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Author Topic:   Two Recent Electronic Problems
jimh posted 11-11-2014 09:50 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Let me share two recent problems I have had with electronics. These are not boat electronic problems, but perhaps you will indulge me. I want to pass on some things I learned and did recently, and perhaps they'll be of interest or might even be helpful.


About a week ago our Bunn coffee maker stopped working. This was a real crisis in our household, as coffee is an important part of every morning. The coffee maker would not heat water. I disassembled the Bunn coffee maker. It was held together with self-tapping screws, and it was not very difficult to get to the internal electrical workings. Using a DMM, I check the various components. The heater element was good. The ON-OFF switch was good. The connections were good. It appeared that the discontinuity in the circuit was in some sort of thermal protection.

I used Google to search on an appropriate topic. I soon found many articles that began with "My three-year-old Bunn coffee maker stopped working..." I found the date code on our coffee maker: it was 2011. My three-year-old Bunn coffee maker had also stopped working.

More searching on Google led me to an article in which a fellow commented that he had repaired several Bunn coffee makers and found the cause of the problem was a blown thermal fuse. Ahah! That was exactly what looked like had happened to mine. This article also revealed that there were typically two thermal fuses installed in series, and it also showed (with a great no-nonsense recording) how to get the thermal fuse out of its welded holder. (You just pull really hard.)

Indeed, I found that on my coffee maker there were two thermal fuses in series, and one of them was open. Since I was making this repair at 1 a.m. on a Sunday evening, I did not give a thought to replacing the bad thermal fuse. I just cut it out of the circuit. I figure one thermal fuse will be enough protection for my coffee maker for the time being.

I got the coffee maker re-assembled. One important trick I have learned over the years about taking things apart: don't leave them apart for a long time, because you are likely to forget how to put them back together. If you have just disassembled something, you can usually remember how it goes back together. In six months, you might not remember.

The Bunn coffee maker has returned to normal operation. My cost of repair was zero. It gave me quite a bit of satisfaction to keep it out of the trash bin. I wonder how many three-year-old Bunn coffee makers have been thrown away because a $0.34 thermal fuse opened for no reason.


About five years ago we got a modern LCD flat-screen high-definition television receiver. (The end of standard-definition broadcast TV was June 13, 2009.) Ever since then our RCA COLOR-TRAK-2000 console television set has been sitting unused and collecting dust. The top surface of the cabinet was performing a useful service as a table to put more old electronic devices on. This weekend we decided we had been aging it long enough that we could now discard it. I don't think it had much residual value as a television receiver. Modern HD LCD sets have become so inexpensive that even the poorest households have two of them. There was a lot of inertial in our effort to dispose of the console TV receiver, and I mean that literally. It weighed a ton. Also, we had our doubts about our trash collectors being willing to take it if we just put it out on the curb. Local agencies like The Goodwill were also not accepting old standard-definition TV receivers any more; they had a surplus of them already. I decided the best way to discard the set was to disassemble it into smaller pieces.

Using a power driver tool, it took about an hour to turn a perfectly good, perfectly working standard-definition color console TV receiver and cabinet into a collection of wood, plastic, glass, and electronic parts. The heaviest component was the CRT. A 25-inch rectangular color CRT weighs about 50-lbs. The actual electronic chassis of the set was about 12-inch by 16-inch and weighed about 2-lbs. I removed about 100 screws of various head design, length, and thread styles. (I am actually keeping these in my collection of self-tapping screws. If you bought an assortment like this at the hardware store it would cost $10.) I also salvaged the two loudspeakers. (I will probably age them for another five years before discarding them, too. I was a bit surprised at how small they were.) The wood and plastic went out in the trash on Sunday night and was gone in the morning. The CRT and chassis are in the trunk of the car, waiting for the electronics and hazardous waste re-cycling center to accept them at our Wednesday appointment. The old console TV was finally gone.

These two situations are somewhat corollary. With the coffee maker, a modern product had failed and would typically be thrown out, but I was able to repair it. With the console TV receiver, an older and durable product was still working perfectly but had become almost useless for its intended purpose due to modernization; it had to be destroyed to be discarded.

I was a bit sad to throw away an electronic device that was in perfect working condition but no longer had any real value, but I was glad to be able to fix a modern device that had failed due to a very basic and simple-to-remedy malfunction. And I was thankful for the collection and sharing of information indexed and easily searched on Google for helping.

Jefecinco posted 11-12-2014 09:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I successfully used a standard definition analog SONY TV connected to a cable provider for a few years. When the provider upgraded the service to HD or digital they provided a converter which allowed for continued use of the analog set.


jimh posted 11-12-2014 09:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Butch--if you aren't watching television in HD on a good monitor, you are missing an enormous improvement in image quality and detail. The convertor boxes are not a substitute for a new monitor/receiver. Also, you need to add surround sound for audio. You won't believe the difference.
Jefecinco posted 11-12-2014 07:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

Thanks, we have an HD set we use at our home. We receive only over the air (OTA) programming as we are just too cheap to pay for TV.

The cable connection we have is at our condo where cable is included in the amenities. It's basic cable but in HD. We used our old analog TV until it went kaput about a year ago. We now have an HD set there.

We both find the quality of programming, both OTA and cable to be generally poor with a few notable exceptions. Thank goodness for the library as we read a lot of books and watch video movies and some exceptional things from HBO, etc. We have a TIVO and a Blue Ray DVD player at home so we get the best of what's available. We have an analog DVR at the condo but use it only to time shift the news and play DVDs in analog.

Perhaps we will invest in a good sound system on the basis of your recommendation.

Analog sets remain available at consignment and used goods shops. They are popular with condo owners who are in the vacation rental business as cable service is an amenity at virtually all coastal condominiums.


jimh posted 11-12-2014 08:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I don't watch much over-the-air broadcast programming, except for PBS and live sports. I just got my surround sound set up going about a year ago. It adds a new dimension to DVD movies, and there is some decent live sound from some sporting events (but not all of them). In the winter, I do watch a lot of hockey, and I can get CBC over the air from Windsor, Ontario. That's the prime-time Saturday night channel in our household in the winter.

We're watching on a SONY Bravia monitor. It is quite decent, even though it is a bit ancient in terms of HD sets; I think it is ten years old (we got it second hand).

By the way, the Bunn makes a good cup of coffee and it always has hot water ready.

kwik_wurk posted 11-13-2014 12:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for kwik_wurk  Send Email to kwik_wurk     
There are no TV's (black and white, analog or HD) in our household! Saves on the disposal of old technology.
jimh posted 11-13-2014 08:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As for repairing modern LCD HD TV monitors, the problem is often in the back lights, which can be replaced. But the huge size of these modern monitors make even having a bench large enough to work on them a problem.
Binkster posted 11-18-2014 09:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for Binkster  Send Email to Binkster     
In Aug of 2012, I bought a 34" flatscreen HD TV for use in the bedroom. It worked fine until two days ago. It shut off with the timer, and now it won't turn on. Its apparently not getting any power as even the little red light won't glow. I have power at the plug. The warrentee period is over, I didn't buy the extended one.
Any ideas how to fix it? I assume it the timer thats giving me the problem.


Jefecinco posted 11-18-2014 09:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Does the TV power cord plug into the timer or is the timer built into the TV? I know it's a dumb question but I had to ask.

Long ago a gentleman in the marina slip next to me was trying unsuccessfully to start his small outboard with a recoil starter cord. He asked if I had any useful knowledge so I had a look. The fuel line shut off valve was closed. He was more than a little embarrassed when I told him. Then I asked if he could guess how I knew where to look first.

Binkster posted 11-18-2014 09:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Binkster  Send Email to Binkster     
The timer is built into the TV


AZdave posted 11-18-2014 10:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
Bless the Bunn coffee maker. When you open it up there are real stainless and copper parts. It is also possible to replace the silicone washer to solve leaks. Bunn would rather not send you parts, but the repair is fairly straightforward. I have found the modern computer printer/scanner/fax machine to be a complete throw away when it fails a week after the one year warranty. Mine had three methods of contacting the manufacturer - none of the contact modes worked. This from an american company which used to make cutting edge calculators and process control electronics.
jimh posted 11-19-2014 07:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The loudspeakers I salvaged from the RCA COLOR-TRAK 2000 receiver are more interesting than I thought at first glance. Because they were mounted in the receiver cabinet right next to the CRT display, the speaker magnets were shielded to prevent stray magnetic fields. Recall--if you are old enough--that color television CRT displays use a magnetic field to deflect the electron beam from the cathode across the face of the CRT. The yoke coil around the throat of the tube generates the field. Any external magnetic fields can cause the deflection of the beam to be altered, and the CRT is quite sensitive to this. To prevent the loudspeakers from magnetically affecting the CRT, their voice coil and permanent magnet structure is encased in a shield. Magnetic shields are usually made with a mixture of metals that are designed to contain magnetic fields. The shield may be made of mu-metal, which has a high magnetic permeability.

Or they could be made of Permalloy.

Or they could be just silicon steel.

I suspect the latter, as it is probably less expensive.

Because these speakers have magnetically shielded voice coils and magnets, I think they will be good for use on a boat. They should not affect the boat compass. These particular speakers do not look very water-resistant, but perhaps a spray of the paper speaker cloth with some sort of waterproofing agent might give better water resistance.

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