Four Fixes Save $400+





Introduction: Four Fixes Save $400+

About: I am a perpetual student, researcher, and hopelessly dedicated skill collector. I hope that you can find something inspiring or useful in the instructables I publish.

NOTE: This Instructable is entered in the "Fix It" competition, so, if you like it, please vote using the button in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks!

It's an unfortunate fact of our current economic and industrial model (the Consumer Society) that we are expected to throw away 99% functional items in favor of buying new "stuff".  In some cases, replacement does make more sense, and in some cases you can't fix something because parts or information simply aren't available (damn you Planned Obsolescence) - but more often than not a little thought and effort can yield a fix that gives that "broken" item a new lease on life, keeps it out of a landfill, and leaves your money where it belongs - in your pocket - or better spent elsewhere.

Fixes range from forehead-smacking simple to fairly involved, and their feasibility is usually driven by your available time, patience, skill, and finances - or lack thereof.  In this Instructable I'll be covering fixes that range from pretty simple (one step) to something more involved.  Each of these fixes saves time and money over a replacement while not compromising function, durability, or appearance (significantly).  All together these four fixes took about 4 hours to complete and cost just a few dollars in materials - while saving well over $400 in what it would have cost to replace them.

My definition of "fixing" as opposed to "rigging":  A "fix" returns an item to it's original functionality, durability, and appearance (within reason).  A "rig" is usually a temporary measure that may compromise all of those features ..... with the duration of "temporary" often being far longer than originally intended  - much to the chagrin of anyone who has to use that particular thing on a regular basis ;)

Finally, when contemplating a fix that you're not sure of, think of it this way: If you try it and it doesn't work, what's the worst that could happen?  If you don't manage to fix something, well, you end up replacing it anyway  - so you only lose time but gain experience.  If you do manage to fix it, you'll gain the experience, the savings, and the confidence to know that you actually ARE capable of doing more than you might have thought - so it's often worth trying before you just throw up your hands in exasperation. 

(Common Sense Warning: obviously, this philosophy could potentially be disastrous with things like electrical or plumbing fixes - anything involving electricity, high pressures, flammable gasses, etc - so be willing to try new things but be aware of what could potentially go wrong and what you're willing to risk - beyond that - call an expert).

This Instructable is comprised of four mini-instructables.  I bundled them together because each one of them hardly seemed worth publishing on it's own.

Step 1: Fix a Vacuum Nozzle

I was doing some remodeling work and had been using my shop vac.  While carrying some flooring across the room, I inadvertently stepped on the nozzle and broke it at the end.  I first tried gluing it, but then managed to step on it AGAIN and broke it.  I was all but resigned to getting a new one, when that dim bulb began to glow and I realized that I didn't need such a long nozzle - and that I could live without the last 2-1/2" - so I cut it off, cleaned up the edge with a file .... and saved a trip to the store and about $14. 

"Fixes" don't get much simpler than that ;)

Step 2: Fix a the Latch on a Rear Wing Window

Sometimes you have to marvel at the design decisions that are made - especially on cars.  Two nice die-cast metal pieces held together by a piece of plastic seems kind of ..... thoughtless .... especially for an assembly that will get a decent amount of use. 

The main link in the latch assembly of the rear wing windows on my Toyota Tundra is made of plastic - and at one point, the link broke - leaving the window to just flop around.  I called the local Toyota dealership and was shocked to find out that to get a replacement link, I had to buy the entire window and latch assembly  - and not the one part most likely to fail.  I was expecting a $4 or $5 overpriced link - but was told that the window assembly was $115 (not including installation).

Upon closer examination, I realized that the link would be relatively easy to reproduce and replace.  I decided that I didn't need the ability to unclip the latch (as the original part allowed) since I've never used that in the 13 years I've had the truck - which further simplified the design and fabrication.  The basic steps to this fix were:
  1. Carefully remove the old link by gently tapping out the roll-pins that hold it in place.
  2. Find a suitable stock for the fabrication - I chose aluminum because I had a scrap on hand, but ABS, HDPE, Phenolic, or just about any strong material would do (it can't be brittle material, however).  It needs to be close to the same thickness as the original link because the roll pins "float" in the latch parts and fit snugly into the link.  If the replacement piece is too thin, it could allow the pins to drift out of one side, and the latch to come apart.
  3. Trace the original part onto the stock.  Find drill bits that fit snugly - but not tight - into the existing hole - and use the bit to mark the positions of the holes to match the original.
  4. Drill the holes for the roll pins - doing your best to keep the holes perpendicular to the surface and parallel to each other - a drill press is ideal here.
  5. Cut out the shape of the link and refine it with files
  6. Reinstall the new link into the latch.
Total time spent: Approx 30 minutes.  Cost: $0.  Amount saved: $115 +

Step 3: Fix a Key Fob Remote

Again, this is one of those cases where you have to look at how something was made and say, "What were they thinkin'?"  On the key fob for my truck, the ring that attaches the keychain to the fob is held to the fob by a *plastic* pin that is part of one of the cast halves of the body of the fob.  After a number of years of the key fob jangling up and down, yanking on this pin as the vehicle was driven, the part of the case where the pin merges into it failed and the key fob fell off the chain.  Once again, I called the local dealer only to find that, No, they don't sell the parts most likely to fail, and to replace the key fob was going to cost $85 plus an additional $35 to program it for my truck.  Ouch.  Searches on the internet yielded less expensive alternatives (running around $60) but they would still have to be programmed, and most of them were kind of ugly.

I sat down and looked that the key fob for a bit and realized that I could pretty easily make a new attachment point that would look decent, and probably be more durable than the original attachment - AND cost virtually nothing .... so I did.

Time spent: Approximately 20 minutes.  Cost: basically $0  Amount Saved: $120 ( x2, actually, since I fixed my spare key fob, too - it had broken the same way)

Step 4: Fix the Handle on a Microwave Oven

Recently, I broke the handle on the microwave mounted over my stove.  I'd like to attribute it to my raw, animal strength, but in actuality it was far more likely a factor of age (of the microwave, that is).  After the obligatory grumbling, I went to the internet armed with a model number and began searching for a replacement handle - only to find that not only were most parts listed as "NLA" (No Longer Available) but that the handle, again, was only sold as part of the entire door assembly - for the "Are you Serious?!" price of $214 .... but even that was moot since it was NLA anyway. 

You might be thinking, "Well, if it's that old (1989 build date) - why not just get a new one?"  Three reasons:  first, it works just fine, second, replacement over-stove microwaves are silly-expensive, and third, I eventually plan to gut the kitchen and start over - and I'll probably buy all new appliances then, but at this time, I don't know *exactly* what I want - so I want to keep everything working until that time.

Initially, I considered gluing the handle, but after examining the damage I realized that there wasn't much to "glue" as some of the screw post had broken away.  So at this point I had a few options:

  1. Find a similar handle and replace the original.
  2. Make a replacement handle
  3. Fix the original handle

The first option was going to be time consuming and difficult, and the second would be mostly time-consuming, so I went with #3.

The parts I chose to use were determined by what I had on hand, but, if I was going to *buy* parts for it, I'd have probably gone with a 10-24 Tee-Nut, bolt and washer - just to save having to enlarge the hole in the door frame to accommodate the larger bolt I used.

Just FYI:  Most newer microwaves are much easier to take apart - most handles can be replaced by just removing the internal plastic valence called the "choke" and do not require disassembling the door.   As always, take your time and be gentle.  If you want to see someone else perform the task first,  get the model of your broken appliance and use it as a search term on YouTube and/or the internet.  More than likely, you will find a lot videos showing how to remove doors, handles, etc, etc.  It's a great resource.

Total time spent: Approx 3 hours (much of that waiting for Epoxy to cure).  Cost: approx $2-$5.  Amount saved: $214+?

Again, if you liked this Instructable, please vote for it in the Fix It competition using the button in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks for reading!  :)
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    14 Discussions

    I would have desperately super-epoxied something to the back of the fob that the keyring could go through. Yours looks nice.

    That's great. I have a car that only has one door (driver's) which uses the dang actual key. It's crazy! I guess I am "old fashioned" now.

    Awesome. This is why I never buy new cars. It makes me so mad how wasteful the designers are, and how they gouge for the odd things. It's amazing there is a huge industry surrounding scavenging parts off wrecked cars, and selling them for almost the same price as new parts.

    Very good Instructable. I really like the use of epoxy. I use it often for repairs. My key fob in my pocket has been repaired using epoxy and is holding up very well. More people should try to fix broken items. If it is broke it cannot hurt to tear it apart to see if it could be repaired with a little thought. My garage door opener recently quit and I thought I might have to replace it for $200 to $300 so I tore it apart and found that a bearing had gone bad. I ordered parts on the web and installed them in about three hours for only $27.50. I ended up with not only a new bearing but also new gears all in the same kit.

    I agree, most people in this site inclouding me don't like the high price of cheep replacement parts. nice post.

    Very good works!
    You are like me, I don't throw to the waste any lid. Even polystyrene foam containers are good for my workshop.

    I like the way you think!!! Now that we have a car with wing windows and a key fob, I know I'm going to want to refer to your fixes again. Thanks!

    i liked your microwave handle fix, but i just used superglue on mine.


    5 years ago

    Love the key and car window fix. I didnt find the vote botton, are you shure you enterd the competition?

    Nicely done. I'm a big fan of fixing things rather than replacing them. Thanks for posting this.

    Hi lhsk8r,
    Might not be useful to you, would be for some other people out there.
    I found the whole instructable to be very practical, well written with lots of good photos. I especially found the key fob fix really helpful...I've had to replace a couple of keys for the exact same problem, at £££.
    The author was trying to share his experiences and save people lots of dough (in my case the key fob cost £ 120 each time...)

    Just my £ 0.02 worth.

    Have a great day,


    The key fob one is kind of cool