Robo-woes

Nov. 2nd, 2016 12:27 am
vampyrichamster: (Default)
So, Robomaid, our Neato XV-11, seems to have finally coughed up its last hairball. Over the past year, it was giving out more frequent and more difficult to diagnose "My brush is stuck," error messages. Usually, this means cleaning under the ball bearings on either side of its brush, as well as the brush itself. About 3 months ago, no amount of cleaning would help. I finally managed to see that the shaft attached to the drive belt seemed to have accumulated hair around one end. The shaft itself is a solid piece of forged metal with no open ends, so I tried using tweezers to reach through the narrow opening and pinch hair out. This was a good idea in theory, but the tweezers weren't strong enough to pry open four years of twisted hair.

I then figured that if I could remove the bottom casing, I might have a chance of cutting away the hair completely. But even after taking out what I thought were all the screws, there was no conceivable way I could see to remove the top and bottom casing from each other. I tried this twice, once on my own and another following a video to figure out which screws I missed. Even then I was doubtful I could remove the top casing without actually breaking something. Plus, it wasn't obvious to me that the bottom casing would come free the way I thought it would, with an obvious entry to the shaft for cleaning.

An online search gave some suggestions. Among them, I tried using WD-40 to melt the hair (this seemed chemically implausible), or loosen it. This totally didn't work, although WD-40 is good to help clean out dust that might be blocking you from seeing straight down under the drive belt. I tried Nair on a cotton bud for the same purpose -- which sort of worked. Unfortunately, Nair is an opaque cream that is more trouble than help. One of the suggestions was to use a Havel's Ultra Pro Seam Ripper, which is basically a thin scalpel with a hooked end (like a very tiny halberd). Apart from the sheer fun of wielding a small scalpel, it wasn't entirely obvious to me at first how I was supposed to apply it to the shaft. What you have to do is essentially run the hooked end facing downwards to catch on and rip into the ring of hair. Any hair that comes loose needs to be tweezed out. About 2 hours of sawing later, I finally saw the glint of metal in the darkness. A test drive of Robomaid suggested she was cured.

Then I tried running it for real to vacuum our bedroom. Five minutes later, Robomaid stopped with "My brush is stuck." In a house with two cats and two people, I can sympathise if a wee robot vacuum decides to face down the dust under our bed and get a heart attack. I tried cleaning the brushes, pulling out a little ring of suspiciously beige fur from under one of the ball bearings. No dice.

At this point, even though a tiny part of my soul goes, "You cannot win overly-sensitive precision tool!", I am leaning on just getting the pros to pry the damn thing open and figure out what I couldn't. Mind you, this is cautious optimism. Robomaid has served us well for the past four or five years. But if the problem is hair, and I can't remove it, we could be looking at something that will repeat itself later. I mean, I just replaced the batteries with new ones! So a part of me wants to spend the night sawing at the drive shaft some more, and a part of me is like, "I'll just pay someone $95 shipping included to fix that in the morning." Seth leans in favour of the latter. He also suggested three months ago that I should get one of the newer Neatos, which comes complete with Wi-Fi, a mobile phone app, telescopic brushing arms (those make me go oooh!) and a better battery. Given that Black Friday is coming up, it seems a good idea to save up for that. Honestly, a second robot vacuum isn't a terrible idea. Owning one has been a real quality of life improvement. It's near impossible for me to reach into the places Robomaid could with a normal vacuum, and a normal vacuum is great for specific narrow places, but gives me tinnitus in the process. Also, cats. One of my cats is the fur of three cats. The other one seems to like rolling in dirt. And leaves. And bits of cardboard. I can see Robomaid just scanning our carpets and blaming us for all the injustice in the world from the crumbs. The crumbs!

We should just assume I come from that generation of people where electronics don't go tits up on you after five years.

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