Buying New Or Fixing What You Have: Part I

Creative Solutions

I have a hand-held Dymo Labeler that I use to print out labels for file folders, spice bottles, and miscellaneous tags. It uses a simple pop-in tape cartridge to print various sizes of letters on a glossy background. Batteries power the unit or you can purchase an optional plug-in electric charger.

I had not used it for a long time but found need for it recently after building a spice rack for our new pantry. When I turned it on to test it, the message on the screen said printer head was jammed. I found out from my wife that our grand kids had played with it and managed to cause the printer tape inside to wrap around the feeder wheel multiple times.

I looked online for solutions to fix the problem and found none. So it was up to me to find my own or toss the unit and buy a new one. I chose to fix it. I found an off-the-wall procedure to solve the problem.

When I cut away the loose tape close to the roller head I had a small stub sticking out. I then pushed the “print” button and noticed the feed wheel made one complete revolution and stopped with the stub parked inside the inaccessible part of the roller. So what do I do to get the stub view able when the roller stops?

I decided to try opening the battery compartment and giving myself access to a quick way of removing one of the batteries while the roller was moving. So I pushed the “print” button and watched the roller rotate while having a finger nail hooked onto one of the batteries. When the stub popped out during rotation, I quickly yanked the battery. This stopped the tape from rotating back into its hidden position.

This procedure exposed about 1/4″ of protruding tape that I could cut with scissors. So I repeated it multiple times making about 12 to 15 cuts to finally free the wheel of all the jammed tape. This awkward but “creative solution” just happened to correct the problem and now the unit works fine. I saved about $25 to $30 over the price of a new one.

Rotating Fan Conundrum

We have several tower-style fans that oscillate back and forth while blowing air across a room. One of them started making squealing noises and either had to be repaired or tossed out.

I decided to make the decision to try the fix. Decent ones sell for $45 to $60. I ascertained that the noise came from a bearing that needed lubrication.

Taking it apart required a lot of patience as some of the assembly screws were hard to find. When I finally had it disassembled, I noticed the bottom support solid bearing (no roller balls) was dry and contained powdery remnants of lubricant.

I got some vehicle grease and packed it into the bearing contact area. After about a half day’s amount of labor, I had the fan back together with some very tricky reassembly procedures. I turned it on and voila, no noise.

A week later, it started making noise again and I told my wife I would not go through that again. We tossed it out. Not repairable! I was disappointed in wasting all that time fixing something that should have worked, and keep working, when I was done. Phew! Kiss that money goodbye.

Chainsaw Won’t Start

I have an expensive Stihl high-performance chain saw that I purchased new for my construction business. I used it to trim foundation pilings for homes I built in swampy areas. It is temperamental when it sits for awhile when not being used. It eventually becomes hard to start.

I had it sitting for several years without use in the city. Finally we had a large palm tree fell in our back yard after a horrific windstorm. It needed to be cut up to be hauled out to the street for yard-waste pickup day. I needed the chain saw to be working to get the job done.

I took the saw down to a lawnmower and power equipment repair shop nearby. They installed a carburetor repair kit and and got it running for about $160. A hefty price to pay for my laxed maintenance.

Recently, in my new country home, I needed it to cut down a tall maple tree growing inches away from a very large oak. I pulled out the chain saw and did get it started initially, but flipped the run switch one notch too far and turned the saw off. It would not restart.

I decided it was flooded. I went to a nearby power equipment repair shop and bought a new spark plug. Cost was $7.00. The shop personnel also advised me to try starting the saw in the second notch on the switch whereby the choke would be slightly open.

I went home and pulled the starting cord several times with the spark plug removed to free the cylinder of excess gas. I also created a gas-fuel mix with high octane fuel and Stihl engine oil. After clearing the combustion chamber I installed the new plug and set the switch to the second notch. The saw started right up. I saved possibly $35 to $60 in repair shop fees.

Laptop Computer Longevity

I have a Hewitt Packard laptop computer my son got for me back in 2012. It is now old enough for me to consider a replacement. I chose not to.

Back in 2006 I helped my son start his computer repair business in Upstate New York. In exchange, I only asked him to either help me with computer repairs, virus attacks, and software installations or with new computer purchases and setup.

Recently I have had issues. The computer case was cracked, the cooling fan was making noise, and the hard drive needed attention. On his recent visit to our home he did some upgrades. He replaced the cooling fan and installed a solid state (1 terabyte) digital hard drive. He also obtained a new case to replace the one that cracked. Cost about $345. An equivalent new computer would cost about $1.200.

Since everything downloads quickly and memory is far more than I need, any updated technology is not an issue. I guess the motherboard or screen could fail at some point. However, everything is working fine. I will continue to use what I have.

Since then I have learned a lot about taking computers apart and fixing them myself. I recently had to go in and reconnect the wires that control the WiFi operation in the laptop. A repair manual was available to show me how. Awesome!


You can find Apps that store repair information on your electronic devices. One I found is Centriq. It allows me to provide info about any appliance, electronic gadget, or equipment to their add-new-item slot manually, or by taking a photo of the model and serial number tag.

Then a day later, I get pics of common repair items, where to get them, and user and operator manuals. You can view the manuals page by page and fix many items this way by yourself. You can also diagnose operational issues before calling a repairman or taking something in to be fixed.

I realize most people are technologically challenged. But with some patience, perseverance, and instructional materials, a lot of money can be saved fixing things yourself. At least you can give it a try. It’s your money. Use it wisely.

I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf when you are done.  




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