This page covers electric toothbrushes, hair driers, curlers and straighteners, electric trimmers and razors, epilators and all such gadgets.
Many products in this category see daily or weekly use, and faults frequently appear after a time. Many of these are simple mechanical or electrical faults which can be fixed fairly simply, provided the device can be disassembled.
A separate page covers healthcare products.
- As with all mains electrical devices, dangerous voltages may be exposed when opened.
Provided the device has accessible screws there's a good chance you can disassemble it, though you may have to examine it carefully in order to see how to release any clips, additionally holding it together.
Unfortunately, not all devices can be non-destructively disassembled. If that's yours and you have to break it open, you may be able to repair it with epoxy glue. But for a mains operated device, should the glue fail to hold, it could result in live parts being exposed and a severe electrocution hazard. For an electric toothbrush (or other device routinely exposed to water) it may be difficult to ensure the repair is watertight.
Mains operated devices often use security screws in order to discourage disassembly by those who may not understand how to do so safely.
Often, the parts will be tightly packed in and need to be reassembled in exactly the same way otherwise it may be impossible to close the device. Pay particular attention to the routing of wires and the position and orientation of other parts. Taking photos at each stage of disassembly can avoid much frustration and wasted time.
In the case of hair straighteners, first, you generally have to remove a cover on either side of the hinge, revealing a screw head on each side. Apply a screwdriver to both and turn one against the other. They can be very tight and you may have to press very hard for the screwdrivers not to slip and damage the screw heads before they come undone. But beware: in pressing hard, if the screwdrivers do slip they could cause serious injury.
For better quality devices, spare parts or repair services may be available if you search online. If not, a few parts such as switches or push buttons may be commodity items, though it may take a little patience and perseverence to find them.
Lithium batteries are often the cylindrical 18650 type which are readily available, though the quality is variable. You may be able to obtain one from a vape shop though you may need one with tags you can solder to.
Hair driers and electric trimmers and razors often get clogged with hairs. In the case of hair driers, hairs can get tangled around the fan and its spindle, causing the motor to run slowly, to labour or to stall. A burning smell may come from an overheating motor or from hairs caught on the heating element.
If the fan is not turning freely, this may cause a thermal fuse to blow or the motor to burn out. A thermal fuse can be replaced but it's likely that a burnt out motor can only be replaced if you can cannibalise one from a similar or identical device.
In the case of electric razors and trimmers, bits of hair can jam up the mechanism if the devices isn't regularly cleaned. Check the instructions (you may be able to find them online if the owner has lost them) and follow any cleaning instructions given. Otherwise, disassemble them as far as you can in order to expose the cutters and the mechanism driving them.
Users of hair driers, straighteners and curlers often wind the lead around the device when they have finished using it. This is generally A Bad Idea since it commonly results in the lead getting more and more twisted until the strain causes it to fail. Some hair straighteners and curlers have the mains lead attached via a mechanism that allows the device to be twisted without twisting the lead, but this isn't always proof against an incorrigible twister of mains leads.
Wrapping the lead around the device indeed keeps it tidy when you put it away, but on the next use it's essential that you suspend the mains plug by the mains lead at sufficient height to allow it to untwist naturally under the weight of the plug. Simply pulling the lead will never untwist it and will only hasten the damage.
A damaged mains lead can usually be replaced with a similar type of cable, provided you can disassemble the device sufficiently to remake the connections within the device.
Switches and connections
If a device won't switch on, trace the wiring from the mains plug, through the switch and motor, then back to the plug. You can do this with a multimeter on the continuity range. This should reveal any loose or broken connections or a faulty switch.
Switches can wear out on a device which sees frequent use. Sometimes you can dismantle a switch by lifting tabs but there is a high risk of loosing small parts, for example if a spring takes flight. Parts can easily fall out during disassembly, and it isn't always obvious how they go back together.
Dead batteries are a common problem with electric toothbrushes. For some types, disassembly and battery replacement instructional videos are available online - search for the make and model of the device, adding "battery replacement" or "disassembly" to the search. Even if your device isn't covered, it may give you some ideas on how to disassemble the device you have before you. Once inside, replacement of the battery with a new one of the same type shouldn't be too difficult, though it may require further disassembly.
The battery is likely to have tags spot-welded to its ends, enabling it to be soldered in. Make sure the replacement is a similar tagged battery. It's not possible to solder direct onto a battery and highly inadvisable to try.
Other electrical problems
The heating element in straighteners, curlers an hair driers may fail. In the case of a hair drier it's unlikely to be fixable, but replacement elements for better quality straighteners and curlers may be available.
In the case of straighteners, the element consists of a ceramic block with the heating wire embedded in it. If the ceramic cracks, so will the element. Replacements can be obtained for the higher quality brands, but take care not to crack the replacement in fitting it.
Cleaning, to eliminate mechanical jams, has already been covered.
More subtle problems will require careful examination. For example, a clip securing a battery compartment lid or cutting head on a razor or trimmer may be bent or broken. Sometimes, all that is wrong might be that a removeable or exchangeable part has been incorrectly fitted.
Some devices, notably electric toothbrushes, will regularly come into contact with water and should be built to be watertight. A good quality device should have a long life but the seals on cheap electric toothbrushes aren't always very good. Once water gets in it will be difficult or impossible to repair.
It should go without saying that any mains device that comes into contact with water must be immediately unplugged and thoroughly dried out before doing anything else.