Change a micro switch and save £300

Last week three things seemingly went wrong with our central heating.

First, the boiler would need to ignite several times before the main burner came on and stayed on.

Second, the Hive control system receiver ‘lost RF’ to the hub, and,

Third, once on it would only work on hot water not the radiators.

Matters were not looking good.

So, first service the boiler, basically vacuum clean it and check all seals.

The bit that always goes wrong is the igniter and electrode. Took out electrode and discovered the lead was loose at the electrode end. I keep a spare pilot burner and electrode. The pilot burner gets corroded and unless you have a ultrasonic cleaner for the price its easier to replace both. (DHS – Direct Heating Spares)

Tested boiler on hot water only and it fired up first time every time. So boiler OK.

Next removed the Hive receiver from the wall. The base plate was cracked and the connecting pins were corroded and blackened. It may have been caused by the poor igniter system but my guess is that it was poorly installed and sealed to the wall. Utility rooms can be very damp.

Go a new receiver and commissioned it to the hub. All good with support from Hive technicians. Control systems OK

Finally the tricky bit, why didn’t the boiler heat the radiators. There is a motorised valve next to the tank. I remembered that it can be placed in manual to open the valve and sent hot water to the radiators.



What I hadn’t realised is that there is a micro-switch in the valve body that once the valve is open to allow water to flow will close the circuit to start the boiler. Not in the boiler service manual. However, this was intermittent. So, even when open the boiler didn’t always fire up.

The picture show the valve with the cover off.


A temporary loop closing the circuit in the breakout box confirmed the fault.

The good news was that although 20 years old a replacement head can be bought from ScrewFix for £50 and ready within the hour.

Replaced and rewired the head. The new colour coding was not quite the same as the old. But it was logical.



All fixed, we now have a boiler up and running for the winter. I hope…

Total cost to us under £100. Had a boiler engineer attended, cost at least £300, maybe more, plus parts? Plus the agro waiting for someone to come fix it.

Don’t try this at home. I’m an experienced engineer and if in doubt I ask for advice and help from friends in the trade. 










Posted in Heating systems, How to work on a central heating system, Plumbing | Leave a comment

Two other chairs

I designed a chair to fit under our kitchen table

The original design was based on a tripod or match sticks.

The final version was built in the workshop of a local carpenter.



Another restoration job was with two chairs we called the Jim Thompson chairs as they reminded us of the chair in the office of Jim Thompson in Bangkok.



They were a legacy from the family home in Leicester and in a poor state.

In this case someone else did the cane fretwork.

Posted in Restoring and rebuilding furniture | Leave a comment

The restoration of a family chair

This chair spent some 30 years in my father’s shop.

It was painted and repainted white with a worn pink velour seat cover.

It had no market value just a sentimental one.

I decided to give it a new lease of life.

Took a few pictures half way through…


Removed the faded seat and leather straps that must have been stapled and re-stapled to the wooden base.


After six months, the finished piece:-

img_10931 img_10861 Not perfect but learnt a lot. Will have another go at the leather work next year.

Posted in Restoring and rebuilding furniture, Screw and glue | Leave a comment

The finished article – car restoration

After five years my 1970
Triumph Vitesse is restored.

Lovingly called the Yellow Peril it now has an agent and is ready for work.

In the rebuild I had the bodywork welded together and resprayed.

Converted to unleaded.

The rest I did:-

Rewired all electrics

Rebuilt all internal trim – took dashboard to pieces and had woodwork veneered – in walnut what else.

Put dampening panels all over the place. It still rattles but not quite as much.

Converted power source to alternator and then changed all the lights to QI. Much brighter especially for such a vintage car.

Converted radiator fan to electric and associated controls, upgraded the electronic ignition system.

Servo on brakes now make it almost possible to stop the car.

Modified screen washer to electric source to replace pump push button.


Modified bodywork and hubs to take wire wheels. In the first run one fell off (at 20 mph) – you can’t have it all.

Caused a bit of a family rift as the whole saga of the wheel bouncing across the road was being observed from the support team in the following car.

After alerting the police, whose basic view was- are you dead, hurt anyone, is the car a danger to others – no? Silly bugger get it off the road when you can. Bye.

The breakdown vehicle to get me home and then a bigger mallet and more grease sorted that out.


Added extra driver warning lights – not really as spec. These included electric radiator active light – also has an override switch (replaced cigar lighter). Overdrive on light.

The new DAB stereo has the speakers hidden in rear panels and also behind the door trim. The door trim was peppered with holes to make a speaker grill. A bespoke panel for the stereo was made with a port for charging a phone and the cigar lighter,

It was suggested at one time the stereo was worth more than the rest of the car.

I beg to differ.

Did other stuff but that’s even more nerdy and technical.

To be clear I’m not that interested in cars, just the engineering challenge and fixing stuff.













Posted in The Yellow Peril | Leave a comment

Boiler replacement?

To condense or not to condense – that is a question.

Well simply put if the old one works – don’t change – the savings are marginal.

Others may disagree but I suggest:-

  1. keep the old boiler clean (it’s a vacuum cleaner job) ,
  2. make sure your radiator thermostat valves are working well,
  3. balance the rads from top to bottom – top floor rad control vales should be stopped down with ground floor one fully open (unless you want to keep a room cooler or its rad runs hot)
  4. have an inhibitor in the system (flush it if you have cold spots),
  5. no air in radiators,
  6. set the boiler to heat the hot water to just above 60 degrees
  7. Then, if you feel the need have a plumber give it the once over.

Have a read of this article – says it all:-

Posted in Heating systems, Screw and glue | Leave a comment

Intro to what can you fix

It seems to me that the throw away society has created a mindset that doesn’t even attempt try to fix the gadget or device. So here are a few things I have fixed with a bit of help from some useful suppliers found on the web. I think others can do most of these repairs, keep a usefulproduct working and save money.

Posted in Screw and glue | Leave a comment

Is solar power for your home still worth thinking about?

So ran and advertisement feature in my local paper.

Based on the proposed and much argued 21p/kWh I think it’s a close run thing.

Why? Although the cost of installation has come down the margin for error and failure of any component becomes significant.

So whether you do your sums for the greater good, for an investment, or for both do them with care.

I’ve done some sums and they suggest it will be nearer 20 years to pay off the capital and include an amount for revenue.

Don’t count the savings for usage – just see that as a bonus for good management and behaviour change.

But, if you are out a work all day you will save little.


Posted in Renewable energy | 2 Comments