The DIY Diaries
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The DIY Diaries


Seven Tips to Help You Start Repairing Your Things

Many people seem to accept the fact, that once one of your objects is broken, it’s lost.

They throw it away and buy a new one.

This hasn’t been like this for a very long time, and it doesn’t have to be that way in the future. It only takes a small step for you to start repairing your stuff. A lot of it is still repairable, even in this time of highly optimized and integrated objects.

Many computers can still be easily diassembled.

I put together the following tips to help you getting started with your repairs.

Tip 1: If it’s broken, it’s not trash: it’s fixable

As I mentioned in the introduction, you have to look differently at your broken objects. If you think of everything that does not work as trash, you will throw it away. If you think it just needs some love and it will work again, you will probably be right in many cases.

The next time something breaks on you, give it a second look before you throw it away. Maybe take a screwdriver or whatever is needed to inspect it and give it a go.

Don’t let yourself be deterred by the idea that it’s not fixable.

Tip 2: You can’t break it any more!

Another thing you have to do is to step over your fear of breaking your object. It is already broken! In many cases, the worst you can do is break it even more. And if you still have to throw it away after your repair attempt, it might even require less space in the bin.

In some situations, there is the possibility that someone more proficient than you could repair it, but you can’t. In this situation you have to consider if you want to try it yourself, or if you want to find someone to do it for you. If you are careful with your attempt, chances are high that you don’t break anything before you notice that the repair is too hard for you.

Tip 3: Someone already did it

There are many people out there who have already fixed the same object that just broke on you. Just search online for the name of your broken object and what you think is wrong with it. You will probably find a video of someone fixing your device or something similar. Once you can observe someone doing that, it immediately gets much easier.

One of the most important tools to use for any repair is your web browser.

Maybe you just need help taking apart your object. In that case search for your object’s name and “teardown” or “disassembly.”

Tip 4: Pictures, pictures, pictures

Often, taking something apart is easy. But when it comes to putting it back together, the parts in front of you are like a (very) hard puzzle. In the worst case, the assembly becomes impossible. Because of this, I recommend taking one or two pictures of every step. Taking pictures from different angles can give you more information as well. Take overview pictures and pictures that focus on important details such as connector orientation.

You might be surprised what information you will find in an overview picture you just took for the sake of it.

Tip 5: Search for the parts

Often, when you ask an official store for spare parts, the answer will be: “no longer available.” This happened to me many times in the past. In that situation, do not despair. There are many locations where you can get parts that are compatible with your device, but not from the original manufacturer.

Let me give you a real-life example (one I already wrote about). The battery in the following picture is from a Dyson vacuum cleaner. It is, you might have guessed it, no longer available. If you look at the right of the battery, you see the numbers 62350–44/04. This is the part number, and you can search for it on the internet. At least at the time of this writing, there were several different sources for a compatible battery.

Tip 6: Live with failure

At the repair café where I work, we have a success rate of around 70%. This is with a team of people who have years of experience. You will probably fail with some repairs as well. Do not get desperate. Some things are just really hard or impossible to fix. For some you might currently lack the skills, and for others you might just need the right idea on how to approach it.

Sometimes you will break something during your repair. Then you have to fix your mistake before you can fix the initial problem. With practice comes experience. You will have different ideas on how to fix something.

If one method does not work, you can try another one.

Tip 7: Be safe!

There is no harm trying to repair even the hardest stuff if the only thing that can go wrong is the repair itself. In contrast, when somebody could get harmed, you should think twice and evaluate whether you are skilled enough to do the repair. This can concern objects that are dangerous during the repair or things that will be dangerous when they are used by the user.

An obvious example for the first case is everything around mains voltage or higher. Working on live circuits can be extremely dangerous unless you know what you are doing. Never work on something that is plugged in. Other examples are things with dangerous chemicals or high pressure.

Things that can be dangerous once repaired are, for example, items which have some sort of safety function. An example would be a safety belt in a car, or a motorbike helmet. I would probably not try to repair these; I’m just not proficient enough with such things.

In all these cases, carefully evaluate whether your skills are on the right level.

If you are not sure, watch a video of someone does the repair and listen whether they mention something about safety. If you are still not sure, consider asking an expert — or maybe even don’t do the repair.

Bonus Tip: Get someone to do it

If all else fails, you do not feel comfortable repairing your valuable thing, or if it looks too hard, there are some chances that there is someone out there that can help you. You can ask at the store where you bought your item, look for a repair cafe, or search the internet for repair shops in your vicinity. Some things like cell phone repairs are easy to find, and others have almost gone extinct.

Only if we give the repair industry a chance, can we get it started again.


Repairing something is often just a question of trying. Many things can be fixed easily and quickly, especially if you use the internet for help. Even if you fail, you probably learned something. And if you do not want to do it yourself, there is still a chance that someone out there can help you.

If you want to read more about possible motivations for repair, have a look at another story of mine.

And don’t forget to take many pictures!



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Engineering stuff by day repairing stuff by night and writing about it