/ Home & Energy

Your view: why washing machines break down

It’s clear washing machines – and perhaps some other products – aren’t lasting as long as you expect, but why is this? And is the situation any worse than it used to be?

Let me declare an interest. I barely had my last washing machine for two years before it decided, during the spin cycle, to start emptying water out through the front door onto the laminate floor of the kitchen. With costly results.

I suspect it may have been partly my fault for overloading the drum. A no-no, according to our expert, Adrian Porter.

Apparently, not overloading the drum is the top way to make your machine last longer. I’ve certainly been following the tip of leaving a hand span’s width from the top of the drum to the top of the clothes.

Spin speeds, manuals and the things they find

John Pepper was concerned about the effect of a high spin speed:

 ‘Way back in the early 1980s I bought a Hotpoint with a high spin speed to service terry towelling nappies. It lasted only a few years until the bearings failed and I replaced it with a cheap second-hand machine.’

Wavechange meanwhile called for manufacturers to show the number of washing cycles a machine has done and provide a warranty for X years or Y cycles – whichever comes first – to give an idea of durability.

‘This means that the manufacturer is protected from claims by owners that use their machines several times a day, whereas someone who users their machine once or twice a week benefits from longer cover.’

Dieseltaylor raised a complaint that we have heard repeatedly about many types of products – not just washing machines.

‘There is a complete lack of manuals to most goods which if available could be read by potential purchasers to identify risks or if certain desired requirements – like an accurate 60C wash temperature or number of rinse cycles – are available.’

Unusual things found in machines

Engineer Kenneth Watt tackled readers’ questions, but also revealed unusual finds in broken machines:

‘Coins are common but you’d be amazed at what’s been pulled out machines over the years. Nails, screws, bank cards, syringes and needles, condoms, children’s toys, sex toys, drugs, cigarettes, lighters. The list ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the disgusting to downright funny.’

With all this trapped inside, it’s little wonder machines break down. But some of you have been lucky (or careful) enough to have one that goes on and on.

Xopher has a 33-year-old Philco W451 model, still going strong:

‘It has had four replacement door seals and a new thermostat. It is very quiet, partly due to the low 800 rpm spin speed, but also because it has a brushless induction motor, a feature only found on expensive models today.

‘When the door seal fails again, I’m going to replace it. I think that I’ll treat myself to a Miele and a tumble dryer from them too, to replace the creaking Philco D421 which is the same age as the washer and on its last legs.’

Comments

Looking for further information about Ebac washing machines I came across a somewhat confused newspaper article discussing the merits or otherwise of hot & cold fill machines: telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/11669026/Rage-against-the-washing-machine.html

I particularly like the reference to ‘a town-gas supply’. Town gas was what we had before the introduction of natural gas.

For most people, most of the time, hot fill is pointless on a modern machine.

Even if it’s sat right next to a combi boiler or whatever.

By the time a modern machine is filled, all it’s done normally is use the water sat in the pipework. Or, you waste water running hot till it’s hot enough before switching on and at every fill for wash if required, that kinda defeats the point of an automatic washing machine to a degree.

K.

My old hot & cold fill washing machine does not even take in hot water on a 40°C wash. I discovered this the first time I used it and learned that this was a common system and not a fault.

There’s little or no benefit of hot fill for low temperature washing but it can save electricity for high temperature wash cycles, such as used for maintenance washes, especially when hot water is ‘free’ from solar power.

There’s only any benefit from it *IF* the hot water reaches the machine before it’s full and *IF* it raises the temperature enough to make any real difference.

In practice both “if’s” are almost never met unless there has been a custom installation to support that, which is extremely rare.

Otherwise, all you do is fill the pipework with hot water, not the machine.

K.

If my arithmetic is right, 10m (say) of pipework from the hot tank contains a couple of litres of water. A typical washing machine uses 11 litres per kilo. So it will be drawing most water from the hot tank, heated by gas at 1/3 the cost of the electricity the machine uses. Is there a flaw in this sum?

Out of curiosity I have just done a quick test of our system. The sink in the utility room is right next to the washing machine and I drew off only 1200 ml of water before hand-hot water was present. The washing machine inlet is actually a short distance ahead of the tap so the results would be slightly better, and even at ‘cold’ the water in the hot pipes is probably at around 17 deg C instead of the 6-9 deg C in the cold pipe today. Most washes are done on the 60 deg C setting, hardly any at lower temperatures and a few at higher levels. We’re never going to win the price for economical laundry but a hot fill option would be my preference.

Yes, there is a flaw.

Typical modern machines use about 30-50l per complete wash. That’s one fill for wash and two or three for rinsing.

11l per kilo isn’t even remotely close to the truth, way, way too much.

K.

I took the information from Which?:
“The average washing machine uses 11 litres of water for every kilogram of cottons it washes on the standard 40 degC cotton program.
Our testing shows that, on average, Best Buy washing machines tend to use a little more: 11.5 litres of water per kilo. Whereas, on average, Don’t Buy machines use less: 9.8 litres of water per kilo.”

So for a typical 5 kg wash would use about 50 litres – my (Which?’s) figures and yours seem in agreement.

My point was simply that the residual cool water in a hot feed pipe (a couple of litres) would be considerably less than required to do a fill of around 12 litres. So probably worthwhile using a hot feed to save a little energy – about 7 or 8 litres of tank temperature water for a fill for a 40 deg wash. I don’t know what the rinse temperature would be.

There are various complicating factors including the diameter of the pipework. The easiest way to check if hot fill might be worthwhile is to measure the amount of water that comes through before it runs hot. If there is a nearby sink that makes it simpler.

This would be a good exercise for school kids since it combines science and economics.

I’ve assumed 15mm pipes. Hot pipes should be insulated with foam sleeves – looks useful but I don’t know how long they keep the water hot. As you are normally using 30-40 deg washes and your hot water tank (if you have one) should be at least 60 deg then the water in the pipe should be useful unless it is a long way from a hot tap. However, the energy saved seems pretty small unless you do a hot wash.

On my system the tank feeds the hot tap on the bath via a 22 mm pipe and the 15 mm pipe to the washing machine links into this pipe at some point. I do at least one load per week at 60°C and that takes in hot water. It’s an old machine that uses more water than modern ones but there’s no water shortage where I live.

With low temperature washing I cannot see any point in having hot fill unless you have free hot water. I’m surprised that Ebac says that it uses hot & cold fill on all programmes.

If you Google, you’ll get the article this is from:

“The first thing to do is calculate how much of a pipe run that you have from the hot water source, usually a storage tank in the loft in the case of solar heated water, to the delivery point, i.e. the point at which the washing machine’s fill hose is connected.

Now, most UK homes (most EU probably) use 15mm copper pipe for internal water pipes and this holds a volume of approximately 0.15 litres per meter of pipe.

So, simple calculation, multiply the meters of pipe run by 0.15 and you have the volume of water, in liters, that is “standing” inside the pipe. It is important to remember that pipes will not run directly from point to point most often, they will follow a path around rooms, other pipes and so on so you will have to account for this.

Then don’t forget to add about .3 litres for the water in the standard 1.5m fill hose and the water left in the washing machine.

Most homes will have a around a 6m or so pipe run, in a good installation many will have much longer runs. What this means is that, at best, you will have about 1-2 litres of “standing” cold water in the pipe before you even get a whiff of hot water.

If you have a combination boiler then you need to also consider the standing cold water in the system there, if it isn’t running and then the time that it takes to deliver hot water, see more below.

So, we just shown that a good bit of the of the “hot” water you just filled with is, in fact, stone cold or, at best at ambient temperature. In practical terms for most UK homes and, for most people, more than half the “hot” water that you fill your washing machine with will be at room temperature.”

Since I can’t post a link to it.

It is largely common sense though, the though that hot filling will save money is a myth these days. Sure, it may make the wash faster, maybe but, that’s about the best you can hope for in most cases.

Why anyone would use hot and cold on all washes is beyond me as, if it’s not set up correctly as most all won’t be, it wastes energy, it cannot save it.

K.

It’s far better to than to make assumptions. Perhaps the easiest way to find out when hot water enters the machine is to open or remove the detergent drawer and feel the temperature of the incoming water.

On the 60°C cycle it did not take long for hot water to appear when I checked this morning. My conclusion is that it’s worthwhile using the (gas-heated) hot water – but that only applies to my machine in my home. Incidentally, I do turn off the cold tap during initial filling stage, otherwise the machine would take in both hot and cold water, the proportions depending on the relative supply pressures. On a 95°C wash the machine does not take in any cold water during filling and on the 40°C setting it does not take in any hot water.

“So, we just shown that a good bit of the of the “hot” water you just filled with is, in fact, stone cold or, at best at ambient temperature”. If the machine takes in around 12 litres a fill, the 2 litres at room temperature (standing in the pipes – we seem to agree on this), is less than 20%, so not really a “good bit”.

“It is largely common sense though, the thought that hot filling will save money is a myth these days” If the numbers are correct then the “myth” may also be correct. Some here seem to find a hot water fill worth using.

If we assume during the whole cycle we need to heat 4 fills of 12 litres each for a 40 deg C wash then it will, according to my calculations, need about 1 unit of energy – cost around 12p if electricity, and around 4p if gas. As I said earlier, the saving when using hot water may not be great, but seems to be there. About £13 a year or £750 over your lifetime. That’s two new washing machines for free (at today’s prices 🙂 ).

As far as I know, cold water is normally used for rinsing, so I question the calculations. It’s certainly the case with mine.

wavechange, if you use cold water for rinsing (as I questioned earlier) then only the wash fill will use hot water, so your annual saving might only be 1/3 this – say £4 a year. I’m simply suggesting that it seems a calculation shows that a hot water inlet may, in principle, save money as opposed to being a “myth”. I doubt that the result would make a difference to which machine you might buy but that was not the point 🙂

Using ‘free’ solar-heated water (I’m not referring to solar PV) instead of electric heating in the machine will undoubtedly save money.

I would prefer to buy a machine with the option for hot fill so that I could run tests to see whether or not it is worth bothering with when my water is heated with gas.

You can do calculations about what happens in an average house with an average machine but you either guess whether hot fill is worthwhile or do some simple experiments. My guess is that it would be a waste of time with a modern low water consumption machine used at a low washing temperature.

Okay.

Modern machines fill is completely variable depending on program and load. It is not a static number.

They can fill with as little as 5-7 litres of water and upwards from there.

Keep in mind you can’t simply say it uses 50l per wash and divide that by three or four fills and get a number as the rinses use a higher level and, they have to be cold water. It is not as linear as that.

Then what many people forget is that detergents are designed to work on a temperature curve, not instant hot water. If you use instant hot water then you kill off a good bit of the cleaning power at best, at worst just make it next to useless.

To accomplish the low energy use for the majority of homes across Europe, cold fill only is the most efficient method and all the more so when coupled with the detergent technologies.

The only way to make hot fill a viable option is from a renewable source, tanked or community then lag plastic insulating pipe all the way to the point of dispensation. Other than that, limited benefit at best, if any at all.

And, even at that the cost of installation to the lifetime savings offered are highly debatable.

Then you’ve the extra cost and point of failure in the valve itself as well as the control system to make that work.

Which is why, for most people most of the time, it simply isn’t worth the hassle.

You may not agree but, it is what it is and sadly, those are the facts about hot fill. I’ve studied this extensively, I know this to be true unless someone finds a way to defy the laws of physics.

K.

According to the Energy Saving Trust a solar panel hot water system will cost typically £3000-5000 to install. The annual savings are, again typically, £65 to £75 a year. So seems an expensive way to heat water.

I would have expected higher savings than that given that the central heating and hot water systems can often start with pre-warmed water. I realise that there will be losses in the pipework and through any heat-exchangers but that is a measly return. Perhaps the climate crisis will enable us to have hot water storage tanks on our roofs like they do in Mediterranean countries.

What became of gas washing machines and tumble-dryers? They made a comeback and then disappeared like the dinosaurs they probably were.

Gas washers I’ve never seen, certainly not in the domestic arena.

Gas dryers. Expensive to buy, running costs debatable, expensive to repair (if you can find someone to do it with the Gas Regs from the mid-90’s on) and expensive to install, again with the caveat of finding someone with the relevant gas ticket.

Service is a huge problem though as because they are so compacted inside they are very hard to work on, difficult to remove and, as stated, you need special certification to do so that isn’t cheap. So, most repairers will never have seen one let alone be able to work on one.

For large commercial, different story.

Like heat pump, it’s only worth it financially if you do a lot of drying and, I do mean *a lot* otherwise the financial argument doesn’t stack up.

K.

The hot/cold washers have every chance and have all the equipment to adjust temperature even for a 40c wash but unless you choose hot it wont happen.
Thats why I need to know more about the Ebac before I jump plus its not available yet anyhow
The machine I have does not have an element so when the hot inlet was working it got whatever was there.
It can add cold to keep the temp lower of need be but I could not warm the water
I’m beginning to see there may a virtue in repairing our old machine yet as I have often loads of hot water. Solar/wind
As to the idea that there are no savings to be had by having hot fill then one would need to look up how much energy is required to heat one litre of water from ground temp to 60c or a better way might be how much water does a kw of energy heat up
I already have done all this 20 years ago and I convinced that I will have a hot water intake machine and I refuse blank to have a cold fill only machine
If the washer used 1kw of energy to heat water for one wash then that is whatever cost of a kw from your supplier
I can say with confidence that a kw of energy from gas/oil will only cost a fraction of that
Its many years ago since I looked at this but I’ll have a go with rule of thumb figures. If some of you want to look all this up feel free but dont come at me as its at least 20yrs ago I looked at this.
1kw of electrical power will heat approx 19ltrs of water from ground temp to around 60c. Electricity is the only fairly definate fuel to rate as boilers vary but the new ones should maybe be better again than my numbers which would add more to the reasoning for having hot inlets
1ltr of oil should give you around 8kw to heat with some going up the flue
1ltr of propane should give you about 7kw of heat with some going up the flue
All you have to do now is check your fuel costs
Because I dont have and never will have natgas I have never looked at that.
With all the chat about efficient houses and energy costs/usage I would have thought that to have the personal and machine washing facilities placed close to the hot water storage because that would be good engineering as domestic hot water is a major cost in any house
I’ll leave the capacity of pipework to Malcolm as he is good at that sort of thing. I cannot be bothered going over old ground
However with some/many houses according to area being unvented 3 to 4 bar operational 10mm od would more than flow enough for all washing machines. Their little solenoids are not high flow devices anyhow
Something else that most folk dont consider is the extra cost of boosted/powered showers.
A modern large shower head has no trouble flowing over 2ltr per minute of a combination of hot and cold
I know I’m and energy nutt but I have listened all my life to the statement that “the boiler was on anyhow” which sounds like an assumption that the hot tank is so easy to heat it is not worth counting. This is a flawed assumption. The more hot you use the more you pay and its far from cheap.

May I add that it was a terrible day for humanity yesterday and my condolences go out to all the relatives and friends of the unfortunate from far and near.

Houses should be designed so that boilers and hot water tanks (if present) are as close as practical to the main points of use. I presume that someone has thought to put this in the building regulations.

My old washing machine controls the inflow of hot and cold water with simple solenoid valves, which are either fully open or closed. (DK – I suspect that the solenoids are restricted flow to avoid the noise created by sudden closure.) Maybe newer machines can control temperature by blending hot and control water but that might still be the domain of enthusiasts living off grid with limited electrical power available.

One of the claimed benefits of hot fill is extended heater life. I don’t know if that is true but my machine still has its original heater after many years, and that’s in a hard water area.

It was quite common from the 1960’s onwards, if not before that in many cases, for the bathroom to be located above the kitchen and for the airing cupboard with the hot tank in it to be in or adjacent to the bathroom. This led to a rational plumbing and waste layout. That was for a standard two-storey family house. Now we have a lot of people living in conversions, flats, bungalows and three-storey houses where hot water demand can be some distance from the storage tank. It is a particular problem where pre-war houses have had ground floor extensions or remodelled kitchens created to provide separate utility rooms or where washing machines have been installed in toilets, bathrooms and basements. Cold fill would be more suitable in all these applications so it has become the lowest common denominator of the specification.

Old houses often had very small kitchens, even where someone was employed as housekeeper. Building a kitchen extension or modification of the house often pays little regard to the supply of hot water. Good job the dishwasher is cold fill only because h&c fill would not make sense.

Yes well put Wave, houses should be designed not fashioned but I feel that fashion and style rules over function. My wife does not want to understand why the hot-press cant be in this corner and the kitchen over there and the toilet/shower over here. Thats how it all goes wrong.
Yes my machines solenoid valves are either open or closed
Two separate solenoids should have no problem controlling water temperature given our love of electronics.
My machine opened one or other or both and as required and if the water was hot it could do a warm or hot wash.
Its not thermostats that control those temperature circuits as best I know. I’d imagine its thermistors sending signal to a pcb which would be instant the second the water hits them, so switching solenoids on and off shouldn’t be a problem. A solenoid is a lot smaller electrical load than a 2 or 3kw element that gets switched on and off endlessly.
We have I think became used to being told rightly or wrongly that this 40c wash is electric only but that is a new/recent idea.
I remember before all this cool wash thing and cold fill only that machines could use hot water and make a good attempt to arrive at the programmed temperature. 60c, 40c whats the difference. It’s certainly not just the domain of tree huggers which I am not. It is cost effective to use hot water made by your boiler provided the boiler has been on.
It may not be wise to warm up a hot cylinder just to run a machine, that is why even older machines had elements to boost water temp.
My opinion is that the standardised energy test for energy rating was used as an excuse for getting rid of a valve, hose and a bit of circuitry. Cop out.
Some say it would not have been easy to have a consistent test but I can see no trouble that a hot supply at a preset temp and pressure and distance could have been set out. It’s not like argument about real time mpg tests and it would certainly be much closer to reality than the EU silly car tests.
Electrically heated water costs much more money than boiler heated water.

A couple of years ago I learned that modern washing machines don’t necessarily reach 60°C on that setting: which.co.uk/reviews/washing-machines/article/should-i-wash-at-60-c Apparently it’s a result of EC regulations on cleaning performance. I’m not blaming the manufacturers and am glad to see that the are managing to label machines with something other than 60°C.

My old machine does actually reach 60°C – tested with a digital thermometer and a probe trapped in the door seal. Laser thermometers have their uses but measuring washing machine temperature is not one of them.

We are urged to wash at 30°C and there are laundry detergents that are supposed to work with cold water. I remain to be convinced.

Indeed Wave I’ll be hard to convince and my wife more so now that the Hospital she works in does not wash their uniforms.
She wants a boil wash apparently.

We have discussed this at length in another Convo, DK. Where I worked, all lab coats were laundered professionally and those used by staff working with hazardous bacteria were autoclaved (steam sterilised) before sending to the laundry.

If hospital staff are in contact with infected patients they should not be asked to wash their own uniforms. Someone needs to do a risk assessment. For other staff, their uniforms may not be more contaminated than normal clothing.

A digression for which I apologise, but shouldn’t staff working with infected patients be using disposable over-garments?

Ah I can see I may have opened a can of worms.
That would not be strange for me as I do not take anything for-granted and I have seen several standards and procedures that are supposed to work and be full proof be simply walked around.
Everything requires a certain amount of trust to work. it’s not as simple as making out another standard or procedure. This management system we have today cannot be trusted.
For a start we no longer operate in the world of making rules and abiding by them.
Standards that seem common sense no longer work they are ignored and are often blatantly not adhered to, to save money.
She works in a Renal Unit (kidney dialysis) and for the most part there is no serious infections as such as would be in some departments but near every week there are patients has this or that, MRSA being but one and there’s a blood spills and bays have to get a deep cleaned so neither could we call it a clean environment.
Yes they get plastic aprons etc but there is no cast iron gaurentee that her clothes have not came on contact with something.
They have always been welcome to wash their own clothes, yes for some 12 years since she started there. Now its a free for all. The laundry WILL NOT clean their uniforms. Will Not and she is not alone in her department. She doesnt like this but no one can do anything.
I hope someone reads this and gets real angry because this is reality. And I dont mean angry with me or my good wife because that is the norm. Shoot the messenger.
There have been countless tv Doc’s about these things and it all dies away more often than not with nothing being done.
I along with 1000s of others could start a war about NHS conditions and workload whilst managers get a kings ransom and all they do is invent another piece of paper to tick and sign. This guys is why I get very uptight about what looks like seemingly well meaning measures that may have worked in the past but are getting the A**** ripped out of them now. Back to trust. For any measure to work we have to trust someone. The current management obviously cannot be trusted otherwise such practice would not have started
As to risk assessments like everything in our health service its cut, cut, cut and we were foolish enough to vote several consecutive Govs of both parties into power who continue and this one is perhaps the worst.
Infection control has done their rounds and deemed it safe but she doubts their theory.
Management spent a ship load of money on a macerator for the unit but it has basically never worked. To install the macerator the sluice was removed. That was 2 years ago. How to they deal with the vast amounts of waste a renal unit generates is like a horror story of health care.
There were several chemical spills with the macerator and even the local press were fobbed off with a story full of s***
As to why it is not operational she doesnt really know because she knows what she is being told has to be lies
Why the sluice is not reinstalled is because it was taken to another part of the hospital and cannot be got back
What will happen is that management will save money until something happens and then they’ll go back to the original ways announcing a new program they have came up with to prevent this happening again and everything will be okay and they’ll be the great guys who saved the day yet again.
Until that time they save money and get handsomely rewarded for doing so.

So we went right off subject here but facts are facts.

Avoiding transmission of infections essential in hospitals because of the prevalence of infectious diseases that are easily transmitted and sometimes resistant to commonly used antibiotics. I don’t know to what extent disposable garments are used in hospitals in the UK. I have not managed to track down useful articles. Useful search terms are ‘infection control’ and ‘nosocomial infections’.

Infection control is doubly essential in hospitals because the immunity of other patients might be low, as well as because we cannot afford to have precious health workers on sick leave due to infection.

I agree a boil wash of clinical garments is necessary if staff are effectively made responsible for hospital hygiene. Personally, I would be in touch with the CQC and NIHCE.

Hi Wave, John and whoever else. I dont need useful articles or searches according to my wife. My wife works there, that’s all you and I need to know apparently. Quite abrupt was that answer.
Take my/her word for it, she washes her own uniform and has no choice
Yes they have plastic aprons, visors, glasses etc but neither she nor I have felt for years that this is right.
Much more important and you missed that bit is the disposal of the lines contents and equipment contents that used to be emptied down the sluice.
All vomite, all s**t, all such waste and in a Renal Unit this is the norm becausse once the patient is hooked up they have 4 hours and that’s that. So bed pans are frequent. All that used to into the Sluicemaster. There are patents with MRSA to boot.
Those niceties are now “double bagged” as per instruction and carried down two flights of stairs
Where they go she does not know nor does she care
There is no sluice and has not been for some time. 2 years she thinks
The replacement which was a macerator that was supposed to eat up everything, lines needles and all, has more or less never worked despite being a reported 100k odd and the lines etc are double boxed in the macerator boxes and left for collection for days.
This unit is not unique. Our health service is at the same antics nationwide with skimping just as long as they get away with it.
When one thing goes wrong they just move to the next method of money saving
I know I’m just one voice but my wife is fed up as are many and like many jobs most folk are so tied up in family and debts everyone just seems to up with the misery.
Fortunately we have reached the point where we are not so obliged to the financial institutions as we once were so wifeys patience is wearing thin

Thank you for all that information DeeKay. It was more than sufficient, but there’s no need to apologise – I had already had my lunch by the time I read it. I think I shall be able to manage now without any further need for the finer details of hospital hygiene. My compliments to your wife for sharing all this through you.

My other half says thanks for your good compliment, its more than they get at works and that her wording was not meant to upset anyone but the truth sometimes needs telling
Nite all

Do you guys think I live in an ideal world. No I live in a part stone, part brick, part timber loads of add ons house that did not start off with any running water and has everything in all the wrong places but I still prefer to have hot fill for my machines.
For those who dont need worry about the difference in costs of heating water continue as was
That should not take away the fact that some of us would like to retain hot fill and Ebac conducted an extensive survey about just that and they obviously feel that if might be of benefit to their sales to have hot fill on some of their machines plus personally I’d like to back Britain if I’m allowed to do so

In my ignorance, DeeKay, I have been wondering whether you could not just plumb your washing machine to the hot water supply. Sometimes the hot water going in might be too hot for a low temperature wash [which you might not want anyway], and you would deprive yourself of the opportunity of a cold rinse. I expect someone will tell me that the control system in the machine would not allow it to work under that arrangement.

I have read about people disconnecting the heater of washing machines, either to ensure they use ‘free’ hot water or because they are living off-grid and their electricity supply is insufficient to power the heater. I suspect it would be more difficult with a modern machine full of electronics.

As best I know if you disconnect the element the washer will not get past go because if they are like one we had it will sit and rumble along waiting on the water to heat to allow the warm/hot time to start. If any of that makes sense?

Most if not all will work but the rinse seems to need to be cold otherwise the clothes will be serious wrinkly. I tried it once. No good. Our dishwashers on the other hand have only ever had a hot valve and they seem fine and I’m sure someone will correct me that it says in the instructions to only fill cold but as best I can work out every fill in the dishwasher gets heated up to hot. Our fist one had hot fill and the rest followed suit. I brought them home and plugged them in and didnt know for years anything about cold fill. They all been good as anyone elses

Most dishwashers of recent times, the last decade or so, have a fill chamber or matrix to pre-fill and soften before use. So, hot fill again becomes pretty much a wasted effort.

It won’t affect the operation normally, just wastes energy.

K.

Like most of machines I’ve seen in around them long before they die and I cannot see anything that would hold a full wash of water.
Which gives the best real time tested main wash as being 10L and the worst main wash as 21L.
As the washers both wash and rinse with heated water at in my case 16p per kw I favour giving it water from the tank as it is mostly free.
Being interested in these subjects and this being a Sunday and terrible outside I decided to run a little experiment with our dishwasher.
I ran a full wash starting at 4pm with a load of previous washed dishes from a wash just after lunch with a temporary cold connection from our clothes washer outlet. It timed out at 104 minutes.
I pushed the machine back in connected to the hot as I normally have it and left it to 7pm and put it on the same wash now with hot feed. It timed out at 82 minutes.
The method of timing was a little item a former workmate made for me with a CT and minutes readout to monitor equipment real run times. It holds for 5 minutes after the last 0.2a before storing the time.

After a rinse and spin I find the washing is warm and usually not wrinkled. We never fill the drum, which might help.

Modern dishwashers use so little water I am amazed at how well they perform. As Kenneth says, hot fill would be wasteful overall.

That was a terrible piece of writing [albeit a good example of a dangling modifier]. It is not me that has had a rinse and spin! I should have said “I find that, after the washing machine has completed the spin and rinse cycle, the washing is warm and usually not wrinkled”.

What a shame. I thought you were really getting into washing machines, John. 🙂

John, never worry we got the message. Better than text speak I think its called.
Yes I like something resembling English although I’m told I sound nothing like my writing. Something to do with old fashioned English GCSE I’d think.
Grammar was hammered into us even if we didnt speak it but at least when we write it it makes sense.
Ebay listings are often biggest joke of writing I’ve ever witnessed. I have saw listings with 100s or words and not a punctuation in sight. It is unbelievably difficult to read.
Even if sentences and paragraphs are not the way they should be if some attempt is made to stop now and a again in the same manner as we speak it helps.

Anyone who is interested in finding the cost of running a washing machine or dishwasher cycle can measure the power used with an inexpensive plug-in energy meter. Mine cost £10. Calculating the cost of heating water by gas will always result in under-estimates, for various reasons, but having a hot fill option does make sense if you have free hot water.

Yes Wave.
I have done the metering thing some years ago with a kwh meter and like Malcolm or was it John I tried the water pipe to see how long it took for hot water to reach the valve if no one had used hot for some time. It was too long and in my case my machine had no element, never had and H needed hot wash so I ran a separate 15mm much shorter than the 22mm circuit pipe to the laundry. Problem solved
It would be good for readers to try this with a little meter as you suggest.
It could/can be an insight to the real costs of washing near clean clothes as many do.
I’m sticking to my hot fill theory because the kwh meter said I should and anyone with solar thermal or the solar PV with the little proportional diverts should also.
I cannot believe that electric heating of water can compete with oil/gas and you guys on the mainland have natgas at prices per kw some of us can only dream of.
Here just now oil is about 30ppl. At 8kw per litre from and old style boiler that works out at less than 4p per kw.
Food for thought, no?

My sons large drum LG washing machine has had 2 circuit boards changed and the problem with it failing to spin has not been rectified and as they have an extended warranty they have been offered a replacement machine by J Lewis. Having browsed through most of the comments posted on this topic, also Andy Triggs website whitegoods.co.uk I have concerns as to the efficacy and durability of both the new designs and the technology that operates it.

I have recommended he opts for the longest warranty at a price he can afford so has finally decided on a Which? Best Buy Samsung with a 5 year warranty. 2 year J Lewis + 3 year registered with the manufacturer’s
warranty.

I would like to find out more about these split warranties. It seems to me that consumer pressure is at last carrying some clout which is encouraging.

Beryl, if John Lewis will change for an alternative machine then sounds the right move. The extra “guarantee” offered is usually an insurance warranty from Domestic and General. The cost will be covered in the appliance price.

That seems a sensible approach, Beryl. I presume that John Lewis can secure more competitive pricing on warranties than we can as individuals.

For many years, Which? has been pointing out the high cost of buying extended warranties, and rightly so. However these combination guarantees and warranties are a different matter. Peace of mind without paying through the nose. We are getting there.

All guarantees and warranties cost money, even if they are wrapped up in the price of the goods. They always will be. As will any costs associated with claims under the Consumer Rights Act. Companies, whether manufacturers or retailers, will do what is necessary to maintain their profit margins.

I’d be happy to buy an extended warranty if it represented value for money. Unfortunately we cannot in many cases assess this because we do not know the likelihood of a product failing within a particular time, and the likely cost of a repair. We need this information to decide whether it is worth purchasing an extended warranty, or to decide whether to buy a more expensive appliance, say, but with a longer guarantee or inbuilt warranty. Where can we get this information from. In my view Which?, with its long experience of testing, and using European partners, could give us help in this direction if it directed its attention to durability statistics. As a start the Connect surveys could do much more to get such information from subscribers. Whilst history is not always a good predictor of the future it is better than nothing.

I seem to recall somewhere in the archives of this particular topic, in the event of a replacement, only the remaining warranty on the old machine transfers to the new replacement. There was one year remaining on my sons old LG extended warranty, so I am wondering if the replacement Samsungs warranty would be applicable for this period only, especially as it was extended and for which they paid the sum of £120.

If this is the case then he may be in for quite a nasty shock.

Beryl, I believe if you have an extended warranty and a claim is made by replacement with a new machine then your warranty ceases and you start afresh. I would imagine a new machine would come with it’s standard manufacturer’s guarantee. However, I wonder whether the warranty will allow a choice of replacement appliance or whether you will be limited to what the warranty company offers as a substitute?

This is why I think “durability” of a product should be used much more, as the law requires. You would not then need to purchase an expensive extended warranty if you, and the retailer, knew that a reasonable “durability” for your washing machine was, say, 5 years without fault . It would then be the retailers’ responsibility to put matters right, most likely pro rata based on the amount of time you have had good use from the product. If you want full protection – repair or replace – then you would still need to purchase an insurance-based warranty.

Thanks Malcolm. I am quite surprised J Lewis has granted a choice of replacement which seems to be the case.

According to Siemens-home.co.uk website, their T & C’s state “The balance of the warranty on the first machine
should be transferred to the new product, ie if we exchange a product with a 5 year warranty after 3 years, the new product gets 2 years only.”

This would apply to a replacement of the first machine only I would assume and any divergence would be left to the discretion of the retailer and as you say the replacement comes with a fresh warranty period. Any reduction for wear and tear clearly could only apply where a refund was requested and not a replacement.

Thanks Beryl. A good result. Another thumbs up for John Lewis. I wonder how other retailers would have dealt with it?

Well done Beryl. It’s always necessary to check terms & conditions, but generally they seem fair to both parties.

Many thanks Malcolm and Wavechange.

To persuade other retailers to follow J Lewis’s example can only be achieved by bringing this into the public domain. Although my son did initially pay for an extended warranty, which no doubt added to the overall cost, they still had 4 years use out of the first w/machine and are now guaranteed a new model with a further 5 years free warranty, resulting in a total 9 years – just one year short of your 10 year ultimate aim Wavechange.

Let’s hope J Lewis can initiate a competitive precedence and encourage other retailers to follow suit.

It’s support like this that engenders very positive feelings towards companies, Beryl. If all customers were treated in this way the companies would soon go bust or the manufacturers forced to improve their build quality.

I hope we will achieve ten year warranties simply by creating a demand for them. Including the cost of providing the warranty in the product cost encourages competition on price, whereas buying an extended warranty at fixed price does not.

So far my experiences with John Lewis have not been encouraging. I don’t have a local branch, so have to order online. They lost my first order thanks to a computer fault, so they lost out on the sale. John Lewis and Waitrose jointly wasted a lot of my time over the second order. The third order went without a hitch, which is encouraging because I am keen to use companies that offer guarantees/warranties that are longer than average.

I believe the logistics of John Lewis online is run by Capita. This probably explains your experience. Their organisational competence has been questioned in the past.

Thanks Malcolm. I was using delivery to Waitrose because some couriers are reluctant to leave parcels at a neighbour’s house. I must say that both JL and Waitrose staff have been both polite and apologetic.

I have also had problems with JL in the past but as their trading figures showed a decrease in profits for the first time recently, maybe they are attempting to improve business by offering more attractive deals. I have been bombarded with a variety of vouchers and offers lately and they did repair my computer in a very short time.

I was not too happy though when asked for my bank password by one of their sales staff, as previously posted. 🙁

Just had a look through this thread and found some parts interesting especially Dee,s comments on hospitals in which I entirely agree . For a short period in my life I worked as a hospital engineer took all the courses in a government college just outside Bristol . The hospital I worked in had a small laundry as well as a Central laundry (for the area ) in the grounds . I repaired everything including wavechange -autoclaves -bed pan sterilisers -high pressure steam heated ward boilers for heating wards and hot water -you name it I repaired it . The laundry had massive stainless steel washing machines using the main boiler house supply as well as roller presses for large items and compression presses for nurses uniforms . Like all things in life “modernisation ” ie-new management control meant they were eventually all shut down although a incinerator was still active with -well the parts you mentioned including others you didnt for the sake on “niceties ” . All gone -Sister -Matron doing rounds to check on hygiene etc nobody dare get on the wrong side of Matron ! No more Whitley Council (hospital staff ) employed cleaning ladies I dont call it “progress ” .

I have no direct knowledge of hospitals, Duncan, but many of the problems seem to be down to running the places like a business and failing to consider practical issues. I don’t actually know how much risk there is from letting nurses take their uniforms home for washing but I would like to know if those who made the decisions have any knowledge of infection control.

Wavechange -As it was an infectious disease hospital I mainly worked in I did contract something came out in spots and had a slight fever . I didnt mention it to the staff but went to my GP who took blood samples and sent them away .I was called to the surgery and said what I had had to be reported to the city health control (it seems I had something exotic ) I asked what it was ,before he answered he asked where I worked I said in a hospital he then refused to tell me what I had and said -dont go back to work and gave me medicine . I became cured after a week or two I got an notification from the city council but I was never told what I had . I worked in all parts of the hospital including the experimental animal lab so it could be anything but wavechange knowing what is kept secret in hospitals I doubt you are ever going to get any statistics on the spread of disease via staff in a hospital I will tell you right now you are dealing with the government and knowing how they operate in this dept I wish you luck in finding out . I still have a lot of secrets that would make the news even now but I keep quiet for the sake of my wife. But there might be some single bloke who will “spill the beans ” ,out there ?

I checked with Allergy UK and the machines that they commend can do 60C washes that hold that for 20 minutes . I am not sure which machines they are but you can go to their site Allergyuk.org

The German testing organisation Stiftung Warentest have recently reported a 60C wash were a machine maxed out at 27C. If I only read German I could make more sense of what Stiftung Warentest write. The .pdf’s I have purchased I have yet to translate.

Which? have published a useful up to date list of 457 (!) washing machines (Which? website, reviews). 46 best buys, 21 don’ts. What I find curious (because I have no knowledge of the industry) is that a brand can have best buys and don’t buys in its range when I would have thought the basic process of washing clothes should be sorted – the mechanics and the cycle control to achieve it would, I would have thought, be incorporated in all their range. Features and maybe quality of components might differentiate one cheaper model from a more expensive one. Ken – I’m sure you can explain this. Is it because they don’t design all their machines but rebrand other manufacturers?

Testing is one thing, but what I always found more interesting was using a test laboratory to investigate just why something failed – what made it wash badly, for example. Having your own lab and knowledgeable staff makes this a lot easier. Do Which? not look at products in this way? I’d like to know why a particular product fails a Which? criterion.

If you have a competent machine then I consider the other attributes essential to a best buy are long guarantee, repairability and durability (reliability if you like). I hope these will feature in Which?’s information.

It’s again a bit complex Malcolm.

Yes, many of the machines are rebranded and, just like cars and many, many other products, they are built around platforms to cut manufacturing costs. So, you can have the same or similar tank, drum, motor, control boards and so on just configured slightly differently to one another to have “new” or “different” model.

Then you have components which you will often find from the same suppliers on different brands. Good examples are the likes of pumps, almost all from Askoll, Plaset and a few others then there’s the Chinese copies of them which, sadly, is a bit like the Wild West. there’s motors, all largely from CESET, Sole, some Turkish stuff and Chinese. Suspension from Supco (I think it’s called) who supply everyone and their dog from Beko through to Miele.

A common misconception is that all the brands make their own machines that have their name stamped on the front of it, they don’t, not a single one.

Which leads to the next incorrect assumption that’s often made that, all the manufacturers make every part in every machine, they don’t. Not a single one does.

There are variances of course in specification and so on but when testing almost any products, just by way of an example, you will almost always get a +/- 5-15% variance on a thermostat or sensor from the set level to the read level. Reason being, to be blunt, they’re cheap and a level of accuracy greater would increase the cost substantially for that component and, for most domestic use greater accuracy is not required.

This of course assuming that the other environmental conditions are all equal and controlled like, ambient temperature, inbound water temp and so on.

What that means is that unless you test across a range of programs say and, repeat the tests all in controlled conditions to prove the accuracy or validity of the results then they would always be valid of course but, they may not give you a full picture. Then you need to test with *exactly* the same conditions over and over and on every model tested. Otherwise all you get is a subjective test that probably isn’t worth much.

It’s not easy and not fast.

My point being that, even not allowing for any variance in the components you can still get natural variance if you like just due to the way that the machines are constructed let alone factoring in anything else such as, the manufacturer switched the thermistor supplier and the new component behaves differently.

In the world of spare parts, that’s not just commonplace, it’s pretty much the norm these days. Which? could test a model one day only to find a month later that multiple components have been changed or altered and that could quite possibly give a different result. Of course, depending on what you’re testing.

On wash programs, they are set by the HLCC Council, all the manufacturers have to do is meet those criteria. Or, at least, say that they do as I’m not convinced that they always will.

I don’t know how Which? test obviously, that’s a closely guarded secret and rightly so to stop cheating but I think they probably do the best they can with the resources available and time.

K.

Ken, useful information as usual. I think when Which? publish test results they should ensure testing is done effectively. If it needs more resources to provide more accurate information, then so be it. Perhaps they should also examine machines carefully to look at origins, and even require declarations from “manufacturers” as to origin, and to significant changes, or withdraw their models from reports together with the reasons.

Many do rely upon Which?’s authoritative statements but if they are not reliable then they become pointless. Perhaps Which should test far fewer machines but do them thoroughly. Maybe it would be worthwhile teaming up with the other 40 odd European consumers associations to combine test cost and results. Perhaps they already do.

I think consumers need more information than is currently provided to be able to reach more certain decisions.

Which? do learn and do adapt.

I didn’t see this but one thing that always got hauled up was an old review, ancient now, of three machines sold under three brands, all tested by Which?

This may sound like a bad joke, apologies, but it really isn’t.

A Bendix, a Philco and a something else I can’t recall now.

Which? tested them all. One a best buy, other nowhere but okay, the other a don’t buy or the equivalent of the time.

All three were *exactly* the same machine behind the facia and I do mean, exactly.

Often when Which? tests are mentioned in the trade that gets trotted out, it’s unfair goodness knows how many years later but, it still happens.

Thing is, was it the test that failed or, the machines even although they were identical, actually produced three different results?

It’s an interesting question and not one that is perhaps as easy to answer as you might think if you give it some thought and, you understand the potential for variation. Equally, it could be argued that, whoever tested these machines didn’t bother to take the lid off as, had they done so, it’d have been pretty darned obvious they were all the same thing. Or, it could be any combination of those and other factors.

I don’t think it’s as black and white as people may think.

Which?, if they are indeed working with other CAs across the EU could probably save some cash and/or get better results if they all sussed what the manufacturers were doing and how they were using platforms. Testing a single platform that constitutes an entire range sold across the EU is playing the manufacturers at their own game in some ways. They use common platforms so, why shouldn’t Which? and whoever else use common test results?

Most are just a tweak here and there to satisfy local markets, little else changes and again, you can see that in spare parts as they don’t lie about what models they’re fitted to. Some can fit upwards of 3-4000 models sold across the EU, Russia, the USA and so forth. If functional components are the same, then pretty much, the machines are also.

Some are very reluctant to tell you what models that parts fit. I’ll let you work out why in light of the above.

I will offer a clue though… smoke and mirrors.

K.

Interesting that W? hadn’t done its homework and spotted the similarities. My concern is, however, that W? doesn’t do its own testing (as you know). Despite the Bendix/Philco mess, I believe I found their in-house testing to be more reliable.

W? (I almost can’t believe I might be defending them 🙂 does walk a fiscal tightrope and they have to make money in order to deliver what they do. They were in a poor state at the turn of the century, but their coffers are much healthier, now. If they’re guilty of anything, however, it’s in the continued underestimation of its members. Even at the time they were (in my experience, anyway) at their most open, they remained worryingly wary – aloof, almost – when it came to using members’ expertise and intellects. And most W? members are pretty savvy.

I (and others) lobbied for a long time to form genuine member-consultation groups; “Connect” doesn’t come close and, for me, represents another missed opportunity. Interestingly, the really huge commercial entities, like Amazon, have gone down that path.

It would also be astonishingly easy to do, now we have this excellent forum / comment board. There’s still a huge amount of goodwill around towards the organisation.

I think I’d take a lot of what Which? had to say way before I believe what I read on Amazon and many others. 😉

Amazon is a bad example Ian, they have had more than a little stick over dubious reviews over time.

I do apologise but I’ve no clue what “Connect” is, I only get involved in things that I think I can contribute to or, offer perspective on. I am unaware of this.

I do realise fully that there are fiscal constraints on Which? and that that will prevent all the subscribers getting what they all want especially so when you consider the remit and sheer scale of what Which? are asked or tasked to do. Which? do make a reasonable fist of it given the limitations I think, only my opinion though obviously.

Thing is though, if you open up input to a more “general” group then the results could, potentially not certainly, be called into question as they are not as, how can I put it, scientifically controlled perhaps and therefore not as valid and then they carry less weight. I hope that makes sense.

What you don’t want is to undermine the validity that Which? has built up over many years as, even if it’s not perfect, it’s hugely better then many if not most. So I can understand it if Which? were very touchy on that front and I’d accept that completely.

K.

“Connect” is the W? user panel that completes surveys from which W? extract conclusions through answers to the surveys. My concern is that too many surveys appear to me to be designed specifically to reach certain conclusions. A good example of this is a survey that came round some time ago asking about companies and who owned them. The survey first asked you to identify who owned a well-known brand. It then revealed the answer and asked you did you feel good, bad or indifferent when you knew it. Psychologically, most respondents would indicate they felt ‘bad’, or whatever wording they used, and W? extracted conclusions from this that “showed” when people discovered who owned what they felt worse about the original product.

To my mind that was unsound, and there have been many other examples. One tactic is where the respondent is asked to identify which things / experiences / companies etc. they have some experience of and then they compete a fairly lengthy survey on each item. Unfortunately, the questions asked are identical for each item and survey-completion fatigue soon sets in.

My argument was fairly simple: you can’t discover everything about how people feel about things in a simple tick-box survey, although I accept prose answers would inevitably take a lot more time to analyse. However, W? has a massive resource – its membership – and many of those members would be willing to participate in a more meaningful dialogue about products or services. Analysis of the resultant prose could then be undertaken by the in-house statisticians and, as the responses were from consumers with no axes to grind, the results would be equally as viable as the tick-box exercises. In other words, W? is already using the members, but not as well as they could.

I agree with you regarding the reliance folk place on Which? tests, but my point is that they could be vastly superior if W? were to grasp the nettle and build a database of members who could be relied on to assist. And I know from personal experience that in at least one case the Amazon reviews were superior to Which?’s own tests, let alone reviews.

There was a time when I would consult W? and W? alone before buying anything. From bitter experience, I’ve learnt to visit at least four sources before buying, as that’s the only way I’ve found to get a balanced and accurate picture. And that shouldn’t be happening.

That survey about showing a product and then revealing the firm and asking whether you liked that firm or not has been “on the go ” in US Marketing for years . Its got me worried that it has arrived here . I remember when young doing Gallup Polls round houses where you asked householders if they liked -xyz this is the electronic version . The problem is that to really find out about a company ,especially one mentioned on Which and finding deep personal details after intensive searches gets it banned from Which even though its the truth and its the “ugly ” truth so to me this is just the “approved ” version of comment on a company . I know a lot about companies but I cant post the truth it is very frustrating. I have to deal in innuendo which I hate being a direct person. Before I buy any product I try to go to a shop and look at it ,if not then I spend hours on the net combing the world not for the product per say but for any adverse comments about it this gives a much more honest appraisal of that product ,in my eyes.

I do not have a high regard for the Which? Connect surveys. I would like to be able to complete a survey on a product at a time that suits me, such as when I have had the opportunity to explore its strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to know the questions in advance to help ensure that they are answered accurately.

There should also be the opportunity to complete a survey after a fault develops, to help provide information about reliability. It is essential to be able to provide information about the extent to which goods have been used prior to the fault, and the nature of the problem. The survey could explore whether the product was repaired/replaced/scrapped, whether it was within the guarantee or warranty period, whether there was a charge for for the work.

Malcolm if the products are made in China they build to a price an item can look outwardly the same but the build/components of the dearer model can easily be seen . I bought an expensive LG DD washing machine I tried to get a discount -the salesman’s reply -your not on -THIS is our most expensive product made with high quality parts ,and yes I had previously spent days on the web checking up on the internals of washing machines and went for that model as an ex-engineer and yes it is still working okay after 6 years. So I can understand why Which has good and bad models of the same brand this is now the philosophy here -want cheap ? then get cheap. I also remember the days when a brand name said it all you had confidence that the cheapest in the range would not fall apart -times change and so do bought out companies by conglomerates- Shareholders first customers third .

Duncan, I too as an engineer look at products from a different perspective perhaps to some others. I am prepared to pay more for something that will be durable; i believe it is cheaper in the long run.

We’ve all had this discussion about cheap machines and essentially you get what you pay for – spend a little, don’t expect it to last. I just want the information made available so consumers can make this decision. Knowledge of the origins of a product – whether a known brand or an own brand – whether it is repairable and how long it is likely to last. China can and does make good stuff. It is sorting out the good from the bad. I hope Which? will find ways to give us more guidance by delving more into products.

It’s worth looking out for the same manufacturer’s name in Best Buy and Don’t Buy lists for various products. I’ve been trying to raise awareness of this for some time. There is always a short explanation to justify the fact that a product has been classified as a Don’t Buy and I am sure that Which? is prepared to deal with criticism by manufacturers, retailers and even consumers who don’t feel that the criticism is justified.

As I see it, Which? reviews are useful, but only one source of information. The biggest strength is independent testing and, hopefully, independent reporting. We are rarely told how many samples are tested and I suspect that if we knew we might have less confidence in the tests. It would be meaningless to attempt proper reliability testing without an appropriate sample size.

Manufacturers often manipulate us to pay more for a better quality product, both through marketing and indirectly because owners provide free advertising. Look at the way that many ‘advertise’ the features of their latest, greatest smartphone to their friends. Paying more does not ensure reliability, otherwise expensive cars would be more reliable than cheaper ones.

I don’t believe we have a Convo on repairability but perhaps we could have a discussion here.

Thanks to Kenneth, some of us learned that most washing machine manufacturers have moved towards sealed tubs that enclose the drum, bearings, seals, etc. In order to replace worn out bearings it would be necessary to exchange the whole unit. Instead of having to pay for a relatively straightforward repair, the owner is likely to be left with a machine that is beyond economical repair. Here is a report that Which? published earlier this year: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/washing-machine-built-to-fail-or-last/ This issue was covered in more depth in Which? magazine around the same time.

Anyone familiar with cars will be familiar with the move from replacing faulty parts to replacing assemblies, sometime quite complicated ones. These can be much more expensive that replacing the faulty item but on the other hand it can be a simpler and less time consuming job to replace the whole assembly. The savings in labour costs can more than offset the increased cost of the parts.

Circuit boards have become ubiquitous in all but the simplest electrical equipment and are essentially non-repairable. Sometimes the cost of replacement boards is very high, if they are available at all, and a new board can be destroyed by a fault elsewhere in the product.

An increasing number of products cannot even be dismantled because they are glued together, making it difficult or impossible to effect even the simplest repair.

Essentially, we have goods made for ease of assembly, which helps keep down production costs but does little for repairability.

Yes wavechange and all that non-repairability means that engineering skills are lost in the hands on practical sense so young people grow up with no real ability or reason to work out why two parts interact together like two bevel gears in a gearbox or the electronic ability to build a discrete electronic circuit thereby learning the meaning of interacted components and their change upon the item they are part of. IN an upmarket US hi-fi website I post on many users have to start from scratch in learning how to correctly solder two parts together without leaving a dry-joint . I dread to think if there is a nuke war how those young people could cope with survival without looking for help .Meanwhile old guys like me die off with a mas of practical knowledge in their brains without the ability to transfer that knowledge to others in real time . Its one thing learning by reading a book its quite another doing it even learning how to use a hand file has disappeared with electric tools taking their place . Gone is the “engineering era ” now its digital “engineering ” where punching keys to design a computer program is called engineering. WE are going down a road I hope the government knows will result in an engineering illiteracy nationwide just hope nothing goes wrong in the world or we will be right up the creek in resurrecting this country you cant make an SMD printed circuit board in your shed in the garden.

I still do repairs where I can and by coincidence have used a soldering iron this evening, albeit just to reattach a wire to a circuit board. I do wish that manufacturers would stop gluing cases together because that is really the last straw when trying to do repairs.

A consequence of mass demand is for lower-cost products which inevitably leads to cheaper ways of manufacture – complex castings and injection mouldings instead of fabrication, integrated assemblies, anything that cuts down labour costs. The outcome is that more of us can afford things that we could not have years ago – cars, domestic appliances, electronic goods and toys for example.

However, those with a practical “bent” can still exercise their skills in repairing where it is still possible, in fixing those parts of their cars that don’t need special tools or diagnostics, and in making things. i get a lot of satisfaction out of making furniture, and my sons are practical.

It would be wrong to bemoan industry as lacking these demands. My sons used computer aided design to build complex laser-based machines for export (including China).

We must also hark back to the days when great skills resided in “fitters” – literally engineers and craftsmen who made things fit together because the technology at the time did not give sufficient accuracy to just assemble components. One industry that revolutionised that was the steam railway engine manufacturers, and of course automobiles. Times do change and we have to change with them. Less easy as we get older.

I think the use of 3-D copiers will revolutionise manufacturing and replacement/reconditioning of components.

I am pleased that there is still so much engineering and manufacturing industry in the UK, so much so that there are significant skill shortages in some sectors. While there has been a shift of light manufacturing to other countries, especially for domestic products [because they serve a global market and volumes are critical] , we still have important positions in aeronautics, shipbuilding, motor vehicles, military equipment, railway systems and rolling stock, motors, drives and gears, generating plant, and lots of specialist equipment for medicine, agriculture, construction and other industries. The companies that make these goods might be foreign, or foreign-owned, and in some cases the primary function is the assembly of imported parts, but engineering remains the bedrock of UK industry. Design is also one of our strengths and since design cannot be divorced from engineering if the article is to go into production – even in another country – there is a promising future.

John, the difficulty I see with 3D copiers is the limited choice of materials, which can be crucial to the satisfactory function of a spare. They can produce complex moulds from which you can make, say, aluminium casings or mouldings in a better plastic.

Does anyone know the range of materials that can be used now?

I wish I had paid more attention to a feature on our regional news programme recently about the development of prosthetic hands by using a 3D copier. It had working fingers [that is true digital technology!] and was so cheap, about £10 each, that it was economical to discard and replace to cope with growth or wear and tear, for example. It didn’t look wonderful but it was only a prototype and will no doubt be refined. The important point is the potential it represents.

Malcolm in countries still with the luxury of the heavy engineering industry fitters are still required on things like massive turbines ,ships submarines ,etc even container ships its just this country doesnt do much in that line maybe Rolls/Royce etc but if you compare the number in comparison to yesteryear or in this modern age to countries that didnt think shutting down heavy engineering was a good idea then this country is bereft in comparison. Wavechange is right all those superglued parts make it impossible to repair as well as sealed bearings as part of a moulded structure .While I agree about the costs and time to build it seems part of the “throw away ” generation 2/3 years old -replace ! .Get this years model now . They also dont last long in terms of repair-ability many good white goods end up at the municipal skip due to small non repairable parts not being held in stock for more than a few years . MY old British motorbikes held parts for decades way back in the 50/60,s because they were built in this country from scratch you could even go to a cylinder block re borer and get a reconditioned block and new piston and rings and fit it yourself. Try doing that now .

I am concerned that products should last a reasonable time, as is the EU and the European consumers umbrella group BEUC. The German consumer organisation test washing machines, for example, for many months continuously to see how long they might last in service before a breakdown.

I asked Which? about its attitude to durability, and how it proposes to use the requirement for durability that is written into legislation – the Consumer Rights Act – to help consumers get redress when a product, such as a domestic appliance, fails unreasonably early, but out of guarantee. I was very disappointed with their response:

“Re: Product Durability
At the moment ………….. it is not something that we will be doing but the Teams are aware of yours and others requests to include durability to testing. If and when it happens I will be sure to let you all know on here straight away.”

So it’s not of any importance then?

I have also asked them about sharing testing and information with other European consumer groups – surely a cost effective way to give Which?’s members more and better information? I wait for a reply.