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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Why Do Companies Make Repairing Items Yourself So Difficult? And Why Are Some Items That Were Once Repairable, Not At All Repairable Now?

The spring rain barrel water from both barrels has been used up, and we are now onto using a combination of recycled kitchen water and municipal hose water. I save kitchen water from rinsing produce, dishes, and hands in a dishpan set in the sink. I directly water the garden with this water, primarily using it on areas where the hose doesn't reach easily. I have been using the sprayer on the hose to water individual vegetable garden beds. However, our garden is now so extensive, watering everything by hand, even with a sprayer, takes at least an hour each day. 

We have some older soaker hoses that were used in several ornamental beds and hedges to get those shrubs and perennials off to a good start, but really hadn't used them in recent years. So I set out to retrieve those hoses and discovered many of them had plant roots grown in through the hose itself. I tugged and pulled on ends until a couple of them simply ripped away from the anchored sections. Frustrating. I was able to salvage a couple soaker hoses using duct tape, but I lost several fittings or couplings from a couple, too. I thought Home Depot might carry repair parts, as that's where I originally bought the soaker hoses. No such luck. They did sell new soaker hoses, however. So it's not like soaker hoses are an obsolete method of watering. But no repair pieces. 

What really bothered me is this lack of an easy way to simply do my own repairs and keep the soaker hoses in operation. It reminds me of modern cars (and by modern I mean just the last 25-30 years). Who, here, remembers their dads or brothers working on their own cars, or "auto shop" as an elective in high school? I remember those things. Cars used to be repairable by the owner. Now you need a specialist to even diagnose the problem with many cars. Does anyone remember the kiosks, often in grocery stores near the front, where a vending machine sold television tubes? When the tube would go out, you would buy a replacement tube and do this simple repair yourself. Many of these 1960-era televisions were either open on the backside or had a removable panel screwed onto the back, making owner repair a do-able option. Now if your television quits, it's expected you'll dump the old set and buy a new one. 

Things made long ago lasted, not simply because they were made better, but also because they were repairable with parts readily available. 

I recently set up my sewing machine on a new-to-me sewing table. My parents gave this machine to me in 1981. It was a used and refurbished model at that time. I believe it was made in the mid-1970s, making it about 50 years old now. It's a basic machine that I've been able to maintain myself over the years. It still runs great, and I don't anticipate needing a new sewing machine in a decade, or maybe not at all. I was searching online for information about longevity of current machines. Most websites I read said some models may last 25 years, if you're lucky and you take good care of your machine. While I've been able to do all of the repairs needed on my machine, a new computerized model would require a specialized technician to complete repairs.

It just feels like so much stuff is unrepairable these days. When the plastic hanger on one of my hanging plant baskets broke, there was no way to just buy a new hanger.  I wound up using wire to secure the plastic element. And while not a beautiful repair job, it's serviceable for my needs.

Our 15 year old rechargeable lawn mower quit last summer mid-season. We still have our old push mower; but it's a chore to mow the lawn with the push mower, and we're not the spring chickens we once were. My husband contacted a small engine repair shop and they advised that we just buy a new mower. Repairing this 15 year old model wasn't feasible. It seems such a shame to trash this large item because the repairs cost more than a brand new model.

Back to the soaker hoses -- I guess I'll search Amazon for the type of repair pieces I need. I had hoped to find the couplings in a local hardware store, so I could see the pieces in person and know they were what I need. If stores like Home Depot and Ace Hardware still carry soaker hoses, and they also carry repair parts for regular hoses (different diameter hose), you would think they'd carry repair couplings for soaker hoses, too. Such a disappointment that I have to work so hard to do a basic fix on a basic garden implement.

Can you relate?

P.S. With the 2 intact soaker hoses, I was able to set up watering for 2 large vegetable beds. So my efforts weren't completely in vain. Win some, lose some.


  1. Amen, Lili! Preach it!!! DH and I talk about this all the time. Where we lived before, there was a great little hole-in-the-wall appliance parts store, which we used a lot because we had original appliances in our old house there. For a young family, it was a HUGE boon to be able to get those little parts and fittings to stretch the life of those appliances.

    We have an even older house here, and we DID find an appliance part place an hour and a half away when we needed stove parts. They HAD the part we needed, but the guy quoted us an outrageous price (don't remember what, but truly outrageous.) DH even asked him how long he thought he'd had that part on the shelf, and he said "probably decades". Then DH asked him when he thought the next person with that age stove was going to come in and buy it, and he said, "maybe a decade". It was only the fix for ONE burner, so we couldn't justify paying the price, when another burner might need the same fix any minute. So, we assume that guy still has that part, a couple of years later, and we got a whole new (used) stove for less than he wanted for the one part. Didn't make much sense to us, since at half the price (still maybe more than his 'cost'), we might have bit the bullet and bought it. It's not making him any money gathering dust for another decade on his shelf. (We weren't as impressed with this appliance place as with the one in our old town, generally, unfortunately.)

    I feel your pain on the hoses, because I broke one last month ("jogged it too hard", for any Princess Bride fans, LOL). Snapped the fitting in half. (I didn't know my own strength!) But at least DH WAS able to fix it with a new fitting. We try to fix everything, if we can. It's such a throw-away society, and a LOT of different products, we've found, tell you, "Just buy a new one." Ugh. Glad two of them worked, though! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      That must have been disappointing to find the appliance part more expensive than buying a stove. But I'm glad you found a great new-to-you stove. We used to have a good appliance part shop nearby, in fact we had two of them. The guy who ran one shop was also a good source of how-to information on making repairs. Unfortunately both shops have gone out of business. I'm not sure what we'll do the next time we need to make a washer or dryer repair, as those were the places we went for parts.

      The two working soaker hoses are better than none, as far as saving me time and some water. I'm trying to not use overhead sprinklers for the vegetable garden as a lot of water is wasted on walkways. But I'll be ordering parts soon and should have all soaker hoses working by the time the really hot weather rolls around.

  2. It is very frustrating to say the least, the throw away society we live in. I have a friend who got a 3-D printer last year, and she has used it to make pieces to repair a window and blinds because she couldn't find replacement parts. Now, a 3-D printer isn't cheap either (she also made little ghosts to pass out at Halloween that were cheaper than candy), but some libraries have them around here that you can use.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Now that's very clever, your friend with the 3-D printer. I recently read of a film and set crew that were trying to recreate a specific set for a show from the 1970s and couldn't find a specific small sculpture or likeness anywhere. They wound up using a 3-D printer to make a similar sculpture.

      My son and daughter-in-law lived in another county when they were first married and were able to use that county's public library system (a major county in our state). This library had a 3-D printer that patrons were allowed to use, up to a limit per day. The tow of them played around with the printer a little and made a few small practical things. The little ghosts your friend made for Halloween sound like another great way to use the printer. What a fun toy!

  3. So true! While not the case with your soaker hoses, I think that the advent of electronics with our appliances has been a big issue in terms of needing someone specialized to repair items. We finally replaced our washing machine (over 40 years old) earlier this year and it's super tricky to find a quality machine for a decent price--we ended up with one that features electronics. I did find a great appliance store in a neighboring town--they have the best warranty and repair policies that I could find, and the salesman was truly knowledgeable and helpful, unlike at most big box stores--so hopefully we will be ok.

    My husband replaced the turntable motor on our microwave recently. It was only 9 years old (we installed an above-the-stove model when we remodeled our kitchen) and the $40 price tag was a vast improvement over replacing the entire thing.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Our washer and dryer pair are 28 years old, still doing fine. I do realize they won't last forever, so I pay attention to what others are saying about makes and models of W/D. I was reading a thread on a budget board about best washing machines a couple of months ago. One of the brands that came up over and over was Speed Queen, the more basic model, the better. What did you find out about other brands as you were searching for your new machine? Did you buy a set or just the washer?

      I'm so glad your husband could replace the turntable motor on your microwave. I didn't even think about turntables as having motor issues. I'm old enough to remember microwaves without turntables inside. You used to have to give a dish a quarter turn every minute to cook something evenly. I suppose that would be do-able again, if the turntable motor were to go out on me. Nice to know it can be replaced.

    2. I couldn't find any consistent advice on washers, which was frustrating. I read through tons of reviews and didn't come up with anything. We ended up with an LG, which surprised me, but the guy at the appliance store (they also do repairs there) said that they have far better luck with that brand in terms of not needing to provide repairs for them. Ours is a top loader--I've read multiple reviews saying that front loaders tend to get mold in them. The way to get around that is to leave the door open, but with a cat in the house, that isn't an easy option for us. So far, so good. I love that I can wash comforters in it. I had to be careful not to get one with too deep of a tub so that I could easily reach the bottom.

      We only got the washer. Our dryer is 19 years old and while I don't love it, it still works. I think it might be drying better now because the new washer does a much better job of spinning out the water than our old one did.

    3. Hi Kris,
      That's interesting what the appliance store said about LGs. I hope it lasts many, many years for you. I've read the same thing about front loaders with the mold issue. We chose a large enough washer so I could wash quilts, but not the super large model. I'm glad for you that now your dryer seems to be working better. Maybe the new washer will help the older dryer last longer by not burning out a motor or heat element.
      Thanks for answering my questions.


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