Dang-blasted consumer goods

We drove down to Crathie yesterday, had a coffee and a chat with Madasaboxoffrogs, collected our replacement oven (and a few other things) and returned home where I brought the oven inside for installation today.

So far, so good.

Removing the old oven was slightly challenging as it’s an expensive fan-assisted model, which means it has a substantial steel chassis, huge amounts of insulation and extra controls.

All of that “quality” adds weight, so I had to be particularly careful as I slid it out of the space in the kitchen cabinets, balanced it on one knee so I could disentangle and disconnect the cable, and then lower it to the floor.

I managed it without squashing my toes, cracking the floor tiles or smashing the oven.

The replacement oven is a very, very cheap conventional model from B&Q, which made lifting it into place a doddle as it’s made out of very thin steel sheet, has minimal insulation and basic mechanical controls.

The oven is hard-wired to its own circuit but, unusually, the person who did the croft’s electrics actually put the connection in a sensible, readily accessed location. (Most of the wiring is diabolical.)

After a few minutes work I was able to slide the oven all the way in, switch the mains switch back on, close the circuit breaker, and turn the cooker’s isolation switch on.

Everything seemed to be okay, so I set the oven’s dials to “top and bottom elements” and “175C”, before popping my oven thermometer on the middle shelf.

Ten minutes later I went see if the oven had reached the desired temperature.

It hadn’t and the thermometer was reading 130C. 

When I checked inside the oven, the top element was coming on and off but no heat appeared to be rising from the bottom of the oven.

I turned the element control to “bottom only”, and after a few minutes the temperature fell.

I turned the control to “top only” and after five minutes the temperature had risen to 170C.

Drat, drat and double drat.

The dang-blasted bottom element in our replacement oven is faulty. It means we can grill but not bake, which is far from ideal.

I decided to see if I could repair it and looked it up using Google.

It turns out the Arrow brand is slapped on a very, very cheap Turkish oven, which is then sold by B&Q at a very low price.

It also turns out a lot of people have problems with this brand.

No surprises there, then.

Still, there are parts available for the ovens—but at a price.

The bottom element will cost £37.60. 

And I really should replace both elements. We know from experience that when one element fails the other follows suit within months.

When you realise that the oven itself only cost £140 new, that’s ridiculous.

If the two elements really cost £83.30, how can the rest of oven be worth just £56.70? And where did the design, marketing and transporting costs go?

Either the oven is woefully underpriced or the element is over-priced.

Do I want to spend £83.30 repairing a budget oven that’s almost certainly not as good as either of the other two broken ovens we have stored in the old cottage?

Do I want to spend more than £100 repairing either of them?

Or should I do as the Other Half as suggested and use Comet’s online auction to buy a discontinued, second or ex-display oven for the same amount?

Or do we look for a new oven that’s on sale with a more reputable retailer?

Or pay rather a lot to a locally owned electrical shop in somewhere like Huntly or Inverurie? (Although the service in certain of these leaves a lot to be desired.)

Whichever choice I make, I’ll do so knowing that whether repaired or “new”, the oven will break again within two to three years as even the most expensive models are, in effect, disposable junk.

I’ll have to decide very quickly though as I have a double birthday party to cater for and that means producing masses of sausage rolls, pork pies, fairy cakes, biscuits for a horde of ravening children.

Hmm, there’s an idea for a birthday game—whose oven can roll the furthest down the hill…

20 Responses to “Dang-blasted consumer goods”

  1. And now I discover that neither parts nor ovens can be delivered inside 14 days. We use the oven a lot, even without the forthcoming party, so this is going to be interesting.

    Alternatives?

    The coal-fired Victorian range?

    Do I zap things in the microwave before finishing them with the blowtorch?

    Hmmm, the children would probably go for cowboy spaghetti cooked over an open fire but I suspect a few parents would have the heebeegeebees…

  2. mummys little angel Reply 12 January, 2009 at 22:42

    First of, remember I got a ‘bargain dishwasher’ that leaked…Commet auction site! So I would not use them again as what it appears it’s the returns they sell and as my returns have been for faults, I leave to you make up the rest. They were not that keen to take the faulty dishwasher back either!!!

    Secondly I would spend the £100 out on repairing one the top of the range ovens or bite the bullet and invest in a new one. Pity we are not nearer you as you could have used my rayburn or borrowed my microwave with proper oven……now that’s the third thing, but they an expensive temporary measure.

  3. Do a winter BBQ for the party … and since most gadgets are, as you put it, disposable junk, I always go for the middle of the road option so I get a bit of quality but without spending a ridiculous amount on something that will break as fast :/

  4. Have you ever considered using a wood cookstove?

  5. Wow you do have some difficult decisions to make.
    However, I can’t agree with you on condemnation of all ovens. We had a Neff single oven installed in 1992 and it’s still going (maybe not strong, as the light went ages ago, the glass door is no longer see through and the door springs are a bit dodgy!). It came with the kitchen from Magnet and I don’t remember it being particularly expensive at the time. Maybe you’ll find something as reliable.

  6. Are you sure that the oven can not be fixed, the original one l mean, have you spoken to an electrican?

  7. All three can be fixed and I can do the repairs myself, but it’s more involved than saying “oh, the element is worn out, I’ll replace it” or “the control unit is worn out, I’ll replace it”.

    As several repairmen have told us when fixing various whitegoods under warranty, modern consumer whitegoods are intended for replacement every two to three years.

    All the parts are designed to see them through the warranty period and just beyond. While this means some fail early and could be fixed under warranty, the repairmen all said most people don’t actually claim if the fault is towards the end of the warranty. They just bin the unit and buy a new one.

    It also means that when one part fails, other parts will follow relatively quickly. We’ve had this happen with two ovens and two washing machines.

    Replace an element and the second one fails a couple of months later, replace an element and the contact surfaces on the switches fail shortly after, replace a control unit on a washing machine and the pulley bearings fail a few months on.

    If whitegoods were more durable, it would be simple. You’d get a replacement part, fit it and know the unit is good for quite a few years more. But they’re not.

    Take the most expensive, up-market oven we have in the cottage. It needs a new control unit, which is around the £100 mark. But, it would be daft to replace that alone when I know the bearings on the fan are failing (it has started to rattle), the elements will almost certainly need replacement quite soon, and the door seal needs to be replaced.

    If I am to rely on that oven, I need to renew quite a lot of parts and the cost would be well in excess of £200.

    Another factor is actual use, and not intended use. Modern consumer appliances, like ovens, are often intended for light use—say two or three times a week. The bloke who repaired one of the ovens under warranty was shocked when I said we use ours every day—and often a couple of times a day or for extended periods.

    If you use an appliance much more heavily than it was designed for, it wears out faster and that further shortens an already short design life.

    Contrast the modern approach with the one of a few years ago. When I first moved to the UK at the end of 1992, I rented a house with an early 1960s standalone cooker. It was a hulking great monster that needed two people to slide it out to clean behind it. The landlord was thinking about replacing it, but muttered about the cost because he’d replaced the elements and door seals in the early 1980s.

    Actually, that’s the sort of lifespan I’d like to expect from an appliance: 20 years use before it needs refurbishment and another 15 years use after that.

    When the Other Half and I first moved in together, her house had a standalone cooker that was just starting to genuinely wear out—after 25 years according to the manufacturer’s plate.

    And when we lived in Skipton, one of the houses there had a 30-year-old cooker that was still useable although it was also in its final days.

    Contrast that with the new-build we later rented in Skipton. The oven there was on the blink after just three years. Or the house in Bicester where the oven controller was erratic three years after it was installed.

    Or our house here, where the first oven’s element wore out after three years.

    We’ve had the same experience with washing machines, microwave ovens, videos, dishwashers and more.

    I don’t need an electrician or repairman to fix any of them, well, except if the units are under warranty, as almost all parts now are “plug and play”. It’s usually two or three screws to remove a cover, unplug a couple of connectors, remove two retaining screws, remove the part, slide in the new one, and reverse the removal process.

    But before I part with some of the little money we have or use our emergency credit card, I want to be sure I’m not throwing the money away.

    In response to other comments, yes, a wood-burner would be nice and we do have a Victorian range that we use in power cuts. It does need a lot of stoking and one of the dampers is missing, so it is a bit labour intensive and is best kept for emergency use.

    The house did have a solid-fuel Rayburn at one time, but when it was ripped out the chimney was filled with concrete. Putting a second-hand, refurbished or even a new one would be excellent, but cost more than we can afford at the moment. It would be a good long-term option should we come up with a couple of grand after spending thousands on all the other “priority” things!

    Leaving aside the wood-fired option, my preferred choice has always been to buy a commercial, standalone range cooker. They’re built for heavy use, have much more space for large pots and pans, and can operate at much higher temperatures.

    I’d also have much less of an issue spending a couple of hundred pounds refurbishing one after several years use as the repair costs would only be 10-20% of the new price and not the price of a complete, new unit.

  8. I think I’d go for an old fashioned free-standing cooker. There are plenty of very good quality second-hand ones of these going begging at second-hand furniture shops since the craze for fitted kitchens. The parts are easy to replace should they fail, and the whole thing is much sturdier.
    My parents have one that was second-hand in 1984 and has had numerous bits replaced since then and is still going strong.

  9. But if I went for a free-standing cooker, I’d have to rip the kitchen apart to put it in.

    I have found a trade website that has some end-of-line ovens at half price or less. I could get quite a good AEG fan oven for just under £200 compared with its new price of £429. In terms of quality, it would be on a par with the best broken one we have while the price is actually cheaper than parts for the broken one.

  10. Sorry…. did I miss something?

    Was this a NEW oven? if so why are they (B&Q) not replacing it with one that works?

    In any event, I am reminded of some books by Vance Packard which I read back in the 1960s…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

  11. I wonder if current stand alone cookers are still as durable. I can remember my dad buying his Tricity Belling, but it must be 20 years ago. I’ll admit I do prefer not to have the gaps for dirt to accumulate in, but it does seem a lot of effort to replace a built in one. In our first house we just turned up with a cooker some company abandoned at his Dad’s work (brand new, for catalogue photos – there’s waste for you) and put it in the space.

  12. To rehash, we’re now on our third, failed built-in oven.

    Oven 1 was here when we moved in and was less than three years old when it first failed. It was repaired but failed again.

    Oven 2 was given to us to replace Oven 1. It’s a very good, well specced oven but its control unit has now failed while other parts are on the way out.

    Oven 3 was given to us on Sunday to replace Oven 2. It’s a recent bargain-basement model and it turns out the bottom element has already failed.

    We’re now deciding whether to repair one of the above three, get another used one, buy an ex-display, second or end-of-line model, or buy new. Money is very tight, time is short as we use the oven a lot, and I don’t want to remodel the kitchen, rebuild the chimney, reconstruct the house. I also don’t want to throw money away on something that’s going to fail again as we need a reliable oven.

    Anyway, I’ve finished my research, emailed the Other Half with a few options and now I have more enjoyable things to do—like get down and dirty in pig muck!

  13. I agree, our less-than-2-year-old washing machine has become incontinent, and appears not to be rinsing properly either.
    I’ve cleaned its filter, run it empty, even patted it on the top and told it it’s lovely and still it puddles on the floor!
    And it’s already cost us for the engineer to replace the belt once.
    Grrr

  14. I’d imagine that some secondhand commercial ranges will be coming onto the market as the credit crunch bites and restaurants start to feel the pinch – seems terrible to be benefiting from other people’s pain, but it might be worth putting feelers out …

  15. Email sent Stoney. (well in a few minutes when l have written it)

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