Wednesday 9 October 2019

Repair Cafe

I recently started volunteering at a local 'repair cafe'. It’s a community environmental initiative where people in the local community can bring in small broken consumer electronics, and the volunteers will see if it can be repaired, at no charge, in order to keep items out of the waste stream.

If items can’t be fixed on site, advice is given whether it’s worth repairing, and if so what parts, etc. might be required. If they can be fixed, they’re tested to ensure they’re safe, and weighed so that the organisation can monitor the amount of material kept from landfill.

The other volunteers have a wealth of experience in a number of technical and scientific fields, so I also see it as an opportunity to learn and improve my skill set.

I’m also going to keep a record of the repairs I do, and document them here in the hope that it provides a DIY reference for others who may need similar fixes but aren’t able to access a repair cafe in their area.

So, these are the repairs I was faced with on my first day:
  • An automatic cat feeder – a simple mechanical clock device turning cogs which in turn allowed a lid on a good tray to open after the set time. The mechanism was reported as being slow. Observation of the device over a couple of minutes didn’t really show any sign of being off, and a test over half hour showed some drift – about an extra minute. The device was far from being a precision instrument though, so suggested that they observe the amount of drift over the time period they’re after and adjust the time they set accordingly.
  • An electrical beard trimmer. The mains wire was disconnected. Soldered in place and fixed.
  • A DAB digital radio, on which the LCD display wasn’t functioning. Managed to disassemble and retrieve the faulty part, so that a replacement could be found.
  • A toaster. The lever to push the toast down was stiff. This seemed to be a design flaw in the toaster, where the lever being pushed down would effectively pivot on the rail where it’s mounted, causing it to bind.

    There wasn’t much that could be done to repair it, but was able to advise the user how to workaround it by keeping the lever flat whilst it was being pushed.

  • A halogen cooking lamp thing. The timer and the fan would run, but the halogen lamp wouldn’t turn on. Testing showed no power to the halogen connector.
    Tracing the problem back showed that a potentiometer device (pictured) which set the halogens temperature had broken part.

    Advised the user of the broken part so they can try and get a spare from the manufacturer to attempt a repair next time.

    (Workarounds and partial fixes)
    Needs parts2

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