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July 13, 2016

Removing a Bathtub Drain That Has Broken Crossbars

Drain Extractor tool

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

Repair of a Food Saver model V845

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.

the patient

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November 14, 2015

Repair of a Traynor YGL3 Mark 3 Guitar Amplifier and Accusonic Reverb Tank

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.

Traynor YGL3 Mark 3 amplifier

The Patient: Traynor YGL3 Mark 3 amplifier

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September 13, 2015

Fixing a Hamilton-Beach Coffee Grinder

Our coffee grinder had stopped working. Now that for me is a near-emergency situation demanding repair. This is the grinder, brand “Hamilton Beach”

the dead grinder

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April 6, 2014

Half-axle (CV joint) replacement in a 1997 Subaru Outback

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 5:02 am

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.
Torn CV Boot (more…)

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…)

February 23, 2012

Repairing A Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Camera



DMC-ZS8 With Stuck Lens

DMC-ZS8 With Stuck Lens

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)”.

The Error Message

The Error Message

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…)

January 28, 2012

Fixing Old Speakers – The Common Woofer Foam Rot Problem

Audio Research freebie speakers

Audio Research freebie speakers

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.

Foam Rot

Woofer Foam Rot

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

Most Repairs are Easy – Fixing an Old Hitachi Receiver

Filed under: repair,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:34 pm

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.

The Failed Switch

The Failed Switch

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…)

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 16, 2011

Don’t wash your paintbrushes!

Used paintbrush, still wet from use.

Used paintbrush, still wet from use.

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.

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