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كمال رامي

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3 مايو 2018
Airport Street Abu Dhabi Washing Machine Repair

[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]A few weeks ago, I was participating in a meeting on Ecodesign where we discussed regulations for washing machines. Around that same time, something interesting happened: the display on my own washing machine started to fail. A few years ago, those two things wouldn't have had anything to do with each other. Environmentally friendly products and repair were seen as two different things. Now, policy-makers are starting to recognize that they are two sides of the same coin. [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Al Reem Island Abu Dhabi Washing Machine Repair[/FONT]


[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Ecodesign, as a concept, now incorporates something we call material efficiency-which is a fancy way of saying that valuable resources (like appliances) shouldn't wind up in the rubbish heap before they have to. Over half of the footprint of a washing machine comes from manufacturing it and getting it to your door. A washing machine with a short lifespan is just as bad as one that guzzles tons of water or electricity.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]As the EU repair policy spokesperson for iFixit, I get to be part of the discussion on how a repairable, material-efficient machine should be designed. We're working on standards to measure repairability-like iFixit's repairability scores but officially applicable across all of Europe, and perhaps beyond. We talk about things like the 'ability to access components' and the 'availability of spare parts.'[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Which brings me back to my washing machine and its broken display. It's so typical that an unnecessary feature brought down the whole machine. I mean, what's wrong with a mechanical program button? Broken screens kill enough phones already without adding washing machines to the casualty list. But I digress.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]The offending display. A bit hard to read, right?[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]We bought the machine a little over 11 years ago. According to this list of expected lifetimes (PDF), that means I got my money's worth. So I shouldn't complain, right?[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]If I discard the machine now, researchers would say it reached an average age. Washing machines produced in 1988 were discarded on average 16 years later, whereas machines made in 1999 lasted less than 14 years (see this report, p. 104). My 2005 machine seems on course to follow the downward lifetime curve. And even though manufacturers swear that shorter lifespans for modern products are a myth-if I buy a new washing machine now, I'd expect it to wear out even quicker.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]If I decided to give up on my washing machine, the 12/05 production date on this capacitor would tell researchers that it's right on track on the downward curve of product lifetimes. The number of machines lasting fewer than five years almost doubled in under ten years' time.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Tackling the Repair[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]But, of course, I don't want to give up on the washing machine I already have. Not without a fight. After all, I'm a fixer. So after fuming about my broken screen, I buckled down and started troubleshooting. The LCD was flickering and fading randomly. Sometimes the display lit up when we switched on the machine, sometimes not. I assumed there was a bad contact somewhere, so I decided to take the display out and check all of the connections.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]The disassembly was a piece of cake. There were only ten screws between me and the electronic interface module, which consisted of a mechanical switch and two circuit boards. One of the boards held the display. I disconnected and reconnected all of the wires and ribbon cables. But nothing changed. No amount of wire wiggling made a difference. [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Whirlpool Washing Machine Repair Abu Dhabi[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]I only need one of these circuit boards-and if I had the board schematics I'd only need to replace a component or two. But I have to buy the whole assembly.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]There had to be a faulty component somewhere in the mix. If I could replace that, I could get the whole thing working again for a few bucks. All I needed was a circuit diagram. Alas, no luck. The manufacturer doesn't release them to owners.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]In the US and the EU, we're fighting for diagrams and service manuals to be made available to anybody who wants to fix stuff, like independent repairers, repair café volunteers, and owners. We haven't won that battle yet. The current draft for the EU ecodesign regulation on washing machines is one of the first to mention wiring diagrams, but not circuit board schematics yet. So, of course, I argued at the ecodesign meeting to have these included. But for now, with no way for me to fix the circuit board itself, I'll just have to replace it.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]You Can't Wash Away Sticker Shock[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]I jotted down the product code and went to the manufacturer's support website. I couldn't find my model on their site, but after some searching and emailing, I finally found a part number and a price. That's where the fun started. Because I couldn't just replace the bad board. I had to replace the whole interface assembly. And that sweet little assembly costs . a whopping 488,99€. The whole washing machine cost me 983.89€. So the price of the spare part is almost exactly 50% of the whole appliance. Must be a coincidence.[/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Depending on where you buy the part, the part price is between 50% to 109% of the purchase price of the whole washing machine.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]What's a fixer to do? Spend half the value of the machine for a single part? How much is too much for a repair? I've heard from repair-minded producers that 30% of the product's price is the limit for most customers. What's yours? (Leave a comment and tell me.)[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]After some emails, I did manage to haggle the part down to [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]last year's price[/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif], which (for some reason) was 200€ cheaper. Apparently, washing machine spare parts age like fine wine: they get more expensive every year. What's the part gonna cost next year? The washing machine's German support website already lists it at 1073,28€. I'm not sure if that's a joke, a mistake, or just the law of supply and demand. But it's ridiculous.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]In all of these policy discussions I'm involved in, prices are taboo-'out of scope' would be the official lingo. My washing machine story is perfect proof that that doesn't make sense. [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Airport Street Abu Dhabi Washing Machine Repair[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Pricing Out Repairs[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Strictly speaking, the washing machine company met the ecodesign requirements we've been discussing in the forum I attended. They do offer spare parts for many years after production. But at that price, it doesn't matter. Even a repair die-hard like myself wouldn't pay more for the part than they would for a new machine. And neither would anyone else. As many as one out of five possible repairs don't happen because the part is too expensive (see this report, p. 9). That's a huge waste. We can't talk seriously about longer lasting products without talking about the price of spare parts.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Me, I decided that I had to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Apart from the display, the machine works just fine. So I decided to buy those two pounds of electronics for 300€ instead of adding around 80kg to the continuously growing stream of e-waste. Hopefully, I can keep my washing machine alive for 11 more years. Or until a completely repairable, upgradable washing machine hits the market.[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Whichever comes first.[/FONT]