Sunday, August 12, 2012

2004 Buick Rendezvous Long Term "Test" Part One.

Call me a wiseacre, but this is in response to those long term tests from car reviewers reviewing late model cars. The prolonged recession, as well as the fact this madman isn't making a lot of money from blogging necessitates the need to review what he already has. Surely, most of my readers, or a tiny fraction of 1/100th of 1% can agree that new cars are probably out of reach anyway. Besides, the worst car you can have is one with a payment book. This is going to have all the flash of a professional review and 0% of the hyperbole . The Buick Rendezvous was GM's answer to the Lexus RX series plain and simple, and aimed to the professional woman from her late thirties to late fifties. In my line of work, she would be called a "Debra" and she would have little automotive knowledge. From the console that can hold a purse underneath, a compartment large enough to hold a laptop computer, as well as an overhead bin and Homelink controls, this vehicle was as purpose built a passenger truck available. The Rendezvous was also the first truck under the Buick brand in decades, but truck like it is not. The sloping third quarter windows ape the RX as does the side view to some extent.
However, because this is a shortened minivan platform, the roof is much higher compared to the wheelbase than the RX is and can have a third row of seats if so ordered. The taillights and niche for the number plate seem higher than the headlights, giving the truck a weird downhill look to it. It also looks not unlike the Buick LeSabre's rear, which looks great. On the Rendezvous, it looks a bit unimaginative and doesn't belong. The front view is innocuous enough, and the composite headlights and front grille are all Buick and look handsome. The mirrors are some of the largest on any vehicle of its size, but are fabulous for towing a trailer. Unlike many contemporary vehicles GM has tried body cladding on, it got it right on the Rendezvous. The wheels on most of these are also very pleasing, but mine are plain and have aftermarket covers.
Inside, the driving position is very adjustable. You can raise or lower the seat, as well as front and back and there is a lumbar support on both driver and passenger seats. Mine doesn't have power on either seat, nor warmers, but this is a plus as it is one less thing to try and fix. What is not a plus is the material these seats are made of. It reminds the writer of an old mattress and unless you are very careful cleaning it, it will show water stains like same. With over 150,000 on mine, the driver's seat has about had it; even with an aftermarket cover.  The instruments are clear and easy to get at, but blue and silver gauges are a nightmare to read in the daytime when the lights are on. The numbers are just the right hue and brightness to make them unreadable at the top. The only way to cure this is to dim or shut off the lights to the cluster. 2005 and later models got a better, less avant garde' design. However this is no consolation to those stuck with a 2004 or earlier and there are no aftermarket skins available for this one either. If so inclined I may take a cluster out of an Aztek or later model Rendezvous and run with it.
Compared to many newer cars and trucks, the interior is almost 1990's in both function and form. There is now rhyme or reason to where the radio, heater, as well as the rear wiper and traction control live. The headlight switch lives in the usual spot and the ignition lock is where is had been on GM cars since the 1970's. The cruise control is also a throwback as is the front wiper control. These were a staple on 1970's GM products and alive and well on this 2004. Even with a huge console the shift lever is on the steering column as is the parking brake. In all fairness, there would be no room for either. It also makes reaching for the glove compartment an exercise in futility. I use the visor for my auto papers and keep precious little in that compartment as a result.
I wished time and again this model had a third row of seats, as well as place to put a full sized spare. Since the tire winch failed last year, I've resorted to putting the compact spare in the cargo area and since I pull a trailer with this beast, I pray that I don't get a flat. The compact spare would be dangerous trying to hold up the weight of same at anything more than a crawl. Because of safety issues of using plugs or sealers on a flat tire, this is not a great option either. Part of the problem is the rear suspension that limits clearance as well as the short length of the rear end. Eventually, if I keep this vehicle long enough I'll devise a way to put a full size spare on the inside rear quarter. That shouldn't be too tough. Maranatha!

Bissell PowerForce(TM) Compact Vacuum Cleaner Review.

A week ago, with the carpet a mess, we decided to give this one a try. This was because our canister vacuum was not up to the task of keeping up with two boys eating all over the place. Some of this is going to require a professional cleaning of course, but any vacuum should be able to pick up dirt in an average sized house without losing suction within ten seconds. Since I'm not making a lot of money blogging, i.e. nil, none, zip, zilch, spending $300 to $500 on a Dyson is out of the question. I found this beauty at Walmart last Friday with my wife and in spite of myself, we got the purple one. The cost with tax was about $37. What you get is a very basic, no frills vacuum cleaner for this price. The cleaning path is very narrow and the hose is so short that sometimes it pops out of the cleaning head. The only attachment included is a crevice tool.
Again, there are no lights, no adjustments, no dirt finders, and no frills with this cleaner, only the basics. The cord is very short and necessitates unplugging even halfway across the room of my humble abode. An extension cord, which I have plenty of, would fix this easily of course. However if you're looking for this out of the box this is not your vacuum. What I do like and appreciate from any Bissell product including this one is the value. This one can clean better than vacuum several times the price with ease. At only 11 pounds, this weighs just three pounds more than a gallon of milk and is much easier to wield, even with the fixed wheels. Even though you have to make multiple passes with it, it's still easier than lugging a 20 pound vacuum around. Considering I have arthritis and tendinitis this is a huge blessing. One issue I'm not enthralled about is that the handle wants to move when you pull it back. As an amateur engineer, I want things like handles to stay put. A spot of Goop will cure this as I use it for any adhesive needs. I've fixed door handles and even a seal cushion with the stuff and it has never failed, but I digress.
If you're looking for a good, cheap vacuum that actually cleans, look no further than the Bissell PowerForce Compact. Maranatha!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Taking a CPL Class.

Went to Not Just Guns last Saturday to take the course for concealed carry, looked at a few guns (including a Beretta PX4 Subcompact in a 9mm) as well as a few other brands. Listened to a lot of legalese, and a self defense instructor, and cut my pinkie getting blood all over my gun. I aced the test (which was more common sense) and got my certificate. In a few weeks, maybe months, I'll go ahead and get my application filled out. One thing I learned is that my hands are bigger than I thought. The result was changing the backstrap on the Beretta as well as cleaning it out. It was about as high stress as it got and hopefully will ever get.
I want to thank Brymer and Not Just Guns for their due diligence and instruction. They were a big help.

Follow Your Nose.

Oh my goodness it is a hot one today; 93 degrees. Between stepping in dog poo, having ants crawling over me and my tools while cooking in sweat, UGH!  Just as I thought there was an end to the day, another call comes up. This one was had a system freezing up. The homeowner suggested that it could be leaking Freon because of this. Since this was a call for the local utility; they had a service contract with same, they wouldn't cover a leak search or a recharge. I drove over and met the homeowner, a tall, thin and rather cheerful man in his sixties. He followed me as I went to the furnace, the coil, and the condensing unit outside. Both the furnace and the air-conditioner were thirty five years old, but the charge was perfect and I could see Freon in the sight glass (no fooling, many of these had sight glasses and this was a throwback to when air conditioning was set up like refrigeration back in the day). Not only that, the blower wheel and coil were clean top and bottom, the filter was new, and since the furnace had no secondary, this wasn't the issue either. I also noted that the blower motor was fairly new and the air flow was fine. All the registers and returns were open as well. So why was the coil freezing up?
Because this was an older furnace, it used a fan center instead of a control board, but this was also in perfect working order. Remembering that the thermostat activates the blower during a cooling call, I went up to investigate. Pulling off the cover, I smelled the electronics inside and got kind of a sickly sweet burning smell. This is not unlike the odor you get when a contactor, which is inside a condensing unit quits on the low voltage, 24 volt side. If your air is freezing up and you smell this inside your electronic thermostat, this is worth looking into. My suggestion is not to fix this yourself, as I get at least two or three calls a month where a homeowner botched a thermostat install. These can get expensive in a hurry, more so than if you just called me in the first place. Another thing to think about is most, but all thermostats sold in the home center are going to be less durable, less user friendly and likely will use AAA batteries, which is also a longevity issue in my experience. The one I removed was a AAA battery thermostat. Yes, the utility covered it. Maranatha!