Change a stubborn lawn mower blade safely and easily

Change a stubborn lawn mower blade safely and easily

I needed to change a stubborn lawn mower blade this weekend. The bolt on the old one was frozen hard. That proved to be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I learned the secret of changing a blade without hurting myself, and without an impact wrench, even when the stubborn bolt doesn’t want to turn.

To remove and replace a lawn mower blade safely and easily, you need a length of 2×4 board long enough to stand on, a small plastic pan, the biggest socket wrench you can find, and a socket that matches the stuck bolt on your mower. If you don’t have a socket wrench or torque wrench, you can use a regular crescent wrench, but you want the biggest one you can find. Longer wrenches give more leverage, and you need lots of leverage to free a stuck bolt. Read more

Rob O’Hara on phreaking, Tesla coils and modems

Rob O’Hara posted a podcast about phreaking today. He explains in layperson’s terms how the phone system was controlled by tones, cites it as an example of security through obscurity, and he talks about his own first-person experience subverting the phone system. He was far from the only one who did that.

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No matter what brand you buy, you’ll have carburetor trouble

I bought a lawnmower this weekend for the other house. Of course they tried to get me to buy the $40 extended warranty to cover a $162 lawnmower. “You’ll have carburetor trouble no matter what brand you buy,” she said.

The bold print on the warranty paperwork said it excluded carburetor cleaning, so I don’t know what the point of that was. “I’ll pass,” I said. Read more

My lawnmower adventures

I’ve had the same lawnmower for the last 4 years or so. Maybe three. I lose count. It’s a piece of junk–worth slightly more, perhaps, than what I paid for it (nothing) but it didn’t work right when I got it, and this mowing season it just fell apart. And besides falling apart–the wheels really were coming off, and I couldn’t find anyplace that sold new ones that fit–it was getting to be impossible to start.

My wife found another one at a yard sale for $25. It didn’t start either, but at least it was in good physical condition and it was only a year old.

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My adventures in bureaucracy

I don’t have anything interesting to tell you today, but since Steve DeLassus sends me at least a weekly dose from people who think their laundry is interesting, I’ll tell you about my day yesterday.
My Dodge Neon died in my driveway a couple of days ago. Yesterday I paid a towing company to haul it off to the dealer so I could turn it in. The warranty was up 3,911 miles ago. Figures. (Now I feel better about having paid $700 extra to extend my Honda Civic’s warranty to 7 years/100,000 miles.)

That will be the last time I ever lease a car, by the way. Leases make sense when you want to always have a new car. I don’t. I can think of a few things that would make me happier than to still be driving that same Civic in 2018. But it’s not a very long list.

The cause of death turned out to be a broken o-ring, which caused the spark plug chambers to fill with oil. So I can’t exactly count it against the car. Fixing it still isn’t cheap though.

After watching my Neon get towed away, I took my new car off for its St. Louis-is-too-polluted emissions test. If St. Louis really wanted to fix its pollution problems, they’d extend the light-rail system out into the Missouri suburbs where people actually live, but too many people are convinced people (they usually use another word that I won’t repeat) will ride Metrolink in from East St. Louis and steal their big-screen TVs. More on that in a second.

My Civic failed the test. My gas cap was polluting too much. Yeah. Vehicles that get 12 miles to the gallon on the highway are fine, but my 38 MPG Civic with its factory gas cap causes too much pollution to be acceptable.

So I had to drive to Autozone (polluting all the way), spend $5.91 on a new gas cap for a year-old car, then drive back to the emissions station (polluting less all the way) and sit in line for 30 minutes with my engine running (does that pollution count?), and get tested again to prove the world was rid of the scourge of my substandard gas cap.

Yes sir. We’re more concerned in St. Louis about the damage caused by faulty gas caps on ULEV vehicles than we are about our lack of an effective light-rail system. But the good news is I now have three of the four pieces of paper I need to get my vehicle licensed legally. And you thought Missouri’s temporary 30-day tags were a courtesy. No sir. It’ll take you pretty close to that long to navigate the bureaucracy.

And finally I had someone come out to look at my hot water heater. Based on the serial number, it’s old enough to drive and probably got its license last month. (That might explain a couple of those mysterious dings in the Neon.) He replaced a couple of 16-year-old parts, which will hopefully stop its leaking, which will hopefully cause my monthly gas bill to descend from the stratosphere. If I were paying the bill, I’d have just replaced the thing, but my home warranty means someone else makes the decisions.

It was a fine day. Or something.

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