Jul 22, 2013

The $1 fix

I've got remote-controlled electric shutters at home. Very nice.

I've got kids too, who love to play with remote controls (read: throw, smash, stomp, lose, etc). Very nice too, in their opinion at least.

And so, here I am with two broken remote controls and thus, two shutters that I can't close. All right, no biggie: let's get in touch with a couple of resellers, ask them for a quote on two new remote controls. Problem solved.

Nope. The answer, after a couple of weeks "because the manufacturer is slow to answer" (yeah, right): "each remote control is unique and it's matched to the receiver inside the shutter. You have to change both the remote control and the receiver. About 200 euros for one shutter (about $260)".


Option 1: "thank you for your kind answer, please steal my money, thank you"
Option 2: sell my kids on Ebay for 400 euros (tempting)
Option 3: "GFY, you thief. I'm fixing it myself"

Option 3, then. I've got a degree in Electrical Engineering, how hard can it be? Let's take the remote controls apart and figure it out. Ah ah, same problem on both: one component has broken loose from the PCB. Looks like a large condenser, but maybe not. Unfortunately, it can't be soldered back on, because the pins are super short and have broken at the base of the component. I need to find replacement parts.

Hmm. The only hint is a cryptic "1000J" printed on the component. Googling it reveals nothing. Neither do a number of searches on remote controls for my brand of shutters. Ah, the loneliness of the long distance family man...

Think, think, think. What is this thing you're trying to fix. A... ? A ... remote control. Which means it's sending a radio signal. And so, according to vague memories from the last century, it has to have some kind of resonator / oscillator, which when broken would prevent the remote control from working. And since everything else on the PCB is either a passive component or an IC, this must be it.

Ah, the sweet taste of adrenaline! Quick, let's ask Google a better question, tweak the results a bit and... yes, victory !This nasty little fellow is a CSBF1000J 1MHz resonator, manufactured by Murata. Easily found on Ebay. Received in 72 hours (German sellers: can't beat them). Soldered in 1 minute. 

Problem fixed for a mighty 0.70 euro a pop (aka the $1 fix).

The moral of the story is: learn to fix things yourself... or be forever prey to greedy middlemen. Every now and then, you WILL need an expert, but most of the time, you can do it on your own fast, nice and cheap. And you'll have the IMMENSE satisfaction of being a little more self-reliant :)

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