Russ' Do It Yourself Home Workshop

Finding Fixes to Just About Anything and Everything

Archive for the ‘Home Repair’ Category

Upgrading the Aerator on a Septic Systems

Posted by Russell Wright on August 8, 2015

I know!  Let’s design a septic aerator with an electric motor that sits down in a very caustic environment where the motor and bearings will only last 2-3 years so the homeowner has to constantly replace it.  And when it floods, it’s always good to have electrical power sitting under water!  NOT!


This is the stupidest design in the world.  Poor idiots at Norweco.  They haven’t figured out that electricity and water don’t mix.


No problem…let’s upgrade!  First you need to get an aeration stone like is used on a pond.  I found one on eBay.  It’s a 7" dome diffuser airstone.  It was about $50 or so.


Next, put it on a long length of (properly measured) PVC.  I chose to use electrical conduit.


Next, attach a PVC union for easy installation and removal.


Now you’re getting the idea.  The assembly will be lowered into the chamber where aeration occurs.  Notice the notch taken out of the side of the concrete collar for the air supply line.


You can lower it all the way.


And make the final attachment with the PVC union.  This is where prior measuring and cutting is important!


Now it’s all attached.  See the old electrical outlet?  It’s dead now.


How did the air line get there?  A little digging!


Just a shallow trench.  I think it took me about 45 minutes.  I’m pretty good with a spade.


Covering it back up.


Watering the sod back down.


The final attachment to an aeration pump.  This is a very standard pump I got off eBay.  It’s a Hiblow HP-80 and was $248.00.  A little tubing and fittings and a bit of wiring (it runs all the time) and you’re done.  At this point in time it’s been running for over a year with no issues.  There’s a filter you have to clean and/or replace once or twice a year, but no big deal.  My effluent has never been cleaner!  That’s a nice way of saying, "My @#$% don’t stink!"


Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | Leave a Comment »

First Alert 9120B Smoke Detector Keeps Chirping/Beeping

Posted by Russell Wright on April 4, 2014

I had a smoke detector that kept chirping.  Thinking it was a battery problem, I replaced the battery even though the battery that was in it tested out okay.  Now, this is a smoke detector located at the top of the stairs, so I had to get my folding ladder out to get to it.  You know…two ladder feet on a stair and the other two feet of the ladder on the top of the stair landing with 6′-1", 210 lb. me standing on the ladder, reaching for the ceiling.  Not a pretty sight.  And, to make matters worse, the dang thing kept on beeping after I replaced the battery.


So, standing on the ladder (I didn’t put it away because I thought this might happen), I removed the smoke detector by rotating it CCW to detach it from its base so I could get to the plug on the back.  After unplugging it (and not falling off the ladder) I took it downstairs and removed the cover.  There are three plastic tabs/clips that can be released, one-at-a-time, to allow you to remove the cover.  I took the naked smoke detector out to the garage and fired up the air compressor (what…you don’t have one?) and blew the sensor clean.  I reassembled the detector (snapped it together) and put the original battery back in it and voila, no more chirping!

This detector is located near our attic fan, so I’m thinking it gets a lot of dust and particulate matter blown by it when the fan runs.  However, it looked very clean on the inside, but blowing it out appears to have done the trick.

Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | 10 Comments »

Water Dripping into Freezer Compartment on Whirlpool Refrigerator ET1CHMXKT04

Posted by Russell Wright on January 4, 2014

Do you have water dripping into your freezer causing ice buildup in your Whirlpool refrigerator?  This is a common problem that can be easily rectified.

Assuming you don’t have water simply running into the freezer compartment from the ice maker, this issue is usually caused by the defrost drain becoming clogged and icing up.  If you aren’t familiar with how a frostless refrigerator works, a defrost timer turns on a heating element (the long, black thing in the picture) on a periodic basis to melt the ice that forms on the coils of the evaporator.  The water drips into the stainless trough and down the drain hole and tube into the drip pan at the bottom of the fridge.  The water in the drip pan evaporates due to the heat of the condenser and the fan below.  But, what would cause this problem in the first place, you ask? 

Well, if the refrigerator is tilted too far forward, it is possible the water dripping off the evaporator during the defrost cycle is running into the freezer compartment (which can be fixed by adjusting the feet on the front of the fridge), but it is more likely the problem is caused by some bit of food or debris entering the drain, starting a clog and then beginning the vicious ice cycle.  Fixing this problem takes a little time, but it’s pretty straightforward.

Empty the freezer and take out the wire shelf by tilting to one side or the other and lifting it out of the way.

Then, remove the ice maker.  While I don’t have a picture of this, there are usually 3 screws that have to be loosened or removed, two on top and one on bottom.  Many times the top one or two screws don’t have to be completely removed, just loosened enough to lift up on the icemaker and unhook it from the screws.  Once you detach the icemaker, there is a single connector that you must disconnect so it can be extricated from the freezer. 

After the icemaker, you’ll notice two screws that hold the back in place.  These need to be removed and then, depending upon your current ice buildup, you will probably need to use a hair dryer to melt the ice so you can completely remove the back of the freezer.  When you do, what you should see is the evaporator and fan, as seen in the picture.


Offset, over to the right is the drain hole in question.  Using the hair dryer, take your time and melt the ice (it’s probably easier and safer if you unplug the fridge).  I used a shop vac to vacuum up the water from melting the ice along the way.  At some point, you should be able to heat up some water to the boiling point and pour it down the drain hole.  This should clear the drain tube and the water should be running into the drip pan at the bottom of the refrigerator.  If you use a flashlight and peek under the fridge, you should be able to see it running into the pan (hopefully you HAVE a pan!).

If you remove the cardboard back off the fridge, you should see the tube and be able to access it with your shop vac.  Looking into the pan, I noticed the "crap" that ended up in it…it appeared to be pieces of chicken and other food products.  I vacuumed the water out of the drip pan and then used the shop vac to pull a suction on the tube, using my hands to seal the interface.  Then I ran some more super hot water down the drain a few more times.  Here is the final result. 


After getting it all cleaned out, it’s time to put it all back together.  Put the back on, install the icemaker and insure the correct tilt of the fridge by making sure the door closes on its own when you release it.

My advice to you is to keep your freezer clean and be aware of any "accidents" that occur that may unknowingly initiate the process again in the future.

Posted in Appliance Repair, Home Repair | Leave a Comment »

Garage Door Opener Jerks When Raising

Posted by Russell Wright on September 21, 2010

I was noticing that my garage door openers were jerking pretty hard when opening.  From a little googling, I found that the garage door “settles” over time and the limit switch settings need some small adjustments.  What happens is that the garage door travels too far down and “loads up” with downward pressure, thus causing a big “jerk” when the pressure is released.  Apparently this is pretty common and easy to fix.

You should have two adjustments on your garage door opener that adjust the upward and downward travel of the door.  Mine have pictures molded into the plastic.  I simply backed it off in half- or quarter-turn increments and retested the door.  Seems to have fixed my problem.

2010-11-12 Update

Well, that really didn’t fix my problem.  There seems to be some slop in the screw drive mechanism.  Some more googling turned up a screw drive sprocket coupler (Liftmaster 25C20) that seems to be a very common part that wears over time. 


I went down to the local garage door opener shop down the street and purchased two of these for $7 each (I have two garage door openers).  To replace them, you simply remove the two bolts (7/16”) that connect the track to the motor (located at the top of the garage door opener) and swing the motor drive mechanism back until there is enough clearance to remove the coupler.  Drop the new one in to place and position the motor and track assemblies back together and replace the nuts and bolts.  This took about 10 minutes per opener.  Seriously, it took me longer to get my tools and ladder out and put them back.  I’ll let you know if that fixes the problem.

2010-11-13 Update

The new sprocket coupler didn’t seem to make any difference.  Talking to the garage door person, she asked if the door had recently been painted.  In fact it was painted, along with the rest of the house, this past summer.  Now THAT’s starting to make some sense.  When the garage door sits for some time, it gets “stuck” with the really sticky paint that was used.  That’s something I noticed after the house was painted and the garage door seal trim was replaced…the paint on the seal never seemed to get completely dry.  It’s always been tacky.  I bet this is the root cause.  I’m trying some silicon spray on the parts of the door that have paint that make contact.

Posted in Home Repair | 4 Comments »

Whirlpool Gold Refrigerator GS6NVEXSS01 Dispenser Frame Detached from Door

Posted by Russell Wright on April 18, 2010

So I’d normally be posting a repair to help others save money and headaches, but on this one, I have to ask for help.  I’ve got a fairly nice Whirlpool Gold refrigerator (GS6NVEXSS01) that has ice and water in the door that has a mechanical nuisance that I’d like to solve.

The refrigerator is only a couple of years old and has developed a problem with the poorly designed plastic insert that frames/contains the dispensing equipment.  What I hope you can see from my pictures is how it’s pulled away from the door of the fridge because the flimsy plastic retaining tabs have broken from, I believe, just opening and closing the door.



I’ve looked around and found that I can purchase the replacement part, which looks like it includes a lot of things I don’t need, for about $300-$400…at least from what I can tell.  Ouch!  I haven’t actually talked to anybody yet to see if the plastic trim part is available without all the other stuff that hangs on it.

I’ve thought about drilling a couple of small (#4) holes in the corners and using some small, black self-tapping screws to fasten the corners down.  But, before I did that I was wondering if anyone else had a problem like this and what they did to solve it.  Has anyone see a “re-design” of this part?

My wife and I really like the overall design and functionality of this “ice and water through the door” part of the refrigerator, but I’ve got to say I’m really disappointed in the mechanical design. 

2010-11-21 Update

I finally took it upon myself to fix this.  Here’s what I did.

I found some #4 (I believe) black, flat head sheet metal screws and very carefully drilled holes in the upper corners of the plastic bezel.  This was after making sure there was some metal behind the bezel that could accept a sheet metal screw.  I counterbored the holes in the bezel using a countersinking bit so the screw heads would be flush with the surface. 

Then came the hard part…drilling the holes in the sheet metal behind the bezel.  Maybe I have crappy drill bits (but I think I used a brand new one), but that piece of sheet metal is HARD!  It took me quite a while to punch a hole through it will the drill, but it all worked out well.  Here are my results.

The screws are barely noticeable.


Everything is being held in place and has been for several months now.


I’m much happier.

Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | Leave a Comment »

Repairing My Life Fitness x5i Elliptical Console (Part Number XCI-0000-0102)

Posted by Russell Wright on January 8, 2010

I have this real nice Life Fitness elliptical trainer that I really like develop a console problem at the end of December 2009.  Many of the keys would no longer work.  One of the keys that wouldn’t work was the ENTER key, so that made the console almost worthless.  I could select one of my custom workouts, but I couldn’t start the workout because ENTER wouldn’t work.  Along with the ENTER key, there were several other keys that just stopped working.

I contacted Life Fitness but alas, there was only a 3 year warranty and we purchased the elliptical in February 2006.  It was going to cost several hundred dollars to fix, so I decided I had nothing to lose by taking it apart.  They did suggest that I could save about $200 in labor costs by replacing the console myself.  $200?!?  It takes about five minutes to take the thing off and put it back on!

I had already removed the console (four screws on the back), pulled the connectors off and reseated them with no luck, so I began by cracking open the console.  After removing the console from the elliptical (four screws), I had to remove eight screws, two of which are located under the label on the back (which is stuck securely down with very sticky double-sided tape), in order to crack open the console to expose the entire board.

There was one other ribbon connector that was exposed when the back was removed.  Since I hadn’t reseated this connector, I pulled it off and put it back on.  Then I connected the bare console back up to see if I got lucky…and I did!  Guess there was oxidation that set in on the connector over the past few years.  I’m so happy.  🙂


Here’s an update as of June 9th, 2010.  Now I’ve got the same problem others (like Regina) have with the elliptical going into “beeping” mode.  I can get 5, 10 or maybe 20 minutes out of it sometimes before it starts beeping and changing modes randomly.  Even with taking the control display console apart and reseating all the connectors, I am still left with the same problem.  This morning, it got so bad I finally got “motor error” displayed.  Bummer.  Here’s a post on where miles22 was having a similar problem and getting parts, a flywheel servo motor, from Life Fitness.  The possibility of there being a problem in the backend flywheel area actually crossed my mind and I started taking it apart to see if I could get to the parts.  I need a little more time to do some disassembly, so it will have to wait for the weekend.

In the mean time, I talked to LifeFitness support and they were good enough to provide me the service manual for my x5i.


I’ve been working on this over the weekend and have come to the conclusion that there is a problem with the membrane switch part of the console.  If I disconnect the keypad connector on the back of the console (the 7-pin flat connector in the picture) then the erratic behavior goes away.  As soon as this is reconnected, the console goes into crazy mode.  It’s really a shame because I’m pretty sure you can’t purchase the front part of the console with the switches.  I’m going to be shelling out $350 to get my console repaired.

I guess another option would be to replace it with the “non-interactive” version of the console (XCS-0000-0102).  I really hate to dumb down something I paid extra for, but it looks like LifeFitness has decided that there’s not enough demand for a “fancy” console and all the new ones come with a blue console.  When I called the other day, I think they told me I could have mine repaired for $350 or get one of theirs for $450.  I’ll probably get mine repaired…I hope it lasts longer than four years.

IMG_1119 with Callouts

Major update 2010-06-17

After sending my console out for repair, it was pointed out to me by Glenn H. that the source of the problem could be the power supply.  I actually checked my power supply and it was between 13 and 14 VDC, so I thought, "good, 12 VDC, a little high, but not completely abnormal."  I failed to read the specs on the power supply and, as Glenn pointed out, it should be 9 volts, not 12!  Now, he has also pointed out that the $10 power supply probably wrecked the console.  I bet LifeFitness knows about this problem.

Way to go, LifeFitness!  Put a cheap, made in China, power supply on a $3 or $4 thousand dollar machine so when it goes bad, it starts taking out other pieces of the machine.  This sounds like a problem that has been experienced by many people.  If it has happened to you, leave a comment!  I’m beginning to smell a cover up on this one!  Let me know what you think.

Update 2010-07-04

I received my “repaired” console ($350) while I was out of town and installed it today.  While it was out being repaired I purchased a replacement 9 volt, 1 amp adapter on eBay for about $10, so I know that I won’t be damaging the new console with a bad power supply.  The installation went quickly and without incident.  Everything came up and worked.  From what I can tell though, the console was brand new.  At least all the plastic parts and keyboard were new.  There was a new PROM installed on the board, so I’m not sure if they used the same circuit board or not and I didn’t attempt to determine whether it was the same one.  The part that took me the longest was putting the machine back together again, as I had taken some of it apart while troubleshooting (which I’ve documented here). 

My final thought on what happened was this.  Somewhere along the line, probably about two years after purchasing the elliptical, the power supply began to fail.  This may have been caused by a voltage surge or it may just be a cheap, made-in-china power supply.  This was indicated by the console randomly beeping at times when it should be in “sleep” mode.  This was before the failure became a permanent problem (If you have this happen, immediately suspect the power supply.  Take it off and measure the voltage to see if it is still 9 volts.).  Continued use of the over-voltage power supply finally caused a failure on the circuit board…most likely causing corruption of the PROM that contains the program for the board.  I suppose it’s possible that the keyboard went bad, but I doubt it.  I think it was all mainly caused by a corruption of the programmable chip.  Anyway, it was finally corrupted to the point that the keyboard handler code wouldn’t even work correctly.  This made both the keyboard and the console useless.  Since I didn’t have access to a new programmed chip, my only option was to send it out to be repaired.  Oh well, now Mr. E is all up and working…

Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | 242 Comments »

Repairing My Aqua Rite PCB (GLX-PCB-RITE) that was Damaged by Lightning

Posted by Russell Wright on August 23, 2009

Note: I’ve had many requests asking if I have any of the parts (thermistor/Ametherm SL32 2R025 BigAMP current inrush limiter and the Littlefuse V150LA2P varistor) required for this fix.  I now have some!  They are currently listed on Craigslist and Webstore (I took the listing off eBay because it gets prohibitively expensive for an inexpensive item such as this).  I bought several and will ship them in the U.S. via first class mail for free.  If the links above don’t work, search for “Ametherm.”  You should find the listing.  By the way, I don’t repair pools for a living (I’m a computer geek) and I don’t make my living trying to sell current inrush limiters.  I’m simply doing this to help others out.

Ametherm SL322R025Littlefuse V150LA2PAquaRite Manual

We have one of those salt water chlorination systems on our swimming pool that works pretty well.  It does need some help in the summer when it gets really hot here in Texas, because our pool is almost 40,000 gallons (Texas sized)!  This summer (2009) we’ve been having some real problems with algae, especially the black kind.  If you’ve never had black algae, it’s bad stuff.  Once it gets started, it attaches itself to the plaster and begins to eat it away.  Besides treating the pool, you have to manually scrub, dig, sand, pick or chisel the algae out of the pores of the plaster.  When you do remove it, you’ll see pitting from where it’s been attached.  Bad stuff.

We’ve been fighting this all summer and, one morning I went out to visit the outside Aqua Rite controller and found that the green “generating” light was not lit.  In fact, there was only one light on…I think it was the power light and, if I remember correctly, it was red instead of green.  I may be wrong on this, but I do remember there was just one light on and I said, “Dang, now I know why we’ve been fighting having enough chlorine in the pool all summer!”  Yeah, the thing’s been busted all summer long.  Probably happened in the spring during one of our thunderstorms.

I called technical support at Goldline Controls (now part of Hayward) @ 908-355-7995.  The helpful rep walked me through pushing the little test button to the left of the LCD display and I read him the readings it displayed.  One of them was 0.0.  I think that was the one that immediately made him say, “You’ve got a bad board.”  I called the local repair facility and nearly had a heart attack when they told me it would cost $360+ to replace the board.  Ouch.  Doing some checking on eBay, I found that one could be had for a mere $180…about half the cost.  I thought it was worth a try to attempt a repair (okay, I’m cheap).

Being an electrical engineer, I immediately opened the case and removed the front panel to expose the innards.  It’s easy to get inside.  Just remove the two screws on the front panel and grab the top of the panel in the hole provided.  Of course, you should do this with the power off!

 AquaRiteFrontPanelRemovalWhen I removed the cover I looked carefully around and noticed that there was a brown spot on the printed circuit board in the upper right corner near a big, black disc.  From what I’ve seen (and done) in the past, it looked like a component had fried on the board.  So, I proceeded to remove the board.  All you need to do is remove all the connectors attached to the board and, if you have an Aqua Link, unscrew the four wires that provide the communication to the Aqua Link.  Don’t forget the little RJ-11 (telephone) connector at the bottom of the board that is plugged in on the outside of the box.  Not a big deal, as all the connections are conveniently identified by color on the PCB (printed circuit board).  In this photo I have the power on…you should, of course, have the power off when you remove the board!


As I did some research, I found that others have had similar problems to mine.  It turns out that the big black disc is a varistor.  A varistor is normally used as a protection device that, at a certain voltage, changes its resistance to a low value.  It essentially “shorts out” voltage spikes.  The idea is to protect from things like power surges caused by lightning strikes and the like.  Turns out this one had given its life for the protection of the PCB.  My hat’s off to you, Mr. Varistor!  You saved my board.  I’d gladly give you my Bud.

Additional research (i.e. Googling) was done to locate the the part number of the varistors…yes, there are more than one!  However, in my case, there was only one that was a problem.  The other two are much smaller.  The large one is an SL32-2R025-B made by  Ametherm.  The smaller ones (that I didn’t replace) are V150LA2P made by Littelfuse.  They are the little red discs that flank both sides of the black terminal strip on the lower left of the PCB.  I ordered the SL32-2R025-B from eBay from STI_Trade for the whopping price of $1.99 (plus shipping).  I ordered two, but actually got four, because they came two to a package.  I think the whole thing came to $7.08.  So, I have some extras.  I might just give one or two of them away if someone asks me for them (and proves that someone is reading my blog)!


When I removed the varistor from the board with a soldering iron, it literally fell apart in pieces.  Installing it was not a big deal if you’re familiar with soldering…a 15 minute job.  The moment of truth was when I re-installed the board and powered it all back up.  Worked like a hose!

I told my wife I saved $360 – $7.08 = $352.92.  That qualifies me for some brownie points!

I found a post on how to calibrate the Aqua Rite. If you have a Jandy Aqua Link system, make sure it is in service mode before attempting this procedure, else it won’t really do much!

Move the switch to the Auto position. If the switch is already in the Auto or Super Chlorinate position, move it to Off then back to Auto.

Wait for the relay to click, then push the diagnostics button 5 times to the instant salt level with the minus sign in front.

Wait for the instant salt level to stop moving lower, make sure it is within the range of 2700-3400, then move the switch up to Super Chlorinate then back down to Auto. This saves the instant salt level reading as the new default which, in effect, recalibrates the unit to be able to run normally and chlorinate the pool.

The values on the display for each press of the button to the left of the display are:

  • temp
  • voltage
  • amperage
  • desired output
  • instant salt reading (comes up with a dash before the # to differentiate with default product code)
  • software revision
  • back to default


    Here are some more pictures.

  • IMG_1992









    Related links:


  • Posted in Home Repair, Pool Repair | 621 Comments »

    Replacing the Battery on Your Casio Calculator Watch and Resetting the Watch

    Posted by Russell Wright on June 7, 2009

    Okay, so I’m a geek and I wear a calculator watch (most of the time). I’ve been sporting the Casio CA53W-1 since about 1980. I’ve had several.

    Replacing the battery is not good for over 40 eyes. You definitely need some magnification! If your remove the 4 screws from the back you have a tiny o-ring that seals around the back and a CR2016 battery that is held in place with a clip. There is also has an insulator attached to the clip.

    Push down on the battery to slightly flex the clip and use a small jeweler’s screwdriver to carefully detach the clip side that is located toward the keyboard. Once you hook it, it shouldn’t take much. Then, carefully remove the clip and insulator.

    Place a new battery in the compartment, + side up, and hook the clip/insulator to the top hook and then press down to flatten the clip. Use your small screwdriver to carefully assist with attaching the bottom part of the clip. Don’t rip up the insulator!

    After installation, you’ll have to perform a reset on the watch. In the lower right quadrant you should see a small gold contact on the circuit board with the letters AC (all clear?) stamped on the sheet metal backing next to it. It took a strong magnifying glass for me to see it. Temporarily short the gold contact to the sheet metal backing and the watch should reset itself to 12:00 a.m.

    Put the cover back on with the teeny tiny screws and you should be good to go. Be sure to get the o-ring gasket in the channel correctly.

    Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | Tagged: | 8 Comments »