/ Shopping, Technology

Product flaws: plastic parts, spares and charging cables

A broken red apple

Our ‘top five product flaws’ debate inspired loads of you to share your own product flaws. From delicate USB charging cables to rubbish plastic parts that are expensive to replace – what flaws drive you spare?

Paul isn’t happy with his Apple charging cables:

‘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 my chargers break soon after purchase. Really, really annoying.’

Alfa’s fed up with microwave light bulbs:

‘They only seem to last about six months and are impossible to replace. Why can’t manufacturers put light bulbs behind a separate accessible door so we can change them easily?’

Flimsy plastic parts

Janey B can’t stand rubbish plastic parts in expensive fridges and freezers:

‘We now have four parts of our fridge freezer that are cracked/broken, ie 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.’

It’s a similar story for my own fridge freezer at home – the plastic parts that hold up the glass drawers are bust, meaning I’ve had to prop them up with coke bottles. Janey and I aren’t alone – here’s DorsetMilk:

‘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!’

Here’s Janey again, who’s also taped up her fridge:

‘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!’

Finally, DorsetMilk sums up the feeling on cheap plastic components:

‘My biggest gripe is good products that 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 two good products this month because of a broken plastic component worth about 50p.’

Have you ever had cheap plastic components break in a product you own? Did you struggle to get a replacement spare part? Or did the spare cost so much that you were driven to patch it up with tape?


I was going to buy an iPod until I saw so many forum subscribers complaining about faulty charger plugs and leads It seems to be a very widespread problem so I decided to stick with the old one.

There is no doubt that the leads are fragile but if you handle them carefully rather than yank them out they will probably last for years.

One small reason that makers sell products with expensive spares is because Which? rarely consider this. Take Panasonic bread makers – top rated models by Which? for some years. But if you use it frequently with wholemeal flour then the non-stick coating wears off the paddle and bowl. The thieves at Panasonic charge vastly more than competitors for equivalent parts, to the point that it is often more sensible to buy a whole new breadmaker. Likewise my Philips hand blender needs a new chopper bowl, but that will cost £16 compared to buying a whole new Bosch blender for £22.

There’s some companies are really good on spares availability, spares and service cost – Bosch and Makita come to mind. About time Which? took a good look at spare parts costs and the issue of forced obsolescence. Maybe you could take some time out from endless whining about energy companies?

The circuit board in our Bosch washing machine cost about 2/3rds of the price of the washing machine to replace 2 weeks after the guarantee ran out. The washing machine had hot and cold fill and rinsed better than the new ones on the market so we paid for the repair.

When Which? review products they should look at the cost of spare parts. If the cost of them is not in proportion with the rest of the product they should be considerably marked down.

Regarding the Bosch motherboard perhaps Which? should consider the parts cost pan-EU as I would be prepared to take odds on there being a appreciable difference in price.

A quick sample of the cost in say the German and Spanish markets would be illuminating and for an hours work well worth the effort. It is just possible that unsung the EU have already addressed the issue ……..

dieseltaylor, I totally agree with you. We do get ripped off in the UK.

When I needed a new graphics card for my old XP computer, I got it from Germany as it was a lot cheaper than getting it from the UK even with the extra shipping cost.

Hi alfa,

Thanks for your suggestion. I will pass this on to our Washing Machine expert as something to look to include.

I would like to see a big “S” and a big “C” on shampoos and conditioners.

The words are impossible to read in the shower when you are short sighted.

Perhaps embossed on so it works with your eyes shut.?

Which makes me wonder if for the seriously poorly sighted they already have a system or do they get it decanted into differnt containers?

A quick check on my wife’s range of P&G ‘s Head and Shoulders products reveals nothing that would be of any benefit to the blind or very shortsighted.

dieseltaylor, I am short-sighted not blind.

Head & Shoulders has blue writing on a white background so I could distinguish between them.

Many shampoos and conditioners have writing and background that merge together and are impossible to tell apart.

I don’t go through the rigmarole of putting the shampoo on the right for nothing.

Just checked on the shampoos and conditioners in our bathroom and lack of distinction must be a big problem for the blind. None of them have braille on them and both in the same brand are the same size and shape.

I stock up on durable products when they are on offer. I have just discovered that several months ago I bought two 400ml bottles of conditioner, thinking I was buying shampoo. I did not discover my mistake until I tried to wash my hair using conditioner. 🙁

Maybe it is convenient to use the same design of bottles for shampoo and conditioner, but there should be a conspicuous difference to help those with poor sight – and people like me that can be a bit careless occasionally.

. . . and there are a lot of daft people like me who stupidly take off their glasses when about to wash their hair.

I’m glad there are other folk with the same problem !!. I thought it was me getting old (now 70) so I purchased 2 x containers that fix to your wall in the shower and is pump action (which is better for my wife’s deformed hands also) and my wife (an artist) painted whats in them on the container.

But now we need another for body shampoo (I’m sure all the stuff in them is the same ???)

So another research for you ‘Which’ and thank you for all your advice you have given me over the years and saved me loads of money, buying the ‘Best Buy’.