Look Inside Household Items To See How They Work

This includes articles on inspecting mass-produced devices, such as toys and consumer electronics, to see how they work and to find any reusable parts, such as batteries and LEDs.

A Nighthawk alarm detecting gas. Opening a Carbon-Monoxide and Natural Gas Alarm
Most people don’t realize that home detectors have a limited lifespan. I cracked open an expiring unit to see how it works. Along the way, I learned about a couple of consumables (electrolyte and carbon filter) in the electrochemical sensor used for carbon-monoxide detection, which explains the expiration date. Also, I salvaged some working electronic components via a mass desoldering technique, while some parts weren’t worth the trouble of extracting.
A toy desktop traffic lamp Modifying a Miniature Traffic Light
Unlike most mass-produced products, the internals of the toy stoplight are accessible through standard Phillips-drive screws. Looking inside, it isn’t difficult to see how an AC adapter can be added and a new microcontroller can drive the wide-angle LEDs. If you don’t want to keep the unit intact, there are lots of reusable parts that can be salvaged.
Transformers running shoes with flashing lights Movement Detector in Light-Up Shoes
Most kids’s shoes today include color LEDs that blink as the kid runs, jumps, plays, or throws them across the room in a fit. Unfortunately, the battery can’t be replaced since the sneaker is considered disposable. But, this gives home scientists a plausible occasion to disassemble the consumer product to find the magic sensor that detects motion.
Cracking open the Avatar toy Inside Avatar Toy
What’s inside an Avatar McDonald’s Happy Meal toy? A blue led, some coin cells, speaker, and more.
Thumbnail Cleaning a Mouse Scroll Wheel
The scroll wheel on the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 5000 can stop working over time. As you'll see, the scroll wheel is a classic interrupter encoder wheel that can be fixed by cleaning. The difficult part was figuring out how to open this mouse, which ended up being held together with four T6 torx screws hiding underneath the glide strips.
Homemade battery pack thumbnail Replacement Battery Pack from AAA Cells
When a consumer device stops working because of a proprietary battery pack, you may be able to repair it by replacing the batteries with off-the-shelf rechargeables. If necessary, it is possible to solder together your own battery pack so long as you wear safety equipment, have a solder gun, and clean the terminals. Of course, this assumes you can find cells that match in size, voltage, and chemistry.
Big Trak, the big Christmas present of 1979 Inside the Big Trak
Ever wonder how the Big Trak toy worked? And what about the mysterious IN button on the keypad? Did you find a BigTrak in your basement and want to know how to repair it?