In the spring of 1998 as I prepared to graduate from college, I made a classic personal finance blunder: I bought a $1500 surround sound receiver on my credit card. At the time I was earning about $240/week before taxes, which means that I really could not afford this stereo. It took me many years to pay off that credit card since there were obviously many other charges on this card, though no single item this expensive.
Fast forward to 2004: Having at least partially learned my lesson about buying things I could not afford (the receiver wasn’t the last…), I still owned the receiver and it still had a prominent position in our home theater setup. Imagine our disappointment when the volume control started to go south. When pushing the volume up or down buttons on the remote control, the receiver would display the corresponding message, such as “Volume Up”, but the volume knob would not turn as it once had.
Bravely, I disassembled enough of the receiver to get a good look at the volume control, hoping that an obvious loose connection was apparent. I didn’t find anything obvious, and after reassembling, the control started working again. For a while. When the knob stopped working again, I discovered that if I gave it a couple of quick raps, the control would start working again.
The “knock on knob” solution worked for another 5 years until last December. No matter how much knocking I did, the volume control would not come back to life. I started to think about having to replace the receiver, which prompted this post: Replacing Items That Put You in Debt. Then ScrapperMom asked a simple, but brilliant question: “Can it be fixed?”
“Duh,” I thought, “why didn’t I think of that?”
When I disassembled the receiver in 2004 I made sure to take a number of pictures of the parts that appeared to be broken (one of which appears above). So I went back to those pictures and found the part number for the board. Then I visited the manufacturer’s website and found a place to search for parts. I put in the information I had and quickly received an email back with a couple of possibilities. Hmm. I called the phone number at the bottom of the email and asked if I could speak to technical support. The tech who came on the line (almost immediately, by the way) knew the troubleshooting for this product, which hadn’t been manufactured in almost 10 years, cold. Within 5 minutes I was armed with enough info to diagnose the root cause of the problem. After testing out the receiver, I found that the motor that drives the knob was bad, and I ordered a new assembly for about $43.
Yesterday, a friend who has lots of experience with soldering delicate electronic parts to circuit boards came by and had the old part off and the new one on in about 45 minutes. We checked out the receiver and the volume control works fine now. Lest you think to yourself that that’s all fine and good if you have a friend who can solder, my initial research for this volume control problem indicated that the part and the repair would have cost about $100 at a qualified service center.
By doing a little research, getting my hands dirty, being resourceful (i.e. calling Bryan), and being reminded not to Pitch, but Fix, we have saved ourselves at least several hundred dollars on not having to buy a new receiver. Yes, we could have survived getting up to turn the volume knob for quite a while (if you can imagine that horror!), but modern society has made the remote control ubiquitous, and having quick access to volume control with a newborn and a toddler in the house will save our sanity for sure.
Do you have a story about fixing instead of pitching? Let’s hear about in the Comments below.