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The most frustrating flaws in everyday products

Angry man pulling hair out

‘Tumble dryers that don’t dry your clothes’. That was recently voted as the most frustrating flaw in an everyday product as uncovered by our tests. What else is grinding your gears?

Have you got an appliance at home that isn’t up to the task? Feel like throwing your latest gizmo at a wall?

The testing we do here at Which? doesn’t just rate how well different appliances stack up against each other. We also reveal flaws with products and expose the claims that really are too good to be true.

Thanks to our latest survey, we’ve identified which of those flaws wind people up the most.

Top frustrating flaws revealed

To find out which product flaws have proven to be the most irritating, we gathered 10 examples from our tests. These included smartphones that have less accessible memory than advertised, washing machines not reaching 60˚C on the cotton 60˚C program and advertised mile per gallon figures that aren’t reproducible in real life.

We then asked more than 1,000 Which? members to rate how frustrated they were with each flaw. This gave us the following top five frustrations:

1. Automatic tumble dryers not drying clothes.
2. Apps and services like LoveFilm disappearing from smart TVs.
3. Lightbulbs not as bright as they claim (as revealed by Which? tests).
4. Bagless vacs claim no loss of suction, but our tests show they do.
5. Mile per gallon figures not matching up to real life.

Soggy surprises from your tumble dryer

Automatic tumble dryers that leave clothes wet came in at number one. For those unsure what an automatic dryer is – it’s a tumble dryer that doesn’t require you to set how long you want the dryer to heat your clothes for. Instead, you set the dryer going and a sensor inside the drum should keep an eye on moisture levels of clothes. Once it detects clothes are dry, the dryer stops. A good sensor should tailor drying times to every load.

However, our tests show that quite a lot of automatic tumble dryers we’ve tested stop prematurely, leaving clothes wet.

You can read more about the issues we’ve uncovered, who the biggest culprits are and what Which? is doing about these flaws in the September issue of Which? magazine.

But we want to hear what’s getting on your nerves. Have you got a product, appliance or gizmo that isn’t up to scratch? Or have you been affected by one of the issues above? Go on, have a rant.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

LED bulbs are often claimed to have lifetimes of up to 25 years, yet many people have found that their expensive new lamps have failed prematurely. The guarantee can be as little as two years. Any manufacturer that predicts a lifetime for a product should be obliged to guarantee it for at least half of that period.

LED bulbs have caused considerable radio interference problems, both on FM and DAB radios. There is a long running Conversation about this topic: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/led-bulb-radio-interference-dab-test/
The 12V lamps tend to cause a greater problem than mains voltage lamps. Many problems have related to cheap unbranded products sold by internet traders but even expensive lamps from respected manufacturers can cause problems. All these lamps sold to the public have to comply with regulations intended to ensure that they do not cause interference. This is a condition for using the CE mark.

I would like to use LED lamps but am not prepared to spend my money on products that may fail prematurely or cause radio interference.

Member
Grahams says:
23 August 2014

A couple of things I do not like about LED lights (Bulb type) which limit their use

1) the light produces much harder edged shadows compared to incandescent bulbs.

2) used upright in a reading light they do not provide much downward light. This is because of the large moulding above the bayonet or screw base obscures the downward light.

Would like Which to test for these ‘features’.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Many LED lamps incorporate a diffuser (e.g. bulb-shaped ones with an opal envelope), which should avoid the shadow problem.

For a reading lamp a directional LED lamp (such as used in downlighters) will give maximum light in one direction.

It’s just a case of choosing the LED light to suit what you need it to do. They will become much more versatile than incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Profile photo of DorsetMike
Member

Very pleasing effects can be obtained with LED “ropes”. These can be concealed in covings, under mantleshelves and window shelves, and concealed behind architraves in alcoves. This diffuse light eliminates unpleasant shadows.
The “designer” love of down lighters is a curse, because as previously said, they throw shadows from facial features, making the people look unhappy or even angry. An industrial study found that by incorporating uplighters into office lighting schemes, productivity increased by 25%, co-operation between people increased and friction was reduced.
We inherited down lighters in our breakfast room, where there is also a wall mounted television. I have to turn them off, if we watch TV in the evening and light the room with diffused light from under the cabinets, because the down light reflects off the back of my spectacle lenses!
All good lighting schemes incorporate diffuse background light, reflecting off wall surfaces, and task lighting, which illuminates the work surface from several down ward directions.
I recently purchased a new anglepoise desk lamp, designed to be used with a G10 LED light. The shade allows for the length of the base of the lamp so it throws a correct light beam.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Sky+ HD Box

My biggest gripe is Sky not sorting out Technical Fault 7 and recordings that are just a blue screen.

These are partly down to updates – it was Darwin a few years ago, then another one a few months ago meant all our recordings were screwed up.

The other problem is that Sky boxes cannot cope when they are nearly full.

In the Sky forums, staff try to be helpful by suggesting planner rebuilds, down to a complete reformat of the box, but this exercise is pointless. It might work again for a short time but then we are back to lost recordings and a box you cannot trust.

We record everything we want to see to watch at our convenience. It is very annoying when you lose whole series because of these problems.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

My other Sky HD gripe:

I resent half of the hard drive being reserved for what Sky think you want to watch. When are they going to stop doing this especially now there is On Demand?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I’ve a pair of lawn edging shears, by a well-known maker, that trim very neatly – until they close against something tough, like a piece of wood or a stone hidden in the edge. The blades then bend apart slightly and no longer cut. The solution is to use a hammer to bend the blades back so they shear again – until the next time. I put up with that for long enough and splashed out on a reatively expensive pair made by CK. They just look more robust and cut like a dream. Usual moral – you often get what you opay for.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Unlike all the previous Apple laptops I have owned or used, my MacBook Pro does not have a replaceable battery. With earlier models I kept a spare battery ready to slot in case I had forgotten to charge the laptop or it ran down when I was away from home.

My battery has now done 1140 cycles, which is above the maximum of 1000 cycles that Apple regard as maximum life. It’s still working fine but I’m going to have to decide what to do when it needs replacement. Although I’m competent to replace the battery and it isn’t a big job, I doubt that I will be able to buy a genuine part and have no idea whether those sold online are safe or will be reliable.

It was so much easier when swapping the battery could be done in a matter of seconds. I’m picking on a single example but there are many other manufacturers of electronic goods without replaceable batteries.

Profile photo of Dave494
Member

Automatic tumble dryers may need to be tweaked by changing the default settings to match your water hardness and drying preference. When I first got my Miele tumble dryer, I had to change the factory settings (explained in the back pages of the instruction book) and since doing that everything dries perfectly. It’s also worth pointing out that, strangely, warm clothes from the tumble dryer may feel damp at first – it’s only after cooling down do they feel dry.

Profile photo of Dave494
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On a different subject now, I think that dishwashers and most dishwasher detergents are flawed…

Having used several dishwashers over the years, it seems that none of them can clean small or narrow items placed right into the corners. Items like tumblers have to be placed at least 2 inches from the very corners, otherwise they collect “bits” and have to be washed again. I think Which? should test for this (narrow items placed into the corners) and deduct points on dishwashers which fail this basic test (maybe give this test a name like “the corners test”).

Why don’t dishwashers dry perfectly first time? This is another annoyance and the only workarounds involve upping the rinse aid setting and leaving the door ajar after the dishwasher has finished and even then a tea-towel is still needed on the odd item. Why not have everything bone dry at the end of the cycle to put away – surely that’s the whole point of the drying phase?

Dishwasher tablets/powder detergents are very bad because they are too abrasive (takes the print off items like glass measuring jugs) and the hard tablets don’t dissolve on quick cycles, leaving white “bits” on everything. I have permanently switched to Fairy Platinum and I never have any problems with undissolved detergent and Fairy Platinum is not abrasive, so nothing gets abraded and everything feels smoother – hard tablets made most things e.g. glass tumblers feel rough, as if they had “bits” on them.

Yes, dishwashers and hard detergents have annoying flaws!

Member
Chris says:
25 August 2014

We upgraded to a Siemens dishwasher 5 or 6 years ago and its drying capabilities are poor. It retains a lot of water in the bottom (and some in the top) arm after the washing cycle has finished so this water finds its way on to the upturned bases of tumblers and mugs during the drying cycle. Metal pans and trays are always wet after both cycles are finished.
Our previous dishwasher was a Hotpoint which had a long heating element below the lower rack. This dried everything in the appliance very effectively – but it was almost certainly a source of high power consumption.

Profile photo of DorsetMike
Member

My biggest gripe is good products which break because a plastic component breaks. You can never get a spare to replace it. In many cases, the wrong plastic has been used, or perhaps it should have been made out of metal.
I have thrown away 2 good products this month because of a broken plastic component worth about 50p.

My other gripe is where a product can’t be taken apart without destroying it and is therefore unrepairable OR spares are available but you have to buy a whole assembly costing £100, when the bit that broke probably cost the manufacturer £1 (or £4 to us at inflated spares pricing)!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As someone who tries to repair things when they break it is very frustrating not to be able to take them apart. I can cope with security screws but not plastic cases that are glued or welded together.

It has been suggested that we may in future be able to make our own replacement parts with 3D printers. I think it is very unlikely that home printers could handle they types of plastics needed but commercial 3D printers might be able to do this.

Profile photo of jak
Member

Anything with a clock – CH timers, cookers, alarm clocks – should either have a one touch button for switching between GMT and BST or have. a date facility so that it can be done automatically.

Member
Denis says:
23 August 2014

How come James Dyson (who is proud to boast of his team of 1500 young designers) can’t produces an upright vacuum cleaner which doesnt fall over when the hose is extended when cleaning a flight of stairs? or use the hand tools off the machine.h

Other than this problem, I think the his latest machines are a big improvement over the earlier models , such as tools that click on to the nozzle

Member
EA5SX says:
23 August 2014

I just (Jan. 2014) bought a DYSON cordless vacuum cleaner but it lasted only about a month when it failed and would not charge. My local shop here in Javea, Spain sent it away and I received a replacement battery under warranty. Then a couple of months later it failed to charge again and this time I took cleaner and charger to the shop. They sent it away and I received back my cleaner with a new battery and, I think charger was also changed.

Now after about one week it failed again! Knowing how I would deal with the problem in the UK I would have told the shop that the goods were “Not for the purpose for which they were intended” and I demanded a refund. This was not forthcoming in Spain until I spoke to the MD of the shop and pointed out that he was about to loose a loyal customer who wished to buy a washing machine and a different make of vacuum clener. I was refunded the cost of the Dyson towards the washing machine All sorts of rules were given to us about what we should not use the Dyson for so that in the end it was a waste of space.

About 15 years ago my daughter came out from the UK and happened to metnion that she was going to buy a vacuum cleaner. We gave her our upright Dyson to take back to the UK with pleasure. This was an excellent cleaner! So why did we give it away? The answer is simple; our floors are ceramic tiles and the Dyson blew away the dust in front of the cleaner itself so the bag never needed emptying. Perhaps DYSON shopuld make this claim as a good “Sales point” !!!

Don’t talk to me about Dyson, clever though Sir may be!

Profile photo of DorsetMike
Member

I have a fairly new Dyson DC50 Animal. I didn’t realise how short the attachment hose was, until I tried the stairs. You have to carry it in one hand (7.5kg) and do the stairs with the other. It needs an extension hose.
The dust hopper is so small that it needs shaking hard to empty it plus scraping the fluff out with a stick. In the process everything is covered in dust; fortunately, I compost the vacuumings , so it only gets blown away by the wind!
The crevice tool has sprouted an attached brush and is shorter, so it won’t go in crevices anymore! When is Dyson going to give us a crevice tool that will go between the (freestanding) fridge and the washing machine. ie. 600mm long and 20mm wide.
We could also do with an adjustable angle attachment so we can vacuum the top of cupboards etc.

Profile photo of wavechange
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As an asthmatic I prefer to collect dust in a nice self-sealing bag I can pop in the bin. I don’t notice much loss in suction and can always turn up the motor speed if needed. I will deny myself the privilege of seeing a container of dust and the fun of emptying it.

Member
Jeffereis says:
11 April 2017

,,My dayson has stopped working, and I also live in Javea, could you please tell me the name of the shop you took yours to to be repaired. Thank you

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Microwave Light Bulbs

They only seem to last about 6 months and are impossible to replace.

Why can’t manufacturers put light bulbs behind a separate accessible door so we can change them easily?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree. I had to dismantle my microwave oven and do a soldering job to replace the light bulb.

Hopefully new microwaves come with LED bulbs that will last the life of the appliance.

Member
Denis says:
23 August 2014

Also can,t they do tghe same for oven lights?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Oven lights operate at high temperature, so an LED lamp would not be suitable as a direct replacement. One solution might be to have the LED away from the heat and use fibre optics (glass not plastic) to transfer the light to where it is needed.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

We mustn’t get too hung up on new technologies – old ones can still have their place. Long life robust filament lamps give a reliable and low-cost light source for a number of situations – including ovens. Efficiency is not an issue. I’ve never had to replace one, but mine is easy to get to – as I’ve found when cleaning the cover glass.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I agree Malcolm. I was simply answering Denis’s question.

Some oven lamps are easy to replace and others are not. On some ovens the bayonet-fitting glass covers break frequently, presumably as a result of heating and cooling. If manufacturers cannot be relied on to use traditional lighting well, maybe there is a reason for going for newer technology.

Profile photo of stevegs
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My Sharp microwave has been going strong (including its internal lamps) since new, in 1984. Yes – I did have one lamp go fut fairly early on (it has two). Fortunately I got a spare under guarantee.

Solution – wire them both in series, so each only sees 120V. A 10% reduction in voltage more-or-less doubles tungsten lamp life, so these will probably outlive the magnetron. Yes, they are a bit dim, but quite bright enough for the purpose.

Member

That’s interesting, I’ve never had a light bulb ‘go’ on a microwave and didn’t even realise they did! My current microwave is over 14 years old and I’ve never had to replace anything, touchwood.

Member
Barbara says:
5 September 2014

I have never had a light bulb go in my microwave either.

Member

I bought a Bosch Combitrim to replace my old Flymo trimmer/strimmer which was on its last legs. The Bosch will trim but when the head is twisted to do lawn edges the angle of the head is such that I have to bend almost double to get it in a position to work. It also requires me to change the nylon between string and edge trim. I gave up after 3 attempts and am back to the old (8 yrs +) flymo which works a treat. I should have gone for another Flymo.
Has anyone found a good edge and trim machine?

Profile photo of John Ward
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Yes. It’s a pair of Draper grass shears and a sturdy edging iron. I got fed up with all the fiddling about with electric strimmers, running out of strimming line and the cassettes getting jammed. I am also firmly against noisy gardening so, apart from the not-too-noisy mower, I don’t use any power tools. Admittedly I have to crawl along on my knees to do the job but the results are superior. Doing it manually is quite quick along the patio pavement and it is much less destructive along the side of the flower beds and around trees and shrubs. Getting closer to the ground also means I can spot and deal with other weed and plant problems at the same time.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I agree with John. I bought a fancy auto-feed strimmer and edging tool many years ago, but it made a proper mess of the edges and a noise like a demented bee. I soon switched back to long-handled edging shears. They do a much better and quieter job.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I agree with wavechange (and John)! Strimmers wreck the look of grass. Use a good quality half moon edging spade (against a board for straight lines) and move the earth away from the edge to form a gutter. That makes cutting the grass edge in future a doddle. But buy quality tools – on heavy ground you put quite quite a bit of off-centre force on the half-moon where it joins the handle – I’ve broken 3. The blades on cheaper edging shears can bend apart if they catch a stone or twig and then won’t cut properly. Good ones should last a lifetime; my latest are CK Legend and look solid – time will tell.

Why are TV and DVD remote controls so complicated? I’d like to see all the buttons you use normally larger and grouped together in a standard layout – the “i” button on my tv remote is amongst 20 others. After not using a DVD player for a year (and not bothering to look for the instructions) it took a good 15 minutes to work out how to play a DVD on the attached tv. I should have sent for my grandson.

Member
Victoria Sutherland says:
23 August 2014

My main irritation is with Skype. I signed up with them paying £11.50 per month for calls I wish to make to family abroad.
Due to one Direct debit payment being rejected but honoured on the second attempt my account has been blocked.
Not only do Skype continue to take direct debit payments – I now have a credit of nearly £100 – I dare not cancel my Direct debit payment as it seems that this is what triggers the suspention.
E-mails and attempts to unblock my account result in a request to contact my “Administrator”. This is someone I have never heard of and asking Skype who this might be and how do I contact him/her results in no reply.
Looking at the Skype Forum this is a problem many people have and getting the money back from Skype is impossible..
So they have my money and I have no way of using their service.
Its a disgrace

Member

I don’t understand why you are paying anything for Skype, I though the whole ponit was that it’s free. We use it with friends in France and we’ve never had to pay.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

It’s free if the other person has Skype on the internet.

But you can also use your PC to to make cheap phone calls through Skype.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

I made a one-off payment of £10 to make Skype calls abroad and no more money has been taken from my account.
Is it possible to get Skype to change your account so you only top it up when you want to?

Member
Jane says:
23 August 2014

My gripe: being unable to open a link – usually from Which? Update that is in my email on my Ipad .

Profile photo of wavechange
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I expect that you just need to correct your settings. Either find the correct settings or copy them from your computer or phone. I don’t have any problem with links on my iPad, nor do my friends and family.

Member
Janey B. says:
23 August 2014

Rubbish plastic parts in expensive fridges and freezers. We now have 4 parts of our fridge freezer that are cracked/broken, i.e. drawers, door shelves, salad compartment. When I’ve looked at replacing them the cost is horrendous and they will probably still be the same fragile and brittle plastic.

Profile photo of alfa
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Jane, I agree with you.

£30 to replace a cracked Bosch salad drawer is too much.

Our F/F has 2 salad drawers, 4 freezer drawers and 5 door drawers.

6 x £30 =£180 + maybe £10 each for the door drawers = around £230 if I wanted to replace all the drawers.

This is quite ridiculous on an item that cost just over £300.

When are manufacturers going to sell spares at reasonable prices?

Member
Janey B says:
24 August 2014

Perhaps Which should take up the cause!

Profile photo of DorsetMike
Member

I have a broken fridge door shelf and a cracked freezer drawer. Both have been repaired with 3M Outdoor duct tape, which is more waterproof than ordinary duct tape. It is also holding together the stand under my 220 litre water butt. Ok it doesn’t look stylish, but the products still function!

Member
Janet B says:
25 August 2014

Yes my fridge is held together with tape too. Thought I’d check out cost of making the salad drawer a bit more secure and they want £50! I’ll just renew the the tape I think!

Member
Nicola B says:
25 September 2014

I have a very expensive fridge freezer in which the some of the lights have stopped working. I have bought the very expensive replacement light bulbs which are virtually impossible to fit because you have to remove most of the infrastructure to support the drawers in order to be able to access the bulb. When I eventually worked out how to remove all the drawers to be able to get the old bulb out and struggle to screw in the new one because even my very small hands can hardly fit into the space, the new bulbs do not work. Have tried other new bulbs several times it is definitely not the bulbs which are faulty so there is something wrong with the light fitting or wiring inside the fridge which means I have to call out a service engineer just to replace a light bulb. I gave up some time ago. It is pointless designing things in such a way that it is almost impossible to replace parts and bulbs, or is that just another part of our disposable society? Are we supposed to throw it away and buy a new one?

Profile photo of jak
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Nicola – from your description I’d look at the switch that turns the light on and off when you open the door. Of course, this might be an even more difficult part to access than the light bulbs. I agree that things like this should be made easy to repair.

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You can’t get much simpler than an electric kettle, so you would think they’d have perfected them by now. So why is it that some only have a water gauge on one side? The lid won’t open fully on others, making them difficult to fill. Some have such a small lid you can’t get your hand through to clean inside. The list is endless, and no one kettle is free of all these annoyances.

Many have a toggle switch at the bottom, which is always down for ON. If this gets brushed accidentally, the kettle will switch on and might boil dry if you don’t notice – much safer to have UP for ON.

The automatic switch-off often takes ages to actuate – and sometimes never does. There’s a good reason for this: they all have a bi-metal disc that snaps over when it gets hot and is supposed to push off the switch. If the switch is at the bottom, so is the disc. There is an internal pipe to guide steam down to the disc. Unfortunately, steam rises(!) so it has to boil for ages until sufficient vapour pressure forces the required amount of steam down the pipe.

This is simple physics – not rocket science, so why haven’t manufacturers learnt how to make them properly by now?

Profile photo of DorsetMike
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The old Russell Hobbs electric kettles had a small screw, which enabled you to adjust the sensitivity of the automatic switch off. This is necessary, because the bi-metallic strip gets some permanent set over time, and needs readjusting. However about 10 years ago this useful feature disappeared.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Steve GS – You mention that some kettles only have a water gauge on one side. Since leakage at the water gauge is a very common problem with kettles, adding a second gauge could make them even less reliable. 🙁

Modern automatic kettles have a filter to remove limescale. These filters are often removed when they get blocked, but that cuts down the amount of steam passing down the tube to operate the switch off mechanism. Kettles need the filter (and lid) in place to switch off promptly.

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One annoyance that applies to a whole range of products is the little rubber feet that so many of them sit on can come off when you move them. This means they tend to get lost and you end up with a wobbly product. The best solution I’ve found is to make a replacement foot with Sugru.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At one time it was difficult to get hold of replacement feet but self-adhesive feet are readily available from hardware shops etc. Replacement feet for Apple laptops are expensive even by Apple standards but my MacBook Pro has a couple of stick-on felt pads that work perfectly as feet. I think they came from Lidl.

Thanks for mentioning Sugru, Dave. I’m sure I can find a use for something like that.

Member
From major appliances to ....... floor wipes says:
24 August 2014

I have yet to find a satisfactory size floor wipe. Even if the packet is marked Large Floor Wipes, the wipe does not fit round an oblong sponge mop in an operable position and in use crinkles itself into a useless ball that you cannot unravel except by hand, and probably need to extricate another floor wipe from the packet. Grrr!!!

Member
Paul says:
25 August 2014

I can’t see anyone mentioning Apple USB charging wires. These seem to break constantly. How frustrating to have a lovely shiny iPad and/or iPhone then not be able to charge it. All chargers break soon after purchase. One’s brought from ebay/amazon fail the iOS7 update. Really really annoying. Never before has i know a charger wire to break. Why must they make them so cheaply and sell them for such a high price on Apple store?

Profile photo of wavechange
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You are absolutely right that the charging cables for Apple products are fragile, and there is plenty of feedback about this on the Apple website and elsewhere.

If you recognise the weakness and handle the connectors very carefully they will survive years of use. Try this and you will see what I mean. We all know that glass has to be handled more carefully than wood, and until Apple gets its act together we have to handle their cables gently.

Member
Alan A says:
19 September 2014

I know what you mean about Apple cables – it happens on their laptop cables too (where it goes into the power block). However, I have a solution. Take a look at sugru.com. This stuff is useful for fixing all sorts of things – its like a putty and once you take it out of the packet it air hardens into rubber overnight. So many people us it to extend the life of Apple cables they even show it on their packaging. You can buy it on the website and from Amazon.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Most modern appliances have some form of strain relief to ensure that the cables do not bend at a sharp angle near the ends. As you say, Sugru will extend the life of cables showing signs of damage, but it is probably not flexible enough to avoid creating another vulnerable point further along the cable.

This problem has been clear for years and I am surprised that Apple have not changed the design to make their cables more durable.

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I have an iPad 3, had it for 3/4 years. Can’t believe how many charging cables I have got through. Apple have given me a replacement twice but don’t think they’ll do it again. What is really annoying is that Comet used to sell the genuine Apple cable for a fiver. When I found this they only had one in stock – then they went bust grrrrrrrrrr

Member
Martin S says:
25 August 2014

I) Why can’t there be a universal socket on mobile phones for connecting to a charging unit?
ii) I have a Kenwood Mixer and the bowl cracked. Why is the plastic so brittle and why is a
replacement so expensive?
iii) Why do some items with excellent durability (and worth a mention to Which) have to be thrown
away because the manufacturer has ‘discontinued’ spare parts for it?

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Mobile phones have a common charger socket – it is a new EU regulation, but I’m not sure when it comes in. It is a USB C? connector. That is all except the i-phone because Apple like to make it difficult for you. However the i-phone has a wire to enable you to connect to a USB-A socket on a computer. The USB-A will fit an Android charger, which is how I suppose Apple intend to get round the EU regulation. Anyone know when the regulation takes effect.

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i) There are moves to standardise the sockets on mobile phones. What we are likely to land up with is a socket where the plug fits in only one way round. 🙁

ii) If the Kenwood bowl is transparent plastic, the problem is that clear plastics don’t have very good properties and are used only because you can see through them. Most spare parts are expensive, if they are available at all. At least Kenwood do have some mixers with metal bowls.

iii) There is no requirement to keep spare parts, so we throw out (hopefully recycle) a huge amount of household goods, even large items like washing machines and central heating boilers. Perhaps manufacturers should be obliged to maintain spares or to ensure that this is delegated to another supplier.

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The strongest clear plastic is polycarbonate, which is used for headlamp clusters on modern cars, spectacle lenses and safety goggles. It was also used as side windows in army landrovers, because a one inch thickness will stop a rifle bullet. I tested an experimental ink reservoir for a printing machine and was unable to smash it with a 1lb hammer!
It is however relatively expensive and large components get progressively harder to mould.
There is also PET, used in flexible grades for fizzy drink bottles, but has also been used for (up to pint size) glasses for pool bars and rough pubs where broken glass would be a danger to the general public.
So why don’t the manufacturers use Polycarbonate or PET? a) It would put up the price of your domestic appliance and b) They want you to buy a new one! and c) They don’t give a monkey’s cuss for the environment, unless they have to comply with legislation!

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At one time, polycarbonate was very expensive and used only for specialist products but now polycarbonate ‘glasses’ are used in pubs if there is a football match on. Unless it would be stained or damaged by certain foods (it’s rather chemically reactive compared with some plastics) I can see no reason why it is not used for bowls for food mixers and many other domestic products. It’s amazing stuff.

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Polycarbonate is not particularly expensive – it is widely used in street lights as clear covers to withstand vandalism, but it is relatively soft, like PET, and will scratch. I would choose stainless steel anytime for a mixing bowl for a Kenwood (type) mixer.

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I agree that a stainless steel bowl would be ideal for the bowl of a food mixer but maybe not for a food processor, where the chamber is enclosed and you really need to see what is going on. I’m surprised how much long my Kenwood food processor has lasted.

I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned exploding washing machine doors yet. If I was buying a new washing machine I would be quite interested in having one without a window in the door.

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Our first liquidiser had a glass jug. Our current Bosch food processor/liquidiser is clear plastic, probably ABS which is glass-clear and has reasonable impact resistance and toughness – as well as being less expensive than PC. Not as tough though – a small tongue protruding from the main bowl lid trips a switch in the motor housing and has a bit broken off – if the rest goes the machine won’t work – then I’ll find out how much a replacement will cost! So another frustration is why a machine is totally dependent upon such a small vulnerable part.

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Which? I see the makings of a Which campaign in this thread. We want regulations on the availability and price of spares. I suggest: All separate parts to be available as spares for a reasonable lifetime (with provision for the minister to state what this should be). The mark up on spares to be less than 250% of the cost of the spare to the manufacturer. For any part not available or not meeting the cost rules, drawings must be made available on line, so that parts may be made by 3rd parties, who would be protected from any patent or copyright issues.
With this legislation in place, we should see the emergence of online spares manufacturers using additive manufacturing (3 D printing) techniques.

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I agree that we should be pushing for spares to be available for a reasonable length of time but wonder if this is more likely to be achieved via EU legislation. Not everyone sees the benefits of EU legislation to benefit the environment but making spares available long term could help convince more people of its value.

I expect that manufacturers would claim that the cost of spares has to be high but I believe the number of spares involved could be greatly reduced if they did not make so many trivial changes to their products.

Your aims are ambitious DorsetMike, but thats the way we need to be thinking.

Member
CarolineMouse says:
25 August 2014

I agree with wavechan and dorsetmike I have repaired several parts in my fridges with tape rather than pay the exorbitant costs of each item . Standardisation of parts like these would make them much cheaper for both the manufacturer and customer.
What about products that end their lives back with the manufacturer to be reused/recycled making them the responsibility of the manufacturer, would they not then think more carefully about these issues?

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We have a Neff dishwasher that requires a new microfilter This is of (deliberate) poor construction including a strip of plastic to hold the stainless steel filter in the shape of a cylinder The microfilter is not currently available without having to buy another filter which is of good construction and does not wear out and is therefore completely unnecessary.Total cost £25.I regard this as fraudulent trading. How do we stop it? ( I understand that some Siemans dishwashers also suffer from this very same built in wear out defect).Anybody know how to repair this microfilter?

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A way that we can stop the abuse is for Which? in its test results to note that bad design, which members have noted, that is still present in newer models, is commented on and marked down in the test results. Ideally, the suspect components should be subjected to accelerated testing to see if they fail.
It is apparent that many manufacturers no longer test their components to destruction or to survive 7 million cycles of load / unload. This was normal in the 1960s in the aftermath of the Comet air disasters, which were due to fatigue failure. Plastics however do not fail in the same way, they creep, lose plasticiser, go brittle and break.
Come on Which?. Show some initiative, link tests on new products with “old” components to failures in previous designs. We might then get some action from manufacturers.

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I agree that it would be good to know more about poor design and anything that will affect the durability of products. Failure of plastics for the reasons you have indicated is a major issue, but it’s difficult to accelerate this to estimate how long plastic components will last.

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A good product designer would be able to spot a poor choice of materials. This is exactly where Which could add value compared to user reviews; most users would not have the expertise to identify different polymers and assess their suitability.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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jak, exactly right. Most products are designed using existing materials and manufacturing methods with known characteristics. There is no excuse for early failure of plastics in fridge-freezers, inadequate strength of components, for example. However, the effect of poor design in practice often takes time to reveal itself and may not be apparent when the product is brand new. This is perhaps where the wide membership of Which? could help by reporting problems that have arisen in normal use. If they were encouraged to report defects that arise in fridge fittings, as an example, warnings might be given of the likelihood of similar defects in new versions; just asking the manufacturer whether they have made any changes might help?
To make this manageable, in view of the large number of products Which? review, it would need to concentrate, I suspect, on the key offenders. Perhaps we could suggest them?

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Agreed. So how about a longitudinal tracking survey of (say) 1000 Which member households over a few years. Every time a premature product failure occurred, people would register all details. A Which expert would attempt to diagnose the reason for failure and over time a comprehensive picture would emerge. Funding might even be available from WRAP as there’s a political will to reduce scrappage and landfill.

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I think there is a lot we can agree on here. Looking at the choice of plastic, quality of moulding and suitability of design of components is useful and can reveal potential weaknesses. One complication is the considerable variation between batches and that can significantly affect useful life. The effect of poor quality control is more difficult to predict.

Member
Janey B says:
27 August 2014

I think that’s a great idea Jak. Alternatively of course Which could just do a survey of readers to find out how long plastic components have lasted and the makes. That should throw up some very interesting patterns.

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Quality control tends to go with brand to some extent. Plastic components are very sensitive to moulding cycles ie. temperature of injection, mould temperature, mould cooling, dwell time etc. This is where good process control comes in.

Member
Martin S says:
27 August 2014

I seem to have struck a nerve about (particularly) spare parts. I’m so glad I’m not alone! Regarding the surveys, I think it would be a stronger case if Which was to ask all its members to notify them when such a problem occurred. My thinking is that it is possible that having more than just a selected few might mean more products are reported.

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I like the idea of all which members having the opportunity to report problems with either Components breaking and no spares available; very expensive spares OR items which can not be repaired, because of their method of construction.

The downsides are that Which may be unable to handle the volume of data and they won’t get any positive feedback (Who is going to take the trouble to report that their Gizmo is 20 years old, has been immersed in salt water and still works perfectly!) Also of course from a statistical point of view it is all “anecdotal evidence”. which is less significant than results or non-results from a survey.

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Regarding volume of data, there’s space for creativity here. For example, Which could try a form of member assisted project – a bit like crowdsourcing or citizen science – where members get involved in collating or analyzing results. (Think of the RSPB’s garden watch project). Granted, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone but it would only take a few people to get it off the ground. One thing I’ve noticed in Conversations is that there are some real experts around – an untapped resource in my view.

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When it comes to expensive spare parts and/or parts that cannot be repaired the name “Karcher” comes to mind. They use a lot of plastic which is clearly barely coping with the pressure. Don’t do unnecessary jobs with your pressure washer!

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Member

I once wrote to Karcher after a plastic component had failed when my pressure washer was out of warranty but had seen little use. I pointed out that the choice of plastic was poor and noted that their later designs used a more suitable type of plastic for the job. A replacement part arrived by First Class post.

All the Karcher pressure washers I’ve used have suffered premature failures for one reason or other. My present one has bits of springy copper strip instead of a proper pressure switch. My neighbour’s Karcher has the same leakage problem that the previous one did.

Other brands I have tried are not nearly so good at cleaning. As you say, use it as little as possible.

Member
Margaret says:
31 August 2014

Small items enclosed in welded plastic are a pain. Almost impossible to access the goods without risking cuts to your hands.

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Profile photo of malcolm r
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The location of the CAPS key on my PC being close to the shift key – I use the left hand one as I am cack handed. The number of times I am merrily typing away, only to become aware of an inadvertent chANGE OF CASe.

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I sometimes have that problem too – I thought it was because I learned to type on an upright grand office typewriter where the Shift and Shift Lock [CAPS] keys were always [and only] on the left-hand side. It was years before I realised that on a computer keyboard there was another Shift key on the right-hand side underneath the Return key. I very quickly got out of the habit of hitting the [Carriage] Return key at the end of each line but I still instinctively use the left-hand Shift key. Of course, on the old typewriters there was quite a steep rake on the keyboard so the vertical separation of the rows of keys obviated any miss-hitting. A little tip: In a Word document, block [select] the text in the wrong case and type Shift+F3 to change from upper case to lower case or to initial caps [unfortunately it doesn’t work in documents like this and in e-mails but I bet Wavechange knows a way of doing it!].

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

John – We are using different software – I am a Mac user – but in my browser (Safari) and email software (Outlook), selected text can be set to upper case, lower case or words capitalised using Edit > Transformations and choosing one of the three options.

I’m a touch typist and look at the screen all the time, so if I’m typing in the wrong case I would know immediately.

Sorry for taking six months to reply.

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You might be interested in our latest debate on difficult to use products. We’ve started it here right here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/difficult-to-use-products/

Member
Nicola B says:
25 September 2014

My wing mirror was hit by a white van travelling at high speed in the opposite direction. The mirror subsequently fell out of the casing and on investigation one of two plastic clips that hold the piece of mirror in place inside the wing mirror itself had been broken. Unfortunately the bit that had broken off had disappeared so I could not simply glue it back into place. When I went to see Lexus for the replacement plastic clip no more than 1cm square they told me that they could not sell me one because they only receive whole wing mirrors and none of the actual parts that make up the wing mirror are sold separately. At £600 plus VAT I declined and my builder has effected a makeshift solution and the mirror has remained in place so far. How ridiculous and how wasteful.

Member
L Rough says:
29 September 2014

Failed glass light cover in Bosch double oven. This oven is 4 years old and 3 times the glass bulb cover in the top oven/grill has broken, shearing right off and leaving shards that are impossible to remove. Call out to Bosch and new cover £117! Old removal tool doesn’t work on new shape bulbs. Bosch paid once as a ‘goodwill’ but won’t agree that item is clearly not fit for purpose. It is dangerous and a very poor item that is very difficult to remove to clean.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have seen the same problem on another make of oven, though I cannot remember which brand. No tool was needed to remove the lamp and it was very easy to remove the broken glass. What I remember was the high cost of the new cover.

On the other hand, the lamp cover on my ancient Belling oven is easy to remove and has never broken after many years of use. I would like to know why manufacturers introduce new designs when older ones work perfectly well.