Instead of a public holiday for consumption: Time for Repair Friday

Everything always revolves around shopping – be it for Black Friday, Christmas or Easter. But why not just repair and reuse instead of always buying something new? This is what our series of articles “Repairing and Upcycling” is all about.

Today it’s that time again: it’s up to you! As a person, a European and a consumer. The international flow of goods has stalled and it is your turn to change that. Pandemic and supply chain problems affect the global economy as much as they do local retailers. And only you can help both of them, so consume, after all, there are huge discounts and Black Friday is only once a year!

Jan Mahn has been with c’t since 2017. He deals with the pitfalls of Windows and Linux servers, Docker and the networked home.

For my part, I cannot and will not help the economy this year, simply because I don’t need anything new. The old is still good and this year I’m going to turn Black Friday into Repair Friday. My iPhone 8, which is getting on in years, has cracking damage on the upper speaker, the spare part and the pentalobe screwdriver are already there. Take this apple! You won’t get my money this year.

You can make repairs a political, ecological, social or anti-capitalist act of protest and celebrate it – that is up to you. If you like, tweet #RepairFriday with a nice repair photo and say war on unbridled consumption today, World New Purchase Day.

But you can also celebrate Repair Friday quietly and just for yourself: because when something that was said to be dead runs again, you will still be happy years later and from now on you will treat the former patient with much more respect. When I see the now almost 10 year old flat screen TV, which I saved eight years ago with a new TV cable socket for 7 cents and some solder, I like to think back to how it was open on the table back then and how I unsoldered the mechanically undersized broken original socket.

The last patient on my electronics workbench was a Krups hand mixer. “Made in the Republic of Ireland” is written on the bottom, manufactured in the 1970s, a time when Ireland was still known as a low-wage and not a low-tax haven for US tech companies. And now it refused to work, the engine would no longer run, it just hummed – after less than 50 years. That’s not an age, at least not in geological time. And the sturdy orange-colored housing made of tough plastic is undoubtedly made for them.

My ambition was awakened, this mixer was not allowed to die yet and after opening it quickly revealed what would be necessary to freshen it up for the next 50 years: a thorough cleaning (a pound of flour had made its way through the Ventilation slots cleared and enriched in the engine compartment), new coals for the engine, a little grease for the gearbox and on the occasion a new interference suppression capacitor, after all, the old one already showed a noticeable bump and was closer to death than life. Result of the first cost estimate: 2 hours of work, parts with a total value of 15 euros with shipping.

Flour and coal dust in the housing, no grease in the gearbox: after a thorough cleaning, greasing and replacement of the condenser and coal, the mixer runs again as it did on the first day.

There is no getting around shipping here. If you are looking for an interference suppression capacitor for your 50-year-old hand mixer, you will also learn what the much criticized online trade can do to save the world. Good for those who know a local dealer who can pull the component F1740-370-5529 from ERO out of the drawer when it is as good as new. Most of them, however, will have to fall back on a dealer who sells the historical item on Ebay or Amazon and sends it in a padded envelope.

After replacing parts and doing a thorough cleaning, the mixer purred again, I didn’t expect anything else. The new coals in the engine have run in now, the gearbox runs quietly and there is nothing to prevent it from experiencing its next general overhaul in 50 years. Was it economically viable? A new mixer from the same manufacturer is available – without a Black Friday super discount – from 50 euros. I had to invest the planned 15 euros for material. And I don’t charge myself for the working hours. And that is exactly where the problem lies: You will not find a repair company that will repair this device economically. For an hour of work, he has to charge 60 to 80 euros and at the end give at least another year of warranty on the repair. Not a good deal for both parties. If you don’t want to throw it away, you have to know someone or become a repairer yourself.

Anyone who has a bit of technical understanding, and most of those who have read this far, can learn the cultural technique of repairing. In the beginning there is usually fear – but you cannot break anything that you have previously considered to be broken. The only thing that applies to electrotechnical laypeople is: stay away from 230 volts! With ignorance, you can seriously endanger yourself and others. Get started with electronics problems in the low voltage area. By far the most common cause of failure are capacitors that have burst. You can read how to exchange them in a detailed practical article. You don’t need expensive tools for the electronics workshop right from the start. A good soldering station – and there is also a used one – should definitely be available. An oscilloscope is for advanced problem seekers.

But a career in repairing also includes setbacks. Some things can no longer be meaningfully repaired even if you invest as much time as you like. Before the electronics make their final journey to the recycling center, they can always be used for other purposes. Old cell phones, for example, can be used differently than the manufacturer thought with a little creativity.

So: get the screwdriver out and repair it. Black Friday may only be once a year, but Repair Friday can be celebrated every week. If necessary, also on a Saturday or Wednesday.


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