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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…)

June 18, 2011

New stairs for the old house

Filed under: photos,pictures,repair,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:39 pm
New stairs for the old house

New stairs for the old house

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…)

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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