Paul, As a serviceman of things Electronic, what would be your staple equipment that you repair?. We have only 1 Electronics technician here in town and I have heard so many nasty comments about him, it makes me think. After I get settled again, I'd like to settle into a job that is relatively easier than climbing poles and so forth. I can repair radio's,TV's, Stereos and VCR's but the question is Paul, how do you make a living doing it?. Are you based at home or do you do most of your work at your customers places?. Do you have a van with a lot of parts in it? I'm well known around here as an Electrician/Faultsman (mainly for cutting people's power off), but I'd like to get into Service work. Any thoughts Paul?.
[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 09-17-2005).]
As a technician myself I can't help but input to this one. Back when I was a student I used to make a bit of pocket money doing repairs on everything from washing machines to TV sets. I didn't need to advertise as word of mouth was sufficient. Then I ended up being employed full time by a technical college, intially specialising in RF work, but eventually branching out back into general service work, which covers everything from computer peripherals, lab instruments, to domestic appliances and power tools. Yes, servicing domestic appliances and electronic gear is less physically demanding, (except for lifting TV sets which has given me a crook back) but there's plenty of times I'd rather be doing house wiring, TV aerial installations, or phone/data cabling. Unfortunately servicing is becoming less of an income earner compared to what it used to be. For example; even the cost of a belt replacement in a VCR is enough to make some people think twice when you can now buy a new one for not more than $100. With CD players, if it's the laser which costs around $50 (for the laser itself) again they often don't want it fixed. And a lot of CD player faults are laser based. With televisions, it's usually the predictable blown up power supply or line output stage. The economics of repair are somewhat better; esp. for large screen sets. With a lot of modern gear, mainly portable stuff, is the joys of surface mount components. Capacitors and resistors aren't a problem, but something like a 100 pin IC really requires an expensive rework station to replace it. And when you get into Eproms used in some TV's and monitors things can get awkward. Having said that, those sorts of faults are in the minority. The worst thing about servicing is the dreaded intermittent fault, and the service job that bounces. Fortunately in my line of work I don't have to deal with irate customers who can't understand these things; if the item is becoming a pain in the arse to repair it gets written off and replaced. Parts and service manuals aren't what they used to be either. Most manufacturers now want you to get parts through one of their agents. The days of just wandering up to the front counter of well known maufacturers and asking for a photocopy of a circuit diagram, or parts are pretty much gone. Fortunately, here in Australia there is a well known company that has collected most service manuals that have been released and they are available for rental. There are also a few suppliers of generic replacement parts which are cheaper than the original and usually are just as good. Test gear is something that needs to be invested in also; mine had been built up over the last 20 years or so as I've needed it, or been given it. Few suburban TV repair shops remain; and as their owners retire that's the end of them. The amount of people with electronic skills has decreased markedly...how many people know how to build a crystal radio these days? Once upon a time many kids at least had a go at trying to build one. It's not all doom and gloom though; most faults are obvious and easily fixed. There is of course demand for things like teaching people how to use their modern, non user friendly, audio visual gear. Installing home theatre sytems, setting up home networks and upgrading PC's are other things with a good future. With retro things being in vogue, I get a lot of demand for restoring vintage electronic gear. People are happy to pay quite a lot of money for say, restoring their first B&W TV set from the 50's, a radio for their vintage car, or connecting up their bakelite telephone. Working with valve based gear is a very specialised area these days with few having the skills. I avoid servicing on site unless the fault is blatantly obvious and easily repaired. Nothing is as good a quiet bench with your test gear away from the customer. Besides, you can only guess at what parts you'll need and it's the one you didn't bring that you need. One thing is for sure, the variety of work keeps the job interesting.
I'm getting better with Electronics repairs. I'm taking my hat off to PaulUK for getting me set up with an Oscilloscope and knowing how to use it. I have a signal Injector, an AF Generator and an RF Generator. I also have an AF Amplifier to trouble-shoot stuff here. Knowing what you are hearing is a bonus too.
Repair of run-of-the-mill domestic TVs, VCRs, radios, etc. has pretty much come down to just doing them for friends and neighbors these days. Even then it's mostly just the simple and obvious faults: Replace the belts, clean and adjust;fit new power transistors in the chopper supply; that kind of thing which doesn't take much tracking down and is cheap to do.
Once it gets to worn out video heads or a blown up LOPT (line output transformer) the cost of just obtaining the parts is often more than someone is willing to pay. They can go to the supermarket and get a "throw-away" VCR for £40 with a 2-year warranty. Sure, it's Chinese garbage, but hey, it's cheap Chinese garbage.
Those old TV repair shops have vanished here too. The economics of repair vs. replace coupled with the horrendous increase in the costs and bureaucracy of running a business here just made them unviable.
As Aussie said, restoring old equipment has become quite fashionable these days. It's amazing to think that the sort of 1950s radios which are now highly sought after were the sort that when I was a kid in the 1970s you could pick up for 50 pence at the church jumble sale because nobody wanted them!
If you can get enough work like that, people are willing to pay quite a decent amount for good repair/restoration work, especially as even the supposed whiz-kids now have almost zero-idea about how valve/tube circuitry works.
Commercial is also a field to look into, such as working on VHF PMR sets (Private Mobile Radio). People are generally more prepared to pay decent amounts for installation/repair work on these.
You have to be ready to look into all sorts of diverse fields these days.
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 09-17-2005).]
Thanks Paul and Aussie240, I've alwys have a thing for fixing Electronic things but on the other side of the coin, turning that into a paying business is a totally different thing guys. Thanks a heap for your advice, it's more or less just a hobby to me, and by the sounds of things it should stay that way!.
Paul, I have an elderly 15" CTV here that has worked with a great picture and good colour for years, I bought it when I first started my time with the local PoCo, when they had a retail shop. Anyway, It's probably worth about NZ$5 now, but it still works and I watch it every night before I go to sleep. We've certainly gone backwards from where we were. It's all very well to say I'm going to go into business, but you have to have customers. Blast!!.
I'm sure that progress has slipped into reverse somewhere along the way.
Sure, we have equipment which offers all manner of facilities and gizmos, but some of the basic construction these days is just terrible, and is another factor which is making repair a less viable option much of the time.
I had a look at a neighbor's TV a week or two ago -- a wide-screen Philips model. Once the rear cover (itself rather flimsy) was removed almost everything inside was just hanging by one edge, flapping around on its mountings and straining PC boards and connectors.
It was a job in itself to be able to prop the now back-less set in a position where it would sit without putting pressure on the main board and where I could get at it to make tests.
A perfect example of flimsy construction (and a bodged installation) is a 26" Panasonic I had to look at a few months back. It was mounted on one of those mounting brackets that clamps around the set cabinet and is attached to the ceiling (it's in a security office used for CCTV). Problem was short cables put a strain on the RCA video input socket causing a fractured joint. Easy run of the mill job to sort out I thought. To make things easy I thought I'd just climb up a ladder, take the back off, and resolder the socket. Well, upon undoing the last screw and withdrawing the back, I looked in horror as the front part of the set cabinet concaved inwards and the whole lot fell forward and toppled out of the bracket, bouncing against the gyprock wall, leaving a hole, and coming to rest on the floor beneath about eight feet below. Whoever installed this had simply tightened the clamp around the set, relying on the slight deformation of the cabinet preventing it slipping out. The cabinet should have been secured with small screws in the holes provided. The CRT survived the fall and suprisingly had perfect convergance and purity once I fixed the broken PCB (the usual corner where the LOPT is took all the force). My luck was short lived however as I'd forgotten to link a broken track which subsequently killed the whole thing when I applied pressure to the board. They replaced the set. Cabinet design of modern sets is just pathetic. Once upon a time you could pile sets five high and stand on the cabinet.
Oops! Somehow I've never really trusted those brackets and mounting arms which have become common in some places these days.
Problem was short cables put a strain on the RCA video input socket causing a fractured joint.
Don't you just hate all the modern designs in which the soldered joints are the only thing supporting the socket? It's bad enough when you know about this lazy construction method and thus go gently with connections, but the strain they're under from the average Joe who just jams the plugs in sure takes its toll.
Cabinet design of modern sets is just pathetic. Once upon a time you could pile sets five high and stand on the cabinet.
Ah.... The old early-sixties Decca TV my family owned when I was a kid. Now that was a cabinet!
We have a very old tv cabinet, 1949, with doors which hid the 9" screen. This was a must back then, as having a tv was seen as very bad taste. I gutted the set in the early seventies, when 425 went off and we keep our best china in it, as it is a beautifully made piece of cabinetmaking.
ps. Been away on a short vacation again! Went to les Sables d'Oleron on the Atlantic coast for 4 days, fantastic food and sunshine, but specifically to spend all day Sunday at the 2005 Festival Vendée Cheval at the Haras Nationale at La Roche sur Yon ( the National French Stud, housing the finest stallions of all breeds in France ), to see l'École Royale Andalouse d'Art Équestre de Jerez, putting their Lusitanien horses through 2 and a half hours of excellence. My head is still spinning! Unforgettable! http://www.realescuela.org
Parked in the street right outside for free all day, because being France, all the carparks were shut ("It's Sunday M'siuer, park where you like!!")
PS it's on again in 2007. In 2003 it was the French Garde Républicaine. Who knows, next time it may be the Spanish Riding School of Vienna!
[This message has been edited by Alan Belson (edited 09-26-2005).]
[This message has been edited by Alan Belson (edited 09-26-2005).]