Preventive maintenance or wait till it breaks?

This is more focused on older gear- do you run gear until it's showing obvious signs of problems or do you do preventive maintenance before problems appear? I fall into the preventive maintenance side as I replace capacitors that are 20 or more years old. 
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I am fortunate- I do have access to top notch niche technicians. For instance- I live relatively close to Audio Classics and they are my go to for Mac service 

I will only use top people specialized in the gear that I want work on 
I'm with black boxes, my car, my plane, etc.
Here is my list of questions:

  • How long am I going to keep it?
  • Sources and preamps are cheaper to repair and less likely to fail catastrophically.
  • Amps are more likely to take out speakers, as well as have transistors which are no longer made.
  • Was the gear built before 2000? Caps since then are more reliable (I have no strong evidence of this though, just my impression based on overall improvements in electrolytic capacitors).


I clean everything, especially contacts, at least once a year. I replace tubes when it seems like they need it. Anything more than that, well you know the saying "if it ain't broke..."? There's reasons that advice has such staying power.

I'm a pretty much 'fix it till it breaks' kind of guy. 😉

I would wait. just wait till it actuallly quits working.

once a part fails its easier to discover. usually.

intermittent issues take forever to discover and determine. sometimes they get misdiagnosed and what is repaired may not fully be the issue making for a return to the shop shortly after getting it back because the next weakest link then fails or begins to show its face.

Caps are notorious for causing issues as they can and will work even though they are on their last legs. occasionally fialing and then seemingly rising from the dead to partially perform again. briefly. usually they are accompanied by noise in the signal, if not in the device itself.

tubes are similar IMO. I tend to keep a log of run time and so far have not gotten near the time to replace any.

as for age.... I'm amassing a slew of antiques simply because my disposable income got disposed of a while back.

everything still works just fine though so there is that, thank goodness.

my preamp is the most expensive piece I stilll have. it retailed for around $10K new. I got it via the 'gon for a tad less than half that price. replacing it will still be a costly endeavor I'm sure, but that bridge will get crossed when it can no longer be avoided. it is slotted to be integrated into a secondary rig. presently it sits statically on a multi level rack under a covering.

Device replacement costs vary wildly. depending.

I've only had authorized service centers repair a few items, mostly receivers.

I had a new sled installed in a Sony SCD XA 777es CDP by a local Sony service center.

speakers I've sent to their maker for refurbishing. thankfully they are in my state so it was less a big deal logistically.

as for general thoughts on possible service needs I do consider service and support with what ever I do buy long before the purchase.

it may not be the thing which sways my ultimate decision but I do feel service and support on most of what we consider in this past time a big part of the buying decision and it has paid off a few times so far that S&S was available from its maker when it was necessary.

but the aforementioned preamp tells a different story. sheer performance was why I bought it. no other reason. now if it fails I'll have to rely upon third party service and I'm not looking forward to that prospect at all!

good luck.
I am restoring a Scott 222 right now that was serially fixed, and ended up in failure mode anyway.

 The best course of action in this case, IMHO, is to replace all caps, power supply, coupling, RIAA, as well as any out of spec resistors, clean everything and enjoy the next 20 years of trouble free service.
The main problem is following: you replace 20 years old capacitors that can work 20 years more to new ones that can work just for 3 years. Sometimes old parts had much better quality than same new parts.
I have my tape deck serviced every three years or so. Capacitors were replaced once, ten years ago, transport overhauled, other things done. I send it to Willy Hermann.
Aside from the deck I don't do anything, but I don't have particularly valuable equipment. I once talked to Redgum people, I have their 20 years old integrated, and they said leave it alone for at least next ten years. Fine, sounds good to me, it works like it should.
Keeping heat sinks and ventilation openings clean and clear will do more for your amplifier’s longevity than replacing capacitors.
I have never had the experience that modern parts have been less reliable than vintage parts in 40 years of working on amps. Electrolytic capacitors, solid state diodes and transistors have drastically improved over the last 50 years. 

Sound quality is much more subjective, and some could easily prefer the sound of certain vintage parts, no question.

My Scott was made for two years 1959 and 1960, which would indicate that the parts are 60 years old. The caps that I removed were leaking DC. When I cut them open they were dry and oxidized. The result was a burned cathode resistor, which could have been a source of ignition. Selenium rectifiers are particularly dangerous in old gear.

Since I have repaired many products over the past 20 years, the majority of issues are not from the capacitors but mainly from circuit boards.  They become brittle and the solder traces begin to break.  So repairing that issue means running jumper wires underneath the boards.  Then once those are repaired, other issues seem to pop up.  Mostly all this is because of heat and smaller case designs.

As far as replacing parts, you should hear issues as they go bad.  Noise, distortion, hum, fuses blowing, etc.  I don't think you need to do preventative maintenance.  I am not sure if parts quality was better back then versus today, but some parts today are better sounding such as copper capacitors, and some resistors like Vishay, caddock, shinkoh, etc.  Most manufacturers do not use high end audio capacitors.  You won't open up a component with Duelands or V-Caps in there that is for sure.

As far as finding a good repair tech, that is more trial and error.  I have been fair with my repair pricing but it also gives me issues when I repair a component and say the estimate is X and then I find other issues especially with older component repairs.  It is also not my main source of income so I can be cheaper with my pricing but it may also take me a little longer.

Happy Listening.

Maintenance requirements vary according to environmental factors. Cigarette smoke is one of the worst fiends. That, along with high humidity and airborne dust create a layer of foul-smelling crud on everything. This wreaks havoc with convective cooling and throws finely tuned circuits out of tolerance. Every vintage piece of equipment I buy gets torn down, vacuumed, dusted with a small artist’s brush and cleaned of any flux residue etc... after that things look better, smell better and work better and longer. 
Buy Bryston, 20 year warenty that you raley even need to 
Bryston service is excellent. I've had an amp repaired- the turn around time was amazing. I also had a preamp refurbished- at no charge. 

Gonna take you to task again. 

Of all the gear you really should take preemptive measures to maintain, it would be tube gear. With the very high voltages tubes require, even modestly leaky caps will drive those things to destruction. 

Unlike tube equipment that uses pretty generic gain devices, SS gear does not. Going by "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" runs a good chance of it breaking in a way that can't be fixed, as mentioned above. 
My take on this is a little preventative work goes a long way... Take the top off and clean everything with a vacuum and acid brush plus blow it out with compressed air, why?? Heat is your enemy and thats what causes heat fatigue on caps and soldier joints (look for darkened spots on your PCB's.  If it's running primarily in class A, get a six inch (computer type) fan and cool it...
Beware most “computer” type fans are garbage. The giveaway tell-tale signs? - if a fan has LEDs in it for “gee-whiz” factor, it’s garbage. If a fan is sold under any second-rate computer brand (Assus, Assrock, Gigabyte, etc.. ) it’s junk. Just go for the plain-Jane fans from Sunon or others. Otherwise, you will spend twice as much as you should, on a fan that might last a few months at best.