Electronics Repair Advice Needed

Dear Dopers,

I need advice. Heres the deal: I own a Hafler DH500 stereo amplifier. It’s old (dates from the 80s), but is a quite reasonable, good quality amplifier. A while back, it lost its right channel. I did some shopping to find a repair place that would accept it, and found one. It was not easy to find a place that would accept it.

I took it to the shop in late December. A month goes by. Another month. They keep telling me they’re working on it, but they’re having some trouble because they don’t have access to a schematic for it. They put me off with stuff about “call again next week.” But it’s not weeks, it’s months. They are completely unreliable about calling back when they say they will.

After four months of this–it is now April–and reports of repairs efforts leading to smoking and burning smells when the amplifier is turned on, they tell me, “we can’t fix it without a schematic, and we can’t find a schematic.” I ask them if they’ll fix it if I can find a schematic for them, they say fine. I find a schematic for them in less than five minutes at, get this, this website: www.hafler.com. Imagine.

So they say they’ll try to fix it. More months go by. It is now early July. They say, we need the following parts, which we can’t find. I find complete replacement boards on ebay for a good value. I buy the boards, give them to the shop. They say great. Weeks go by. They say “so, oh, well there’s another part that’s bad, not on the board. We can’t find a replacement.” I contact Hafler, and am given a referral to a company in North Carolina (Freeman’s Electronics) which stocks old Halfer parts. I order the proper replacements. All of this takes less than five minutes. The parts are shipped.

Last week, they received the parts. This week, on Tuesday, they said it was all put together and they needed to test it for two days, call back Thursday.

Now it’s Thursday. Oh, guess what, it’s not done yet. “Hopefully next week,” they tell me.

My patience is gone. I’ve shelled out $100 for parts which for all I know they ruined when they caused my amplifier to smoke after trying to repair it without a schematic. God knows that they’re going to charge me for labor. I’m willing to spend several hundred dollars to get it repaired. It’s good piece of equipment, and to replace it with something of comparable quality, but new, would cost me on the order of $1500-2000.

This has gone too far. I’m pissed. I’m depressed about it all. I’m tired of being told “hopefully next week.” I’m annoyed that they couldn’t find the schematic and parts themselves, which were damn easy for me to find, and I know nothing about electronics repairs.

I want my amplifier back. My home stereo has been silent for eight months.

What do I do? Do I try to get my amplifier back? Do I give them one more week? If I get it back from them unrepaired, do I still owe them for their labor, which as far as I can tell as been a complete waste of time?

WTF?

I would call Hafler off the 1-800 number on their site and ask them where an AUTHORIZED Halfler repair location can be found.
If one does not exsist and your dead set on getting this thing repaired I would get the Techs name that’s working on your unit. One you get a hold of the guy who’s been f’n around with it for 8 months, get his direct number and the hours he works so you can contact him daily to get updates on the unit. Ask him questions about estimated repair time and hold him to it. If they couldn’t find a schematic or parts they should have notified you immediately, not waited a week for you to call back to see what’s up.
If the guy blows you off and doesn’t seem to want to expediate the proccess or keep an open line of communication with you then complain to the owner of the shop about their crappy business practices and ask him straightly “What are you going to do about it!”
He’ll either try to help you out or try to get rid of you. If he tries to get rid of you because he considers your unit a hassle then he should give it back with no labor charges since they failed to fix it. He may just do that to cut his losses. If he won’t give it back without wanting yo charge you then tell him he’s obligated to fix it and you’ll be calling every day for an update on it’s progress.

  1. You never let anyone hold onto something more than a week. If they don’t guarantee it’s finished in a week, you don’t take the item in.

  2. Document everything.

  3. Take them to small claims court if they fail to live up to their written agreement.

So at this point, you might be lucky to have done 2 and can do 3.

It’s tough to get good service on older analog equipment. One shop gave up on my beloved Akai RtR, but once a schematic was found, I repaired it. You might want to seek your local chapter of ARRL (American Radio Relay League) as some ham operators are skilled in electronics and love fixing older equipment simply to keep it alive. Good luck.

Thanks for the advice folks!

There are no authorized dealers within 1000 miles of me, I’m sorry to say. Also, Hafler does not support their older equipment at all, other than keeping schematics around and being nice about recommending sources for parts.

I’ve never heard of an electronics repair place that has a week turn around.

I am preparing for small claims court if necessart. I sure hope it won’t come to that!

For now, I’m going to follow Hampshire’s advice.

For cryin out loud, it’s a STEREO! It has two IDENTICAL circuits. Any idiot with an oscilloscope, a function generator, and half a brain should be able to trace the signal through each side and figure out where the bad component is in all of about 10 minutes, and this assumes that they have limited technical knowledge and just compare the signals on identical components.

If these guys have no board level troubleshooting skills to speak of, they really shouldn’t be in the electronics repair business.

At this point they’ve probably buggered it up to the point where they’ll never be able to fix it. I know if it were my stereo I would be down there screaming bloody hell into the owner’s face and probably wouldn’t leave until they had the thing fixed at their cost in parts. I don’t think it’s possible for them to have screwed it up more than they have.

You have my sympathies. I hope it doesn’t come down to legal action being required.

Even if the closest authorized repair place is 1000 miles away you may want to contact them and see about shipping it to them. If you call them you may actually get a hold of someone with better service than what your getting.