Tuesday, 7 April 2009

It was long ago and far away...

Repairing broken objects seems to take up a fair bit of my time, we have a 'K' reg Nissan 1600 that we bought as temporary car 3 years for £300, it is still going and just passed its 4th MOT snce we have had it. We recently took some rubbish down to the dump and could not believe some of the things people had just thrown away, do we really have that much disposable income that we can throw away a washing machine with a spilt door seal (£9 and 20 minutes to fit) can we no longer use tools? Last week I repaired a digital watch for a bloke at work, he was going to bin it and I asked if I could take a look, it had a corroded terminal, a quick scrape with a nail file and it works perfectly again.
We seem to have lost the art of repairing anything at all, just think of the money saved if we repaired instead of buyin a new one everytime, and it would also help the enviroment.

The lost art of repair would be a good one to find, it would reduce the amount of waste and could help a few new business's get started, we seem to be sadly lacking in what I call break/fix engineers, most have only been taught to replace parts. In a world where even a simple car breakdown can cost you loads in time and money, remember when we used to bodge sets of points to get the sparks working again? Once we araldited (a type of glue) a ten pence piece into a holed piston to get an RD250 home, there were lots of things we could do to get home in the event of a breakdown. Now with the complexity of todays vehicles you just have to sit and wait for the RAC, the interesting thing is that even though the engines have become more complex, they do not seem to have increased the perfomance or fuel econmy by much. For example my 1976 Honda 750 F1, top speed of 120 (you could make it go a lot faster but no point), 45mpg if you used it in town, 60-65 mpg on a motorway run. The modern equililant would be the CBF600N which does 125 miles per hour and 55mpg overall. What price 30 years of progress?

The 750 was SOHC and could be fixed at the side of the road in the event of most breakdowns, the regulator was mechanical as were the points, the carbs uncomplicated and when it bent a valve (I missed a gear), I removed the tappet adjuster and used a jubilee clip to hold up the valve to stop it from dropping into the cylinder, removed the plug (and ground out the HT lead) then drove it home on 3 cylinders.
If anything goes wrong with the modern CBF600N then its a phone call to the AA. We regularly rebuilt topends, replaced and reground valves, changed pistons and rings even bigends without so much as a torque wrench. The only job I really hated doing was changing steering head bearings and still hate it now. But then again it can be cheaper to buy another secondhand bike than repair it these days, so when does repair become a viable option?
There are very few people these days who can do a roadside repair, there are even less willing to have a go at repairing just about anything, perhaps we need to teach youngsters that engineering is cool, then they may not throw away so much perfectly good, if you fix it, stuff.


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