8 July 2012

Step Down Sunday – The Dodgy Cooker

Step Down SundayOne weakness that Young Friends General Meeting has identified in our quest for low carbon living is that many of the younger members just don’t have the technical know how of our parents and grandparents. As society’s priorities changed, we sacrificed our mechanical and DIY knowledge for cutting edge computer skills. So we can build websites and communicate instantly across the world, but sewing or repairing appliances can leave us baffled.

Last month Mr Goldfish was warming up the oven to cook our tea when there was a loud pop and all the lights went off. A quick check of the fuse box told us that not only had the cooker fuse blown, but it had tripped the fuse for the whole house. We reset the fuses and tried the oven again, but the large oven just wouldn’t heat up.

At this point we were unsure how dangerous the oven might be. Obviously there was a big surge to blow the fuse for the house, but we weren’t sure if this was a one off or an intermittent problem. Previous experience also told me that calling someone out to even look at the oven could cost £100, which is a lot of money to waste if it can’t be repaired. (That’s about quarter of the price for a new oven!) As we were looking to move soon and many of the houses we’ve seen have built in ovens we thought we’d just have to make do with the small top oven/grill for a few months and turn it off at the switch when not in use, just to be safe.

Luckily my father is visiting at the moment and when we recounted the tale, he thought it should be repairable. Despite having a huge pile of manuals for nearly every appliance we’ve ever owned, I couldn’t find one for the cooker. Here modern technology came to our rescue, as I only needed to type the make & model into Google to find a copy. Along with links to the manual, I found several sites describing the same problem we’d experienced. It looked like it was a faulty heating element and claimed to be an easy repair.

Dad took apart the whole casing to thoroughly check the electrics, but you can replace the heating element without even pulling the cooker out. A quick Google found several sites selling replacement elements (£10 for generic replacements and £25 for name brand parts) but the best was Ransom Spares, which also included a how-to-video.

We had to wait three days for the part to arrive, but then it took Dad less than an hour to fix. I suspect with the video we could have fixed it ourselves, but my Dad’s got a lot more confidence and experience with electricity.

It never occurred to me to search Google for advice on how to repair the oven, and we probably would have replaced the appliance unnecessarily. Total madness once you realise it only cost £10 to repair! Next time I’ll check Google for suggestions first, but we’re also considering some sort of electrician’s course for Mr Goldfish. We think he’d feel much more confident tacking problems himself if he had a bit more practise and experience. Unfortunately our disposable culture has left us bereft of skills, but I’m hopeful in future we’ll be better prepared to fix these problems ourselves.

Step Down Sunday
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