Good People – Dremel Tool Company

Thanks Dremel Tools!

I had to return my Dremel Multimax for repair after it quit on me during a remodel job I was doing. I wasn’t mad at the tool or anything like that, I have had it for a very long time and it has taken a pretty good beating over the years. I just received a package from them and it contained an updated tool to replace my broken one, all the accessories, plus a couple extra blades for the tool. I was expecting to pay about $60-$65 for the repairs as my old Dremel was no longer under warranty. Well they just went well above the normal customer service line – they replaced my broken Dremel at ZERO cost! Now that’s an outfit that I will continue to do business with and I certainly recommend them to everyone.

Something New

Charlie’s Garage is now open to the public. It’s a minor side venture in doing some basic automotive repair for people that don’t want to deal with a dealership or get run over by the local garage. Most of the work performed is your basic minor repair stuff from spark plugs to a window regulator replacement. We are not equipped to get into engine rebuilds or pulling transmissions unless we’re talking about your hot rod here. That basically meaning a specialty car that dates back to the mid-70s or so and is not your daily transportation.

I do trailer wiring, radio and speaker installations, brake jobs, timing belts, oil and filter changes, headlights, switches, batteries, etc. I can also do updates on RVs and fix a number of common issues with them. I think you get the idea.

I have decided that my I.T. (Information Technology) gig is over. It’s a great field to be in but honestly it seems like you run in circles doing things over and over, only to have someone throw it out when you’re finished and you start all over again. Usually this happens because someone thinks that they have a better mousetrap, but so far I haven’t seen too many good ones in my 40+ years of messing with it.

Give us a call at 910.620.8124

Racing & Death

Yep, this is the one that none of us that are involved with motorsports ever want to talk about – its a forbidden subject simply because its not going to happen to us. But it does, tragically it happens too often and more tragically still, there might have been some method of avoiding it.

Circumstances can get the better of any of us, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. You can be minding your own business, nothings wrong and you can just be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. All of us that give any thought to this understand this point. But what drives me a bit nuts is not taking the steps that you can to safe guard your own safety. Safety rules are there for a reason yet we all ignore them from time to time, I am guilty of this myself. I normally try to make sure that I do everything possible to give myself that extra chance when racing a car. Whether that is planning an escape from the cockpit or just going through a safety checklist on the car – all of it is important.

We lost another racer today at Maryland International Raceway. Details are sketchy at best and I am not going to venture any opinion about what happened or didn’t happen. All I can say is RIP racer, I did not know you but you had a lot of friends.

It is another reminder that while we enjoy our sport of racing, it is and always will be, a blood sport. Take all the precautions that you can and refuse the thought that “no one else does this – why should I?”. Wear your safety gear, use it properly, make sure your car is mechanically sound and if some thing goes wrong – get out of the accelerator pedal and don’t go back to it.

One last thought – if you car does not have an easy to hit kill switch for emergencies, put one in. It might just save your life.

Converters, Measurements and Dial Calipers – Oh My!

It’s a bit funny but I have probably explained the following procedure to a few friends a half-dozen times in the last few weeks. And honestly unless you too are a diehard drag racer using a GM style automatic transmission and converter setup, the information here is probably worthless. But then again, to a lot of those that do use that setup there seems to be a huge mystery to this procedure. Actually it’s all rather simple.

Why this might apply to some of the latest GM stuff, I am specifically talking about Powerglides, TH350s and TH400 transmissions. And this procedure should be used every time you have the transmission serviced or maintenance on the converter performed. You should also use it if you are changing the flexplate for the engine or the bell housing/transmission case.

First things first. The convertor has to seated properly in the transmission before anything else can happen. I like to call it the “3-step drop”. What needs to happen is that as you place the converter in the transmission, you need to make sure that the splines of the transmission are engaging the internal splines of the converter and that the converter hub properly seats within the drive tangs of the transmission fluid pump. It’s actually pretty easy although some converters can be a real bear getting them to make that final seating. What you will feel is that the converter “drops” or moves back further on the input shaft as you move the converter back and forth. The first drop is almost negligible and is simply the converter hub aligning itself with the outer portion of the transmission pump. The next drop is significant and typically moves the converter back about 1/2″, this indicates that those splines have now engaged each other. The last and final drop again is about 1/2″ and will be the hub engaging the fluid pump tangs. Now at this point, the converter is completely engaged in the transmission but if you were to run it this way, you would find that you will destroy your transmission pump in quick order. This brings up the procedure that needs to be used.

With the transmission installed in the car and bolted up properly to the engine, it is time to take a measurement. Depending on the combination of flexplate, the thickness of the converter mounting pads, the bell housing or transmission case and whether a rear engine plate is used, this measurement needs to end up being somewhere between .125 and .187. With the converter still pushed back into the transmission, we want to measure the distance between the flexplate and the mounting pads of the converter. The easiest way I have found to do this is to take a set of feeler gauges and insert a stack of them until the stack is just snug between the measurement points. One you have that measurement, you can then take a dial caliper and measure the thickness of the stack. This measurement will be the distance between the flexplate and the mounting pads of the converter. As an example, let us say the measurement is .234 – well that is a little bit too much as if we were to pull the converter forward and simply bolt it to the flexplate, we would run the risk of pulling the converter hub out of the drive tangs for the fluid pump and in turn we would have an inoperable transmission. What we need to do is a little bit of math. If our desired minimum clearance is .125, we deduct that from the measured distance, which in this case is .234. That leaves us with .109 as the excess distance. We now need to find some hardened washers or spacers to take up the extra clearance. Using the dial calipers again, we should be able to find washers that come close. Again as an example lets say we find 3 washers that are .090 in depth – three are required for the GM transmissions and we want to make sure that they are all the same. That still leaves us with .019 extra clearance but if we add that back to our desired .125, we come up with .144 which is well within the maximum amount of .187. We can now bolt the converter to the flexplate with the .090 washers between them and we have the proper clearance for the transmission to fully perform its job function.

Again, it takes longer to describe the process than it does to actually perform it. But making it a habit to do so when working on your transmission/converter setup is well worth the minor fuss. Not only are you insuring that you’re setup will be right, but if something else does happen to occur, at least you will know that the installation was performed correctly and that it is not part of the problem.




Free for the Taking – MSD Wiring Information

If you run MSD ignition components or are even thinking about using their stuff, I have a nice PDF book for you. I just found this recently and now keep a copy of it on my computer for use at the track and garage. No longer do I have to look up a wiring diagram or installation information for one of their components. Someone else having ignition trouble at the track – it’s all here in this one book. Every wiring diagram, instruction, guides, setup tips, all of it is in the book.

Nothing like having a complete catalog of all the information at your fingertips – 192 pages of information – get your free copy now.

Download it here: MSD Wiring Book

Car Enthusiasts Forums

Over a long period of time, I have read and posted on a lot of different forum groups. All of them have been car related and either in the category of trying to provide someone help from my own knowledge or obtaining information about something that I am working on. There can be a wealth of information on some of them but others sometimes make you wonder where the car hobby is actually headed. It is the latter that has me really concerned.

Small Block Chevy – Jeep CJ5

Bad information is sometimes worse than no information at all, especially if it leads someone down an expensive path of mistakes with their own project. But like most things in this world, it seems that if you repeat it often enough and long enough then somewhere it becomes truth. Trying to challenge these “truths” can be quite the undertaking, almost to point of being Quixote in nature. I do try however whenever I can to gently and nicely straighten out someone’s misinformed mindset. Maybe if I just save one? I am never really sure that I am successful but at least I get an “E” for effort I suppose. As an example, one of the more entertaining rants followed another forum poster’s extremely well done installation of a remote filter and oil cooler installation. I have actually used this information to provide this upgrade to my own JDM (Japanese Domestic Manufacturer) vehicle along with two others. Uninformed individuals swore up and down that this upgrade would destroy the engine, that the engine’s oil pump would break and that the cooler oil would wreck havoc upon the engine. Overall, a lot of nonsense. Anyone that has a sports model of these vehicles, one that has an oil temperature gauge (whoa, wait a minute – the manufacturer thought that an oil temperature gauge was important on a sports model – maybe there is something to this?) understands that keeping the oil temperature within a certain range is important to the life of the engine. It doesn’t take but a small amount of vigorous driving to push the oil temperature upward very quickly. Hotter oil is thinner and therefore more at risk of allowing that dreaded metal-to-metal contact that is so detrimental to the internals of an engine. But according to those other individuals, the pump was never designed to push oil through lines and coolers and such, it would surely snap the oil pump’s driveshaft at the worse possible moment. But did any of them notice that the factory offers a kit to do the same exact thing? That the factory does not offer a bigger, heavier oil pump? Maybe we can put two and two together? Nope – doesn’t happen. This information about the install was posted about 5 years ago and to this day still gets negative posts in response.

And that leads me to the next thing in this hobby. While I certainly understand some hesitation in trying something for the first time or the thought that if this messes up, it’s going to be expensive to fix – I don’t see a lot of people venturing into the unknown. And I am starting to see this as a cultural thing. I don’t want to buy that aftermarket hot rod part without being completely convinced that it is going to fit perfectly without me having to do anything else. This appears to be the mantra of the new style hot rodder. Even the ones that should know better have suddenly picked this up recently. A post I just read last night was along the lines of, “I want to put a Chevrolet LS engine in my classic mid-50’s Chevrolet, but I don’t want any problems and I see that no one makes the pre-bent fuel supply lines now.” “What do I do now?”  Well, I guess your quest for a late model powered mid-50’s vehicle just came to a screaming halt. To me, there is something wrong here but I am often reminded that this is “okay”. And I guess it is in the general sense of things. Inside, I am sorry this person cannot proceed however maybe it’s better that they didn’t bother too. I don’t have the answer, I am just happy that I am not that type of person.


Just Something Free – Hot Rod T-Bucket Chassis Plans

The Internet can still be a cool place to be sometimes. While browsing around, I found these free T-Bucket chassis plans. They were last updated around 2008 and some of the information such as part numbers might not be correct but the idea is that they give you a good basis to get started if this is something you are interested in doing. And even if a T-Bucket isn’t your cup of tea, the ideas presented might still help you out with your project.

Click the link below for your own free copy.

Free – Hot Rod T-Bucket Chassis Plans


Not All Browsers are Equal

Most of us that have been on the Internet for the ages realize that we have had “browser wars” in the past and that currently there are a number of different browsers that you can use to view visual and text information for the Web. Most of these browsers will interpret the coding of a webpage based on their normal settings or if they have been modified, then obviously the coding is modified accordingly. And – most people have a favorite browser that they use simply because they are familiar with it and know how to use it.

So, my wife comes home the other day and informs me that my website looks really, really bad. I am stunned slightly because while I code for Firefox browsers, I do take the time to look at my site with several others including Internet Explorer, Chrome and Opera. The other browsers will move things around a bit but nothing that I want to complain about and WordPerfect does a pretty good job of allowing for the idiosyncrasies of the two major browsers – Firefox and Internet Explorer. Anyway, I jumped on her laptop and pulled up my site – I didn’t really see anything that badly out of whack so my suspicion is that she viewed it from a browser that was either a really old version or someone had put in their own preferences which over-writes the coding.

Just to help out a little here, I am displaying a few screen shots below of how a couple of pages on my site should look  -if your view is quite different, I would love to see a screenshot of it. Please email it to ~ Thanks!




The Importance of Automotive Grounds

Whether it is a racecar, the RV or your daily ride, the grounding system is as important, if not more important than the positive side of the battery. In fact if we go back to the 40’s, 50’s and early sixties, we would find that some production cars used the idea of positive grounds but it actually doesn’t have any impact on how the car operated. The ground still needed to be good and solid.


My first encounter with a defective battery ground cable in a vehicle was a 1989 Ford truck. I came out of work only to find that the engine would turn over but very slowly and not enough to fire it up. After breaking out the volt-ohm meter and doing some checks, I finally realized that the ground cable connection had loosened at the engine block and corrosion had built up between it and the metal of the block. Doing a quick cleanup with a screwdriver got enough of a ground to start the truck and once I was home, I did a better job of correcting the issue.

Not starting is certainly one of the major warnings that you have a problem going on, but even as the problem is building to that point, you might experience some poor performance that is so minor that’s it is hardly noticeable. In today’s cars, if you take a closer look – grounds are everywhere. The electronics require extremely good grounds but as in all systems, they can be improved. Anything that you do to provide an additional ground path or improved grounding of the current path is a huge benefit. And if the grounding was starting to fail, you might actually see an increase in performance or mileage.

RVs are especially prone to poor grounding of the various systems. Understanding that when an RV is built, you have a chassis that is supplied to the RV builder that is basically a running chassis with a steering column. The RV builder then adds the RV package to this chassis and of course the quicker you build it and get it out the door, the faster you see your money. For an eye-opener, just check the grounding that you are going to find on the connections to your headlights, fog lamps and taillights as these are commonly part of the RV package. Now you might understand why the headlights on your RV are not exactly the brightest and heaven help you if you decided to upgrade your lamp wattage. If you haven’t suffered some melted wiring, you probably will and the main reason is the poor grounding.

Race cars, especially those that are built at home are another source of poor grounding practices. The bottom line here is that a lot of hot rodders know how to make it go and stop pretty good, but ask them about the wiring on the car and more than likely they paid someone to wire it or a good friend wired it for them. Wiring is a mystery to most of them. And the grounding of some of the systems that are used can get downright complicated if not done correctly.

So – how to properly ground something? Well, first off let us always remember one very important fact. If we decide due to the item that we are wiring that we need a 14 gauge wire to connect the battery or positive side, then we need a 14 gauge ground wire too. Will it operate with a 16, 18 or even 20 gauge wire? Yes it will, but will we get all of the performance from it that we expect – no we will not. Try to think of the wiring in a circuit in it’s basic form. We need a complete circuit or loop – like traveling from our home to the grocery store – we also will need to travel from the grocery store to our home. We have to be able to return, completing the loop. As we travel to the store, we have a roadway that is more than adequate in size for us to travel, but what if the roadway was only half the size on our return trip home? Our return path will slow us down. So again if we want the best performance from any item or device we power, we need to have a corresponding ground of the same size. Our grounds need to made to a solid return path to the ground side of the battery. In our vehicles, we normally use the metal chassis as a ground plane – connecting to it and in turn the negative side of the battery. But there are cases where we should consider nothing less than a solid return to the battery itself or at least a specialized extension piece connected to the negative side of the battery. Our connections should be clean of any residue, rust or corrosion. In areas that are exposed to road conditions, we should consider applying a no-ox type compound once all of the connections to that ground point are made. No-Ox compounds can be normally found in the electrical departments of the big box stores or an electrical supply house. Grounds need to be checked from time to time to ensure that they remain clean and tight. At the first sign of performance degradation – check your grounds first!

The Ultimate Carburetor Tool?

While EFI is the new fascination of young hot rodders given that most vehicles have had some variation of EFI on them since around 1985 or so – if you stroll the pits at any drag race this weekend, you will find that about 85% of the vehicles running have some version of the Holley Four Barrel Carburetor.

Holley carburetors have been in their current basic form going back to the early ’60s. And over the last 15 years a number of different outfits have offered their version of the carburetor – either a “blueprinted” Holley unit or a manufactured unit that can use Holley replacement parts. In our case, we have several cars now and they run either Holley or QuickFuel units.

Tuning one of these carbs is either simple or complicated with that mostly dependent on your understanding of what adjustments do what to the carb in question. Everything from jet changes to fuel pump shooters and air bleed screws are changeable items on the latest versions. As in most cases, more options can end up sending you into a deep mess but that is a subject for another time.

What I have found to be the ultimate Holley or Holley type carburetor tool is just as close as your favorite home d-i-y store, in my area of the country that is mostly Home Depot or Loews Home Improvement stores. The tool itself is available for less than $7 and it allows you to tune just about every item on the carb. The tool I am talking about is a multifunction screwdriver like this one from Home Depot.

6c69a27c-4607-4800-bf1e-ed1eb96b31db_400Home Depot calls this a 6-in-1 Reversible Screwdriver. I own several of these, keeping one in the truck, shop and race trailer. I have yet to figure out the “reversible” part but this is the one that fits the bill as an ultimate carburetor tool. It comes with two removable tips that have  large and small straight & Phillips screwdriver blades. You can remove the tips and you have a 1/4″ or 5/16″ nut-driver – perfect for removing the newer style fuel bowl screws on the Holleys. The barrel that holds the tips is about 3/8″ in diameter and is the correct size for setting the fuel bowl float levels. Bonus is that the tips and nut-drivers are made of good material, I haven’t had any issues with rounding off screws or bolt heads.

What I really like about this tool is that for one it doesn’t take up much space and secondly it’s self-storing – as long as you remember to put it back together, it will be ready for the next tuning job.

Okay – This is not a test

Nor is this a new project either but I can’t help posting the newest automotive member of the family. This little number runs great, has about 90k on the clock, corners like a slot car and actually gets close to 40 mpg if you keep your foot out of it. This is a 2001 Toyota MR2 and was Toyota’s attempt at a knock-off of the Porsche Boxer.

IMG_0891Like any of the rides around here, this one needs a little bit of care and it’s got it’s dings and scratches. Other than trying to get all the dog or car hair out of the carpeting, I think a quick buff and wax plus cleaning up the headlights and wheels on this one is going to be it. Everything works now after a little lubrication and cleaning – things were just dirty and stuck. Oil & filter appear to be recent and the brakes are good for another 20-25k miles. Tires have about that much life left in them too.

This one is just going to be for fun – hanging out at the Dairy Queen at the beach with the top down is where I am headed.

How to Track Your Congress Person

Most of us would have to admit that we neither take the time or make the effort to really find out what our representatives are doing in Congress. Yet, that organization is either the hero or villain – depending on your outlook on things – in our daily lives. Just about everything we do or cannot do is controlled by this group of people.


I encourage you to go to this page and sign up to track your congress person>

You have options with your signup and the information you provide is just to let the software locate your proper congress person for your district.

Most of us say that our only recourse is our vote and there is a lot of truth in that statement. At least with govtrack, you will be able to see what and how your congress person is voting. And don’t forget, you can always write them online by going to this page:

Spam Bots – Death to Spam Bots!!

Okay, maybe the title is a little over the top but unless you are a blogger yourself you have no idea of the incredible amount of spam that hits these blogs and websites. This blog finally hit the big time – if you will  – about 2 months ago, probably because I finally connected it to the social media engine known as Facebook. Well, the spam bots have attacked relentlessly since then and our figures for the last few months show that we have been hit just over 15,000 times.

spam_bot_0So I have decided to deal with it. For one, I have normally not allowed too many comments to come through – removing the majority of them. But having to check constantly to clear out the spam filter system is just another small piece of time that I could be using for something else – like writing articles for you – my readers.

In difference to that, I have shut down any further comments on the articles I post here. If you would like to comment on an article or request additional information, please contact me at or you can use the email icon located at the top and bottom of every page in the blog. You can also subscribe to our articles  – the subscription box is located on the right side of every page. It’s the quickest and easiest way to keep up with the projects here at Rutherford Motorsports.

Free 85 Page Auto Body & Paint Manual

Here is another freebie for you. If you have any interest in auto body and paint repair, this manual is for you. Even if you are not interested in performing the work yourself, the manual can give you a good understanding of what you vehicle will go through at the body shop. The author of this manual is a young man that cuts through a lot of the hype that you might have heard about auto body repair and paint. It also has some tips for maintaining your current paint job so it always looks it’s best. The manual is in PDF and can be read with any free PDF reader. Click the link below to download your copy now.

85 Page Auto Body & Paint Manual2014-ferrari-458-speciale


Brew Your Own Ethanol – DIY Plans

Yes that is correct, assuming that you submit a form and are approved for a permit by the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Government. The permit form is easy to fill out and must be approved before any production of Ethanol can be started.

Why would you want too? With the cost of fuel creeping towards $4 a gallon and it looks like there is not going to be any relief in that, plus the fact that more and more cars are capable of using at least a partial mix of ethanol as a fuel supply – I ask why not? Depending on how much fuel you wish to make and how handy you are, the start up costs are rather reasonable. And once that is accomplished then it is only the raw products you need along with some heat to brew your own fuel.

Depending on what you wish to power and it could be your lawn mower, riding tractor or car you will need to mix the ethanol in a certain proportion to regular gasoline. I would start with a 10% mix of ethanol to gasoline and then increase the ethanol until you see issues with starting and running the machine. At that point, back up to your last good mixture ratio. As an example let us say you end up using a 50/50 mixture. With the gasoline cost at $4 and the ethanol at less than a $1 – your cost per gallon of fuel drops to less than $2.50. And the greater amount of ethanol that you can run, the lower the cost of your fuel goes.

But let’s get back to the cars for just a moment. Early classic cars could have quite the problem with running ethanol mixtures. These cars contained a lot of rubber parts that the ethanol will dry out but even for this there is a fix. It’s called top-lube and can be purchased in speed shops or motorcycle shops that cater to the off-road crowd. Mixing in a small quantity of top-lube with the ethanol will resolve most of the issues with using it in a classic. My mixture is about 2-2.5 ounces of top-lube per 5 gallons of fuel. You may wish to experiment a bit to see what works for you.

Ethanol can be make with a variety of different things, the most common would be corn and sugar. Other items such as fruits and beets can also be used. Your distilling process and the mash that you formulate have an impact on the amount of ethanol that you will have from a certain amount of mash. Most of the information about how to make or “cook” the mash can be found from searches on the Internet.

One last thing about ethanol is that it is a non-pollutant, it burns cleanly, makes more BTU power than natural gas and is fairly safe to handle with some precautions taken.

To help get you started, we have resell rights for a full set of plans to build a still for producing the ethanol, some substitutions can be made in the plan based on materials you might already have – but just remember this is for making fuel only. Consumption of anything made from these still plans could lead to death. Also included in the package is a write up on the production of alcohol and a copy of the form that must be submitted to the U.S. Government for approval before starting production.

DIY Ethanol Still Plans – Total Cost $6.00 – Electronically Delivered

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards


Free Downloads – No Strings

I have come across some computer books that might be of interest to you. All of them are free, there is no registration, no email gathering, no virus issues or spam. There is a catch but one that you won’t even notice. One method of getting your website ranked higher in the various search engines is to have connections to your website from multiple locations. I am betting that everyone who at least looks at this will not all live in the same town and therefore this site will get connections from various locations. That’s it, and I hope you find a book that is useful to you. All of them are in PDF and can be read with any PDF program. Thanks for the help!

Click here for Download Page

fix_your_own_computer_for_seniors_for_dummiesword_2010_for_dummies windows_xp_for_dummies_quick_reference_2nd_edition windows_8_elearning_kit_for_dummies networking_all-in-one_for_dummies_4th_edition macs_all-in-one_desk_reference_for_dummies linux_all-in-one_for_dummies_4th_edition iphone_4s_all-in-one_for_dummies home_networking_all-in-one_desk_reference_for_dummies fix_your_own_computer_for_seniors_for_dummies buying_a_computer_for_dummies_2005_edition blogging_for_dummies_4th_edition blog_design_for_dummies

New Harbor Freight Spray Gun

I have to rave about that gun I picked up from Harbor Freight. If I remember correctly I was able to catch it on sale and then had a 25% off coupon to boot so I think I paid about $45-$46 for it. Yesterday I pulled the steel door off of the shed and set it up in the garage. The door had never been painted and was starting to rust a bit so I cleaned all of that off and neutralized it with some white vinegar. After washing with Dawn to get any grease off of it, I let it dry in the sun for a while then took it in and put it on some saw horses. Oh, and as a final sanding I got out this palm sander that I got at HF too and that thing worked great! I used 280 grit paper, blew it off and wiped it down. Next I have this gun that I paid $150 + for from a spray gun dealer that was supposed to be a knock off of a Sata – wrong! I get about a 6” fan out of it and the paint never atomizes that well. It’s the gun I used on the Camaro’s last paint job and I should have stopped before I had completely messed it up.
I now know how to use Rustoleum in a spray gun so I shot the door with two solid coats of their light rust primer – again there was some striping effect even though I was careful to keep my distance correct and overlapped my passes by 50%. But once it dried out good, the door has a nice solid flat finish to it. When using Rustoleum, the trick to it is to mix it with about 20%-25% low odor mineral spirits. Use a viscosity gauge to make sure the paint is thinned correctly for the temperature and humidity that you are shooting in.


In prep for applying the topcoat I decided to try out the new HF gun. First off, I had never cleaned it yet so with any new gun it’s the first thing you have to do. I washed it out good with lacquer thinner then put about a ½ cup of thinner in the spray cup. I adjusted the gun for pattern and this thing is amazing. Probably have a 10” or better pattern, the material of course is thinner but it atomized really well. After that I mixed up a load of topcoat and started shooting it, it has to be the best paint shooting I have done since I used the old style pro Binks gun to paint the Chevelle. The paint goes on nice and even, just lays out like you would think it should. The door ended up looking great and you would never know it was a $9 can of paint. I am looking forward now to shooting the paint on the G35 next, I think it is going to go well.

As to the other gun, it’s not a total loss as they provided a 1.7 cap and tip so it will now become the official primer gun – at least until I find something better.

The Demise of Sears & Roebuck

Sears & Roebuck was and has been one of those great stores that was always there. I will never forget the trips to the only S&R in town with my parents on Saturdays. That was a real treat and the best part was the treat I would get. Yum, always loved those sweet orange slices from the candy counter!


But like many pieces of Americana, S&R is slipping away and has been for a very long time now. Financial reports make it plain that the writing is on the wall for them and it’s very doubtful if they can get it corrected. My recent disappointments with them have only added to the foreboding that I feel for an American icon. Did you know that back in the day, you could buy a car from Sears? Or a house even> and of course you could furnish it top to bottom and never leave the store. When my dad bought his first and only house, one of the first home improvements was a chainlink fence around the the entire backyard and guess what – it was a Sears fence, installed in a day’s time and it still stands and works just as well as the day it was built. As a kid, all the neighbor kids wanted to check out the new fence complete with gates on each front side and one at the rear. Plus you could point to the Sears emblem on each gate with a certain amount of pride – this was quality stuff. Silly yes, but a powerful statement about American. Kenmore was the name to have on your appliances and jeans, tennis shoes, shirts that I wore all came from Sears.

Over the past week or so though I am starting to understand why Sears & Roebuck is in the mess that it is in. Our microwave went out and after doing a little reading I decided to call Sears for a repair. The technician came out at the appointed time but could not even figure out how to remove the microwave from the cabinet so that he could diagnose the problem. Yet, he still managed to write up a $412 repair estimate based on what I described had occurred when it quit working. I of course refused the repair and was then charged a $75 fee – nonrefundable of course. I didn’t like it at the time but I was not going to make a big scene of it either. Later after fiddling with the unit a few times, I was able to get it removed, did some testing and found that the magnetron had failed. I replaced it, reinstalled the unit and all is good. I decided that I needed to call Sears about the fake $75 charge. A lady basically told me that I was out of luck but she would have a manger call me about it – I am still waiting for that call. The second deal was snapping a Craftsman socket in half and my Craftsman 3/8″ air ratchet quit on me. I went by a store and got the socket replaced but was told that they no longer repaired the air tools. I told the person so much for warranties and his reply was yes, one year and that’s it. I mentioned that when I bought it, it was covered for life, then it had been reduced to a free repair and now not even that much help. So the bottom line here is that Sears and Roebuck no longer stands behind the products that they sell, which probably translates into people not seeing any value in purchasing from them now. I know that other than getting hand tools replaced, my visits to a Sears store will probably come to an end too. It’s sad to watch something like this happen but it just shows how lacking the concern for customer service is in this country today. Please note that in the picture of the catalog in this post, the words “Satisfaction Guaranteed” are underlined. Funny but that used to be the truth.

The $21 Oil Change

Just a quick word here but in a previous post I spoke about performing your own oil changes and the related costs – specifically how you can save some money and probably get a better job.

This evening on the way home, I reminded myself that I needed to pick up some oil and filters for our RV. So I stopped in at the big discount store and took a look at what was available. What I ended up walking out the door with was a Purolator filter and 5 quarts of pure synthetic oil for $20.74. That is simply hard to beat and if I had been inclined to go with a regular dino oil, I could have cut the price another $5.00.

Anyone else finding super bargains like this on oil and filters? If so let us know what you’re finding out there.

Something Different

From time to time, if you live in a home of some type you need to fix something. Just like cars, stuff wears out, breaks or there is something better. My dad always said that if a mechanic was installing a shiny new part, they were happy. They hated having to clean up and reuse old parts – I have to agree as I feel the same. Let me open that box with the new speed part and I am all giggles but if I have to clean some old piece of grunge – ugh – let me out of here.

So back to the house stuff. About 6-7 years back I spent a Saturday in the attic going over all of the connections that we have for the HVAC system. My system uses a combination of insulated tin box and flex ducting to get air to and from the various rooms in the house. What I discovered then was that there was a high number of leaks in our air system and of course whether you’re heating the air or cooling it, anything lost is wasted money. After that day, I felt fairly confident that I had a pretty tight package and any air leakage was at the bare minimum.

What happened recently though is that we have had some issues heating one area of the house and another area has been getting too warm. Main problem was one of the air door dampers was blocked open due to a bad motor – that was discovered last summer but we had not repaired it at that time. After the normal research, calling around and etc I ordered a replacement motor and installed it. The installation itself wasn’t bad at all but what irritated me was the amount of air that I losing in the duct system. Apparently several things had happened, one we had a new system installed about 4 years ago to replace our old unit. And to look at from the side that you could see, everything looked great. But it was the other side of it, one that I admit is difficult to get to that was downright wrong! They had simply pushed the various parts of the air handler together and didn’t even bother to seal it to the main ducts. I couldn’t believe it, I had air just pouring out and to make it worse it appears that when we told about the air door problem, the duct was cut open – I guess to view the position of the damper and left open. Between the two, its a wonder we could cool or heat the house! But I can tell you that the attic space must have been pretty nice.

So just a note, the next time you have work like this done take the time to inspect the work. You don’t have to be a professional to feel air leaks, you hands and fingers will tell you what you need to know. And if you haven’t checked out your duct work lately, it might be something you want to look at for leaks. It could save you some money and increase your comfort.

Filtration & Other Neat Items

Recently we needed to go through a carburetor that had been sitting for a bit of time, okay make that a few years. This is a gas carb that I was using before switching over to Methanol for fuel. Phil was firing up his new engine and with the low temperatures we were experiencing, we felt it better to go with a gas unit.

As I pulled the carb apart, I was astonished to see the amount of crude that was in the fuel bowls and in the accelerator pumps. Literally, it was like pouring out very, very fine sand. I have always used a mesh at the bottom of the funnel to catch trash and of course a good-sized Peterson fuel filter attached to the outlet of the fuel tank. The cleanable filter in this unit should be stopping 40 micron sized debris – this is debris that would require some magnification for us to see with the naked eye. This stuff is smaller than the dust that you see on your paint job. In other words, it’s pretty small in size. But obviously the stuff that I was seeing and doing so because there was a lot of it, was smaller in individual size that 40 microns. Now, common sense is going to tell you that the bulk of this stuff was just passing through the system and that includes the pump, lines, fuel bowls and ultimately the engine. This fuel was also from a sealed container but transferred to 5 gallon plastic cans for easier handling to the car.

So is there anything to do for it or is it such a minor issue that the expense of doing something could not possibly provide any benefit? That is where I am at but the lesson learned here is that I will never, ever leave a fuel unit with fuel in it. I will make sure that if I am done with it for a period of time, I am going to make sure it is dry and ready for storage. The cost to repair the unit wasn’t huge but add up gaskets, accelerator pump diaphragms and carb cleaner and it’s fifty bucks that could have been saved.

Something new that I recently learned goes back to one of my recent posts concerning engine oil. The big discount stores that start with the initial W carry a house brand of oil in both dino and synthetic that individual tests have proven to be on-par with major oil companies. What of course makes it even better is that the cost of both types is roughly a third or better less that the other brands on the shelf. I have long preferred synthetic oils and on my next oil change for the daily drivers, I am going to check out this oil (with a good filter of course) and spend a few dollars for an oil test. I will report the findings here.

A few other new low cost items I have found lately have been from good old Harbor Freight. Not running an ad here for them, but if you need to pick up a few things for the garage, and you’re willing to understand that not everything in the shiny packages is actually any good, you can find some good bargains. A plus is the fact that if you get coupons in the mail they often have a 20%-25% one that you can use to reduce the cost further. Another tip is to get on their mailing list, you get coupons each month and what makes these really good is that you can purchase multiple items with one coupon. As an example, I was running low on the mechanic’s style gloves recently. Normally HF has them on sale discounted from around $8.00 down to about $5.40 but with the coupon I had for them it reduced the price down to just over $3.00 per pair and I bought multiple pair to increase my savings. It’s not like they are going to go bad and I will certainly use them in the future. A plus is that the gloves are easily the equivalent of the better known mechanic’s brand.

So on a recent trip to HF, I was able to pick up spray gun filters for a $1.00 each, blue thread lock compound for $1.39 (small tube), a pair of 3-Ton jack stands for $10.00, a pair of 500 watt Halogen work lights for $5.00 and the gloves for $3.32 a pair. Now, go to your local big-box parts store and buy the same stuff. Quite a difference and again all of this is the very same stuff.

Just to conclude this, we all need our hobbies whatever they might be and there are certainly times when the cost of them can get us down a bit. But if you look around, shop carefully and take advantage of things like sales and coupons it can certainly make it a little easier to deal with, especially in the wallet.

Tools & Their Impact

I sometimes forget how lucky I really am although I am sure other people have said the same. I am not even sure where it started but my interest in tools was from an early age and by the time I was old enough to have a paper route, I saved up some money and bought my first real mechanics tool set. It was from a place called Western Auto which eventually was sold to Sears and then the remnants became Advance Auto Parts. The tool set consisted of a set 1/2 inch drive sockets, 3/8 inch drive sockets, breaker bars and ratchets of both sizes and a set of slip-joint pliers. At some point in my teen years, I traded off the 1/2 drive ratchet for a tachometer but I never did anything that silly again. You see, tools are what really give you the ability to accomplish things. Without them about all you can do is think or dream about doing the things that you want to accomplish. They’re the magic potion in the whole mix of functionality.

Somewhere around my eleventh or twelfth birthday I asked for a larger tool set. I had pretty much done what I could on my bike with my current tool set and was eying the car my mom had in the driveway. More tools and I could make a couple of changes to that car, make it better, faster and whatever else I dreamed about doing to it. I think I was really blown away when for Christmas as my father gave me a Craftsman tool chest with a complete mechanics tool set. I do not remember the number of pieces, probably somewhere around 350 but it had everything and a roller chest to store it in. And of course I started messing around with my mom’s car, tinkering here and there, not really accomplishing much but using some of those new tools. This actually led to me getting another tool, a completely different kind of tool but one that has proven to be the education of my life. Dad I guess got tired of mom complaining about my being under the hood of her car so we went to a car auction one Saturday. I came home the proud owner of an early 60’s Ford that was put in the backyard and now equipped with plenty of tools and a car to use them on, my education commenced.

It still strikes me a little funny sometimes, but what I learned about engines, electrical circuits and fuel/brake plumbing on that car lead to the ability to knock down walls, rebuild them, wire a house and plumb it with a fairly decent level of expertise. And of course I never gave up working on the vehicles we have owned even as their systems changed, I have managed to comprehend them and kept moving forward with my repair/upgrade abilities.

I was lucky in one other respect too, a bit before my father passed away we were talking and that old car came up. I told him that the little bit of money spent on that car had been the best education that I could have ever gotten. It not only taught me such a wide range of things, it also gave me the confidence to know that if I could take it apart, figure out how it worked, then I probably had a good chance of putting it back together and making it work again. I wish I had kept records, but I am sure that over all of these years I have saved hundreds of thousands in repairs whether that was vehicle or home related.

The other little thing too is that out of that Western Auto mechanics set I purchased at the age of 10, the only piece not sitting in my tool chests today is that 1/2 inch ratchet. Fifty years later they are still some of my favorite go-to tools and I will never part with one of them again.

Radio Fun

Just finished up installing one of the new Pioneer RadioApp radios in my son’s 2006 Chevy 2500 pickup, replacing the stock radio/DVD player that it came with from the factory.


According to the seller of the merchandise there was a $250 installation fee and after working on the installation I am not sure they were charging enough. First off, they sold us the wrong factory wiring harness connector and after completing the installation we realized that it never would have worked.

So after pulling the original radio which took all of fifteen minutes, we assembled the wiring harness to the radio harness, soldering and covering all of the connections with shrink tubing. We then proceeded to install the radio and discovered that we had no power going to it, so out comes the radio and we get out the voltage probe to start trying to figure out what is going on. Now remember, we had the wrong connector harness at this time, but didn’t know it. After reading and re-reading the instructions, calling other audio shops, Googling for answers, we finally decided that we had a bad radio. Nothing it seemed would bring the thing to life. So back to the store for a replacement and a second stop at an audio outfit that had a different brand wiring harness connector.

We get everything back to the garage and go through the routine of soldering and heat shrinking (you’d think I would have learned my lesson but oh no, not me) only to plug in the new radio with the new harness and yes you guessed it – no power, no sound, zip – nothing. Ah, so now it’s time to start experimenting. After a bit more reading, I apply power to a different connection and bingo, I have a radio powered up but still no sound. Now we are starting to lose it a little, I mean I have been hooking up basic aftermarket radios since I was a teenager, and never have I had this kind of trouble. I am disconnecting connections, making new ones, trying combinations but nothing is working.

So we place a call to Pioneer support and what they tell me is almost funny. There is a blue/white lead coming from the radio that actually has no corresponding connection on the wiring harness. But, there is a blue lead that is marked as a connection for a remote control device. The support person tells us that those two leads must be connected for the radio to function. They also tell us that there are a few features on the radio that for the time being will remain grayed out and unusable? Anyway we make the connection, put back the connections we have torn apart again and sure enough we now have a radio that plays, the DVD functions and things are looking up – that is until we try to get it mounted back in the truck.

We had purchased an installation kit for the radio and the only pieces really needed from the kit was the plastic surround and mounting parts. The plastic surround ended up being a real bear, it took multiple trial and error fittings as we took a Dremel tool to shave down the inside of the piece until we could get the DVD mechanism to operate smoothly in and out. Then there was the interesting part of getting a rather large gaggle of wiring and connections pushed back in to a very small space to make room for the radio to fit in the remainng available space. With enough cursing and fussing, it finally does fit though and we are able to put the finishing touches on the installation.

So, yes it is a rather interesting radio and it sounds good even through the factory GM speakers – maybe that will be the next upgrade, but who knows? One last item before I forget, there’s another lead that is supposed to go to the power side of the emergency brake. The idea is to keep you from viewing DVDs from the front seat, but it also kills the GPS function unless you are sitting still with the emergency brake on. Now, that makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? Well here’s the deal and we take zero responsibility for it if you decide to do it, but that lead can simply be connected to a good ground and everything works just fine. Again – you’re on your own if you make this modification.


Automotive Filter Site – High Quality/Low Cost

Found this earlier today while waiting for the big game to start. I have several specialty filters on my crew cab F-350 truck and the local prices for them are just going off the charts. For the two filters I need, the NAPA price was $16.00 for one and $11.00 for the other. This outfit carries what I need for $6 and $5 – both are Donaldson brand and one heck of a savings.


This site carries Donaldson and Baldwin which if you have any connection to big trucks or heavy duty construction equipment you know are top notch quality goods. They also carry a line of about 25 products too.

Here is the site address:

Check them out if you need filters and please note this is also a disabled veteran run business.







Oil and Filter – Refresh

Like everything else the cost of oil and filters for your vehicle is going up. One of the methods that I use to save money on oil and filters is by examining what I am buying.

Let’s start with oil, the first thing you want to look at on a house brand oil bottle is the place of manufacture. Most of the time comparing the house brand oil with national brands in this manner will allow you to determine what brand of oil the house brand actually is. As an example if you see the manufacturing location as Ashland, Kentucky, then you can safely assume that the oil in the house brand bottle is manufactured by Valvoline. Normally you will find the price of house brand oil $.50 to well over a dollar less than the national brand and it is the same exact product. If you cannot determine the brand of oil, ask some of the employees, they often know the answer.

Filters are a little different.  You want a top-quality filter, you just do not want to pay top dollars for that filter. One of the best filters on the market is called WIX. Several places that sell automotive parts carry the WIX filter as a house brand. As an example NAPA sells their Gold filter which is manufactured by WIX. The price differences are normally several dollars. But you can even get a cheaper filter pricewise that is still a high quality one. Purolator sells a filter that they call Sure One. I have opened these filters several times and the contents are very close to that of a WIX filter and you can normally find these filters not only at automotive stores but also your national discount stores in their automotive section. Instead of paying $5-$6 for a filter, I can normally get these for $2-$3.

There are also filters out there that are simply not very well constructed. Will they do the job? Certainly as long as you change them often and nothing extreme happens with engine operation. But hold on a second, in another post weren’t we trying to save some money on oil and filter changes? Well, having to change the filter often to prevent failure would defeat that idea. For the money the Purolator is probably the best bang for the dollar out there, again the construction on their Sure One is very good and you can get it just about anywhere for a good price. Stay away from off-brand, odd filters and unless you have some reason to, the ultra expensive filters are not buying you anything either. As a last word and one that I promised before – Fram is one of the worst filters made, in opening a few of them, the can metal is weak, the filter media is about 1/2 of most other filters, the pressure valve is just a piece of spring metal and the end-plates for the filter are made of cardboard and glued to the filter media.

So if you do your own vehicle service, spend a little time to investigate the products that you are buying. Take a look at house brand products and compare them to the national brands. Just remember that the house brand is not a manufacturer themselves and they contract with one of the national brands to make the product for them and put it in their packaging. That little bit of work on your part can save you some big bucks.

3000 Mile Oil Change Myth

Over the last 20+ years, the myth of the 3000 mile oil change has been systematically beaten into the brains of motorists by Madison Avenue hype.

Few to very few vehicles actually require oil and filter service at this interval and unless your driving and vehicle use match those conditions, you are throwing away perfectly good oil and wasting your money.


Now, there are going to be automotive enthusiasts out there that will tell you “I never go past 3000 miles, in fact I probably change it earlier than that number.” Okay, there’s nothing stopping you from changing it 50 times a day – it’s up to you. My point here is that advertising has convinced a lot of unknowing people that this is the correct thing to be doing. What it does is cost you money – from your pocket to theirs. Rather simple, but let’s do some easy math here.

The average person puts 12,000 miles a year on their vehicle. At 3000 mile oil changes that would be 4 visits per year to a service center or doing it yourself. Currently the average cost at a national chain service center runs $35 for a regular sedan. It of course is higher for SUVs, Synthetic oil or large pickup trucks.

So we have (4) visits times $35 for a total of $140 per year – that’s not bad at all but what if we followed the manufacturer’s recommendations? Most cars since the mid-80’s have been equipped with fuel injection. This is key to reducing engine wear and in turn not diluting the oil. What happened with the older cars was that fuel metering was not a precise art. Often there was too much fuel which was wasted and it went past the piston rings, removing the lubrication which allowed more wear in the engine and then it ended up in the crankcase, diluting the oil which leads to further engine damage. We HAD to change the oil often back then, there was no choice.

Most cars have a normal range of 7000 – 7500 miles for an oil and filter change, some cars such as Mercedes come with a range of 10,000 miles. All you need to do is consult your owner’s manual or lacking that, look up the information online. If we use the lower mark of 7000 miles, we end up changing the oil 1.7 times per year or to put it another way – about every 7 months. Even if you increase that to changing it every 6 months or 6000 miles, you have saved at least $70 dollars. That’s not a lot but in most cars it amounts to a couple of tanks of fuel, maybe more if you have a small vehicle.

There is a way to improve that savings and those of you that already service your own cars know that the usual cost of a 5 quart oil and filter change – using top quality stuff – runs about $15-$16 dollars. Changing it twice a year, that’s $32 dollars and a savings of $108 dollars over the service center doing it. Plus I know what filter and oil I put in the engine – that is something that you do not know at the service center.

A quick story – I used to work for an auto parts outfit and the owner taught me that it wasn’t what you sold it for, it was what you paid for it. This was in the days of points, plugs and rotor buttons being a tune-up normally. He  paid about $3.50 – $4.00 for a tune-up kit and sold them for $5-$6, but then found a cheaper product that would work just as well and paid $1.10 for each kit. He reduced his price to $4.25 and the garages in the area bought us out every week! He increased his profit margin from $1.50 – $2.00 per kit to $3.15 per kit and sold more of them.

An oil change service center buys oil by the drum or huge tank loads and thousands of filters a year. They already get a discount on the products and who is really going to look at one of their filters nor do most people both to analyze the oil via a service. With their discounted price I would say that they are paying a little over a $1 for an oil filter and about the same for each quart of oil. Remember, neither is a top of the line product.

Next time around I will let you in on how to purchase a brand name oil at a discount price and which highly marketed oil filter should you absolutely avoid?


Getting away from eBay

I have been on eBay for a very long time, sometime around 1998 or 1999. I have been what you would call a successful seller and buyer over all of these years. But over the last few years eBay has made it more and more difficult to sell items, they limit you now to just a few payment methods on most items, they forbid you to give any negative feedback to a buyer and they make it very easy for the buyer to steal the item from you.

Even an item selling for $.99 has to have a tracking number to protect yourself from a bad buyer. Obviously if you have to ship it for a minimum of $.46 and add tracking for $.90 plus the eBay fee and payment fees – well you get the picture, you just paid to sell the item. Malicious buyers have now figured out that eBay is a pickpocket’s dream – purchase an item, say you didn’t receive it no matter what and eBay will refund the money by taking it directly out of the seller’s on-file bank or credit card account.

So giving all of this, I finally made my last sale on eBay back during the holidays. It has been almost a month and I am suffering withdrawal – I enjoyed selling stuff, it was fun but now the fun is gone. My major problem over the last month has been that I still browse eBay as a giant catalog but I am also aware that more and more of the items sold are cheap products and/or ripoffs from Asia. I am sure I will still look sometimes but in an effort to limit it I have even removed it as a favorite from my browser and removed my Id information. By the way, eBay actually makes it a little difficult to close your account but I am working on that part of it.

My final take here is that eBay was an interesting idea, it was fun but I think at least for me it has run its course. Goodbye eBay – done and out.