Why Repair rather than replace ?

Many owners ask us if it is prudent to have their product repaired, which in itself is a perfectly reasonable question. Of course everyone is price conscious to some degree so it is useful to look at what constitutes a worthwhile repair, and what factors influence the viability and longevity of the product in question. Although there is currently a profusion of budget goods around, a cheap replacement may not actually be the most economical solution!

The main factors to think over when considering the repair of your product are:

a) The make of product and its age
b) Its condition
c) Whether item will be reliable once repaired
d) Whether item is an integral part of existing equipment
e) Whether replacement will necessarily provide the owner with an improved quality, performance and/or features
f) Whether owner is keen or off-put at the prospect of sourcing a replacement
g) Whether the item has sentimental value
h) The owner's 'Green' credentials

Below are a few points relating to each of the above.

a) The make of product has a lot to do with its longevity. Hence a twenty year old Sony is a far more promising candidate for repair than a ten year old budget set might be. In general, the better a product's quality (and in most cases the more it cost when new), the more likely it is to be reliable in the long term, also the better the availability of most of its spare parts. Also, higher quality products are likely to perform more closely to original specification once repaired than are their budget cousins because they show their age less. Obviously this is a generalisation and we do see exceptions, for example the elderly budget set which performs like new despite the odds and the quality one that looks tired beyond its years…but these are exceptions!

b) One factor here relates to products kept in a smoky environment or one which may have been subjected to dampness. These factors often lead to decreased levels of reliability and the need for a more involved repair. The long term reliability can be more difficult to guarantee.

c) Three factors combine to influence reliability following repair. Please refer to (a) and (b) above for the first two. The third and vital ingredient here relates to the quality and thoroughness of the repair. This process includes listening carefully to the owner, accurate fault diagnosis (ensuring cause and effect are identified), employing top quality spare parts, technical accuracy when dismantling/installing new parts/reassembling, identifying and resolving potential future problems, internal and external cleaning, setting up to specification and thorough testing. This is our field of expertise.

d) With products that are integrated into a system, eg audio components, I believe it is best to consider the cost of the repair of a single item as if spread between the units in terms of cost. This is because even if the repair of a single part of the system is higher than one might wish, its replacement would involve sourcing and installing a new item which will not match visually and which will not respond to the original remote control. Other parts of the same system may never need attention!

e) When replacement rather than the repair of a product is being suggested, it is worth mentioning the common misconception that a new replacement product must be built to a higher standard than that of the older counterpart. In fact, very often the opposite can be true. In the face of ever increasing competition and price reduction at the budget end of the market, even quality manufacturers can be seen to have reduced the build quality of some of their product range as a means to maintain profit margins in an effort to survive the price war. This actually means that it becomes harder for the customer to be confident that he or she has found a decent product in the high street. There are some truly appalling new products being purchased which are immediately throw away because spares back up is non-existent and under design means a much increased likelihood of early failure..

Quality of performance is closely linked to build quality, hence cheaper products generally under-perform in some way. For example it is quite common for owners of S-VHS VCR's (the price of which has recently fallen dramatically) to point out to us that the ten year old VCR it was intended to replace actually out-performs it, eg picture quality, quietness of operation, ease of use, features etc. We have even been asked to confirm that such current machines are really working to specification as the owner cannot believe that his new VCR is not faulty. Then it hits home that it has simply been 'de-engineered' according to the influence of market forces and at this point the owner often has the older machine serviced or repaired!

Finally it is fairly obvious that many products with bargain price tags boast fewer features than their predecessors. This may not seem important, indeed many owners feel that their product already is over endowed with them. But it is surprising what may be left off. Some of the latest VCR's are without Videoplus timer programming, boast unwatchable picture search and have no clock or front display! Cheap widescreen TV's which do not provide the means to change the aspect ratio of the display and having a reliable lifetime which only just exceeds their 1 year warranty, often possessing an inadequate number of AV connectors. Budget 'hifi' systems with sound so poor that it resembles that associated with a telephone earpiece.

f) The above factors may help you make an informed decision on whether to repair or replace, based solely on the product you currently have. However many of our clients feel additional concerns over the process of selecting a product from the plethora of 'unrepeatable deals' on the High Street. Of course, good quality items can be found, it is just getting more difficult to identify them in today's information-free retail environment! If you are particularly happy with the way in which your current item worked and do not wish to install a different one or indeed have to learn how to operate it then a quality repair may be the simplest and best solution. If you do opt to replace, it is our personal view that AV purchases are best made from knowledgeable small independent retailers who have the expertise to distinguish wheat from the chaff and who will ensure that any new product is installed correctly.

g) If the product has sentimental value this may well bias the prospect of repair favorably. Of course, if the item really has had its day then we would have advise you of this, but we are very sympathetic to cherished products of all ages and qualities and frequently find ourselves involved in what is as much a process of loving equipment restoration as repair!

h) Lastly but hopefully not least, an increasing number of our clients are expressing dismay at the implications of the cumulative activity of the throw away society in which (so we are told) we all live without question. Well, if you have a product with which you are happy repaired, it is clearly a more eco-friendly option than discarding it, buying new and, relatively soon afterwards, scrapping that cheap replacement to buy yet again! Electronics production is already responsible for far too much pollution and may be seen as serving the needs of the manufacturer rather than the planet and ourselves. If the rate of replacement of these products could be, say halved, think of the positive environmental benefits we could reap! Of course, we don't advocate that every product is repairable ad infinitum, but we might suggest that the failure of a good piece of equipment need not necessarily result in its owner seeking to replace every time without question.