This brief post is about repair of what is apparently a common fault of front loading washers that have been made by Samsung and other manufacturers in recent years. Recently, our Kenmore model 592-49057 had started making alarmingly loud thumping noises during operation, especially during high speed spin cycle segments. The cause turned out to be a broken support flange or “spider” inside the washer tub. Sears Canada was unable to supply the part I needed, but after finding the Samsung model number, actually 59249057 (surprise!), I was able to figure out the Samsung replacement part number DC97-14875B for the spider for our “Kenmore” machine. I found it on ebay via a parts source in Pennsylvania by searching on the part number. It was about Cdn $140 with shipping to BC. The actually repair is pretty easy but a lot of parts have to come out before you can get at the spider.(more…)
September 20, 2016
July 13, 2016
A plumbing problem I had to deal with this week was removal of an old bathtub drain flange. What sometimes happens with these drains, and had happened in this case, is that corrosion weakens the metal crosshairs located at the bottom of the flange inside the drain that are normally used to trap a drain wrench such that the flange can be unscrewed. I tried a few standard tricks, including using a cutting wheel to notch the drain collar such that a screwdriver could be hammered against it to cause it to rotate. None of those tricks were successful. Fortunately there is a good custom tool on the market for just this job. (more…)
February 21, 2016
I had a great time doing some interesting repairs at the Repair Cafe event in Campbell River yesterday. One of the most interesting and challenging repairs was that of a Food Saver plastic bag vacuum sealer, for which the heat sealing wasn’t functioning, but the vacuum function was apparently OK. In this case, the problem was not apparently common heat strip failure, but rather a failed vacuum activated switch. Here’s what I did to diagnose and repair it.(more…)
November 14, 2015
This post is about a fun, relatively easy repair/restoration project on a classic piece of electric guitar/music gear: a Traynor YGL3 Mark 3 amplifier. The YGL3 is a vacuum tube -based piece of rock/music history. This project grew out of the Repair Cafe event in the Campbell River Sportsplex last month that I was a volunteer repair person for. A new friend, Joedy W, had brought this amp in to the Repair Cafe, but I didn’t have the time or the parts during that busy day to do the full repair. After I got back from some travels, we were able to re-connect yesterday and I could get to work on the amp. The whole repair/restore operation had four distinct elements to it. This was a pretty interesting project for me because I had never worked on a musical instrument amp before (that I can recall), but the repairs needed were fairly easy, requiring diagnosis mainly by observation with ears and eyes and ultimately just one test instrument, an ohmmeter.(more…)
September 14, 2015
For the past few years I’ve been using an inexpensive hand-pumped sprayer to kill moss on my roof in Campbell River. The sprayer is an HDX-branded 2 gallon tank sprayer from Home Depot, sells for about $20. The moss removal serves far more than cosmetic purposes for the house; the moss eventually grows underneath the roof shingles and can lift them up and cause leaks, as well as holding moisture that will seep into the roof. The ingredients I use for the spray are typically 20-30% vinegar (the cheapest I can find at nearby grocery store) and the rest, tap water. Low toxicity and low impact to things other than moss and other vegetation.(more…)
September 13, 2015
Our coffee grinder had stopped working. Now that for me is a near-emergency situation demanding repair. This is the grinder, brand “Hamilton Beach”(more…)
August 29, 2015
This is an instance of a seemingly intractable repair that turned out to be very easy. One light on my neighbour Klari’s kitchen tracklight system had failed, and the problem wasn’t the bulb. Having experienced Klari’s fine cooking, this was an important repair for me to do, to help her kitchen be in the best state possible for more! (more…)
September 2, 2014
Just finished a repair of a 1980′s vintage Aiwa cassette deck: Aiwa model 3500 (see http://www.vintagecassette.com/Aiwa/AD-3500), a 3-head model with decent performance for its era. The drive system was essentially nonfunctional. Why, you might ask, would I bother fixing such an old piece of electronics? The answer is that I needed a sound source for a “goose barker” to connect up to an amp and speakers to scare some persistent geese off my mother’s lawn, and a cassette deck was a pretty good choice, given that it was here and available. (more…)
August 25, 2014
For several months, the primary audio system in Gimli’s media room (well, the couch is Gimli’s) has had the annoying problem of an intermittent left channel due to a problematic volume control element, one part in a triple-ganged, motorized potentiometer in an otherwise great Pioneer VSX-3800 receiver . I’d tried the usual fixes such as a couple of “control cleaner” sprays, a few times, with only temporary success at best. So, based on previous similar experiences, this electronics doctor decided that it was time to operate on the patient. This time, I had no replacement part on hand, and it was looking impossible to get one shipped to me quickly. Here’s the procedure:
July 19, 2014
Recently I found that the centreboard (or daggerboard) gasket on my 1990′s vintage AHD Eliminator classic windsurfing raceboard had almost completely disintegrated. Here is what it looked like.
Here’s what I did to replace it. (more…)
April 6, 2014
Our trusty 1997 Subaru Outback AKA “The Nimbus” recently began to exhibit the standard symptoms of CV joint failure: popping/clicking noises when turning, and grease escape. When I first reached under to check it late at night, I got a hand full of black grease from the exposed innards of the CV joint. Closer inspection revealed that the rubber CV boot on the driver’s side was actually torn apart.
December 27, 2013
This repair almost falls into the “most repairs are easy” group but it took me a bit of extra trial and error to find the problem this time. Our home in Campbell River that we moved into in 2012 had a motion detector light at the front entrance that had never worked correctly. The sensitivity to motion was much too low, and the sensitivity adjustment made no sense; the sensitivity was poor and useless, since motion more than a few feet away was not detected, and the sensitivity was at a maximum at the middle of the adjustment range, and at a roughly equal minimum at the supposed max and min settings. Usual caution: before you try repairing such a light yourself, disconnect the AC power! Be safe.
July 7, 2013
I’ve now seen the same starter motor failure in three different vehicles, a 1996 Plymouth Vogager (same as Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Caravan), 1988 Toyota van, and 1987 Toyota Tercel, over the past 15 years, in what looks to be the same model starter motor. The motor appears to be made by NipponDenso. Essentially, the copper contacts inside the high current switch that turns the motor on erode (possibly by spark erosion) to the point that contact across them is no longer made by a solenoid-driven plunger, and as a result the starter motor gets no power and won’t crank the engine. Typically, these contacts can be easily and cheaply replaced. Here’s how I did this repair in my 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE (3.8L V6) (more…)
June 22, 2013
I rarely have the time that I’d like to have, to allocate to repairing things in the thorough way that I would prefer to. Here’s one such case, with a quick workaround that, well, just works. For several months, the fuel gauge on my 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager (pretty much the same vehicle as Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country) had been working intermittently, and finally 2 weeks ago, it stopped working altogether. (more…)
January 13, 2013
Recently I had to replace the serpentine belt in my 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE. These belts used to be called “fan belts” in olden times when they used to mainly drive the fan, and sometimes are also called “accessory belts”. This same van. Pretty much the same vehicle as a Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Grand Caravan of the same era. Mine has the 3.8L V6 engine. Belt replacement procedure is apparently similar to what is needed for the 3.0L but the 2.4L version will be different due to a different belt tensioner and different accessory pulley layout. “Serpentine” is a good adjective for the belt in the 3.8L since it takes a tortuous path around no less than 7 pulleys. And yes, the first three people aware of this repair all immediately thought of this great flick, re Serpentine! Serpentine!. (more…)
September 17, 2012
For more than a decade, I’ve been using a series of HP and Compaq laptops and as a result, I had accumulated a pile of expired, apparently dead batteries composed of lithium-based cells. I decided to resuscitate a couple of the old laptops for a project in Campbell River, and needed a couple of working batteries. Rather than buy new ones, I decided to crack open a few of the old ones to see if they still had any working cells that I could re-use. (more…)
April 6, 2012
In my quest to make our coffee drinking more coffee-efficient, I recently purchased a single-cup coffee machine by manufacturer Hamilton Beach, when it was on sale for $49.95 at Canadian Tire. Unfortunately, after some testing, I found that this coffee maker made coffee far too weak for my taste, even using its “bold” setting. It was forcing water through the wire mesh filter system at too high a flow rate. Here’s the modification that I did to it to cause it to make better coffee.
March 23, 2012
Recently the “Check Engine” light came on in a vehicle sometimes known as “Gimli’s Beach Chariot” , actually my wife’s 1999 Honda Civic. The car has about 200,000km on it (and not much rust, being a BC vehicle.) An OBDC II code reader showed the problem code as Power Train 0141, related to the lower oxygen sensor. This turned out to be a pretty simple repair (nice when that happens). The hardest part, no surprise, was getting the old corroded parts out. Here’s what I did. (more…)
I like to see the innovations that come from people who tinker with repairing things. Here’s one great example that I’m particularly happy to cite: My old friend Greg Knowles has recently launched his new kite repair business, Comox Kite Repair. Greg is a master at repairing plastics and fabrics, as I’ve witnessed from his years of windsurfing sail and board repair, and he has developed some great techniques for fixing torn kites and kite bladders. Go Greg! Kiteboarders should take note of his site http://comoxkiterepair.ca!
February 23, 2012
Recently I was looking for a cheap pocket camera with a big zoom range to keep handy in my pocket for going to the dog beach with Gimli and other adventures. I happened to spot one of my candidate cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8, in “Not Working” state on eBay. The camera problem was that it had the lens stuck open in the extended position. As a result, the camera was nonfunctional and the display showed the error message “System Error (Zoom)”.
A stuck lens is a very common problem with modern digital cameras with telescoping zoom mechanisms. Having acquired this broken camera, mainly as a personal repair challenge, I set upon trying to fix the apparently stuck lens. What I’ve documented here is probably quite applicable to these other very similar Panasonic models (DMC-ZS3, DMC-ZS7, DMC-TZ10, DMC-ZS10, DMC-ZS15, DMC-TZ20) and possibly other cameras from other manufacturers, especially those using similar Leica lenses.
I had a few key clues as to what the problem with this one was. Apart from the error message and the out-of-position lens, when I put my ear to the camera, I could faintly hear the zoom motor running when I switched the camera from playback to shooting mode, so I knew that the zoom system was getting power and the motor was at least somewhat functional. Use all your senses! None of the usual tricks of power cycling and pushing various buttons and rotating and holding the zoom lever to reset the lens and camera worked, so I began disassembly to have a closer look for the problem. Here’s what I did to fix it. (more…)
February 21, 2012
I have a pair of 14.4 volt flashlights that were part of rechargeable toolsets that go with these NiCd battery packs. Each flashlight had a subminiature bayonet-base incandescent bulb, for which the filament had died after several years of use. When they were working, they were great for lighting for automotive and other repairs, since they could be aimed easily and sat solidly on top of the battery pack base. The obvious thing to do was to modernize them with LED’s, but I had no immediate source of replacement LED-based bulbs for that voltage and socket type. All I could quickly find were LED “bulbs” to fit the more common automotive 1156 socket size. However, I was able to get some unmounted, white, high-brightness 3.2-3.6V LED’s, so I decided to use those to retrofit into the bases of two old bulbs from my flashlights. Four of the LED’s in series per bulb brought me close to the nominal battery voltage.
January 28, 2012
Got an old pair of speakers that don’t bark as well at the low end as they did in their younger days? You might be suffering from the dreaded woofer foam rot. Recently, I had been hunting for a good, cheap pair of speakers to partner with my newly repaired Hitachi receiver. I luckily found some free on Craigslist; someone just 2 blocks from me was giving away a great pair of 4-way Audio Research speakers with massive 12″ woofers, probably 1980′s vintage. They were “great”, that is, except that the suspension foam surrounding the woofers had almost completely decayed away.
This is the well-known “foam rot” problem seen in woofers and other high-compliance drivers of similar age. A few decades ago, speaker manufacturers started using a glued-on ring of shaped foam in place of the concentric corrugated cardboard surround on hifi speaker woofers, presumably to reduce distortion, especially at high excursion amplitudes. Unfortunately, the use of this foam has a recomplicating effect; it tends to decay away in 20 or so years, rendering the woofers useless. (The foam is apparently far from stable, which is good reason also to wear gloves when doing this repair; I don’t know the composition or the decay products.) Fortunately, there is an easy solution; there are many vendors of new, precise-fitting woofer foam, and the repair can be done quickly. (more…)
January 26, 2012
As you can see throughout this blog, I do a lot of repairs of durable goods ranging from cars to electronics. I’m writing a book on closely related topics now (stay tuned here for publication news). One of my contentions is that most repairs are quite easily accomplished with only a small set of tools and rudimentary expertise. In addition, often, the source of the problem can be found by simple visual inspection. Here is one such example.
I had in my electronic “junk pile” an old Hitachi SR-5150 stereo receiver that a neighbour had discarded in the fertile back lanes of Vancouver, BC. The SR-5150 is roughly early 1970′s vintage; it is all solid state and has all discrete transistors (the power transistors are even Hitachi’s own), and an analog FM tuner driven mechanically with pulleys and a flywheel. Nothing high end, maybe 20-30W per channel judging from the power supply. The receiver was dead to the world; it would not show any signs of life when turned on. I was motivated to fix the thing because I was looking for a decent amp to use as part of a new sound system centred on a home computer. (more…)
January 15, 2012
One half of our 4-slice Black and Decker toaster hadn’t been working for several months. I finally decided to take a crack at fixing it, as I so often do with broken products. The hardship of insufficient independent toaster ports had become unbearable (or more accurately, I couldn’t resist tinkering with the thing.) I suspected a broken filament from the outset. Here’s what I did for this repair. (more…)
December 27, 2011
Lately in my server logs I’ve been seeing a lot of attempts to hack into WordPress. The hackers appear to have automated means of working well-known exploits such as to timThumb.php and phpMyadmin, but also I’ve seen persistent efforts to do brute force login attacks using a big password set. A lot has been written about the exploits and patches exist for them that you can find elsewhere, but the simple way I avoid the most common brute force login hackers out of the gate is to not even have the well-known wordpress login script wp-login.php visible. (more…)
December 24, 2011
Recently, I needed to replace the fuel pump in my 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan. (Well actually, mine is a Plymouth Grand Voyager, same van but “Plymouth” no longer exists thanks to the Chrysler finance debacle and subsequent brand elimination. Pretty much the same vehicle also exists as a Chrysler Town and Country, another triumph of marketing, or something). Mine is the LE version, 3.8L V6 engine, but the procedure for other related models should be just about the same.
In these vans, the fuel pump sits in the fuel tank, and is mounted there via a port at the top-front of the tank. You’ll need to raise the back of the van and then lower the tank, to get at the pump and do the repair. (more…)
December 16, 2011
About 2 years ago, I installed programmable thermostats throughout our house, which has electric baseboard heaters. Now I have enough data to see the savings from that effort. Overall, I’ve been able to cut our electric usage by 30% to 50% during the cold months of the year in Vancouver (the larger number in the coldest months, November-February essentially). Compare the usage shown in the graph before and after fall 2009 when the programmable units were installed to see this. (Thanks BC Hydro for the graph!)
December 12, 2011
This post has been in the back of my mind for years. Here it is at last. I’m fed up with “air miles” and similar “rewards programs” such as we are frequently bombarded with by credit card vendors, banks, airlines, phone companies, and other businesses. The reason I would be a repeat customer for a particular product or service over one from a competing vendor is primarily because the product itself seems to be superior in various ways. Yes, price of that product is a factor, but I don’t need or want to be incented to buy (typically unrelated) things that have nothing to do with why I am even considering doing business with a specific vendor. (more…)
November 19, 2011
This post is about a method to restore (rejuvenate) NiCd (NiCad) battery packs that are failing to charge. I have 2 sets of cordless tools (drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw and more) that use rechargeable NiCd battery packs. Three of the battery packs were failing to charge. Having had some previous success with rejuvenating apparently expired NiCd cells, I decided to do some tinkering, and I was able to restore the packs such that they will now charge to a usable level. I’ve previously used the same procedure, at lower current, to rejuvenate NiCd cells for cordless phones.
These tool sets and battery packs are very common. Mine were MasterCraft brand purchased from Canadian Tire, but there are many similar ones on the market with other branding. I’d guess millions of similar cordless sets have been sold, so maybe someone else can benefit from this post and save a few $ on new batteries. Perhaps more significantly, maybe this will save some battery packs and even the tools themselves from adding to our garbage output; the Cd in the cells is very toxic, so the less of it we put into use and the less that goes into the waste stream, the better. (more…)
July 12, 2011
I recently built a new PC that I use for multimedia and other purposes. It’s Intel “Sandybridge” 1155 -based, with a Gigabyte P67 series motherboard and Realtek onboard sound. Unfortunately, like so many other recent PC audio systems, it doesn’t have sufficient output power to drive unamplified speakers directly. I have some unpowerd bookshelf speakers that I wanted to keep using. So, I added a cheap audio power amplifier to the Realtek output. The resultant system had slightly annoying audio frequency noise, not 60Hz noise but various other noise from misc. stuff in the PC. Here are some details re the amp and what I did to fix the noise problem.
The audio amplifier is one I found on eBay from a Chinese manufacturer, with labeling “Kinter 500W”. Price was about $10 including shipping, cheaper than I could build one for myself. I knew what was in the amp from some googling: an LM-series audio amp IC and typical supporting parts, providing a few watts per channel. Not the claimed 500W , but adequate for what I wanted. I run the amp from the PC 12V supply, which is far enough beyond spec for the other stuff in the PC that it’s fine to power the amp with it too. I started with a generic 1/8″ stereo to RCA patch cord about 3ft. long to connect the amp to the PC audio output. (more…)
June 18, 2011
Our old house (100 years old this year -stay tuned for the birthday party!) in Kitsilano needed some new entrance stairs. Some of the old stairs were loose and rotted, and the underlying “stringers” of the framework were badly rotted. I’m surprised after looking at them that no one broke through. So, I built some new stairs. It was a big job to tear the old ones apart but the new construction was OK. The biggest job was cutting custom stringers. I used more stringers than the original design, which seemed a bit flimsy, and added a central support pillar. Here’s a photo of the new construction, nearly done. (more…)
June 16, 2011
If you do a lot of painting and staining around your home like I do, you’ve probably gone through quite a few paintbrushes and may have tried to clean them after use with various nasty solvents or water. Here’s a simple tip to avoid using those solvents entirely, while keeping the brushes ready for next use. Just seal the used, still-wet brushes in plastic bags. I tend to use old bagel or bread bags since they are about the right size. Make sure the bag is airtight. Just flatten the bag to remove excess air, and knot or secure the bag opening once the brush is in, then store it. With this trick, I’ve found I can keep brushes ready-to-use for many months. This pretty much limits you to using the brush with one paint color or stain, but brushes themselves are pretty cheap. A fairly obvious tip and surely not a new idea, but given the benefits of reduced solvent use, and even time saved, this is probably worth posting.
October 28, 2010
For a while now, I’ve been working on my first book, Dog Friends. After many, many years of photographing great dogs, and great dog people, I’ve finally done a book about it. The book authoring and layout are complete now and the book should be available in early November. There is also a companion Dog Friends Calendar. Details are here on my Books page.
Update Nov. 19: I’m very happy to announce that Dog Friends is now available for sale online. I’ve received the first printed copies myself and am very pleased with the print quality by the publisher, Lulu.com. The Amazon Kindle eBook version is also now available. You can see excerpts and place book and calendar orders from my books page.
I have some useful experience now in publishing books through Lulu and also for Amazon Kindle. I might do a post later on my war stories about the hurdles I ran into and the details to be aware of – nothing serious, and I think both publishers are very good overall. In the mean time, if you have any questions for me about any of that, feel free to post here about it, or e-mail me at dogfriends[at]davebaar.com
September 19, 2010
I have a 1997 Subaru Outback with about 280,000km on it. It began showing the head gasket failure symptoms so typical of the Subaru boxer 2.5L engine of this series of cars: foaming/bubbling in the coolant (the reservoir actually looked like a boiling kettle when the engine was running), brief random apparent spikes of the temperature gauge, and coolant loss. Much has been written elsewhere about this issue, and there are a few references about the problem and some repair examples at the end of this blog. Known model years affected by this problem are at least 1996-2002, so be aware of it if you are looking at a used Subaru of that age. I decided to do the repair myself, being very inclined to tinkering, foolish enough to attempt it, and also being unwilling to spend about $2500+ for a shop mechanic to do the job.
Edit Oct. 2011: A few people have asked me about the “head gasket sealer in a can” products. There are a few on the market. I actually had tried one of these, Bar’s Leaks, before I did the real repair, with no success. What I’ve seen in other reports is that they simply don’t work on “internal” head gasket leaks such as what this series of Outbacks gets. Furthermore, given how severe the gasket damage tends to be, I don’t have much confidence in them. The gasket replacement job looks to be the only option, if you want to keep the engine. The good news, though, is that you don’t need to remove the engine from the car to do this repair.
Here are some details of the head gasket repair that I did, in case it helps anyone else trying to do the same thing. Note that this is a big job, (more…)
November 23, 2009
After that last post about trash, it’s time for a more positive one. One of the things I’ve gotten a lot out of thus far in life, without really intending to, is being a participant in some very interesting and somewhat diverse communities. That includes a number of recreational groups, such as the windsurfing, climbing, and photography communities, as well as in my working world of computing, Physics, and entrepreneurship. On the recreational front, I’ll always treasure those days spent with my co-founders of the Kingston Boardsailing Association (hi to Brian, Evan, Denise, Phil, Ruth, John, Cathy, and all the rest of you), especially on those windy days on Lake Ontario. It’s great to see after 20 years that the good old KBA is still sailing along! I did a short but rewarding stint as a director of the Jericho Sailing Centre Association, and I wish I had more time to be involved in the rock climbing community, which is a particularly diverse and interesting one. The Physics community is a particularly international one, at least through my own experiences, and took me to many places in North America plus a very rewarding period in Japan. (more…)
November 21, 2009
This summer on camping and climbing trips we noticed a disgusting trend that needs to be discouraged. In several places on Vancouver Island and in the Vancouver area, a lot of garbage was being left behind by lazy people. Sights like this one, from an unauthorized campsite in otherwise scenic Strathcona Park, were all too common.