Right-to-Repair Advocates Tore Down a McFlurry Machine to Show it's Actually Easy to Fix

The McFlurry machine isn’t complicated, but there’s a reason it constantly breaks down and prevents you from eating delicious ice cream.

If you want a McFlurry, there’s about a one-in-four chance that the machine making it is broken. The problem is so common that there’s a website that tracks it and an FTC investigation asking hard questions about ice cream. To find out what the hell is going on, repair website and right-to-repair advocates iFixit got hold of one of the McFlurry machines and tore it down to figure out what makes the ice cream machine so difficult to repair.


“This smells like a right-to-repair issue, and it turns out it is,” iFixit Teardown Tech Shahram Mokhtari said in the video. So what’s wrong with the machines? The short answer is Software. “This ice cream machine is not a complicated piece of equipment, but the downtime that it suffers is well in excess of what’s acceptable for industrial equipment.”

The McFlurry machine is actually a tweaked Taylor C709 Soft Serve Freezer, a fairly simple ice cream machine with a complicated interface. When something goes wrong with a machine, an electronic panel registers an error code. These codes are often complicated and can’t be cleared without the help of a Taylor technician. If the code isn’t cleared, the machine won’t turn back on. “Twenty-five percent of Taylor’s profits come from service technician call out charges. That’s not surprising given that the service techs charge $315 per fifteen minutes of the callout,” Mokhtari said.

So what’s causing the machines to break down in the first place? According to iFixit, it’s usually because it gets too hot.  

“The machine overheats if it’s used too much within a certain time period. This results in mushy goop coming out or the machine completely shutting down and refusing to work until it resets and cools down,” Mokhtari said. “The error codes are nonsensical, counterintuitive, and seemingly random, even if you spent hours reading the manual.”


The inside of the McFlurry machine isn’t that complicated. The back panel comes after the removal of some screws and the inside is dominated by a large compressor and a motor that powers a beater which mixes the ice cream. It’s easy for people with basic knowledge of the machines to fix the mechanical problems, but clearing the software error codes is impossible with calling Taylor.

To help franchise owners avoid paying $315 for 15 minutes of repair services, a company called Kytch used to sell a small device that would attach to the Taylor machines and help interpret error codes. Taylor is, of course, suing Kytch. The lawsuit is ongoing.

The reason Taylor gets away with making it hard to repair its industrial equipment is because of 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The law has allowed companies like John Deere and Taylor to lock down their devices and prevent people making easy repairs without going through a middleman. It’s a great way for companies like Taylor to turn an easy profit.

But things are changing. The right-to-repair movement has caught on in America. It affects everyone who owns a smartphone and the farmers who can’t repair their own tractors. Laws are working their way through Congress and state houses across the U.S. The FTC and even Joe Biden support it. iFixit has been on the forefront of the movement and its exploration of the internal workings of the McFlurry machine is another peak into the twisted world of companies that make it hard to repair things and make it impossible for you to find a McFlurry when you want one.

“iFixit is fighting for the right kind of common sense changes that we need in order to make the basic things in our everyday life work again,” Kytch co-founder Jeremy O’Sullivan, told Motherboard after watching the video.