Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If your Foodsaver II stops sealing...

My Foodsaver II started acting funny while it was vacuuming a bag, kind of choking when sealing, and then completely stopped heating and sealing bags.  This renders the device unusable, and since I had things I wanted to vac-pack, I needed to fix the thing a.s.a.p. 

I took it into where I had decent light to work with, and it being unplugged already, began by taking off the bottom of the case.  I set aside the screws and gently removed the bottom.  Inside, I noticed that there is an electrical transformer on one side, some wiring, some tubing, and what looks like a pump.  I also noticed that there was a partial blockage of one of the clear tubes that goes from the inlet in the device where you put the open end of the bag to the pump itself.  Solving at least part of the problem, then, was to see if I could get the blockage out because that’s an easy potential fix.  I found the ends of the affected tube, removed it from its fittings, blew out the offending blockage and replaced it. 

At this point, I decided to check and see if this resolved the problem, so I put the case back on, minus the screws, and carefully set it on the kitchen counter and plugged it in and tried to seal a spare, empty bag.  The vacuuming part of the problem seemed to be fixed (at least it worked better with no intermittent stalls/chokes), but still no heating and sealing.  Oh, well…back to the repair bench.

The cycle of the machine is to pull out air and then heat and seal the bag of stuff I’m vac-packing, and since the heating and sealing only happens after vacuuming occurs, vacuuming has to be finished before heating can start.  Vacuuming seemed to work, but obviously wasn’t finishing.  Since vacuuming occurs inside what looks like a little pump (there’s a black knob-like thing I could turn and see that a piston-like device moved in and out, so obviously a pump) the next step was to take a look inside the pump itself.

I removed the set screw from the arm going from the motor to the pump arm so that I could remove the arm, onto which the pump piston was attached, and two long skinny bolts with washers and nuts that held on the pump part onto the mechanism that makes it move.  I carefully pulled out the pump piston and looked inside.  Aha!  Gunk, plus some tiny bits of something white, like minuscule rice grain bits, were inside the pump.   I carefully cleaned out any residue with a Q-tip dampened with rubbing alcohol, then got some fine point tweezers and carefully picked out the tiny white bits, then reassembled and replaced the pump in the machine.

I put the case on to test it again, and this time the machine worked, fully vacuuming and then heating and sealing.  Fixed it!

The safety nag:  never, never work on anything while it’s plugged in if the cover is off or there is the possibility of getting shocked.  Electricity is your friend, but it also has a nasty sense of humor and loves to zap you.  Keep water out of electrical devices when you clean as well.  In a pinch, if you have to, a barely damp Q-tip, moistened with rubbing alcohol helps dig out crud and gunk.   Never force things to fit; having to press hard or use a screwdriver to move a latch to get something to fit isn’t forcing, trying to get things to go where they don’t fit or belong with the potential to break is.  Take care if you are using any tools that have sharp edges; you can cut yourself with a screwdriver, so work away from yourself, not toward your body.  You do not want to be driving your husband through a 25 MPH residential district at 40 MPH, panicked and looking for someplace to get his punctured hand fixed, like I did once.