Electronics that have failed or are experiencing problems but cannot be replaced for whatever reason must be repaired or rebuilt. In this sense, repairing means fixing or swapping out only those parts that need to be dealt with right now. Rebuilding in this context means upgrading an entire component or multiple components in order to ensure the long-term viability of the electronic device.
1. Is there value in vintage condition?
Vintage electronics are very popular right for now for many reasons. With audio components, for instance, there is a sound quality that audiophiles cannot otherwise achieve. Consider what value the vintage-ness of your device has to you. Be mindful that value is not necessarily just monetary and can have to do with fidelity or just your overall enjoyment of ownership. If there is vintage value here, then repairing will generally be preferable if for no other reason than cost.
2. Cost of original parts vs. replacement parts
For preserving vintage-ness, original parts have value above and beyond the sticker price. If preserving authenticity is not a factor and replacement parts are just as good or perhaps better in terms of quality and performance, then you need to compare cost. In some cases, an entire component can be removed and a replacement dropped in. That is not only cost-effective and time-effective in the now but will help limit total cost of ownership over the long-term.
Are there certain standards that the electronic device has to conform to in order to perform its function or functions? Perhaps a basic repair makes it easier to conform to that standardization. On the other hand, perhaps an older device has to conform to newer standards. In that case, a rebuild may make it easier not just to achieve that but to maintain that standard over the long-term and in a cost-effective manner.
4. How sensitive is the interoperability?
The nuance of any interoperability can determine whether or not repairing or rebuilding is the more practical option. Consider a scenario in which a servo operates at a very high torque. Would you replace the individual parts within the servo? Most would not because there is wear and tear that will lead to those additional parts failing as well. In addition, this may be an ideal time to change parts that the servo connects to and which are also subject to wear and tear.
5. Is there a warranty involved?
If you are opting for a professional repair or rebuild rather than a do-it-yourself project, consider what guarantees will be provided with that work. If you will be receiving a warranty and particularly if you want that kind of protection and are paying extra for it, then a rebuild is preferable. It may cost more up front, but it will generally allow for a more robust warranty as well as allow you to better take advantage of that protection.
6. Shorts vs. long-term costs
Take all of these factors into consideration. Assess the value of the parts needed to rebuild versus repair plus the value of the time that will be required. The more challenging aspect will be estimating long-term costs, but if you are able to do that accurately, then at least from a financial standpoint, you will be able to determine the better path.
To repair or to rebuild is often not cut and dry. There is an old adage in the world of electronics about rebuilding being the superior option. While that may be the case with more expensive and harder-to-find devices, electronics continue to become cheaper and easier to manufacture.