Loose Vacuum Belt

We have had a Kenmore canister style vacuum for at least 15 years. It has served us pretty well. One of its attachments has a small rotary brush for use on stairs.

That attachment has not worked for quite a few years. I thought something had burned out and never took a closer look. I finally decided to take it apart and see if it could be fixed.

When I first turned the switch on the brush would start spinning, but would stop fairly soon. So it wasn’t completely shot.

Upon further inspection it seemed the belt was a little loose. I put a twist in the belt to increase the tension and it spun like it should. However, it was now spinning backwards.

The belt was too short to put two twists in it. One of my sons suggested putting duct tape around where the belt goes on the end of the brush to increase its size and the tension of the belt. It worked perfectly. A classic frugal fix.


Twice Planted Tree

We planted two small blue spruce trees (2.5′ tall) last fall in early September and two more that were a little bigger (5′ tall) in late September. Perhaps I should have staked them at that time, but I did not.

We had a major blizzard two weeks ago starting with 50 mph winds and finishing with 14″ of snow. One of the bigger spruce trees got blown right out of the ground before it started to snow. I tried to stake it in the wind, but soon realized that was a battle I would not win.

I put some dirt from the garden in a galvanized tub, put the tree in it, and brought it into the garage. Today it was finally nice enough and I had the time to replant it. I staked it this time.

Loose Tailgate Latch

Over the last few months I had notice the tailgate latch mechanism on my 2004 Toyota Tundra truck had started to shift around a bit when pulling the handle to open the tailgate.


To understand what I was getting into I turned to YouTube and found this very helpful video which walked through the process of replacing the tailgate latch.

I was hoping that perhaps a tightening a few loose bolts was fix the problem. No such luck. The plastic housing that held the inserts into which the two mounting bolts turned into was cracked.


And because old things are rusty I could not turn the bolts out. An angle grinder probably would have been the best tool for the job, but I do not have one. I turned to my little Dremel which was up to the task.

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Since I had to cut off the existing bolts I needed to find replacements. I was able to find two bolts in my stash that required spacers, but did the job.

I checked with my local Toyota dealer and they had this part in stock for just $122. To have them install it would have likely another $100 or more. I got it from Amazon for $18 and it took me about an hour to do the job.

Time for a New Mirror

Our oldest son started driving last fall. The vehicle he drives is a 2002 Buick Rendezvous with a little over 200,000 miles. He is very cautious and has been doing well.

Our third stall garage where he parks is a tight fit. One morning last week, he cut it a little too close an clipped the driver’s side mirror. The mirror itself did not break, but it broke off its mount. Certainly not a big deal.


I am not sure how much this would have cost to replace at the dealership or a body shop, but my estimate is around $250. I picked up an aftermarket one on eBay for $40. It was not that difficult to install. I just had to pry a small plastic panel back to reveal 3 bolts and wire connector for the mirror adjustment motor.


The upper corner of the plastic housing doesn’t sit flush against the vehicle as it should, but overall I think it will work just fine. And I’ll keep the extra $200, thank you very much!

Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold

The check engine light on my 2004 Toyota Tundra came on a couple of weeks ago. I got out my OBD II code reader to see what the problem was. It reported P0420 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold Bank 1.


The root cause of that code is either my catalytic converter is not doing its job effectively or the system doesn’t think it is doing its job effectively. A catalytic converter is going to have two oxygen sensors to detect if it is functioning properly. The one before the catalytic converter is referred to as “upstream” and the one after is referred to as “downstream.”

My truck actually has two catalytic converters. The “Bank 1” means the one with the issue is the one serving the side of the engine with Cylinder #1. In my case that is the driver’s side. Check your maintenance manual for the specifics in regard to your vehicle.

Since the code indicated the issue was with “Bank 1” rather than a particular sensor, I thought it would be best to replace both. I was able get them from RockAuto.com for just under $95.

They weren’t too hard to get to. Nothing like when I replaced an oxygen sensor on my 2005 Honda Pilot and had to use a mirror to even see it.

The upstream sensor is the type the screws directly in. If you have a special oxygen sensor socket it will make things a whole lot easier. The downstream sensor slides in and attaches with two nuts. One of the nuts was completely rusted away and there was not much left of the other one. I took the little bit that was left and took it to my local hardware store to make sure I got the right size of replacement nuts.


I always like to compare the old and the new parts to see if they are the correct size, if the wire is long enough, if the plug type is the same, etc. The new sensor came with some anti-seize lubricant to put on threads so it hopefully comes out easily whenever the time may come.

I have driven my truck for just one day and the check engine light has not come back on. Before replacing the sensors, when I would clear the code it would come back within 10 minutes. This job took me about 90 minutes. I could have probably done it in 60 minutes if I would have skipped taking photos, but then you would not be able to enjoy them.





New Set of Wheels

When I got my 2004 Toyota Tundra almost four years ago the alloy wheels were already in tough shape with the outer coating flaking off all of them. And over the years it got progressively worse.


I started researching what a replacement set of wheels would cost right away. I was able to find them on-line new or refurbished for anywhere from $100 to $150 per wheel. That was far more than I wanted to spend so I quit looking.

Every once in a while I would look on Craigslist thinking maybe I could get a better deal there. Just over a year ago I finally found a set that was within my price range, $200. The tires on them had hardly any tread left, but that was not a concern. I offered $160 and the seller accepted. The only problem was they were 300 miles away.

I called a friend whom I knew traveled to that area occasionally and asked him if he would be able to get them up for me. As it turned out, he was driving in that direction when I called. He got some cash, stopped at the seller’s house that afternoon, and picked them up. Did I mention he is an awesome friend? He stored them until we were able to meet up a few months later. I paid him $40 for his trouble.


I wasn’t quite ready to put new tires on my truck so I put the wheels up in my attic for almost a year. Last week I finally decided it was time. I went with the Firestone Destination LE 2 for the tires. I am very happy with the result with respect to how they look and the good deal they were.

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More (Mower) Deck Problems

We have an empty lot our neighborhood that has been overtaken by weeds. Our HOA is getting the local conservation district to spray the weeds and plant a natural grass mix.

I mowed the weeds down in preparation. The terrain is pretty rough. I thought I was taking it easy, but apparently not easy enough. The next time I mowed my own yard I could tell something wasn’t quite right. I got off to inspect everything and found the weld on one of the mower deck mounts had failed.


I dropped the mower deck by removing just five pins and the next evening hauled it to a friend’s house who has a welder. Thirty minutes later and some orange spray paint and I was good to go; better than new.


Due to weather and scheduling the conservation district folks were not able to get the lot sprayed and seeded before the weeds had grown up again. So I headed over with some trepidation to mow them down again. This time I went much slower and totally avoided one area at the edge with lots of washouts.

The weld held up just fine, but I a rock or some other foreign object. The result was a bent blade and three out four corners of one of spindles were broken off. Yikes.


The old spindle was stubborn coming off. I was able to turn out just one bolt. I twisted one of them off. The other two had to be cut off with a hacksaw. A new spindle and pulley from Amazon was $32 and a new set of two blades was $35.


The empty lot got sprayed this past week and should be seeded next week. And that’s a good thing because I have done enough damage.