What a Drag!

A few weeks ago I helped my wife’s uncle clean up some scrap iron on his farm. We hauled most of it to a local junk dealer. He kept some with a future use or repair in mind. I claimed this iron drag thinking I could piece together enough good parts to use it to  pull behind my lawn tractor to aerate my lawn. I had also grabbed about 20 feet of cable that I planned to use to pull it.


I replaced replaced the bent, missing, and worn teeth with the good ones from the extra bars. I also replace two bent bars with extra straight ones I had found and sledgehammered a third one straight. Using cut-off grinder and a bolt cutter borrowed from a neighbor and about $10 worth of cable clamps, bolts, washers, and nuts it was ready to put to work.

The teeth were worn all in the same direction. When I pulled it with the smooth edge forward it didn’t seem to do much. So I hooked it up in the opposite direction with the sharp edge forward. That seemed to work well enough except stopping me cold going uphill. And I have a relatively hilly lot. In the end I decided that it wasn’t going to work out for me.

I posted it on Facebook and Craigslist for $25. Given the response, I could have asked for more. I got 9 messages on Facebook, one email via Craigslist, and a text from a personal friend. However, I prefer to price things to move. I enjoyed the project and made $15. Good deal for me and the buyer.



Replacing CV Axles

Our 2003 Audi A6 Quattro had developed a clicking noise coming from the front passenger wheel area while turning. That is a symptom of the CV joint becoming a problem. I inspected the CV boot and it was completely broken open. At the recommendation of a friend I decided to replace the entire CV axle on both sides.

I did my standard YouTube research and found this video suggesting this was not too difficult of a repair. Uh-huh.

He mentioned a few specific tools necessary to do the job such as a 10 mm triple square spline bit (like a Torx bit, but 12 points) to remove the CV axle from where it connects to the drive and and 17 mm hex bit socket to remove it from the wheel hub. The new CV axles came with new standard bolts to attach to the wheel hub so I picked up a 27 mm socket for that. I borrowed an electric impact wrench to assist. Ready to roll.


Initially, I planned to tackle this on a Saturday with the hope of finishing in one day. I decided to start the night before. That was a wise choice. With the car up on a jack stand and the wheel removed on the passenger side taking out the one axle bolt in the center of the wheel hub did not present too much of a challenge other than requiring a lot of torque.


Next there are three bolts requiring a 6 mm hex bit to remove the heat shield. That allows access to the six bolts connecting the axle to the drive which take the 10 mm triple square spline bit. I had to use multiple socket extensions to get at these bolts. All 18 were difficult with very last triple square bolt being the worst. I stripped it out and ended up forcibly removing it by drilling it out and cutting the head off with my Dremel. I was not able to get the entire bolt out so that axle is only attached with five bolts.


I got the first axle free in about 90 minutes. However, I could not turn the wheel far enough to get it out. I struggled with it for another 90 minutes with no progress. I figured loosening up some suspension and/or steering components would allow more movement. The two bolts which connect the wheel assembly to the strut were the only ones accessible and not seized up.

Unfortunately, one of the bolts on each side could not be removed because of the proximity to the frame. I had to cut the heads off of each those by hand with a hacksaw blade. That was the hardest part of this whole deal taking 30 minutes for each bolt resulting in a visit to my chiropractor on Monday. I suppose a reciprocating saw would have done the trick in this situation, but I did not have one.


Once I had those two bolts out I was able to swing the wheel assembly far enough away to get the old axle out. After all that, putting the new one in was easy in comparison. Following this type of work on a vehicle it might be a good idea to get the alignment checked, but I did not feel it was needed.


This was a tough, physically demanding repair. It took me 12 hours over the course of two days. I spent $125 for the parts and about $70 on tools. My local dealership quoted me $300 parts and 4 hours of labor for a total of $750. Was it worth it? I think so. While my estimate for this job was 8 hours, I had the additional time to spend on this. Sure I could have spent the extra $550 and had the dealership do it, but where is the fun in that?

Dead Mower

A few days ago one of my sons mowed a portion of our lawn while I was at work. I was going to finish mowing later that evening. I attempted to start the mower. Nothing. No cranking, no clicking. Nothing. I tried all of the usual suspects. The blades were shut off. I was pushing the brake as far as it would go. I was sitting firmly on the seat.

I thought the battery must be dead. However, when I put the charger on the light indicated the battery was already charged. I inspected the wiring and couldn’t find anything out of place. I was not excited about the possibility of hauling it in to a small engine repair shop. It finally occurred to me to look for a blown fuse. Bingo! But why?

I didn’t think too hard on that, I just bought more fuses. I proceeded to put one in and it blew instantly. I figured that was just a fluke. So I popped another one in. Same result. Good thing I had purchased a 5-pack of fuses. At this point I decided to do some research and found this very informative and helpful video.

After selectively disconnecting some of the wiring and trying new fuses as suggested I determined the issue was the switch (or the wiring to the switch). By this time I was also out of fuses.

My oldest son has a multimeter so we pulled the switch out, found the wiring diagram for the switch in the manual, and tested the circuits for each key position of the switch.

We found the issue right away with the circuit in the “OFF” position being M+G+B rather than M+G+A1. We then removed the back of the switch to reveal the copper component shown below (I don’t know it is called) which connects different circuits corresponding to the position to which the key is turned. It had popped out of its seated position and was misaligned.


We cleaned it up and put it back in place. With the back of the switch snapped back on we retested each of the circuits. They all tested out. I got another 5-pack of fuses and we were off and running again.

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!