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Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
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SteveRhinehart
Senior Member
SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Mon Feb 11, 2013, 2:46pm
Subject: Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
 

Hey guys, been a while!

So, I've got a 1977 La Pavoni Europiccola, which seems to have developed some kind of electrical issue. Now, this is an old model, with no pressurestat, no fuses, and a single, three-way switch (Max, Off, Min). About a month ago, I was heating it up on max as normal, and it shut itself off. My Baratza on the same outlet was still working, the Pavoni wouldn't go on any other outlet in my kitchen, so I figured the problem has to be the machine itself. I set about testing continuity, and it all seemed fine, except for the lighting portion of the switch. Now, inside the lighting assembly is a neon lamp and a resistor, so my guess is I won't get continuity out of it anyway, right? I ended up just replacing some of the wiring anyway, with some appliance wire I stripped out of my Stir Crazy a few years back, and nothing further.

Here's the kicker: on a whim, I filled her back up, plugged her in, and boom, she works. That is, until about 5 minutes into the warm-up, when the light shuts off. Along with the light went the heating element, which was my sort of "Aha!" moment. I'm thinking now that it must be the neon lamp going, it is fairly old after all. I can now circumvent the problem by switching to the min setting, which isn't wired into the light (and notably still works consistently), but that's just a bandaid, I'd like to fix the problem. I should also note that if I switch from max to min when the lamp goes out, wait a few seconds, and switch back to max, it will re-light and go into max heat with about 80% reliability. If I repeat that back and forth switching, it only takes 2-3 times back to max before the light comes on.

So my question to the leverheads is a three-parter:
  1. Is there anything I'm overlooking here, or is it probably the lamp as I expect?
  2. I have no idea what bulb I'm going to need to buy - does anyone know the voltage or wattage ratings on these lamps?
  3. I'd rather not replace the whole switch, especially since there seem to be so many different styles. Any reason to forego the lamp and get a new switch assembly?

Thanks folks, hoping somebody can help me out here.

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SStones
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SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 477
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Mon Feb 11, 2013, 7:59pm
Subject: Re: Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
 

In my opinion, without seeing the machine or testing anything, the switch itself has a lot of built-up carbon on its contacts and is overheating itself and breaking contact when it has been on for a while.  Does just clicking the switch back and forth to snap the contacts against each other cause the light to come on even momentarily?
If so, blast the holes in the switch with an aerosol electrical contact cleaner,
like that bang it on a table and try it again. Disassembling those switches can mutilate them to irrepairability, I suggest having a replacement ready before pulling the switch apart.
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SStones
Senior Member
SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 477
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Mon Feb 11, 2013, 8:02pm
Subject: Re: Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
 

Err. And I meant to also point out that the lamp can't cause the element to fail (Unless it is shorting to ground, then the machine would blow your circuit breaker).  You could rip the lamp out with pliers without the element noticing.
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SteveRhinehart
Senior Member
SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Wed Feb 13, 2013, 7:04am
Subject: Re: Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
 

SStones Said:

In my opinion, without seeing the machine or testing anything, the switch itself has a lot of built-up carbon on its contacts and is overheating itself and breaking contact when it has been on for a while.  Does just clicking the switch back and forth to snap the contacts against each other cause the light to come on even momentarily?

Posted February 11, 2013 link

Sometimes it does, yes, but I've only noticed that when switching from Max, which is wired into the light, to Min, which is not.

SStones Said:

If so, blast the holes in the switch with an aerosol electrical contact cleaner, bang it on a table and try it again. Disassembling those switches can mutilate them to irrepairability, I suggest having a replacement ready before pulling the switch apart.

Posted February 11, 2013 link

I'll give the canned air a shot, thanks. The lighting portion of the switch is separate from the switch itself, and it's quite easy to pull in or out. I haven't even tried the switch side of it, but it's helpful to note that's a bad idea.

SStones Said:

Err. And I meant to also point out that the lamp can't cause the element to fail (Unless it is shorting to ground, then the machine would blow your circuit breaker).  You could rip the lamp out with pliers without the element noticing.

Posted February 11, 2013 link

Now that's interesting. Sounds like it's more likely the switch itself causing the problem then? I was figuring that was one of the least likely parts to go, but I'm no expert in this arena. Thanks for the feedback.
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hankbates
Senior Member
hankbates
Joined: 2 Feb 2012
Posts: 48
Location: Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Pavoni Professional...
Grinder: LaPavoni Jolly
Roaster: Hottop
Posted Wed Feb 13, 2013, 8:04am
Subject: Re: Diagnosing the Europiccola - Electrical Problems
 

Switch failures in all vintages of Pavonis are quite common.
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