Fixing a zipper with pliers and other repair adventures


A cataloguing of repairs, so that you can avoid and benefit from my missteps.

The zipper on my waterproof MEC bicycling jacket stopped zipping after just eight years of use. I checked about zipper replacement. Big money. I wondered about buying a new jacket, which was, of course, bigger money, and difficult to justify when there’s just a zipper problem. On the other hand, riding unzipped in the rain isn’t something I want to do. Then, I discovered zipper fixing instructions on the MEC website. Ignoring the warnings that if I wasn’t careful, I could do serious damage, I took a pair of pliers (not needle-nose, the instructions emphasize) and squeezed on each side of the pull. But not too hard. The zipper is working again. No need to spend $200 for a new jacket.

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Our wireless Bluetooth mouse became lethargic. Movements from spot to spot lagged. I changed the mouse speed setting to fast, but that didn’t help. After a couple of days, I did the sensible thing. I turned the mouse over and spotted a cat hair blocking the lens. I removed it. The mouse now works fine.

One of the plastic arm tops on our office chair split apart after just four years. I went back to the seller hoping to get a pair of replacements. People at the store were not helpful. They only sell new chairs, and repair or replace ones that are under warranty. I hunted the Internet looking for replacement arm tops, and found some at an online outfit in the U.S., but the cost after including shipping and duty amounted to half the original cost of the entire chair. Then, it occurred to me. Look under the chair for its manufacturer and model number. I found both and emailed the manufacturer the information along with a photo of our chair. There was a prompt reply, quoting a price. It turns out that what I wanted are called “arm caps,” the horizontal piece where I rest my arms when using the computer. They cost $15 each, plus shipping. When they arrived, I unscrewed the old ones, and hoped the new ones would fit. They did.

A circular fluorescent bulb burned out in one of our standing lamps after a decade of use. I tried to buy a replacement at the local hardware store. It’s a specialty item, I was told. Bulb design had changed, and the kind I wanted was obsolete. I went to a lighting store. It’s not an item we stock, I was told, and there was no offer to help me find it elsewhere. I finally tracked down a replacement bulb at Amazon’s U.S. store, and bought two. There was a surcharge for shipping because I’m not in the U.S., plus duty. Buying a new lamp that uses a standard bulb would have been cheaper.

Our kitchen hood fan started to vibrate after four years of use and semi-competent cleaning. Gunk had knocked the fan wheel out of balance. I had to remove the fan wheel for a proper cleaning. But to do so, I needed a 1/8 inch hex wrench. It had to be at least nine inches long to reach the hidden hex screw. It turns out that six-inch-long versions are widely sold, but not nine-inch. So, I ordered one from the appliance store where I bought the hood fan. It took about six weeks to arrive. I bought a new fan wheel as well. Removal and re-installing was fairly easy, after I read the instructions.

I installed a Chromecast dongle on a TV set to watch online videos, including Netflix. It was at someone else’s house, so I wasn’t familiar with the TV. The screen stayed blank even though I followed the Chromecast instructions. So I randomly pressed buttons on the TV and on the remote. An image eventually popped onto the screen, announcing success. No idea which button was the right one.

A bathroom Moen faucet started to drip. I found the manual and it said the faucet has a lifetime warranty against leaks. I went to the Moen website, filled in the troubleshooting form and attached a photo of my faucet. The next day, I received an email saying a replacement cartridge would be sent. Installation was up to me. The online instructions look within reach. I’ve done this before with success, so I’m not anticipating trouble. But I’m reading the instructions a few more times first. This is not procrastination.

Two pairs of Koss Porta Pro headphones stopped working (we have five pairs) after five years of use. They cost $40 to $60 a pair, depending on whether there’s a sale. I checked the Koss Porta Pro website and was reminded that they carry a “limited” lifetime warranty. The website has instructions for returning the headphones for repair or replacement, but I have to pay $10 per headphone, plus the postage for sending them back, which will likely be $15. Looks like it’s worth it. I’m gearing up to package those headphones for mailing, and finding the chequebook, which I use roughly twice a year.

My iPhone case, made of genuine imitation leather, is coming apart after a mere five years of use. A couple of tabs of cloth that keep the iPhone in place disintegrated. I replaced the strips with carefully-cut duct tape. Some sticky-side to sticky-side construction was involved.

The plastic-y strap for my Casio solar-powered wristwatch broke after about a decade of use. I stared at it to see how a new one might be installed, and couldn’t figure it out after 30 seconds. So, I took it to a jewellery store, Citizen Time and Gold, on Johnson Street here in Victoria where I had the strap replaced while I waited. It took about five minutes for a pro, so I’m guessing that it would have taken me a several hours over the course of several days, which would have included hunting down instructions on the Internet, finding the right strap, and then struggling to follow the instructions. Instead, at the jewellery store, the strap cost $14 including installation. The jeweller noticed the watch crystal was scratched, so he buffed out the damage and didn’t charge extra. The visit to the store, including a brief wait for service and paying, took about 15 minutes in total.

Chimney bits showed up in the gutters. I looked up and couldn’t imagine myself climbing way up there to fix it. I phoned a chimney repair outfit.

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