Akom's Tech Ruminations

Various tech outbursts - code and solutions to practical problems

Automotive Hardware Hacks Odometer Reprogramming - Nissan Sentra

Posted by Admin • Saturday, September 24. 2016 • Category: Automotive, Hardware Hacks
Disclaimer: It is perfectly legal to program an odometer to represent the correct mileage for the car.

Problem:

The car is a 2006 Nissan Sentra 1.8S. The instrument cluster is faulty and flips overdrive on and off at random. I ruled out the rest (switch, TCM). Thus, the cheapest option is to swap in another cluster, but that means that my mileage will be wrong. The replacement cluster I picked up on Ebay has 24K miles. Mine has 181K. Slight difference there.

Solution Summary:

Use an EZP2013 IC programmer to read the memory from your old cluster and write that to the new one. Clearly this assumes that you are still in possession of your old cluster and that its EEPROM is intact.

Solution Detail:

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Low Tech Hacks Replacing batteries in a Philips Norelco T980 Turbo Vacuum Trimmer

Posted by Admin • Wednesday, July 27. 2016 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
I bought this trimmer in 2008 and the NiCd batteries finally died in 2016 - not bad. Still, no reason to trash a working trimmer and contribute to the landfill problem. As it turns out, it's fairly easy to disassemble, and even easier to reassemble. So here are the steps, which probably apply to many similar models.

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Low Tech Hacks Replacing batteries in a Sonicare Elite toothbrush

Posted by Admin • Wednesday, July 27. 2016 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
I've had this toothbrush for over a decade, and the batteries finally died. I suppose that's a long time for NiCd cells to last. For the last year or so the toothbrush would not complete the 2 minute cycle but would instead stop sometime earlier. The batteries are clearly still alive but simply don't have enough capacity.

The toothbrush is not designed to be opened (it is waterproof after all). That should not stop us. The safest way of opening the casing that I could think of was cutting it with a PVC rope saw. This makes a relatively quick cut and mostly does not affect anything besides soft plastic. The circuit board was spared. The location of the cuts is important. I had no idea where the batteries would be so I took a guess and cut it in half. Pulling the two parts apart caused fine wires to get ripped out of the charge coil, something that I could have avoided had I just cut around the batteries. The ideal cut would be just tracing around the batteries on the back side, creating a "battery door" shape. The batteries are soldered directly to the circuit board, so they need to be carefully cut away so that extension wires can be soldered on to allow for some wiggle room.
Opening the casing the wrong way

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Low Tech Hacks Importance of Small Engine Preventative Maintenance for seasonal tools

Posted by Admin • Wednesday, February 12. 2014 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
Lawmowers, snowblowers, chainsaws, generators, trimmers (even motorcycles) ... I have all of these, but, obviously, they are used seasonally. That means that they spend a fair amount of time sitting around. While most preventative maintenance advice tends to focus on the maintenance of frequently used engines, I find that it is the stored machines that get overlooked. Therefore:

Preventing In-Storage Problems in just 2 steps

  1. Stabil

    While people will tell you that gasoline doesn't usually break down, that's not true in my experience. After sitting around in your carburetor for a few months, the fuel does and will separate. The issue here is that one part of it will literally varnish the surfaces, either sticking moving parts together, or restricting flow. The result? Popping, backfiring, or an engine that will only run with the choke on (if it runs at all). The only solution is to take the carb apart and clean everything - perhaps even changing the seals and needle seat. In the ideal world you'd have no fuel in the carburetor at all during storage, but since you're unlikely to get it all out, this is the next best thing.

    In other words:
    Simply add fuel stabilizer of your choice (eg Stabil) to gasoline the day you buy gasoline, and use only treated gas in seasonally used engines. When you shut off the engine before storage (or any time), let it run out of fuel - either shut off the valve, or use up what's in the tank if you have no valve.

  2. End-of-season Oil Change

    Oil absorbs byproducts of combustion, which are acidic. The more the engine runs, the more acidic the oil becomes. This acidic medium, coupled with 6 months in storage means corrosion risk to all the lubricated engine surfaces.

    In other words:
    Simply change the oil when the season is over - spring for snowblowers, fall for lawnmowers, etc. Warm up the engine, let it run out of fuel (see above), then change the oil. Don't start it again before storage.


That's it - you'll have years of reliable service from your engines. It's amazing how many people overlook these two steps that can and do prevent so many issues. I used a trashed lawnmower for 8 more seasons after I found it by following these steps. I've had my snowblower 8 years and it always starts on the first pull. Speaking of snowblowers, see also how to change oil without making a mess.

But wait, what about spark plugs? Air filters?


In my experience, on occasionally used engines, spark plugs never actually wear out. They can get fouled from improper carburetor adjustment or over-priming, but when the system is functioning properly - a good quality plug might outlast the engine. Go ahead and change it if it makes you feel better, but I've run my lawnmower weekly on the same plug for 8 seasons and it still looks and works just fine. As for air filters - that's another story, but their maintenance has nothing to do with seasonal use. Every once in a while it's good to check that the filter is clean enough to let some air through and that it's not torn so it's not letting dirt into the carb. Otherwise, I tend to leave them alone.

Automotive Troubleshooting car heat issues or why stop-leak is a bad idea

Posted by Admin • Saturday, October 30. 2010 • Category: Automotive
I got my truck exactly a year ago. It came complete with stop-leak (the red brick-colored pellets) in the system. I immediately flushed out all coolant and stop-leak (must have run 100 gallons through the system with a back-flush kit), but I guess that wasn't enough, as I suddenly found myself without any heat whatsoever. Now I am not that into heat, but the idea of a sheet of ice on the windshield with no recourse just doesn't sound like fun.

Since I had to figure out what the issue was step-by-step, I figured I'd write the process down for posterity (read: me, next time). So here it is...

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Low Tech Hacks Snowblower oil change with no mess

Posted by Admin • Sunday, March 21. 2010 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
Like most dutiful snowblower owners I change the oil in the spring. The manual says to change it every 25 hours - I don't put that many hours on the engine in a year but the oil probably shouldn't be kept in there that long.

The first year I did the oil change I wound up with a 4 foot oil puddle on my garage floor. Like most small snowblowers, mine has an extension oil drain pipe with a cap. You're supposed to unscrew the cap and drain the oil into something. Well, mine unscrewed at the base - the whole pipe came out, pouring oil down the machine's body and causing me to bring shovelfuls of sand in to clean up the mess. But, there is a better way. (And this is my notepad for next year)

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RV Getting RV Solar and Shore power to coexist nicely

Posted by Admin • Tuesday, August 4. 2009 • Category: RV
I have an RV (20' Sunline T1950 travel trailer) Yay! Like most, it came with a tiny battery (23Ah @2.5hour rate??) and a Power Converter (Centurion 3000) which doubles as a battery charger, but it's hardly a good one - it's not even a 1-stage (that would be just bulk charge) - instead it is a float-only 13.1V power supply. Charging a sizeable battery using a float charger would take a very, very long time (and is hardly good for the battery). According to documentation it's supposed to output 13.4V but I guess it's +/- 0.5V :-)

My primary interest is in boondocking (dry camping) so for me battery performance is of utmost importance. This means good battery utilization, and good battery charging when charging can occur. Stock, the RV does neither.

First thing I managed to do was to secure a small solar system including a Solar Charge Controller (got an awesome deal on Craigslist). It's 100 watts and the CC is a 2 stage (absorption and pulse-float), 15 Amp unit (Mark PV 15). My first question was of course... how do I hook it up to the existing electrical system without causing problems?

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Low Tech Hacks Installing two cameras in one vehicle (rear view) with one display

Posted by Admin • Monday, July 27. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
Now that I acquired a travel trailer, it was a matter of utmost importance to install a rear view camera on it to ease the process of backing it up. I already have a rear view camera on my van, hooked up to my head unit which happens to have a rear camera input. So the next question is - how do I hook up two camera?

I don't want to give up the one I use all the time in favor of the occasionally used trailer cam. What am I to do? So I had to figure it out.

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Low Tech Hacks Changing Manual Transmission Fluid in a Scion tC

Posted by Admin • Saturday, April 11. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
The goal is to replace the stock (assumed: mineral oil) transmission fluid with Amsoil synthetic. Amsoil is my personal preference, while synthetic is my maintenance goal. I set out to do this as our vehicle was approaching 60K miles... OK so I meant to do this about 60K miles ago, but better late than never. The car is now 3 years old (exactly).

There isn't anything too difficult about this job, but when I got under the car I discovered a filler bolt labelled "Consult Owners Manual Before Refilling"... now I've done a fair share of work, but this looked suspicious. So I set out to investigate.

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Low Tech Hacks Getting your refrigerator to run without a start relay while you wait for the part

Posted by Admin • Monday, January 19. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
It took me 24 hours to notice that my Maytag top-freezer refrigerator (PTB2454GR) stopped cooling. (OK the puddle on the floor helped me notice). When it started (Saturday morning, I think), there was a click, 10 seconds of buzzing, then silence. This would repeat every 2-3 minutes. I didn't think much of it, thinking it's the ice maker acting weird. What I should have noticed was the complete absence of compressor noise - just the fan. Actually, there wasn't even that noise - it was silent.

I eventually figured out that the start relay (if you can even call it that) needs replacement, but that was not the initial problem - the problem, as it turned out, was one packing peanut. Yeah, one peanut - it got stuck in the Condenser Fan, literally preventing it from running. This in turn probably caused ice buildup, or in some other way increased the compressor load, which in turn finished off the start relay. Frankly, I'm not sure how long the peanut was in there - may have been months, or maybe just a day.

So if you're seeing similar behaviour (see first paragraph), these are the steps to troubleshoot and temporarily remedy the situation (Disclaimer: there is a very good chance of electrocuting yourself in the process, as with any high voltage appliance). I have a little wiring diagram that explains what and why in here as well.

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Low Tech Hacks Making a Folding Meditation Kneeling Bench

Posted by Admin • Tuesday, January 13. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
The bench
OK so this is pretty low-tech, but hey - why not? Kneeling benches are really unbeatable for meditation and prayer, but they are also great to just sit on - not only does it keep your back straight and prevents slouching, but it also places your feet right under you, so your weight distribution is optimal (and you don't fall). Sure, sitting like that can be tough at first, but it comes with practice. Plus, if you're intent on deep meditation, it is definitely worth getting used to.

I've made a non-folding bench before, and figured I'd try to make a portable one this time. I took what I learned from the last one and made some adjustments - I decided on a 10° angle this time. I also wanted it to fold and I didn't want the feet to protrude when folded. Here are the details.

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