Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Repair Win?

Like many of you, I’ve become the designated “fix-it” person for my family and friends. While it can be a lot of work — I just finished an oil change that required me to lay in a cold, wet driveway and I can’t mention in polite company the substances I was bathed in while fixing a clogged pipe last week  — I generally relish my role. I enjoy solving problems, I love working with my hands and my head, and who doesn’t like saving money and time?

But for me, the best part of being the fix-it guy is the satisfaction that comes from doing something others can’t do. I find this especially true with automotive repairs, which conventional wisdom says is strictly the province of factory-trained experts. A little bit of a hero complex, perhaps? Absolutely! After all, I don’t get paid for my repairs, so I’ve got to get a little something for the effort.

This is why a recent pair of unrelated fixes left me feeling thoroughly unsatisfied. Neither of these jobs was a clear win, at least in terms of getting the rush of being able to do something that nobody else could. At best, these were qualified wins, which both still left me feeling a little defeated. And that got me thinking that I’m probably not the only one who has had marginal repair wins like these.

Fix 1: The Driveway Watchdog

The first repair was for a friend of mine who lives deep in the woods. Somewhat ironically, his driveway is a very busy place, mainly with wildlife like deer, elk, and the occasional moose. Keeping track of their comings and goings is important for safety; one does not want to surprise a moose, after all. A fair number of cars find their way up his driveway too: most of them are innocent, but occasionally they come with ill intent.

So wisely, he installed a wireless driveway alert system that gives him a heads-up on intruders. During the recent cold snap, though, his system stopped working. He changed the batteries and tried a few basic diagnostics, but no dice — the transmitter wouldn’t work. So I offered to take a look and see if maybe I could save him a few bucks on a replacement.

Now, this transmitter is a somewhat ad hoc assembly. Inside the weatherproof case is what appears to be an off-the-shelf PIR motion sensor, which is wired to a PCB that contains a microcontroller and a radio module in an RF can. When the PIR sensor triggers, it sends power to the radio module, where the MCU sends a recorded sound clip — “Alert zone one, alert zone one…” — to the transmitter, broadcasting it to a receiver inside the house. Simple, but effective.

His report was that he couldn’t even get the LED on the PIR sensor to light up, so I figured I’d start there and popped the cover off. This is where I started having thoughts of heroics — perhaps one of the SMD components on the sensor’s PCB was bad, and I’d be able to trace the problem and do a little microsoldering. Or maybe I’d have to do some reverse engineering of the firmware to figure out what was wrong. The possibilities!

Sadly, it was not to be. After I had removed the sensor — which entailed disconnecting the battery pack wires from screw terminals on the PCB — I noticed that the positive lead had broken off in the terminal block. Surely this wasn’t just a broken wire? Where are the heroics in that? But alas, when I stripped the wire back and put everything back together, the whole thing worked like a charm. I felt cheated — no need to bust out the oscilloscope, the waveform generator, the spectrum analyzer, or even the bench power supply. At least I got to use my microscope. Just to make myself feel like I’d done something, I crimped some ferrules on the ends of the battery pack wire and gave it back to my friend. Yay me.

Fix 2: The Spicy Stove

As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, a day or two later my daughter texted me to come over and look at her stove. Alarmingly, one of the electric burners on the stovetop had started causing electric shocks through their cookware. The shocks ranged from barely noticeable to a little on the spicy side. Not good!

69 volts to ground; not as bad as it was when I first tested, but still pretty spicy.

I rushed over with a multimeter and started poking around. My thought was that the burner element was cracked or otherwise internally damaged, and a short between the nichrome wire and the outer covering had developed. I did some continuity checks between the element and chassis ground, but didn’t see anything. Voltage checks between the burner and ground were a little different, though — I was seeing 117 volts on the problem burner. Well, there’s your problem, lady!

Unfortunately, the local big-box stores were all sold out of 8″ burner elements for GE stoves, so I couldn’t replace the dodgy element right away. We decided to swap the other 8″ element on the stove, which wasn’t shocking her, into the spot where the bad element was. Surprise! That showed 117 volts too. So it’s not the element, but the spot on the stovetop? Confused, we swapped everything back to the original locations and that seemed to fix the problem — no voltage from either burner to ground. What?

Clearly, this one isn’t a fix. There’s still something wrong with the stove, and I’ll need to do more diagnostics. It was kind of a fix, I suppose — at least my kid isn’t getting shocked when she cooks. But it certainly wasn’t a satisfying fix, and even if I replace the suspect burner with a new element, I’m not sure I’m going to trust the repair.

Your Turn

I think we can all agree that neither one of these repairs is very satisfying. In the case of the driveway alarm, I barely needed to be involved at all — my friend would probably have found out what the problem was with just a little tug on the wires. It was a fix, to be sure — it wasn’t working at all when I got it, and it’s working because of something I did. But it’s a boring fix, at best. The spicy stovetop is unsatisfying, too, but in another way: it’s not really a fix, because I didn’t replace anything or find anything that appeared broken. It’s just back together the way it was, and working normally, at least for now.

A fix is a fix, but some fixes are just not worth the effort. So the question is: what’s your least satisfying repair story?  Have you ever had high hopes for a glorious repair, only to end up with something a toddler could have fixed? Or like my daughter’s stove, have you managed to make a problem “go away” without actually having done anything? What do you do in cases like that? How do you know when you reach the point of diminishing returns in terms of finding the problem? And when do you — gasp! — throw in the towel and call in an expert? Sound off in the comments below.

189 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Repair Win?

  1. So my Ex-Wife / Best Friend needed a HVAC system installed in her 1800’s era home. With the budget presented, I thought …… “This is going to be a less than optimal system”. Anyway, there was an old oil furnace connected to a “Octopus” of duct work which up removing the oil furnace part, I shoehorned a case coil and gas furnace into. It works OK, but looks like an amateur with a low budget and laughable sheet metal skills screwed and duct taped together….. Luckily, It works but I hope no one else works on it. (I might end up on one of the youtube channels like “This Just Rolled In”…

  2. Ok, I have another one for you. At work we had an old legacy product that only had one test fixture for the functional test of it. We had to do a small pcb redesign to replace an obsolete part that we couldn’t buy anymore, so we used a functional equivalent but not footprint direct replacement.

    After building it and putting it on the functional test fixture it failed the test. As I was trying to diagnose the issue I was probing with my oscilloscope and ran the test and it passed. It would always fail when not being probed on one test point, and always pass when being probed.

    The solution? I did a new board redesign and put the 10 megohm resistor that the probe added between that net and ground. It passed the functional test every time… The net was a mosfet logic control output.

  3. My 1st repair “job” was when my landlord was throwing out the old communal TV. It was one of the old CRT types, and i took it into my room and had a look to see if i could fix it, since TV’s in those days were expensive and I had a spectrum computer which needed one to play on

    So I opened the back and saw it had one of those glass see through fuses. I stuck some fuse wire across it and lo and behold the TV worked. Impressed by myself, I bought a few of the fuses and the TV worked fine for a number of years. However every now and then it would fail, so i would take the back off and replace the fuse

    Later I got my 1st multimeter (from Tandy/Radioshack – still working) and to test it I thought I would try it on one of the old “failed” fuses. To my surprise, the fuse was still OK (Yes, I know in hindsight I should of visually inspected it), It seems whatever was causing the TV the fail was being fixed purely by me removing the back and the effort or replacing the fuse

  4. In 1981 I was working on my first microcomputer design, finalizing the firmware on the afternoon before the big international show. Sometimes it would boot up and work, sometimes not, and there was no obvious software bug. Changes took a while to incorporate as I was hand-assembling and typing the resultant hex codes into an EPROM programmer, and I only had a few spare EPROMs so every few revisions and there would be a delay while a batch were in the UV eraser.

    My colleagues went to the exhibition hall at Olympia to set up the company stand while I continued working on the problem. As the evening wore on, the system gradually began to break down more frequently. As it grew darker I eventually gave up and went to turn on the lights. The unit immediately burst into life and the penny dropped. I passed the others in the stairwell as they returned with a muttered “Found the problem, I’m just going to my car to get a torch”.

    Turned the lights off, pointed the torch at the EPROM, turned the unit on and it worked. Turned the torch off and the system immediately stalled. The boss was now making plans to fit a 60W bulb inside the rack at the show ‘so the customers could see it better’ he said.

    A little more investigation and the link to the Chip Enable input on the EPROM was found missing; presumably the leakage from ambient light through the EPROM window was just enough to fool the chip into thinking that it was enabled. Soldered a jumper in and all was well.

    1. You’ve got me paging through a digitized copy of the Compec 1981 catalogue looking for an ad for my
      old QX-10, only to realize this was two years before it was released! Would you be comfortable sharing the name of the company you were with at the time? I’d love to read the catalogue entry.

  5. My best and worst repair win was on a VW Polo. Basically your driving along ok and then it looks like someone stole the battery out your the car. All the lights flicker on the dash and then the car stalls and then jumps back into life and carries on. So i thought an electrical issue. So i changed the battery and alternator and still had the same problem. Turns out after much googling there was one person post (with no comments) across all the forums suggesting a close similarity to this fault but not identical. It turns out the large OTO fuses (look like a figure of 8) found under the bonnet corrode very slighty and become open circuit. So the car in its normal state vibrating along the road is keeping the current flowing. When you hit a smooth road the OTO fuse went open circuit and hence stalled. All you have to do is clean the fuses with some very fine emery paper and cover them in a silicon grease to prevent corroding again and away you go.

  6. The worst “fixes” are when a friend or family member gives me something to fix they swear has some problem but when I get my hands on it I cant for the life of me reproduce the problem and everything looks to work fine. So all I can do is give it back saying it works now but I literally did nothing so if it happens again write down as much as you can about what happened and bring it back for me to take a look at again.

  7. I was at the maternity ward with the wife waiting for the birth of our second son.
    After a few fruitless hours the midwife decides to induce, so in goes a drip and hormone whatever added to the saline.

    After a few minutes I point out that the clamp is still on the saline line – so no flow.

    A few hours later, and after a wrestling match I’ll spare you the gory details, son was born.

    He still works (after a fashion) 20+ years later.

  8. We had a Bosch dishwasher that was already a FEW years old when we purchased the house. Love the Bosch, runs like a tank, easy to use, cleans the dang dishes. Well, with age, the plastic power button broke and we couldn’t turn it on. Looking online for a replacement and it was listed for $50. $50! for a simple ABS plastic part that probably doesn’t even cost $0.01 to manufacture. So, in a “screw the MAN” tirade I determined that I was going to make my own… $1000 3D printer, many, many hours learning how to 3D design, and multiple prototypes later, I had a working button that lasted until the pump injected some broken glass a couple years later. BTW, the part is shared on thingiverse ( Screw the MAN!

  9. For ~10 years some relatives had a Skoda which got “upgraded” to use gas (yes, gas as in gas. not diesel or petrol) from an additional tank in back (petrol was still usable too).
    Now and then I drove that car too and for a ~year I complained that while refueling LNG I smelled a lot of it and sometimes even saw clouds moving around!

    The local car shop that installed the gas add-on didn’t find anything wrong and did nothing.
    Then one winter I convinced one owner of that car to take me along just to refuel.
    Guess what I took a video off: LNG dripping down from somewhere between the tank and the refueling port.

    As it turns out the car shop didn’t secure the pressure hose correctly (or sth. along those lines) and didn’t even have the means to test it…. :-(

    But when I reported hearing a tiny metallic clinking from the back now and then while driving one of the car shops mechanics immediately knew what it was – a broken suspension spring(!) – but just one tip so it wasn’t noticeable.
    Reported that clinking noise ~half a year earlier to my relatives as well. They didn’t hear it and ignored it… :-/

    Both are kinda my worst “repair wins” (even thou I did none of the repairs myself).

  10. About a year ago, my prized possession, that is, my Pioneer Elite KURO plasma TV, died. No power, no LED, nothing except a relay click sound when plugging it in. Spent way too long looking for the service manual, and took the extremely heavy TV off the mount to take off the back cover, and that’s when I noticed the hidden latching on/off power switch (separate from the power button with the rest of the controls). Pressed it and it came back to life. No idea how that got turned off, maybe it just popped out by itself after 15 years of being pressed in….

  11. When I’m troubleshooting, I’ve run into situations like your second scenario where I can’t find a “smoking gun” and it’s always unnerving when the problem ‘seems’ fixed but you don’t know WHY. I get all those feels here.

    But that first thing, gosh, you found (and fixed) a high impedance air gap. That’s wonderful! Are you really complaining that you rolled good RNG in your Mr. Fix it speedrun?

  12. My toddler dropped a toy, so it stopped turning on. I did some external checks, and it seemed dead.

    Hoping for a broken wire, I managed to crack it open, check everything looked fine… and it was lightning up again. The circuit was also very simple, a battery, button, light, and motor. No PCB or microcontroller.

    No idea what happened. I did put some tape on the weakest parts, just hoping it would help for it not to happen again.

  13. I was driving a 94 Chevy S10 pickup…Decelerated to pull into a parking lot one day…heard the antilock brakes modulate (brrrrt!) and the engine light came on. Took it to the dealer who told me my antilock brake system computer had failed, but that they would happily replace it for $1800. I said no, the truck was already old at that time, and I’d rather just pull the fuse and deal with manual brakes.

    Of course, being an engineer, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I dragged out my o’scope, jacked up the front of the truck, and noticed that the output of one wheel speed sensor was a hot sine wave, while the other was corrupted and low amplitude. I bought a replacement sensor, spent a couple of hours installing it and I was good to go.

    Best guess is that a rock had skipped behind the shield and fractured the old sensor’s magnet or core.

    Without a service manual, and even at the dealer premium for parts, I was still able to fix for $90 bucks what “Mr. Goodwrench” wanted to shaft me for $1800. I accomplished this with nothing more than a DMM, scope, and some common sense.

  14. 1992 Plymouth Voyager Lemon (AKA Dodge Caravan). Random stall, can’t restart until waiting a random amount of time, sometimes a few minutes, sometimes hours. Towed to a dealer, they replaced plugs and wires, which could have done but they would have charged a diagnostic fee or apply it to labor if I let them. Still stalled. Back to dealer, who replaced the fuel pump and a full tank of gas, still stalled. Back to dealer a couple more times and they couldn’t duplicate the problem. Ran our of AAA miles so we would have to wait until it decided to restart. When it would run I’d start troubleshooting on my own by unplugging sensors one at a time and reading codes to see what code set as it would never set a code when it stalled. Finally found that unplugging the crank sensor didn’t set a code so by process of elimination I had it. Waited until the next time it stalled and popped the hood and unplugged and plugged the crank sensor back in and it started. repeated the next two or three stalls. Crank sensor was a three pin plug like an old trailer connector with no seal. So I started squirting in some dielectric grease every time I changed the oil and that kept the unsealed plug from getting wet/dirty and prevented it from stalling. Spent well over $1000 at the dealer.

  15. Your “worst repair wins” are called “quick wins” in my book and I love getting them in repair cafés because they allow me to help more people in the same alloted time and it still results in ateahcning moment for both of the “customer” and me!

  16. Washing machine at my in-laws “summer residence” – basically village cottage. New device, delivered and installed by professionals. Jumps around while spinning. Since it was new, repairmen were calld, precisely two of them, without result. After two years of accepting the fact I had a spark of enlightment and looked at the back and removed transportation bolts – you know, those that keep the drum from breaking the springs while in transport

    1. Another “walking washer” story, this was told by a district sales representative.
      The customer complained about the wash machine moving around during the Spin cycles. A number of attempts had been made to fix it without success. When his turn came, he noticed how much the floor shook when the waltzing began. It was in a trailer house/mobile home. He ended up installing a strong support below the floor where the washer sat to the bare ground beneath it which stabilized the floor and the washer retired from its dancing career.

      Another time I picked up a washer that had been traded in for a new one. It was in a basement with a concrete floor, and the owners were tired of it walking around also. When I asked their son about how far did it move during a wash cycle, he said something to the effect; “as far as the garden hoses and extension cord will let it”.

  17. Around 2013 I had a local 3D printing service bureau that would regularly hire students from my department (mech eng). Since I ran the machine shop, composites and additive lab sections I would get lots of requests for fixes.

    The service bureau owner asked if I could use some 3D printers that they had ‘worn out’ for students to wrench on, and I said ‘sure!’ figuring the worst case scenario was I’d spend a few Saturdays stripping down a couple of printers for parts to feed into student projects.

    They showed up with a box truck full of Makerbot Rep2Xs and unloaded them into my workspace. After the shock wore off, I started triage and notice the majority of them were 100% intact and would boot to the info screen just fine.

    About 80% of them were completely fine except for a clogged nozzle, most of the rest needed one section of the wiring harness replaced, and one needed a new membrane keypad. There were a total of two out of the entire truckload that were legitimately scrap. It took about four hours in total to get them all back to neat.

    I called the owner and let them know the situation, and that I felt they should have all the unclogged printers back, since the fix was so simple and Rep2X were >$2k at the time. They said ‘nah, we already wrote those off. I’ll come by and pick up two or three as backups, but just give the rest to your students’. I had a LOT of happy students that semester.

  18. I worked for an IT company. For a client we scraped (with permission) the online catalogues of 150+ construction hardware (drills, shovels etc) factories. This took a while so I did this every two weeks in the weekend. Some sites would always or sometimes fail, but never when I tested them manually.
    I complained about this to the client after a year or so, and he said: Are you running it on a sunday? Turned out two vendors (a rope factory and a broom factory) were quite strict cristians and had a website that was shut down on sundays. The fix: Just putting an A in front of their name in the database so they ran on friday evening or saturday. Never had trouble since.

  19. I work for a Repair Cafe here in the UK. During Covid lock down I got a call from a lady with very poor eyesight – main source of entertainment was a battery radio which had been lasting less and less time on a set of batteries. I went, full covid protection, to see if I could help, taking some batteries of my own. Opening the back, I changed the pair of cells that I could see, the radio just about worked so the circuitry, tuner, amplifier etc all working.
    Lots of head scratching. Eureka! Battery contacts! Had a look, all clean, but one was an unusual design – a circular flat plate instead of a spring. Somehow it looked mote like the tail end of a AA cell than…….. It WAS the tail end of a third cell! The radio used 3 AA cells, one pushed out of sight and the other two visible. The hidden one was an electrical dead weight and had swollen so it didn’t slide out on its own. Prised it out, put a new third cell in. Happy lady!

  20. Once (end of the 80’s) got an old portable Sony color tv. Really nice tv, Trinitron tube, wooden white exterior, not ‘new’ enough to have channel preselectors, but still had tuning knobs.

    I got it because it ‘was not working’ and they thought that I might enjoy fixing it.

    So next day, I put it on my bench to see what was wrong, Before even opening it, I see a little red plastic thing protruding from the back. No clue what it was, but for some reason I pressed it and it said ‘click’.

    The television worked great after that, for many, many years (still have it ;)), hahahaha. Turned out the red thing was a resettable fuse that had triggered for some unknown reason. The electronics were fine.

    Most disappointing and at the same time exhilarating fix I’ve ever made. ;)

  21. A good troubleshoot can be very satisfying, but if the solution is really simple — like one shot of De-Oxit — that can be disappointing. Years ago, a friend would ask sellers at hamfests if the old device actually worked. If they honestly replied that it did not, he would tell them, “OK, I pay extra for that.” He liked troubleshooting. More troubleshooting stories here:

  22. So in college, my laptop’s charger connection started to get…touchy. I’m sure you know the issue – you have to bend it just so to get the connections to meet up. Well the charger itself was fine. 20V (or whatever) from the male side, so it must be the jack inside the laptop. So I pop the laptop open, find the faulty connection, solder it back down, no problem whatsoever.

    Plug the laptop back in, charging light comes on.
    Mission accomplished!

    Plug the screen back in.
    I see a teeny tiny ball of flame come from what I now know as the backlight voltage controller. Everything works fine except the backlight.

    So here’s the hack – I pull the back of the screen off, the diffuser, everything. Just down to the translucent LCD panel and put a lamp behind it.

    Hey, got me through finals.

  23. I ordered a “broken” Canon Rebel (film!) off of ebay. Wanted to use it for repair practice. Looked it over. Had a brand new battery. Put the battery back in and it works fine. Weird. Continue checking it out. Turns off. Hunh. Turns back on. Wha? Turns out the battery door would feel closed when it wasn’t and lose contact randomly. I just had to make sure it was clicked in. $12 all in. Works, so that’s a win. But definitely not a satisfying win.

    1. Yeah, I have picked up several “weed eaters” (2-stroke string trimmers) for free, with the thought of disassembling them to learn more about how they work. But they were easily repaired with replacement fuel lines, primer bulbs, filters and/or fresh fuel. No need to open the crankcase.

  24. I took an Electricity/Electronics class in high school. They basically hired a coach and found out he knew a little about electronics. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just got pushed into teaching a class he wasn’t really qualified to teach. I’d chosen electronics as a career when I was 9, so I knew a lot more than he did about electricity and electronics.

    One day, he came to me with two cassette decks (the portable type sold in the ’70s) and said I could have them. But if I could fix them, he wanted them back. I refused, because that was just dumb. Why would I bother fixing them if I have to give them back? So I got him to agree that I could have them, as he’d spent many hours trying to fix them for his neighbor. His neighbor had finally told him to forget it and keep them.

    So now they are mine, no matter what. The problem was the both ran at about 2x speed and very inconstant in speed. I opened them up, checked the speed of the motor against each other. I drew equidistant lines on two disks and lit them with an NE2 neon bulb on 60Hz AC. According to the disks, they were running at nearly identical speeds and at very constant speeds.

    I flipped them back over to see if the pinch roller was uneven and… found someone had slipped a bit of wire insulation over the capstans. Pulled them off, and they both worked perfectly.

    I told my teacher I’d managed to fix one, and gave it back to him to give back to his neighbor. I kept the other as payment. I knew from past experience that if I told him I’d “fixed” both, especially if I told him how, he’d likely demand both back in spite of agreeing that both were mine, no matter what. I’d been through this before many times with other people.

  25. I had a PDC-2000 digital camera I’d paid a lot of money for, for my digital photography and imprinting business. It had a small internal 1.8 inch hard drive, and used a SCSI bus to transfer photos off. It was a fantastic camera for the price and the time.

    One day, the SCSI interface started becoming flakey, and eventually quit working altogether. I found someone selling the PDC-3000 on eBay, it is almost identical but uses removable compact flash cards and no SCSI interface. Before I would bid, I got him to promise NOT to use UPS. I’d been having massive problems with them crushing and penetrating boxes, and refusing to make good on the insurance.
    After I won the auction, the jerk sent it UPS anyway. I had been quite clear about why I did not want it shipped UPS. He assured me he packed it VERY well, in a small box in the middle of a much larger box.

    UPS didn’t even try and deliver it, they just slapped a note on my door claiming attemptd delivery, even though I was home at the time.

    So I rushed over to the distribution center to pick it up. The large box looked like an accordian. The clerk gave me a defiant look when I saw it, and said it must have been that way when it was dropped off. I pointed out that all the tape and the shipping label were deep in all of the folds, so it had to have been crushed after all that was done. This was the same woman who made me open EVERY SINGLE BOX that I shipped, to make sure it had 2 inches of foam.

    I took it over to a table and opened it. They had crushed the outer box so far that the inner box, about 1/4 the size, had also been partly crushed. I turned it on and the shutter did not work. I went back to talk to her about it, she actually had two large guys come out and stand on either side of me as she told me to leave.
    I filed for the insurance, they denied it. I wrote a rather scathing email to the eBay seller with pictures and details of my interaction with UPS.

    He was very apologetic and offered me half off. I said I am not interested in a broken camera at any price, and asked if he was willing to hold until I had someone look at it and see if it was repairable. He said yes.

    I am an electronics technician, but if I tell people that, they assume my labor should be free. So I didn’t tell him that. I took it apart, the shutter was completely frozen.
    But… my PDC-2000 shutter/sensor assembly looked identical, so I switched them, and it worked! The seller returned half my money.

  26. Anyone remember Zortech C++?
    Long ago, and not that far away I started a BioPhysics company (or tried to) that did data-acquisition software on a whopping i386. So the software would work, then it wouldn’t. Kept digging deeper and deeper, finally got to the point where I was single stepping with a debugger. All the way into the compiler’s libraries. That’s where I found that a register hadn’t gotten initialized, so sometimes the next command would increment, and other times it would decrement. Who doesn’t trust the commercial library that comes with your compiler???

  27. Absolute best save: free HP Laserjet 5 printer from a law office in town. “It’s on the porch, come get it”.

    Brought it home, printed a test page, which jammed and the toner wasn’t fused to the paper. Oh, well…left it down in the basement. Fast forward to COVID and WFH. Maybe I should take a look at that printer, thinks I. Opened it up, watched a few Youtube videos, and decided the fuser was dead. Found a parts place on the web, ordered another fuser assembly for $150. While I was replacing it, noticed the gears that drive it are all chewed up, because the old fuser was seized. Back to the web, and order a $30 gear kit. While I’m waiting for the gears, I check the RAM, discover that maxing out the memory will cost me $30, so I order that, and find a $15 JetDirect ethernet card on eBay. Gears show up, and I get them installed, and…hey! My “free” printer prints and fuses now, but there are nasty blotches of toner on the page. I order a refilled toner cartridge and the blotches go away. Install RAM, plug in and configure network card with a static IP.

    So, now I have a working, network connected laser printer! I set up my Linux system as a print server for my wife’s iToys, and it sits to this day in the basement workroom, drawing 7 watts on standby, wakes up and prints when needed ( about 5 times a month)…every single time! Should have bought one of these years ago, for the price of all the damn inkjet refills I wasted my money on. Total cost, including two more NIB toner refills off Goodwill was under $300. And I’m seriously impressed with the build quality of this old HP/Canon veteran.

    I understand Brother is the last laser printer manufacturer not to be doing the “cartridges as a profit center” thing. But I’m happy with my LJ5, which will most likely outlive me.

    1. Unfortunately, the paper pickups will eventually fail. Yes, those can be replaced too, but disassembly is usually a huge hassle. but in particular, buying used HPs guarantees toner and parts availability for decades. I typically use them for about 10 years before the paper pickups stop working reliably, then I buy another used (working!) business-class HP printer for like $200.

  28. Back when I was dating my (now wife) girlfriend in college, she had a Mazda GLC, and the tape deck of her radio was not working. The read head was not aligned or something, so playing tapes didn’t sound right (it’s been years, so I can’t remember the exact symptom) and I couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem.

    In messing with it, I realized that it worked perfectly when the unit was upside-down, so I installed the radio back in the dash upside down, and it worked perfectly fine that way for years.

    1. You forgot to mention that you were in Australia at the time, and that the Mazda was built for the Northern Hemisphere. Turning the tape player upside down in Australia makes perfect sense!

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