Thursday, January 31, 2013

King of Shaves Update.

Sorry to say, the King of Shaves didn't do so well in my neck of the woods. Meijer had the blades for these on clearance and no new razors available. I still have mine, but have opted for the Schick Quattro instead. The reason wasn't the quality of the shave, but dad blamed blades were too hard to remove and install. Since I already had the Schick, it shaves about as well as the Gillette Fusion for half the price.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stuck GM Reduction Gear Starter Fix.

If you have a late model GM car, you're going to have a starter with a reduction gear AND a permanent magnet motor. In the 1960's, Chrysler introduced this concept of gear reduction in a starter on a high volume basis (Rolls Royce was the first). In the mid 1990's to the best of my knowledge, car makers began adopting this technology and using permanent magnets. The result is a much more efficient and much lighter starter that uses less materials, particularly copper. On the downside, these are much more fragile than the old school starters (mainly the ones I grew up with) and they're a helluva lot more expensive. You can still get one for a 1977 Olds Delta 88 (my first car) rebuilt for about $50 and some change. For my current car, which hits 10 years old in September, this part can exceed $200! Unlike the former, this one is not rebuildable to a reliable  standard using common tools. Unless you have access to specialized equipment and can get the parts, you won't be able to do this. Even if you get it apart, you will utter obscenities getting this back together. I know because I tried it. Yes, I got it back together and it seems to work fine, but had to use alligator clips to hold the brushes while getting the armature back in.

Truth is, you can take this apart and get it back together successfully to at least get an inkling of what's wrong with it. Mine started acting funny between a failing battery and a dunk in the mud (I still blame you Walmart!)   After replacing the battery, it started fine for two days and the weather got colder. The result was a starter that clicked smartly, but would not turn. I retested the battery and it was fine, but alas no crank. When the mercury drops below a certain point, car repairs are deferred. I used to fix my jalopy in all kinds of weather short of an electrical storm when I was a teenage kid. In my early 40's, this isn't happening and besides, working 12 to 17 hour days when furnaces break down leaves little time for repairs, much less sleep.

If for some reason, your engine gets wet or muddy expect your starter to act up. I washed the underside pretty aggressively after slipping off an exit ramp and getting mud all over the underside. It didn't help that the gasket was twisted up between the field frame and the aluminum nose cone either, possibly letting water in. Once it was able to stay in the warm house and freeing up the drive with a pair of pliers, it bench tested fine.

When you take it apart, you're looking for a burned smell, something physically damaged, or something that doesn't belong inside like mud or water. Don't even bother taking the armature (that round part that spins) out of the field frame (the steel tube it lives in) due to the issue with the brushes. You can remove the bolts, separate the field frame from the nose cone and inspect the gears inside making sure they have enough grease. You can try grabbing the drive with pliers (don't chip those teeth) and spinning it up. That's all you can do to service this thing. If it doesn't work after trying these steps, you need to replace it. Whatever you do, even if you think it is toast NEVER and I mean NEVER try to hit this or any late model starter with anything to unstick it, period. The permanent magnets inside are expensive to replace for a re-builder and may result in a loss of a core refund. In short, it will turn this starter into a groovy and expensive paperweight. They're made of ceramic and WILL and I mean WILL BREAK. I suppose you can take the solenoid off this one too, but they aren't available anyway and you'll need a 4mm deep well socket to get them off. My advice is to leave it on, because if this is failed you'll have to replace the starter anyway. Maranatha!

UPDATE! The starter is junk. After no less than ten bench tests, it's doing the same old same old and not rotating. Gotta bite the bullet and replace it. As I've found, this is un-rebuildable with common tools and I've been unable to find parts for these. Even with the old school direct drive units, success was pretty low for this handyman. Unlike the old 10SI alternators that are pretty easy to rebuild (these are on 1970's to mid 1980's GM vehicles) successfully, starters are not my forte'. Oh well!

If I'm the Professional, Why Won't You Listen?

One of  the unasked questions a customer poses the moment I walk into the door is, "are they going to try to rip me off?" One of the first unasked questions I pose when I walk into a customer's home is, "are they going to let me do my job?" You see, I can come in, change the offending part, correct the offending condition, collect my fee and leave the customer's home with a "thank you." If the equipment runs through the season without a repair, wonderful. If not, that customer isn't going to be a happy camper.
 If a technician is doing his or her job, they're going to ask you more than a few questions and engage you in the process. Even if the cause of the malfunction is Captain Obvious, that technician should also bring you a list of recommendations and if your furnace or air conditioner is over 10 years old, they're going to give you the option to replace it on a cost benefit basis. Unless you have stock in a utility company, it would be a good thing to hear the tech out on. Unfortunately, few customers will heed the advice and end up paying more money on a junker and utility overpayments.
The truth is, that some companies are ripping you off. It's because you're either paying more in utilities, more in parts, or you haven't maintained a perfectly serviceable system and paying more to run it as a result. Ignorance isn't bliss when it comes to maintaining a home. If you hire a doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional and don't heed their advice, it's your health, legal status, or finances that will suffer. This is the same thing for a home service professional. If you choose to ignore something we say, please don't blame us if your furnace quits in the dead of winter, or other calamity arises. I had a customer we've warned repeatedly about a water heater leaking, and it finally let go, soaking the basement and a lot of stuff with it. On every call where a customer has a one or two inch filter, I advise them to change them monthly. Yesterday, I had one ticked off customer expecting a warranty call and all that was wrong was a clogged filter. As of this writing, I don't have letters after my name. I don't make six figures a year, nor drive a BMW or wear a suit. My hands are calloused, scarred and arthritic, I wear a uniform and drive a van. My personal car is ten years old, but my job and those like me are no less important than those mentioned. Off my soapbox for now. Love and God Bless!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Quick Rocker Cover Leak Fix for 2.2 liter GM Ecotec

Okay, laugh if you must. Frankly, I'm a bit sick of my wife's car dripping oil on my driveway. What's worse is that oil is expensive and those gasket sets at thirty dollars aren't cheap, especially when they don't last more than a few months and the engine is right back to leaking again. Go to the hardware store, home center, or heat supply house and buy a tube of high temperature silicone caulk. I've seen regular quality silicone caulk used for this, but one with a high temperature filler will work better.

Carefully take off the rocker cover from the the cylinder head, and you will likely damage the grommets where the bolts are. Just try and not tear them up too much so you can reuse them. Take the gaskets out of the cover and a lay a small bead of silicone, just enough to stick the gaskets back in their grooves. Let this set up. Then lay a bead of silicone on the mating surface of the cylinder head, let it sit a minute and put the cover back on. Problem solved. Just try not to let a bunch of silicone into the engine itself as it can clog the oil pump and cause big problems. It isn't the most elegant solution, but sure beats buying more gaskets. Maranatha!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to Use, and Misuse a Combustion Analyzer.

The picture is an example of what these look like. I use one to diagnose a myriad of furnace issues. With one of these, you can find the efficiency, determine whether a heat exchanger is plugged or leaking and a host of other issues. One common use is to determine whether or not a heat exchanger needs replacement. As a hard, fast rule, 100 parts per million or less carbon monoxide in the combustion gas is acceptable. 100 to 300 indicates a combustion or venting problem, while 1000+ indicates a heat exchanger problem. Either there's a hole, or it's plugged. Most of the time, if it's over 2500 ppm, the heat exhanger is plugged. The problem is that you have to look before condemning the part. If you get a high reading an say it's bad without looking at it, you're doing yourself and your customer a disservice.

As with all repairs on Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems, please consult a competent professional when in any doubt. Improper repairs can result in serious personal injury, death and property damage. This post assumes the reader has proper training and experience in HVAC service and not a homeowner. All situations are different and this author has no control over the quality and accuracy of your work. All situations are hypothetical and may not apply to yours. Diagnose and effect this and any repairs at your own risk.

A case in point are the Amana 90% efficient furnaces made in late 1980's and 1990's. These have a high failure rate with the plate next to the tubes being a usual culprit. This requires replacing the furnace as a heat exchanger is not available. This means the customer has to spend money to replace the furnace, and while Amana may give the customer an allowance to replace it, they won't honor anything if the heat exchanger itself isn't bad. These have a collector box on the uppermost part of the exchanger, next to the vent. These frequently rot out to the point there are hole visible and will mimic the above. The repair on this is less than $500 as opposed to $3000 or more on labor and code compliance even if the manufacturer buys the equipment. If the box has failed and the rest of it isn't rusted or perforated, you have the option of repairing the furnace over replacement. From experience, the customer appreciates this consideration and the risk of a voided warranty claim is made non existent.

The lesson is to never rely on one means of diagnosis on a major HVAC repair or replacement, unless there is visual proof. Even then, all the facts need to be in order to correctly and thoroughly diagnose an ultimate problem.

Vega OWB Holster Review, N Series.

Before I begin this review, this is not the place to debate gun laws.  This writer believes it is a right of decent people to own and use in self defense as well as sporting purposes. It is also spelled out quite clearly in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Handguns, or any other means of lethal force should never be used except in the gravest of extremes. Follow all applicable laws concerning concealed carry to the letter and the spirit of the law. Training on safe ownership and yes use is strongly recommended.

I like my Ruger SR9c, which is one of the best striker fired guns for the money and certainly better than many other budget pieces. It's easy to shoot, has all the bells and whistles and is about $150 less expensive than a Glock 19 as of this writing. It's also slimmer and has a similar trigger, and a much better grip in my opinion. Night sights and some accessories aside, this is still a better buy. I've still been able to find 10 round magazines for less than $40, and the gun is well made and very sturdy. The grips are just slim enough to facilitate concealment, but big enough to keep the gun steady. However, after nearly four months of carrying this piece, I've come under the conclusion this isn't a very good in the waistband carry gun. Yes, it works, but so does a compact spare on an SUV. It doesn't mean that it's going to work well or is ideal. A gun pushing against someone's side is going to be uncomfortable at best. Mine was pushing against some key nerves making this a numbing situation.

A shoulder holster is something some people swear by, but isn't without its drawbacks. Imagine a brassiere weighted with two or three pounds of steel, plastic and leather and you'll get the idea. Even the usual residents of one don't weigh quite that much, and a shoulder holster tends to concentrate this in a small area on the body. This writer imagines there are those with a better weight distribution, but also have a big price tag to go with it. These also squeak and show through clothes. In addition, I have enough trouble trying to get a shirt on, much less trying to get a shoulder rig to line up. This coupled with the fact my arms get numb with too much pressure nixes this idea. Leaving the gun home is not an option either, legal and other considerations aside. A pocket gun is something I'm considering, but there compromises in accuracy and handling that must be addressed first. Trading this gun isn't an option to meet that criterion.

I went with an outside the waistband holster that fits close and is adjustable. Because of durability concerns, leather is the only choice as Kydex would bulge more and wouldn't have much yield to it. A strap was also in order as well as a tension device to keep the gun from clattering to the ground, or worse, being nabbed by a ne'r do well. The Vega N117, set up for a Glock 19 fits the Ruger SR9c perfectly with a strap and a tension device. You also have three positions to carry this outside your belt; straight up and down, a forward cant, or my favorite, with the grip pointed up with the barrel facing back. This has the added benefit of looking like a cell phone under a shirt or coat. I wore this at the grocery store and nobody so much as tossed a frown, much less called the police (I have a license to carry concealed and my state has an open carry law, but it's crazy to do it). It was also comfortable, and the gun stayed put. The leather on this is also a bit stiff, but was told that over time this will soften and be easier to use.

As for the way this is made, there's a double layer of cowhide on the back and a single layer on the front. The strap releases quickly and a quick, straight pull removes the gun. The tension device is adjustable with an Allen wrench if need be and the fit and finish is top drawer. The only drawback was that the place I bought this was out of black, so I bought a brown one. As we all know, guns and their accessories have been flying off the shelves as of late and this was a small miracle it was available at all. This holster can be had for about $52. I would also recommend a good quality leather belt and these will run about $50 to $100. These are worth it because they'll last a lifetime. I've taken to wearing Carhart myself, but there are other brands out there. Just stay away from cheaper store brand ones because they will stretch and break. Belts, shoes and holsters aren't items to go cheap on, as your life may depend on them. Maranatha!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Night Sights for Next to Nothing.

Okay, they're going to be a few dollars. I spent $10 to outfit mine, and possibly many more guns with this trick. You can spend hundreds of dollars to fit your pistol with glow in the dark sights, if they're even available for the one you own. Unless you own a Sig, Glock or Springfield, you're going to come up empty handed for the most part. Since I have a Ruger SR9c and a Bersa Thunder Ultra Compact Pro .45; these do not have night sights available as of this writing. I know someone's going to argue that the Bersa can accept Sig sights, but mine is an older model with a fixed sight in front (I checked this). Even if they did, you would have to buy the sights, the tool to get them replaced (or pay a gunsmith) and then spend time and ammo (or buy a boresight) sighting the things in. Spending money shooting is inevitable, but saving money in life is a labor well worth the energy in my book. I'm a blue collar scholar problem solver, and results on this one made the legwork worth it.

I've watched YouTube for ideas, and have seen many people touting "Glo On" from the hobby store and their girlfriends' clear nail polish over that to protect it. My only problem with that is I don't have a girlfriend and haven't in some time, say over 18 years. That's when she turned into a wife, but I digress and needless to  say, has no nail polish. I know what you're thinking; buy some yourself. With all the solvents and oils used on a gun, even just wearing the thing on my hip will deteriorate this in short order. I've tried clear nail polish on many things short of my nails and to no avail, this stuff isn't durable.

I called Gander Mountain, and after hunting down the right people, found a suitable paint and a trip to a department store in the art supplies, a suitable brush. The paint is from CS coatings and it's their jig and lure paint. You'll want either glow white or glow orange and if you're painting over dark metal or plastic, their white paint. For most gun sights, they'll have white dots or in the case of my Bersa, a white goalpost. You'll also want rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, and some artists brushes (the pointier, the better). Clean the surfaces you want to paint with rubbing alcohol, than stir your paint and dip your brush (the round or liner work best) in. As long as the sights have white dots, just dip the brush in until they fill with the desired amount of paint. With my Bersa, I had to free hand over the goal post marking on the rear sight, but the picture is awesome and I can see these in low light or against a white foreground now. The glow lasts about five minutes after a good charging, but this isn't terrible compared to most other night sight options, unless you opt and can afford Tritium ones. Again, on my guns this isn't an option and I'm not trading mine for any other guns out there. The more I shoot and carry the Ruger, the more I like it. The Bersa is the same way. Maranatha!