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 Amazon.com. 

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!