Hybrid Hoover-VAX vacuum cleaner combination experiment…

Recycling vacuum cleaner parts.

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A slightly unusual workshop repair this time.

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner.

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, VAX cylinder vacuum cleaner- with Hoover parts.

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?

Runaway Hillbilly Golf Trolley…

Golf trolley heads for the hills…

Readers of this blog (I know there are millions of you) will recognise this golf trolley and I’m pleased to report that my first repair, the one to the motor, is still working perfectly.  However, the owner of the trolley contacted me with a (funny) problem.  Whilst recently enjoying a round of golf on the local fairway, the trolley decided to, by itself, begin to edge away from the second tee and then with some speed, head off in to the distance, without any operation of the dial switch, situated on the handle.  Whilst this seemed funny at first, I remembered that the motor on this trolley had the kind of torque that, coupled to small gearbox and wheels on a heavy frame, could do some serious damage, left unchecked.

Original photo taken in Aug’17, below.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’17 Hillbilly Compact Golf Trolley

Unlike many modern electric golf trolleys, it doesn’t feature GPS guidance, remote control or amazingly, a dead-man’s switch, which seems like a major safety oversight to me.  I’d have expected either a kill switch or dead-man’s switch* fitted to the handle on a trolley like this as the runaway scenario could never occur due to fail-safe nature of the switch being operated.  With one, the trolley would only run when the operators’ hand was on the handle or cut out when the kill switch is activated, as with the saftety cord mechanism, on a jet ski for example.  Perhaps the Mk2 Hillbilly Compact featured this.

*For example, a dead-man’s switch is usually fitted to something like an electric saw where the operator must old a handle-type switch to make it run.  Once the operator lets go of the handle, the motor automatically fails-safe and cuts-out.

On with the repair.  The trolley features some exposed connectors and cabling and it seemed sensible to check the continuity of the cables running up and down the handle shaft, as repeated trolley folding might have caused a problem with the wiring.  Fortunately, the cabling was OK.

The owner had mentioned that the handle, where the speed control switch is located, had got wet in the past, which made my alarm bells ring.

Opening up the handle, which only required a basic tool kit, revealed evidence of water damage and corrosion to the speed control terminals.  Luckily the owner of the trolley had stocked up on spare switches!

Removing the existing switch revealed intermittent continuity and varying amounts of resistance, which was not good.  A fault most likely to have been caused by water ingress or excessive shock.  The owner had supplied two ‘new old stock’ (NOS) switches.  Which one to fit?

From time to time, it’s downright sensible to either fit NOS or second-parts as they’re usually cost-effective and are more likely to fit over pattern parts.  But time can also affect apparently shiny parts.  This was a case in point.  I knew that the switch should vary resistance from open circuit to 10KOhms in either direction from COMM.  The old one didn’t and one of the ‘new’ parts only went to 2KOhms, so was not in specification.  Luckily, the remaining NOS switch worked fine and once refitted, and the handle reassembled, the golf trolley was ready to make the job of carrying clubs easier, once again.

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FixItWorkshop, Feb’18, Hillbilly Compact speed control switch, new and old- test NOS parts before fitting.

Cost of replacement trolley:  ££££ Cost of repair; £10 plus time.  Moral of the story; don’t assume NOS parts will work.  Test them first.

 

Outdoor LED porch light on the blink

Outside light on the blink

A couple of years ago, I made a light for our porch.  I wanted to ‘back-light’ the area under the porch with a subtle glow, when coming back home in the dark, handy when trying to find the front door keys.  I used a clear section of hose pipe, several clips and a strip of LED tape, commonly available from lighting suppliers.  I used a standard 12V power supply unit (PSU) from an electrical wholesalers’ and controlled the whole thing with a neat little PIR motion/ day-night detector.  It all worked quite well until the other day.

Whilst walking past the PIR detector the light came on in the usual way, but there was a strange ‘arcing’ noise, coming from the inspection panel, behind which I’d mounted the PSU.  The PSU seemed a sensible place to begin investigation.

It’s really irritating when manufacturers’ chose to make it so that a casing for something does not come apart, without breaking in to it.  This PSU was made this way and to gain access, I had to carefully lever the two halves of the glued casing apart with a screwdriver, breaking the glue holding it together.  It wasn’t working anyway, so what did it matter.

Looking at the printed circuit board (PCB) within the plastic casing revealed that the mains feed, presented as an IEC Kettle type connector in this case, had a ‘dry-joint’ and had begun arcing (small sparks) which left unchecked, would have caused permanent damage to the PSU.

With a small clean-up of the affected joint and a little soldering, the PSU was as good as new.  Sadly, the casing won’t be the same again, but as it’s hidden out of sight, I decided that a good wrapping of electrical tape around the two halves of the PSU casing was all that was needed.

Cost of a replacement PSU:  Circa £15.  Cost of repair: A bit of solder and my time.

Satellite Bass Guitar that wouldn’t go to 11.

A Fender Precision style Satellite P Bass guitar repair…

A friend of mine, who plays in a Portsmouth-based Psychedelic Garage Rock & Roll band, brought in a Satellite Bass Guitar with a few issues.  Firstly the volume control was noisy and crackly and secondly, it was a little quiet.  Not good for those moments where you need to go one higher, to eleven.

The band are:  60th Parallel

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass.

Opening up the compartment behind volume, tone and jack plug socket revealed messy wiring and dodgy connections.  The owner had already supplied a replacement potentiometer for the volume control, so all I had to do was replace the one fitted, re-make the poor connections and give the wiring a general tidy-up.

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, wiring before work.

The guitar has Dimarzio ‘Model P’ pick-ups which can be wired many different ways, depending on the application and musical taste.  This particular guitar, circa 1976, is a Fender Precision style Satellite bass (P-Bass) and has a modified ‘through neck’.

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, volume (top) and tone (bottom) controls.

Testing the guitar before commencing work revealed a slightly quiet, but mainly crackly output from the amplifier, the tone control was fine.  The owner had also complained that the bass sometimes cut-out, mid song.  Not ideal.

Removing the volume control was straightforward and only required a spanner to remove the nut, after pulling off the volume knob.  The rest of the job just involved careful de-soldering, cutting out the poor wiring and replacing it with new wiring where needed and some heat shrink to tidy things up. Having not repaired an electric guitar before, I did make a quick wiring diagram for reference!

Once completed, I hooked it up to the amplifier again which revealed a much cleaner, crackle free note.  Sadly, I can’t play the guitar, so I wasn’t able to test it properly!

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FixItWorkshop Jan’18, Fender Precision style, Satellite P-Bass, neater wiring.

Cost of a new bass:  Name a price.  Cost of the repair; about £2.00 plus tinker time.

 

Poorly Scalextric Sport Digital Lap Counter (C8215)…

Scalextric C8215 lap counter repaired in the workshop…

First off, I must confess, that this is part of my own Scalextric collection, not part of someone else’s.  I’ve always enjoyed slot car racing and a lap counter is an essential addition to anyone who wants to prove that they’re the fastest around the track!  Trust me, it can be very addictive, especially when racing against one’s better half.

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FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215

Anyway, I wanted to share this little repair in the hope that others might benefit.

My once reliable lap counter started to miss laps on lane two at very crucial stages of a race.  It started by only happening occasionally before completely missing several laps in a row, forcing a stewards’ enquiry to settle the race finish times.  Lane one was fine.

Time to get out the screw driver and delve in to the workings of the timer.  Once removed from the main track layout, the back of the unit has a cover which is held in place with six small self-tapping screws.  These come undone easily and removing the back reveals two sets of electrical switch contacts, operated by a lever on each track, just under the slot car rails.  The idea here is that the slot on the slot car operates the lever as the car passes the lap counter track piece, operating the switches contacts, completing a circuit, thus counting the laps.

Comparing the switch contact clearances, lane one’s was considerably closer than lane two’s.  This means that the ‘dwell’ time on lane two’s switch would be less that the switch on lane one, which was working ok, meaning a possible cause of the problem.  To anyone who’s adjusted contact breaker points on an old car, you’ll know what I mean here.

I had no idea what the correct clearance should be, so took an educated guess and closed the gap to about 0.5mm, done by eyesight alone.  I made sure that both sets of switches were the same (see photos).  While I had the counter in pieces, I cleaned the contact surfaces with a little electrical contact cleaner, just for good measure.

After re-assembly and re-fitting to the track, a few test laps with my fastest race Mini, proved that the counter was working as it should once again.

Cost of a replacement counter (second hand) circa £12.  Cost of the repair; 10 minutes tinker-time.

Elna SP sewing machine… Totally stitched up.

A Sewing Machine Repair…

On first impressions, this machine didn’t have a lot going for it.  It had been stored in a garden shed, never the best place to store a sewing machine, it was dirty, neglected and broken.  However, the weight of it indicated that this was a quality item and worth investigating.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing Machine in case.

This machine comes from a different time in manufacturing where the focus was on quality rather than on price-point in the market and as a result, it’s made to outlive most people.  In fact, many electric sewing machines made by Elna, Singer, Toyota, Janome, Brother and so on, built until the 1980s, are items of sheer mechanical excellence inside and should be cherished.  Anyway, on with the problem and repair.

The owner had stashed the machine away many years ago and as a result, it had seized.  Details of the fault were scant, I was just told that it didn’t work!  Upon powering it up and operating the foot pedal, the hand wheel turned slightly before making a horrible mains AC hum.  It was time to un-plug, rapidly.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP.

There are exposed oiling points on the Elna SP, a nice maintenance touch, but clearly these hadn’t been used in many a year.  Opening up the machine’s lid on top of the motor and bobbin transmission cover below revealed a lot of dirt and neglect which I first cleaned and then oiled lightly with special oil, in to all the moving parts.  Automotive brake cleaner was used to remove old dirt and grease from the needle area and gears.  New grease was then applied to the parts that needed it and more oil to other ‘metal on metal’ parts.  The trick here is to not apply so much oil that it ends up on the fabric being stitched.

Once the machine was running smoothly again, I noticed that the bobbin shuttle wasn’t turning, not even a little bit.  Not ideal.  Time to delve a little deeper and on this machine, it meant complete disassembly of the bobbin shuttle assembly, which then revealed a stripped worm-drive hook gear (part 403030).  This seems to be a fairly common issue on these machines as they get older.

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, part 403030 for Elna SP.

Obtaining a new hook gear was quite easy via eBay; BSK (Bedford Sewing Knitting Machines) supplied the part for a reasonable £15.99 including P&P within 24 hours.  Once fitted, it was a case of fine-tuning the bobbin/ hook timing to suit the needle.  It’s a similar principle to valve and ignition timing on a petrol engine car, a process that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever done any spannering on an old Mini or Escort for example.

With the timing complete, a few tests using old material revealed that the machine was working once again with no missed stitches.  I gave the machine a final polish with car wax before handing it back to the owner for my own satisfaction.

 

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FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing machine repaired.

Thanks also to More Sewing in Worthing, West Sussex for their advice on machine oil.  www.moresewing.co.uk.

Cost of a new machine (of this quality): £500 plus.  Cost of repair:  £15.99, plus time, plus a little oil and patience.

Raucous Kenwood Chef A701a

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef, A701a,

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.

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.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, repair kit from Kenwood Chef Restore, eBay.

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.

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).

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).