Secret Scotland

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Fix your own gadgets – good luck with that!

I was amused to see an article encouraged unskilled people to tackle repairs of their own gadgets.

Consumer campaigners are winning the battle for a “right to repair” – which could mean our electrical appliances last longer and are easier to mend.

But when your devices go wrong, how do you know whether there’s a ten-minute fix or if your appliance is destined for the scrapheap?

We asked some experts for their tips on the repairs you can do at home.

How to fix some of your own broken gadgets

For what it’s worth, I’ve never handed anything over for repair unless it’s something I’m legally obliged to have a qualified person tackle, or needs specialist tools I simply can’t afford to justify the cost to purchase.

I’d rather pay the cost of doing the work myself, even if it costs the same as going to a ‘Pro’, and even used one large repair to justify installing my own vehicle lift some years ago.

But the gadget story is more about electrical repairs, and while you can do a lot of simple jobs yourself, in recent years legislation has been introduced which has taken that away in many cases.

A few years ago I wanted to replace some blown heater elements – NOPE!

In the first case, and oven, there was simply no source of the glass enclosed elements, despite the oven being a major brand name.

In the second, I tried my usual electrical spares suppliers, only to be told that recent government legislation had outlawed the sale of open type of heater element I simply wanted to replace.

So, not only could I not buy a spare part, I couldn’t even buy a similar part and alter it to suit.

Battery does NOT necessarily mean safe

I was amused to see this advice in the article

If you’re new to repairing electrical appliances, Ms Gunter advises steering clear of mains-powered devices.

“It’s a good idea to get started with battery-powered devices, which are much safer, as a way to get confidence,” she says.

In fact, I’d say you’re probably SAFER poking around mains-powered devices nowadays – provided, of course, you have unplugged and isolated them.

Reason being that many devices are now powered by rechargeable lithium-ion cells.

Obviously, I’m  not referring to the sort of goodies powered by AA, AAA, or PP3 batteries and similar zinc chloride or alkaline batteries.

However, mishandling of lithium cells can lead to the rapid onset of overheating and fire.

I have to add that this is NOT down to the wrongly stated danger of reactive lithium bursting into flames on contact with water – in fact there is only a tiny amount of lithium in such cells, and even that is in the form of an oxide, not pure lithium.

Lithium is not the danger.

The danger arises from the high energy density of the cells, which can deliver huge currents if shorted, be this by their leads, or some mishap which punctures the cell and shorts it internally. In such cases these cells can suffer thermal runaway, causing them to overheat and release flammable chemicals which form their electrolyte.

Such cells are normally equipped with battery management to look after charge/discharge, but it’s also easy for someone inexperienced to replace them with types missing such protection. And that would not be a ‘Good Thing’.

I know people well experienced in handling these cells who still keep an open metal bin next to their bench when working on anything containing them, especially if the cells are very high power/capacity and are charged, just in case.

However, I’m not intending to put anyone off, quite the opposite.

But the experts should update their advice.

We really do need to claim back our gadgets, avoid the mentality that has come to accept disposable technology, and seek advice for silly little repairs that can be easily ad cheaply achieved in many cases.

So long as the parts are available!

Even guys that know what they are doing can get it wrong, as in this example where batteries from a Tesla were repurposed for another vehicle – and they didn’t quite look after their battery management properly.

That first video actually led to a lot of misunderstanding.


The people behind it made a second video to clarify matters.

You should watch both.


09/01/2019 - Posted by | Civilian |

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