The Espresso Machine Restoration site
A non-commercial site for those interested in espresso equipment repair and restoration.
A few top tips - stuck heating element removal
OK I promise no jokes about yellow snow!

Here is my best tip for now - and what prompted this was about 6 or 7 emails in March already requesting help to
remove stuck heating elements from boilers.  The heating elements are difficult to remove even if you have the
correct tools because the scale and dirt acts as a thread lock.  

1. Try and first remove the element whilst it is secured inside the frame.  This gives you a firm hold on the boiler.  

2. Use a box spanner to undo the element.  Actually you can find great sockets and wrenches at auto tool shops.

What to do if it still won't budge?

Every now and again I have had real trouble removing the elements.  The best way I have found is this.  Having
removed the entire boiler from the machine I then secure the boiler in a vice or a workbench.  Now the workbench on
itself is not strong enough to hold the boiler in place and you don't really want to go squashing it too hard in a vice in
case you damage it or the fittings.

So I use a damn cool tool which I have no idea what it is called.  Oil Filter vice-grip seems to be the best description.  
It is made for round pipes and oil filters, but the best part is that it is a vice-grip mechanism (mole grips for my UK
brethren) which means it grips really tight and doesn't slip.  And the best part is that it doesn't damage the boiler
because the grip is dispersed along the length of the chain.

For this I don't use an element box spanner but an adjustable spanner.  Why? because it has a long handle and
therefore more leverage but most importantly because you want to get the vice-grip and the spanner just a few
inches apart.  You want the force applied on the element exactly in the right direction, if your vice-grip and the
spanner are too far apart then you will apply pressure not just in one direction but in others too - this will end up with
the spanner slipping and a) you will damage the edges of the element and b) you may injure yourself.  

Believe me the elements will come out with hardly any effort.  
Any other uses for this magic vice-grip?

Recently the burr carrier on my Mahlkonig grinder got jammed - which meant it was impossible to adjust the grind.   
In fact it was stuck so badly that the adjustment pin/stick snapped (:  

In the end I had to resort to removing the entire motor and burr carrier from the body to try and unscrew the burrs.

This tool made light work of the broken grinder and is definitely my favourite gizmo at the moment.  

Paul 11/03/05
This website is created by Paul Pratt, Hong Kong 2004-5. If you would like to use any of the images or text I am sure
I will say yes, but please ask first!  

Email me here.

The oil filter grips the boiler.
Push both tools together.
The top burr carrier of the grinder.
It's moving!
Now that's a burr carrier!
The vice-grip tool.