Self-Repair Manifesto

November 9, 2010 Site News — Kyle Wiens

Our relationship with our stuff has spiraled out of control. We buy things, use them for a short while, and then rapidly replace them with the next model. It’s time to take a stand. These are our guiding principles.

If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it

Repair is humanity’s best hope for taking back real ownership of our things.

How long does our stuff last? We need to take a deep breath and look at all of our things. Will we be able to fix them when they break? We have got to put the brakes on our race to become a throw-away society.

It’s not completely our fault. Manufacturers push new models every year with just enough style tweaks to make our last one feel obsolete. They use legal threats to keep repair manuals away from us and deploy so-called ‘security bits’ in new products to prevent us from opening our own things. They have even gone so far as patenting screw heads to keep us out of our stuff.

This must not stand

The manufacturers tout their green credentials by citing take-back programs and recyclable materials, but that’s a a misdirection. Recycling isn’t good enough! Recycling is just efficient urban mining. Recycling destroys the captured energy invested to manufacture things, requiring even more energy to melt it down and make something new. And products made from the resulting material (particularly plastics) are substantially lower quality. We’re much better off using existing things as long as physically possible.

Take action

Hang on to last year’s model! Solve a hardware problemFix an iPod! Teach someone how to fix an XboxContribute to a repair manual! This revolution will not succeed without your help.

Spread the word!

We need to shout this message from the rooftops. Let’s post this manifesto in every coffee house, repair shop, and garage in the world. I’ve posted a page where you can share the Manifesto and download files to print. Put the poster up in your workshop and share a photo!

The revolution will not be televised.

19 Comments

  1. Whilst I agree that it’s good to be able to fix things, there are limits.

    I have worked in phone design for a number of years, and designed many other mass-market consumer devices before that, and I know that in order to make a product that would be easily serviceable by people with non-specialized tools, the product would become huge and unattractive – putting the manufacturer at a competitive disadvantage.

    A good comparison might be that of wristwatches; people accept that if a mechanical watch breaks, they need to take it to a specialist. Nobody expects that a random person – even if they have a steady hand – is likely to be able to fix such an intricate mechanism; it requires specialized knowledge and specialized tools. They accept that actually, they may end up doing more harm than good.

    The same is true for phones. Swapping certain parts may be possible – a flex here, a button there – but the phone as a whole is an RF instrument, and the slightest disturbance can adversely affect its performance: the difference in torque in a single screw could halve your RF performance by increasing impedance in a critical antenna path; peeling off a gasket and resticking it could affect the acoustic response of the receiver. Every single action has side effects in such a tightly coupled system – you end up fixing the button or the screen but the phone doesn’t work so well afterwards.

    Manufacturers aren’t being spoilsports when they seem to be locking things down – they are trying to ensure a good customer experience and a long-lasting, reliable, consistently performing product. If something can be designed so it’s easy to remove/replace without affecting product size/cost/reliability, it generally will be – because this implies ease of assembly and ease of service, which reduces cost (plus, you know that engineers love elegant solutions).

    Just my $0.02 :)

    Comment by alt — November 9, 2010 @ 10:47 am

  2. guys … what are the fonts used in the manifesto … ? i can see 3 … i have a similar project i need to complete for a series of signs around our new ‘concrete & glass’ gym … this would look awesome … i’m also going to post the manifesto on the main boards at the 3 entrances … very inspiring … thanks !

    Comment by Lance — November 9, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  3. I want to own my cpu, how can i do nanometer scaled repairs in my home ? (i have a philips head and a hammer)

    Comment by yaang — November 9, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  4. If our crap weren’t all made in China, it might actually last more than a year. American made products used to last a decade or more, and we weren’t all unemployed.

    Comment by doubtful — November 9, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  5. I want to do some repairs on yaang’s brain. His Cynicalometer setting seems to be jammed on MissingThePoint[ForTheSakeOfNarcissism].(I have a philips head and a hammer. I think I have enough.)
    BTW, nice project and totally agree :D

    Comment by svejk — November 11, 2010 @ 4:38 am

  6. I really should stop being sarcastic while trying to make a point.
    @svejk,
    My point is majority of the problems that needs repairs is beyond the skill,knowledge and or equipment of the average user. Believing by acquiring those rights in the manifesto is going to save the planet is naive. It might even cause more devices that could be repaired by a skilled technician turned into junk because of a mistake during the attempted repair by the user, making the overall situation even worse. I’m not even considering the risks of getting hurt or even dying while trying to repair things without taking the proper precautions first. Believe it or not those rules and limitations are there for a reason. Technicians have from 2 to 6 years of training and receive additional training on the products they are going to work on. Why do you think they spend so much time training ?

    If you really are capable of repairing your stuff then you don’t need the warranty anyway.

    The real environmental problem we’re actually facing is the e-junk. Which consists mainly of not broken but out-dated electronics. People just throw their out-dated PC’s, phones etc to the garbage and it is becoming a serious problem for the past couple of years, specially in eastern europe. Focus on that if you want to make a difference.

    Also unrelated to my point but the line “Repair teaches engineering” is a joke, ask any technician or engineer. Should be “Repair helps learning engineering”.

    I am by no means against self repairs, in fact i do basic repairs (including electronics) at my home but as i have pointed out above; allowing, even encouraging the average user without any training to do repairs on electronics is a bad idea.

    Comment by yaang — November 11, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  7. Recycling, reusing, redesigning, re-creating & reducing all work helping conservation, reduce pollution, waste & trashing nature for recyclable resources. am so thankful for Stuff Studio producing their awareness raising vids yahoooooooooooo for whole energy system design science used, promoted & shared freely by Bucky ‘geodome’ Fuller in 1960-80s.

    Comment by micheal sunanda — November 11, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

  8. you guys are so right-on! i have the same issue about bike parts, too. being able to repair my toys rather than being forced to replace them is so 19th century. why did our forefathers have it right & where did we go wrong?

    thanks for all the glorious tear-downs.

    Comment by bloodnok — November 13, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  9. Excellent manifesto! Let’s reclaim our right to tinker!

    Comment by Layne — November 13, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  10. Instead of the motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle it should be:

    REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE, reuse, recycle.

    Comment by pumpkin — November 13, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  11. @1 I think you are making the assumption that engineers would be unable to rise to this kind of challenge. As a result, I believe you are a fool.

    The problem lies not in engineering, but the dynamics within which your company currently operates. Just because they do business within their current paradigm doesn’t mean it is correct or in the best interests of the masses. If your CEOs were demanding that you and your fellow engineers develop a product that’s completely serviceable and upgradeable…you would be unable to comply?

    Comment by cbarton — November 15, 2010 @ 1:28 am

  12. This is awesome. I don’t expect to repair Dual-Core CPU with an hammer and a cisel, but I do beleive that some basic component could be swap. My blackberry as been fixe (twice) for a broken screen. I think it is awesome DIY. I have some stuff at home that has been fixed/enhanced because the design of the product didn’t expect me to be a complete moron/dumbass.

    We need to be able to change a power supply of an LCD TV set as we should be able to replace a car break pad. It doesn’t mean I actually have to do it. But the is the least to expect when you aspire to some liberty.

    Is there an hi-res version of the poster that I can use for reprint. I would love to have some print layout around

    Comment by Dany Chouinard — November 15, 2010 @ 7:39 am

  13. oh yeah, I guess I should have clicked the link right away. Thanks for the PDF!

    Comment by Dany Chouinard — November 15, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  14. @2

    That font is Public Gothic: http://www.a2591.com/2009/10/type-for-you.html

    Comment by Rident — November 15, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  15. This calls Matthew B. Crawford’s ideals:

    http://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/1594202230

    Of course, there are devices that will be out of the consumer’s grasp when they break down. But what about the products that have evolved into disposable, consumable products-especially those that were once long lasting? Look at automobiles: they are designed in order to make self repair as much of a pain to the consumer as possible. If you have ever worked on a modern car, you can relate to the sense that car manufacturers are concerned with keeping their consumers in their pockets with a proprietary repair model. I need to replace the fuel filter on my ’99 Wrangler, which is located within the gas tank. Replacement calls for the replacement of the entire gas tank, so I would need to take it to a shop or dealer and have them do the work for me. My first car was an elegant W123 Mercedes turbo diesel. Replacing the fuel filter took less than ten minutes and a few hand tools. Nowadays cars have plastic shrouding concealing the motor, as if to ward off the owners from the once-intimate car-man relationship. Hell, some cars today don’t even have dipsticks!

    Maybe it’s a hard concept to visualize, but I wish the tree huggers who seriously overload their closets with eco-friendly clothes and drive their hybrids from Starbucks to Starbucks (hey buddy, you’re not saving gas when you’re running 18 psi in those tires!) would see that their push for recycling is flawed. It doesn’t solve the problem of consumption and materialism, and as this article points out, is truly not an economic means of reclaiming materials in an energy efficient manner. Now with America in love with the idea of recycling, it seems OK now to overproduce and designate shorter shelf life. I pray we learn from this mistake soon, otherwise we’ll see a future with no antiques to remind us of our current failure (because all of our goods will break and be tossed in the recycling bin!).

    Comment by Emmet — November 15, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  16. Your backyard mechanics someday will go out of business as they need to have a comouter analyzer to determine what computer isn’t working on our modern day cars. They are expensive and most likely need updating. Also special tools to make repairs are needed also.

    Comment by Augustle — November 15, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  17. Man, this is a great idea. I almost always fix, or at least try to fix, my electronics and appliances.

    Never realized there was such an awesome resource being built and usually just try to figure it out on my own, if I cannot find an actual service manual. Next time I have to tear something apart, I will def check here and see if there is a guide, submit one if not. Really no need to throw out as much stuff as people do, when a little bit of TLC can often make a big difference!

    Comment by Victor — November 26, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  18. I suggest a Technocracy.

    Designing products for the “average person” to repair isn’t reasonable when the “average person” (USA) has Cradle-to-Grave training in being just a Consumer with an 8th grade education (excepting their specialty which is required by our ruling Corporations). I have actually had people “look down on me” for replacing my own brakes (super easy) rather than pay the $300 to cover advertising, overhead, and liability to a shop. My self-made laptop (Linux with no special drivers needed) “looks like a bomb” when open-idiots. Utterly ridiculous, yes. Yet a glaring example of Media Training in action – logic and sense do NOT apply.

    Let there be Consumers AND Techies.
    Let them know that MY 1983 300D Mercedes is a four-door luxury sedan that I recycled and runs on recycled trash (almost free VegOil) (smarter than a Smart Car, Greener than any Hybrid) because I CAN, and “THEY” can’t. But the truth is that that there is new legislation which encumbers such actions because the “law makers” are Consumers(read; Technically non-proficient)

    Additionally, this new “Recycle your Electronics” legislation channels repairable items OUT of range of DIY Repair folks and back into Corporate control. Such transparent assaults on freedom and efficiency (individuals repairing trash) is a travesty and example of Consumer Law. I would be surprised if the repairable items are not sent for repair and re-sold as “Factory refurbished” in a cheap-labor part of the world.

    The economics of an item’s repair cost Vs new purchase price is well known. If “repair” is eliminated or even reduced from those equations, manufacturers are can charge MORE for new items; simple supply/demand. And insidiously against people and the planet.

    Lets us FIX, FIGHT, and DEFEND repair-ability.

    And let the “Average” person continue on in ignorant bliss….just get “them” to stop undermining technically skilled recyclers who are the epitome of Green Policy.

    Ya can’t fix, “stupid”.

    Comment by Brian — January 2, 2011 @ 1:37 am

  19. To all the naysayers, know that I can’t fix a car to save my life, because I have absolutely no training, even though the rest of my family can change just about anything on their cars, do repairs, and fix any non-electric system. I can, on the other hand, fix any standard problem on a computer, and do most simple electronics because I’m a tinkerer. If electronics were set up to be easily broken down and individual components replaced/upgraded as standards instead of the mess of incompatible, proprietary boards we have these days, we could still do what we used to do with cars.

    Comment by Psydan — January 3, 2011 @ 12:31 am


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