Repair: Ryobi Impact Driver

This is a new series we’ll be doing on the Hackerfarm website. Here at Hackerfarm, we’re constantly taking things apart to figure out how they work and how to fix them. We don’t have a lot of money so one of the techniques we employ is to buy broken items from Yahoo Auctions for super cheap and try to fix them. We do this for power tools, Dyson vacuum cleaners, and many other products that cost too much to afford new, but can be bought cheap as a “junk” device and repaired.

This Ryobi impact driver was one of the items we bought about four years ago to bolster our impact driver collection. We have to do a lot of carpentry out here to fix floors, houses, barns, and general renovation so impact drivers get a lot of usage. This particular one stopped working a while ago and we have some big jobs coming up to renovate a beautiful old house and barn. I wanted to get all of our impact drivers up and running with fresh batteries so we could get more people to help out with things. This is a Japan-only Ryobi model BID-1220. They were about 30,000 yen new but we picked a pair of them up without batteries for around 3,000 yen.

Here’s a shot of the pair of Ryobi impact drivers we picked up circa 2015 along with some drills. We standardized on this Ryobi series because they all used the same batteries.

For batteries, we generally buy old battery packs, take them apart, and install fresh 18650 rechargeable batteries inside them. You can actually solder 18650s if you’re careful, so replacing them mainly consists of re-soldering the old wires on to new batteries. The reason we like old battery packs is that the circuitry inside is the most valuable part and handles the charge control and communicating with the chargers. The new 18650 batteries are about $1/cell in Shenzhen and we usually have a bunch of them lying around hackerfarm. We’ll do a battery teardown and replace in a later article.

For this repair job, the Ryobi had stopped working, even with fresh batteries inside. I was worried that the motor burned out but since we didn’t use it for anything heavy duty recently, I didn’t think that was the case. It had been left on a shelf for a while because we haven’t done a floor since last year. Perhaps the humidity got to it. Anyways, it’s always best to take something apart to understand it.

Here is the problem impact driver. It’s sporting a freshly charged battery. You may notice that the battery isn’t a factory model. We also buy cheapy NiMH batteries from China when they’re available for the power tools we have. At this point the impact driver didn’t respond to pressing on the trigger.

I pulled out all the screws so that I could take apart the handle. There is also a screw hidden in the base that’s recessed deeply inside a hole there.

Before I could separate the handle, I found I had to remove the head first. There were four screws holding it in place. Once they came out, you could easily remove the head. This held the turning mechanism, gear reduction, and the weighted “impact hammer” that makes it so powerful. There was also a lot of grease on the gears. I can imagine that if the seal ever becomes bad, sawdust mixed with grease could cause a lot of problems for the drills.

Once the head was removed, I used a screwdriver to pry open the two halves of the impact driver. There was a lot of dust and debris inside. The dust was a bit wet like a paste. Possibly, there was residual grease that sawdust mixed with. I had to blow on the trigger mechanism and area around it to clean out the debris.

I plugged the battery directly into the trigger mechanism and measured the voltage. I had to be careful since plugging it in backwards could potentially damage the driver. On the other hand, it might just make the motor go in reverse. Ha ha ha.

The battery voltage was okay but I wasn’t seeing any voltage on the wiring at the trigger. This meant that there was a bad connection either on the battery contacts or on the trigger contacts. I continued blowing and cleaning the battery contacts and trigger contacts with the wires. I also scraped the battery contacts to remove oxidation that had built up on it.

Finally I got it to work. The problem was oxidation and debris on the battery contacts. After scraping it a bit, I could get the motor to turn.

Closing up the impact driver was pretty straightforward. It’s almost all motor and just has the trigger switch and contacts to the battery. I did need to be careful with putting the wiring back into the wire guides to make sure it would close up properly though.

Impact driver as good as new. Luckily, this was an easy fix.

Yay! We could salvage the tool which will be a huge help. We will be rebuilding a bunch of floors soon on a house that Jacinta and I will be moving into. That’s part of a different story though 🙂

Hackerfarm 2017 Bounenkai

It’s the end of a crazy year at Hackerfarm that saw a lot of great changes. I’ll write a separate post about that later since it’s quite exciting, but before that, it’s bounenkai season!

Japan bounenkai are the Japanese version of the end of the year parties, but the meaning is a bit deeper than that. They’re a celebration of the year and the last chance to say goodbye to the year with all of your friends, colleagues, or in our case, hackerfarm members. It’s also a chance to say goodbye to any troubles you’ve had in the past year so you can start the next year fresh and new.

For our bounenkai, rather than meet at a restaurant, we decided to have a BBQ in freezing winter weather at our cafe. The party went rather late into the night and for Jacinta and I, we had splitting hangovers the next day. But next year is going to be the start of an extremely exciting year at Hackerfarm. Can’t wait to talk more on it 🙂

Hackerfarm Autumn Corn Harvest

2017-10-05 Harvesting Corn DSC01788

Autumn has come and the corn we planted earlier in August is finally ready to be picked. This is actually a special breed of corn, a traditional Mexican variety, and is non-sweet. The standard corn we find in Japan and also in the US is sweet corn which can be cooked and eaten (yum!). This variety is meant to be ground into corn flour which we’ll later be able to make tortillas out of. We also used this corn in our tamales which we made for our harvest party.


The story behind this harvest is actually quite interesting. Adrian actually had to go to a place in Narita, near the airport in Tokyo, where a seed specialist stockpiled a lot of different types of seeds. He had some traditional Mexican seeds for corn but wasn’t sure about giving them to us. Adrian would help out at his farm and kind of hint that he needed the seeds for the planting, but the message never got through. Finally, he asked directly if he could have the Mexican corn seeds. The guy smiled and handed him one cob of dried corn from that plant. From that cob, we were able to cultivate around 100 plants. The best corn cobs will be saved, dried, and kept for seeds for the next harvest.

The method of planting is also extremely interesting. We planted these using a milpa technique so we could grow the crops completely organically. The method of growing is called “three sisters” which is a companion planting of corn, beans, and squash. The beans and squash are planted at the base of the corn and wrap around the corn stalks as the corn grows. This strengthens the corn stalks and prevents them from falling in the event of strong winds or typhoons. The beans are also nitrogen fixers and provides much needed nitrogen to the corn so it can grow well. The squash has broad leaves that provides ground cover and prevents weeds from growing.

(via Organica, La Milpa del Bueno Comer)

Growing these three together provides a balanced diet, keeps the soil fertile, and provides excellent harvests. This method of planting has been used throughout the Americas by the indigenous tribes and was the method of planting taught to the pilgrims from the Mayflower when they first landed on the continent. The bountiful harvest from this method of planting led to the first Thanksgiving which is the approximate time when you harvest these crops in North America. So for our harvest party, I called it our “little Thanksgiving” 🙂

Hackerfarm Automated Irrigation Workshop

The Hackerfarm Automated Irrigation Workshop is the first workshop that’s come out of our “Agricultural Workshop” series. Workshops in this series are designed to teach some aspect of technology in the context of things that would be useful in an agricultural context. The Naiad system was designed specifically for this workshop. It’s a system that can control four water pumps, has a real time clock with alarm interrupt, waterproof temperature sensor, lithium-ion battery powered, and has a solar charge controller. It also fits into a weatherproof plastic enclosure for outdoor mounting.  Continue reading “Hackerfarm Automated Irrigation Workshop”