I got $2.40 for a Scrap Metal Radiator, Worth the Time?

old radiator

Recently I a replaced and installed a new radiator in a van.  After I had the new radiator installed I realized I had this old radiator and was trying to figure out what to do with it.  It can be a bit of dilemma for someone who does auto repair at their house.  Auto part stores don't want it is not a rebuildable core, so they can't get any money for it.  You could throw it out, except an aluminum radiator is worth something in scrap metal.

I usually find I always have this issue of what to do with used auto parts like this radiator.  You can take it to a metal recycling center and they will give you a little money for it.  Most of the time I don't bother with taking used auto parts anywhere as it just piles up and I never remember or get around to taking to exchange it for cash.  Also I'm pretty sure if I left the metal in my car I'd waste gas having it the car.  I'd likely keep forgetting to take the metal to a recycling center for cash and then it would become a cash drain.

Luckily for me today I was close to a metal recycling center with the old radiator in my trunk, so I decided to stop-by and exchange it for some money.  What did  I get for it?  A nice $2.40, which is better than nothing but not enough for even a fast food meal.  (Not that I encourage eating any fast food.)

While I'm not knocking the $2.40 in hard cash I got, it made we wonder…is it even worth the time and gas to turn in scrap metal like this radiator?  What about the gas?  The metal recycling place was about a 1-mile-and-half out of my usual way.

My opinion is if I had made the trip specifically for the old radiator I'd say, “Nope!”  I would have wasted too much gas and my time for the $2.40.  Since I was already in the area it was sort of a no brainer.  However, if I had the radiator in my car for two weeks or something I would have likely wasted more money in carrying it around then actually getting money for it.  A lot of factors to think about for a used auto parts like this.

I'd love to hear shadetree mechanics and the DIY auto repair community's opinions and thoughts about this.  Would you take this old radiator if it was separate trip or do what I did?  Try to cluster it around an errand or where you usually drive.  How do you usually handle old auto parts?  Do you have way to get the more money for them and to maximize your time and gas?

How to Repair Car Wiring

Learning howto  repair car wiring and splice wires is an important skill you will probably need someday. With time and practice this skill can be mastered and is useful and necessary for those looking to be professional automotive repair technicians or make DIY repair jobs themselves on vehicles. With automakers adding more sensors, electronics, and gadgets to cars chances are one day you will have to make a wiring repair, whether you want to or not.

For those unfamiliar with the procedure of repairing a wire I'm going to walk through how repair car wiring simply and easily.

Step 1 – Strip Wires

First you want to strip back ¾ of a inch on the outer insulation of the wiring on each end you will be connecting together. (The inner metal part, usually made of copper, is called the conductor as conducts electricity.) It's best to use a wire strippers that have various sizings on them for small wire repair. These can be purchased in most hardware and auto parts stores and are a great addition to any toolbox.

Remember to size and cut a piece of shrink tubing and put it on one of the wires before twisting or soldering them together. If you forget, you will have to take apart or re-strip the wire connection later to put a piece of shrink tube on the spliced and soldered part of the wire. If you fail to put a shrink tube on it will likely cause more damage to the wire from corrosion.

Step 2 – “Y” Wires

Now that the wires are stripped, take one of the wires and make two equal but separate connections with the copper strands and form a “Y.” Repeat with the other wire and then join them together interlocking the two wire ends and twist them together. When joining the wires together it is best to use one finger to hold down the legs of the “Y” on the same side on a table or flat surface. Pick-up one wire so it it at 90 degree angle to the other wire and start twisting rotating together. Try to keep the connection as snug and tight as possible.

If this is done properly there should be no gap or a very small gap between the copper strands and it should be a fairly tight connection. Also it should not be or that much larger than the outside diameter and gauge of the insulation of the wiring.

Make sure to leave enough room so that the outer insulation “none” strip sections of the wire can bend without too much trouble. You can repeat this using your other hand and twisting the other side of the wiring. It should be a strong connection even if without soldering or using shrink tubing yet. Lightly pull it to see how the connection feels.

Note: They are many methods for twisting car and auto wiring together.  This is just one way to do and certain automakers and manufacturers might have different techniques.  

Step 3 – Soldering Time

At this point you can get out a soldering gun. Nowadays most automakers recommend a butane-powered soldering gun that uses a flame for heating the tip. Soldering with an electric soldering gun is generally note recommended nowadays as it can possibly send voltage back through the wire and damage a sensitive electronic component.

Before beginning make sure the wire flux you are using is rosin-core NOT acid flux. If you use acid flux you will wreck the wiring since it will corrode down the road. I also recommend you wear protective goggles. You never know what debris could fly up at your face and into your eyes while soldering.

Once your gun is on, and your goggles are on too, touch the soldering gun to the splice and let it sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You should be able to to see when it is getting hot. Take your flux wire and carefully let the solder flow at the junction of the gun tip and splice. Put the flux too close to the gun tip and it will “stick” but if it is too far away it won't heat up enough.

Once it solder is flowing keep adding and pushing the flux wire and creating more solder. It will flow around and onto the copper wiring strands and you want to make sure there is enough on there. You might need to move the gun depending on the size of your wiring repair.

The solder should look nice and shiny when done. If it's dull looking you will have to reheat it since it was not hot enough. Try to give it a nice shiny appearance.

Step 4 – Shrink Tubing

After you've let the solder joint cool, and admired your work, it's time to get use that piece of shrink tubing on the wire and complete the repair. Heat shrink tubing is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyolefin and will shrink around the wire protecting it from the elements and corrosion.

The best way to shrink the tubing around the splice to use a heat gun. Typically butane-powered soldering guns have an attached just for this. The tubing shrinks when enough heat is applied and will seal and conform to the shape of the wire.

The quick and dirty method is to use a lighter, but be aware that can possibly cause damage.

Step 5 – Check for Continuity

It's good to check for continuity that the wiring and circuit is working properly. You can use a multimeter and set it to read “Ohms” so that you know the wire actually works.

Car Wiring Repair

Learning how to repair car wiring is something that sounds hard, but once you have the basics down it will be become more natural. There are other methods you can use to repair automotive wire. Crimping is another popular method but many automakers nowadays don't like auto technicians or people using this method since crimps can pull apart.  Also it can leave your solder joint susceptible to the elements and corrosion.

Whatever method you use check what the manufacturer recommends of the vehicle you are working on.  If you ever need help remember there are lots of resources out there to help with wiring and electrical repair online nowadays.

If you have any questions, tips, or advice on car and auto wire repair please leave a comment below.

Tips for Filling a Car or Motorcycle Battery

car battery

If you find yourself needing to fill a car, motorcycle, or other type of battery there are some tips I thought I'd share.  I assume filling a battery with battery acid is not really something you want to do in the first place.  Let me tell you that most professional mechanics don't like doing it and will try to avoid doing this too.  Sometimes though you have to buy particular batteries “dry” meaning they will not come filled with battery acid.  So you don't have an option.

Even though it might seem like a scary procedure to do it's not that hard.  However, there are several precautions you should take before attempting to do this.  So here are some tips for filling a car of motorcycle battery.

Wear Protective Clothing and Gear

This sounds like common sense but don't wear open toe shoes or sandals, shorts, or t-shirts when filling a battery with acid.  Always wear boots or shoes, long sleeved shirts and pants, and you MUST wear goggles or something to protect your eyes.  I'd highly recommend wearing rubber gloves when handling the battery acid and battery.  Just run to the grocery store and pick-up a pair of glove for dishwashing.  While these might not be the best protection they are better than standard latex gloves.

You might also want to wear a mask.  The reason?  When you pour the battery acid into the battery it's going to smell like rotten eggs since it produces sulfuric dioxide.  It's not a pleasant smell and can hit you hard if you are not expecting it.

Buy a Clear Battery

If you are going to buy a battery to fill yourself it's a good idea to make sure it's a clear see-through battery.  This will make filling it a lot easier and make your pouring more accurate so you do not accidentally overfill it.

Fill the Battery Outside or in a Garage

Since filling a battery is going to smell like rotten eggs, DO NOT do it your basement or house. It's going to smell and it will likely make you a very unhappy camper to have that battery smell lingering in the air.

Use a Table

I'd recommend using a table when filling your battery.  This again, sounds basic, but you would be surprised by the people that I've seen do it on the ground.  Not only is this more complicated but will hurt you knees and back.  Unsure why some people opt not to use a table.

Let the Battery Sit

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to not let a battery sit for awhile after they have filled it with battery acid.  The reason you want to let a battery sit, with the holes open, is that air bubbles are usually form when you fill each individual cell.  If you seal and then charge it there are going to be air pockets in the battery cells which will ruin the charging efficiency of the battery.  This will result in bad battery performance and most likely a shortened battery life.  I'd recommend letting it sit at least 10-12 hours possibly 24 hours if you can manage that.

Charge the Battery Slowly

Once you let the battery sit for awhile you need to charge it up.  If you are going to charge the battery it's best to put it on a slow charge, preferably at 1.5 amps.  If you choose a fast charge it might ruin the initial charge, which is the most important one.  Letting it charge slowly will ensure that it reaches 100% capacity which will improve the battery performance and longevity.

Final Tips

Remember you are handling battery acid which is extremely corrosive and could seriously hurt you or damage your vehicle.  Treat it with respect and do not mess around.  I also encourage anyone reading this to dispose of old batteries properly by taking them to your local auto parts store for recycling.  Be kind to the environment and your neighbors.

If you enjoyed this article please checkout my video on How to Replace a Car Battery.

Hoped you like my tips for filing a car or motorcycle battery.  Think I missed something?  Let me know below.

Changing Headlight Bulb on Volvo S40

Today I helped a family member change the headlight bulb in their 2008 Volvo S40.  At first I thought this was going to be an easy job, like replacing most headlight bulbs, but as with everything on Volvos you need to know the special tricks to do anything basic.

First I had to search around for the hood latch, which is a red lever but has no hood or car marking on it.  Most cars have this so I was thrown already just trying to open the hood.  Thankfully I figured it out but I am sure a lot of people get frustrated by the fact this isn't straightforward.  I certainly did and I have been working on cars for awhile.

After that I got the hood opened and started looking at the headlight housing I wasn't sure how to get at the bulb.  It was clear there was a door but there wasn't enough clearance to release the springs to open it.  I started looking around the headlight housing and thought, “Ok… how do I remove this thing?”  That was clearly the only way to get at the headlight bulb but there weren't any screws.  This is where your best friend comes in when you don't know how to do something on a car comes in, Google.

Yes, I Googled it!  There is a metal piece and bracket mechanism that holds the Volvo S40 headlight housing in.  No screws!  Very smart and very Swedish in it's design.  I thought it was quite cool actually and removed the headlight no problem once I knew how to do it.  Then I undid the electrical connection when I had the headlight off.  I removed the housing, got out the old headlight bulb, and then made a quick trip to the local auto parts store to get a new H11 and put it back everything back in.

Now I know how to replace headlight bulbs on these Volvo S40's and it will be hella easy next time.  It was sort of annoying though having to figure it out, but that is how it is working on cars sometimes.  You got to figure things out as you go since some cars are completely different than what you are used to.

Most likely I will post a guide with some pictures in a couple of days.  I am sure there are a lot of Volvo owners who would like to know how to do this right.  I might even shoot a video if I have time as I think a lot of Volvo S40 owners would appreciate this.

5 Tips for Preparing for Winter Wonderland Driving

winter driving
Winter Driving

Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous.  Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too.  You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:

#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!

It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you're ever stranded, you'll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It's also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.

#2 Winterize Your Car

It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car's fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition.  If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it's a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance.  Slippery winter conditions mean you'll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters.  Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.

#3 Slow Ridem

There's never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn't be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they're inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you're familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car's rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.

#4 The Man with a Plan

If you're planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you're going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you've got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don't allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.

#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go

When you're stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver's seat; you don't want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it's clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you'll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.

Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.

Dont’ Buy Trico Flex Wiper Blades!

The other day I went to the auto parts store to pick-up some Trico Flex Wiper Blades I had purchased online for my Mom's Chrysler van.  (I usually do this to save time and hassle.)  I assumed spending money on the frameless wipers, like the Trico Flex Wiper Blades, would be a good investment.  However, when I went to install one of the Trico Flex wipers on one side of the van, I noticed that it wouldn't fit.  I thought for a minute I was doing something wrong and starting fuss with the wiper arm and the wiper blade.  This is when I noticed what the problem was.

The Trico Flex has the wiper attachment mechanism on one side of the wiper blade instead of being embedded in the into it the body, like most wipers.   This makes the Trice Flex line of wiper blades not usable for a lot of vehicles like my Mom's van.  Talking with the girl at the auto parts store only confirmed this.  She told me when I returned the wiper blades, “Yeah, I need to exchange a lot of those because they won't fit on customers vehicles.”  I returned the Tricos and got another frameless wiper for the other side.  It was kind of ridiculous and a waste of my time.  Wish I had taken a picture before I returned the blades so people could see what I am talking about.

Some stupid Trico engineer probably thought this was a smart move.  I am fairly sure he/she has never actually every installed wiper blades on a car though or they would have realized this serious design flaw.  Bottom line Don't But Trico Flex wiper blades and save yourself hassle.

I recommend Bosch Icon frameless wipers and have them installed on my Honda Accord.  They are usually expensive, but worth the cost and investment since they last for quite a long time.  The set on my Accord have been installed for a year without a problem.

 

Preparing Yourself and Your Car for Hurricane

Tropical Storm Katia (NASA, International Space Station, 08/31/11)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter / CC BY-NC

Preparing Yourself and Your Car for Hurricane

With Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, bearing down upon the entire Eastern seaboard and many states getting slammed by heavy rain and wind, I am sure lots of people are wondering what they could have done to prepare for a hurricane better.  An important consideration is that your vehicle can be damaged easily during hurricanes, it's important to try to do all you can to protect this valuable asset.

I recommend parking your car as close to your house as possible and in the driveway.  The reason is if a lot of home insurance policies will cover damage to a vehicle from trees or debris if it close to a house.  This varies on what type of policy you have though.  If you have a garage, carport, or some other structure you can park your can that would be the most ideal place to park it.  That is certainly not guarantee but is a safe bet.

Obviously though your car is not the only consideration for preparing for a hurricane during hurricane season.  Here are some tips to get hurricane ready;

  1. Food: Make sure to have enough food for your whole family. This includes any pets you might have in your family.  We have dry dog food and canned dog food that will last our dogs, Cody and Sierra, awhile.
  2. Water: You also need to have clean drinking water too.  It is recommend to have 1 gallon of clean water per day.  If you are not sure if you have enough, at least have a teapot and heat source so that you can boil and sanitize drinking water if necessary.
  3. First Aid:  It’s always good to have a First Aid Kit in case of an emergency.  You never know when you might need it.  I recommend having hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting wounds), bandages and gauze, cloth tape, needles, gloves, ointment, and a blanket.  It is also a good idea to have a first aid booklet handy as well.
  4. Medications: Make sure to get any medications for your family filled before you need to hunker down at your house or go to a shelter.
  5. Emergency Contacts: Keep an emergency contact list.  This includes, relatives, doctors, veterinarians,(if you have pets), or friends.  Make sure to know about the nearest nearest shelter if you need to evacute your area due to flooding.  If you have pets, be sure to find a pet-friendly shelter.
  6. Rain Gear, Towels, & Clothes: Try not to go outside if you can help it, but it's always good to have a poncho and rain gear in case you do.  It's a good idea to have as much clean clothes as you can too.
  7. Cash: Cash, and I mean the real green stuff, is good to have in case power is going to be out for awhile.
  8. Flashlights, Batteries, and Candles:  It’s good to have flashlights and batteries if you are going to be without power for a long time.   I would also recommend having short stubby candles since they are less likely to tip over and cause a fire.  Matches are a good idea to have too!
  9. Full Tank of Gas:  If gas stations don’t have power, they can’t sell gas.  It’s a good idea to fill up your car’s gas tank if you need to go somewhere with your family.

You should also consider having a spare flashlight with batteries, blanket, and first aid kit in your car if you need to venture out.  It's best to not drive during a hurricane, and you have been told not to, you shouldn't.

I hope these tips will help you prepare for Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm, or any other hurricane in the future.  If you have any recommendations, tips, or advice about hurricane preparedness you would like to add, please leave a comment below.