Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cen Tech (Harbor Freight Brand) Inspection Camera 2.4 inch Review.

Since inspection camera with the LCD screen came out, this writer has wanted one. When I worked for Aire Serv, I had The Inspector infrared camera on my truck that cost my former boss about $3000 and was exclusively for looking for cracks in heat exchangers. Even with this tool, customers can and did refute the evidence and I found myself wiping the tire tracks from the bus of my back. The other drawback was that the camera head was about one inch and the whole package tipped the scales at 30 to 40 pounds and was about a cubic foot for the unit not counting the three and a half foot tube for the business end of the camera. It was a PITA to carry down a customer's basement, much less out of my ten year old van.

As an appliance tech, I decided I needed eyes where I couldn't stick my head into take a look. The main use of this is going to be to find leaks and pinpoint them so I can order the parts I need without taking the appliance apart. I've had issues with seeing leaks in a clothes or a dishwasher, but no idea where they originate from unless I happen to stumble upon the leak in progress or take a guess. Cameras of this nature are still about $200, which isn't all bad, but for $89 at Harbor Freight I cut my teeth on the 2.4 inch inspection camera, which is about $150 full price. The screen resolution is decent, and the picture more than adequate to pinpoint problems. The nice thing is that the picture is in color and the whole package weighs less than a pound and fits under a seat or on a shelf.

I've used it to read model numbers where it was hard to get my camera phone in, verified a repair job on a washer, and inspected the pump housing at the back of a dishwasher thus far, and the camera has worked great. The only problem was an o ring that decided to let go from the camera head, but this hasn't affected the operation. The camera head has a light that you can dim, but there is no focusing available.

If you want to see if one of these cameras will help you be more productive on the job, with less guess work, this might be a good opportunity to try one out before committing more money on a more expensive model. Mirrors are great for close in jobs, but my eyesight isn't getting better as I get older, and this camera makes for a much better, high-tech alternative at minimal cost. Maranatha!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

I'm Still Alive

My posts have been slowing down significantly over these past few months and this is no accident. Time has been at a premium, I've fewer things noteworthy lately and because I've started working on appliances (white goods) rather than furnaces, it's not an area I'm fully ready to teach too much yet. I do have some tool reviews coming (sorry, no more new guns) pretty quick, including a tool bag, a spotlight (every redneck, prepper, and service tech should have one), wrenches, socket set, snap ring pliers and an inspection camera. I've also picked up some tools from Tekton, Craftsman (still my favorite) as well as Husky, (very well made), Dewalt, (not what you'd think) as well as Stanley and others.

I bought these to answer and address some issues I'm having at work. Each tool address a specific problem with a specific job, or several. Time will tell if these help at all or need to relegated to the scrap heap. Hopefully, these will be helpful to those wanting to start in the trade or are already in the trade and want to do things better.

My philosophy in working is that is if something is too hard, there's a way to make it easier. Appliances are much easier to fix than yesteryear, but not as easy to diagnose. These next few articles may be old hat to a lot of you, or even a bit ridiculous. However, for those trying to figure out a better way with a minimum of fuss, or even trying to deal with visual or physical limitations, may help. That is my hope. Maranatha!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Expensive Lesson.

From time to time, I've been called out for the unfortunate task of having to reveal to a landlord that the tenants have damaged an appliance. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen and when it does, the important thing is to document EVERYTHING and take pictures if something is suspicious.

Thursday, I got a call on a cooktop that was smoking and not working, plus an oven that wasn't working either.

The first thing I found was that the breaker was off, So I reset it, went upstairs and noticed that there was smoke wisping from the controls on the cooktop. Then I shut it back off.

Notice the fryer next to where the knobs are.

This was the drawer underneath the cooktop.

This is what I found underneath the knobs, The one with the know off was the
one that was smoking, The one with the know is already burned up. 

This was inside the cooktop, All that stuff dripping through is cooking oil from that fryer.
The switch above is burned as a result and there are two more soaked in oil.

The grease had dripped down so far that the pans stored underneath were soaked. 

When I told the tenant about this, she denied anything and when confronted with the landlord she tried to say that I had probably dumped oil down into the burners. Needless to say this story didn't fly and she may be on the hook for a new cooktop. The lesson here is if you have a nice glass cooktop, keep the fryer away from it, and be careful not to let water boil over into the switches. With care, these will last a long time. Maranatha! 


Be Careful What You Wash in a Front Load Washer.

First of all, my apologies to my customer, who was as sweet and kind as could be. She has dealt with a washer she has had to replace the bellows several times in a few short years. I own the exact same one and in the three years we've owned it, it has never had this problem and it is only due to dumb luck because I've done the exact same thing.

Last week, I was called out to check out a water leak on a Whirlpool Duet washer. Since this model has a front panel under the main one, I removed it and ran a rinse and spin cycle. Sometimes, these have a nasty habit of clipping the drain hose under a shock absorber, but this one was intact. The customer indicated to me that it poured a good six gallons of water from underneath the machine, but it filled up with no problems; until the water touched the bellows and a quart or two of water started to leak from underneath. I turned off the machine, set it to drain and spin and sopped up the water. Looked underneath and sure enough there was a hole in the bellows.

Fast forward to today. I removed the old boot with a tool for the outer clamp and with some finagling, a phillips #2 screwdriver through the bottom panel for the inner; for about 5 minutes of work. There were no less than 8 cuts in the bellows. Some were on the bottom and more were on the top, but these were not clean cuts. I asked the customer if she had washed keys, or anything else sharp, but the answer was no and the condition of the bellows bore this out. The answer was that her husband washed shoes and these caught on the bellows, ripping them up. Maranatha!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Plastic Headlight Housing Fix, for Cheap!

One thing I detest about today's cars (this means anything made after 1989) are that all of them have plastic lensed headlamps. While there are a few exceptions that have glass, mainly the early 1990's Buicks, most are made of Lexan. This is tough, durable, and allows for styling than the old fashioned sealed beams (which are only available on GM full sized vans at this point). When a seal beam breaks, you replace the assembly with a nice, new clear one for less than $20. With one of these plastic composites, you have to spend over $350 in some cases to replace the assembly; which is a laser welded unit.

The problem with these lights isn't so much that they break, but they yellow within about five years. Sure, there are commercial kits to deal with this, but these are $5 to $30 and this writer has yet to see one work. This idea isn't all mine, but I'll share it and can attest that it does work. It costs about $10 to $15, depending on what you already have in your shop. The results are dramatic, and long lasting. Depending on the quality of your work and patience, these will look brand-new and will have their optical quality more or less restored.

I might add that you need to make sure there aren't any laws concerning this where you live. I would also work in a clean, dry and well ventilated area, especially for the finishing stages. Common sense would tell you that if there are other issues, such as broken mounts or a header panel (in the case of my wife's car) these need to be addressed before putting the car back in service. Headlights will also need to be aimed as the optical quality will be different. If these are in poor condition, consider replacing with new or salvage units and restoring the latter or just installing the former. I've used Goop adhesive from everything to car door panels to seat fabric and heater control and if you have the time to let this cure, it works fantastic. The red tube costs about $4.00 and dries harder than the plastic it's bonding, but I digress. Since I have no control over the quality of your work, you this at your own risk.

You'll need one or two each sheets of wetordry sandpaper, 400 and/or 600 and 1000 grit, some Dawn dishwashing detergent and a can of good quality acrylic clear coat. Depending on how hard it is to get the headlights off the car, some masking tape, towels and a spray bottle will be necessary. In that case, fill the bottle with water and add a squirt or two of dishwashing detergent. If you can remove the lamp, just use a sink or bathtub lined with an old towel or two. Add some water to the tub or sink and add the detergent. Wet the lens and sand with the 400 grit in one direction with the width of the lens, until it is uniformly sanded. This will take time to do, so take breaks. The ides with the detergent and water is to lubricate the lens while you sand it. Once you've got all the yellowing off, the lens will have a milky white appearance and all the clearness will be gone. This means that you're ready to switch to a finer grit. You can use 600 if you want; and this will make the final sanding with the 1000 a lot easier, but it isn't mandatory. Remove the lights and take out the bulbs of you want. Best to leave them in to help seal the light up, but this was not an option on my wife's Grand Am.

Sand with the 1000 until your are satisfied that the scratches from the last grit are sanded out. The appearance will be slightly clearer, but these will be finer scratches. Thoroughly dry and inspect the lenses for any touch ups needed. If there are a few stray scratches, I wouldn't worry about it. Just take your time for the best result. If you have any water inside the lens, use a hair dryer to get this out and let it air out for a few hours. Once this is dry, you can take these to a suitable area to spray on the clearcoat. This should be done on a calm day, with minimal dirt and dust. Spray in light coats in five minute intervals to prevent runs that would need to be sanded out. Three or four light coats is better than one heavy one, and the lamps will have a better optical quality too. Let this dry for a few hours before putting back on your ride. Re aim and enjoy a clearer view. Maranatha!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mystery Brake Warning Light Fix for 2006 Pontiac Torrent.

I'm going to tell you again and this bears mention. Car repairs are inherently dangerous if you do not know what you're doing. There is a risk of injury, death or property damage when repairs are done or done improperly. Always consult a competent mechanic when in doubt of your abilities. Do this and any other fixes at your own risk.

My Torrent (Mechanically the same as a Chevy Equinox as it shares everything save some very minor suspension settings and trim) has nearly 98,000 miles as of this writing.

One thing that confounded me today for a few minutes concerned the brake warning light, as it came on while I was coming home from the grocery store. I stopped the car successfully and pulled back on the parking brake lever. The chime came on during a slow roll of the vehicle and the brakes were as firm as ever. I hied myself, the car and my groceries home.

The level was up in the brake fluid reservoir, so no issues there. The parking brake lever switch was also fine. I did notice the fluid was about the consistency of mud, so this was going to need to be changed. I have lots of brake fluid and hose to flush this out. Time to check the battery. That's right, when the battery starts to fail on this vehicle, as it is computer controlled, the system starts to get loopy. You will need a battery, some tools and maybe some throttle cleaner.

Batteries are heavy, and without a handle, awkward. They're also full of some real nasty stuff. These are sulphuric acid (which is highly corrosive) and hydrogen (which is explosive). They have a nasty habit of exploding, and you can lose an eye or two when this happens. You can also fry expensive parts, including the alternator and computer parts if you reverse the positive and negative connections. I have a friend who cooked an expensive alternator when he did this. Admittedly, doing this on the Torrent is very low even if you are clueless, but you've been warned. Remove any jewelry while servicing a battery.

I don't have a battery tester, so the next step was to take this to an autoparts store. The battery failed the 600 and 500 cold cranking amps test on the vehicle and I promptly replaced the battery with a new one. This one lives under the engine control module; three screws and the cover is off. If the radio has a Theftlock, you need to deactivate it or you will be taking this to the dealer or buying a new radio, NICE! (mine doesn't have one, but some do). Undo the 13mm bolt at the hold down, the 8mm bolts with the negative first and the positive last. Lift out the battery and install the new one, installing the hold down, then the positive and then the negative IN THAT ORDER. Hitting metal while installing the positive while the negative is connected will weld the wrench to the car burning your hand in the process.

The rest is making sure the cables are routed where they won't get pinched when you install the cover. Start the engine and run it for a few minutes. It will run a bit loopy for a minute or two, but will smooth out once the engine computer relearns running it. If you're still having issues, now would be a good time to remove the airbox and clean the throttle body and plate as these get gunked up and the computer will have a hard time compensating for that. Undo the clamp on the snorkel to the throttle body and remove the airbox. Then use the throttle body cleaner to get that gunk out. Wait a few hours before starting the engine again, but install the airbox first.

This should fix the problem with that pesky brake light, but make sure there isn't an issue with the brakes either. I would also recommend a NEW battery, NOT a remanufactured one as these are garbage. I've never seen them last more than a few months, While many have a warranty longer than that, who wants to change batteries every three months or so? I've had the best "luck" with Meijer Pro Cells if you live in the Midwest, as well as DieHard Gold and Duralast for the money. I opted for an Exide Nascar Gold at Menards as money was an issue and this has a 40 month warranty. Optima batteries are great, and this writer has had one that lasted over 8 years in three different cars. However, the astronomical price these nowadays outweighs any performance for the average driver. If you want to spend $225 for a battery, be my guest. Maranatha!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Changing Spark Plugs on a Pontiac Torrent or Chevy Equinox 2005 - 2009 3.4 L

This is about vehicle repair, which has inherent risks of injury, death and property damage. You can also cause damage to some very expensive and hard to get at parts if you mess this up. When in doubt, consult the services of a competent mechanic. While the price may seem high, it could prevent you from breaking expensive parts. This is not an easy repair, as the rear bank is hard to reach. Do this and any other repairs at your own risk. 

The vehicle we have is my 2006 Pontiac Torrent, which for all practical purposes has run like a Swiss watch. For the past few weeks, this vehicle has started hard, but it has always started. I knew this was going to be an issue and still put changing the plugs off. To my knowledge, they had never been changed but as long as it halfway ran so be it.
Today, it took five tries to get this pig to start. Each time, the engine would sputter and die. It also ran rougher than a cob. I went over to the auto parts store, namely the Auto Value in Grand Ledge and bought six spark plugs to the tune of $45. These were nearly $7.00 apiece and the reasoning that they were the AC Delco Iridium plugs that came with the vehicle, as said the part counter person didn't make it easier to swallow. Oh well, time to get busy. 

Changing spark plugs on a traverse mounted V-6 is never a fun thing to do. On my Rendezvous, this was next to impossible without rotating the engine and removing the spark coils and ignition module. Even then it would be a pain in the rumpus to pull the boots and change the plugs on the rear bank. I never did it, and in fact traded the car. This wasn't because of changing the plugs, but the general condition including the tires, suspension and frame, but I'm digressing. 

The Pontiac Torrent/Chevrolet Equinox isn't going to be a cakewalk either, but will be much easier with fewer tools and less headache. You need a 3/8 drive socket wrench, a 5/8 spark plug socket, a five and a six inch, 3/8 drive extensions, a 10 millimeter socket, a small blade screwdriver, as well as six AC Delco plugs that fit the vehicle. This is not something to skimp on as you will be changing these plugs again in short order if you buy cheap plugs. Buy the Iridium ones with the 100,000 miles warranty. You might also want a set of spark plug boot pliers, and will NEED some anti seize compound and some dielectric grease. The former will keep the new spark plugs from seizing inside the cylinder head, and the latter will allow you to remove the wire boots without pulling a muscle and save you lots of cursing and damning. A piece of windshield washer tubing to slip over the rear plugs could help too. You can use these to screw the plugs in without cross threading them. 

Speaking of damning, you want to remove the engine undercover. Unclip the electrical connector from the EGR valve with the screwdriver; the plastic tab is on the inside of the connector. Do not yank on the wiring as this should come off easily. Then you can remove the cover by removing the oil cap extension and lifting the cover off the intake manifold. You can leave the cover off, but you need to install the oil cap and extension. All this stupid cover cover does is make the engine look slightly prettier, dampen engine noise, and maybe protect the canister purge solenoid. As for the solenoid, you would also remove this from the engine. Press the white retainer and pull gently to remove the line, unclip the connector, and use a 10 millimeter wrench or socket to unscrew the retaining bolt. The solenoid should pull right out. Be careful as this is a plastic part that will break and hence the reason to remove it. 

This is a $35 part that will set the malfunction indicator light in a heartbeat and while you can use glue to fix this, my advice is to move the part to a safe location. Now, for the hard part. If the ignition wires are in good shape, keep them. If they're numbered, great and if not, take the time to label these with masking tape and a marker where they meet the coils on the rear of the engine. If you mix up these wires, your vehicle will do its impression of a bucking bronco.  Go ahead and remove these wires from the coils. I would start with the rear plugs as it would be useless to do the front and give up on the back. You need to work the wires loose at the boot first. 

Then work the plugs loose, one by one. Add some anti-seize compound to the threads before reinstalling the plugs. This is where the tubing might help. This will grip the plugs enough to allow you to start the threads. If they're cross threaded, the tubing will slip on the plug, preventing damage to the cylinder head. I used a regular socket and extension with my fingers to get these threaded in without a problem, but do what works for you. Reinstall the wires to the coils, then change out the front bank plugs. These will be a cakewalk. Make sure you add dielectric grease to the inside of the wire boots. Once you get the wires hooked up, reinstall the canister purge solenoid and the...cover if you want. Start the car and make sure it runs right with no lights. Then you're good for another 100,000 miles or when Jesus comes back, whichever is first. Maranatha! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Smith & Wesson M&P 45c Review.

This is a used gun with an unknown number of rounds. Used guns are going to have some dings and scratches. Carefully inspect any used gun for cracks, excessive wear and tear, or mismatched parts before you buy and when in doubt, consult a qualified gunsmith. The Smith&Wesson M&P (Military & Police) brand has many different variations, so not all features will be on or apply to every gun in this brand. The gun this writer is reviewing is the .45 compact with the four inch barrel and no magazine disconnect, thumb safety, or internal lock, although these features are available on select pistols if you want them or your jurisdiction requires. The SKU number isn't on the S&W website but it is on this one. http://clydearmory.com/smith-and-wesson-m-p-45-compact-1804.html

Always obey local laws concerning firearms, their possession and use. This writer does not recommend putting your finger in the trigger guard unless you are committed to shooting something. "Stacking" or "staging" the trigger is a dangerous practice with any firearm, and this will not be evaluated here. This is not the place to debate that you don't like guns or take issue with "gun culture". These are a tool, much like an automobile, a scoop shovel, lighter or screwdriver; all are dangerous when misused. Same applies for those who may have a dislike for this or a strong like for another model or brand in a rivalic fashion. These comments will not be posted.

Smith&Wesson is a gun manufacturer this writer has been acquainted with for thirty-three years, the first handgun I fired was a model 686 chambered in a .357 magnum at the age of eleven years. They are well known for their revolvers and even though I'm not a fan of these, I still have a healthy respect Smith and their products. This wasn't too hard when making the transition from wheelgun to semiauto. The SD VE is a great piece for the money and they work better and cost less than the Glocks. The M&P brands are very similar in appearance, but are much more aggressively styled and probably beefier constructed as well. Unlike the SD VE's I've looked at, this one has metal, rather than plastic sights with Tritium inserts. The gun has a heft and a quality feel to it, There are three controls, exclusive of the bang switch. These are the magazine release (reversible), the slide lock (ambidextrous) and the takedown lever (on left side). There are no external safeties save for keeping your pointy finger off the trigger, which unlike the many pistols and even some long guns, has a pivot rather than a tab in the middle. 

After a month, and two days of layaway at Gander Mountain in Lansing, I got this one out of hock. I used my Bersa Thunder .45 pro compact as a trade in. The gun was fraught with issues including that love tap with the hammer that I was not in love with.

I picked this gun up for $399 + tax, and I don't believe that Smith and Wesson sells this one new anymore  This one came with two magazines, a lock, a frame tool, the paperwork as well as a really nice blue case and the gun itself. In addition, it came with three backstraps, small, medium and large. These come off easily after removing the frame tool from the grip of the gun. This is just a quarter turn and it comes out. The backstraps are easily removed and switched. The medium one was installed with the gun and worked fine with my mitts. This model has a 4 inch barrel, is 7.55 inches long, and 4.8 inches high. This tips the scale at 26 ounces and some change, or over a pound and a half empty. This is over two pounds with a full mag, so a good holster and belt is mandatory, but very doable. This model also comes with Tritium sights, which are usually an aftermarket install. Those are the facts.

This piece fits in a size 2 blackhawk pancake holster, as well as my Vega IB 341. A belly band holster, forget about it. 

Racking the slide with arthritis is pretty easy; a touch easier than the Ruger Sr9c I've gotten to use as my go to gun. The serrations are aggressive enough to give you a good grip on the slide, which is a nice touch. Loading rounds into the magazines takes lots of hand strength, and a loader isn't a bad idea. These hold eight rounds, but you can buy longer magazines depending on your jurisdiction. These snap in easily and positively, and drop easily which is important in a fight. This piece lacks a magazine safety, which means if there is a round in the chamber and you press the bang switch, it will go pop and make a hole. Again, you can get models with these safeties if you want as they are available. This one didn't have and I didn't particularly want them,

What has never happened in the 33 years of experience with handguns is this,,,I was able to hit the bullseye with a four inch group at 20 feet with this piece...right out of the box. I'm not the best practiced, but getting better, but it still takes time to acquaint yourself to a new gun. The M&P was not a problem in that department at all due largely in part to the long sight radius and excellent ergonomics. Trigger pull is crisp with no grittiness or other problems. At about 7 pounds, it's more than doable for anyone. Recoil is slightly more than my Ruger 9mm, but there is very little muzzle flip. The sights are three dot and fairly easy to see, even in low light with the Tritium option. Follow up shots are much easier with this combination. There were no malfunctions as of late with about 50 rounds through it. Most of you will probably use about that a session anyway. If there is I will update it.

To field strip this gun is not intuitive, but it is easy. You need to drop the magazine and rack the slide to remove a chambered round and lock it open. The frame tool is accessed by turning the half moon shaped nubbin at the bottom of the grip one quarter turn like a key. The back strap can be lifted off and changed at this point too, as the tool also locks this down. You will then need to use this tool, or something similar (NOT your finger) to push the sear lever down. Then you release the slide lock, pull the takedown lever and the slide should come off. The guide rod and spring are made of steel and are easy to clean up and get back in action. You will want to push the sear lever back where you had it. Reinstall the frame tool and your gun is ready to go. Probably just enough to avoid patent infringement on the almighty Glocks, which the M&P is mechanically similar to.

What you don't get with the M&P is the Glock name, the ergonomics, slick slide, or the price premium. Police departments have bought these for three decades and they've done something right. I've wanted one, but the price and grip angle have put me off. A glock 30 short frame is over $650 in my neck of the woods and a new M&P .45 compact (not mine) is available new for $525. The one I got was still $100 cheaper than the Glock 21 that set next to it, and these were used guns. Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I would consider the features and ergonomics over the brand any day. On this one, Smith&Wesson wins out. Maranatha! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Before You Call About Your Dishwasher, Try These...

Lately, over the past several months, one thing that has been consistent is that people are not happy with their dishwashers and want them fixed. I've been seeing leaking pumps, inlet valves that drain water into the machine even when it isn't running, as well as broken hinges, a few busted springs, and other maladies. However, the most common complaint is that "my dishes aren't clean."
I'm going to tell you straight up that the overwhelming majority of complaints have nothing to do with the machine itself. Unless you have a wash arm that's broken or a clogged filter, the fact is that you will be spending money on a service call for this same advice, and maybe what you can do yourself. I'm a DIYer too, although I'm learning the value of a good professional for some repairs.

To date, I fix appliances for a living, and can say that I've have a few times the machine was actually "at fault". These are commonly a broken wash arm, where it doesn't spray or move properly, a dirty screen as many new dishwashers use a filter that needs to be cleaned out regularly, much like a lint screen, or this is clogged with minerals or torn. The pump can also rarely cause a problem. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a bad idea to have a pro look at it. We can find problems and let you know whether or not to put money or effort into same. Nevertheless, it's still a good idea to save money on a service call as long as you're sure this machine isn't leaking underneath. If you're handy, you check this too, but I digress. Here is what you need to do...

If you're getting a white film on your dishes, this is never the fault of the machine. This is your water quality and something you need to address soon. This is lime or calcium in the water, and it will deposit on your dishes the first time you use it if the water is hard enough. If you don't have a water softener, get your water tested and if necessary install a water softener. Don't fall for these electronic gadgets either, get an ion exchange that uses either salt or Potassium Chloride. These will keep scale out of your water heater, washer, ice maker, pipes and your dishwasher. You can try some of the drop in remedies in your machine or a different brand of detergent, but I would still suggest a water softener. Yes, these are expensive, but are a lot cheaper in the long run and the payments on one are pretty low. I pay about $26 a month plus salt that costs less than $10 for the same period for a properly adjusted softener. Don't even think about getting one from a hardware store or home center. These are garbage. Rent a Culligan, Besco or other professionally installed unit. You need one with a salt container separated from the conditioning tank. Again, the store bought units that have the tank inside of the salt container are garbage.

If you are using a detergent with bleach and silica (sand), it will not clean your dishes. This is good for bleaching out stains, but that's about it. Get an enzymatic detergent such as Cascade or Finish and stay away from store brands if they don't do the job. I use Finish Quantum and hand these out to my customers and this does a good job in my cheapie dishwasher. Phosphorus was a common ingredient in dishwasher detergents until a few years ago. Because this is impossible to remove through water treatment methods and creates a huge problem with algae, the Feds banned this chemical a few years ago and customers have been unhappy since. Such is the price of ecology.

Use rinse aid. Yes I know this is an added expense, but it's less than $10 for a bottle that will last you up to a year. This is actually a drying agent and helps prevent the food particles from settling back on your dishes. I use the store brand stuff, but you can use the name brand if you want.

Clean your filter if you have one. Many new machines don't use a chopper in the interest of noise. These have a filter in the bottom of the tub that's not unlike a dryer filter. Check these out regularly, preferably after each wash. Not only do you want to clean it, but make sure this is in good condition to help prevent damage to the pump. Some of these are not cheap nor fun to install. It would also be a good idea to clean the sump once or twice a year or oftener if you use it a lot. Sometimes access is limited as on my Amana, but most are pretty easy to get apart. Use a wet dry vac to get the water out and make sure this is no glass before sticking your patties in. Most of the time, this not a huge issue anyway.

In short, try these before calling the service provider who is going to have to tell you these things anyway. IF you do have to call someone, call a locally owned and locally managed one who has a stake in your community and follow their advice. Most of the time, these tips should help you out and save you the price of a service call. Saving money is what we're about these days. Maranatha!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Catching Up.

The Pontiac is still running great, the change oil light has been coming on as of today. Tomorrow, weather permitting I'm changing the oil and the coolant on this vehicle as well as that on the Grand Am.
For the past few weeks, I've contemplated trading my Beretta Nano for another .45 compact. I sold the Bersa because of some issues with the gun, including lots of failures to eject and a persistent problem with the magazine release. Hopefully they can get this figured out and make a usable gun out of it.
My issues with the Nano have been that the rounds have been going all over the place with the first time I fired it. The other is that I'm not so sure that I need more than one 9mm pistol; especially one with seven rounds. My Ruger Sr9c, the go to gun without nary a malfunction save the extractor pin almost two years ago, holds ten and has an extended mag that holds seventeen. It disappears under any shirt and it fairly comfortable to wear, even with my sciatica acting up. The reason for the Nano in the first place was something to conceal a little easier and act as a back up gun. It's fairly light, with only a mag release, a decocker and a slide release with no external or mag safety. These are things that I'm not too keen on in a self defense situation. The only reason I'm keeping the Sr9c is because I can work around these quickly and it is a solid, accurate and reliable gun.
Today, my stepdad and I went out to the farm to practice with his guns and my Nano. Over the winter, lets just say that we could have used more practice, but I managed a good, consistent grouping with the Nano after the fourth target and about 14 rounds each try. I even managed to hit dead center at 20 feet with this gun. The Nano has a tendency to shoot low, but the sights aren't made to adjust for elevation, only windage. The "trick" is to hold the gun tightly, and press the trigger firmly, aiming about six inches higher at twenty feet. It also helps to use 124 grain ammo or higher. I fired some cheap ammo and my old Remington Ultimate Home Defense from 2012 in this one. There was one failure to eject with the Remington that took a magazine drop and a pull on the slide to correct. The verdict is that I'm keeping the Nano and waiting a little longer on my .45. These guns are about $440 at Gander Mountain and I paid about $399 for mine. I would get about $200 even with the extra mag I bought for it.
I've contemplated a Glock 30, a Glock 22, and a Smith&Wesson M&P 45c, and I've looked at Springfields, a Ruger Sr45, and listened to the Gander Mountain salesman talk up 1911's. Okay, finances don't allow for a 1911, so that is off my list straightaway. I like striker fired guns and prefer as few parts as possible. The Nano and Sr9c are easy enough to take apart to clean, and I want to keep that going with my .45 (Yes the Glock 22 is a .40). So I'll reveal the gun in about three weeks once I've had a chance to review it and as always, I'll be straightforward about it.
As for work, I'm still fixing appliances and can tell you that the average life of one is about eight to ten years. Some are pretty decent to work on, even the newer ones. However, there are certain brands that keep cropping up with the same issues. I have a Kenmore that is basically a Whirlpool Cabrio needing a seal and bearing install next week. This doesn't look like a tough job, but it needs a special tool. I've also seen a common problem with Frigidaire front loading washers being the pump and the door latch. Mostly, the learning curve has been intense. Customers also have a learning curve, and if you have a front loading washer on a wooden floor, it will rock. Mine has done this for nearly four years. It needs to go into a basement, reinforce the floor or live with it. There is no fix the appliance man can do.
I've also taken an LG front loader and top loader completely apart. Not too terrible, but attention to detail is important. That's about it for right now. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

2006 Pontiac Torrent Review, Part 2 The Reality.

Again, this is a USED car, with 95,000 miles in good condition. GM no longer makes the Pontiac brand, but almost everything that can be said about this vehicle also applies to the 2006 Chevrolet Equinox, which sold over 110,000 units while the Torrent sold 44,000. Te only differences are the Pontiac has a five speed automatic, while the Chevrolet has a four speed, along with some minor differences in the steering wheel, lights and badges, this is the same vehicle.
I've had a bit more time to drive this vehicle, and have noticed a few more details. The ride is still taut, and a bit grumbling on rough roads. Acceleration is very brisk considering this engine is rated at 185 hp. I've yet to engage the traction control, all wheel drive or the antilock brakes, so that's still up in the air. Thus far, I've had the transmission lines replaced because the old ones were rotten through (the dealer did this free of charge), and had to relamp parts of the center stack, ala the Rendezvous and Radio Shack with a soldering iron. This cost about $12 because I already had the solder and iron, just not the bulbs. Not too bad, as the rest has been fine.
Cargo room in this year and model is a bit at a premium because of the way the plastic covers are over the wheelwells. This is slightly offset by the table of course for two tier loading, but I'd almost rather have a more open back end. You can pull the back seat forward, but this is also at the expense of some legroom. No plywood carrying here, but those are the breaks. The crossbars to the roof rack are absent on this car, so carrying things on the roof (especially with the moonroof) are going to be out of the question until I find a way to get this done. My parents did it with three kids and a 1976 Ford Mustang on weeklong trips, so a 2006 Torrent shouldn't be a huge issue there. It's also bigger than my 1989 Buick Skyhawk wagon, which was my workhorse throughout most of the 1990's. I carried water heaters and a furnace in that. It is something to be aware of when considering this or an Equinox for doing heavy work though.
After reading the owners manual, I figured out that the radio is a six disk CD changer, with XM radio hence the feed button. Thus far it has worked fine, but the controls are still a bit on the busy side though and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if this failed. The heating and air controls are very easy to use, with some getting used to and this winter the seat warmers will be appreciated.
I've noticed that the seating is low, but not like sitting on a cushion by any means. The space to operate the seat controls isn't generous, but not tight either and the six way, yes the six way power seat is not a problem. The instrumentation, after dealing with the silver and teal instruments on the Rendezvous for four years (GM should have recalled these, as they were impossible to read in low light with the lights on) is fantastic. The only gripe is that even with the gas tank topped off, the needle goes short of the full mark. As far as fuel mileage goes, this is not an economy car. I've gotten about 18 miles to the gallon in mixed driving, which is better than a pickup or van would done. At 100,000 miles or sooner, I'm going to change out the spark plugs and see if that makes a difference. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Moving After All,

Got Chrome to work on my OS, so I'm staying right here boys and girls.

2006 Pontiac Torrent Review. First Impressions.

Okay, I'm still having myriad issues with Blogger right now, but this is going to take a month to get articles moved over. Maybe more due to the time constraints involved. Now that we got that out of the way...

Note, this is a USED car with 95,000 miles. It is not new by any fashion and in fact General Motors no longer makes vehicles under the Pontiac brand. The Torrent was made from 2005 through 2009, and shares a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox. This is the second Pontiac we've bought and I just got the car today. It is a raised station wagon, commonly referred to a sport utility vehicle or S.U.V.. The length is 188.8 inches (15'9'') or 4796 mm. The wheelbase is 112.5 inches (9'4 1/2") or 2858 mm. The track or width is 71.4 inches or just a half inch shy of six feet wide and the height is 69.3 inches or 5'9 1/3". The vehicle is almost as tall as it is wide and two and half times tall as it is wide. It's nearly similar in every dimension as the Buick Rendezvous I traded in. The Torrent is one inch longer, one inch narrower and once inch lower than the Rendezvous. The wheelbase is nearly identical. The cargo area is about a third smaller but the leg shoulder and hip room are about the same. The headroom is a little smaller in front, but with the height to the seat all the way down, this is not a huge concern. This car came with a CD player with XM radio, a four way power driver's seat with manual lumbar and recline. Manual heating and air conditioning, projector fog lamps, power mirrors, front seat warmers, remote keyless entry, a tachometer, a compact spare, cloth seats and a power moon roof which I'm not crazy about. It also has cruise control and radio buttons in the steering wheel spokes. It's silver with a black interior and five cup holders, two power jacks, and no entertainment system for the kiddies or a built in GPS. It is all wheel drive. Under the hood is a 3.4 liter (204 cubic inch) LNJ V-6 with electronic throttle control and 185 horsepower (138 kw) and 210 pounds feet (285 Newton Meters) of torque. This is mated to a five speed Aisin AF33 Automatic Transmission. I'm going to guess this engine is going to get about 20 mpg and has a 16 gallon tank. It cost me about $48 to fill this up from 1/8 a tank. The curb weight is 3,602 pounds, which is about 80 pounds lighter than my first car (A 1977 Olds Delta 88 Royale) or about 418 pounds lighter than the Rendezvous (the all wheel drive might add more to the weight).

Even with all of this, the Torrent is a big vehicle. The hood is longer and the windshield not as raked. meaning the total volume inside is going to be smaller. This will make changing the spark plugs much easier, although the engine compartment is pretty tight. It has an undercover for noise and to make the mess of wires, hoses, mechanical parts and whatnot appear less cluttered. The battery is hidden inside a plastic case, and the transmission has a fill plug and no dipstick. As least the oil is still checked with one (whew). There is also the added benefit of a transfer case and a rear differential to service on this one. The best thing I can say is to take this to a garage for repair. There is also a cabin air filter, which I've yet to try and figure out where that is. The light bulbs are pretty simple to replace but all are working at this time. The appearance is pretty handsome, in my opinion for a GM vehicle of this era. It shares the same platform with the Chevrolet Equinox, but has red tail lamps, a split grille and uncluttered look about it. This is a lot to be said for a vehicle of the Pontiac brand, as nearly every model before, including the Aztek the Torrent replaced was rife with body cladding. While the Aztek was busy with every angle and shape imaginable, the Torrent is subdued.

The interior is also what you would suggest from Pontiac, clean, simple and with large controls. Unlike the earlier Pontiacs from the 1990's onward, The gauge cluster on this has red needles and yellow faces, unlike the twinkly silver and teal faces that were impossible to read in certain light situations on my old car. The rest of the controls are red, however. Unlike the Rendezvous, which had the shifter on the steering column, this one has the shifter on the dash, which is something I like a lot better. The controls themselves are not the most intuitive and took some guessing to what was what. Quickly, I found that the window controls were behind the shifter (only the driver's is lit) and the seat warmers were in front. The fog light control is "conveniently" located to the upper right side of the radio and heater controls. The radio has a nice and quality appearance to it, but you have to push a "feed" button to feed a CD and the controls are a bit complicated. The heating and air conditioning controls seem a bit low, and kitschy. The best bet is to leave the A/C and radio control where you want them and not bother with them while driving. This is a good practice on any car. The power moon roof (surprise) has the control in between the map lights and is pretty simple to operate. I would not do this while driving though. If you prefer, there is a panel to block this off. Since the interior is dark, I like leaving this panel open for more natural light. Moon roofs have a tendency to leak in the worst places if not maintained, so this is going to be something I'm going to have to learn to maintain real quick. The cup holders are unobtrusive; almost to the point that I had go to the owners manual to find them. These will hold a 32 ounce cup, but for the 44 ounce, better use the molded one in the console.. The armrest for the driver is in a good spot, and flips up to reveal a CD rack and there's a small storage compartment inside. There is a pocket on either side of the console and in each front door for maps and the like. They aren't much bigger for anything else though. The glove compartment is decently sized and accessible by the driver. Something I would have to get out of the car to do with the Rendezvous. The lights and wiper controls are mounted on stalks (a Pontiac trait) and take a bit of deciphering as to what they do. Adjusting that steering column will get the wheel just about right for six footers at the uppermost position. Fortunately, the driver's seat is low enough to prevent my cell phone from snagging on the steering wheel. This always happened on the Rendezvous with the wheel in the usual driving position and it was annoying. The driving position is superb, but six footers take note: You need to be behind the stop lines on the pavement or you will struggle to see the traffic signal.

The seats are firm and have modest thigh support with adjustable headrests. The power controls allow you to move the seat back and forth as well as up and down. All other control are manual. The front seat passenger may have a slightly harder time getting the seatback up straight, which has a semi hard plastic back to it. The reason for this is so you can fold the front passenger seat forward to carry skis, a snowboard, pipes, or that potato cannon you made from those pipes. Back seat room is almost freakishly roomy, even with the front seats all the way back. Although this is noticeably narrower than my last car, there is still enough room to fit three adults. A third row seat is not available in the Torrent, nor should it ever be for vehicles this size. These are barely big enough for small children anyway. Better to buy a big van or larger SUV. Cargo room with the seats up is noticeably smaller than my old car, with a higher load floor. This is not a problem from me as I have arthritis and prefer to reach the seatbacks from the tailgate without straining. Another nice feature (in this writer's opinion) is that the spare is inside the cargo area under a panel in the floor. Much better than under the vehicle held with a subhuman tire winch that always breaks and is a P.I.T.A. to use; not a nice feature to use in the rain or with cars speeding past you. You can even put a full sized spare in there, which is nice for towing a trailer. The tire winch broke on my Rendezvous (thank you Wal Mart) and it was going to cost $250 to get this replaced! I'll carry the spare inside thank you! The cargo cover also doubles as a table for camping or tailgating. The jack and lug wrench are in a side compartment on the driver's side and the fuel door is on the right side.

The ride is firm, but not punishing on Michigan's decrepit roads. The steering assist is also firm, with a consistent feel. It helps this is electric rather than hydraulic. Brakes are disk in front and drums in the rear, which this writer prefers anyway. Disk brakes in back seem to create more durability problems for both the back and the front including pad and rotor wear. I've seen this with the Chrysler Imperials, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Buick Regal to name a few. Buyers seem to like this idea and manufacturers are getting on the bandwagon, but all they seem to do is add more cost without increasing braking performance all that much. Workers even managed to put the rear rotors on the front of certain 2014 Chevys and Buicks. Go figure, but I digress. Even with all of this, GM is something I'm familiar with and had the best reliability for the money. Time will tell if the Torrent is reliable, but I'm not going to be fixing this much anyway, save for pads, shoes, rotors, drums and bulbs anyway. It wasn't everything I wanted, but for the money it comes the closest. I bought this over a Kia Rondo (too small and beat up), a Chevy HHR (poor driving position and "ugly" inside and out according to my wife) and a Saturn Vue (wife didn't like the color, a bit banged up). We also quickly ruled out the Dodge minivans because the seats were physically too small in the rear for anything more than really little children. We're talking toddlers here.  Maranatha!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting Rid of the Rendezvous.

Four years ago almost to the day, I used the money I was going to spend on fixing my beleaguered 2003 Dodge Intrepid and bought a 2004 Buick Rendezvous CX, with the 3.4 liter, 2 wheel drive. The paint scheme still is a champagne over brown with neutral interior that seats five. From the day I've owned it, I've replaced:
  1. 4 tires
  2. 2 batteries
  3. Front struts
  4. 2 sets of rotors front and back.
  5. Steering rack and tie rods.
  6. Control arm bushings in front and rear.
  7. Air conditioning compressor.
  8. Radiator and hoses.
  9. 2 Starters.
  10. Too many ignition switches to count.
  11. Relamped the dash and radio.
  12. Heater control.
  13. Heater fan and resistor.
  14. 2 straps for the back door.
  15. Rear wiper motor.
  16. Rear carpet.
  17. Stabilizer links
  18.  Muffler
  19. C/V shaft and bearing.
  20. Windshield
  21. Headlamps
  22. Front bumper
  23. 3 remotes
  24. Key
  25. Liftgate switch and support rods.
  26. Power steering pump. 
When I got it, this beast had 129,000 miles on it. And now it has close to 169,000 and still runs. I've driven it to Kentucky, Ohio and Mackinaw City and it has never stranded me, not once. The air conditioner still works but has a leak at the compressor. The stabilizer bar on these cars are prone to cracking and breaking apart and this one is no exception. There is a pronounced noise when turning the wheel and some hesitation when turning the wheel. The front brake rotors are chewed up again, and the tires have had it. Thus far, the body is still in good shape, but this car gets 18 miles to the gallon and only seats five. Despite its generous size, there's not enough room for a 4x8 sheet of plywood, and if we need to shuttle more than five people, we need to take separate cars. The seats in the front are falling apart and have never cleaned right. To get the immediate issues fixed on this will cost more than what the car is worth. Even though the engine and transmission have never given me a bit of trouble, it's only a matter of time before these will start to cause me grief. This Saturday will be the day of reckoning for the Rendezvous, which has served me very well, even when the steering rack broke on I-96, it still got me home. I will write about my new vehicle soon enough, giving a preliminary review first. It won't be brand-new of course, but will be something five or six years old at the most. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Converting a Lennox Furnace with the Piggybacked Ignition Module to the Honeywell S8610U1003 Control. (Techs Only Please!)

*******WARNING! If you are a homeowner reading this, the furnaces with this control are well past their service life. The technician doing the repair MUST inspect the heat exchanger for failures thoroughly before doing this and any other repair to this piece of equipment. The furnaces included, but not limited to, Lennox G11 and G12 models with the ignition module mounted to the gas valve. These also have the Dura Curve heat exchanger that is prone to cracking along the rear of the curved sections where the welds are. Once these are cracked, they cannot be repaired and must be shut down and replaced per AGA guidelines, state and local safety codes as well as common sense. Again, many of the parts on this piece of equipment are obsolete as they were made 30 years ago and this repair could cost in excess of $500. This is for a furnace that will fail anyway. From my experience, people will replace everything they own in the course of seven years including their automobiles, which cost ten times as much as a properly installed furnace. Even a base 80% efficient model should cost less installed than high end plasma television. The furnace will save you hundreds of dollars a year in heating costs and possibly tens of thousands in home repairs and medical costs. I've walked into these homes where they have a brand-new car, high end infotainment systems and the furnace over 30 years old. You know who you are, so forgo the TV and replace the furnace.******

******Disclaimer, this article is for informational purposes and the job is best left to an experienced technician only. Even then, other parts can be damaged and instructions need to be followed to the best of your ability and circumstances determined by your best judgment. Personal injury, death and property damage can result from working on heating equipment even when repairs are done to the best of your ability and instructions are followed to the letter. Perform this and all repairs at your own risk.******

Follow the instructions per the Honeywell module, but you will need to remove old module off the gas valve with the two screws and disconnecting the red, blue and black wires. Mount the new control to the upper right corner of the inside panel over the heat exchanger so the wires off the gas valve can reach. Hook up the three wires from the gas valve to the new unit. Follow the wiring diagram. Now for the tricky part. You MUST remove the ground pigtail from the neutral wire on the transformer or you will fry that and the thermostat. Better off taking that ground wire and using this as the burner ground on the new module. This is it boys and girls, and probably my last post for HVAC repair for a while.

This is the typical wiring diagram for the furnaces in question. Note that other diagrams will differ.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Transport Your Refrigerator Without Having it Turn to Junk!

Yes dear readers, there is a right way to transport a refrigerator from point A to point B and the best advice I can give you is "no". Have someone else do it. Whether it's a moving company, the company you bought a new or used one from, whatever.

The second best option is that this must be in a pickup truck, trailer so it can stand up. With that, you must have it strapped securely or you will have it tip out on you. I had this happen to me with my personal vehicle 10 years ago and the ramifications were far from life threatening, but it could have ended really badly. It doesn't matter whether you're moving it a block or across town; SECURE IT. Ratchet straps work great for this. If you aren't sure how to do this, get someone to help you or have someone else move it.

The third and final option is to have this laid on its back to transport. If you have a station wagon or van this may be your only option short of hiring a contractor to do it for you. Personally, I've done it and never had a problem, but you must take something into consideration first. As you probably don't know, there is a pump at the back of every refrigerator (unless you own a gas one, then you should NEVER tip it). and connected to it (even the high end ones like LG and Samsung) are a filter dryer, a capillary tube as well as tubing going to two or more coils. Inside of this system is a gas called refrigerant that soaks up the heat inside the refrigerator with one or more evaporators and throws it outside with the help of a fan and the condenser coil.

Problem is that the pump, which is called a compressor, also needs oil in the worst way. The oil lubricates the valves, pistons, or other working parts to keep them from having an untimely death. This is not unlike the motor oil in your ride. If you tip the fridge on its back, oil will travel from the compressor to these coils from the compressor. While this isn't harmful in itself, turning the unit immediately after standing it up will cause problems with your system. The compressor could lock up and fail. Oil could still be in the capillary tube and plug that, as well as in other parts in quantities that it shouldn't be.

The best bet is to let it set long enough for that oil to drain back where it's supposed to be before you plug it in. A good rule of thumb is 24 hours, period. If you've just moved it, say from house to house on its bottom, it might not be a bad idea to let it set for a few hours as well. The oil is just oil, nothing special. However, it just needs to be where it can do some good. Contrary to popular belief, it won't affect the refrigerant or coolant. Again if you had to move this on its back, wait a full 24 hours to plug it in

As for moving them on their side, I've never done it and can't see how it would be any worse than on its back. My advice is not to do it though, as some units use condenser coils to heat areas inside the stiles (sides) and mullions (lintel or top) behind the doors to keep moisture off the cabinet. Sometimes these are looped in ways that might not allow oil to drain back to the compressor easily, if at all. So go ahead, let it drain, then plug it in and enjoy those cold ones (I like PowerAde myself). Don't forget to make sure the coils are clean and the water lines are hooked up if you have them. If you have an icemaker, this will need to be below freezing to make ice cubes. Maranatha!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Beretta Nano Review, Part Deux.

Beretta Nano
Finally, I got a chance to practice with the gun I've saved for months to get and even more months to get to shoot. I cycled 99 rounds through this piece, which amounts to about 14 magazines. All in all, the gun does what it's supposed to do, but some concerns remain. I will say that I'm not a pro or gun "expert" and in fact have only owned handguns for a couple years. Again, this is not a site for discussing whether or not citizens should not have guns. In the United States of America, this is a right and with that right comes responsibility. Never point a gun at anything or anyone you do not intend to destroy or end. Always treat a gun as if it were loaded and keep any and all firearms out of the hands of children and irresponsible adults. Use a safe backstop when practicing with firearms and make of what's beyond your intended target. Obey all laws concerning the sale, possession and use of any firearm.

Again, 99 rounds isn't a whole lot for some, but considering the price of ammo it was more than enough. Even though I've heard that you should use a minimum of 124 grain ammo in this gun, the fact is that when I bought it, only 115 grain was available locally. I practiced with Lellier and Bellot as well as Federal Champion. The Nano ate the former without complaint, but the Federal Champion had two failures to eject out of 70 rounds, which I contribute more to ammo at this point. Since I carry 135 grain hollow points with this gun, there shouldn't be an issue with these. However, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Aiming and firing the gun is easy enough. Despite the low profile sights, they were relatively easy to line up and with a firm grip, were quick to get back in line. The trigger pull is what I would in layman's terms is in stages. There's a half inch of slack, followed by another half to three quarter inch of tension terminated by a vague break. In contrast, my Ruger SR9c bang switch needs just a press to set it off. As with my PX4, it was still smooth.

Unlike a lot of guns out there, the grips are small and not adjustable. Considering the price point of this gun, which was about $400, this could be an issue. Even though there is a magazine with an extension that comes with the gun (it did with mine) They aren't always available. What really surprised me was how little recoil this piece has when firing it. It needs a firm grip, but I never had the feeling it was snappy or had too much muzzle flip. Even with the low profile sights, follow up shots were easy to line up. With something as high centered as this gun is, that's an achievement.

What will take time to achieve is some accuracy along with practice. This one was not accurate right out of the box. While you can adjust the sights with an Allen wrench, you also need to remember to bring the Allen wrench to be useful. As a result I found myself shooting low and to the right six to nine inches at 30 feet. Even my amateurish self can hit within six inches of the center of the target with the Ruger consistently. This is no fault of the gun, but a need to practice and familiarize myself with it and adjust it properly. It also means not carrying it until this is taken care of.

With the Federal ammo, I had two malfunctions. Both were failures to eject. One where the round went up and down and the other with where it jammed behind another round. Both times a pull on the slide cleared it. A minor concern plinking at the farm could be a huge problem defending oneself at home or the street. I've heard in some circles this gun likes at least 124 grain ammo, but the manual doesn't specify. All it does make mention of is not to use submachine gun or reloaded ammo. Neither of these are a problem for me. However, when I can find something bigger than 115 grain that isn't a dollar a round, I'll try it again and see what it does. Even with that, the Lellier and Bellot fed through without an issue.

As for the verdict, the jury is still out. The Nano is comfortable to shoot repeatedly without any drama. Although my hands are average sized, a woman would have no problem shooting or carrying this gun with relative ease. It disappears under a shirt and waistband. What needs to happen is practice, and often if you are going to defend your life with it. The trigger pull is long, and between that and it not always being accurate out of the box you will need more than an afternoon a year to dial this in. Plan on either bore sighting or burning some ammo and playing with the sights to get it spot on, or as much as a piece with a 2 inch barrel can get anyway. As always, I will follow up when I get another chance to shoot it, and I can't wait. Maranatha!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sodium Light Redux and Repurpose.

As always, electricity is dangerous when not respected and injury, death and property damage can happen even under the best of circumstances. Some training on wiring, and the use of some safety tools and procedures including lock out/ tag out would be a good idea. Be sure to follow all applicable electrical codes and perform all outdoor wiring through a G.F.C.I. or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. This will shut off the electricity during a ground fault, a condition that is extremely dangerous. Think of the scenario of taking a bath and a hair dryer falling into the tub when you think of a ground fault. I've put these in my kitchen and bathrooms as well as outside. These outlets cost about $10 to $15, but are much cheaper than an emergency room visit or funeral.  If there isn't one or you aren't sure there is one or how to do it, better to contact a licensed journey electrician to install a G.F.C.I for you. I've done home repairs for over 20 years and will still consult one if there is something I'm not sure of. Do this and any other repairs or mods at your own risk.

To be honest with you, this is more of an idea for the handyman than an actual fix. Back in December, my then employer at Aire Serv had me relamp the four lights at the back of the office and they looked and still look like this one. They have a 75 watt high pressure sodium bulb. As you all may or may not know these bulbs are $15 to $20 apiece. He bought four bulbs and in the intense cold, I was able to resurrect three by just replacing the bulbs. I told him that the fourth was going to need to be rebuilt and likely was going to exceed the cost of a new assembly. He agreed and bought an L.E.D. fixture, which I dutifully installed. I asked and he let me keep the light in which I saved rather than trashing it. Except for some yellowing and a little sun damage, the casing was fine and the socket was intact. I relegated it to my shed for nearly six months. Fast forward to yesterday, I bought a 13 watt CFL bug light, some plastic conduit and an elbow, along with a couple of male adapters to fit into the socket and the bottom of the light, which incidentally had no knockout, only a casting on the bottom, which I drilled out with a Christmas tree bit and threaded one of the adapters into so I could feed the conduit to.

The sodium light was bright enough for any dark area, and the trailer park I live in is very dark indeed. However, it's nice to be able to see the stars at night too. As it turned out, the electric eye was bad and that needed to be replaced anyway. So I removed and saved the igniter and ballast, installed the new eye and since this was an Edison (medium) base, installed the CFL (Compact Florescent Lamp). All that was needed was to connect the neutral wires together. Attach the black wire on the electric eye to the hot side on the line going in and the red wire to the hot lead for the bulb. Put the case back together and viola!, a light that's tough, not too bright and does the job perfectly. Maybe I'll install an L.E.D. bulb in this thing during the winter, but for now the yellow CFL bug light works great. Maranatha!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Some Dishwasher Woes and How to Correct or Prevent Them.

We were without a dishwasher in my house for a month and let me tell you it wasn't fun. My wife isn't too keen on dirty dishes piling in the sink or on the counter. Considering that my cat uses the counters, tables and furniture as her own personal raceway, I wouldn't want to be without them either. Once thing I will tell you is that we do not have a top of the line model. It's an Amana Five Cycle I got at Menards for about $180 a year and a half ago. Of course, this model is N.L.A. in any store and the next best thing is going to run you about $300. Our dishwasher does a fantastic job of cleaning dishes as long as we fill the water softener with salt. There are others that are going to be lower priced than this, but even the higher end models made nowadays are going to suffer with longer cycles and poor performance if neglected or misused. Without the right maintenance, cleaning, rinse aids and soaps they will not clean your dishes.
The right soap (or detergent) is the most critical, and I'm going to go on record to say that many store brands may or may not work. The name brands, such as Finish and Cascade tablets will work the best. This is because they contain an enzyme. Other, cheaper brands will use silica and bleach. These are great for removing stains, but cleaning dishes is going to be hit or miss with this. The reason for detergent issues were that a few years ago, the Feds outlawed Phosphorus in detergents. It does a great job of cleaning, but is impossible to remove in water treatment plants. Phosphorus depletes dissolved Oxygen in the water, which leads to killed fish and algae buildup. Since then detergent manufacturers have been trying to keep up with this mandate. In this case, you get what you pay for. Buy the cheap detergent and pay the price with dirty dishes.
 Rinse aids (they should be called drying agents) are mandatory, so use them. You can probably get away with a store brand in this case, but a name brand might help depending on the quality of your water and what you do to condition it. Our water isn't the greatest, but we use a store brand and it works fine. A rinse aid keeps minerals and other impurities from setting back on your dishes. Without it, they will likely spot up.
Water temperature is very important to dissolve the detergent. If it takes you a small eternity to get hot water from your kitchen tap, it's going to be the same with your dishwasher. Some will stop the cycle until they've heated the water enough to use. As most modern dishwashers have a smaller element than older ones do, this could add up to a day to get the water hot enough. The best cure for this is to run the hot water from the tap until it is hot enough and then run the dishwasher. You may want to adjust the temperature on the water heater. See your owner's manual.
In days past, most dishwashers had a chopper installed to help break up hard food to an extent. What they won't do well with are woody, or fibrous foods that will not only clog up the chopper, but may even clog impeller on the drain pump. Excessive grease will also cause problems as will poor water quality. Nowadays, dishwashers have a filter that needs to be cleaned every time the machine is run. This is to cut down on noise and save energy. If you don't clean this filter, your dishwasher won't be able to clean and drain properly. See your owners manual to see what yours has.
The most preventable problem comes from dirty water draining in from the garbage disposal or drain. The best way is to either install an air gap on your sink, or simply loop the drain line above the disposal. This is an installation problem that I've found a lot lately, including the installer of the garbage disposal failing to remove the knockout plug. Hey, it happens. Hopefully, this helps you before you have to call in a service person. There are a lot of issues you can have, but these are the main ones. Maranatha!

G.E. Refrigerator Water Dispenser Issue.

A little over a month into my new job/career and I've seen and worked on a lot. Tomorrow, I get to work by myself into what is hopefully a slow day, but whatever it is, I will fight my way through it. One issue I've been seeing a little bit are with the water dispenser on G.E. side-by-side refrigerators. I have worked on a few of them and recommend them as being reliable. The main problem, exclusive of issues with the valves, tubing, a frozen tank or more rarely a plugged water filter, is a frozen line in the freezer door. You heard this right, a frozen water line in the freezer door. After about 10 years, the insulation breaks down enough in the door (probably due to environmental laws on foam insulation) to allow this line to freeze. The best fix is to replace the door with a new one, and provided this isn't made of unobtainium, or N.L.A. (No Longer Available) is going to run about $750. Aside from the inconvenience of not being able to use the water from the fridge, the rest of the operation isn't affected. You can still get ice (as long as the icemaker is still working, and this isn't very expensive to have done or do yourself) and open the door to get a cold drink. You can also try putting cardboard between the freezer compartment and the door (make sure the door is closed) to thaw it out, or even a old bedspread. This fix will last for anywhere from 2 weeks to several months and then you will have to repeat the process over and again. The other option is to live with it until you get a new fridge. Maranatha!

When Not To Fix It Yourself! Control Arm Bushings on a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am

As many of my regular readers know, one of the autos in my "fleet" is a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am. This car has a 2.2 liter DOHC engine with multi point fuel injection, a four speed electronically controlled transaxle, air conditioning, an aftermarket radio, power windows, brakes and steering. Since 2006, it has been the family workhorse; eight years going on nine. It has hauled numerous kids and travelled almost 100,000 miles under our ownership taking my wife and I, as well as others to work and back. It has done this with very little other than preventative maintenance. We've done 3 window regulators, 1 door glass, a fuel pump, 2 sets of tires, 2 sets of spark plugs, tie rods, 2 sets of front struts, 2 front brake calipers, several sets of pads, two sets of rotors and 2 sets of control arm
 bushings. Other than the control arm bushings, I've done the work myself and after this weekend I'm glad I left them to a pro. True, the parts were less then $40.00, but the labor amounted to $175.00 and about 5 hours of backbreaking labor.
It took a torch (which I don't have oxygen and acetylene at the moment) to get one of them loose from the K-member, and several tries getting the through bolts tight enough to prevent them from banging against the frame when I stopped the car. After about 4 hours I was about ready to junk the car after 114,000 miles with a relatively decent body. I wasn't even doing the work, but imagine if I was doing the work, with no air tools, hoist or working torch.
Oh I did price how much it would have been to get an electric impact wrench. The cheapest one I found was at Harbor Freight for $50. Oxygen and acetylene would have probably run me about $20 to $30 or so for the small tanks. Since I live in a trailer park with a limited budget, I would have been doing this stuff on my back under jackstands.
Needless to say, the car will be completely done Monday night if my wife can remember to take it  back to the shop. After talking to a young mother who had just bought a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix for $8000 at a local dealer (the miles were identical to mine, but the body on mine is less beat up), this one might hang around for a while. This car is still too small, but at least it's done for now. Maranatha!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What is Going On Lately?

Okay, I'll tell you. Went out to the farm to practice my shooting skills on my Nano. No such luck as the workers were out ploughing and planting the fields and too close to where we shoot anyway. So much for that. Our culture with guns is one about safety, and more of when not to shoot. Today, this was not an option. This past week, I've fixed lots of appliances, including Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, GE, etc. Friday we fixed three dryers, checked out two refrigerators, fixed a range, and two washers, and had seven or eight calls in the course of eight hours. It's been fun thus far.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Time For a Change.

Wow, what a month and I've been busier than, well, busy. I'm out of the HVAC business, but have been learning, yes learning to fix appliances. Still haven't had a chance to shoot the Nano, but did take the day to get some errands done and get caught up on some writing. Again, there will be fewer furnace fix items from me, and this is because of some issues with being on call for weeks on end during this last winter. Fixing air conditioners and furnaces is a tough job and I've done it on and off for 28 years. What prompted me to change was the prices of the parts and repairs was going through the roof, my salary was stagnating, and I was required to purchase more training and tools. Add to that customers ticked over the price and my own lost sense of job satisfaction and the choice was clear, get busy living or get busy going crazy.
Appliances have also changed since I first turned a wrench, but the basics are still there. Fridges cool and freeze food, Washers and dryers still do their things, Freezers freeze, ranges cook, bake and broil, Microwaves thaw and dishwashers, well they still wash dishes.
Since the influx of Samsung, LG, Bosch and other foreign brands into the United States as well as the energy policy that made these brands viable here, there have been some significant changes. Control boards in fridges, they have them. Washers also have them, dishwashers, ranges, dryers, microwaves. Everything is electronic save for the lower end items. In time, all of these will have to have electronic controls. I was working on a dual evaporator Samsung refrigerator where the evaporator for the refrigerator was frozen up. Come to find out that the control board was shot and needs to be replaced on a 10 year old fridge. At least the repair wasn't too expensive and owner decided to fix it. This is what I would have done as well. Hurray for fixing!
Anyway, I've got a month of writing to cover for and probably won't get it all done. I do appreciate all of you reading, commenting and learning from my posts on this blog. Even though the focus has to shift, it's for the better for all concerned. I would still suggest hiring a pro to fix the furnace anyway and the air conditioner is almost required because of the EPA laws. Maranatha!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Brake Pedal Problems: Pedal Pulsations.

Sorry no posts for a while, but the weather has been poor for shooting so I couldn't test fire my Nano, and there hasn't been much else that I can talk about. I gave Aire Serv my notice and my next endeavor will be fixing appliances. The on call schedule was too much to deal with, as well as the huge burden of responsibility that comes with the job. It was simply time to move on and for now, we'll leave it at that. My Rendezvous just rolled at 166,000 miles last night and for three weeks my brakes have been acting up. I'm going to be needing this beast in a couple weeks while I'm training.

When applying them at high speed, the whole car just shook and I could feel the brake pedal pulsate.  As always, funds are limited and the vehicle is almost 12 years old. Many of the brake parts have already been replaced since I bought the vehicle almost four years ago and have a lifetime warranty.  My time and wear and tear on my body still have a lot to answer for though. Besides, swapping parts to fix a problem is not an option.  The trick is to diagnose this correctly and fix this right while spending as little money as possible.

As always, working on vehicles and especially the braking system needs to be done with great care. Improper repairs can cause death, injury and property damage. Get a service manual for the vehicle you're working on if at all possible (in the case of the Rendezvous, there is no manual available). Replace all questionable brake parts with new or rebuilt ones. This is not the place to save money and when in doubt take to a competent mechanic. I've been fixing cars for three decades and have never had a brake job cause an accident, but there are no second chances if you do. Perform this and other repairs at your own risk.

When making a diagnosis, I could simply take off all four wheels and inspect the rotors. However, this is a helluva job on a sloped driveway. So I can only do one axle at a time and need to start with hopefully the right one; front or rear. Time to collect the facts:
  • The rotors, calipers and pads were done about two and a half years ago on the front axle.
  • The rotor and pads were done on the rear wheels shortly after I bought the car in June of 2010.
  • The braking system is overdue for a flush.
  • The tires are dry rotten, but don't have any belts slipping and still hold air.
  • When braking at low speeds, it stops normally.
  • At higher speeds when the brakes are applied, the car shakes and the pedal pulsates.
  • There is no appreciable shaking at the steering wheel.
  • There is some noise coming from the rear wheel on the left side.
What this tells me is that the rear brake rotors are worn and need to be replaced as a set. The pads and all the hardware must also be done at this time. After all that work, a caliper on the right rear side also locked up and needed to be changed out. This ran me about $140 to fix with 2 rotors, grease, brake fluid, pads, a caliper (yes I did just one), some brake cleaner and a hardware kit. I removed the wheels, calipers, brackets, pads and replaced all with the exception of the caliper on the left side that still works for now. I believe the one on the right would have been fine if I hadn't cocked the piston in the bore, oh well. Even with that it took me an afternoon and now it stops on a dime. If the steering wheel had vibrated, the front rotors would have been the first to go.  Maranatha!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blackhawk Tuckable Holster Review.

Holster, side view

Note the special clip. 
*NOTE: Obey all laws regarding concealed carry in your state, or if you live in Illinois, California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, the District or Columbia or other states that restrict, move. This includes any "pistol free zones" as mandated by state and federal laws. Also use common sense in that if your job requires you to enter a customer's home, leave the gun at YOUR home.

I carry a handgun every time I head out the door*  Most of the time, this requires a holster or other means of carry to do so safely. In the brief time, I've became a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to these. Being a realist when it comes to price and ease of use, I'm not going to spend over $50 on one. This leaves a lot of the Kydex and hybrid holsters out, as well as the tactical ones. The latter is useless for a civilian carrying unless he or she likes raising Cain with the public and the authorities proper. The idea of carrying a gun is not to advertise, but to conceal and if you think that carrying one out in the open is going to deter crime, guess again. You may very well be prevented from using your gun if someone sees it. Even if there isn't a sign out front saying "no guns allowed" doesn't mean that the manager can't call the police and have you arrested for criminal trespass if you don't leave. Most aren't going to ask you up front, (I wouldn't do it) for fear of their safety. However you choose to cover it up, do so. Let's not get society more upset over guns than they already are by watching out "p's" and "q's".

In past blog posts, leather is the ideal way to go when carrying a pistol concealed, especially with an in-the-waistband rig. If cost is an objection, then save up or buy the cheapie ones. However, resist the temptation to carry in a belt only. The reasons for using a holster is to help prevent accidentally pulling the trigger or getting yourself or clothing caught on part or parts of your gun. Enough said.

Blackhawk has been a name synonymous with carrying firearms and other tactical gear. They're also the best selling holster manufacturer in the United States and this writer believes this has everything to do with their cost and value. Their nylon holsters are well made, but a bit bulky for the strength and support they offer. Their leather ones, or in my case suede is an IWB with a loop that hooks over your waistband, under your belt and has enough gap to tuck in a shirt. The operation is a bit convoluted at first and I would prefer having this go over your belt. Two pounds of brass, steel and plastic strapped to your hip is going to put a strain on anyone's trousers and having this on the belt makes more sense. Maranatha!

Beretta Nano Review, PART UNO.

Disclaimer: this is not the place to debate whether or not people should be allowed to carry guns. In the United States, the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees this and even in compliance with the law, I am licensed to carry one concealed. If you live in another country and take issue with "gun culture" or have the belief in gun restrictions, I respect that. However, I will delete any comments that are not relevant to this review. Be sure to obey all applicable laws and relevant safety practices when deciding to purchase, carry or fire any gun.
I'm not a gun nut, nor crazy about pocket pistols, but this is going to be the beginning of my fourth pistol review on a gun several months ago I would have never considered buying. Beretta has been in the weapons business for nearly 500 years and has done a lot right. The PX4 Storm compact, a former sidearm of mine, was superb for shooting on the range. The grip and accuracy were second to none. However, getting my finger slashed on the safety while qualifying for my CPL (partly my fault for failing to familiarize myself with the gun, but it was still very sharp nonetheless) as well as actually carrying something that weighed and was as thick as any duty gun. The protruding controls made this uncomfortable even when I managed to carry it.  I traded the Beretta, and took a bath on it, for a Ruger SR9c, which is still in my collection to date. It is also an extremely competent gun with the irony of more safety features than many kitchen appliances. The external safety, loaded chamber indicator, slide lock and other controls are good on paper, but in practice require training to use in a fight. This is more than comfortable in an outside the waistband holster, and hides well in an in the waistband one although size is still an issue. There are times when a smaller pistol is in order, especially under dress clothes. Yes, I know there are holsters out there what can make hiding a bigger gun easier. In practice, these are expensive and/or not always available locally. Besides, I've yet to see anything that can make a piece thinner, lighter, or less obtrusive. Many of these hybrid holsters have clips that are visible on the belt. To me, these scream "gun!". Eventually, I may purchase a kit or make one myself.

A Facebook conversation with a family friend suggested the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield to address some of my concerns.  Availability and price as of this writing made it prohibitive on my budget, and nice as it may be, the Beretta Nano was available for about $150 less after some haggling. I got it for $399 with tax and laying away for several months. Made of steel with a glass reinforced composite frame, this piece weighs a pound and a half loaded with seven rounds. The sights are low profile and fully adjustable with white dots. These aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they're easy enough to see and may get the obligatory sight paint over spending $100 on night sights. The gun is blocky, black and basic. There are no controls short of the magazine release, a takedown lock, a decocker and the bang switch. The slide only stays open when the magazine is empty on an empty chamber. The slide release is a slot screw that opens using the edge of a shell casing, and the decocker with a ballpoint pen. There are no edges to snag, unlike most other Beretta models making this in theory better suited for concealed carry. There is no magazine disconnect, so the gun will fire without a magazine and a round in the chamber! The grip is aggressive on the back and front and smooth in the center, which may necessitate adding something to provide traction.

The box comes with two magazines, one with a flat floor plate and the other with an extended one for a better grip (perversely, both are six round capacity, but this is in line with the gun's purpose), the gun, a trigger lock, manuals, along with a warning from the Massachusetts Attorney General and a manual. As with all Beretta pistols, it has the plastic puck that keeps the case from crushing in on the truck ride from Maryland. Yes, this gun is made in the United States. Soon, Beretta will be opening a new factory in Tennessee, but I digress.

Ideally, the gun should be cleaned and go to the range before carrying it. To field strip the Nano requires a ball point pen and the edge of a shell casing. You need to press the decocker with the pen and use the edge of the shell casing to turn the slide release. I wouldn't go as far to say this strips down as easily as a Glock, but it's easy nonetheless and leaves you with the spring, slide, barrel and frame. Unlike the Ruger, there is no pin  to remove. The frame is removable to exchange for something pink or maybe even with a different grip pattern, as the mechanism inside is legally the gun and has the serial number. Personally, I'll stick with the current black frame and add some Talon grips if need be.

Carrying this piece in an Uncle Mikes in the waistband holster, size 1 nearly ended up with the gun on the pavement at Meijer's. The holster came apart in short order, making this unusable until I stitch or goop the clip back on. As of right now, I'm using the in the waistband holster for my SR9c with much more favorable results. This is the suede tuckable Blackhawk holster and it makes this gun disappear under a uniform or dress pant. It also fits into the pocket of same, but a holster must be utilized for safety's sake. I do not recommend Mexican carrying ANY gun for this very reason. If you can't buy a holster, leave this gun at home. Off my soapbox. In part DEUX, I'll take this to the range to fire some rounds through it. I know these guns like 124 grain rounds, but since they've been made out of unobtainium as of late, I will be using the more common 115 grain rounds. I believe the gun will work fine as with my last Beretta, but this remains to be seen. Maranatha!