• Category Archives Home Repairs
  • Working on My Back

    Several months ago I got “volunteered” or more commonly, “voluntold” for a job. One of my wife’s friends from church as an older SUV with major problems.

    Started out with Wife asking me to “Fix her front fender/fender liner”. Friend had bumped something and it was making noise. So said SUV visited. Fender was damaged behind the front tire, like it had been backed at an angle into a pole of some kind. So I put some sheet metal screws through the fender liner into the fender to keep it off the tire, and keep it from flapping. Thought I was done…

    No, I wasn’t. That didn’t fix the noise. So I was “voluntold” to find the noise. Pulled the left front tire off. Nothing wrong there other than a cable that wasn’t mounted right. That didn’t fix the noise either. Nope, nothing wrong with the brakes, ball joints and tie rods seem tight. SUV is one of those with All Wheel Drive (AWD). Hmmmm. Grabbed the left front axle where it joined the front frame-mounted differential and shook it. Lots of movement there, Very Bad Thing. And lots of oil and collected gunk around the big end of the front diff. Hmmmm.

    Said SUV model’s front diff had a habit of eating the seal on the driver’s side, losing most of the oil, grinding up the bearing on that side, and finishing off by destroying the ring and pinion gears for a finale. This diff was at Phase III for certain: sloppy bearings.

    Next, I was “voluntold” to find out what part needed to be replaced. Then it developed that I was going to obtain said replacement part. Which culminated in me being “voluntold” without my assent that I was going to do the R-and-R of the bad part for the newly-obtained junkyard piece. Yeah, right. News to me. I did feel bad for the SUB owners, the are truly destitute and need this vehicle operational.

    My got put down. Fortunately, there were no dog or cat turds nearby when I did that. The center stall would be cleared completely of Wife’s six-year accumulation that was gaining kudzu-like growth properties. And believe it or not, I WON!!! Center bay of the garage only looked this clean when we moved into the house.

    IMG_2163(Note mud-covered Zombie Truck on left and BMW on the right)

    I kept to my word, as soon as the bay was empty, the SUV was pulled in (this last Thursday). The front diff was pulled out and the replacement installed. It was a real B!tch of a job too. 70 lbs of off-center mass that had to be twisted into position from below. Floor jack helped a lot once I figured out the procedure, including steering the wheels left and right at times. Though after the 2nd (or was it 3rd) attempt, I almost rolled the damn thing out of the garage, down the driveway into the ditch in frustration. But it’s done, and works very nice. BTW, the old diff had reached Phase IV: the ring and pinion are trashed by the sounds it makes when turned by hand.

    IMG_2164(Junkyard new diff in foreground, just-removed junk diff in background)

    Note to all: SUV owners with AWD must keep all tire pressures the same to avoid rotational differences between the axles and side-to-side. And if you’ve got a GM SUV with AWD (think Yukon Denali), watch for tell-tale leaks.

    That is all.

  • More Workings

    Well, got a lot more done around the house and vehicles!

    The kitchen that’s on an extended remodel plan just got drywall done. I was going to go the easy route on painting the changes, and use the same colors as before but Wife 1.0 has different ideas. Though she still talks about moving, she wants to change the wall color in the kitchen, the whole kitchen. Bah. So I’ll do painting in parts: first the new area along with stove area, which will cover about 2/3 of the kitchen, then follow up with the remaining sink/countertop area later. But it’s a major step. Traded lots of vehicle work for the drywall work.

    The RV has had some work done too. Found out that the chassis (engine-driven) AC wasn’t working right on the last outing. Got it troubleshot and turns out that the condenser fan was dead, causing an overheat in the AC, shutting down the compressor. Fortunately, the fan is basically an aftermarket universal auto radiator fan. Got one locally, a few hours later the AC is working again.

    Also adjusted the front bumper while underneath, and replaced the busted fog lights. And did some woodworking inside as well – made a storage space up front where the old tube-type TV used to be in the front overhead, and put sturdy shelves in the pantry. The pantry is where a washer/dryer could be if I wanted to dump the money and lose the storage space, but I choose storage over the very occasional use of the washer/dryer. Shelves are a huge help in the space, stuff was just tossed in otherwise. And cleaned the refrigerator burner flue, that had a lot of soot and dust in it, so the fridge/freezer should work much better on propane.

    And hitting the road this weekend for Louisville, the NRA AM and other places. Zombie Truck in-tow. Joy!

  • The End is Near

    I have nearly completed the BMW, affectionately known by my wife and I as “Frankie”. The merger of one running, but ugly, and one non-running and bent, BMW 540i/6 sedans is nearly complete, and the end product is full of WIN! It’s now taken nearly five months from acquisition of the first BMW, to the final inspection. The second 540i, the blue one, is now a driver. I put in a new drive shaft and that fixed the vibration and bumping under the floor. The safety inspection turned up three problems: The driver’s seat wouldn’t work, the tail lights had been tinted, and there was a worn suspension arm on the front end.

    The driver’s seat is a mechanical monstrosity. Five or six motors in the seat, and two more in the steering column, all protected by one 30A fuse, and the fuse would blow every time i put weight on the seat. Hence, it didn’t work. The fuse wouldn’t blow if I put a new one in and didn’t sit in the seat, but just moved the seat from outside. The fix was to remove the zip ties that held the wiring harness to the springs under the seat. Putting my weight in the seat with the wires all taut would pull them and cause a short somewhere. So the wires are loose under the seat but don’t get tangled in anything, they’re pretty secure anyway. Problem is that, like the rest of the car and BMWs in general, pulling the seat meant messing with lots of fiddly bits. And the seat must weigh 80 lbs, and was tough to wrestle from the car. But wrestle it it did, and won the contest.

    The tint on the tail lights was removed with acetone, quick fix. I was going to put the lights from the green car into the blue one, but found out that European tail lights with white lenses over the turn signals don’t match electrically or mechanically with American tail light assemblies. So the Europeans are shelved for now.

    The previous owner of the first (green) car had put a lot of new suspension components in before I bought it from him. I’d already robbed the rear locating struts and the front brake calipers and hoses. So I grabbed the two front lower locating arms for each side and transplanted them several days ago, fixing the problem with worn ball joints.

    Took the BMW to the dealership this morning for an alignment, and what a difference! Driving up there, the car felt a little squirrel-y, not wanting to keep a good center on the lane. The drive home was a real joy: the car didn’t wander, and any movement of the steering wheel was promptly rewarded.

    I have been getting some misfire errors for the first few minutes of driving, until the fuel injection goes into closed-loop mode based on the catalytic converters. I’ve already replaced the spark plugs and tried swapping coils to no avail. Based on dealership recommendation, I’ve cleaned the air idle valve and MAF sensor, will see how that works. That, and the mis-matched paint are the only two hangups on the car. Paint doesn’t affect performance, but the misfire is an annoyance.

    The real fun thing I did for the car today was change the front kidney grills from chrome (the only chrome on the car) to matte black. Popped the grills out, popped the chrome ring off each. Several coats of black peel-off paint later, and it looks like $65 worth of new matte grills. Much better!

    Last thing to do is the re-inspection and final registration, and that’s already scheduled for next weekend. I be very very happy. Now I have a comfortable car to drive to work, instead of doing the single-car thing with the Jeep, or driving the Zombie Truck. The truck does rate the looks and comments, but is not the most comfortable and doesn’t set quite the right impression.

    Nothing like getting the BMW running, running through the six-speed gearbox attached to 4.4 liters of German V-8 engine! Yeehaaaaaa!

    Pictures to follow…

  • Fixin’ cars

    Well, this weekend was a three-day-er for me, having accumulated some extra hours at work the last few weeks. So what did I do? Work on cars. Lots of cars. At one point, I think that I had all three of our main cars out-of-commission.

    The Zombie Truck got a new seal on the rear axle housing, stopping a leak there. Drained a pint or so of fluid out of the transfer case to lower the level, it had been overfilled when fixed by the shop and was leaking out of the speedometer sensor housing. I pulled both front seats, which have gotten butt-sprung, and fitted a pair of aftermarket buckets, with recliner mechanisms. They don’t match colors but I just don’t care, they’re more comfortable. Scraped some old sealant from the front windshield gaskets and applied new clear sealant, to stop the windshields from leaking as bad at the top. And did a trash run with the truck. Had to order a new set of seat belts for the driver seat though, the old ones were pretty ragged and needed help. Tightened a few loose bolts, checked and put oil in the engine, good look-over.

    The CheapGP got new rear rotors and pads, and had to replace the parking brake shoes once I removed the rotors. That meant another run to the parts store, and a delay by an hour or so. Also replaced the mismatched lug nuts with a complete set of new ones, all 20 of them. Minor thing but makes me feel better. Ordered new speakers for the front doors, they were fried badly by age, and a new window regulator for the front passenger door. That door has a knock-off POS regulator that is failing. Junkyard replacement is on its way, and will get installed when I do the speakers. Also removed sticky-stuff from the side windows, leftover from the duct tape I used to hold the windows up when I rebuilt the regulator-to-window connectors several months ago. And found the POS regulator at that time.

    The BMW… Well, it’s partly torn apart again. I botched installing the rear rotors and pads several weeks ago and destroyed the right rear rotor and outer pad. Can’t get just the rotor and pad, so had to order and install an entire new pair of rear rotors and pads. But put on a much better set. While driving the BMW, the drive shaft was hitting the floor under the center console. Pulled the exhaust, heat shields, and drive shaft, and yes, the shaft was hitting the floor just behind the center support bearing. The U-joint was doing the hitting. In the meantime, looked at the shifter rod from the shifter to the back of the transmission, realized that I’d installed it backwards and it was being bumped at times by the rubber donut (Guibo) that connects the transmission to the front of the drive shaft. So I think that my drive shaft woes are a combo of several things: A centering bushing in the front of the drive shaft that’s worn out, keeping the shaft centered on the Guibo donut; the shifter rod bumping the Guibo donut, and my not pre-loading the center support bearing about 2-4 mm forward when installing the drive shaft. Little things. If that’s not it, time to order a new (rebuilt) drive shaft. There’s literally no other user-serviceable parts on it. Pulled the air breather box and MAF sensor tubing. Pulled off the right side valve cover, did a little alteration to the seals for the front timing cover that sit under the valve cover, and hope to have solved another small leak on the engine. While I had the valve cover off, I replaced two of the spark plug ignition coils that may have been causing a misfire, will have to see next time I drive the car. Replaced the last of my power steering hoses. I’d ordered the correct one but got the wrong part, had to re-order to get the right one. But the supplier did right by me.

    So I’m waiting on a thermostat for the BMW, that should clear one of my codes. Also ordered a new bushing for the front of the drive shaft to replace the worn out one. The coil replacement should solve my other codes, hopefully making the car code and stumble-free.

    The only vehicle I didn’t work on was the RV, and that’s next, in prep for camping season to start.

    And in the meantime, went to my great-grandson’s first birthday party, and did some grocery-ing. Phone calls, tax stuff, etc.

    I’m pooped.

  • Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

    Yeah, I know, blogging has been slow around here. Sorry about that, life has intruded. First came the Rescue Squad Lieutenantship, which I dropped. Too much politics and I hate harassing people. But to compensate, the Chief asked me to maintain three, soon to be four, different vehicles. Our two Utilities – one a mini-van, the other a big pickup truck. And the EMS response vehicle, a modified SUV. All have lights/sirens/response gear. I will eventually get our “Zombie Response” ambulance as well, rigged for bariatric patients, infectious disease (think Ebola) transport, and overstock-resupply for large contingencies/mass-casualties. Bi-weekly/monthly inspections, rotate supplies, refuel, check fluids, wash, etc.

    Working on the RV to do some camping soon. Generalized checkout and such, fix a few things here and there. Rigged a tow bar assembly to the Zombie Truck so I can tow it with the RV. No more ripping the front bumper off the MINI loading it onto a tow dolly.

    The big thing is kitchen remodel. The U-shaped kitchen has the sink to the left, stove straight ahead, and fridge tucked into the right corner near the stove. The right leg of the U had a washer-dryer closet and a small pantry closet. The washer and the dryer had been moved downstairs (a prior remodel I did) and the closet had rolling chrome racks for storage. The pantry had yet another rolling rack, as it was too deep for practical use. Wife doesn’t like to dig around looking for stuff…

    Before, with cameo by one of the inspection kitties:IMG_0622

    So, several weeks ago I handed my wife a hammer, she slammed a few holes in the drywall for fun to initiate the project. I took over and demolished all of the closet and pantry space, all the way down to the studs for the most part.IMG_1717

    Capped the water and drain lines from the washer-dryer, but extended the cold water line to the right end of the U where the pantry used to be, where the fridge has moved to. Also moved the washing machine electric outlet over there for the fridge’s power. I moved a few more outlets around for above-counter electric. Finalized the closet for the fridge and massive storage above. The fridge is now in its new cubby with water and electric. IMG_1734

    Next up, have a drywall expert redo the ceiling and on the other side of the fridge’s cubby. Pull up some of the flooring and install new cabinets all the way from the stove to the fridge. Put new countertop all the way around. We haven’t had to displace any operations, it’s just been a little rough with some stuff that’s on the counters temporarily, and pots/pans that used to be hanging up close to the stove aren’t hanging right now. And the dust. Not too bad, I was slow and careful.

    And if you read all the way down here, here’s a sappy t-shirt and cat picture for your pleasure:



  • DoneFixedItGood!

    So, are capacitors supposed to be all swollen and bulged ends?

    Bad running capacitor I don’t think so. And that’s why the family room was at 82° and slowly rising when I got home from work today.

    I could hear the blower running, but there was only a buzzing noise and no spinning fan on the compressor outside. Wait, I’ve seen this before on the other heat pump unit, and paid to have that one fixed. Called and made an appointment just in case, two day wait. Ugh.

    Opened the electrical panel on the compressor after pulling the breaker outside. Pulled the cap, noticed the bulges. Big Clue. Found a cap at an AC shop up the road, the shop was going to be closing in 15 minutes but we’ll stick around for another 15 to finish books, etc. Hallelujah! Pell mell up the road through local traffic (not like OldNFO’s traffic thankfully). Got the part, back home (no traffic the other direction). Popped the part in, had the Wife turn the thermostat back on, and ‘walla, cold air.

    Now to cancel the appointment! Done fixed it good!

  • Another fine job Ollie

    Note to all home owners: make sure that you drain your home water heater annually. I waited too long before trying to drain mine and paid the price. Fortunately it did not involve flooding of the ground floor. But there nothing like wrestling 400+ lbs of full water heater out of a closet, 20 ft of carpet then another 10 ft of porch before you can dump the stupid thing on its side to drain. Too much sediment and the drain valve won’t work, there’s no pan under the heater allowing the drain to be removed. No way to pump 50 gallons of water from the tank either.

    So at the same time that I replaced the heater I added the newly mandated expansion tank assembly. So the $329 water heater wound up costing about $500. If I’d properly cut the hot water line, I could have saved about $12 on the coupler that I had to get after nearly everything was done except the hot water line. Measure twice and cut once. Sigh.

    But it’s done, nothing leaks, and I don’t hear the tank rattling every time it what’s water.