Repair rant….

Often people say, “oh it’s not worth fixing, I’ll buy a new one”. Well that’s okay, if you are myopic. I sometimes agree, some things can be uneconomic to repair, for various reasons and I will advise a customer if my opinion sways that way. But, normally it is due to built in obsolescence. I have been repairing electronic equipment for more years that I want to recall, so I feel somewhat qualified to have a poke at manufacturers, governments etc. for allowing household items to have a limited, calculated short life.

A quick look at the numbers; 47 million people in Spain, 68 million in UK, about 28 million households, talking generally. Let’s take the UK as an example. Probably each household having a washing machine and a couple of TVs. Both of these items are designed to last for around 5 years, based on an average weekly usage. Modern TV sets with LCD displays lit with LED strips lasting for 3-6 years depending on how much Corrie you watch. Similar thing for washing machines, drum bearings, motor brushes, heating elements, under rated components fail within that magical time period.

Certain makes of TV are easier from an economic view to repair. Samsung, LG are good examples. Sure I have a vested interest as repairs make me a marginal income. 80€ to repair a 400€ TV makes sense, as it does from an ecological argument. Valuable precious metals are used in the manufacture of displays and LEDs that light TV screens and smart phones, the majority of which end up in land fill after 5 years. Washing machines for example are built with parts, which had been repairable years ago, but now welded in place meaning once worn, that’s the end.

You don’t have to be Steven Hawking with a spreadsheet to work out the numbers. 28 million households buying new TVs and washing machines every 5 years. Let alone all the PCs, phones, kettles (that last for 20 boils), microwaves ….. All this stuff has to be made, shipped, boxed, delivered. Precious metals dug out the ground from a limited number of poor countries, with labels of “fair trade” and sustainable” being splashed about. Ask the locals. The items that DO find their way to recycling plants get re-transported to China let’s say to start their life over again, with all the environmental impact that has.

Don’t start me on electric cars. No pun intended. Reports are now coming out stating that hybrid cars are more damaging to the environment given the manufacturing process and running costs. Battery lifetime of 5-8 years, cost of a new car. Personally, I think hydrogen fuel cells are the way forward. I would like to see cars with their own nuclear power plants. Would make crashes more spectacular.  

I welcome the new directives being issued to manufacturers to ensure some products are made with “repairing” in mind. Makers such as eBac make washing machines that are repair engineer friendly. We will see what the next 10 years has to show on this. Humans need a culture shift to prolong sustainable life on the planet. It is limited, those in the know say, that we have about 400 years left, the way we are going.

We should try and do our little bit. I listen to the wireless, sets made 60 plus years ago. Play records and listen to music on equipment over 40 years old. Drive a car that’s 25 years old and play a saxophone made in 1935. I watch a 19” black and white TV whilst smoking my pipe, my watch has to be wound up. Okay, I’m forced to have a haunted fish tank or computer as its now know and a phone with moving pictures on it. Many customers say “my old tube TV lasted for 20 years”. They did. As a youngster, I bought ex rental TV sets by the car load, replaced some stock components and saw them deliver glorious pictures to their new owners for the new 5 years. And, before coming to Spain, a neighbour asked me to replace a plug on her HOTPOINT washer and wringer machine that was bought for her in 1955 when she got married, still going strong. The machine that is.

Make be in the future, there will be more repair shops if new policies take place. Not easy to make a living. Monthly costs of €300 Autonomo, plus insurance, tax, lecky, rubbish, rent etc…

If anyone who cares to read my rant can justify a hybrid car, please feel free to reply.

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