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June 22, 2013

Worthwhile Workarounds: A Replacement Fuel Gauge for A 1996 Dodge Caravan

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

How to Replace the Serpentine Belt in a 1996 Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Vogager 3.8L V6

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…)

March 23, 2012

Replacing Oxygen Sensors in a 1999 Honda Civic

expired oxygen sensor

expired oxygen sensor

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…)

December 24, 2011

How To Change The Fuel Pump In A Dodge Caravan

fuel pump

fuel pump

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 12, 2011

Why I hate air miles (and other “rewards” programs)

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

How to rejuvenate rechargeable NiCd batteries

NiCd battery pack, assembled

NiCd battery pack

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…)

September 19, 2010

My Subaru Outback Head Gasket Repair


Don't try this at home.

This could be your Subaru (parts).

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…)

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