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Learning Electronics for Everyday Practical Reasons Non-Professional

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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The Title is best I can come up with.

What I am getting at is for the non- professional or non-hobbyist is it worth learning electronics for everyday repairs or maintenance of electronics devices, or is it easier and less expensive to just have someone else do it? The parallel would be changing your oil in your
auto where you have to get under the car, with a containter drain the oil possibly getting doused with dirty oil then replace the filter then add the correct amount of oil where you could just take it to a shop and pay someone else to do it for $30 more or less.
Another example would be replacing the broken gearbox in your washing machine rather than having a repairman fix it or just buy
another washing machine. I have replaced 3 wire wall plugs and light fixtures which did not require much skill by reading a book.
Using those principles and many other similar scenarios, would it be worth learning some electrical-electronics theory and application
skills to fix, stereos, radios, audio, computers etc. or any other common electronics devices found in the home?
I'm not interested in pursuing electronics as a career or job and I don't have a lot of spare time to fool around as a hobbyist for fun
as some people normally do. This is just to become a DIY (do it yourself) basic around the house fixer-upper type skil.
Obviously I know there would be some degree of reading and studying to get up to just a basic fixer-upper DIY level, but I am not
sure how much it would take to become just a minimal repair novice or even if it is a reasonable pursuit or not for the layman.

Thanks for Your Advice
 
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ivak245

Jun 11, 2021
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Fixing something doesn't mean just replacing parts. The fault-finding is about 80% of it. Then you have to see if you have a part, or one can be sourced, or you modify something to fit. This all comes with years of experience, no textbook or Youtube clip will give you this. You have to make things that work to understand how things operate, and then start investigating when they don't work. You need to start with some basic electrical knowledge. Can you use a multimeter? When someone says that they are going to throw out a busted appliance, grab it and start prodding around. Figure out how it works and then try to repair it. If you can't repair it, put it away somewhere and have a go at it when you've leant more, or scrounge some parts out of it. The more variety the better. Start with basic stuff. There is a lot of stuff which , for many reasons, can't be repaired. The fault may be glaringly obvious, but you may not be able to get that part out easily. Or it's not available anymore. Or an existing part can't be modified to suit. You will probably do a lot of fault-finding but more "throwing away" because of these reasons. I am retired now, and only do my own repairs, but have been in the repair business for over 50 years, and after all that, I'm still learning.
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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Fixing something doesn't mean just replacing parts. The fault-finding is about 80% of it. Then you have to see if you have a part, or one can be sourced, or you modify something to fit. This all comes with years of experience, no textbook or Youtube clip will give you this. You have to make things that work to understand how things operate, and then start investigating when they don't work. You need to start with some basic electrical knowledge. Can you use a multimeter? When someone says that they are going to throw out a busted appliance, grab it and start prodding around. Figure out how it works and then try to repair it. If you can't repair it, put it away somewhere and have a go at it when you've leant more, or scrounge some parts out of it. The more variety the better. Start with basic stuff. There is a lot of stuff which , for many reasons, can't be repaired. The fault may be glaringly obvious, but you may not be able to get that part out easily. Or it's not available anymore. Or an existing part can't be modified to suit. You will probably do a lot of fault-finding but more "throwing away" because of these reasons. I am retired now, and only do my own repairs, but have been in the repair business for over 50 years, and after all that, I'm still learning.
Well yeah I know its about more than replacing parts. I know that you have to have at least a basic understanding of theory and yes I can use a multimeter. As far as years of experience, I don't have that. What I'm asking is, would it be practical to learn enough to repair some electronics gear on a do-it-yourself level, just like you would for an automobile replacing fuses, or a distributor cap timing, spark plugs or
replacing a water pump or some sensor connected to a computer in the auto.
Although those are not exact parallels the principle is the same which is "Do it Yourself". Are DIY jobs around the house for electronics equipment beyond the capability of an average Joe if he or she studies a little basic theory and like you said watch some youtube examples or study a few books? I don't have time to spend as an electronics hobbyist constantly tinkering around in the garage building kits and making projects.
The alternative is take the gear to a shop and let them fix it for some money or just buy a new one.
 
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kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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I suppose there are parallels to motor maintenance and electronics repair in the sense that replacing a spark plug is akin to changing a blown fuse. When you do auto-maintenance you acquire the tools necessary to do the job and your toolkit expands as the complexity of the work - the same applies to electronics.

What you need to determine is the point at which you're content to do the work yourself or pass it on to the auto shop - that point is determined by (perhaps) your limited toolkit, the complexity of the job and the cost. Same with electronics.

Whilst you might be familiar with the concept of the internal combustion engine, changing the piston rings is a step too far for most driveway tinkerers in much the same way as de-soldering a multi-pin component on a circuit board.

In terms of knowledge, electronics can be far more complicated than motor mechanics BUT there's nothing to stop you learning either concept - how you apply that knowledge and how far you're prepared to go is a question only you can answer. Fault-finding a car uses many of the same techniques as does electronics (eyes, ears, nose, equipment, tools etc) - the only limit being what you're prepared to learn and what you're prepared to DO.
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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I suppose there are parallels to motor maintenance and electronics repair in the sense that replacing a spark plug is akin to changing a blown fuse. When you do auto-maintenance you acquire the tools necessary to do the job and your toolkit expands as the complexity of the work - the same applies to electronics.

What you need to determine is the point at which you're content to do the work yourself or pass it on to the auto shop - that point is determined by (perhaps) your limited toolkit, the complexity of the job and the cost. Same with electronics.

Whilst you might be familiar with the concept of the internal combustion engine, changing the piston rings is a step too far for most driveway tinkerers in much the same way as de-soldering a multi-pin component on a circuit board.

In terms of knowledge, electronics can be far more complicated than motor mechanics BUT there's nothing to stop you learning either concept - how you apply that knowledge and how far you're prepared to go is a question only you can answer. Fault-finding a car uses many of the same techniques as does electronics (eyes, ears, nose, equipment, tools etc) - the only limit being what you're prepared to learn and what you're prepared to DO.

"In terms of knowledge, electronics can be far more complicated than motor mechanics BUT...... how far you're prepared to go"

Yes that's the crux of what I'm asking. But more complicated how? In what way? When do you say, "Forget it. I'm taking it to a shop"
or just buy a new stereo (or whatever it is).
I know you said basically that it is up to me (or anyone) to decide for themselves, but analyzing it further I come up with more questions.
As I said its like you can change your motor oil but that is a waste of time where you can just take it to a shop and they do the dirty work
for not too much $$$ and even recycle the dirty oil. Where in DIY electronics repair would time and money pay off?
Maybe auto and electronics are not good parallels but I don't know what else is. Maybe fixing your household appliances like
refrigerator, washer, air conditioner etc. Also the "black box" throwaway aspect in todays manufacturing technology making it

a waste of time to dig and dig into what compnent is defective.

So, the bottom line question would be, "is it even worth learning some electronics for DIY repair (or maintenance), if you are

not interested in it as a hobby or pursuing it as a career but just as another "around the house" fix-it skill ?
I have wrenches, sockets and even a torque wrench and a fix-it repair manual with torque settings (as an example) but that doesn't

take being a physics expert to torque down bolts correctly. Is it worth getting an oscilloscope for home DIY repair? Average (not geniuses)
auto mechanics know how to use a scope for some motor diagnosis and they are far from engineers, some don't even have

a high school diploma. Is electronics on a whole other level of technical educational skill better left to electronics repair experts?
Your comparison to piston rings repalacement is a good example of what I'm getting at. Sorry but auto repair is the best parallel
example I can come up with. Maybe another way to put it is this, "Is DIY electronics repair (& learning) beyond the
capability of the average layman as compared to auto motor maintenance for the layman? Maybe they are each in a different league.
Concurrenlty is learning DIY electronics worth the time or really beyond the comprehension of the laymen? Time is probably the main factor and would you really save any money trying to do it yourself? It's a hard question to formulate that's why I keep going in circles from different vantage points.
 
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kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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Time is probably the main factor and would you really save any money trying to do it yourself?
Over years I have taken the opportunity to teach myself many, many differing practical skills and to gather tools that fit with the levels of skill that I now possess.

I did this for more than one reason - firstly a thirst for knowledge. It's insatiable! I have only once used the service of professionals and that was purely down to the level of tools that I wasn't prepared to go to - a car lift! Everything else, wood working, plumbing, electrical, masonry, electronics.... you name it, I have 'some' knowledge of it. More than enough to make me 'capable but not necessarily professional' (except in the case of electronics where I made this a career, achieved the necessary qualifications and built a reputation as a global travelling fault-finder/fixer. In electrical working I did a nationally recognised qualification 'for the hell of it' but never taken that quali into the commercial field. I've even taught electrical/electronic engineering to degree level - did that for 7 years......

As for saving money - well yes! Thousands and thousands saved (over using professional services) and no regrets. Sure, the pro's could do a better job (in some, not all, circumstances) and probably a lot quicker than it took me but I was never in a hurry.

The tools I now have cover every aspect of every skill I have so there's nothing I can't or won't have a go at.

But you must also understand that not everyone has the ability to adapt and/or learn multiple skill sets (or the time/inclination) and there's nothing wrong with that. Work and family life take precedence and applying yourself 'professionally' can be very lucrative to the point at which the cost of employing others to do your dirty work makes financial sense.

Some of the tasks I'm currently undertaking are: fitting replacement double glazing in all windows of our house (joinery), plumbing a gas water heater for our guest accommodation (gas and water plumbing), rebuilding the rear brakes (mechanics) and rear collision subframe (welding) on my Jeep, wiring remote (wifi) temperature monitoring on our freezers (electronics), building a growing tunnel, fitting a 1500 litre filtering system for our pond (plumbing and electrical) etc etc etc. More stuff than I currently have time for - still have to attend to our business needs in between all this and I'm approaching retirement......... I just wonder if I'll last long enough!

I don't know it 'all' - but I know enough. The actual skill is learning HOW MUCH KNOWLEDGE you need to make you competent rather than a liability. And that's an open-ended discussion.
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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Over years I have taken the opportunity to teach myself many, many differing practical skills and to gather tools that fit with the levels of skill that I now possess.

I did this for more than one reason - firstly a thirst for knowledge. It's insatiable! I have only once used the service of professionals and that was purely down to the level of tools that I wasn't prepared to go to - a car lift! Everything else, wood working, plumbing, electrical, masonry, electronics.... you name it, I have 'some' knowledge of it. More than enough to make me 'capable but not necessarily professional' (except in the case of electronics where I made this a career, achieved the necessary qualifications and built a reputation as a global travelling fault-finder/fixer. In electrical working I did a nationally recognised qualification 'for the hell of it' but never taken that quali into the commercial field. I've even taught electrical/electronic engineering to degree level - did that for 7 years......

As for saving money - well yes! Thousands and thousands saved (over using professional services) and no regrets. Sure, the pro's could do a better job (in some, not all, circumstances) and probably a lot quicker than it took me but I was never in a hurry.

The tools I now have cover every aspect of every skill I have so there's nothing I can't or won't have a go at.

But you must also understand that not everyone has the ability to adapt and/or learn multiple skill sets (or the time/inclination) and there's nothing wrong with that. Work and family life take precedence and applying yourself 'professionally' can be very lucrative to the point at which the cost of employing others to do your dirty work makes financial sense.

Some of the tasks I'm currently undertaking are: fitting replacement double glazing in all windows of our house (joinery), plumbing a gas water heater for our guest accommodation (gas and water plumbing), rebuilding the rear brakes (mechanics) and rear collision subframe (welding) on my Jeep, wiring remote (wifi) temperature monitoring on our freezers (electronics), building a growing tunnel, fitting a 1500 litre filtering system for our pond (plumbing and electrical) etc etc etc. More stuff than I currently have time for - still have to attend to our business needs in between all this and I'm approaching retirement......... I just wonder if I'll last long enough!

I don't know it 'all' - but I know enough. The actual skill is learning HOW MUCH KNOWLEDGE you need to make you competent rather than a liability. And that's an open-ended discussion.
"The actual skill is learning HOW MUCH KNOWLEDGE you need to make you competent"

But how much do you need to fix typical home electronics like TV,s radios, computers, stereos etc. (smartphones-forget it)

Great post and pretty much what I'm getting at, although I don't think I would want to do all the things you say you do, unless I was retired and had all the time, 24 hours a day on my side. I had to pay a plumber $600 to replace a 12 inch long natural gas pipe to my house although I don't hink I would want to try fooling around with a possible gas explosion myself and I have done some household plumbing. As far as a thirst for knowledge, while I respect your thirst, for me I have found some knowledge is useless, even if amazing.
There is a limit to sensible DIY homestead repair skills, but where that limit is applied to household electronics I really don't know and that is what I'm inquiring about here that maybe someone can tell me. Just where in a skill & knowledge learning curve it becomes a liability and waste of time to learn and repair everyday electronics items, where you can just throw it away and buy a new one or get some skilled professional repair person to fix it and pay him (or her) a few shillings if the device is worth fixing. It's all about that general DIY prnciple as applied to electronics repair.
 
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Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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Interesting post!.
What’s easy for one person isn’t necessarily easy for another.
Time is of the essence in every single thing we do. Absolutely nobody knew how to do anything without first investigating or being shown or being taught.
The time it takes is 100% down to the individual.
The question is, is it worth it?. Only you can decide that. You mention the car/auto repair, which you learned over time and acquired tools.
As already mentioned, fault finding is a big part of electronics repair. You obviously have to have the ability to do so. There is no magic involved, but having an interest in the subject would help.
Unfortunately for you, there aren’t levels of repair that you can study purely for home DIY. If you’re a practical person, then you can teach yourself certain aspects of any trade.
There are no “how long”,”how many”, “what do I need to know” answers. Start at the beginning!.

Martin
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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Interesting post!.
What’s easy for one person isn’t necessarily easy for another.
Time is of the essence in every single thing we do. Absolutely nobody knew how to do anything without first investigating or being shown or being taught.
The time it takes is 100% down to the individual.
The question is, is it worth it?. Only you can decide that. You mention the car/auto repair, which you learned over time and acquired tools.
As already mentioned, fault finding is a big part of electronics repair. You obviously have to have the ability to do so. There is no magic involved, but having an interest in the subject would help.
Unfortunately for you, there aren’t levels of repair that you can study purely for home DIY. If you’re a practical person, then you can teach yourself certain aspects of any trade.
There are no “how long”,”how many”, “what do I need to know” answers. Start at the beginning!.

Martin
I just used the auto repair example to have something to compare to regarding DIY, around the house repair. There are people who
can do quite a lot of DIY auto repair without much knowledge and little experience. I suspect that electronics DIY is a lot different
and requires more knowledge and experience to make it worthwhile and cost effective, but I just don't know how much different and
to what degree of complexity as compared to auto mechanical repair. I know this much, you can hold a brake pad or a spark plug in
you hand and you can repair or replace those components and even measure pad thickness or spark plug wear but a good or bad electronics printed circuit board both look the same, if there are not burnt marks. They look the same.
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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Again, car repair. You didn’t just ‘know’ how to change the pads or spark plugs!. You read a book (possibly Haynes) manual or a family member showed you.

Martin
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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Again, car repair. You didn’t just ‘know’ how to change the pads or spark plugs!. You read a book (possibly Haynes) manual or a family member showed you.

Martin
I suspect that DIY electronics repair is more involved than DIY replacing spark plugs or changing brake pads. The principle is the same
I think, but the skill and knowledge level is different. That's the puzzle piece I'm trying to find. Tell me that unscrewing a spark plug and
replacing it or taking a bolt out of a wheel cylinder to take off the pad and replace it is the same skill & theory level as electronics repair?
If it is the same equivalent mental skill level then electronics must be easier to grasp than I think. The auto example, like I said, is just
something to compare to. It could be appliance repair or plumbing. Electronics must be more difficult to understand than those skills?
 

kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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How long is a piece of string?

Until you start measuring it you'll never know. There is no way we (or you) can determine what skill levels are required until you start learning them. Once you start applying them you might find that what you already know is enough (or not) and proceed accordingly.

If taken using 'tools' as an example, you wouldn't buy a left-handed knob-juggler unless you had either a need for one or the knowledge of how to use it. Apply that thought process to, say, a multimeter. Do you own one? If you do you must have even some basic knowledge of what it's for, how to use it and how to interpret the results it gives - like a 12mm spanner, you know what it's for and when to use it.

But using that 12mm socket on a nuclear reactor? Where to start? Try reading or watching videos (Youtube) where knowledge is freely given.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing and dispensing what you learn to others has a certain feeling of satisfaction to it. Not everything in this world has to be paid for.
 

HAROLDYOUNG

Jul 15, 2023
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How long is a piece of string?

Until you start measuring it you'll never know. There is no way we (or you) can determine what skill levels are required until you start learning them. Once you start applying them you might find that what you already know is enough (or not) and proceed accordingly.

If taken using 'tools' as an example, you wouldn't buy a left-handed knob-juggler unless you had either a need for one or the knowledge of how to use it. Apply that thought process to, say, a multimeter. Do you own one? If you do you must have even some basic knowledge of what it's for, how to use it and how to interpret the results it gives - like a 12mm spanner, you know what it's for and when to use it.

But using that 12mm socket on a nuclear reactor? Where to start? Try reading or watching videos (Youtube) where knowledge is freely given.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing and dispensing what you learn to others has a certain feeling of satisfaction to it. Not everything in this world has to be paid for.
How much electronics theory for a DIY fixer upper?
Would an oscilloscope be a tool you have to have?
How about other electronics measuring gear? (I already have a couple multimeters)
Keep in mind I don't want to be a technician or engineer and not even a hobbyist who loves electronics kits and projects.
Just a fix-it-at-home if needed type person if it is feaseable and practical. Like a person would to change an igniter on a
gas clothers dryer or a panel timer, light fixture, wall switch, door lock, toilet valve, windshield wipers, headlight or
spark plugs, brake pads, alternator replacement etc. . All round DIY fixer-upper. How does electronics fit into that picture
or is it really beyond those DIY skill set levels? In other words is electronics in a whole other category or advanced skill set?
People here keep implying " it all depends on getting to know the skill or getting the tools" and I'm asking
"what would be the skill and knowledge required for just a DIY, around the home basic electronics fixer-upper person?"
and if that is even possible or would require involved formal training which I don't want to do?
 
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kellys_eye

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"what would be the skill and knowledge required for just a DIY, around the home basic electronics fixer-upper person?"
All the way from 'none' to 'degree level'. It's not for anyone but the applicant to decide. You can follow YouTube repair videos with ZERO skills and fix stuff or have degree-level education and still fix stuff. You won't know until you start doing it.

If you have a test meter and know how to use it then you're part of the way there. Learn how to read a schematic - this involves learning how to identify the various sections (power supply, input, output, whatever...) and any 'route' a signal or process takes to achieve its purpose.

Learn the function of various components and the basic circuits they are used in.....

No point in me continuing to list things as I have no idea at which point you will feel 'satisfied'. But know this, NO qualifications are required. Specifically there is no actual 'home electronics repair certificate' either. If you have the ability it will show itself. If you constantly struggle then there's no real point in continuing.
 
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HAROLDYOUNG

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All the way from 'none' to 'degree level'. It's not for anyone but the applicant to decide. You can follow YouTube repair videos with ZERO skills and fix stuff or have degree-level education and still fix stuff. You won't know until you start doing it.

If you have a test meter and know how to use it then you're part of the way there. Learn how to read a schematic - this involves learning how to identify the various sections (power supply, input, output, whatever...) and any 'route' a signal or process takes to achieve its purpose.

Learn the function of various components and the basic circuits they are used in.....

No point in me continuing to list things as I have no idea at which point you will feel 'satisfied'. But know this, NO qualifications are required. Specifically there is no actual 'home electronics repair certificate' either. If you have the ability it will show itself. If you constantly struggle then there's no real point in continuing.
OK youtube. I'll look there for something relevant. . How about oscilloscope? Do you need one of those? What's the use of one? Seems like anyone doing any kind of repair has one.
 
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kellys_eye

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How about oscilloscope? Do you need one of those? What's the use of one? Seems like anyone doing any kind of repair has one.
It's a very useful tool but probably at the 'next level' if you're talking simple DIY repairs. If you research the concepts behind an oscilloscope you'll understand where and how they can be useful. It's just another measuring tool. A 'visible' multimeter if you will....
 

HAROLDYOUNG

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It's a very useful tool but probably at the 'next level' if you're talking simple DIY repairs. If you research the concepts behind an oscilloscope you'll understand where and how they can be useful. It's just another measuring tool. A 'visible' multimeter if you will....
So is a multimeter enough to do some attempt at repairs or do I need some other gear? I already know a soldering iron is needed.
 

Bluejets

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