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 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

New Snowblower Carburetor

I recently purchased a Ariens 824 snowblower (yes I know it is May) that was in good condition. The asking price was $200. I thought that was a good deal and it might be a slight upgrade from my 16 year old 8hp 26″ Huskee. I went to take a look at it, but we were not able to get it started. I decided to take a risk and offered $100 as is and the seller accepted.

When I got it home I spent a few hours troubleshooting and I found few basic issues. The primer bulb was disconnected from the carburetor and when reconnected it did not draw any gasoline when pumped.  Also, the carburetor had a lot of grime on it and the throttle did not move freely.


I know I could have cleaned the carburetor, but I decided if I could find a good deal on a new carburetor I was going to go that route. The biggest challenge was finding the exact model of engine so I could be sure to order the right carburetor. After quite a bit of searching I found the model stamped on the underside of the rope pull housing. It was a Tecumseh HM80-155128H.

An OEM carburetor at $95 was out of the question. I found a few on eBay for around $10, but they would take up to a week to arrive. On Amazon they were a few dollars more and would ship in just a few days. Some came with a new primer bulb and fuel line too. However, I didn’t think I needed those so I opted for just the carburetor and a gasket for $15.

The carburetor arrived this afternoon and my oldest son and I tackled installing it. As we were taking the old one off we not surprisingly spilled some gasoline. I moved the snowblower out of the way and suggested he “clean up” the gasoline by lighting it on fire. (Yes, I am fully aware of the potential safety issues.) It did not ignite so we decided to drain the tank.

Now that we had a better look at the condition of the fuel line we decided it would be best to replace that too. We headed off to Menards to get a fuel line and some hose clamps. We picked up a small fuel filter too which is designed for engines without a fuel pump according to the package despite the website stating the opposite. All of those items cost just $15.

It was a bit challenging to get the new fuel line in place and reconnecting the governor and throttle links. We buttoned everything backup and put some fresh gasoline in the tank. I pumped the primer bulb a couple of times and I could hear the gasoline begin drawn into the carburetor which was a good sign. I opened up the throttle and gave the rope a pull and it took right off.


This $100 risk was definitely worth it to me to have a quality snowblower an additional $30 in parts and about 8 hours of my time. Plus I got to learn a little more about small engines and spend some quality time with my son.

New Brake Shoes

Recently I felt the brakes on my 2004 Toyota Tundra were not as effective as they should be, especially with sudden stops. I took off one rear wheel and one front wheel to check how worn they were.

Now this vehicle has disc brakes with pads in the front and drum brakes with shoes in the back. The brake pads in the front looked like they had quite a bit of life in them yet, but the brake shoes in the back had seen better days.

I have changed a lot of brake pads, but I had never changed brake shoes. I briefly considered taking it to a repair shop which would have cost between $135 and $150. I decided to tackle the job viewing it as a learning opportunity.

I made a trip to a local auto parts store for a new set of brakes shoes for $29, a hardware kit for $12, a specialized tool for the brake springs for $13 (top tool in picture below), and another specialized tool for retaining spring washer for $8 (bottom tool).


The hardware kit (springs, washers, etc.) was not absolutely necessary. However, as long as I was going to the work of replacing the brake shoes I felt it was worth doing the new hardware too. I probably could have gotten along without these tools as well, but the proper tool sure does make the job go more smoothly.

It took considerable effort to get the first drum off the pickup. I later learned there are threaded holes in the drum you can turn bolts into to push the drum off and remove it. As I was trying to assemble everything it became quite clear I should have paid more attention before removing the old parts or at least taken a picture. I decided to use my a jack stand on one side and take the other side off to figure out what I needed to know.


It took me about an hour to get things taken apart and put back together on the first wheel. As is usually the case the second one only took about 20 minutes since I had a little better idea what I was doing. I then just needed to adjust the spread on the shoes so they would make quick contact with the drum.


I did not end up saving that much money on this endeavor, about $75. Despite that, I learned something new, I have a couple tools I can use down the road, and I did not have to hassle with leaving my vehicle at the shop for a day to pay to have the work done. Those things are worth it to me. And I just enjoy working with my hands too.

Topdressing Lawn with Compost

The grass in some areas of my lawn is not as healthy as it could be. Not surprisingly, those are the same areas where the weeds seem to thrive. I have tried Scotts Weed & Feed with little to no effect. Perhaps I did not apply it at the right time or at the proper rate of application.

A few years ago I decided to spread a thin layer of compost in a section where the grass was thin and the dandelions were thick. I have the benefit of our local landfill making compost of available to homeowners free of charge. I also overseeded that area. The results were dramatic. I have done a couple of pickup loads each year since.

On my most recent trip to the landfill to get compost I went back over the scale after I had my load. I am a poor judge of how much things in large quantity weigh. I guessed I had 1,200 to 1,500 pounds. I had 2,400 pounds!


One pickup load takes me 5 hours of work. The landfill is about 30 minutes from my house, so that is one hour. It takes me an hour to load, an hour to unload, an hour and half to spread, and 30 minutes to overseed.



The section on the left in the picture below is from the first load of compost I hauled two weeks ago. The section on the right is from one week ago.


I recently learned this process is called topdressing. I am happy with the results and I will definitely keep doing it, maybe even one more load this season.



Tale of the Tape

Due to some sort of flaw in my stride I frequently clip the inside edges of my shoes when I run. Over time holes develop and grow while the rest of the shoes are in good condition. This has happened numerous times on different brands so I know it is me, not the shoes.


I have put duct tape on the holes after they show up to prolong the useful life of the shoes. I have even used duct tape preemptively where I am prone to wear holes before they form. Whether before or after, the duct tape begins to peel leaving a sticky and grimy residue. I have often wished there was some sort of tape-like material I could use which would be more effective.

I think I finally found it. Enter Tenacious Tape by Gear Aid. This stuff stretches. It can be used on fabric, vinyl, inflatables, metal and plastic. It is tear and peel resistant, stays flexible in the cold and can be washed. As you might expect it is a bit expensive at $6.95 for two 3″ x 5″ pieces. However, if it can do what it claims it will be worth it.


I have had it on my current pair of running shoes for about six weeks. I have run in snowy and muddy conditions (not at the same time) and it seems to be holding up with no evidence of peeling.


The website where I found the Tenacious Tape has all sorts of products to fix various materials such as GORE-TEX®, neoprene and mesh in their Care & Repair section. I have a feeling I may be ordering more items from them.