Spare parts and planned obsolescence

 

Sir, – While I have every sympathy with John O’Rourke (Letters, February 11th) being quoted €114 for a replacement tumble-dryer element, please direct some sympathy in this direction with the quote of €154 for a plastic freezer drawer . – Yours, etc,

LIAM O’MAHONY,

Bishopstown ,

Cork.

Sir, – Your correspondent John O’Rourke’s experience with his faulty tumble-dryer is not unique.

Two years ago I had a similar experience with a mid-range washing machine of EU manufacture which failed just outside the warranty period. I called out the service “engineer” who charged me €60 to tell me that, according to the panel display, the electronic program controller (a microcomputer chip) was faulty. Moreover, a new circuit board would cost €200 but would need to be programmed, the programme USB costing another €60, but more importantly, a device known as a programmer interface would be required to transfer the program to the controller chip, and this extra device would cost another €120, a total of €380, not including labour, to repair the machine, which probably cost about €450 in the first instance.

So I bought a new machine, but before handing in the old one, I stripped it down and was astonished to find all the mechanical parts, motor, pump, solenoid valves, etc, in pristine condition, with no limescale, and nothing amiss. One would not have guessed they were from a five-year old machine! The electronic circuit board was pristine. I unsoldered all the components, capacitors, resistors, relays, etc, and all functioned correctly under test, so the remaining culprit was the microcomputer “controller” itself.

Why had it failed? Perhaps the chip had a manufacturing fault, or had blown from a voltage spike due to poor circuit design. A third explanation could be that it was programmed to fail having passed the warranty period, which is easy to do by counting the mains voltage cycles – another good reason not to leave it plugged in all the time.

The circuit board was basic, single-sided and large enough for easy component mounting. The components cost about €30 at most, so the €380 price tag for a replacement leads me to suspect that the device was designed to fail, rather like the Volkswagen emissions test spoofing.

Scrapping perfectly good “consumer” items, like cars and white goods, seems to fly in the face of environmental concerns expressed by EU agencies. The carbon footprint of scrapping serviceable items and replacing them with newly manufactured replacements is significant and clearly unfriendly to the environment. – Yours, etc,

GEORGE REYNOLDS,

Blessington,

Co Wicklow.