Sa-Tis-Fac-Tion (I Can’t Get No…)

It’s cheaper to buy than it is to repair, but the satisfaction from doing a good repair is always awesome (or potentially expensive). I repair when I can (because I’m cheap), but repairing things nowadays is almost impossible. We live in a disposable era, and the trend will only continue.

A few months back, our CRT television (a Sony WEGA) had a problem where the picture wouldn’t display. We could have bought a HD TV, but I called the TV repairman. Thirty minutes and a $125 later, our TV was working as good as new. Granted, it’s no flat-screen, but I really don’t feel that I need to have one for the small amount of television we actually watch.

But I suppose I’m in the minority on that one. Who has time to troubleshoot at the circuit level? Who actually replaces a blown capacitor or potentiometer? Not many, I’d wager. Many companies replace defective parts rather than attempt a repair. (It’s cheaper for their bottom line.)

I’m curious to know your take on the repair vs buy debate. Do you repair your gadgets and tech? Or do you prefer to buy new instead? What was the last repair you performed on your own that was successful?

-Krishna

P.S.: Yesterday I added a New Readers page. Please take a look and let me know your thoughts. Thanks! :D

These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • ZReply
    May 19, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Yes, we as a race, are getting used to throw away things. Broken TVs, old (but still working) cell phones, brand new toys that children don’t like, heck, even personal relationships…
    But I fear the day is nearer than we think, when we wake up in a sea of disposed things, with a lot of money, realizing that we don’t have any resources to make more things that can be thrown away.

  • BartimaeusReply
    May 19, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I know a guy in my city. His name is ‘Jeffrey’ (ok, so that’s not his real name, but if he gets any more people calling him, he’ll be swamped 24/5). Anyway, he repairs laptops, iPods and other miscellaneous items of a technological persuasion, and he can do it for extremely cheap. You may not realize it, but there is a surprising amount of markup on replacement parts. Here’s an example:

    A while ago, my laptop’s screen started acting up. The local Mac place said it would be $500–$1000 to replace the screen. Jeffrey did it for $120. (It turned out the screen had cracked, by the way.)

    So really, it’s not that it costs more to repair as such; it’s that it costs more to repair if you’re not a hardware hacker.

  • DjReply
    May 19, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I repair and restore old fireplaces for a living. Problem is is that people are brain washed by the net for cheap non lasting rather than in most cases £50-£100 more for one that’ll last (and often has) decades more. Now its almost impossible to source old fires cheaply enough to restore them and sell on.

    I do however offer customers a “own restoration” service where if they’ve already got a fire or just got one on ebay etc, I’ll restore it for them parts and labour.

  • Theala SildorianReply
    May 19, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I have all sorts of things I’ve fixed up over the years, but few of them are electronics. Furniture I can restore. Electronics not so well.

    My iMac G5 died about a year ago; blown capacitor. Couldn’t afford a new iMac, couldn’t afford the repair (which would have cost almost as much as a new one). I ordered replacement capacitors and tried to do it myself.

    I don’t know what kind of solder they were using, but I could not get the old capacitors out. After several days of trying, and only managing to replace 1 of 24 or so, I gave up in frustration.

  • RickReply
    May 19, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I built my first computer from scratch in the 70s with wire-wrapping, and have repaired many things over the years. But lately, things have gotten difficult. Successfully replaced capacitors in an original Airport a few years ago. Tried to replace battery in a Palm handheld, can’t find a cheap enough replacement. I look at the iPod Touch and despair – pretty expensive for unrepairable, disposable electronics.

  • AndrewReply
    May 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Here is an interesting look at this problem:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8

  • NickReply
    May 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Last year my wife dropped her new cell phone (she had it for ~2 months) and broke the LCD screen. After looking into it a little (and buying her a new phone), I decided to try and fix it. I found the dual LCD screen (for internal & external displays) on ebay for $30 shipped. 8 minor solder joints and 1 connection later, the phone works great and has been passed down to my son.

  • WetMogwaiReply
    May 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I do both if possible. I just replaced my Canon 20D with a new T2i because the shutter release stopped working consistently. I can kludge together a repair that involves velcro and a $3 remote release, but because I’m trying to make money with it and I wanted to be able to shoot HD video, I went ahead and upgraded. I’ll probably still do the repair to my old camera because I may someday convert it to IR and I also like the idea of having a second DSLR body.

  • YodaReply
    May 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Here’s a math problem for you. A brand new “low-end but adequate for most home users” inkjet printer costs $39.99 and comes with two ink cartridges. To replace the ink cartridges costs $19.99 for a black cartridge and $27.99 for a color cartridge. How many landfills full of cheap inkjet printers that cost less to replace than buy ink for would it take to bring about the destruction of all civilization?

  • tmcelmurryReply
    May 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I like the addition of cockles to the comic, very funny.

    I prefer to repair most all of my own stuff, but when it comes to the company stuff I’ve become a “let’s replace it” type guy. My reason is based on time and not the bottom dollar. In the past I would sit for an hour or so and hunt down a blown capacitor, take the time to remove it and solder on a new one. Being the only Network Administrator in our office, and supporting outside clients as well I found it impossible to continue on with the research and replace functionality, so I started just replacing entire system boards, or ordering new equipment versus tracking down the problem.

    At home I still love the hunt for the issue, the discovery and fixing of an older piece of equipment and squeezing the life out of it. I guess a lot of it has to do with the ease of getting parts now, and the cost is not prohibitive now to replace items like it used to be, but as a society it is important to know how things work and how to fix them cause there may come a day where that trade will be needed.

  • ComaCReply
    May 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I allways wanted to learn a bit about electronics and I managed to do just that about two years ago. Now, every time something stops working I open it hoping there’s nothing I can do (so I have an excuse to buy a new one). Sadly, I can fix it most of the times.

  • DaedalusReply
    June 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I know this is a few weeks late…you should all check out ifixit.com. They’ve got parts and tools needed to repair things like iPods and game consoles…just a thought.

Tell me what you think!