Friday, November 21, 2014

Hello Kitty Toaster Testimonial

We see a ton of toasters at Fixit Clinics and fix the vast majority of them. Here's one story of a Hello Kitty toaster we saw at the 2014 East Bay Mini Maker Faire, as told by its owner:

"Shortly after I met Susan, she found my broken Hello Kitty toaster in a dark corner of my kitchen. She offered to fix it for me, to satisfy her love for all things mechanical and—I want to believe—to show her love for me. Hello Kitty toaster went home with her shortly thereafter and stayed with her for a long time. Two years went by while our relationship grew and we planned our future lives. Susan applied to graduate school and got accepted. Meanwhile, Hello Kitty toaster gathered dust in her Minneapolis apartment. When we packed her things to leave, the toaster, still broken, surfaced again. “We should just throw this away, right?”  I asked. “No!” Susan replied emphatically. “I’m going to fix it for you,” she declared. Hello Kitty toaster got stuffed in a box with a tangle of multi-colored computer cords, an eggbeater and a dozen mismatched socks and drove east across the country. 

"I finished my studies in the Midwest while Susan earned her degree out East. Two years went by. Hello Kitty toaster gathered more dust in her New York apartment. We agreed to move together to Merced where Susan was offered a job. Hello Kitty toaster went back in a box with computer cords and socks and drove West across the country to California’s great Central Valley. When I arrived a few months later, I tasked myself with organizing our new, shared household. Sorting through boxes of books, tools, hats, bowls, board games and bicycle parts, Hello Kitty toaster surfaced again, even more dirty and dusty and sadly, still broken. “Seriously? After four years and two cross-country trips, can’t we get rid of this toaster?” I asked again. “No. I’m going to fix it,” Susan insisted. 

"We settled in. Susan advanced in her new job and eventually I got a job, too. We visited Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, Monterrey Bay, Big Sur and Muir Woods. I got promoted. Susan got promoted. Another two years went by. In September 2014, Susan announced she bought tickets to the Mini-Maker Faire in Oakland. “And, Hello Kitty toaster is coming with,” she added. “We’re going to the Fix-It Clinic at the Faire to finally fix the toaster!” We couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. When it did, Hello Kitty toaster went into the car once more to make the shortest of its many road trips—just two hours up Highway 99, over the Altamonte Pass and down into the gleaming Bay Area. 

Fixit Coach Richard Jesch with our two heroines and their just-repaired toaster

"At the Fix-it Clinic, Susan and I gently disassembled the filthy toaster, lifting the kitty-faced cover to expose the fragile, naked slots for bread and a strange assembly of wires and springs and electrodes and chips. A soft-spoken man offered his help in diagnosing the problem. We explained that the lever used to lower the bread into the toasting chamber didn’t hold down the bread anymore. To diagnose the cause of this problem, he guided us through an inspection of the mechanical parts of the toaster first, lifting something up, pushing something down, to see what various pieces did. We found a misplaced metal rod and a crooked plastic brace but righting these pieces didn’t fix the lever. He suggested we test the electronic parts of the toaster next. He pointed out a tiny round object and identified it as an electromagnet. “That’s what holds the lever down,” he explained. “There should be a thermometer somewhere that tells the magnet to release the lever when the toasting elements reach a certain temperature. Look for a wire with a blobby end on that green board.” Susan and I bumped foreheads squinting over the tiny board. I noticed a black blob at the tip of a pair of wires and pointed it out to our Fix-It Clinician. “Good eye! That’s the thermometer,” he said. Then he handed Susan copper clamps with a red and a black handle and directed her to attach each to a particular part of the toaster guts. He turned a knob on a machine with a gauge and we read him the number on which the red needle landed. At first the needle didn’t move which could mean the electromagnet is dead, he explained. He instructed Susan to attach the clamps to other components of the toaster guts. He turned the knob and we watched the needle again and again. Finally, we determined that electricity was flowing to the necessary destinations and the magnet still worked. But we couldn’t determine what was the problem. Hello Kitty toaster seemed to have us stumped. 

"Susan wasn’t going to be defeated however. She started examining a little square piece of plastic attached to the lever assembly. She moved it up and down, up and down with a puzzled look on her face. “I wonder if … ah ha!” She pushed the square up until it stayed in place. Steadying the whole toaster with one hand, she carefully pushed down the pink lever with one finger on the opposite hand. When the lever hit the bottom of its track, she slowly withdrew her finger and—the lever stayed in place. “Is it fixed?” I asked in disbelief. Susan pushed the lever down again and while we held our breath, pulled her finger away. The lever stayed down! 

"All three of us shouted in triumph. We traded high-fives with everyone in the Clinic. One hundred and twenty minutes, six years and not quite six thousand miles later, Hello Kitty toaster was finally fixed. Susan finally fulfilled her promise, our problem intrigued the Fix-It Clinician and we all learned some fascinating things about toaster technology. Now the toaster is back on our kitchen counter happily serving up kitty-faced toast.

"Thank you Fix-It Clinic for a fun and rewarding experience. 

Sara &  Susan"

In case you ever wondered why we do these Fixit Clinics: it's for stories like these. We'll be asking more participants to share their Fixit Clinic stories at future events.

And if you're looking to fix your own toaster: bring it to one of our upcoming events. No event near you? Try the iFixit online repair guide we've contributed to here: , let us know where it needs work.

UPDATE: We recently received this followup email and photo:

We finally bought some white bread, here's the proof that the toaster is fixed!

Thanks so much we really enjoyed the Fixit Clinic experience!!

-Sara and Susan"

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