Monday, September 5, 2016

Diagnosing Oil Leaks for Free or Nearly Free.

For most of us, oil leaks are a fact of life in any ride and this writer has seen this in cars with less than ten thousand miles on the clock. For the most part, cars today have less issues with these IF you change the oil regularly. This is because contaminants left in can damage seals and cause leaks. Wear in a high mileage engine can also cause seal journals on some parts to stop touching the seal and leak. Even improperly installed seals can cause an issue, and spill oil over your driveway and make your engine a mess.

If the leak is minor and not getting things messy, my suggestion is to leave it alone. However if it's dotting your driveway with oil, here's how to find the leak or leaks. Fixing these can involve replacing the oil filter and or oil plug, resealing the oil pan, or adding one of those sealers until you can yank the engine or trade off the vehicle. You'll need a garden hose, some engine degreaser and a good flashlight as well as some time for the vehicle to sit and drive. Spray the degreaser carefully around the area of the suspected leak wait a few minutes, then use a garden hose to remove the mess from the engine.

I wouldn't recommend spraying water on any electrical components, or on any areas not needed to diagnose the leak. This could cause the engine to misfire or trouble codes to develop. Just clean the area you need and use the least amount of water to get the job done. Then drive the car enough to warm the engine (and dry up the water if you didn't follow my advice) then park and look for fresh oil on the engine. Because I was overzealous with the water, the engine ran a bit rough. On the return trip, it smoothed out and I was able to see that it was residual oil from the last person who changed the oil. It had dipped from the filter and gotten embedded in the dirt on the bottom of the engine, which was slowly releasing it on my driveway.

If there was a leak, there would be fresh oil coming from a seal, gasket, problem with the block, head or intake, even an oil filter or sender. In my case, there was no such problems, just poor housekeeping. When I change the oil on my cars, I like to make sure the area is wiped up, or at least sprayed with degreaser and a garden hose to stop from boogering up the driveway or causing smells when you're driving. Glad it wasn't anything major. Maranatha!

2002 Ford Escape XLT Review, Part One.

This is review on a USED vehicle with 86,000 miles as of this writing.  It will only be useful for the vehicle reviewed and not on the new generations of the Ford Escape, which had a redo in the late 2000's and became a completely different model marketed to a completely different demographic group in the early 2000 teens. Your mileage can and will vary as this is a V-6, four wheel drive equipped vehicle. The radio, a six dish CD changer was not operating as of this writing, so a used aftermarket radio/CD/MP3 player was substituted and will not be included in this review. Ford audio systems, when in working order have usually been pretty decent in cars of this vintage though. Everything works on this example save the rear defogger and washer to the rear window.

The Ford Escape was and still is less about being a truck and more about being what a small car should be; having a small footprint and have a goodly amount of headroom, hip room and leg room. It should also be well thought out to maximize space and functionality in said footprint. The Ford Escape does this par-excellence. The silhouette is boxy by today's standard of raked windshields, free form glass, and lower, rounded roof lines. As a six foot, 200 pound plus man, I can get into this vehicle without ducking under an A pillar that arches into the B pillar. This is a move that requires the deftness and flexibility of a gymnast. This is a maneuver that a forty-something repair technician is not capable of.

In the fact the interior is well-laid out in typical Ford-ish fashion. The overdrive off switch is on the end of the gear selector, which is on the steering column. Wiper controls are in front of said gear selector, while the turn signal slash light switch slash dimmer resides on the left. Wiper controls are a bit on the need to practice side, while the switches for the fog lights, hazards, instrument light dimmer, and hazardss are in user friendly positions. The four wheel drive selector is also conveniently located, if not lighted. The controls for the dome light and map lights are in an impossible to get at spot, more in reach for the rear seat passengers. Map lights on the mirror would have a much better idea as would automatic lighting controls ala-General Motors. Lighting on the heater and radio controls is good, while the speedometer binnacle is dimly lit and the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel aren't even lit at all. Removing the cluster and the green plastic sheathing from four of the bulbs helped the lighting situation in the binnacle greatly, as did replacing the burnt-out bulb for the transmission indicator/ odometer with an LED bulb. The rest of the cluster is not compatible with LED's at all as the light will refract in ways the manufacturer could have never anticipated, making the cluster nearly unreadable. The dome lights DID benefit from LED lights, even though these have a tendency to stay glowing even after they are turned off.

Seats are very supportive and shorter drivers will appreciate the lower dash, lower distance from the seat to the floor while taller driver will appreciate the high roof line and squarish build. Visibility is superb, but a back up camera would be a great idea to install for safety's sake. The rear seats fold flat, but this requires removing the headrests, flipping the lower cushions forward and up, and then flipping the seat backs forward. There's plenty of room for tools, a water heater, maybe even a few sets of skis, but not a 4x8 sheet of plywood. The liftgate has a separate glass that you can lift up, but in practice you may not even need it as the gate is pretty convenient in its own rite. Another nice feature, unlike many mid-sized and large sport utility vehicles is that the spare is accessible from the inside. While this is a bit more of headache with a full load of groceries, it's still a helluva lot better than fighting a tire winch in the middle of a dirt road after a rain; not to mention ponying up two or three bills for a new one when it inevitably breaks. Even worse the thought of a 40 pound tire coming loose and hitting the windshield of the vehicle in front of you. 'nuff said.  The next part is going to be about actually driving this thing, while the last part will be about maintenance. Thanks for putting up with me, and more to come. Maranatha!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Recover From Repo Project, The Thought Process and Reality Check.

In 1991, I bought a 1975 Chevy Nova four door for $75. It had a 262 cubic inch V8, a rear defogger, power steering, manual brakes, a two barrel carburetor, vinyl seats and an automatic transmission. I put in a battery to get it home, an exhaust system when I got it home, plus the tie rods, center link, idler arm, radiator, body mounts, valve cover gaskets, and a used carburetor before the front subframe finally broke in half in front of Lansing City Hall. I was forced to sell this for a ride home. I saved the radiator and the battery and sold these to a family friend. $300 was spent in parts and hours of my time trying to fix this wreck that lasted me six months. The gas tank still leaked and the tailpipe kept falling out of my makeshift exhaust system, threatening to inundate my bloodstream with carbon monoxide. It would be the last car I would have my name on the title for two years, but this is a different story.

Admittedly, $75 was nothing for a car back then. Anything that started and ran was going for a minimum of $500. Even with that, you were going to have major mechanical problems. Back then, you could get by with used parts and save a ton of money if you were so mechanically inclined. Electrical systems, engines, transmissions, fuel systems and the like were fairly simple. Electronic engine, body controls and OBD 2 systems were a nightmare that hadn't arrived yet. Electronic fuel injection and front wheel drive were also on primarily later model cars post 1980.

Today, OBD 2 is 20 years old as of this writing. This means more complexity and a lot more cars with the check engine light on. There is also multiplexing of wiring, as well as electronic controls for every system and subsystem on a vehicle. Body styles, save the 1996 to 2016 GM vans, change nearly every two or three years. This also adds cost, complexity and makes used parts availability a bit tougher. While vehicle quality and reliability have improved significantly since the 1970's (it had nowhere to go but up, believe me), costs and mileage have also gone up significantly. A car that starts and runs is going to be over $1200 and it's going to have rust. It will also need some work mechanically. What's more is that these cars are going to be over 15 years old, and will have over 200,000 miles on the clock with a few exceptions.

The other issue was in 2009, the Cash For Clunkers program took a significant amount of used cars off the road. While it was a great deal for those buying new cars, it also cut down on a lot of then late model used vehicles.  This is keeping prices for models of this vintage stubbornly high. I looked at a 1998 Ford Expedition with 145,000 miles that had been sitting nearly a year for $3300. The tires were nearly bald and the owner admitted the battery was also flat from sitting. The blue book value on this was $1750 from a dealer in good condition. This one had rocker rust and was probably going to need some other work for sitting there. From my experience, brakes are usually the first things to quit when a car or truck sits for more than a few months. I also looked at a 2003 Chevy Astro (van) that the owner posted for $500 and it looked great from Facebook, but the engine was locked up. A look at the dipstick confirmed this as there were flakes of metal in the oil from the Babbitt on the bearings. While I could have freed this, the fact is that I don't have a proper lift and this would be done in a trailer park with no garage. A new engine for this about $1500, plus my time.

Finding a suitable beater is going to be harder than this writer imagined, but giving up is not an option, Maranatha!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recover From Repo Project, Intro.

Let's say, that one morning, you wake up and your ride is gone. You knew that that you were behind, or maybe the insurance lapsed. Whatever the reason; medical bills, furnace or air-conditioner went out, crime, death in the family, whatever. I'm not here to judge. So you go to bank and they tell you that unless you can pay off the entire balance, you are not getting the car. After paying the repossession company to get your stuff back, you're in the unenviable position of having to find another set of wheels. This is going to be difficult with now battered credit.
Even after eight years since the global financial crisis, people are still having difficulties. With the average car payment at $480 a month, it's very easy to get behind and find yourself in a lot of trouble.

I'm not here to school you in consumer education, as you have already learned an inkling of what society is capable of. It may not seem fair that the repo man took your ride, or that the loan officer treated you like a scumbag. However, they have jobs to do, bills to pay and probably a home to maintain too. It gives someone no pleasure to have to carry this stuff out any more than it pleasures me to tell a customer they need to replace an appliance. Repo men are stabbed, shot, and maimed every day doing their job. Loan officers get a fair amount of flak for sure; even if it is from the comfort of their office chair.

This article is going to assume that you are NOT going to try and obtain credit for another ride. Paying time payments on an older vehicle is very risky considering the average vehicle repair is close to $500. Even if you can fix these yourself, you might still find that these coupled with a car payment are going to bust the budget. While paying cash for a car might seem counterproductive, I've had lots of experience in selecting, driving and maintaining cash paid vehicles. You can usually fix these with used parts and you can also be a lot more creative in repairing them, to a point. These alone will save you in the repair department. A vehicle between ten and twenty years old is also going to have a greater availability of aftermarket parts, making this more cost effective as well.

Once you get your stuff back from the repo man, take inventory and put everything that stayed in your vehicle in one place. This is going to save you money buying cell phone chargers, a GPS, and whatnot yet again. A GPS is particularly helpful if your replacement ride has a speedometer or odometer that doesn't work and you won't be able to fix it right away.  Save your license plate as well, especially if this is current unless you live in a state that requires it stay with the car. In my home state, you can transfer the plate to your 'new' wheels for a nominal fee. This is about a tenth of the cost of a new registration and plate, so why pay for this twice.

Saving up for a ride may seem impossible, but it shouldn't be. If you didn't make the payment, and were going to, put that money aside first. I saved $20 to $30 a week as a teenager for a year to get my first car. At that rate I had about $1200 saved up. Since most of us don't have a year, this is going to require saving more. Forego eating out for lunch and bring one. Maybe sell some stuff you don't need or offer to work some overtime. While this might be enough to make you want to go to those buy here, pay here places. I assure you these guys will repossess your even older ride without hesitation. You will pay three times what the ride is worth even if you manage to pay it off.  In the next chapter, I'm going to give you some ideas and try a few myself as this is going to be an active project that I'm participating in. Maranatha!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to Make Beef Jerky at Home.

Disclaimer; I am expressing an opinion based on my experience. Nor am I mentioning names in this article, as this wouldn't be helpful anyway. Wash your hands before during and after preparing your jerky. Dried jerky can be sealed, put in a bowl or refrigerator. You won't have to worry about keeping it long as this stuff goes fast!

As a connoisseur and maker of beef jerky myself, time is usually at a premium to make it. So I buy it for taking to work for snacks, lunches and whatnot. However, prices of have been getting a bit ridiculous. It's about $2.80 AN OUNCE right now, and some manufacturers have been mixing it with pork to keep costs down (Read the labels). I'm not a big fan of pork jerky to begin with (nothing personal, just my preference).
At $2.80 (this is a number I've been seeing) an ounce, this works out to $44.80 a pound. Beef has been getting pricey, and jerky DOES take some energy to make.
As with a lot of things, this one I believe is better done yourself. The price of the equipment to make it can be a bit to start with, but I've had mine 17 years and use it regularly. You can use an oven, a smoker, but I use a food dehydrator that got for about $35. These run about $45 to $50 now, but are well worth it. A meat slicer is also a great thing to have, but buy a roast or two on sale and freeze these a bit to make them easier to cut with a knife.
While you can buy stewing meat and use this, it's going to cost more than a roast that might take you 10 minutes to cut up after it's frozen slightly.
Whatever meat you buy, just make sure it's as lean as you can get it. Fat goes rancid. You will need some or any combination of barbecue sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, salt, sugar, brown sugar, whatever. The goal is to have something sweet and salty to balance the taste and provide or a good cure. I buy soy sauce and barbecue sauce on sale. You can add additional spices if you want, but these are not necessary. My grandfather used equal amount of salt and sugar with enough water to cover and he never got a complaint about his. I use two parts barbecue sauce to one part soy sauce, and some dry sherry to the marinade, with some water to cover.
Cut the the meat into thin strips or slices; about 1/16 inch thick is best as it takes less time to dry. Put the meat in a pan and add your marinade. I would leave this in overnight and it needs to go in the fridge for same. Lay these out in an oven (temp should be about 155 to 160) on a broiler pan or two and heat for about 5 to 10 hours (this is VERY approximate; you have to keep an eye on it) or in the food dehydrator for about same depending on the dryness you want. I prefer the dehydrator as this doesn't tie up the oven.
Jerky is about taking some time, and effort to make. But it costs less to make than buying it at the store and tastes great. Have fun; Maranatha!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pickup Truck Bed Cover Followup.

Still mulling about making a cover for my pickup bed, and decided that a topper would work better. I have priced these out and there are NO USED ONES for my truck. Since the Dakota sold about 26,000 units in the 2008 model year, I'm not holding my breath. New ones are custom made and about $1200. Contemplating options, but money is an issue. I haven't forgotten about this project.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

GMC/Chevy Savanna/Express Antenna Fix.

Since 1997 General Motors has sold the Savanna/Express with few changes other than the powertrain and deleting the half ton version a couple years ago. These vans are basic, sturdy, and more than a bit antiquated in the presence of the European versions that have made their way Stateside. However, they ARE durable and with reasonable care will last north of 200,000 miles. I've driven these vans for nearly 20 years and they've been reliable and roadworthy. Their ride quality is great, even on Michigan's decrepit roads, and they do the job of hauling parts and tools with a minimum of fuss.

I've already discussed the tire pressure monitoring system, the cheap door and breakaway window handles. Today, I'm going discuss a cheap fix for the rust-away antenna mounts that result in the antenna falling into the fender. As with most car companies, they are copyrighting and making parts from the aftermarket harder and harder to adapt. There is a connector under the right side of the dash that unplugs and theoretically you could unbolt the old antenna and install the new one easily. You can get these from the dealer or on Ebay for $30 to $50. This would be the 'best' way to fix it, but considering the original design is a bit fragile I try and adapt aftermarket parts when I can.

You will need some wire cutters and strippers, an aftermarket antenna, some electrical tape, silicone caulk, a soldering iron and some solder, a sharp knife and a pair of pliers or adjustable wrench. You want to remove the old antenna and unplug the connector under the dash. You'll want to pop out the grommet from the firewall the old antenna cable goes through. Take the antenna you bought and cut off the connector, then cut the connector off the old one and leave about six inches of cable with that one.

You can install a connector that mates these cables together, but I've found them to be a bit hit or miss as they add another connection that can get loose and interfere with radio reception. Since this is coax cable, you can't just splice this with a wire nut. So try this: Slit the outer cover longitudinally to the cable and peel it off of the shielding and stranded wire. Then cut off the inner insulation exposing the inner wire about 1/4 inch. Do this with both cut wire ends. If you've done this right, there will be unbroken and uncut strands on each wire end. Slip the grommet over the cable. Get your soldering iron hot and solder the two inner ends of the cable together. Tape this joint over, and then solder the shielding together. You can bunch up the strands and then do it. Once this is soldered, wrap it up with tape. Install the antenna and your're done. Maranatha!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Announcement

Business has been slow, almost non existent. Although I'm a handyman with decades of experience in the Greater Lansing MI area, work has not been forthcoming.
I am going to be offering my services answering your home improvement questions. I can answer your concerns about heating and cooling, ideas to keep your home safe for children and the elderly, which are the best appliances to buy. In short, I've seen a lot. I will work hard to answer as many as possible, or where appropriate direct you to who can help.
If you feel like contributing to keep this site going and my advice coming, feel free. I appreciate this in advance.


Walter Grace

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Changes Are Coming!

In the next week or so, I plan on making an announcement that will profoundly change the direction of this blog, as well as my endeavors. All this is dependent on the Lord Jesus who strengthens me.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Got My Hotspot X2

Frustrated over the deal with the hotspot, I ended buying a 4G one at Walmart. Today, FedEx called me to say that my package was in and that they had made three efforts to deliver it.  Since each one was at 2:00 in the afternoon, it was unlikely that anyone would be here.  They informed me that I could come and pick this up.

So I made the 15 minute drive to FedEx's facility to pick this up and guess what? my hotspot. I'm still a bit flabbergasted over the reasons why they wouldn't allow me to pick this up before they made THREE delivery attempts, but at least I got the dad blamed thing.

The only thing that I can fathom is that the battery is made of Lithium, and hence a controlled substance. I don't know if there's a potential to abuse this as a drug or make it into a bomb, but so be it. The size is perfect and if it costs less than the 4G I got to run, I'll go ahead and use this one in my truck to provide Internet for the tablet.

This does not excuse, in my eyes why Straight Talk was borderline belligerent when I trying to make sense of seemed like a simple transaction. I'm still working on getting clients, and have at least 15 or 20 plus a landlord I've done work before. Also have a lead on an office suite rather than running this out of my home. Maybe I can use the 4G one for the office and the 3G one for the truck. Maybe I'll have more than one truck, but this is another story. Maranatha!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Issues with Straight Talk Service (Hotspot)!

My phone issues are solved, as the cost of our cellular carrier was getting stratospheric. We got three phones and a months worth of service for $304 with tax. Thus far, we're very happy with same and the phones, LG Sunrise are very functional and feature rich. The problem isn't with the phones, but with a hotspot I ordered for my business.

For the sum of $15.84, I ordered a hotspot from Straight Talk. Today I received a door tag and a policy that someone has to be present for the package to be dropped off. There's no way to either pick this up at FedEx (another corporate entity I'm not happy with), or just have them drop the package off. This is per Straight Talk's policy.

So my options are either to wait an entire day to receive this package, or eat this amount since the customer service is less than helpful. I've tried contacting them on their Facebook page to no avail. They even erased my comments.

So I would be leery of ordering from them if I were you; especially if you can't be present to wait for a package.

If you are with said company, everything I said was true. There is nothing defamatory about stating dissatisfaction with a product or service. If you want to resolve this in a workable manner; either allowing me to pick this up or refunding my money, I'll gladly write a follow up. Until then, I'm picking up a hotspot as I need one for my invoicing as my tablet is not cellular capable on its own.

UPDATE: I finally got the hotspot as FedEx called me to say that they has made 3 attempts to deliver and wanted to know if I stilled wanted it. All I needed was my driver's license. I picked this up and will start using this soon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Phone issues.

Currently, my phone isn't working until next week. Please email me at If you live in the Greater Lansing Area.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Enviro Flush Toilet Water Waste Woes Fix.

Disclaimer: This writer is not in any way, shape or form attempting to defame said product. If anything, this article is an attempt to correct a problem that caused a significant amount of water to be wasted. May it also understood that environmental regulations play an important part in the design of said plumbing fixture. It is a product that provides great value for the money considering the escalating costs of plumbing fixtures. The tank is also insulated, which is the main reason I bought it. A new toilet can cost in excess of $300.

You can flood your bathroom in a major way, plus damage expensive and impossible to get parts. In extreme cases you can even cut yourself badly on broken porcelain. A trip to the home center to get a new toilet, or a trip to emergency department at the local hospital are not fun. Read the directions that should come with ANY parts you buy. This article is no substitute for common sense and plumbing knowledge. When in doubt, consult the services of a licensed plumber or handyperson, depending on your locality and codes. Speaking of codes, it is the sole responsibility of the installer to make sure that all parts and methods comply with all applicable plumbing and building codes. Anti siphon fill valves are code mandated everywhere to prevent contamination of drinking water. Do NOT use any in tank toilet bowl cleaners as these WILL damage the parts installed and make servicing them MUCH more difficult. It is also the installer's responsibility to install these to prevent wasting water. Perform this fix and all other fixes at your own risk.

The Enviro Flush toilet was sold at Menards a few years back and they were and still are a great value for the money. It was this writer's first experience with a 3 inch flush valve as well as a anti slam seat, an elongated bowl, and low water usage for a flush that rivals and exceeds the old toilets in many respects. I spent about $110 for this, plus tax in 2013 and I've had a few issues with it starting in late 2015.

In the interest of saving water, the fill valve has a slight delay. After you flush the handle, the fill valve is timed until the flush valve closes before it lets water into the tank. The problem is when the flush valve hangs up, by the time there would a realization there's a problem the user has already left the room. Christmas Eve of 2015, this wasted 1500 gallons of water when the flush valve hung up.

This writer has tried to adjust the chain numerous times to no avail. Having mixed success replacing just the flapper, it was time to replace the valve in its entire. Since this was going to be apart, it was also a good idea to change out the fill valve and bolts to the tank as well. The handle was a bit rusty, but still in good shape and since there wasn't a viable replacement, this is going to have to be saved.

I bought a Fluidmaster 3 inch flush valve  for $15 (kind of pricey, but 3 inch valves are few and far between, and to be fair this is an excellent product once it's installed) and a Plumb Pak Universal Adjustable Fill Valve  for $8. Both were from Lowe's. Both of these will fit through the insulation without difficulty and will give you plenty of room to work.

I installed both according to directions. The flapper valve is a bit tricky as you need to install the chain on the outermost bracket, or it may not flush right. This needs to placed in the tank the same way as the old one, and you can raise the overflow tube if you want, As it is, this valve sits lower than the old one by 1/2 an inch; keep this in mind when adjusting the tube and the water level to save same. Raising the level more than this is unnecessary and wasteful without providing much more force when you flush.

The handle can stay in the tank, as the new fill valve is much smaller than the original. I used a large pair of gripping pliers to carefully snug the flush valve and secured the fill valve hand tight (do NOT USE tools on this flush valve as you WILL damage the valve or the tank. The new bolts with the flush valve kit need to be installed in the same way as the old ones were, carefully snugging them down. Over-tightening them will crack the tank and necessitate the purchase of a new toilet as these tanks are probably made of unobtainium at this point. Install the tank to flush valve

At this point, install the tank to the bowl with the wing nuts and washers you saved from the old bolts (you did save them, right?). Tighten them down enough to keep the tank from rocking, but no more as you will wreck the bowl. The length of the chain is probably the second most difficult thing to do on this fix. It needs to be fairly taut when hooked to the flush handle, but not so taut that it opens the valve and wastes water.

The proper way for this to operate is for the valve to open fully when you press the flush handle and then close by itself. Once you have the chain installed, then hook up the water line to the fill valve and turn on the water slowly checking for leaks. Following the directions for the fill valve, adjust this so the water level is about 1/2 inch below where it was before. Make sure the tank fills, the water level is right and the fill valve shuts off. Then flush this to make sure the flush is correct. Test and retest this until you're satisfied it works. Put the lid back on the tank, clean up your mess and you are done and have saved yourself lots of time, money, water and aggravation. Maranatha!

P.S. The flush valve lets the water drain into the bowl, while the fill valve fills the tank.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pickup Bed Cover On The Cheap, Part Two : Materials

I've been looking at some designs on YouTube and elsewhere for the "perfect" design and may hybridize a few to make my own. The diamond plate ones look nice, but the price of these are going to be way over budget, and this stuff is heavy, very heavy for the gauge I need for this to bend or buckle. I've also ruled our OSB, oriented strand board or 'chipboard' as many call it because of its lack of water resistance and irregularity, While I've seen some nice covers made from this material, especially on a Subaru Baja, this was covered in vinyl and one a much shorter and narrower bed. We get snowfall here as well as the occasional errant child climbing on or into my bed. Unless I want to add extra support, and weight to this cover OSB will not be my material of choice.

Plywood is also a good alternative, as it is stronger than OSB under some circumstances and is slighty more water resistant, but will still be heavy

Hinges are something else that are under consideration. Piano hinges are cleaner, but not as durable on heavier materials, considering this cover will be opened and closed 15 to 20 times a day. They will leave a lot less profile through a cover than shed door hinges as as long as the material is reasonably light, they should work fine.

Laminate Floor Lamentations.

Laminate floors are a boon to those who even have an inkling of D.I.Y.-ing. You don't have to be mechanically inclined, and you don't even need power tools. All you need to do is read a tape measure and use a laminate floor cutter. No dust or muss. The instructions are pretty simple on the package, but here are a few things I've learned. This is not a comprehensive instruction manual, and before you're done you will probably laugh at this post and wonder what planet this writer is on. No worries :)

UPDATE: If you want to solicit your company, don't even bother as comments are moderated. I will delete them before they even see the light of day.

  • If you have to use a saw, air compressor, or other power tools, wear eye AND hearing protection. Hearing damage is cumulative and eye damage can be in an instant; both can be irreversible. I still have problems with my left eye years after getting a chemical burn on my cornea. 
  • Hand protection against slivers and cuts is also a good idea. Nothing stops a new floor like a trip to the local emergency department. 
  • If practical, remove everything from the room you're working on. 
  • The foam, or rolled underlayment works best on a level floor. You will want to use 1/4 plywood on an uneven or patched subfloor. 
  • You can place this stuff over carpeting provided it's 1/4 inch or less pile. It will also go over linoleum, sheet vinyl, etc. 
  • To save the sanity of the person working on or installing a dishwasher or other appliance, this flooring MUST extend UNDER the appliance. If you've ever had to jockey a dishwasher over a 3/4 inch ridge of finished floor from under a granite counter-top, you know while I'm talking about. It's a pain in the ass and is probably against code in certain areas.  Refrigerators are not only inconvenient when trying to pull them out, but almost impossible over a ridge; these can weigh more than 500 pounds. The finish floor MUST go under ALL appliances; this is NOT an option if you want them worked on at a later date. 
  • Think about which direction the floor should go. I like going perpendicular to the main doorway in the room, or parallel to the lay of the rest of the floor in the house. 
  • There are many ways to put this type of floor in, but the seams need to be staggered. I measure the floor, minus 1/2 inch and divide it by finished length of your pieces, Then I cut a piece the length of the remainder, but the cut edge MUST go to the wall or the pieces won't lock together. I try and start with an uncut piece, then another until I go as far as I can, THEN cut the remainder. You will need to cut that same length on the opposite side and then start on the opposite end. 
  • Add spacers around the floor as you work and keep your weight on the section you've already laid. This will make life much easier. 
  • Lock the short seam 1/8 inch before bringing down to lock on the long seam, and then pull it towards you. Press each course down as you finish before starting the next one. 
  • A laminate cutter is a good idea when laying this stuff down as the dust a saw creates with this material can harm your lungs. It's much quieter and less fatiguing too. 
  • An oscillating tool is another helpful thing to have when notching trim and cutting out heat runs through the floor. It's safer than a saber saw and since the original inventor (Fien) patent ran out, these can be had for less than $100. I use a Dremel version of these and it works great; got it on Ebay for about $40. 
The best thing to do is buy the material and get to it. This is one project where it's fun to learn as you go. Maranatha!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pickup Truck Bed Cover On the Cheap.

I love my truck, which is a 2008 Dodge Dakota. It has done everything I've asked it to do to date. It's hauled luggage to and from Detroit, lumber, and other materials to fix the house, tools, groceries, and even trash from my house to the community dumpsters. It's also hauled our yard waste to the community compost heap without the time or expense of those inane paper lawn bags.

One of the main problems with this and any other pickup truck is that it's open. This means things can blow out, be lifted out (by thieves), get rained or snowed on, or simply get snow or ice in my bed that I have to get up into and remove. Every time I take this through an automatic car wash means taking everything out of the bed and putting it in the cab.

The other thing with this truck is that storage space inside is very limited. There's no space under the seats, in the glove box or anywhere else save the floor or back seat, which are small for a quad cab truck. This necessitated putting a slightly used toolbox in the bed to store that stuff, but this is a pain in the butt to open if too much is placed inside or the lid flexes just right. The height to make this useful means it blocks my vision in the back and necessitates a spotter to back it up.

While a back up camera would work wonders, these also cost about $150 and only address one problem, which is the view. More wiring and mods would be needed. This is not in the plan right now.

Another issue is fuel economy as with any truck. While I'm not looking to make this into a Prius, even a half of a mile a gallon increase would be nice. While a slotted tailgate would solve that issue, it would cost about $200 and only solve one issue.

So here are the options. One is buy a van, and eventually, this is going to happen. However it will be a much more expensive story. Another is to buy a topper, but the going rate for a new one is about $1700 to $2000 for a new one for my truck. I've yet to find one in my area used. Considering the rarity of my truck to say a Chevy Silverado half ton with an 8 foot bed, this is a no go. Considering the truck is 8 years old, investing $2000 on anything that doesn't make it go doesn't make a lot of sense. My storage space for something like this is also at a premium, so it would have to sit behind my house at risk of damage or theft when I'm not using it.

A tonneau, or bed cover is also an option, but a soft cover isn't one at all. These tear easy, can't secure cargo or tools and are meant to keep the rain off, that's it. They also need bows to keep the water from pooling in and are frankly more trouble than they're worth. These are about $200 plus some install time.

A hard tonneau cover is more my speed because I can remove and store it easier when I need the space above my bed rails for moving furniture and whatnot. They afford more security, safety and convenience. They also give the bed a finished look and an aerodynamic advantage more or less. However, they are expensive; about $700 to $1000 for a good one. This is better than a topper, but still pricey for a used truck of this one's vintage.

So my option is to build one. I don't know how much the materials, or what they should be, as I've never built one before. I am going to learn in the next few weeks and hopefully this project will pan out and give some much needed writing material. Maranatha!

Silicone Wedding Rings Revisited and a Caution.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor; I am a handyman who has some relevant and hopefully helpful advice. This should not equate with competent medical advice nor is out to condemn or defame any material or manufacturer. In fact I am a proponent of the products as they promote safety in the workplace as well as assisting in keeping marriage vows. I will update this article as I find out more on this subject. 

As in one of my earlier posts, because I am a tradesman and have been one most if not all of my adult life and I'm averse to spending lots of money on jewelry (or anything for that matter) I bought some silicone wedding bands from 

The bands I bought were NOT Qalo, but some off brand I can't remember. They are made of silicone and have garnered many compliments, especially from women (which is why I'm glad I have them because I want them to know I'm married). 

They've performed as advertised and have taken their share of pinches, scuffs and scrapes with only a minor blemish. I can't say that with any other material I've tried including titanium, stainless steel or gold. 

However, there is a bit of caution with these rings from my limited experience with same. You might want to take it off from time to time, clean it and your hand with a good antibacterial soap. Walgreens has some soap for those who wear artificial limbs that will kill bacteria for six hours. Since my hands sweat and get into some very dirty places, including washers and dish machines, I was getting this gunk under the ring and it was beginning to stink and get infected. 

I've been dousing my finger with Neosporin and have stopped wearing it altogether. If I do wear another ring again, I will buy a Qalo and get it one size bigger as to allow my finger to 'breathe' plus the soap used daily or more depending on the day I'm having. 

Again, I'm not bashing the use of silicone weddings rings as they are a great idea who time has long been overdue. You should take some cautions to prevent an infection that may cost you a finger, or a hand which is what these rings when worn properly are made to prevent. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

XO vision XD107 MP3 Player Review.

XO XD107 
From my continuing review on the Dakota, one of the things I wanted for it was a radio that had a Bluetooth for my phone, a navigational system, and an MP3 player. While the Pioneer worked, the color changing every time I went to change the volume got to be frustrating at best and dangerous because there was no easy way to turn the radio down or answer the phone hands free.
I priced out some systems, including used ones at a pawnshop, and the cheapest was $300. My GPS still works, sort of and I can rig a system for my iPad at some point to act as a navigational aid. I could always pick up a Garmin at some point. The real issue was being able to go hands free with the cell phone and get rid of the CD's; saving valuable space in the truck and preventing another distraction behind the wheel.

Yes, I could have bought a Ram Promaster City, Transit Connect, or Chevy City Express with these features, but the cost of these was too much to put up with for a vehicle that can only work. A pickup truck can haul anything and I can carry more than one other person in mine. A van will be in my future eventually, but this is a much more expensive story.

Besides, this unit boasts all of the connectivity for under $20. A bit skeptical, I bought the last one Walmart had on the shelf and in about an hour had this in my truck. It took me another couple hours to load my music collection onto a 2GB SD card, but you can also use a flash drive, which I also have. The SD cards I have are bigger than the flash drives I have, save one.

The manual is pretty straightforward and the control are a bit small and more than a little simplistic. Volume, tone, and other audio control are intuitive, as are scrolling through the tracks. It also comes with a remote, which is good when you can play the stereo while outside the truck. I like the fact it shows the track with a song and singer, but some words will need to be interpreted as they will scroll if they are larger than the six characters allotted by the blue LED screen.

The radio has three FM settings, but no AM at all. If you like listening to talk radio, this could be a dealbreaker. I personally like listening to the local Christian stations on the FM anyway, so no worries. Advancing through the music selections is also simplistic; either back ten, forward ten, or back or forward one at  a time. Presets and setting the time is also easy to do. Shutting off the radio also means not seeing the clock, which can be a pain.

The hands free set up is really easy. Just pair up your phone (iPhone or 'Droid) with the unit and it will cut off the radio and signal you to answer the phone or decline the call. My only issue is that the buttons are a bit on the small side (as they are on most aftermarket systems) but the sound is as good as any OEM system one work vans or trucks that cost a decent house payment a month.

Is this system perfect? The answer is no. However, this is a very cheap alternative to buying the aforementioned "new" vehicles with the big payments, or some sound system that could get jacked in a bad part of town. I will post follow ups from time to time and if it calls it quits or I get tired of it, I'll post that too. Maranatha!

Wiring to Doors and Liftgate Fix. (This is for you, Vladimir!!!!)

Disclaimer: This applies to many cars and trucks that have wiring inside doors and lift gates manufacturers (read assemblers) run wiring through the hinge side of the jamb into and through the door to provide niceties such as power windows, locks, mirrors, blind spot monitoring, electric latches, and every other vestige of technical prowess an engineer can cram into it. It will not apply to all doors and with newer vehicles, it would be best to consult a competent mechanic or dealer service department to perform this fix.

DANGER!!! Airbags are sometimes located inside the door as well. If this is the case, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS FIX. Take it to a mechanic. You could be severely injured or killed. Doors will be marked with 'airbag' 'SRS' or other nomenclature (names). These are also marked with bright yellow wiring and connectors, but any voltage, including static electricity may set these off.

WARNING!!! accessories in many if not all later model cars (built after 1996) are computer control are multiplexed. This means that wires serve to communicate as well as to transfer voltage and perform more than one function for one given wire. A wiring diagram, as well as a grounding strap would be a good idea for this fix if you attempt it.

This article is not a substitute for troubleshooting and diagnostics, perform this and all other fixes at your own risk.

I've seen this in cars and appliances where manufacturers are proving minimal slack at stress points in wiring and using thinner wire. When a door, hatch or lift gate is opened and closed thousands of times, the wiring connecting the door to the body shell can and will break. The result is that your windows, locks and other accessories will not work correctly. Since latches are usually on the lift gates of most modern vehicles, it also means these won't work with a remote.

What you need to do is test if there is voltage or a signal going to the accessory when you operate it. if not, test it at the source inside the vehicle, usually at the body control module or connector inside. You can also attempt to test for continuity from the connector to the part that isn't working with an ohmmeter. an infinity reading means the wire is broken. This will mean removing lots of interior parts. It would be a good idea to have a service manual on your vehicle.

Okay, so you've determined the wiring is broken. The best bet is to remove the affected wiring harness and replace it with a new one. This means taking a lot of bits apart to get access to it. Another fix that I do is to disconnect the battery, and any connectors to get enough slack in the wiring. Carefully removing any boot or covering. Then you can  splice the damage wire using butt connectors (not the best plan as these can pull out) or by soldering and heat shrink tubing (which is best). It would be a good idea to add a bridge of wire to give this more slack as the repaired section will be shorter and more prone to breakage.  Heat shrink tubing will be a good idea to make sure these connections don't short out against the frame or other wires. Test the circuit, but the vehicle back together and you're done. Maranatha!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Teen Car Project, Epilogue

My 2004 Grand Am will likely be finding a new home. After my parents' 2003 GMC Envoy had some mechanical issues that thanks to a VERY incompetent dealer service sidelined it for over a month, they put tires and a battery in this car to drive it until the Envoy was back up and running again.

I wrote a very scathing review to the dealer's Facebook page on Saturday and on Monday, they released their truck, which was promptly fixed at an independent mechanic in Grand Ledge. The Grand Am's temperature gauge was hovering over the red mark, and I changed the thermostat and nearly changed the water pump trying to correct the problem.

I had the car towed to this same mechanic, who determined the instrument cluster was having issues. So this is being rebuilt as we speak and then the car will be in safe operating condition. My parents have expressed interest in getting this car, which is ironic considering I've called this the Teen Car Project. Though young at heart, they are both in their sixties.

It will help them, and us as we won't have to worry about storing, gassing or insuring it and it will give my mom something to drive. Maranatha!

Refrigerator Water Filter Foible Fix.

Okay, you finally got tired of the "change water filter" symbol on your Samsung, LG, or other refrigerator and plunked fifty bucks to get a new one. Then you snap the old one out and snap the new one in. First thing you hear is a noise reminiscent of a jackhammer as the entire kitchen shakes, and then you try and run the requisite six gallons of water through your dispenser; only thing is that little to no water dibbles out.

First of all, I'm a big fan of inline water filters when all possible. As long as you have easy access to the stop or shut off valve to the refrigerator, these are less of a pain in the butt to install. Problem is today's manufacturers can't leave a good enough thing alone and are hell bent to improve upon it; especially if it means more revenue for them. The result is there are more than a few types of filters that look like oil filters or something out of Buck Rodgers. These snap in an activate a valve that allows water to filter through into your glass or ice maker.

The problem is that if you snap these into quickly, you might cause the valve not to activate. Now I can't guarantee this will work for EVERY situation, but if you install, that is screw or snap in the new filter s-l-o-w-l-y, you will not only equalize the pressures inside, but you may get things working again. The trick is to remove the filter if you've already installed. Then push and turn until you hear a hiss and water rushing in before you secure it to the housing.

The result should be fresh, clean water that flows quickly into your sippy cup or ice maker IF you get this right.

You could make an argument for NOT changing the filter, ever. However, this is also a mistake as water is a breeding ground for pathogens such as Legionaries (Legionella) Guardia, Cryptosporidium, or other water borne maladies. These filters are good for six months and should be changed regularly or you should install a bypass. Maranatha!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Teen Car Project :Intro.

First of all, experience has shown that getting a car as a teenage in high school is a really dumb idea on so many levels. The main one being that if your teenage son or daughter gets a car, especially one that needs work, expect his or her grade average to drop one full point. This means that a "C" student will become a "D" student. Cars are also extremely expensive and few will have the resources to keep one in safe operating condition. I know because I made $3.35 an hour in the 1980's and drove a 1977 Olds Delta 88. This car had about 100,000 miles when I paid $500 for it and there were issues right out of the gate. I replaced the speedometer cable, the alternator, the starter, the steering column after I broke it trying to fix the turn signal, the lug studs, a tie rod end, the exhaust, the timing chain, engine, transmission, windshield, dashboard, and most of the brake line as well as a door and front fender that had gotten mashed in an argument with a Ford Escort.  When I sold the car for $200 in 1989, I had spent over $2500 in repairs and hundreds of hours fixing this dinosaur. I had the car for 2 years, and the new owner still had the audacity to complain that he had to change the oil. I should have given this thing to my mom as a trade in for her new car, a 1989 Chevy Beretta.

It wasn't until about 1994 that I got something half way decent; a 1989 Buick Skyhawk that I drove past 150,000 miles back and forth from Jackson and Battle Creek day in and day out. I was working my first full time job and had finally gotten "established". Even then, this car needed a ton of work necessitated by the abuse I put it through. I sold it and have owned a small fleet of cars and trucks since.

The one vehicle in the Fixing Grace fleet we've had 10 years is a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am. It has outlasted two residences, five jobs and soldiered on 129,009 miles; 112,000 of those we put on the thing. It's outlived my Intrepid and Rendezvous combined and has had comparatively little work done to it. We've installed two batteries, several sets of tires (because my wife doesn't get them rotated), a washer pump, a used fuel pump, repaired a wire harness, a signal flasher and switch, the brakes in front, both front bearings, a radio, spark plugs, a windshield, headlights, two sets of struts, both tie rods, all the regulators for the windows (twice) and two sets of control arm bushings. The engine has never been taken apart, the car has the original water pump, alternator, starter and power steering rack and pump. The transmission has been serviced twice and the exhaust has never been changed or repaired. I've done the majority of the work myself. The repairs have cost us about $4000, not counting oil changes. Not too bad for a second rate car.

Current problems are the battery, the front tires are bald, some very minor rust, and some issues with the brake light in the center. The car has also had some parking lot scars from less than considerate drivers, including a rear bumper cover my wife didn't call the police on. The air conditioner has been charged once since we got it, and that was last summer. It will need a recharge for sure this spring.

So why all this you might ask? Because this seems like the typical car a teen or young adult can afford. It runs much better than the aforementioned Olds I had that barely turned 100,000 miles before it had major engine problems. Ironically, both vehicles were made at the same plant. The air con had quit on the Olds before I got it. It still works on the Pontiac. Say what you want about American cars, but things have improved a lot over nearly 3 decades, but I digress.

I'm going to get this back on the road and make it roadworthy before using it myself, or selling it. It will also hopefully give you, the reader an idea of what it really takes to keep something running within a budget. Unlike a lots of programs that fix cars on TV, there will be no sponsors or high dollar projects. I will not be installing too many upgrades on this save for a few basic ones. A car like this is not a status symbol, nor was it when we bought it ten years ago. It was a means for my wife to get to work, get the boys to school and to run parts when my beaters needed work. It served my friends from Montana when they came to visit. Now my aim is to get it in workable condition, and to fix some nagging problems with same. God willing, I'll have it done in a month or so. Maybe then, Wells Fargo will have sent us the title since we paid it off in 2012. Maranatha!