Workshop Journal #6: Repair > Replace

Homer Fixes Marges Camera - I'm Gonna need a bigger drill

Something has been me bugging lately. There is a massive push towards more sustainability and a greener way of living etc. – that’s fine, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. What’s bugging me specifically though is that everything in life seems even more disposable than ever. Rather than being reusable, or more importantly repairable, it’s much easier to simply dispose of the old and buy new. It’s as if society has evolved to accept a throwaway lifestyle instead of the one of fixing things should they break. This is a great shame because it’s always better to fix than to throw.

At the risk of making this blog seem like a vacuum cleaner fan-boy page, I want to tell another vacuum cleaner story. Last year I was whinging about how I hated my new car and how I wished the tech in it was more like my Roomba. Almost a year on, there’s another bee in my bonnet. This time I’ve taken a serious dislike to Dyson and their lacklustre V8.

Dyson is to vacuum cleaners what Apple is to mobile phones. They turned the industry on its head with an innovative bagless design, adopting a centrifuge dust extractor (in effect an industrial particle separation system) for use in domestic vacuum cleaners. Truly a stroke of design genius.

While the design and innovation are admirable, the build quality leaves much to be desired. And this is where I need to vent a bit.

Since buying this handheld Dyson only a handful of years ago, it’s been nothing but trouble. Firstly, the lid on the dust bin would spontaneously fly open, dumping dust and dirt all over the floor – a floor that had just been cleaned. Next, battery life started becoming shorter and shorter and shorter to the point where it would die after only 5 minutes of use. And most recently, the motorised turbo-brush head simply disintegrated.

‘It’s a piece of junk, just buy a new one’ was the suggestion from my wife, and normally this would be the best solution for a frustratingly unreliable appliance. However, this was no longer simply about a broken vacuum cleaner, it was now a matter of principal.

The old turbo brush head (right) which had completely disintegrated, and the replacement (left)
The old turbo brush head (right) which had completely disintegrated, and the replacement (left)

When I bought this, it had a hefty price tag attached. I was happy to pay this premium because after all – ‘it’s a Dyson, it’s the best money can buy’. What I’m not OK with is crappy and sub-par quality resulting in problem after problem and ultimately having to buy a new replacement to fix the ongoing problems. This thing is less than three years old, and it is completely stuffed.


The Dyson V8, having been pulled apart, cleaned and ready to have new parts put on.
The Dyson V8, having been pulled apart, cleaned and ready to have new parts put on.

Considering I have the tools and resources at my disposal and half a brain in my skull, there is no reason this (or anything else for that matter) can’t be repaired. So instead of condemning it to the trash, this piece of garbage vacuum cleaner will be fixed indefinitely until it is held together by nothing more than sticky tape and zip-ties.

My frustration is not limited to Dyson however. My criticism could be levelled at any number of manufacturers of consumer appliances, electronics, and white goods. Things are just not made to last. They’re made to last X years, break, get thrown away, and then replaced with the latest model.

This cycle can’t keep going on at an individual level, yet it seems to be widely accepted as the norm. When it breaks, throw it away and buy a new one. This practice is costly for individuals and not sustainable in terms of the environment.

These crappy products run counter to the recent push to be greener. Think about how much wastage would be saved if goods were made to a high enough quality so that they would last for longer than just beyond the warranty period and would be actually worth repairing.

Be Sure To Check Out My Previous Workshop Journals:

#5: That Escalated Quickly

#4: The Technology Paradox – How I Wish My Car Was More Like a Vacuum Cleaner

#3: The Partial Vacation

#2: The cloud that turned into a storm

#1: Good Tips for Making a Great Start

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Baden Jones
Baden Jones

Automation electrician by day, blogger by night – Captivated by technology and always busy tinkering away on something in the workshop.

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