Another three bite the dust.
The Latest in a Long Line
Has anything failed in your house recently? We suffered a few losses back in early spring, and in conjunction with our YouTube channel, we published a feature on device failure disassembly. Since then a handful of other items went up in smoke, albeit only figuratively so far. After juggling a small collection of screwdrivers, we found that the Venn diagram of common electrical appliances and electronic paraphernalia continues rapidly toward total eclipse. This isn’t a bad thing, as we now have widgets, doodads, and even occasional gizmos that are astoundingly powerful and capable at affordable prices.
For example, if you recently used a rotating hand tool such as a router, and it soft-started rather than twisting your hands off in a burst of startup torque, you experienced a speed-ramping VFD device. Until recent years, that kind of control mainly existed in high-dollar industrial settings. And it probably cost less than the same tool, sans the enhancement, purchased back when the Y2K bug was allegedly crawling around the HVAC vents and the Ethernet rack. But the trade-off for this surface-mounted wizardry is that when our electronics-addled devices suffer failures, these are often non-repairable.
In today’s feature, we’re going to look at a sampling of recent mini-meltdowns in Chez Vienot. In our next feature to follow, we’ll look at two more that we were able to repair, and give you an idea as to how difficult that was. As usual, we saved the really gory bits for our YouTube production, available next. Or, for some old-timey text and pictures, scroll past and continue reading.
Directions to Nowhere
The first category of devices to fall under our fearsome tool collection was a pair of Garmin GPS devices. One was an ancient Nuvi 205, a 3.5-inch budget model that launched less than a year after the first iPhone was released. By the time we bought one, it was at end-of-life and we got it for about half of original retail at an Office Depot clearance table. It then survived numerous road trips for both business and pleasure. These including a near-literal trial by fire, riding in the windscreen of a Camry through Phoenix, Arizona, the Sonoran Desert, and California’s Imperial Valley during a two-week journey in mid-August. Those weren’t the hottest temperatures I’ve ever experienced, seeing as I’ve also burned myself with a few soldering irons. But it was probably the hottest the GPS had ever been since the reflow oven, and it took it like a champ.
All things fail, though. In mid 2018 we found ourselves in rural Nebraska for business, and naturally, that’s when it finally decided to die. It came out of our suitcase in the rental car lot, got its usual connection to the 12V port, and proceeded to display a message indicating that it had corrupted its map memory. That may have been a failure of the auxiliary SD card which was storing the overflow data, but we’ll never know for sure. It was obsolete and unsupported by Garmin’s update utility so there was no way to try and restore it with a fresh card. We cracked open its shell in search of the soft innards, but the drawn butter was set aside in favor of a closer visual inspection when we and found this poster-ready image from the Hubble Telescope:
The Nuvi 205 GPS antenna module, now useful mainly as abstract art.
Colorful, if nothing else. Fortunately, we had a smartphone and LTE reception at the jobsite in spite of the somewhat remote location. However, I prefer to have a conventional GPS navigator in my car in case of phone device or network problems. A dedicated GPS device is a great way to “fly by instruments” in unfamiliar locations, especially at night or in adverse weather.
As it happened, the Nuvi 205 failure occurred within reasonable distance of a Walmart. Its replacement, purchased that same night, was a Garmin Drive 5. It featured a larger display, a more responsive touchscreen, speed limit and camera alerts, and a much shorter lifespan. It survived the jobsite and a two-year run of occasional use afterward. Then, one fine morning as I was departing for a jobsite in rural Colorado, it stalled on the splash screen and would boot no further. What fun. It came apart and revealed similar but smaller guts compared to its older stablemate. Side by side, the two devices broke apart as follows:
The failed Drive 5 (left) and Nuvi 205 (right).
As one might expect for a ten-year difference, the newer unit had more compact electronics and a larger display. But what was notable about both devices was their similarity to modern ultrabook and mobile device construction. The speakers were installed with the same kind of adhesive rings that are now commonly used for mobile device displays, the batteries are pouch-packs similar to any other mobile device, the touch-screen units use typical laptop ribbon cables and mainboard connectors, and the main control boards both present a tidy surface mount layout. The plastic shells rely on the same snap-together construction as any modern tablet or ultrabook. Some connectors and other random bits are larger because they can be, but the rest will be familiar to anyone who has popped open any other mobile, computing, or display device within the past 5-10 years.
Having learned nothing from our experiences, we replaced the failed Drive 5 with a slightly newer Drive 51 a couple months ago. Hopefully the minor design updates include some nod to reliability. Time will tell.
You want more? We’ve got more…on video
Two other devices went to the coroner’s autopsy in this round. The second of three was a crusty Cuisinart coffee burr grinder. We survived the first few days after that loss by grinding coffee in a food processor. Suggestion: don’t. The third and final was a set of aftermarket LED headlight bulbs. If you want to know more about those than what the teaser photos show below, please join us in our YouTube feature!
Again, we’ll be revisiting this series very soon, but with a couple items we were able to repair: one in the ordinary way, and one with a major conversion that looks almost OE from the outside. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure that you don’t miss it!
Cuisinart burr grinder innards (there’s surface mount stuff on the other side).
Aftermarket LED headlights, not quite fresh off the boat.
See you all next time, and meanwhile, join us for continued discussion down in the comments here, or on YouTube.