Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Restore Win?

Like a lot of you, I’ve develop into the designated “fix-it” individual for my household and buddies. Whereas it may be plenty of work — I simply completed an oil change that required me to put in a chilly, moist driveway and I can’t point out in well mannered firm the substances I used to be bathed in whereas fixing a clogged pipe final week  — I typically relish my position. I take pleasure in fixing issues, I really like working with my palms and my head, and who doesn’t like saving time and cash?

However for me, one of the best a part of being the fix-it man is the satisfaction that comes from doing one thing others can’t do. I discover this very true with automotive repairs, which typical knowledge says is strictly the province of factory-trained specialists. A little bit little bit of a hero complicated, maybe? Completely! In any case, I don’t receives a commission for my repairs, so I’ve bought to get somewhat one thing for the trouble.

Because of this a current pair of unrelated fixes left me feeling completely unhappy. Neither of those jobs was a transparent win, at the very least by way of getting the push of with the ability to do one thing that no person else might. At greatest, these have been certified wins, which each nonetheless left me feeling somewhat defeated. And that bought me pondering that I’m in all probability not the one one who has had marginal restore wins like these.

Repair 1: The Driveway Watchdog

The primary restore was for a good friend of mine who lives deep within the woods. Considerably mockingly, his driveway is a really busy place, primarily with wildlife like deer, elk, and the occasional moose. Retaining monitor of their comings and goings is necessary for security; one doesn’t wish to shock a moose, in spite of everything. A good variety of automobiles discover their method up his driveway too: most of them are harmless, however often they arrive with in poor health intent.

So correctly, he put in a wi-fi driveway alert system that offers him a heads-up on intruders. In the course of the current chilly snap, although, his system stopped working. He modified the batteries and tried just a few fundamental diagnostics, however no cube — the transmitter wouldn’t work. So I supplied to have a look and see if possibly I might save him a couple of bucks on a substitute.

Now, this transmitter is a considerably advert hoc meeting. Contained in the weatherproof case is what seems to be an off-the-shelf PIR movement sensor, which is wired to a PCB that incorporates a microcontroller and a radio module in an RF can. When the PIR sensor triggers, it sends energy to the radio module, the place the MCU sends a recorded sound clip — “Alert zone one, alert zone one…” — to the transmitter, broadcasting it to a receiver inside the home. Easy, however efficient.

His report was that he couldn’t even get the LED on the PIR sensor to mild up, so I figured I’d begin there and popped the quilt off. That is the place I began having ideas of heroics — maybe one of many SMD parts on the sensor’s PCB was unhealthy, and I’d be capable to hint the issue and perform a little microsoldering. Or possibly I’d must do some reverse engineering of the firmware to determine what was mistaken. The probabilities!

Sadly, it was to not be. After I had eliminated the sensor — which entailed disconnecting the battery pack wires from screw terminals on the PCB — I seen that the optimistic lead had damaged off within the terminal block. Absolutely this wasn’t only a damaged wire? The place are the heroics in that? However alas, once I stripped the wire again and put all the pieces again collectively, the entire thing labored like a appeal. I felt cheated — no must bust out the oscilloscope, the waveform generator, the spectrum analyzer, and even the bench energy provide. A minimum of I bought to make use of my microscope. Simply to make myself really feel like I’d carried out one thing, I crimped some ferrules on the ends of the battery pack wire and gave it again to my good friend. Yay me.

Repair 2: The Spicy Range

As if that wasn’t disappointing sufficient, a day or two later my daughter texted me to return over and have a look at her range. Alarmingly, one of many electrical burners on the stovetop had began inflicting electrical shocks by means of their cookware. The shocks ranged from barely noticeable to somewhat on the spicy aspect. Not good!

69 volts to floor; not as unhealthy because it was once I first examined, however nonetheless fairly spicy.

I rushed over with a multimeter and began poking round. My thought was that the burner aspect was cracked or in any other case internally broken, and a brief between the nichrome wire and the outer masking had developed. I did some continuity checks between the aspect and chassis floor, however didn’t see something. Voltage checks between the burner and floor have been somewhat completely different, although — I used to be seeing 117 volts on the issue burner. Properly, there’s your drawback, woman!

Sadly, the native big-box shops have been all offered out of 8″ burner parts for GE stoves, so I couldn’t change the dodgy aspect instantly. We determined to swap the opposite 8″ aspect on the range, which wasn’t surprising her, into the spot the place the unhealthy aspect was. Shock! That confirmed 117 volts too. So it’s not the aspect, however the spot on the stovetop? Confused, we swapped all the pieces again to the unique areas and that appeared to repair the issue — no voltage from both burner to floor. What?

Clearly, this one isn’t a repair. There’s nonetheless one thing mistaken with the range, and I’ll must do extra diagnostics. It was form of a repair, I suppose — at the very least my child isn’t getting shocked when she cooks. However it definitely wasn’t a satisfying repair, and even when I change the suspect burner with a brand new aspect, I’m undecided I’m going to belief the restore.

Your Flip

I feel we are able to all agree that neither one in every of these repairs may be very satisfying. Within the case of the driveway alarm, I barely wanted to be concerned in any respect — my good friend would in all probability have discovered what the issue was with just a bit tug on the wires. It was a repair, to make certain — it wasn’t working in any respect once I bought it, and it’s working due to one thing I did. However it’s a boring repair, at greatest. The spicy stovetop is unsatisfying, too, however in one other method: it’s not likely a repair, as a result of I didn’t change something or discover something that appeared damaged. It’s simply again collectively the way in which it was, and dealing usually, at the very least for now.

A repair is a repair, however some fixes are simply not definitely worth the effort. So the query is: what’s your least satisfying restore story?  Have you ever ever had excessive hopes for an excellent restore, solely to finish up with one thing a toddler might have mounted? Or like my daughter’s range, have you ever managed to make an issue “go away” with out really having carried out something? What do you do in instances like that? How are you aware while you attain the purpose of diminishing returns by way of discovering the issue? And when do you — gasp! — throw within the towel and name in an professional? Pontificate within the feedback under.