Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cleaning Our Ceramic Tile Grout

For Melanie's birthday she wished for me to clean the tile grout in our kitchen, hallway, dining room and bathroom

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

The first thing I did was using a little scrubbing brush and some cleaning solution but I soon realized that in order to do all 500 square feet of hopscotch pattern grout it would take forever and I'd probably lose my arm from all the scrubbing so I had to figure out how to make some sort of tile grout cleaner.

The first thought was to use our pressure washer, hooked up to some sort of contraption that would contain the water and then use a shop vac to suck it all up before it soaks the entire floor. I spent about an hour or two tinkering around with it and came up with something that should work (in theory). However, once I started cleaning the floor I realized that the pressure was way too high and it actually started washing out the grout. So, unfortunately, that solution was no good.

Then I though if I could find a brush attachment for my reciprocating saw that might work but of course these attachments don't exist (to my knowledge anyways) so I had to make one.

I took a wire brush with a metal handle and drilled a couple of holes through it, then I fit it over an old saw blade, drilled holes through the blade and used some steel rivets to secure it in place. It worked like a charm.

When I was drilling the holes it took a very long time because the saw blade uses hardened steel so a little trick I tried (and it worked) was heating up the saw blade with my oxy/actylene torch to orange glowing hot and cool it down slowly. Once it was cool, what took a few minutes before literally took 10 seconds and the drill bit cut through the saw blade like butter.

After I installed the blade I sprayed the grout with the cleaner and scrubbed it with my attachment. The whole job still took almost 4 hours, but at least my arm was still useable afterwards.

Happy Birthday, Melanie!!!


The attachment for the pressure washer
The side view with the hole for the vacuum cleaner
The attachment I made with an old wire brush and a used saw blade
The wire brush attachment installed
Attacking the bathroom
Close-up of the cleaning in action
After it was done

Reciprocating saw
Steel wire brush
Pressure washer
Pressure washer attachment

1L of cleaning solution



500sqft x $0.79 cents per sqft - $10.00 = $436.35

Very happy wife = very happy husband

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fixing My Van's Transmission - Take II

Replacing the new (but faulty) shift solenoid for the second time

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

I finally got a chance to get away with my 6 year old son Nathaniel to visit my parents in Ontario and even though the 17hr drive was somewhat daunting I was looking forward to it as anything.

Everything went great, we left at 2:30am on Saturday morning and got to Quebec around noon. Shortly after though is when it started.

I was cruising along the Trans Canada highway at 115km/hr when all of the sudden the cruise control kicked out. I pulled over at a rest stop a few minutes later because I thought that maybe the cruise control fuse was blown but couldn't find anything wrong there. After a quick break I started driving again but the check engine light came on right away and I noticed that the take-off was a lot slower than usual.

At first I thought that maybe the one-way stator clutch in the torque converter had died but found out later that because of a fault code the computer put the van in a fail-safe mode which disabled gear 1 and 4, the cruise control and put the shifting to maximum pressure.

I continued driving in gears 2 and 3 but it was a royal pain through the stop-and-go traffic of Montreal. We made it to Ottawa around 5pm with a break at the Montreal IKEA. The next day we spent in the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau/Ottawa. Monday morning we left Ottawa bright and early to drive the last 600km to my parent's place in south-western Ontario.

At 8am I called Mr. Transmission in Waterloo to see if I could book an engine code scan once I got there. Once I had the appointment booked I kept on driving towards Waterloo. Once I arrived in Waterloo I explained my situation and asked if I could observe him doing his diagnostics on the transmission. To my surprise he said that he didn't like an audience and told me to come back in half an hour.

When I got back he gave me the dreaded news:

1. The engine code was P0753 - Shift Solenoid A
2. The oil was completely black and burned (which actually wasn't true at all I found out later)

He said that he could do an Ohm-test on the solenoid to find out if that was really the cause of the error code and told me to come back in another 45 minutes

Once I got back he gave me the surprising news (which, again, ended up being completely wrong) that the shift solenoid was GOOD, even though the code said it was faulty.

This didn't make any sense and I asked him how an internal transmission issue could cause a shift solenoid to fail and/or send a shift solenoid trouble code.

He never answered my question but instead insisted that there were some very serious internal transmission issues that demanded a complete $2800 transmission overhaul. He said, and I quote: "Judging by my 25 years of experience you have some severe internal transmission problems. In fact, the gears are probably fused together". He then told me that he could arrange a rental vehicle for me so I could SAFELY get to my parents' place.

I informed him that I had driven the van in this present condition for over 900km and that I was going to take my chances for the next 80.

I ended up driving home to my parents' place and focused on spending some time with my family. My brother and his wife and kids had come to Canada for a visit from Switzerland so I was really excited to spend some time with them.

The next day my two brothers Rudy and Markus and I took the van to a nearby transmission shop and explained the situation. He did a very thorough engine code scan and took us for a test drive on which he explained everything he was doing. Afterwards he hooked up his Ohm meter to the external transmission plug and to my shock and surprise he told me that shift solenoid B (2-3 shift solenoid) was GOOD, but that solenoid A (1-2 shift solenoid) was BAD. He showed me the resistance on his ohm meter: there was a clear difference between solenoid A (1.2Ω) and B (24.5Ω).

So here's a rant about Mr. Transmission, please feel free to skip this part. I was VERY displeased with the high pressure tactics he used to try to convince that the entire transmission was completely shot. It was so bad that I actually ended up submitting an official complaint with the BBB because I felt he was misleading me to believe something was wrong that actually wasn't and that something was NOT wrong when it actually WAS! Unfortunately, this has not been the first negative experience with a Mr. Transmission franchise. Also, the tranny shop where I got my second opinion at said that he used to work for the guy in Waterloo and that "I don't work there anymore; I don't have to work LIKE THAT". He didn't elaborate, but it was clear to me that the bitter taste in my mouth I had gotten after my visit to the shop in Waterloo was not just my emotions getting the better of me.

Anyways, that was my little rant. Back to the van. Once we all concluded that JUST LIKE THE ENGINE CODE said, the problem was most likely the Shift Solenoid A we decided to jack up the car and repeat the procedure which I thoroughly documented in my other blog entitled "Fixing My Van's Transmission". The only difference was that this time I knew what I was doing and I had my brother Rudy and brother in law Jeff help me out. What took me 8hrs the first time took us less than 3hrs the second time.

Once we had the side cover off it was immediately apparent that the issue for the engine code definitely was the shift solenoid; it was completely fried. So the only conclusion I have is that when I put in the original NEW solenoid about a month ago it was one with some manufacturer's fault which showed up on my drive down to Ontario. Bummer that it takes about 10hrs of labor to replace.

The next night my brother and dad helped me put it back together. What took me 6hrs the first time around took only a little over 2hrs the second time.

At midnight we finished most of it up, completely finished the rest in the morning, put new oil in it and took it for a very successful test drive.

After my long-awaited actual vacation I packed up the van and drove the almost 2000km back home to New Brunswick and arrived with absolutely no transmission issues whatsoever.

Although the van is probably completely fixed and would most likely run without any issues for the next 4 or 5 years I'm so sick and tired of that van that I'm gonna get rid of it and buy something newer.

In the video I say that the oil has plenty of metal filings. It actually was not metal at all but the clutch material from shifting hard for 900km
The shift solenoid taken apart and explained

The code P0753. Note that it says "Electrical"! Clearly not a fused gear issue!!!
My make-shift engine support bar
The oil certainly didn't look black and burned like Mr. Transmission claimed
There was a noticable deposit of metal dust on the magnet but that was not surprising (and not too bad in my opinion) for almost 1000km of driving with only two gears
Left: Shift Solenoid A which was bad, the right one was Shift Solenoid B which was good
Notice the difference in color between the top (B) and bottom (A)
Nate inspecting our work the next day
Looks like deja vue all over again! Sadly!
After we stripped the outermost 4 or 5 layers of wire off the burnt solenoid

See Fixing My Van's Transmission; too lazy to re-type it all

Make-shift engine support bar
Make-shift ramps
13L of transmission fluid
1-2 Shift Solenoid
Transmission oil filter




[blankety-blankety-transmission]!!! You know what I mean. I'm just glad I'm home!