Saturday, November 29, 2014

Plumbing Snake Review, Harbor Freight #66262

In keeping with the rule of life that things go wrong at the absolute worst time, the kitchen sink backed up at the house of the hostess for a Thanksgiving celebration and feast right on Thanksgiving day. I brought my home-invented hydro-jet "snake" and shoved it into the pipe. It is connected to a garden hose, so when the sprayer handle is pulled, a jet of water (theoretically) blasts through the clog. I have cleared the clog in my  bathroom drain several times with this invention.

 Unfortunately, at the Thanksgiving house, either the pipe curved in such a way that the rubber hose snake wouldn't turn properly, or else it hit an impenetrable plug. As a result the hose could be pushed into the drain pipe only a couple of feet and the water from the water jet soon backed out into a tub waiting for it, The clog still remained.

The homeowner had tried using a drain cleaner before, and I tried with two more products, "guaranteed satisfaction," but neither worked a bit, even after waiting over night.

So, on my way back to the house, I stopped by Harbor Freight and picked up a rotating snake, described by HF as "25-foot drain cleaner with drill attachment." HF part number 66262. At the house, the water was still standing in the sink, showing that water was not even slowly seeping down the drain--the plug was solid.

I removed the P-trap and ran the snake into the pipe until it hit a blockage. I then connected my power drill and slowly rotated the snake. Right away, the snake made progress and moved into the pipe. I fed another six or eight inches of snake, rotated again, fed snake, rotated, and so on. When I had fed about  15 feet of snake into the drain pipe, I pulled it all back out. There was no big hairball or other massive item on the auger, just a plug of black goo.I reconnected the P-trap and turned on the  hot water, slowly. It kept draining, no back up. So I turned on the hot water full flow and let it run for a long time.

Ten minutes of auguring beat a couple of hours of trying to water blast away the plug.

Next day, I pulled out all 25 feet of the snake, washed it thoroughly and sprayed WD-40 all along the length. I took apart the plastic hosing and wiped it clean and dry before reassembly.


  • there are plastic pins to align when you put the halves back together..
  • the snake is not attached to the housing, so it will come out all the way.
Conclusion: This plumbing snake worked excellently when connected to my drill, allowing me to rotate the housing and thereby the snake itself. The rotation gets the head of the snake past curves and turns and allows it to dig into whatever is blocking the drain. If you have a drill driver, you should certainly have one of these Plumbing Snakes. (You can use the unit manually by spinning the unit with the handle molded into it.)

  • If you drop the drain snake from even three or four feed, the plastic housing will likely break.
  • The snake bends rather easily.
  • The snake rusts quickly, so have some WD-40 or other oil spray to clean up the snake after each use.
Important Instructions:
  • Run the drill slowly. A  fast drill causes damage.
  • Feed about 6 to 8 inches of snake at a time. Too much snake outside its drum home, and especially too fast a run causes the snake to wrap all over itself and be ruined.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Power Pressure Cooker XL First Looks Review

Until a few weeks ago, I was using an old Presto pressure cooker, the type with the rocking weight on the vent. Then I decided to tighten the handle and broke the screw, leaving the unit without a handle. I almost bought another "ordinary" pressure cooker, but delayed, hoping for a sale. Meanwhile, the Power Pressure Cooker XL showed up in a couple of store ads (Kohl's and somewhere else), and it looked interesting.

Okay, so I got one at a good deal and tried it out. First impressions:

  1. The unit is well made, with a heavy pressure vessel, a high-quality non-stick coating on the inner pot, easy locking lid, and push-button controls.
  2. The cooker should really be called a multi-cooker, since it will work not only as a pressure cooker, but a rice cooker, slow cooker, steamer, and canner.
  3. The one-touch buttons, combined with the manual adjustment capabilities, make this cooker very flexible and easy to use.
  4. I made a batch of Swiss steak last night and it turned out very well.
  5. The six-quart capacity is large enough for good-sized roasts.
While the cooker itself is really great, the manual isn't quite as clear as it should be.
  1.  When the cooker starts, it warms up to cooking and pressure and then displays, for example, "P010" which means ten minutes of pressure cooking. The manual doesn't say this clearly.
  2. Owners of "traditional" pressure cookers should be told that there won't be any steam or hissing during pressure cooking with the Power Pressure Cooker XL, which apparently regulates the pressure so that no excess steam needs to be released. In other words, during pressure cooking, the  unit is almost completely silent. Put your ear next to it and you'll hear only a slight gurgling from the simmering boil inside.
  3. Turning the steam release valve to vent does indeed release the steam in quite a hiss, especially if you don't wait a few minutes for cool down.
  4. Cooking times should more clearly say that they don't include the up to 17 minute heating required to reach the necessary pressure and temperature.
This is a very nice unit. The control buttons give you good flexibility. When I first set the Swiss steak, the unit defaulted to a 10-minute cook, which I thought was too little, so I reset it to 30-minutes and got wonderfully tender meat.

I realize that a one-use test isn't very thorough, but I know some people are interested in a real owner's impression (those infomercials and box labels aren't always enough to know).

Bottom line: I am impressed with the quality and performance of the Power Pressure Cooker XL and based on early use, would recommend it. 

This is an unsolicited review based on a purchase at retail and with no money or goods given to me by anyone as an incentive.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Maytag MGDC300XW3 Gas Dryer Review

With Southern California Edison's punitive electric rates (the more you use, the much higher per-kilowatt-hour rate you pay), I finally decided to retire my old (1985) Maytag electric dryer, since it seemed to be slowing down, and get a gas dryer instead of electric.

The unit I chose is a Maytag MGDC300XW3.

What I like about it.
1. It works well
2. It's a Maytag, so it should last. The promo said it has "commercial quality" parts.
3. It has a huge capacity.
4. It has several ways to operate (timed, automatic, etc.)
5. You can turn off the end-of-cycle buzzer if you want.

What I don't like about it.
1. At the end of the cycle, the dryer starts up again every few minutes and runs for a few seconds, allegedly to prevent wrinkles. I suppose this is a nice feature, but if you run the dryer and go to bed, the start-stop cycle is quite annoying, and there is no way to prevent it from running. (And if you inadvertently left the buzzer on, you get a buzzer noise each time.
2. When the heat turns on and off during the drying cycle, the gas valve or solenoid controlling the gas snaps quite audibly.

Generally speaking, the MDGC300XW3 is functional and reliable. If your laundry room is far from your bedroom, such as in the garage, or if you don't start the dryer and then go to bed, this could be an attractive choice.

Lepai LP-2020A+ Tripath TA2020 Class-T Hi-Fi Audio Amplifier with Power Supply Review

I have two of these well-made, nice looking little amplifiers. Both are in use every day: One takes the output of a five-disc CD player and sends it to two bookshelf speakers (six-inch woofers and three-inch tweeters). The other takes the audio from a cable TV box and sends it to two mini speakers (three-inch all-in-ones) that were formerly part of a surround sound system, I think.

Previously, one of the amplifiers powered two bookshelf speakers connected to my PC, so the output was from an audio jack (3mm) on the PC to the amplifier.

Both units have been working for about two years now and they both perform their required tasks very well. The manual treble and bass adjustments are rather modest, so I leave my amps on normal without the manual adjustment on.

The reviews on Amazon are very positive and very thorough. I add my endorsement to them. For an excellent, small, great looking stereo amplifier (20-watts per channel claimed), this is a choice I'd make again.

Circulon Cookware Pots and Pans Review

Rarely have I owned a product so consistently satisfying as the pots and pans made by Circulon. But before I grow even more complimentary, let me say that I have received no goods, services, or money from Circulon, nor has anyone requested this review.

I bought a set of Circulon pots and pans (I think it was from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, somewhere around 1998 or 1999. I have used them with joy ever since. They cook evenly, they still look like new, and best of all, they clean up so easily it's amazing. The non-stick surface is truly effective.

In fact, the reason I was prompted to write this review came after washing up a couple of pots recently. I was once again admiring how easily they clean up. And then later that day I had been in the cooking section of a Target store and noticed a couple trying to determine which frying pan to buy. Target had a selection ranging from the thin, cheap, Teflon-coated pans I used to buy myself, to the pricier and somewhat better, heavier pans.

If the couple hadn't left the cookware aisle abruptly, this is what I was going to say to them: "Don't waste your money on those cheap pots and pans, that you'll need to replace every year or so. Bite the bullet and invest in a set of Circulon cookware. True,  you're looking at more than twice the price, But you'll discover that you're getting more than twice the performance." Amazon has Circulon cookware in several choices, at about $200 for a nice set.

I've heard that Calphalon is a similar kind of cookware, with flat bottoms inside. (Circulon is so named because the inside bottom of each pan and pot features a circular pattern, sort of like little ridges and valleys.) Amazon also carries Calphalon at similar pricing.

If you want other opinions, click on the Amazon link and read some of the reviews. Note that the average rating from the reviewers is about four and a half stars.

If you cook, do yourself a favor and invest in a set of these pots and pans.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

3-Ton Heavy Duty Pittsburgh Jack Stands from Harbor Freight #69597--Review

I used these stands on a project recently, supporting part of a Toyota Camry during a strut change (see the review posting about the Monroe QuickStrut replacement). The stands are sturdy, with welded steel bases and thick, cast iron posts.  The adjustment range is from 11 1/2 to 16 3/8 inches. The 11 1/2 minimum means that most cars will need to be jacked up only enough to get the tire(s) off the ground before the jack stand can be positioned under the car.

How I Use Jack Stands

I jack the car up, put the stand under at a sturdy location, and let the jack down so that the car rests on the stand. I leave the jack up just below the stand as an added safety measure. It is not recommended to use the jack itself as a substitute for a jack stand. In other words, it's not a good idea to leave the car resting on the jack itself.


The key to using these jacks is that they should be placed on a concrete floor. If you have dirt, gravel, or asphalt, the legs are likely to dig in because they do not have a flare out on the base. The legs are shaped like angle iron with just a small amount of metal transferring the weight to the ground.

Included is a "safety tab" that you are to bend in after assembling the post to the base so that the post cannot slip out or be raised beyond a safe height.

And, of course, use the stands on a level floor so the car won't shift and fall off the stands. (You are putting blocks under the wheels that stay on the ground, aren't you?)

Harbor Freight often has "Super Coupons" for these jack stands, bringing the price down to a reasonable point and making good value for the money.