Repair instead of replace — the KakiRepair community teaches you to fix things yourself

Meet the growing community that teaches you to fix appliances for free in this era of rapid obsolescence.

KakiRepair aims to equip people with the knowledge to diagnose a problem and the tools to address it. — Photo by Teoh Eng Hooi

Have you thrown out a laptop charger cable recently? Turns out, it is one of the most fixable items that people throw away, according to KakiRepair founder Johnson Lam.

“If you bring a Macbook adapter with a frayed cable to the store, they’ll say they can’t repair it and that you have to buy a new one,” he says.

“That’s more than RM300 to replace it.”

To fix it yourself costs close to nothing if you have the knowledge and the right tools. Both of which, Johnson wants to provide for free at the monthly KakiRepair meetups.

Active since July 2017, KakiRepair is a community that prioritises repairing instead of throwing things out. They have been organising monthly meetups where volunteering specialists teach attendees how to diagnose and repair their own appliances.

At time of writing, the KakiRepair Facebook group has grown to over 1,900 members. Here, anyone can share and get advice on their repair projects, while physical meetups have already repaired RM22,000 worth of consumer products for over 1,000 people in less than a year.

Modelled after the Repair Café concept that grew out of the Netherlands, KakiRepair focuses on getting people to be more mindful of their actions as consumers in an era where products are not manufactured to last.

“I believe everyone should know how to diagnose and know at least what’s happening inside of an appliance. Then if you know that it cannot be repaired, or if it’s more expensive or wasteful to repair it, you can then decide to upcycle or recycle the item before getting a new one,” Johnson stresses.

For Johnson, keeping KakiRepair running is also part of his efforts to grow the local maker community. It’s an extension of his core business KakiDIY, which deals with services, workshops, events, and products geared towards makers and DIY enthusiasts.

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KakiRepair aims to equip people with the knowledge to diagnose a problem and the tools to address it. — Photo by Teoh Eng Hooi

He explains that his passion for the DIY attitude and maker spirit stems from growing up fixing mostly faulty hand-me-down toys. It stuck with him into his early adulthood when his personal projects expanded to DIY car modifications that he would share on online forums, which earned him nicknames like “DIY King”.

However, this was the early 2000s — back before the “cloud”.

“I wrote about over 200 projects. But car clubs and forums would just come and go at the time, so everything is gone,” he says.

The regret of not compiling a library of his DIY work drove him to eventually start KakiDIY, which he sees as an effort to share and store DIY knowledge.

Since its inception in 2014, KakiDIY has directly helped the growth of local startups like 3D printer makers MyCRO and industrial drone specialists Poladrone.

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Founder Johnson Lam in one of KakiDIY’s makerspaces that hosts workshops as well as KakiRepair sessions. — Photo by Teoh Eng Hooi

And now with the growing community of KakiRepair, Johnson hopes the DIY bug will spread further and encourage a newer generation of makers.

“According to our feedback survey, not more than 40 percent of the things are actually repaired at these events,” he says.

“But everyone, whether attending as volunteers or people looking to get things fixed, 100 percent of them answered that they learned something new.”

You can find out more about KakiDIY here, and keep up to date on KakiRepair events or even post your repair questions online by joining the KakiRepair Facebook group.

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