iFixit video shows why McDonald’s ice cream machines are broken

Joel Loynds
ifixit logo, mcdonald's arch and machine

A new iFixit video is all about McDonald’s broken ice cream machines and the huge political roadblock from ensuring they stay operational.

The latest iFixit video shows a teardown of McDonald’s ice cream machines. What starts as a potential video about how to fix them unravels into a much broader political issue. It turns out the machines aren’t poorly made but are victims of copyright laws.

iFixit’s video shows you have to remove the side panels, as well as a small tour of its innards. Aside from some flathead screws, the machine isn’t too hard to get into. They also point out that it’s not a complex machine either. However, the issue doesn’t stem from the mechanics or physical aspect but from the machine’s manufacturer.

Whenever the machine runs for too long, it overheats. This can make a horrid slurry of ice cream or just shut the device down entirely. While this should be easily solved, it usually involves a complicated error code that, unless you have the manual on hand, will require a technician.

McDonald’s uses Taylor-branded ice cream machines, with a few McAlterations. However, the innards and codes are all the same. A company called Kytch is currently in a $900 million lawsuit with McDonald’s for supplying an app and tool that would provide answers for complex error codes.

As iFixit points out, McDonald’s has an extensive contract with Taylor and pressed franchise owners who preferred not to shell out the repair cost each time the machine went down. Eventually, they forced Kytch to sue as McDonald’s had rained legal hell on the company.

McDonald’s ice cream machines are iFixit’s next big project

This is where iFixit believes that a huge issue has arisen, as it is now a multifaceted issue with politics at its heart. According to iFixit, Taylor makes 25% of its profit via the $315 technical service repairs and protects its error code database underneath various contracts, copyright laws, and the DMCA.

It also hits the right-to-repair issue that has plagued the tech industry for decades. Elizabeth Chamberlain, iFixit’s expert on the matter said in the video:

“We’d love to make a device like Kytch, but we can’t because of copyright law.

“There’s this 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act that prohibits people getting around digital locks for the purposes of repair.

“This is the same law that has prevented you from fixing your Xbox or John Deere tractor.”

iFixit plans to repeat the same thing they did with tractors and other devices by submitting an “exemption” for industry and service machines. The company has been very successful with this legal move and appears to be quite confident that it can get McDonald’s ice cream machines working across the US.

The right-to-repair is becoming more of an issue, with Apple and Microsoft now providing their own services for self-repair. Meanwhile, the New York bill has been decisively butchered, according to experts.

About The Author

E-Commerce Editor. You can get in touch with him over email: joel.loynds@dexerto.com. He's written extensively about video games and tech for over a decade for various sites. Previously seen on Scan, WePC, PCGuide, Eurogamer, Digital Foundry and Metro.co.uk. A deep love for old tech, bad games and even jankier MTG decks.