The joy of fixing things

As I’m getting older and grumpier, I find myself more and more attached to my stuff, so I’ve decided that I’ll do two things from now on: 1) try only buying stuff that will give me as many life years as possible and 2) repair as many of the items I already own

I was surprised how much satisfaction I get from repairing things and how much I can learn. Here’s the summary of what I did this week:

My wife’s bike chain

Which I broke 6 months ago trying to get myself up a steep hill.

What I’ve learned:

  1. bike chains are consumables
  2. their size depends on how many gears you have (they’re thicker for bikes with many gears)
  3. you buy an approximate length chain, which you have to shorten yourself
  4. there are special tools to shorten bike chains and all bike chains are shortenable
  5. it’s really easy to change the chain (once you have the right tools)
  6. you have to oil the chain after mounting it

What I’ve had trouble with:

  1. I was mounting the chain wrong, which gave me the impression I had to shorten it more than I actually needed. I learned how to shorten and lengthen a bike chain. Tip to future me: when shortening a chain, don’t take the pin all the way out. It’s a pain to fit it back in the hole again. Another tip: when researching, try to find a tutorial on a bike that kinda looks like yours.

My phone’s battery

I have an iPhone SE, first generation, which I absolutely love, mostly because of the size. The battery was slowly dying (OS showed about 80% capacity) and it meant I more or less can’t use the phone in cold weather anymore.

What I’ve had trouble with:

  1. The manual that came in the replacement kit was awful and it mixed the instructions for multiple iPhone models: 5, 5s and 5c, but SE wasn’t listed at all. I had to follow the instructions for 5s, but instead I followed those for 5. For the 5, the battery is glued completely differently
  2. Removing the screen was not very easy as some edges were stuck to the body. Slow and steady did the job.
  3. The battery is glued with two plastic stickers to the body and removing the battery was a real pain, because the instructions only said to find said stickers under the battery and pull them out. Unsurprinsingly I pulled them out wrong and it took an hour to remove the battery using a combination of a wedge tool and dental floss. I flossed the battery out by taking the dental floss between the battery and the body from top to bottom. I would have only used the wedge tool harder, but there was a good change of damaging the battery and I’ve seen how that works out.

What I’ve learned:

  1. When pulling stuff out, apply the same pressure constantly and have patience. When taking the screen out, there was a good chance of it breaking if I pulled too hard. Applying a medium amount of pressure helped take the screen out slowly but steadily.
  2. Don’t be afraid of jamming the flat tool to get the screen out
  3. Always buy replacement kits that come with tools. It’s better to have too many screwdrivers that not enough screwdrivers.
  4. Absolutely do not trust the instructions manual. Research the procedure from multiple sources before you even start working

The family external hard drive

The 2TB Seagate Expansion drive gave up the ghost a couple of years ago and I was toying with an idea of getting an Western Digital MyCloud. My wife didn’t really agree pointing out that we bought the Seagate only 10 years ago and can’t I fix it? Turns out I can, the HDD was OK, but the bridge board was gone.

What I’ve had trouble with: nothing, the most problematic part was deciding which replacement case to buy

What I’ve learned:

  1. OK, I had no idea that there is an actual normal 3,5” HDD in there. There is an actual normal 3,5” HDD in there. You can take it out and put it in another casing. Or in a computer. The possibilities are endless.
  2. You can buy another casing in which to plug the HDD
  3. There are casings in which you can put an old laptop disk drive and then use it as an external drive. Wow, I find this amazing.
  4. Splitting the broken piece of equipment in components helps you identify problems easier and fix them quicker. See what can be simply bought and replaced once it’s broken into pieces.
  5. Dedicated forums are amazing and there’s dedicated forums for just about everything.

A friend’s laptop

A friend asked me if reinstalling Windows would bring his Sony Vaio back to life as a last attempt before throwing it away. The laptop took anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to fully boot up and load one program. It initially came with Windows 8 and was updated to 10. I suggested upgrading the drive to a SSD and the RAM from 4 to 8 GB and then reinstall Windows.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Vaio. The drive and RAM had their own separate covers which you just unscrewed. Really easy and future-proof. After installing the SSD and memory board and installing Windows, it started working amazingly: load time in under one minute and absolutely no hiccups.

What I’ve had trouble with:

  1. I was mounting the memory board wrong, although I saw a tutorial on exactly how do it: place it a 45 degree angle and slide it in. “Slide” is the keyword here. I ended up jamming it. It worked, but it was risky. Redid one more time aftewards, and it went really smoothly.
  2. I lost one of the drive screws inside the body. Took some (gentle) shaking to recover it. A magnetic screwdriver would have helped.

What I’ve learned:

  1. If you have to apply too much pressure, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. Do not underestimate what an SSD can do
  3. SSDs are really cheap - 30EUR for a 256 GB one
  4. Windows OEM licences are not affected by changing the disk and adding RAM.