Can you repair your own electronic devices?
Most of us have a lot of electronic devices in our home. Just take a moment to think about the electronics in your immediate vicinity; chances are you have a fair few. Gadgets and technology are all around us. Even if you aren’t much of a techie, you almost certainly have a smartphone, and if you’re reading this article then it’s safe to assume that you have a computer too. And if that’s the case you will require some basic tools e.g. mini screwdriver kit, plastic glue etc. You can find recommended glues for plastic on Tools First.
But what happens when these expensive electronic devices go wrong? Just like mechanical machines, electronics can falter and fail over time. If your electronics suffer even minor damage in the wrong place, it will render the whole device useless. Even something as simple as an internal wire coming loose can stop electronics working and, even though it is incredibly simple to fix, might require a specialist repair service.
Many consumers understandably balk when they see the bill for even a simple repair and want to know if they’re able to repair their own electronic devices. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to that question, but in most cases, the answer is no.
If you have ever contemplated opening up an electronic device, you will probably have seen a ‘warranty void if removed’ sticker on the device. While these stickers officially carry no legal weight, businesses across the US continue to use them as an excuse to not honor product warranties, as mandated under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
These stickers are emblematic of the problem that exists when it comes to repairing your own electronics. A number of states are already considering legislation that will entitle users to repair their own electronics. As it stands, electronics manufacturers forbid customers from opening their electronics or attempting repairs. These terms are buried deep in the EULAS that have become ubiquitous with software and electronics.
Professional repair services
Of course, most people would prefer to have their electronics repaired by someone who knows what they’re doing. For example, smartphones are designed and constructed in such a way that, even if the manufacturers allowed you to repair them yourself, you wouldn’t want to. Opening up a smartphone yourself without the proper equipment means breaking the waterproof seal and leaving the device with little protection from water.
If you need a cell phone repair, computer repair, or general electronics repair service, you should turn to a business like Cell Phone Repair who offer a same day service for any urgent fixes that are needed. They don’t just repair cell phones; they offer professional repairs for a number of common electronics. Unless you really know what you are doing, you should always use a professional repair service.
To highlight this, consider the iMac. Apple only allows certain authorized repair partners to order replacement parts for Apple products and provide a repair service for users. This is just as well because if you open up some iMacs, you will be presented with a naked power supply. The capacitors in the internal power supply are designed to hold an electric charge and will do so even after the device is unplugged. These capacitors can easily hold enough charge to kill someone if they touch them.
A portable appliance tester (PAT)
That being said, if you’re really interested in doing repairs yourself, you should invest in a Portable Appliance Tester or a PAT.
A Portable Appliance Tester (PAT) is a number of testing instruments built into one case and designed for one main purpose: the quick, easy, and accurate testing of appliances/electrical equipment. Unlike other types of test equipment, a PAT doesn’t have multiple test leads that need to be inserted or attached. Simply plug the appliance into the PAT and one fly lead, usually called the “wander lead,” which is attached to the equipment being tested. The test and tag tauranga will indicate the results as pass or fail after the appliance has been tested. Depending on the tester, the PAT may also give actual readings, thus, interpretation of results is no longer required.
So why does it matter?
For the majority of people, a professional repair service is going to be the way to go. However, there are important principles at play. First and foremost – if you have paid for the product, why should the manufacturer be able to exert any influence over your behavior? Contracts of adhesion – a contract between two parties where one party has no control of the terms and often no knowledge until they are ‘agreed’ – are not considered valid in the US.
By allowing corporations to deprive consumers of their right to repair the devices they have bought, the precedent has been set that buying a product does not necessarily make it yours and, more importantly, that corporations can dictate the terms of your ownership of products. Whether you individually would ever want to repair your own devices doesn’t matter – you would think it was absurd if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to even try and repair your own toaster, for example.
Consider the people who run repair services and repair electronics professionally. In some cases, they are in the ridiculous situation of being obligated to pay someone else to do something they are perfectly capable of doing themselves.
However, these points of principle are only one reason why we should want consumers to be able to carry out their own repairs. We currently live in a society that thinks nothing of throwing expensive electronics in the trash because of minor issues. Many of the electronic devices that are written off as dead can actually be salvaged by someone with the know-how to open them up and assess any damage.
By enabling users to repair their own devices, or at least take them to someone who is capable of doing it for them, we could massively reduce the amount of waste generated by electronics every year.
With 3D printing technology slowly coming to fruition, manufacturers are soon going to have to start preparing for a future where consumers can easily print out replacement parts for products. Currently, manufacturers and businesses like Apple make an absolute killing because they have a monopoly on providing replacement parts for the products they make.
Preventing consumers from repairing their own electronic devices hands too much power to corporations and enables some of their very worst instincts. If Apple was forced to compete in providing repairs, it would offer its users much better terms. Apple’s highly restrictive repairs policy enables them to force users to spend an absurd amount of money for the work they need doing or pay a realistic price and risk the fruit giant retroactively bricking their devices, as in the infamous ‘Error 53’ debacle.
Most users will be better served by professional repair services – you certainly shouldn’t try to take apart a smartphone without knowing what you are doing. But on principle if nothing else, consumers should demand the right to repair their own devices.
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