Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010...

This was a year of miracles, new beginnings and even revival in my life. I spent most of the year looking for work and not outpacing my unemployment benefits. More importantly, it was giving my son a chance to adapt to his new family, giving my wife and boys a hot meal and a clean house at the end of the day. I was an opportunity to give back to my family and concentrate on the Lord; thanking Him for the many blessings He provided for me and mine in a trying time.
I had to junk my car with 80,000 miles on it, and got another vehicle just in time to get back to work. It was a huge concern of mine to get reliable transportation, but the Lord had this covered.
So most importantly, it to be dependent on the Lord and just to stop the pride of worry and angst. These were things I was guilty of to the hilt before this soon to be former year. I thought I could handle my own troubles rather than the Lord, but thankfully I was wrong.
I'm still one class away from getting my bachelor's degree, but even this pales in comparison to the Object of my focus.
Now that I'm working, my hope is to keep trusting in Him and not me. Success is given by the Lord, not because of anything special we've done to earn it. I'm not counting on my job and haven't yet, but remain dependent on the Lord.
I'm sorry for the rambling capstone on this year and will continue to write my commentary and all the other stuff, Lord willing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Bridge.

River was deep
chasm too wide.
Got a big, big problem
cause we can’t cross the other side,
River too deep,
chasm too wide.

Man tried to build a mighty, mighty tower.
But it couldn’t cross the river,
chasm too wide.
Couldn’t even start to reach the other side,
River was deep
Chasm too wide.

Man was determined and he built a bridge so wide.
Only problem was it couldn’t reach the other side,
river was deep,
chasm too wide.

All man's effort fell in vain,
cause there was a big, big problem
that he couldn't contain.
Cause the river of sin and the chasm of separation,
made the problem of man, too much for him alone,
to ever solve by him alone.

Jesus was watching from on the other side,
said there was and man couldn’t even try,
To bridge the river and reach the other side.
So He had a plan to bring us to His side.

Took three three nails and an unwanted tree.
Laid down down His life for you and me.
Someday soon if we trust in Him, then one day we’ll
Reach the other side.

River was too deep,
Chasm too wide,
But the love of Christ made it,
Made it all work out.

Take that step and reach the other side,
Jesus got His hand to take you to His side.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Revelation Commentary, From a Handyman? Part Five

First of all, I realize that Jesus could have came back and got His church, had the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and got the elders in place by the time I got to part Five. Forgive me, brothers and sisters. I have been busy and have have had the usual stuff to tend to on this blog. As always, onward Christian soldiers.

12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Pergamos, or Pergamum was an important political and religious center in what is now Turkey. The large and grotesque altar is also known as the throne of Zeus (the egomaniacial god with the thunderbolts). If you read the descriptions of Zeus, he is a dead ringer for Satan. This altar is also known as Satan's throne. No wonder this is where many Christians met their demise, including Antipas whom Jesus named.

However, the issue Christ had with this church was because they were tolerant of
the Nicolaitanes, whose name suggests a leadership over the laity. This group also believed it was fine to sin as long as you confessed your 'sins' to a member of the clergy. The problem Christ had with these clowns is because they strove to glorify man and not Him. This same group also practiced Baylonian religion that was a huge stumbling block for Israel.

The message of "Hidden Manna" is also the title of one of my dear friends, Tracie Justice and this is for good reason. Christ promised this church a fresh start and being well taken care of if they would only repent. Manna is what the Israelites ate in the wilderness for 40 years and sustained them through some tough times. Christ is compassionate and the only One who can forgive sin. He will sustain you if trust in Him. Blessings.

Blower Motor Troubles and What Gives.

Furnace or air handler blowers are, for the electrically uneducated, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery in an enigma. I'm a hands on kind of guy and not into the theory much, but hopefully this article will help those on the fence with this matter. True, even someone not mechanically inclined can diagnose one correctly if it releases the measured amount of magic smoke the engineers installed. However, a blower motor failing will seldom manifest something this obvious. For the sake of argument, I will refer to Ohm's law during this article for the purpose of clarity. I'll also give other methods to attempt to come to the same conclusion without the need for such calculations.

Again, this is more for information and less for educational or instructive purposes. If you can't use a multimeter, unsure of yourself around electricity; it's best to call a professional. I've no control over your work and you're responsible for any screw ups, or success you come up with.
I'll also add that one horsepower is 746 watts. So the 1/3 horsepower motor in this article would seem to be about 250 watts or 1/4 Kilowatt. Keep this in mind, with a grain of salt or perhaps a beer chaser.
I was working on a furnace in a massage parlour this afternoon where it was overheating and dropping out on limit, but the air coming out of the registers was about 85 degrees. Strangely, the temperature of the rearmost one closest to the furnace was 110 degrees.
Puzzled, I went to the furnace, pulled both doors and used my cheater magnet to close the door switch. I measured 2.8 amps at the neutral wire when the motor was under load and the door was partially closed. I got 115 volts at the board terminals, which meant the board was okay. What was wrong?
I needed to find the power this motor was out-putting and since I had the volts and amps, this should be a walk in the park. A look on the Ohm's wheel shows that Power equals Volts times Amps. Mathematically, this is P=V*I. Let's get to it.
2.8 amps times 115 Volts equals 322 watts. Yes this seems right, but wait. That motor is actually rated at at 6 amps, which makes this about 690 watts. If the motor's using 322 watts, and it can use 690, it's only using 47 percent of its potential. This means it's only moving about 50 percent of the air it should be, even if the airflow seems fine. This will cause the limit to trip. This is why you NEED to read the amp ratings on the motor and not rely on horsepower ratings on same. You WILL fail to see a problem 100% of the time, guaranteed. This is because ALL blower motors operate under load. Again, do not assume.
I replaced the motor and capacitor with a new one, and the temperature climbed to a balmy 80 degrees in the parlour within a few minutes. After explaining to the proprietor that I do not haggle on price, I was out of there. Maranatha!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Song About Christmas, The Greatest Gift.

I know it's Christmastime,
anyone can see,
Even someone just like me.

See I had a problem, in reality.
Couldn't pay the layaway.
You have to understand,
when the pink slips lands,
not a lot to give away.

So I got my gift card,
bought some groceries.
Wiped a tear drop from my eye.

As I walked right down
those aisles misty eyed,
got to thinking bought Him.
All of the gifts I'd given and gotten
through through the years,
doesn't mean too much to me.

'Cause I don't need the presents underneath
the tree, just to know that You love me.
I'm gonna take some time, count my blessings down.
Then I'm sing some praise.

I called and told my wife,
she just choked back tears.
"Honey please just dry your eyes."
We need to make some time, in reality,
the holidays are here to share.

Lord I don't need the presents,
underneath the tree,
Just to know that You love me.

Your greatest gift to us in reality,
was your life shed on that unwanted tree.

I can't pay You back,
nor earn immunity,
You just came to die for me.
Saved me from a life of depravity and sin.
Jesus I can't thank You near enough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Coleman Mobile Home Furnace Fix

UPDATE: As correctly pointed out by a commentator, you should call a pro when there is an issue such as this. At the time, I was a NATE certified technician with 25 years of experience and intended this as a technician job only. If you're qualified to work on furnaces, this may be just the ticket as I've worked on a few of these only to have a callback because the grommet to the ignitor wire didn't seal. If you are a homeowner and want to try and tackle this yourself, you need the proper tools as well as the knowledge to do these safely. Do not replace any part that is not intended for your furnace, or you could snuff out you and your family. That would not be good. This is for entertainment only, do this and any other fix or repair at your own risk.

Sorry, I didn't upload pictures yet again, but this my answer to a problem that in reality started two years ago. Anyone who has a Coleman mobile home furnace, or anyone who had the seeming misfortune of trying to diagnose an apparent problem with the combustion air (pressure) switch. This nearly always happens after replacing the hot surface ignitor or flame sensor. Putting the burner back in, along with the gas valve will inevitably bring this code up when starting the furnace.
You can put a manometer on the combustion air switch and test the pressure (not on the plastic part) and you'll get anywhere from -0.30 to -0.16 inches of water column, but the switch is set for -0.15. This isn't the problem; now what.

The board may look a little discolored around a couple resistors, but this isn't necessarily an issue by itself either. Replacing it won't solve it and the combustion air code will come back. This is very frustrating and expensive. Taking the vent and intake apart won't reveal much either, unless these are clogged, but again, probably not.

If you're a heating technician, this is frustrating, but completely fixable without charging the customer more money. Try this tip before calling tech support (which will tell you the thermostat or control board is bad because the furnace is losing its call for heat. This is if you can even get through. Remember that black grommet you removed when you replaced the ignitor or flame rod. Well do you? No doubt this is burned or not sealing properly. That combustion air switch is more than a bit finicky and from my experience, a manometer, properly zeroed in will still throw it off. Remove the manometer and put the hoses back where they belong on the switch and intake. Use a high temperature (red) silicone caulk or sealant around that grommet and seal up where the wires go in. This could be the cure to the problem. Let it dry a few minutes and turn the furnace on, cycling it naturally a few times. This means waiting about 15 to 20 minutes, but the furnace should run normally now. Maranatha!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Revelation Commentary, from a Handyman? Part 4

From Part Three, I ended it with a description of the Church of Ephesus, the legalistic church. This post is going to cover the church of Smyrna, the suffering church.
And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synogogue of Satan. Fear not those things which shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:8-11 KJV.

The church of Smyrna, as with many churches in the first century and today suffered and still suffer heavy persecution from unbelievers. Churches in every nation, including the United States face persecution as individuals and as a group. This can range from rude remarks, all the way to beheadings, or worse.

When the seven year period known as the Tribulation comes, this will intensify. Tribulation saints (but not the church) will be here to face the brunt and the wrath of the one known as the Antichrist. In Smyrna, the time from arrest to execution was ten days, but the Lord promised them as He does us, to endure to the end and receive a crown of life. For me personally, this sounds like a win/win if I ever heard one. Our lives can and should be there to glorify the Lord, and what better way than give your life is this is required.

A Cheap Fix for Collapsed Radiator Hoses.

I've been working on cars since for nearly three decades and have learned there are things better left to a pro. However, there are times that we really can save money if we do the work ourselves if we know what we're doing. Saying this, I'm not in control of your work or situation and you should approach any repair with a degree of respect. Working on the cooling system can be dangerous and unless the engine you're working on is completely cool, you could get hurt. I had to replace a valve cover gasket on a 1975 Nova 20 years ago with a hot engine and broke a heater hose. The result was a first degree burn on my forearm that could have been much worse. Do not work on any engine or any part of the cooling system unless you're sure it's completely cool (overnight is best).

The car was and still is a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am with the 2.2 liter four and the original issue was a leaking cam (or valve) cover. This was a simple straightforward job that still took me a couple hours because of trying to figure out the hose issue and cleaning the cover in Simple Green. The hose problem was that they were collapsed, and I assumed that the hoses were bad. Any time, I would say that after five years the hoses and belts need replacement. With the way car parts are now, we need to try and maximize their use. I replace them when they start to weather check or swell and as long as they're resilient, I leave 'em on unless I have to take on off to replace another part.

These hoses looked fine, but they had been on the car since 2004 and it is 2010. So my friend and I went to Autozone and the clerk priced out the upper and lower rad hoses for this beast. The top hose was $10.99, but the lower one was $65.00.

Talk about sticker shock, but this was a pretty convoluted part. Still, money's tight this week and I never have the money to swap out parts on a whim. Off to NAPA and I purchased what I needed for about $7.50 at the advice of the counterperson there.

I removed the surge tank cap and at once, the hoses returned to their rounded shape. The problem was the cap wasn't equalizing the pressure and once the engine cooled, the pressure in the cooling system became lower than that of the surrounding air. I replaced said cap with a new aftermarket and saved a lot of money and frustration. Admittedly, the hoses and belts in this car are going to need to be done soon. However, it makes no sense to replace something before it's time. This is much like getting a new humidifier pad every six months instead of annually. It definately makes no sense to replace the wrong part and still have a problem. Maranatha!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Avoiding a Catastrophe!

Today, after several 12 hour days behind the wheel and in front of furnaces, business slowed to a trickle. I had one clean and check on a Carrier 80% unit in Dewitt today. That was my one and only call besides helping my boss with a unit heater in the garage. While the furnace itself had the usual signs of neglect (A very dirty flame rod and a hot surface ignitor ready to fail) the humidifier was a sight to behold. Because of privacy concerns, I didn't take a picture of said humidifier, but it was the worst case of mildew I've seen in several years. This was a General Filters model 1099. the big one with the clips holding the top and bottom to the chassis. This whole chassis was black with mildew, the steel frame on the pad was rusted and the aluminum substrate also had a mask of black fungi. Take my word for it, this was gross.

Because there was a fair amount of luggage nearby and this was a finished basement with carpeting throughout, I elected not to use bleach to clean the chassis out. Instead, I opted to use evaporator coil cleaner with a spray bottle and some elbow grease to get this muck out; not easy with a General. This humidifier fills through the top plate and drains excess water through the bottom. Since this is a bypass humidifier, using a pipe from the opposite duct, there is no fan to move the air through. It uses the furnace fan to move the air through the wet pad and substrate. The excess water drains through a hole and a tube in the bottom plate.

The problem was the pad had not been changed in five years and material and dirt had clogged the drain. This water stagnated and caused the interior of the chassis to remain wet. Because the coating designed to keep biological activity to a minimum on the pad was long gone, the mildew situation intensified; it had all the makings of the perfect storm. Months of no maintenance dumped more dirt into the drain and created more mildew. This in turn created more material to plug things up. The result could have been a nightmare for the homeowner because the drain could have failed completely and the water would have had nowhere to go but over the edge of the plate and onto the floor and into the furnace. This water would have ruined drywall, carpeting, furniture and that expensive luggage inched from the furnace. It could have also caused issues with rusting the duct work.

But the worst of the worst is air quality. Mildew or mold isn't fun to breathe, nor does it help the quality of furnishings in a home. The toxins released by this stuff can sicken people, especially if they have allergies (the homeowner does). The pad was about $50 installed and included expert installation, which is another caveat that homeowners need to understand. Just because they can buy something in the store doesn't make them qualified to install it. I've seen more than a few bungled humidifier pad installs to know that these are not idiot proof, including one rather talented homeowner who elected to put a #10 Aprilaire pad into a Model 550 humidifier. This one resulted in a three inch gap that's going to let gallons of water ruin his drop elbow and furnace when the pad (an aftermarket knock off) finally collapses in a heap.

My advice is to call a professional to get this work done the right way. Make sure he or she is bonded and has some training, but the most important thing is to make sure this person gives a damn about the job they are doing. You would think that as a homeowner, you'd know and care more than the guy who does does this for a living every day.However, this isn't the case. I've had thousands of dollars in training and have hundreds of dollars of tools and equipment to help make sure the job is done right. I've also worked on more humidifiers in one week than most laypeople will do in 50 years.

Other technicians will probably have similar stories too, but the message is clear. Some things are better left to a professional, and need to be done. Maranatha!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revelation Commentary, From a Handyman? Part 3

Earlier, I made the comment about the seven stars in Jesus' right hand.

1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Let's take this verse in. There are several references to "stars" being equated to angels in the Book of Revelation in addition to elsewhere in the Bible. David Jeremiah has an excellent commentary on angels if you're interested. Here's the link

We should also know from the Book of Matthew, chapter 25, or Acts 17:11 and other references (salt and light for one in Matthew 5:13:16). So the church is to be the light of the world, this we should know, but in practice this isn't always the case for Christ's unworthy bride. This is a sad reality elaborated in Revelation Chapter 2.

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience and how canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hadst found them liars; And hadst borne, and hadst patience, and for my name's hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou has left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that have an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith onto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Jesus is addressing Ephesus, which is a church that follows through the motions and has adopted a very legalistic style. The problem is that they've forgotten about Jesus while going through the motions. One word here about the Nicolaitanes. These are people who wanted to centralize the authority in the church, replacing the Bible and Jesus with the hierarchy of men. This is why Christ despises them to this day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Revelation Commentary, From a Handyman? Part Two

The Book of Revelation is a book about solving problems, but it's far more about Jesus, period.

1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave onto him, to shew his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto unto his servant, John.

1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, and keep those things that he saw.

1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophesy, and keep those things which are written therin: for the time is at hand.

1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be onto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.

1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.

1:6 And hath made us kings and priests onto God and his Father; and to him be glory glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen.

These first five verses explain the purposes of this book. First, Jesus chose His apostle John, who had been boiled in oil at least and sentenced to rot on the isle of Patmos by the Roman government, to be the writer of the Revelation. It also explains the role of Jesus in all of this and reveals His message to seven churches in Asia at that time (about AD 90), which is really a part of modern-day Turkey. These churches have significance in that each represents a time, and spiritual condition, up to and including the present day. But did you read the third verse? This verse shows a blessing for those who read and heed (follow) what's contained in this book, because it's about time. This isn't for the curious, or some person thumbing through the bible, but for someone really taking heed of warnings in this book before the events happen. I'm going to pitch to you, what I believe to be the blessing made mention here. This is going to be to escape the Great Tribulation. More on this later.

1:7 Behold, he that cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they have also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him, even so, Amen.

1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and is to come, the Almighty.

1:9 I John, also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the Isle of Patmos for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

1:10 I was inthe spirit of the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet (italics mine).

1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me, and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.

1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he lay his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last.

What I really want to concentrate on is how Jesus looked and what the symbolism is here. I believe that much of this is literal and true to the times. I can say that from this book that He is the King and dressed in a Kingly way. Being dressed down to the foot and wearing a gold vest would sum that up. The thing that really surprised me was the color of His hair. Now I know what you're thinking. Jesus was a Middle Eastern man who had dark hair and probably wore a beard, but this is clearly not the case in His true form. There's no beard here, but John describes His face as "was the sun" or like the sun, with eyes "as a flame of fire." I'm going to hazard a guess that Jesus has blue eyes and a face that exudes the ultimate in strength. His white hair and head are likely a symbol of His purity and always being, but probably very literal. Having feet like fine brass also alludes to His purity, strength and refinement in the eyes of the Apostle John. Because Jesus IS God the Son in all His glory, it was such a shock to John that merely looking at Him would result in death. Obviously, this was not Christ's intention.

Let me off the beaten path a bit. Heaven and Christ are much like a clean room. Christ is perfectly just, innocent, and devoid of sin. Because of this, He cannot allow sin to contaminate Heaven. Otherwise it would be just like the earth is now. This is why sinful man cannot enter Heaven. Honestly, I don't think a literal two edged sword is really coming out of His mouth, but I do believe that His words will be that sword and this is what John is likely conveying. In the next installment, I will elaborate more on His words. and attempt to come to grips on the stars Christ has in His right hand. Maranatha!

Revelation Commentary, From a Handyman? Part One

Like many brothers and sisters in Christ, I am eagerly awaiting His return to earth and to eventually rule with Him over a New heaven and earth. While this seems an eternity away, I assure you that no one has waited so long as Jesus has. To finally be able to rule what is rightfully His, created, bought and paid for, tempered by the justice meted out to the rebellious, will be the product of thousands of years in the making. It will be the homecoming of homecomings, with our Lord, Creator and Master, Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of our love and worship. Like many of you, who have heard from David Jeramiah or read the works of Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye will probably write this off as the works of a layperson (and they'd be right). Others may call these this the ravings of a madman. Either designation is fine with me, but I believe the the Lord has moved me to write this commentary which will hopefully provide some insight, from a handyman's point of view.

Revelation is what could be called the capstone of the Bible and Biblical times, for which I believe we are living in at this minute. While many would just assume dismiss this book and live their lives, it is a part of the Bible that involves Jesus taking back this planet from Satan. The earth was supposed to be ours (human beings) but when Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden of Eden, Satan took over. Our continued rebellion against the Lord and following Satan, by default regardless of the "ism" we choose, is the reason for wars, disease, poverty, inflation, drug use, divorce, homelessness, hunger, and every other malady you can think of. This is pretty simple; even in society, there are consequences. If one person acts in a lawless manner, that person degrades and causes problems for society. If society itself degrades, then it becomes a problem for everyone as a whole and as individuals. I can hardly drive down a street without seeing another "medinical marijuana clinic" springing up, for example. Marijuana is a proven gateway drug to "harder" items such as methamphetamine, or cocaine. The former has ravaged minds and bodies to the point of beyond repair and the latter was the instrument of death for my aunt in 1989. More on all of this in later installments.

Likewise, Revelation is really, in it's simplest terms, a sort of why, how and the result kind of book. This isn't a lot different than an instruction manual, or even a cookbook in that its aim is to solve a problem. When I walk into a house or place of business in my line of work, there's always an issue to be fixed. Whatever it is, I have to assess the issue and create a plan of attack to get it solved. No doubt this goes on at your job too. Even when you're unemployed, you have the problem of not having a job and working on solving it.

The world is no different in that regard; it is contaminated with sin. Not unlike the problem of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, sin has corrupted everything on this planet. Even the water, soil, plants and animals suffer because of this fallen state. The air we breathe and even the sun has the effects of sin. What used to be able to live forever now struggles to live three quarters of a century. This writer is 40 years old and praise the Lord, in great health, but this is something that's not taken for granted. Many of his peers have had major health problems, including, not limited to osteoporosis, a kidney transplant, even a pancreas transplant. However, the most sickening effect of sin isn't its effect on the body, but on the mind. It has created in the average human being, a state of egomaniacal depravity, a sense of entitlement that goes afoul of any real sense to the point of being god in his or her own mind. I'm not talking Pol Pot, Hitler or even Ted Bundy, but the average human being. Satan, of course is also infected by sin and has the overwhelming desired to be worshipped "like the Most High." He also wants to be g-d.

Jesus isn't going to let this go on forever and Satan knows it. Arguably far more than most of us humans, who the overwhelming majority are in denial of either their fallen state and need for a Saviour. Jesus also knows this and has written out the problem, the process of how He's going to "clean house" and what the result is going to be. He's also intent on getting the word out to us humans before we become casualties of this "housecleaning," perhaps for eternity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fixing the Heat on a 2004 Buick Rendezvous

This is only one possible way to fix the problem at hand, as the problem must determine the solution. Mine was a code P0128, with the heater very weak and the car very slow to warm up. Pulling the code with my Actron showed that the thermostat was kaput. In this case, it was opening too early and not letting the engine warm up. This is going to make for some piggish engine performance (poor fuel economy) and make it extremely dangerous driving in cold weather. In my case, it took nearly 45 minutes to warm up and it was very difficult to defrost the windows. It'll also make for some cold driving with my wife and kids in the car, so this is going to have to be fixed. The best way is to take it in to a competent mechanic because this is going to be a bit of a beast to fix. It took me four hours because the young lady at the auto parts store insisted there was no molded hose for the intake, but more on this later. Do this at your own risk, I have no control over your work.

BE SURE THE ENGINE IS COOL FIRST. The thermostat lives on the upper part of the engine inside the water outlet on the drivers side of the car. This is bolted on the intake manifold with two 1/4 inch bolts with 13mm heads. The brake master cylinder, air cleaner and intake hose are also in the way, as is the pipe that runs from the passengers side of the engine. Drain the coolant first. You'll want to use a 10mm wrench to remove the bolt first and pry the pipe out with a screwdriver. Be careful not to nick the "o" ring or you'll be replacing it. Take off the air cleaner and use a 15mm socket to remove the master cylinder. DON'T undo the brake lines, just set it aside. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the clamps from the 3/8 hoses on that pipe under the throttle body; there are two of them. Don't cut the hoses unless you want to fight with the guy at the auto parts counter for a molded hose; ditto with the other hose on the passengers side of the engine. Save the clamps for reuse.

Now the fun part begins. Every other writing I've seen on this says you have to remove the exhaust crossover to get to the bolts holding the thermostat. This is fine if you don't mind buying new gaskets and fasteners to replace the ones you'll tear up. Besides, this is a lot of work to replace a $7 part as it is. Better pack your patience, but you can do this and save $400 and get your heater working again. Use a 13mm socket to remove the front bolt and a 13mm combination wrench to loosen the back bolt from the backside, but don't remove it. You just need to able to wiggle the thermostat housing off the thermostat. Remove the old one and install the new one plunger side in. Wiggle the housing over the thermostat, making sure the notch goes over the bolt. Hand tighten it a bit and thread the other bolt in. Tighten that one first and the back one last.

All you'll need to do is make sure everything else is installed before you start the engine. Do the master cylinder first as this is most critical, followed by the pipe and air cleaner and all the clamps. Refill the cooling system and install a new cap if more than a few years old. There are two bleeder valves on either side of the engine and these will need to be opened to purge any air as you fill this up. Once you see coolant, close the bleeders start the engine, making sure the heater is on full blast. Fill the overflow tank to the high level and crack open the bleeder valves once more to purge any air left in the system. Make sure the heater works and the temperature gauge makes it to halfway. Check for leaks and you should have a heater that works as good as new, provided there wasn't anything else wrong with the cooling system to begin with. Mine works fine, so we'll leave it at that for now. Maranatha!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What You Pay For...

Yesterday, I received a call from a job I had been on the night prior. Apparently, a firm out of Lansing specializing in renewable energy sources and energy conservation is in the business of installing thermostats. This is with the idea of saving energy as these are programmable. The theory is that you can set back the temperature in the building a few degrees and save some money. Personally, my view is that if your furnace and air conditioner are relatively efficient and your house is well insulated, you can save the most money setting your temperature back three to five degrees, but I digress. I could write a whole article and perhaps a small pamphlet on this, but this isn't my purpose today.

The caller had installed, by his reckoning, over 6000 thermostats and never had a problem, but that day he blew up at least two, including the one the tavern owner already had. The result was the dining area in said tavern was pretty chilly. I've been installing thermostats for 25 years now, and the only time I've ever had a problem was by not turning off the equipment first. I pointed this out to the caller too, but he said that 24 volts shouldn't cause the thermostat to fail. I reminded him that if live wires touch the wrong parts, anything will fail. Although he was still adamant about his methods, the burned out thermostat was telling. My conclusion on this was the guy either wasn't qualified or didn't care.

But there was the thermostat and it did need to be replaced. I picked one up, a nice programmable one with 2 stage heat and cool settings and this was going to run $319.00 installed by an expert. It would also be properly set up and I'd show the tavern owner how to use the thing. I thought it a heck of a deal, but the owner of the energy company lambasted me on the price. "I can get one for $70!" was his remark. "But who's going to install it?" I retorted, "your employee?" "You want too much," he replied. "Well sir, we don't run a charity here." I insisted, "we need to make money and this is the price installed. I cannot install one of yours because then I cannot guarantee it." Try getting a mechanic to install parts on your car you get from AutoZone to save a few bucks. They'll laugh you out of the shop.

I had a building manager today chew me out about the prices of thermostats (must be a red letter day for sure). My response was tasteful, tactful and to the point. "We are not making boat payments from these two thermostats. Please do not threaten me about going to another vendor. If you have a problem with me or my product, please tell my boss." Honestly, this is like yelling at the person at the Gas and Go about the price of gasoline. However, you still have to fill up your car and unless you're into the whole biodiesel thing, you're going to have to pay up or walk. I pay up and be nice, that's my policy.

I really hate to rant, but part of the problem with the economy can be traced right back to the average Joe or Jane. We want a lot, but don't want to pay for it. We want that Escalade, but complain bitterly about the payments and operating costs. We want something fixed, but there's a price to pay for it if you want it done right. All the crap floating in from Chinaland is proof of that, We get what we pay for and we will reap what we sow. Rather than pay the nice man to fix your furnace in a warm cheerful manner, you (you know who you are) gripe, threaten and complain in an effort to make him feel small. The only thing you're really doing is making management consulting look really good as a career right now. Then who's going to fix your thermostat then? That guy from the energy company? You're crazier than me.

Attitudes have to change. We are being ugly to each other over things that we really have no business being ugly about. For example, my S.U.V. needs a thermostat and I'm not about to pull the top half of the engine apart to get it. I'll pay the $150 or so and get it done, and be glad I don't have to do it. Such is life. Off my soapbox now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Isn't Easy

A quarter century ago, one fifteen year old was trying to find something that made a fair amount of money and didn't take a college education to get into. It also helped that the majority of work was on deceptively simple pieces of equipment. It sure didn't hurt that this young man didn't mind fixing stuff, or getting his hands dirty. Same time later, that young man is now 40 and the work has become a bit more complicated. I still love it and praise the Lord I have a job. However, like everything else, something as simple and mundane as a furnace has become a bit more complicated. This is the same for air-conditioners. There are also many more choices than there were just a decade or two ago to heat and cool your home. This is great for the consumer (until they need to get it fixed) and provides a steep learning curve for the person trying to work on this stuff.

Today was a reminder on just how complicated furnaces really are. I'm no fan of Carrier or Bryant, and the ones made in the 1980's can drive a tech to distraction. The 80% efficient furnaces are a bit of a bear to work on, as BDP had the idea to add a relay to the vent motor as well as a control board to this component separate from the main board. I sat in front of one these for about 30 minutes today with a homeowner over my shoulder. The furnace was in pieces, literally. The doors were off (never a good sign) and half the wiring was disconnected. The customer's hopes of this being a simple clean and check evaporated as I fished through the wiring, getting things to a semblance of working order.

In frustration, the customer had tried to work on his own piece of equipment. Worse, he had someone work on it who used parts off an old unit instead of buying new (which he should have done). It was a D.I.Y. install on top of that and since nothing was put back, it created an electrical hazard for me. My pliers are a testament to that fact as well as a tripped breaker. I took a deep breath and went to figure this out.

A word of caution here, this is for entertainment purposes only. Do not attempt this if you are drunk, or don't know exactly what you're doing as you can mess up expensive furnace parts or even more expensive people parts. Call a qualified heating contractor and offer him a soda or cup of coffee. I'm partial to Vitamin water or jerky myself. The money you spend will be well worth it.

All furnaces made since 1986 (by my reckoning) have at least one control module or board. These may or may not have relays which are replaceable. There are also ignition modules which control the spark or hot surface ignition (the latter on early 1990's equipment). Today, most have one control board, but some also have a personality module to simplify the need for different models of furnaces. One board will fit most, but these need a personality module to make everything fit. This is where the HVAC industry is headed. However, this Bryant didn't have this feature, nor any modern way to diagnose the problem. It was me and my meter.

Nearly every board is going to have two sets of input, 120 and 24 volts. This is with the former running the fan, vent motor and sometimes the igniter, while the latter controls the relays and thermostat. The high voltage wires are usually white and black, while the low voltage wires from the transformer to the board are red and blue. I traced power going in the board, high and low volts, and checked the thermostat terminals. However, there was no low voltage to the relay for the vent motor, or to get the spark box clicking. One rarity with these boards was a blade type fuse usually found on later model equipment. A look at this determined a possible cause of trouble. Someone put a 20 amp fuse in a spot meant for 3 or 5 amps MAX! This furnace was going to need a new board. Further investigation showed that the only low voltage coming from the board was to the limit control and back to the board itself. Apparently, the customer tried to fix his own furnace and created more of a problem than if he just called me in the first place. Instead, he messed it up and then tried to get me or a competitor to pick up the pieces (literally).

First of all, whether on a car, boat, airplane, or even a relay satellite, a part doesn't "just fail." If a fuse blows, there's a reason. If an igniter, blower or vent motor quits, there's an underlying cause. Either the furnace was over sized and short cycled all the time, the venting was wrong, a bird got caught in the intake, the flame sensor was never cleaned, the manifold pressure was never checked, you used one of those infernal allergy filter in a 1 inch filter slot (one of my pet peeves) and the furnace took a time out. So replacing the part, even if you are successful isn't going to fix the underlying problem and you'll be replacing it again; sometimes as soon as the same day. I've replaced several blower motors on one Carrier (there's that name again) until I realized the customer was using a high density filter that was killing the blower motors. I told her the next replacement was on her and to use a standard density filter, changed monthly from then on. I've had customers complain bitterly about "a lack of quality," all the while killing their equipment as surely as pouring battery acid into the blower compartment.

So please, leave this kind of thing to the pros. Change the filters if you like, but use the low density stuff and if you need more filtering, get a four inch media filter installed for $400. Otherwise buy the low efficiency 1 inch pleated paper filters and change them monthly. By all means, don't try working on something you don't understand unless you at least take a community college course on what you want to work on. I don't fix my cars myself nearly as much as I used to with good reason. The stuff is too complicated for a casual mechanic. Sure, I'll tackle the starter or alternator and maybe a water pump or thermostat, but I'm aware of the risks. If you're in the same boat, be aware there are risks to doing your own furnace or air-conditioning repairs. You can be electrocuted (happened to me several times) burned (this too) suffer cuts (a whole lot) and damage expensive parts (I've fried one board.

The guy trying to be the technician is going to be out of at least $500 to replace a part on a 20 plus year old furnace, whether a vent motor, control board, or igniter. This doesn't make trying to be cheap really worth it. Maranatha!

The Best Way...

The best way to look smart is to keep it simple.

The best way to earn money is to save it.

The best way to get a job you love is to love the job you're already doing.

The best way to teach is to do.

The best way to look good in a suit is to wear one that fits.

The best way to drive is to pretend there's a huge spike on the steering wheel and your bumper is made of fine china.

The best way to have fun is not to make a job of it.

The best way to work is to have fun at it.

The best way to run the race is to run faster.

The best way to drive around a police officer is slower.

The best way to worship is by kneeling. Blessings in Christ Jesus .

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mistakes Homeowners Make, Part Deux

Your house is the most expensive investment (or money pit) that you'll probably have (or at least the bank will). While furnaces and air-conditioners don't have the conversation value a new car or plasma television have, they are probably more important to your health and safety than that car (definitely more so than that precious, useless television). Business has been slower than slow lately and even with the discounts on clean and checks for furnaces, it has been an uphill climb, but praise God it has been uphill.

After much telemarketing today, leaving a lot of messages and a few people saying "not interested" and even one proclaiming "I'm on the do not call list,": to which I snickered to myself, "You're a past customer and I'm only informing you of our special, not a big deal." I finally got a service call from a customer assuming that her air-conditioner, in sub-70 degree weather was "low on freon." The first thing I did was to hook up my gauges and turn the thing on. The fan ran, but the lack of a metallic whirring sound and no change of pressure on the gauges told me the run capacitor was gone. A quick change and the homeowner was back in business.

One thing about a service call is to go over the entire system while you're there. The homeowner, a middle-aged lady informed my dispatcher that she "had never needed work on her furnace in five years." I went downstairs to check on the furnace, a five year old American Standard that was in good shape, but an inspection of the inside revealed otherwise. Two hoses had nearly worked their way off the drain trap in the blower compartment, leaking water. A look under the draft blower revealed a patina of rust underneath and I knew from experience that the transition was cracked and leaking condensation into the cabinet.

Fortunately, I had the part on my truck and about $80 later, had it changed out. The old transition was cracked badly and the customer gasped at what could have amounted to a trashed control board. The mistake that homeowners make is while they may spend hundreds of dollars servicing their car, they ignore the equally complicated machinery right under their feet. A furnace with a 90 plus percent efficiency rating is a trade off. While there is money to be saved in buying on, there is a lot to be lost in neglecting maintenance. Electronics are crazy expensive in a furnace and one call can exceed $600 or $700 to replace the control board in a two stage furnace. Do this in a communicating model and the costs will be much higher. Add to this failing on Christmas Eve and company coming over the next day and your holiday is ruined, not to mention your bank account.

90% and above efficiency rated furnaces are called condensing furnaces in that they create water that needs to be drained because the heat that would normally allow this to vaporize is being used to heat the house. As long as this water can drain out into a condensate pump or floor drain unimpeded with no leaks, this isn't a problem. The issue comes when traps and drains get plugged or components fail and allowed to leak water onto expensive electronics or structural sheet metal. You really need to have this equipment maintained yearly to head off problems. In the days of old, you could let a furnace run for decades without any major problems or inefficiency penalty. There were only three moving parts back then. The gas valve, blower and the fan/limit control and these were relatively trouble free, the only other thing to wear out was a thermocouple. Now there is a control board full of relays, an electronic blower motor, a draft blower, at least one or more pressure switches, an igniter and flame sensor, and this doesn't include the mess of hoses a 90% furnace needs to get the water drained.

Now is the time to make an appointment to get your heating system serviced; while the weather is halfway decent out. If there is something expensive, you can at least budget for it and not have to borrow money when it dies during your turkey dinner. You may not think it needs service, but you could pay a little now or a lot more later. Maranatha!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Very Hard Won Truisms

Even the best of employers have their struggles: Heaven had a third of their employees walk out.

For every finger you point at someone, three are pointing back at you.

"Judge not, lest you will be judged" wasn't meant to be a license to sin.

Holiness is in the eye of the accuser.

God blessed us with the ability to choose and made it easy to choose wisely.

There are no bad seats at the Judgement Seat of Christ. There isn't a good row at the Great White Throne of Judgement.

Devil means slanderer and Satan means adversary, neither name I want in my corner.

Necessary pain is more than enough, so why volunteer for more?

Life is a trip better made with your excess baggage left behind. I prefer a carry-on myself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Very Hard Won Truisms

Humility is the best form of servitude.

The best possible product of an argument is understanding.

If you cannot meet in the middle of an argument, it is best to step to the side.

Human ambition should never exceed human ability.

Godliness is next to godliness.

Think of the Bible as a life preserver, not as a billy club.

The best act of love is to tell the truth.

The best way to prevent an argument is to ask before you put your foot in your mouth.

Getting into an argument is like getting stuck in a fence, easier to get in than to get out of it.

It doesn't take talent to be mean to others.

Berries aren't the only things that get in a jam.

I once complained about my shoes, until I met a man with no legs.

I once complained about my job, until I had none.

Those who don't take risks don't drink champagne, I prefer a nice cold glass of water after I take mine.

The best blessings are the simplest.

Jesus is the perfect judge, so judge by His standard. Maranatha!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bible Mythbusters: Truly the Light is Sweet...

There are some things which are so basic that even a child could understand and interpret them correctly. However, there are those with a darker nature who wish to try and discredit the Bible for being antiquated, out of touch with today, or just plain incorrect. I agree the Bible is old, but not antiquated because our nature to sin and our need to accept and serve Jesus has not changed over the millenia. On this premise, the Bible is very much in touch with reality today and as Hal Lindsey once said "the Bible is more accurate than tomorrow's newspaper."

The verse I'm going to interpret today is Ecclesiastes 11:7 "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun."

This verse looks innocuous enough, but those who wish the Word harm say it is stupid to look into the sun because you could go blind.

Does this mean that Dido Armstrong is wrong for her lyrics "See the sun" or any other contemporary writer? What "seeing the sun" is is called vernacular. It is one of the basics of the English language and it means using another word or meaning for something else. Seeing the sun is simply seeing another day. This is what Dido wrote about in her song and it's what King Solomon also indicated in Ecclesiastes 11:7. The Lord is not mocked, his word is perfect and will not return void. Rejoice in the validity of the Bible, it is 100% correct. Maranatha!

Converting Your Kenmore Range to Propane

WARNING! UPDATE! The information on this was accurate to the best of my knowledge in 2010, in 2014 significant changes have happened with Kenmore appliances including their ranges. They're no longer made by only Whirlpool, but are also made by Frigidaire, LG, General Electric and other manufacturers. This article is for information purposes only. Consult the Sears page concerning these ranges or call a qualified technician. Appliances in general have undergone significant changes due to regulations, imports and materials cost. Most problems with an appliance require a trained technician to work on them. This info is outdated!

ANOTHER UPDATE!!! A good resource for do it yourself people is to look up these parts on and type in your model number. You'll get an exploded view of your appliance and be able to find the correct parts. I can't tell you enough to be careful with the gas. You can burn a lot more than your supper if you aren't careful. When in doubt, call a pro and stick with the local firms. Shop around for a good rate and ask your friends and neighbors. You'll be glad you did.

If you do choose to do this yourself, you need to do some research on your appliance especially if you don't do this everyday. It can be done, but manufacturers change features a lot more readily than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Some of these changes are significant. So much more important to read about YOUR APPLIANCE.

As a service technician (and handyman), I see a few things that are out of the ordinary. Along with fixing heating and cooling equipment, I've worked on dryers, washers and the occasional gas range. Tomorrow, I get to gas pipe a generator, so that one will be fun and if worthy of being written about I'll get to it. This isn't a step-by-step tutorial on how to convert a gas range to burn propane, but to illustrate something that even a few home service professionals aren't aware of. If you choose to use this info, remember that propane, or LP gas is extremely dangerous. It's heavier than air and will explode when concentrated enough and an ignition source is present. Injury, death and/or property damage could result. When in doubt, call a professional or technical support. As an added bonus Sears will not warrant installation damage because they have no control over your work. I don't either. Use this info at your own risk. Call backs are a pain in the rumpus especially when they interrupt one's anniversary night. Friday was the night and a range that I installed and converted for a long time client of mine brought to light the importance of clear and complete instructions. The week prior, I had installed a Kenmore range and converted it to use propane. It involved changing orifices on the cook top and turning the pin on the regulator around. Because propane is heavier than natural gas, the orifices are smaller and the spring pressure on the regulator is different. Leaving natural gas settings in place and using propane will cause the appliance to over fire. This can be unsettling at best and dangerous at worst. Of course using natural gas on a propane set appliance will cause it to under fire , which is annoying. When my client called because her oven had flames a foot over the burner, it was unsettling, and perplexing. After all, I flipped the pin on the regulator, swapped out the orifices for the cook top, etc. I did everything the instructions said to do. This should have been the end of it and my client could be cooking her garlic paste in her brand-new oven. I want to say that my family has used Kenmore products for nearly 40 years and we will continue to do so. I will say that they need to more complete and clear on their instructions with something as potentially dangerous as a gas range. The instructions for setting the burners on the oven AND broiler were supposed to be in a leaflet in the use and care guide. Because this range was a display model, this leaflet was probably gone with the wind. The result was there was no instructions for converting the oven, only the cook top and regulator. Neither I nor the homeowners checked the oven the first time (my bad). This doesn't excuse Sears from their directions, which seem to be in a foreign language with parts missing, but it does bear mention to check everything. Well, here is the "trick" to converting the oven AND broiler, without emailing Sears or trying to call Frigidaire. Remove the door to the oven (read the instructions) and the floor to the oven(there are two screws). Pull out the drawer and set this stuff away from the work area. You'll need a 1/2 inch wrench and a pair of gripping pliers for this. There is a spud (nozzle) that feeds gas to the burner and this is adjustable. It lives under the oven. Tighten this down all the way, at least 2 1/2 to 3 turns with a 1/2 open end or flare nut wrench (do not use a crescent wrench or you'll round off the brass spud). The same story goes for the spud feeding the broiler, but use the gripping pliers (or groove joint pliers) to hold the stationary part of the nozzle steady while you tighten the spud. As per the directions, the oven burner flames need to be about 1 inch high and the broiler flames shouldn't exceed the burner shield. Put the floor, drawer and door back on in that order and turn the oven on for a half hour to burn off the cosmoline. As long as you do everything right, you can roast garlic to your heart's content. Don't forget to invite me for some yummy garlic bread. Maranatha!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thy Will Be Done, or How to Pray.

Today, while I was on the way to my service call to fix a leak in a hothouse (greenhouse) listening to the radio, it occurred to me the reason and practice of prayer. This is something Jesus said most succinctly in Matthew 6:9-13. "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

Today, popular culture defines prayer as asking the Lord for a favor as if He owed us anything. While He can and does bless us abundantly, this is NOT the focus of prayer. Christians have a responsibility to reach the lost and spread God's word, not to ask for intervention in the lottery or in manipulating someone else to do something in your favor. It's also not to further the "name it and claim it" or "prosperity" gospel. I've said this and will until Kingdom come: the Lord is NOT your genie.

The Lord's Prayer is probably one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible, save for those concerning the rapture. It seems like some neatly packaged script that anyone can memorize and use ceremoniously in a funeral or church service. I've been to a church were "canned" prayer is part of tradition, but worshipping the Lord involves more than tradition. Of course the prayer is Biblical, but the meaning is the most important. We all have relationships with others and we treat each person in a different fashion and respect. Obviously, with the Creator of the universe as well as someone whose Word is all powerful, the respect is or should be the utmost. Because I'm a Christian, (and I pray you are too) there is the relationship factor as well.

We wouldn't approach every friend with the same words and sentences every time we talk to him or her, why do that with our Father in Heaven? It is the meaning, not the "canned" prayer, that we must adhere to. We're supposed to love Him and loving Him means to speak from our being. God keeps the pies in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, and I'll simplify this as well.

Our Father, which art in heaven = self explanatory.

Hallowed be thy name = His name is above all other names. (See my post about blasphemy)

Thy kingdom come = we look forward to his kingdom on earth and earn a crown of righteousness in the process.

Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven = pray for God's will to be done, since his is perfect and yours (and mine) isn't.

Give us this day our daily bread = acknowledging the Lord provides for our needs.

Forgive us our debts (or trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). Obviously, if we expect the Lord to forgive us, we need to forgive everyone else.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. = Avoid any appearance of evil; put on the armor of God.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. = We're His creation, so He makes the rules, has the power and deserves the glory. We bless this with an 'Amen.'

As we can see, the Lord is all about us and when we pray it needs to be all about Him. Praying for others' salvation or giving you the strength and resolve to do His will are examples of His will being done. Praying to win the lottery isn't. His name is above all other names. We need to be willing to forgive if we expect the Lord to forgive us. We need to look forward to His kingdom and submit our will to His. This is a prayer, but it's also a code of conduct when we pray. Blessings in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Replacing a Steering Rack on Your GM Vehicle (Front Wheel Drive)

This could go for any front wheel drive car, save for some Chrysler LH or GM J cars, but this is for any 1997 to 2006 GM minivan, sedan or crossover S.U.V.. The latter includes the Pontiac Aztec and Buick Rendezvous, for this is no hard copy service manual and the information isn't very detailed, but requires removing the stabilizer bar. This is across the board with GM cars , but I'm going to give you a quicker way to do this with minimal swearing and breaking parts, I'm also going to give you some suggestions of what to do and what not to do.

A word of warning; I am NOT an expert on these things, but when presented a $600 bill for a part that nearly broke my arm today, it was time to get busy. The best bet is to call a competent mechanic and you will have to take you car to one to get the alignment checked. This job is a pain in the part you sit on, and you can cause personal injury, death or property damage if you screw it up. Even if you follow this to the letter, you could still break something or someone, so use some common sense if you think this is over your head. Be careful and take your time as this isn't a job to rush. I have no control over the quality or lack therof of your work. Do this or any repairs at your own risk.

First of all, it's common sense to use jack stands and not work under a car supported only by a jack. You will need a three ton floor jack, two ton jack stands at a minimum. You'll also need a good socket set and an 18mm flare nut wrench for the hydraulic lines a pry bar and a hammer. First thing is to raise the car with the floor jack and place your jack stands under the front of the sub frame as high as safely feasible. Remove the front wheels and loosen the jam nuts on the tie rod ends, holding the inner rod with a 13mm end wrench. Remove the ball stud nuts and tap the steering knuckles where the studs go in with a hammer. These should pop right out of the knuckles and you'll unscrew the tie rod ends, counting the number of turns. Take note of the turns and place each end to the corresponding side on the floor with the stud and jam nuts. Next, unscrew the coupler after lifting the dust boot off the rack. It takes an 11mm socket. Then remove the heat shield and the two bolts holding the rack in.

The next step is tricky and dangerous. You'll need to use the jack to support the sub frame before you remove the two bolts in the rear. Do this like you're jacking up the car from the front, but place the head of the jack in the center of the rear of the frame. Take out the bolts after you've supported the frame, and drop the frame no more than 5 inches. If you let it fall too far, you risk breaking something. You need just enough space to undo the hydraulic lines. Remove the lines slide the rack out.

Putting the new in is pretty much reversing the procedure. Count the number of turns as you put the tie rod ends on and secure with the jam nuts. Use new "o" rings on the lines and remember to index the input shaft to the coupler. This means centering the rack by turning it from lock to lock, counting the number of turns and dividing that by two. When everything is put back together, fill the reservoir with clean power steering fluid (do not use transmission fluid) and with the wheels still in the air, start the engine. The noise will be really bad. Turn the wheel lock to lock until this noise goes away, making sure to keep the reservoir from going empty. Lower the car and take to an alignment shop to get the toe in set right. You're done. Maranatha!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another Thought...

While I'm at it, cleaning up the site and making corrections to a few typos, I have noticed the direction of this blog changing. It was never intended to be only about one subject, but a journal of some pretty tough and trying times. It was also (and still is meant) to stir it up in the reader's heart to turn their life to Jesus. I've read more than a few of these sites that seem to be a diatribe of every annoyance of the writer. We all have different tastes, needs, wants, et cetera. As for me, I serve the Lord and find Him a lot more interesting than the odds and ends piling up. However, I can't see not telling someone how to save money by fixing something either. In truth, we've become a throw away culture, while in many countries things like cars and other durable goods are repeatedly fixed and recycled. Mainly because the majority of people are very poor and can't afford new stuff.

I don't intend to water down anything down a bit, nor do I intend to delete my posts about the rapture or the like. These still hold true and despite my misinterpretation (and this is more time to accept Jesus, so I'm not going to complain) I believe this is an immanent event that gets closer with each passing day.

However, back to fixing stuff, I've found that fewer people want to be really handy, if at all. The few self-professed handy people, in my opinion are not up to the task of really fixing anything, but hooking up the new stuff. Well boys and girls, I want to try and keep the old stuff going and there are few people in my circle of friends and family willing to accept what I want to pass on. I'm 40 years and not getting younger. Life is temporal and when I'm gone, raptured or whatever, the knowledge will go with me. When I was a kid, I relished the time I spent with Grandpa, because this guy seemed to know everything. He fixed trucks for the City of Lansing and even made an air compressor out of a scrap oil tank and some old parts. He bailed me out on more than a few car repairs before I finally got smart and started to obtain technical information on EVERY car I've owned. In the end, I helped him with his cars and trucks.

It is my hope that you dear reader, become a Christian if you aren't already and that you will learn something from my writings and hopefully a few pictures when I get a camera again (even my influence has to stop somewhere). I have much to share as the Lord has blessed me abundantly. I want to bless you. Blessings in Christ Jesus.

The $500 Mistake Homeowners Make.

This is such a simple thing that most overlook it, but it's something that no one wants to pay for it when it breaks. Let's face it, $500 can buy groceries for month for a family of 4, 8 very nice nights out, or even a weekend stay in a fairly decent hotel. It can also pay for a month's worth of camping at the KOA (maybe).

What people hate to spend money on is their home comfort system; in my terms, the HVAC system, (Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning). The truth is that the price for me to come to your door and find out what's wrong with your HVAC system is about $90 to $130, depending on the time of day or weekend. In addition, the cost of a blower motor installed is $350 to north of a grand for a higher-end variable-speed motor. These aren't cheap, and I've had customers defer these expensive repairs and put up with the sweltering heat and humidity while the equipment they spent good money on sits useless in the mechanical room. While there is Murphy's Law, my stand is that 90 to 95% of these repairs are completely and utterly preventable with a little knowledge and some common sense.

To add more to the carnage, I've seen expensive equipment reduced to scrap metal because of the improper use of furnace filters. Heat exchangers can fail, cooling coils can ice up and cause water damage to circuit boards, blower motors, and other moisture sensitive parts. Did I mention furnace filters? Yes I did.

Neglect is the reason a lot of things fail, whether a relationship or your prized ride and is true for your furnace and air-conditioner chugging happily away in your basement or laundry room. Ignore your spouse, schlep out of doing your oil changes or forget to replace your furnace filter and you'll suffer financially. I've seen filters that were left in "only three months" that ruined motors or resulted in an A/C icing up. The truth is that ANY ONE INCH FILTER MUST BE CHANGED EVERY MONTH YOU USE THE SYSTEM. Even the so-called three month filters will destroy your system faster than the cheaper filters because the tolerances of the material are tighter. Try blowing as hard as you can through one of these filters (before you install it) and you'll likely run out of breath. Then try blowing through a fiberglass filter (one of the blue or white ones without the pleats) and you'll notice the difference. The looser material is easier to blow through for you and your equipment.

Personally, I don't recommend using 1 inch HEPA or "high performance" filters because of the danger to equipment and your wallet. These have tight pleats meant to trap very small particles that also tend to clog quickly. These also make the blower work harder to move the air; costing you more money to heat and cool your home. This is what also shortens the life of your equipment. There is simply not enough surface area to allow enough airflow through these pleats for the blower to work correctly. This is why many media filters are 4 or 5 inches thick to give more surface area and more capacity to trap dust and dirt. A better idea, if you really want to minimize these nasties is to buy an electrostatic filter such as a Trane Clean Effects or American Standard Accu Clean as these will remove the cats and bowling balls and almost all of the smaller stuff. These are pricey, but well worth it and ozone pollution is minimized as opposed to an electronic air cleaner.

If money's tight, there is the option of the 4 inch media filters like Space Gard, Air Bear, General AC-1, Honeywell or the like. These range from easy to change to utterly ridiculous, with the AC-1 taking good manual dexterity to change and the Space Gards without the upgrade kits being a pain in the rumpus as well. I've been installing these for 14 years and they can still be a bit of a nightmare.

If you must use a one inch filter, use a good quality pleated filter with the lowest MERV (the filtering capacity) number you can find (MERV 8 or lower). I like the filters with some sort of cardboard reinforcement to hold the pleats and keep the frames and pleats from snagging on the slot, making them easier to remove or install. To me, this is more important than any supposed filtering ability. 1 inch filters are to keep the cats and bowling balls out of the blower, that's about it. If you're concerned about your health, you're going to have to upgrade to 4 or 5 inch media filter or an electrostatic job. For the "high performance" 1 inchers, you're going to spend $100 to $200 a year if you change these monthly (you'd better) anyway, not to mention a blower motor once a year. Compared to that, $1000 for an AccuClean looks really good. Maranatha!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Customer Care...

I'm not about to be an egomaniac as my boss was equally culpable in this caper, but this goes to show how important the details are. It also shows that assume really does make an ass of u and me.

The job was a no cooling call, which means that an air-conditioner is on the fritz and nearly always with grumpy customers in tow. Let's face it, we can bundle up a little more, but we can only take off so much before we risk being arrested. Jokes aside, there was a problem. How big I wanted it to be was up to me.

So I go to this house and find the A-coil iced up and charging the system impossible, but a well timed call from my boss suggesting that I turn the furnace on to thaw it out. Who knew, my boss is a genius. Well then, onward we go. The homeowner is ticked and told twice by another company's techs that he's going to have to buy a new coil and he'd be better off replacing the system entirely. The problem is that it's only six years old and not even through half of its life. Despite my cajoling, he's convinced this is going to cost big bucks. I tell him not to worry, but we need to do a leak search.

I have a Harbor Freight refrigerant leak detector that cost me $80 a couple years ago and despite needing repair on the switch, works very well. The first thing I did was to turn on the device and walk toward the outdoor unit and barely pointing the sensor, it started to beep quickly. When I made it to the service valves, the device screamed; BINGO. Guess what, found the problem. It was because the installer overheated the service valves as per usual. Opening the covers revealed that a well-meaning tech tried to band aid the problem with Leak Lock, but the leak remained unlocked and continued to bedevil the homeowner for 3 years.

After confirming this, I went ahead and traipsed to the basement, detector in hand and found no leaks at the A-coil. This was, according to the homeowner, going to cost almost $2000 to fix, for a 6 year old A/C. This was crazy. Now I'm not perfect myself, but this is a reminder that as techs we can't just go and condemn parts. We need to gather evidence and prove this to the customer. He or she is the one paying the bills. Speaking of bills...

My fix was replacing the service valve caps with sealing ones (O rings), recharging the system with R-22 and the leak search. All told this was about $260.00 to save an A/C, not mention the customer's wallet. Again, this was taking the time, having the right attitude (even at beer thirty) to help your customer out and actually giving a care about them. Everyone wants good customer service and everyone deserves it, but we should all be willing to give it too. Our work is a reflection on us and should be to glorify our Creator. Making our boss and company look good won't hurt either. Blessings in Christ.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting the Lights On in Your GM Radio

As always, I am not in control of your work or what you're working on. I cannot accept responsibility for your mistakes. When in doubt, call a certified mechanic or GM dealership. A new OEM (original equipment manufacturer) radio can run in excess of $400. If you have some patience, time and a few bucks, this will save you most of that. Again, I cannot guarantee your work or what you're working on. Do this at your own risk...

Car radios can be a nice source of background noise on the highway of life. Mine is nearly always tuned to Christian music or talk radio because it's calming and uplifting. What's annoying is having lights out on your radio because the bulbs are burned out. This is the time that a lot of people decide to trade in the car to avoid this hassle or expense. In my situation, I'm just glad to have a running car that looks nice.

But having a bunch of lights out is annoying and distracting at night. There are many good reasons to have a radio you can see at a glance, especially at night. It will keep you engaged and avoiding stopping or lighting a match to see the buttons. The more time figuring something out is more opportunity for a crash. While the solution might be to not use the radio and sing hymns. It may not be the best choice for your passengers.

Buying an aftermarket radio is also an option, but in my opinion, not a good one. The buttons are nearly always too small and unless you spend a lot of money on a double din unit, it will never look right. On many GM products (like mine, a 2004 Buick Rendezvous), the warning chimes and other functions are channeled through the radio, necessitating buying a special wiring harness for these to work. Even if you get this harness, the speed compensated volume and the controls on the steering wheel won't work. The worst is that aftermarket radios never seem to hold up. My wife's 1990 Cavalier had a Pioneer that needed to be replaced after three years with a Craig unit, that lasted two. The OEM radios are made a lot better and will outlive the car with a little maintenance.

But the bulbs can and will burn out because they are incandescent, like those in many houses, because they need to be dim-able. This doesn't mean that you should throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you have a little experience with taking things apart and know how to solder (and had some practice), you can save a lot of money and add years to your radio.

The tools you'll need (assuming you have the radio out) are a 15 watt soldering iron, rosin core solder, a small pair of vise grips and a set of 1/4 drive sockets with a handle. I used a 4mm and 7mm, but yours may vary. You'll also want a small flat screwdriver and a pair of side cutters. The supplies are going to be patience and 7 or 8 packages of 12 micro lamps from Radio Shack. The number on these is #7219 12 volt 60 milliamp. These are great for the heater control and speedometer cluster. These are about $1.79 for a package of 2 bulbs. The radio takes 14 bulbs.

The first thing is to remove the top and bottom panels with the flat screwdriver. These pry off the back and sides, but hook in the front. Be careful not to bend them. You will want to carefully unclip the three wiring harnesses from the front panel to the main board of the radio on the top half and untwist them. There is another harness next to the volume knob on the bottom. Remove this one too. Then carefully pull off the knobs and make note of which one went where as they are not interchangeable.

The front panel is plastic and held on with molded tabs. Gently ease these off with a screwdriver placed under them. Use just enough pressure to ease this off or you'll break the tabs or the panel. I did it by just disengaging the tabs enough to carefully lift the panel off the radio. Now for the "fun" part; you'll need to separate the circuit board from the panel. This panel has the display as well as the bubs, buttons and other parts. This is delicate and will not take too much manhandling. The plastic puzzle called the front panel is also a pain to try and decipher if you let the buttons get away. I'd use some blue making tape on the front to help keep the buttons in place with special attention to the H and M ones. The H is on top and the M is on the bottom. Just tape the buttons and keep the panel face down and your life will be easier.

Remove the six screws holding the circuit board to the panel. Flip the board over to reveal the bulbs, which are covered with a blue cap. Carefully remove these caps with your fingers as tools will tear them and set them aside where they won't get lost. Another little bit of advice here; replace all of the bulbs, or you will be doing this again shortly. Unsolder all the bulbs and save the holders. put these holders on the new bulbs and use your soldering iron to heat the joints enough to get the leads through the board. Once the leads are through, use the (small) vise grips to pull the leads through, one at a time, a little at a time while using the iron to keep the solder soft enough. When the bulbs are tight against the board, stop. Pull these leads gently or you'll break the bulbs. Solder each lead, making sure the joints don't touch. Use a pocketknife to gently scrap any stray solder so the leads don't touch. once you're done soldering and satisfied with the results, clip off the excess leads with side cutters.

The rest is a reverse to install, but make sure all of the bulbs are capped with the blue silicone caps and that the screws are in and tight. thread the wire harnesses through the holes before snapping on the front panel. Thread the ones with the smaller molex connectors on the top half to the hole next to the side panel and the larger one to the top. Don't forget the bottom. These only go one way so you can't screw them up, but don't break the main board as this is not serviceable (even my influence has to stop somewhere). Snap the top and bottom covers on and replace the knobs. Plug the radio in and check your work. When the lights are on, all the lights should work, but the lights for the controls for the tape or CD player will be out when the radio is in use and vice versa. So double check this before tearing into the radio again.

Once you're satisfied with the results, put the dash back together and play that Michelle Tumes CD. Maranatha!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fixing a Thermoplastic Battery Tray.

It's Sunday evening, you have to get to work early Monday morning your ride has a broken battery tray. After calling several auto parts stores whose service people tell you the item isn't available in any way shape or form (auto parts stores seem to offer a lot of excuses nowadays. I've never understood this mentality either). All you hear is this is a dealer or junkyard item. Well, on my particular car a junkyard batter tray is not an option because it's money their already broken and the dealer item will also break prematurely. I've yet to see a Buick Rendezvous where the said tray hasn't broke. One young lady whose Rendezvous needed a jump had the battery held in with a bungee cord, NO TRAY. This is very dangerous in that the battery might end up in the water pump and leave you stranded. Bungee cords tend to stretch and a 20 pound battery is going to move when the car does. It will shorten the life of the battery. I did this once with my '75 Nova and it KILLED my battery within a month. Batteries are expensive nowadays, even at Wal-Mart, so jury-rigging isn't an option, or is it?

On the Rendezvous, the tray broke off at the stationary tab toward the front of the vehicle, while the hold down with the bolt was intact. The plastic is black and the consistency of a well made laundry hamper; something easily fixed with a heat gun.

Again, this is at your own risk. Heat guns are HOT and they WILL burn you if you aren't careful. You can cause personal injury and property damage if you screw up. If you still want to do this, use a heat resistant surface like a metal workbench. I used a stainless steel sink away from the Formica counters.

The tab in question is about four and a half inches long and has a weak point that makes it easy to fail. You can heat this together, but it will break again. The the trick is to reinforce it with something, such as the same material the tray is made of. I used a piece of scrap plastic cut to fit against the tab and the rest of the tray and glued in a couple places with super glue. The trick is to heat this together until it starts to melt together, but not to get too gooey. Once the materials melt together, there will still be seams, but the parts will hold together. Take your time and let the plastic cool after a few minutes. Once you're satisfied with the result, run the workpiece under cool water and test it to make sure it'll hold the battery. This is not the time to skimp as it'll need to hold 20 plus pounds going around corners, rolling over, etc. You will have to figure out how much heat you need and when to quit. I took my time and got the materials to fuse together, heating them 'till it was the consistency of putty, but no more.

Carefully put the tray back into the car and the battery back in. Carefully tighten the hold down bolt and try lifting out and sliding the battery.There should be no movement. Any breakage will require fixing it again or biting the bullet and replacing the tray. Maranatha!

Admitting Mistakes (In Spite of Pride).

The one thing that must be said about your work, first and foremost, is that you must care about it; as well as those you do the work for. There is nothing else that matters, absolutely nothing. Even then, you will make mistakes. This is not an option, especially with a new job and especially if you've been out of the loop for a while. I was out of work for a year before being hired by a firm out of Lansing (Thank you Jesus).

If I'm lying, I'm dying, the first week was a pain. It was hot, humid and rainy. The customers were more than nice enough, but having working air-conditioning has a direct effect on one's mood. I've prayed daily to be a blessing to those I've come in contact with and fallen short twice. While arguably, it wouldn't have made much of a difference on at least one of these calls in returning the equipment to working order, it does have a profound effect on customer perception, follow me?

In both instances, it wasn't about condemning the equipment to make a buck. This is not the case, or I'd have to change my moniker to replacinggrace. My aim is to make something work as long as inhumanly possible and economically feasible. The latter is one that's open to interpretation and the customers' perception which is reality. Let's face it, most of us can't swing it to replace everything when it's due. I can't buy a new car every three years to avoid fixing the big stuff, so I have to adapt.

When an air-conditioner leaked at my last employer, it was done. Well, my new boss has a different philosophy. If it's under 15 years old, his view is to try and fix it. I fell flat on my face with a leaking air-conditioner and partially with one with a blown fuse (the latter was moot in that the compressor was trashed, and I told her that, but she was still ticked about it. Who can blame her). I've yet to hear everything that went down with the leaker, but today gave me pause to think this morning when I had another one to deal with.

This one was about the same age as the first one, about 10 years old, give or take a year. It froze up something horrible and it took me several hours and the customer almost $400 to fix it, but it ran like a champ afterward. Hopefully, this guy won't have to see my smiling face for awhile and his A/C will work for another decade with a little maintenance. The point is that nothing is more important on your job than those you're trying to help. If you lose sight of the mission, you lose, your boss loses, and your customers lose. Eyes on the prize, that's where everyone wins as much as possible. Maranatha!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Why I Never Have to Worry (even when I still do).

As of today, several things have happened that have or could have had a significant impact on my life. While the idea is to never be too preoccupied with oneself, there is the hope (at least in this post) of relating to others in similar situations. In times of so much angst and worry, I like to be able to post something positive. Victories sometime seem few and far between and miracles even less so, but Jesus is our source of victories and miracles. In this life, we are dependent on Him whether we acknowledge Him or not. I choose to acknowledge Him because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He intervenes. Let's face it, the numbers don't lie, but even then, Jesus is still Lord.

Unless you've lived in a cave, (this pertains to the United States) you know that the federal government has cut off unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. Up to this point, we were getting half of our money to buy groceries, pay rent, pay bills, etc through unemployment benefits. My wife and I have lived austerely, yet decently for a year and a half while I've been looking for work. (My amounts are N.O.Y.B.). Take away half of someones paycheck and they're going to be hurting. In my case, it would be back to living back with my parents with kids in tow. This would not be a fun thing (I love you mom and dad) for anyone involved, but would beat homelessness to be sure. This is event one; the bad news if you will.

The other momentous occasion was and still is a milestone. I'm now 40 years of age and a member of a protected class now because of my age. Golly, being 40 sure feels like being 39, but it looks a lot older now that the first digit has changed. It could mean that my job search as gotten a lot harder.

The third momentous event took place over several days and finally culminated last Friday (7/2/2010). A couple weeks ago, I applied for a job at a heating and cooling firm in Lansing through the Michigan Talent Bank (This is a job board that has been panned by the uninformed, but it works; pun intended). I got a call 6/29/2010 on Tuesday to come in for an interview (which I did) and I took a test and filled out an application. Friday, the same week, I was called in for an interview. The owner, a really decent guy who knows his stuff and I talked for 15 minutes before he said to me "Have your *** here Tuesday." "Okay, I guess I'll have my *** in here Tuesday then, what time?" was my reply. It was congenial and most importantly, a job.

I've spent the better part of Friday and Saturday getting my tools ready for work next week. Bought a set of manifold gauges, a hose and a micron gauge, as well as some fittings and a fin straightener to replace my worn or missing stuff. The rest just needed to be cleaned and organized to some semblance of usability in the interest of finding something when it's needed. Soldering stuff in one bag, large hand tools in another, cords in one, power tools in their respective boxes and hoses in a huge tote. Basically everything needed to fix a furnace or air-conditioner with some semblance of accuracy is now in my cave.

The part I like so much about this is for the glory of the Lord. He is an over comer of temptation, tribulation, despair, discouragement, calamity, sin and death. In short, everything evil or wicked is overcome through the power of Christ. My mother told me that He knows no recession and I've had head knowledge of that fact, but was eighteen inches from reality (from my head to my heart). Fortunately, this was rectified long before I got this job, so any worry or angst was a non-issue. Let's face it. Being unemployed isn't fun. The paradox is that while someone is at rock bottom in their life, they need to be at the top of their game to find another job. Being able to write clearly and concisely, communicate well verbally (not one of my better attributes) and have some pluck is a job in itself that cannot be taken too lightly. This where faith comes in.

Quite frankly, I've stopped worrying about how or when the Lord is going to take care of me. He just does it and the component of faith is knowing that He will. Maranatha!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Part 2: Fixing Dash Lights on a Late Model GM Vehicle (Out of Warranty).

This bears repeating, I do not have control over what you're working on, how you're working on it, or what your working with. There are risks to fixing anything and you assume all risks involved. Even if you're careful, stuff happens and you could cause personal injury or property damage. When in doubt, call a professional...

You may be tempted to buy a junkyard piece and be done with it, but the chance of getting one with same options as your vehicle are slim and getting one with the correct mileage is nil. The former is for functional reasons (who wants a tire pressure warning light when your car doesn't even have the option?) and the latter for legal reasons. Odometer fraud is a federal crime and any discrepancies MUST be declared on the title. This WILL reduce the value of your vehicle unless you plan on junking it in the near future. Extended warranties usually won't cover speedometer faults and certainly not bulb changes. So your options are limited. What to do.

My choice was to dig in and fix this, carefully.

There are eight light bulbs that need to be changed to get the instrument panel lit again. This does not count the bulbs for the idiot lights that wear infrequently. This is going to be helpful for the next step. Radio Shack is still the best place to get parts for electronics, but inevitably, they will not have the 12 incandescent bulbs this cluster has. As it was, I cleaned out every one they had and I had to do some digging. The ones preferred are the 12 volt - 50 miliamp Bi-pin lamps (#272-1154). You can use the 12 volt ones with the hookup leads, but these are a pain in the tuckus and you WILL break at least one trying to prepare it. Get the Bi-Pins bulbs, you'll be glad you did. You will also need a 15 watt soldering iron (no higher) and a roll of .032" 60/40 rosin core solder (not acid core)

The instrument cluster's held together with tabs that snap on like the edges of a tote. First remove the lens and set it aside. This is where it gets tricky. The needles need to come off and they are not intuitive or indexed. It would be good to mark their positions on the dial with a grease pencil (do not use a marker or paint) or your readings will be inaccurate. There are tools to remove these, but a regular fork placed under the needles where they attach to the stepper motors will suffice. Lift up gently on the needles with the fork to remove them.

Unsnap the back of the cluster and you'll see the printed circuit that lives inside. A word of caution here and this is one reason why this is risky. You need to work where you can ground yourself to protect against static electricity, which will destroy a circuit board. The best place is in the kitchen where you can at least touch the faucet.

One either side of each stepper motor, there lives a bulb and these are not unlike Christmas tree (not holiday tree) bulbs in their form factor. The difference is that the Xmas tree bulbs are too tall to fit. The bulbs sit on ceramic holders with each lead into a solder joint. twist the bulb and holder off the board. As there are four solder joints under the holder, pay attention to the ones the leads go into and they are larger, so that will help.

Take your bi-pin bulb and carefully, with pliers, bend out the pins at a 90 degree angle so they can sit in the solder. The rest of the job is going to be soldering in each bulb so they stand upright and and not burning up the circuit board, or your appendages. The bulbs with the wire leads will have to be installed like the originals and these are tricky. I cannot teach a person how to solder parts together in this post. This is something I've been doing since I was ten years old, tomorrow I turn 40. This is not the part to practice your skills on either.

One you get the bulbs in and you're satisfied they're in securely. put the dash together, making sure the stepper motors are at their lowest limits AND and the needles are in their original positions (HINT these are not going to point below the marks until you actually hook the cluster up, but some adjustment is to be expected. BE careful or you will compromise the accuracy of the speedometer and may to use a GPS to set it straight. If the job's done with care, you'll have your dash lights for less than $20.00 for about an hour's worth of work. Compare this to being without your car for several days and paying the dealer five bills. Maranatha!