Zero-dollar Power Screwdriver Repair

I’m in the midst of cleaning up the shop after a winter of avoiding the too-cold basement. The best way I’ve found to pull this off is to pick up each object, do whatever’s needed to put it away, and move to the next object. Trying to be clever leads to paralysis, so I devote a few days to fixing up gadgets and putting tools back in their places. After a while, it gets to be rather soothing.

Broken wire in power screwdriver
Broken wire in power screwdriver

Some months ago I snagged a power screwdriver from a discard pile; while it didn’t work, un-bending the battery pack connector solved that. It runs from a quartet of AA cells, which means I can use alkalines and it’ll always be ready to go. It’s not a high-torque unit, so I’m using it for case screws and similar easy tasks.

But it quickly became intermittent and finally would turn only clockwise. Onto the to-do heap it went…

Power screwdrivers consist of a battery, a motor with a planetary gear reduction transmission, and a cross-wired DPDT switch in between. Not much can go wrong and, if it turns at all, most likely the problem has something to do with the switch or wiring.

Opened it up, pulled out the motor, and, lo and behold, one of the wires has broken off the switch. As nearly as I can tell, pushing the switch that-a-way forced the solder tab down on the wire and made the connection, pushing it the other way pulled the tab off the wire.

While I had the hood up, I replaced the wires with slightly thicker and longer ones. Soldered everything back together, mushed the grease blobs back into the planetary gearing, and it works like a champ…

Now, fairly obviously, there’s absolutely no economic sense to this sort of thing, given that the driver probably cost under ten bucks, but I just can’t stand to see a perfectly good gadget wind up in the trash.

I’d love to do this sort of thing for a living, if only I could figure out how to avoid going broke while doing so. Maybe I can get me some of that my economic stimulus money that’s sloshing around these days?

4 thoughts on “Zero-dollar Power Screwdriver Repair

  1. Know what you mean about it not making economic sense to repair…. but I can’t help myself either (and I’m an economist – go figure!)

    Yesterday I spent most of the evening repairing my old trusty electrical paintstripper. I gave up in the end.

    Before discarding it, I tried finding the manufacturing date – turned out to be made in 1990. Not too shabby, I think. It cost me nothing (it was rescued from a dumpster), I repaired it and it then gave me another decade of reliable service, till last weekend. Still, I disliked not being able to fix it this time (a plastic thingy in the fan had utterly broken/cracked – impossible to glue. I tried making a brace out of FR4 epoxy board, but as I was finishing it it broke again. Alas. Then I gave up – sometimes one has to admit defeat.) Besides, the brushes were very worn, and the commutator where the brushes would touch had worn off about 1 mm of copper.

    By coincidence, a supermarket here had brand-new shiny paintstrippers on sale – 10.99 euro (15 US$ or so?), complete with attachments. As if they knew I would be needing a new stripper! I figure that, if I occasionally give the tiny DC motor a drop of oil (like I did with the old B&D one), it should see me through the next two decades. The fact that it will probably last me much of the rest of my useful life gives me some peace. (something about the Dutch being stingy, I think. Or maybe I shouldn’t generalize and it’s just THIS Dutchman being stingy)

    Oh – I use them to rapidly depopulate PCBs from parts. I don’t think that paintstripper ever saw any paint in front of its nozzle :-), or it must have been with the previous owner.

    Of course, the powercord was saved, the rubber flexy thingy where the powercord enters the apparatus was saved, the heating element was saved, and the triggerbutton was saved…. (would it surprize you if I told I have a cardboard box of powercords, a box of grommets, and a box of powertool-switches?….). The only thing that ended up in the waste bin was the plastic house, and some other plastic bits of the fan.

    1. Excellent!

      Although I fear the new appliances & tools have the absolute minimum amount of material required to let them hobble past the ends of their all-too-short warranty. Verily, they’re not made like in the Good Old Days.

      it’s just THIS Dutchman being stingy

      We must have some genes in common: when I throw something out, a well-picked carcass hits the can.

      And we do use the odd bits; you never know when you’ll be cannibalizing a power cord to fix a gadget with a blown plug, right?

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