Craftsman Hedge Trimmer: Switch Repair

Original Switch

Original Switch

So Mary was going to apply the long-disused Sears Craftsman electric hedge trimmer to the decorative grasses she’d planted on either side of the (equally disused) front entry, but when I deployed the thing it didn’t run. A quick walk through the debugging tree: GFI green, extension cord OK, so it must be the trimmer.

Off to the Basement Laboratory Repair Wing…

Two tricks to getting it apart, after removing all the obvious screws:

  • The handle comes out of the sockets after great persuasion
  • Remove two of the three hex-head-with-lockwasher screws on the bottom and the case pops apart. The third screw holds the motor plate into that half of the case.

The switch is, of course, not intended to be repairable, but that’s something of a motivator around here. It uses those awful poke-and-pray spring clamps, which you could, in principle, release with a small screwdriver, but I cut the wires on the motor side of the switch, leaving plenty of room to graft connectors onto them.

Next time, I’ll be able to release the wires more easily.

Congealed grease on switch contacts

Congealed grease on switch contacts

A rivet holds the switch together, but attacking it with a drill removed enough of the head that I could whack the rest of the body out with a drift punch. A 2-56 machine screw fits neatly into the hole and there’s enough clearance on both sides for the screw head and a nut; hack the screw to length with a Dremel abrasive cutoff wheel.

Notice that the switch trigger button visible from outside the case acts on a push rod that slides the movable contacts (in the top part in the picture) back-and-forth atop the copper contacts (with the wires). A pair of springs loads the movable contacts against the copper strips.

The problem turned out to be, as expected, congealed grease inside the switch. The black gunk on the right halves of the copper contacts was essentially solid; you can see that it formed a nice insulating layer. I cleaned that out, polished up the moving contacts, reassembled it, and … the switch still didn’t work.

At least I discovered that with an ohmmeter, before reassembling the entire trimmer!

Switch contact slider

Switch contact slider

The movable switch contacts have a small ramp, just about in the middle, that rides up on the black hump between the copper strips when the trigger button is released. That mechanically breaks the connection, but also allowed the grease to congeal in the air gap. The grease also formed a lump that prevented the movable contacts from pressing firmly against the copper strips, despite the springs.

I gnawed out that crud with a small screwdriver, dabbed on more contact oxidation prevention grease, buttoned it up again, and now the switch works perfectly again.

New switch wires

New switch wires

I spliced in somewhat longer lengths of hookup wire with butt-splice connectors I’ve had for years and it’s all good.

The post with the screw hole just below the wires matches another in the opposite half of the case; the post actually fits inside the ring you see here, so it doesn’t crunch the wire. However, the wire must be pushed in far enough to avoid interfering with the switch action rod.

Trimmer assembly is in reverse order …

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  1. #1 by randomdreams on 8-April-2010 - 11:41

    I envy your forethought in checking the switch with an ohmmeter before reassembly. I know I’d never think to do that, and I’ve spent more hours than I care to think about, taking things back apart that still don’t work after I’ve fixed an obvious error but missed the less-obvious one.
    Good work.

    • #2 by Ed on 8-April-2010 - 11:44

      Let’s just say I have plenty of practice re-repairing things and leave it at that.

      Sigh…

  2. #3 by Don Fues on 31-March-2011 - 19:18

    Thanks ! I just took your suggestion and brought my old Craftsman hedge trimmer back to life using your time tested repair methods. Thanks Again !

    • #4 by Ed on 31-March-2011 - 21:30

      Excellent!

      The decorative grass out front got a severe haircut from that thing a few days ago: the switch was still working fine. I suppose it’s good for another decade…