market, so fitting anything else is a false economy in my opinion.
With the old components removed and replacements fitted, the motor ran smoothly and fully reassembled, the machine is now ready to mix bait mixtures once again. Lovely.
Cost of a new machine: Circa £300 and up. Cost of repair: £44.10 (kit plus my time).
A colleague of mine came in with a broken microphone, which is part of a Lucky Voice karaoke set and retails for about £60.00 on Amazon. The microphone had worked pretty well, but recently had lost its ‘X-Factor’ somewhat.
The microphone is fairly standard fare and connects to a standard XLR plug and socket arrangement. As this part is usually under the most stress as the singer moves about, it seemed sensible to have a look at that first. Upon connection to my amp, there was a huge amount of crackling which seemed to coincide with cable movements at the microphone end. Swapping the lead for a known good one I had proved that the microphone was fine, but the lead not so fine.
Only one screw holds the plug together and straightaway, the problem presented itself.
The main core had detached from the connector, as the outer cable sheathing has come away from the XLR connector body clamp. Not ideal.
A quick strip back and solder job and the wires were connected back where they needed to be. A little dab of hot-melt glue on the cable grip and a re-tighten and the cable was not going to move anyway.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, X-Factor Microphone.
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, X-Factor Microphone, XLR.
With the plug re-assembled and the screw put back, the microphone tested perfectly on the amp, ready for karaoke once more.
Cost of a new similar lead: £10, Cost of repair: 15 minutes, dab of glue and solder. Nice.
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
Someone got in touch regarding a family heirloom clock that wasn’t running. The Bentima clock itself was in good overall condition and considering its age, had been in the same family for a couple of generations or so. The owner really missed the clock ticking and chimes on the hour.
Access to the clock’s mechanism is pretty straightforward on this type of clock as there’s a simple wooden door on the back with a catch. Opening up that door reveals a weighted pendulum with escapement above. It was clear that someone, at some point, had replaced the pendulum spring and that all that was probably required was a minor adjustment to make the ‘tick match the tock’, or in other words, get the clock back ‘in beat’…tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock… evenly spread.
On this mechanism, all that was needed was a level surface and a small flat-bladed screwdriver to slightly move the pendulum pivot point. Once running, a small adjustment to slow-down the running was needed (time was too fast), but this was easily adjusted using the knurled screw on the pendulum. I recommended that if a flat level surface at home couldn’t be found, 1 penny pieces could be used under the clock’s feet to restore balance. A nice little repair.
Cost of a clock like this: Check eBay. Cost of repair; my time.
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.
When my wife isn’t looking after our daughter, she sings part-time in and around Sussex and uses a simple portable microphone and amplifier set for gigs. The amp and the rest of the kit lead a hard life, being transported between the car boot and venue and on one occasion, the microphone was dropped from a height. I guess things could have been worse, it could have been the amp!
The microphone now rattled badly and seemed to cut out when connected up, even when turned up to 11. Not a good sound when she was in the middle of ‘Moon River’.
The microphone actually came from a Lidl karaoke set and is made by Silvercrest, a Lidl brand. It’s a heavy, metal bodied microphone with a decent quality feel and metal grilled top.
The rattle seemed to coincide with the cutting out, so it seemed sensible to open up the mic. Three Phillips screws hold the casing together and upon opening it up, the problem quickly became apparent. The metal weight inside had come away from the inside of the casing and was occasionally ‘shorting’ the connections on the back of the on/off switch. Not good.
While in bits, I checked all the wiring for continuity, no problems there and decided to clean the switch with contact cleaner for good measure. Once all the electrical side of the mic was proved, I reassembled the casing with the parts, adding a little hot-melt glue to the metal weight to prevent it coming in to contact with the back of the on/off switch.
This wasn’t the end of the song (sorry).
Upon hooking the mic up to the amp, it now worked again without cutting out, but I couldn’t help but notice that the lead connecting to the base of the mic seemed to be causing a slight crackle. Not a nice sound effect.
Opening up the three-pin mic connector revealed a simple design, three poles soldered to the microphone’s wiring, one core and one screen. A quick cut, strip and re-solder and the lead was ready to roll once again. Before I did the cable crimp back up, I added another dab of hot melt glue between the cable outer and flex guard, to ensure the cable couldn’t twist, which might cause the connector to fail again.
Cost of a new microphone £20+. Cost of repair; Time plus soldering and a bit of glue.
‘My Fairlady’ sings again…
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Silvercrest SKS15A1, weight in situ.
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Silvercrest SKS15A1, broken wire, before soldering.
FixItWorkshop, SeFixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Silvercrest SKS15A1, inside the casing.p’17, Silvercrest SKS15A1
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Silvercrest SKS15A1, in bits.