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Analog Bill
User Rank
Gold
PCB Couldnít Take the Heat
Analog Bill   1/4/2012 12:00:58 PM
NO RATINGS
Similar story recently with my Kitchen-Aid dishwasher. My 4-year-old unit developed noise when the main pump ran. The local repairman said it would cost $400 to repair and, in his opinion, I should buy a new one. My previous dishwasher, also a Kitchen-Aid, ran trouble-free for nearly 30 years ... and was the main reason I chose Kitchen-Aid. I decided to tackle the job myself. An internet search revealed that I could buy a new pump/motor assembly for about $110 (Kitchen-Aid doesn't even make a seal kit available ... that's all I really needed). The same website had a video showing exactly how to do the replacement ... it took only about 45 minutes for the entire repair. I had a similar experience with a less-than-a-year-old Kitchen-Aid hand mixer (the KHM-9 if I recall correctly) for which Kitchen-Aid sells no internal parts. It made me angry, so again I tackled the repair myself, tracking the problem to a cheap PCB-mounted relay that I replaced for about $5 (using one that had tungsten contacts rated at twice the current of the original). The name Kitchen-Aid used to carry an expectation of well-designed and long-lasting product. Apparently now they feel the only way to compete is by groveling around with the rest of the bottom-feeders and building their product as cheaply as possible. In my experience (I'm a small business owner), reputations like they had take decades to build but only a few years to destroy (bad news travels faster than good). No doubt some "shiny people" with MBAs have taken over and are systematically ruining the company.

Regarding my time to do these repairs ... I consider it a challenging game much like my father did. He never graduated high school but he was an extremely clever and resourceful man. He worked as a mechanic (cars, construction equipment, and later a fleet of dairy delivery trucks ... remember those?). He repaired everything at our house - the family car, plumbing, appliances, etc. and I loved "helping" as a kid. In the early fifties, he modified brakes on our family car to be self-adjusting ... years before Detroit got around to it. I took interest in electronics at age 7 or 8 and was repairing neighbors' radios when I was 10, TVs at 12 and now I'm an expert analog circuit designer with an impressive design record and four patents. I'm extremely disappointed by product designs by the vast majority of manufacturers today. To me, it seems very hypocritical to deliberately make products that not only fail early but that are essentially unrepairable. How "green" is it to dump an appliance into the landfill after only a few years rather than design it to last 20 years or more, like most products made in the fifties and sixties?  This is made even more ridiculous with things like mandated replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFL (truly a half-baked decision made by moron politicians so they can "feel good" about being "green"). I'm ready for the way-back machine! I'm convinced that what went wrong in America (with a lot more than just appliances) was the Harvard Business School and their popularization of the idea that you don't have to know anything about the products to run a profitable company. I wish more companies, like mine and Honda, were run by engineers instead of financial types. These folks that value money above all else have, with the help of a Congress they can buy, ruined American industry at many levels!

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Burnt traces
Amclaussen   1/4/2012 11:51:38 AM
NO RATINGS
My case is similar, having to do with a failure of a charging jack.  My wife received a LapTop as a gift from her father, days before he died from cancer in 2004... The Laptop is an inexpensive Dell Inspiron 5100, and because it is actually faster with a Pentium-4 than the LapTops following it that used "Centrino" processors, and coupled to the fact that it was a cherished gift, we are still using it nowadays!  The problem started days ago when I found quite difficult to remove the plug from the charger cable from the Laptop... it was literally stuck, and I had to really pull hard in order to extract the plug out.  when I finally suceeded, I noticed that one of the small holes in the plug looked slightly melted and deformed.  At first I thought that cleaning the pins in the Laptop jack and the connector in the charger cable plug with CRAMOLIN (tm) contact cleaner, would fix this. But after a few minutes of use, the plug stuck again, and was almost as hard to remove from the laptop.  Now the computer shut down two times when I accidentally jiggled the plug.

Resorting to the mighty Internet, I was shocked to find that charging jack woes are a VERY common problem. There are several tutorials on how-to fix Laptops with this malady, that will succeed in cases when the damn jack was badly or insufficiently soldered to the motherboard AND the heating hasn't already burned thru the motherboard, which would be very expensive or unobtainable.

Studying the charging jack, I realized that the puny connector used by Dell in this Laptop has  way too small pins to carry the several amperes that rush in when one starts the computer with a discharged battery.  The fact that the connector between the AC power cord and the charger brick has three 1/8" pins on the 120 V low current side, but the jack on the Laptop has pins that barely measure 1/32" by 3/64" on the low voltage side (20 V, several amps) tells it all: BAD DESIGN. (or, to put it mildly: Designed to fail after warrany expiration).  One thing is to select a connector pin for so called "nominal current", and another to properly design for a FREQUENTLY used connector, like the damn charging jack. Badly designed PCB traces around the jack, that is supported only by the PCB and has to withstand the insertion force of the plug many times compound the problem... Bad mechanical design again!

BTW: Dell WON'T repair damaged Motherboards, they only replace complete motherboards, and after adding labor to the $400+ cost of the board, most people would throw it away and buy another one.  So much for conservation or avoiding tons of toxic waste.

The Good News: apparently the repair is feasible for a person capable of resoldering a Jack to a PBC...  The Bad News: In order to have access to the jack, the Motherboard needs to be taken out of the Laptop, which means having to remove almost everything: HDD, DVD, Keyboard, Display hinges and Display, a lot of screws and many delicate ribbon type connectors... but considering that a Technician would charge more than the old machine is probably worth, I will attempt to fix it myself.  For those fellows with this (and many other problems planted-in by the manufacturer's "design" team, take a look at: www.InsideMyLaptop.com , www.LaptopRepair101.com , www.laptoprepairguy.com  for excellent guidance, and www.impactcomputers,com for parts like jacks and charging PCB's.  It never ceases to amaze my how clever people are capable of outsmarting the perverse monkeys working for many manufacturers.  Lets show them who is the boss!

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: PCB REPLACEMENT COST
Rob Spiegel   1/4/2012 11:28:28 AM
NO RATINGS
Good going RBPrice. On top of it all is the satisfaction of having fixed it yourself. That might have been the biggest reward in replacing my side mirror. I had a similar experience replacing my tail light unit. That only took about 20 minutes. Again a savings of more than $100.

RBPrice
User Rank
Iron
PCB REPLACEMENT COST
RBPrice   1/4/2012 10:05:39 AM
NO RATINGS
I just had a similar experience with the regulator mechanism on the driver side window of my 2001 Mazda picjkup.  My local shop wanted $400 in parts and labor to fix it.

I called the local Ford dealer, got a price of $80 + tax for the part; found the part on-line for $48.90 including the shipping and no tax, found a video on-line of how to remove the liner from the door and went to work.

It took me two hours, some of which was wasted when I tried to test the installation before I buttened things up. The mirror control and the door lock buttons worked but not the window.  Thinking I had inadvertently blown a fuse I got out the owners manual to find the fuse and after some searching found that the window wouldn't work until the ignition switch was on. :^|

Lesson: replacement parts are extremely expensive and contemporary repair people approach their customers with a I can do it and you can't so just open your checkbook and get out of the way attitude.

The Internet has changed that paradigm.

Jim S
User Rank
Gold
Good Detective work!
Jim S   1/4/2012 9:56:22 AM
NO RATINGS
The main problem with having the repair done is that there is no assurance that the original poblem may exist with the new parts, just waiting to fail again. Good job figuring that one out!

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
He still came out ahead
Charles Murray   1/3/2012 8:55:48 PM
Kudos to the author for figuring this out. When I start projects like this one, my main concern is that I'll start but won't find the problem, and then I'll end up paying the tech anyway, after I've blown three hours on it. As far as I'm concerned, the author came out ahead by solving the problem.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Parts are not the primary cost
Rob Spiegel   1/3/2012 3:04:15 PM
It looks like the part pricing here is similar to the pricing of aftermarket auto parts. While many of the parts cost very little in the original manufacturing, the replacement parts can get ridiculously high. It's sticker shock for aftermarket parts.

Liquefactionist
User Rank
Iron
Re: Parts are not the primary cost
Liquefactionist   1/3/2012 2:29:09 PM
I would say parts are not the major cost until I saw a single sided PCB for my AC unit (think there was one 74xx logic chip, some diodes, and a couple connectors) was over $300!  That is quite a bit of my time to equal.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Parts are not the primary cost
Rob Spiegel   1/3/2012 10:20:20 AM
Good points, TJ. Certainly, time and expertise deserve to be rewarded. In this case, the author had plenty of expertise. And you're right that we don't know how much time was involved. Even so, repair often comes with two costs -- labor and mark-up on parts. I learned a lot about mark-up when I recently replaced a side-view mirror. A $300 quote from the auto shop turned into a $38 purchase on Amazon (including shipping) and an hour of my uneducated labor (fortified by instructions on the Internet).

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Parts are not the primary cost
TJ McDermott   1/3/2012 10:04:10 AM
The bill of materials for this repair (capacitor, wire, solder) may have come to $20, but how much time did the author spend trouble-shooting the problem, and effecting the repair?

Labor in almost every case is going to be the lion's share of a project cost.  The author's time does have a value; he wasn't doing something else while effecting the repair.  That needs to be added to the component cost in order to have a fair comparison against the price quoted from the repairman.

I'm not justifying the repairman's bill; I HATE the feeling of being taken to the cleaners when I don't have enough knowledge to know about a repair like that.  But one is paying for the expertise of the specialist hired.

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