The tumble dryer.
Though it still works, the noise is indicative of chronic incipient death, so I decided little would be lost in dismantling the machine even if I couldn't put it back together. It is pleasant to record that these fears were quite unfounded. That is to say, (a) I could put it back together, but (b) it is indeed nearly dead.
It's a Zanussi Z908, and mental calculation puts its acquisition around 1988. Thus it's done at least 18 years so one can't really complain if the life of some part of it wishes to draw peacefully - or rather should we say, noisily -, to its close.
I must also say, many impressive design features were found, and also excellent workmanship. Cf. the tumble dryer before this one. It was a Hoover, and when that began to die, I undid the 12 screws on the back, and as I got near the end, the carcass began to change its shape. On undoing the last but one screw, there was a banging noise, and the supposedly rectangular carcass sprang into a shape which defied description, except that it still had 4 sides, but at widely differing angles to each other. In short, the back was a kind of former, or corset, for the outer case - and can only have been screwed on in the factory after the box had been pressed by hydraulic rams into the right shape, and was never intended to be replaced by any single ordinary human being, unless they were assisted by two well-trained and stalwart gibbons. (One average gorilla would do for pure strength, but gorilla’s arms aren’t long enough.) In other words: typical British workmanship of the 1970s.
This Italian Zanussi though, retained its box shape even after the back was taken off. Indeed, locating lugs were provided which realigned the back almost perfectly so that one could replace it effortlessly. The entire rotating drum could easily be removed after releasing the belt from the motor and taking off a circlip that retained the drum shaft in a bearing plate in the middle of the back plate.
The motor was in perfect condition - though that much was already apparent, following inspection through the large removable plastic filter for incoming air, located on the back plate.
No; the problem lay in the fan assembly. One end of the motor shaft drives the main drum. The belt was still in excellent condition, by the way. The other end of the motor shaft drives a kind of turbine fan in a plastic housing. A duct from this draws air in past the heating element, through the back of the drum, and, after it has passed through a fluff filter, expels it via the exit hose.
It would fairly easily be possible to remove this fan assembly and replace it. Then, I don't doubt the machine would run as efficiently and as whisper-smooth as it did when it was brand new; even though it has lived out its 18 years in an environment that becomes extremely damp in winter, as you can see by the small patch of rust at the top left of the front of it, in the photo. above. (The small extent of this patch is, in itself, a tribute to the quality of the stove-enamelling of the case. Having worked in the paint industry for a time circa 1962, I know just enough about stove-enamels to appreciate the durability of the coating used by Zanussi.)
Also impressive and delightfully simple, was the mode of locating and securing the top plate. Two screws held it at the back. After removing these, one simply rotates the top plate 15 or 20 degrees, and lifts it off. There are two stout plastic bushes on the top of each side of the main casing, near the front. To replace the top plate, one simply rests it on the top of the casing at say 20 degrees, and turns it square. The inward facing lip on the bottom of the top plate dutifully locates itself under these plastic bushes & so is held down. Replacing the 2 screws at the back firmly secure the plate. Excellent.
Various other commendable features were noted; e.g. on the electrical side, it was easy to disconnect the wiring to the back plate: the mains supply, the heating element, and the thermostatic safety cut-out, all of which have connections on the back plate. This can then be laid aside while work proceeds on the main casing.
Also, the fan is evidently driven by the motor via a form of dog clutch, so that when you switch off the machine, the drum stops quite quickly, but the fan continues to rotate for some time under its own momentum. Thus, air continues to pass through the system in for a while. This both helps cool the heating element, and also expel the still-hot air inside the drum, if you have turned the machine off before the full cycle has been attained. (There is a 10 minute cooling period at the end of a completed drying cycle). Again, subtle & commendable design. Incidentally, this design feature was inferred from the fact that now, with the fan bearing knackered, when you switch the machine off, the rumbling noise continues unabated for a few seconds before the bearing judders to halt. In perfect condition, I'd imagine the fan would continue to run for quite a while - maybe 30 or 40 seconds?
But alas, everything has a downside.
Viz., Google all I might, I cannot find an on-line source of a new fan assembly for a Zanussi Z-908. I guess it's just too old a model to bother with any more? (A digital voice - with an American accent of course - informs us: “We no longer support this model.”)
There is an added irony here, in that I am moving house in the relatively near future, and have undertaken to leave certain domestic appliances - including the tumble dryer - in place here. I have already had to renew the electric shower in the bathroom, which also died a few months ago. It is now highly likely that I shall have to purchase a new tumble drier, and leave it here as a kind of unexpected bonus to the incoming owner of my property.
Still and all, I would, and indeed shall buy another Zanussi tumble dryer, even though they are not quite the cheapest on the market. But I certainly shan’t buy a Zanussi for the new owner of my house. If the Z908 actually self-destructs before I move, that is. I dare say, that a loudly-rumbling Z908 but which does actually dry washing, would fulfil my legal undertaking? If I do have to buy them a new one, it certainly won’t be a Zanussi. Oh dear, no: they will have to settle for the cheapest-of-the-cheap brandless cardboard imitation tumble dryer. Whilst I, in my new abode, shall luxuriate to the reassuring whisper of my Zanussi TD4213W, seen here at left, although I haven’t actually got it yet, I just lifted a picture of one from the web. Gosh, I can hardly wait!
WARNING! On no account are unqualified people to open the backs of, or in any way meddle or tamper with, tumble dryers or indeed any other domestic appliances, as dangerous electrical voltages, metallic sharp edges and many other hazardous components & other things are liable to be found therein. E.g. old socks, dead spiders, or very small alien creatures accidentally mis-directed during inter-galactic projection &c. It is always best to remember the old axiom: “No user-serviceable parts inside. Refer servicing to qualified service personnel”. Also, even very small and normally tractable alien creatures are highly likely to be quite irritable & even fierce, after having being trapped in a loudly-rumbling tumble dryer for many months. You see, an imprisonment of even a few weeks (to us a trivial period, of course) may seem to them to have lasted for ćons, as they often reckon their time quite differently than do we, even in spite of the fact that such alien beings are generally immortal. Actually, I have long had the feeling that immortality, usually expected to endow a sentient species with infinite patience, tolerance, even complaisance & many other virtues (e.g. Ian Banks’s ‘Dwellers’), may in some cases work in exactly the opposite way. For example, a lifetime of standing in queues at your bank simply trying to pay in a couple of much-needed cheques, while people in front of you mess about & delay you with their farcically irrelevant queries and usually self-inflicted problems, is most likely to chronically reduce your patience & tolerance quotient, at least in the short term? On that basis, may I suggest that if you actually do find a small furry alien creature (and above all, a large spiky one) inside your tumble dryer, it deserves to be treated with the utmost deference?
Page re-formatted 20th December 2015.