Monday, March 28, 2016

Replacing Alternator for our 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

Replacing the alternator for our van

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

After a 2 week vacation in Florida and a very LONG day of travel, we finally arrived in Halifax, got into our van and started driving just to have the battery icon come on about 20 minutes into our 2.5hr drive home to Moncton. We decided to keep driving although I was pretty sure the alternator was dead.

Unfortunately, about 12km out of Truro, the voltage had dropped so low (after all, the van had been sitting in a parking lot for 2 weeks) that the automatic safety settings kicked in and disabled gear 3 and 4. We kept driving to the next exit, turned around and hobbled back to Truro at 65km/h.

Luckily, we made it to the Canadian Tire where we bought a brand new battery ($210 bucks) and a voltage meter. Not surprisingly, the voltage of the old battery was down to about 10.5V and the van wouldn't even start so we asked the boys at Canadian Tire if they could hook up our old battery to their charger for half an hour during which we walked over to McD's for some grub.

Half an hour later, I picked up the somewhat charged battery, bought a SECOND new battery as a backup, installed the FIRST new battery (which, surprisingly, only showed 11.7V) and headed on our way. Once we hit Sackville we decided to drop by my brother in law's place, hook up our van to his running car so that his alternator could charge up our battery again. After about 30 minutes of charging, the battery, which had dropped down to 11.2V during our 1hr drive was back up at 11.9V.

Unfortunately, the sun had gone down so we had to drive with the lights on and we still had a 1hr drive ahead of us. Gratefully, we made it almost to Moncton when the computer dropped gear 3 and gear 4 again. We hobbled the last 10km at 60km/h and arrived home just to find a 16" snow bank in front of our driveway.

By now, it was almost 10, the kids were exhausted and I couldn't risk parking the van to snow blow the driveway so I checked to make sure the snow bank was soft snow and not ice, backed into my neighbor's driveway and gunned it! We made it all the way into our garage although the windshield was completely covered with snow when I hit the snow bank and I could only see out of the bottom left corner of my windshield.

Afterwards I was thinking that I should have snow blowed the driveway first because if I had missed the open garage door and hit the post it would have caused a LOT of damage! Note to myself: never do that again!

Anyways, the next day I called a few places just to hear in shock that they wanted over $600 bucks for a new alternator! Finally I got a more reasonable quote for $285 plus tax at Marshland Auto Parts. I picked up the alternator and followed the instructions in my Haynes manual to install the part.

Although it took me about 2hrs from start to finish, the second time I could easily do it in under 1hr.

After everything was put back together I was more than glad to have been able to fix it for about $530 bucks taxes in (alternator was $320, new battery was $210). The other option (get a hotel in Truro and have Canadian Tire install it would have cost close to $1000 and I would NOT have an extra battery)

Getting ready to take off the air intake housing
The instructions for removal and installation
Close-up of the alternator electrical connections
Closeup of the alternator mounting bolt
Closeup of the other two alternator mounting bolts
The new alternator
Another view
The box of the new alternator
I took off the mud shield but actually didn't need to do that
The plastic rivets holding the mud shield in place
Draining about 3 liters of coolant
Another view of where I drained some coolant
The vinyl hose draining coolant into a clean bucket
The radiator cooling fan; removal was actually VERY easy and well designed
After the radiator cooling fan was removed
The alternator brushes were the cause of the failure
Another view of the alternator brushes
And another view
The new battery
Socket set
Vinyl hose
LED light

1 battery
1 alternator


2 hrs


Back to charging at 14.2V

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Fixing Our Dyson DC-25 Vacuum

Fixing our dyson DC-25 vacuum that stopped working

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

My wife called me in a mad panic telling me that her Dyson DC-25 ball type vacuum had stopped working. I had a suspicion that it could be the plug since it's almost 6 years old. Unfortunately, the warranty has already run out so I knew I'd have do to some trouble shooting.

The steps I followed to diagnose the problem were as follows:

1. Test the switch to make sure it works
2. Test whether there's proper voltage when plugged in
3. Test the continuity of the hot wire from the plug to the switch
4. Test the continuity of the neutral wire from the plug to the switch

1-3 were all fine, but #4 was the issue. Looking at the plug, the neutral pin was wiggling around and combined with the loss of continuity I knew that was the problem.

Once I knew what the problem was, fixing it was very easy. Cut off the bad plug and install a new one. Vacuum's back up and running!


Taking all the accessories off the vacuum
Close-up of the back of the vaccum with the 3 holes holding the switch in place
Underneath the switch cover at the front
Switch is working
Voltage is definitely too low
Testing the resistance of the hot wire
Hot wire with proper (negligible) resistance
Testing the neutral wire
Neutral wire has too much resistance to the plug
Fixed vacuum
Heavy-duty plug
Side cutter
Multi meter

1 electrical plug


30 minutes


Vacuum is working again and my wife is very happy about it! Yes, she does love to's therapeutic for she says...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Making a Jewelry Reduction Die

Making a jewelry reduction die for a neighbor

My Neighbor's Online Store:

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

I'm saving up for a DRO but because I don't want to take it out of our regular budget, I put an ad on kijiji advertising that I can do some minor machining jobs because I just plain enjoy doing it. I got a call from someone yesterday and after talking for a bit we agreed that I would make him a jewelry reduction die for his press because the one he has doesn't have holes big enough for what he wants to do.

He asked where I lived and it turns out that he's my neighbor from 4 houses down the street. I thought that was pretty awesome. So last night he walked down to my house with the die he already had so I could measure it and make him a second die with bigger holes.

This job actually turned out to be rather time consuming because I had to dial in the 4 holes individually on the 4-jaw chuck (once in the front and then again in the back) and it took quite a bit of fiddling around until I had them all lined up.

After the part was machined, I heated it up to a nice bright cherry red and quenched it in water to make it a lot more wear resistant than if I had it left in its annealed state. A quick sanding with some sand paper and it was ready to go.


A stock photo of a ring stretcher enlarger jewelry bench top sizer band reducer sizing repair tool
Close-up of the ring reduction die
The actual ring reduction die my neighbor brought over
Turning and facing the 4" piece of 10V45 down to size
After the center hole was bored to 0.755"
Drilling one of the holes
Indicating the second hole
After the second hole was drilled
Cutting the chamfer with my boring tool and the compound slide
Another view
The finished part before heat treating
Warming up the ring reduction die with my aluminum foundry propane burner
Getting hotter
Almost ready
Nice and red
Another view
After it was quenched in water
The finished part beside the original one 
The ring with the centre stamped out
The finished ring
Metal lathe & accessories
Drill bits
Metal band saw
Angle grinder
Propane torch

1" of 4" diameter 10V45


About 5hrs

I think it looks pretty good. I hope it works as planned