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Monday, July 21, 2014


Ever get told some piece of equipment was unrepairable? Did you fix it anyway? Do you find the the words “No user serviceable parts inside” a challenge?

My dad taught a useful lesson to me many many years ago. If something is broken, and it's going to be thrown away, there's no harm in opening it up and trying to fix it. When my microwave oven failed, the only thing wrong was a burned out wire connector. It was obvious as soon as the case was opened up.

Then there's actually understanding what a part is supposed to do. I had an old Mercedes Benz diesel. The original vacuum pump failed. While the car was old and had a zillion miles on it, I was not ready to get rid of it. The part was expensive and replacing it was a big job. However, all the pump did was generate vacuum. I found an electric vacuum pump from a VW cruise control on eBay. I tapped it into a vacuum line and wired the pump to the ignition switch. As soon as the switch was turned on, the pump started up and generated vacuum. The car drove normally after that.

Sometimes a piece of machinery isn't broken. The operator don't know how it's supposed to function in the first place. My dad's neighbor dropped off a leaf blower to see if my dad could fix it. What the guy had done was to set it on the ground in such a way that it turned off a kill switch. He didn't even know there was an emergency kill switch on the bottom of the leaf blower. Dad turned the switch on and the blower ran fine.

Dad didn't have the heart to tell the guy what an idiot the guy was. When the guy came back to pick it up, he asked what had been wrong with it.

“It was an open contact,” dad said.

Of course, when a switch is turned off, it makes an open contact.

As the price of many items have come down, we don't bother to fix them anymore. Instead, we replace. That assumes there's a steady supply of cheap replacments in the pipeline. That also assumes that your income will be such that you can afford the replacements. What if those ships and trains stopped delivering their cornicopia of goods?

Sounds like a doomer secnario, I know. Doom happens. Wouldn't it be nice to have some skills and practice before you need them? One thing that exposure to sailboats and cruising has shown me, being able to fix something can make all the difference in the world. Often I'd see nice boats sitting in a marina, waiting for some part to be shipped in from far away. Then there are the boats that have mechnical issues while far from help. Having machinery that can be repaired, and the skills to repair them, can save you from a life or death situation. No radioactive zombie apocolypse required.



  1. I agree with that philosophy. My skills don't always come up to the necessary level, but I hardly ever discard anything without trying to repair it.

    1. I bet you surprise yourself sometimes and get it fixed.

  2. Simplify simplify simplify. Or something like that...

    1. It's amazing how much free time not having all the latest gizmos to tinker with saves you.

  3. Folks forget that that "doom" can come to one person, while the rest of society "sails on."

    1. You and I have both had a taste of what that's like.