Tuesday, October 28, 2014

1.5 Ton Jack Pittsburgh Automotive from Harbor Freight Item #60569 Review

I recently needed to jack up a midsize car (Toyota Camry) to do some repair work, and thought it would be a good idea to get a new jack, since my old jack is, well, old (as in 30 or 40 years). So I took advantage of a super coupon and got an aluminum 1.5 ton jack from Harbor Freight. I wanted aluminum so it wouldn't be so heavy. Steel jacks are quite heavy for those of us over 60.

The short news is that this jack really performed excellently. At one point I had to leave the car up overnight. I had the car on the jack, with a jack stand almost touching the frame (in case the jack failed), and I put my old jack under the car also as a triple-redundancy measure. Next morning, the car was still a quarter of an inch above the jack stand. The jack had not gone down at all. My old jack, on the other hand, had lost about six inches and was sitting there useless. If it had had the weight of the car on it, no doubt the car would have been sitting on the jack stand. And without the jack stand, the car would have been on the floor.

Now,  I know you're not supposed to leave a car on the jack like this, but I was just curious.

So, at this point with only a little use over a few days, kudos to Harbor Freight and its house brand, Pittsburgh Automotive for its 1.5 ton aluminum jack, racing style, rapid pump, low profile.

I like the fact that the release valve is integrated with the handle pumping position so that you don't need to remove the handle from the pumping position in order to lower the jack (as is the case with my old jack).

Item 60569, So far, I'm very pleased.

Monroe Quick Struts on a 2010 Toyota Camry--Review

As readers of my blogs know, Toyota has a problem with prematurely leaking struts on 2007-2010 Camrys. I had one strut replaced under warranty, but the dealer refused to replace another because it "wasn't leaking enough." Toyota's position is that "some leaking is normal." At any rate, I had my car in to an independent dealer for a brake job, and the manager once again informed me that two of the struts were leaking, one front and one rear. He quoted a price of $1200 to replace all four.

I had never considered changing the struts as a do-it-yourself project because every text, every video, and every live person strongly warned about the dangers of compressing and removing the spring from the strut. If the spring compressor slips, the spring can fly off with enough energy to maim or kill someone. (Imagine the disappointment of your wife or girlfriend to come out into the garage  to find you stretched out on he floor with half a spring coming out of your head.)

But--enter the Monroe Quick Strut and its competitors, KYB Strut-Plus, AC  Delco ReadyStrut, and Gabriel ReadyMount struts, all of which now offer a complete strut assembly that includes the strut, spring, bearing plate, boot, and spring isolators. Install time is cut by a third, and the price is quite reasonable, especially considering that if you buy a bearing plate separately, you could be looking at $60 or so.

I've watched a number of car repair episodes where the mechanic puts a greasy boot and a worn and misshapen spring isolator onto a new strut. Ick. So, why not go for a new everything? It's so much safer and lots easier.

So I bought four struts from Rock Auto and installed them myself. Cost was about $480, plus shipping of $68. And there was a rebate of about $115, so that altogether I was in for about $430. By doing it myself, I saved $770. Of course, I used the opportunity to buy some more tools, totaling $150, but I still came out ahead.

Installation was fairly easy and straightforward on the front (which is why he YouTube videos all show the front installation and not the rear). Since I had never changed a strut before, the first one took an hour and 45 minutes, and the second one took an hour a fifteen minutes.

Finding out how to access the rear struts was a challenge. I couldn't find any videos on how to do it. However, on other cars, the rear struts were accessed through the cargo shelf. I finally found a couple of how-to instructions for changing speakers in the back of the car, and they showed half of what I needed to know. The other half I learned by doing.

Since instruction on his activity is scarce, here is a brief rundown for changing the rear struts on a 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry.

Disclaimer: This is a description of what I did, If you decide to follow this description, be very careful. You can injure or kill yourself if you are careless.

Access to the top bolts on the rear struts.

1. Fold down the rear seats by using the in-trunk seat releases. (Note: Some descriptions tell you to remove the rear seat, but I left it in place.)

2. Locate the plastic panel covering the rear pillar between the roof and the cargo shelf. Using a thin tool (plastic is best so you won't mar the panel, but if you are careful, you can use a small pry bar).pry up the corner of the panel nearest the front of the car. Two or three fasteners will pop out. When about one third of the panel is out, pull it toward you and it should slide free. Do the same for the panel on the other side of the car.

3. Pry under the cargo shelf in the middle, and it should pop free along the end closest to you. When the entire edge is free, pull the shelf toward you and it will come free. Note that the sear belts need to be freed from the guides at the top of the seats. Then you can slide the shelf down and lay it on the seats. (You might want to disconnect the wire to the center taillight, as it is very thin and might be fragile.)

4. Remove the seat belt retractors from both sides (one bolt). These retractors are blocking access to the well where the struts are connected.

5. Loosen the three mounting bolts on each tower. WARNING> NEVER LOOSEN OR REMOVE THE CENTER BOLT. The center bolt holds the spring under tension.

6.. Block the front wheels and proceed to jack up the car. I used a jack to  raise the car, a jack stand as a secondary "fail safe" backup, and a second jack stand to support the wheel when I removed the strut connector bolts.

7. Replacement is now the same as for the front struts.

8. Remember to tighten the upper mounting bolts AFTER  you  let the car back down on the ground.

9. Reattach the seat belt retractors, (plug in the taillight if you unplugged it earlier) ,slide the cargo shelf back into place, and slide the pillar panels back into place, taking care to put the tabs into the slots in the shelf. A couple of fist taps will reseat the plastic fasteners.

The task is relatively easy and quick if you are mechanically experienced. One shop quoted five and a half hours of labor for the job. I think that with the Monroe Quick Struts or similar all-in-one packages, professionals could easily do all four struts in 3 hours or less. My total time was probably something like 9 or 10 hours, since I got hung up on one of the rear struts not fitting easily. (The strut didn't quite match the bolt hole, and I had to figure out how to align the two. An extra jack solved the problem.)

The bottom line is that with the Monroe Quick Strut, or KYB Strut Plus or AC Delco ReadyStrut, Gabriel ReadyMount and perhaps others, the danger of a spring accident has been eliminated, and time and difficulty have been reduced. I found the price and service of Rock Auto to be exceptional, so I would recommend them, at least based on one purchase.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Western Digital WDBAAU0020HBK-01 2TB Hard Drive

I have a Western Digital 2TB external hard drive, model WDBAAU0020HBK-01, that I was using for backup on my PC. I noticed one day that it was not signing on along with my external Seagate drive. When I went to My Computer (I have a Windows 7 PC), only the Seagate was visible. I tried a number of things to get the drive recognized, but ultimately, I discovered that the power supply was dead. So I went to Fry's Electronics and got a universal power supply capable of 1800 milliamps (the original power supply says its output is 1.5A or 1500 milliamps. Plugged in the new supply (after checking the polarity--center is positive) and got nothing. After awhile, Windows installed a driver called Initio, but never recognized the drive as a USB hard drive. In other words, the drive's electronics are apparently dead, too.

The Backblaze cloud backup company issued a report recently noting that of the thousands of hard drives they use, Western Digital drives  have the highest failure rate. (Hitachi drives have the lowest.)

I just plugged the drive in one last time and nothing at all was recognized or connected.

Hard dive failure is always a cause of unhappiness, even with another backup and cloud backup.

Delta Diamond Seal Kitchen Faucet Repair

A year or two ago, I installed a new, single handle Delta kitchen faucet with a "Diamond Seal Technology" single handle cartridge. In the last couple of months, when the handle was pushed over to select hot water, the faucet would flow normally for about 20 seconds and then reduce the flow to just a minor amount. This slow flow happened just when the water was starting to feel warm,.

I finally got ready to replace the cartridge. When I removed the handle (with a 6mm Allen wrench on the set screw behind the red and blue plastic plug), I got ready  to take out the valve cartridge when a delay came up and I had to reassemble everything. I turned the water back on and checked the faucet. To my amazement, the hot water slowing effect was no longer present.

The only thing I could think of that might have remedied the situation was that I might have turned the shutoff valves on a bit farther than they were before.

At any rate, if you have this sudden flow reduction problem with a Delta faucet, try shutting the valves off under the sink and then opening them up all the way.

A note of caution: If you haven't turned off the shutoff valves in a long time, they might (1) be difficult to shut off all the way because of mineral buildup or (2) start leaking around the stem because of deterioration of the stem or the washer around it. When I replaced the kitchen faucet a couple of years ago, I had to replace both shutoff valves, too, because they were both corroded and leaking. That made working on this repair much easier.

If  you do need a Delta Diamond Seal Technology Single Handle Cartridge, the part number is RP50587. If the flow down issue returns, I have a spare ready.