Toilet tank flappers: The hidden shitstorm

The house we’re living in is a fixer upper, which actually had mostly cosmetic damage minus the plumbing and electrical work. The electrical bothers me the least because you can test it before you work on it. The plumbing bothers me the most since hydrostatic pressure is a funny thing and prone to cause explosions and all manner of horror.

Previously my father had been rolling around the haunted crawlspace and he managed to bang into the feed line for the house. The pipe came off the pipe hangers, dangled down and cause the water to start spraying around from the water meter. Brilliant.

More recently the toilets would top themselves off. This is actually fairly normal if you live in a dry environment so I Wasn’t terribly concerned but then the toilet actually flushed itself in the middle of he night. While slightly disturbing to go from leaking to flushing, it started to happen about once a day and this is where I got fed up with it.

Yeah I realize we’re talking about 10 cents worth of water here a day and a valve that costs $3 will take almost three years to pay for the repair. However when I attempted to clean the first toilet’s flapper, the rubber went to pieces in my hand. The other problem was the water around here before I put the filter in had a fair amount of sediment suspended in it. It still does, and you can see it in the clear plastic pipe I used to go to the filter. That sediment gets into the pipes, collects, ¬†and causes things like the valve seat to get covered in grossness. It will eventually go away once you have a filter, but until it does the valves won’t work correctly. (For reference, the sediment buildup is marginal – it’s merely a weird black dust which used to come out of the spigot when I ran it in the morning and was cured by a 5 micron filter).

I ended up buying two universal valves from home depot. For reference there’s a cheaper valve which is a cone, but the cone has to be sized properly. It’s either small or large. You would think it would be impossible to screw up. You want the ball with the hole in the bottom so it gets sucked into the valve seat and pressed down by the pressure. Not only were the valves here in poor condition of their own, not only were the toilets filled with sediment, but the cone for the upstairs toilet was the wrong size.

Note that the first time you flush the ball flapper, it won’t work correctly. I’m not sure why this is, but it works much better after a few flushes. Part two is the stupid float, being the wrong valve, would mean the toilet upstairs never ran enough water to clean itself properly. That’s just grim.

Fixing a Chainsaw

Continuing my DIY streak of buying broken stuff on ebay and fixing it – last weeks purchase was a craftsman gasoline powered chainsaw. Total price? $30.

Stuff I generally look for on ebay when I’m buying something used: Does it have all it’s parts? Does it run? Does it look abused? The number one killer of two strokes by far is running straight gas in them. This causes the rings to fail and whatnot and you end up with a motor with no power if you can get it to run at all. The second biggest killer is carbon buildup. Fortunately carbon just requires cleaning.

The chainsaw was the latter. It was listed as “starts but won’t run”. You’ve got two options basically for fixing this condition – run straight gas (see original paragraph) or clean the carbon out. Or check the air filter! Oh, there’s no air filter on a chainsaw – this is probably where all the carbon comes from. Sawdust. Being sucked straight into the carb. WHO DESIGNS THIS CRAP?

Back on topic – this was a dead easy fix. I keep a ton of WD40 around. It’s really useful, and it also loosens up carbon and gets rust off stuff (sometimes). In a two stroke engine it’s golden because the carbon is usually layers of gunk with oil in between. Find something to thin out that oil and you win. What’s thinner than gasoline? WD40. I had a spare plug. I pulled the old plug (nasty and fouled) and filled the cylinder with WD40. I put the old plug back in and filled the intake with WD40 with a piece of tape over it. Finally, I filled the gas tank with… WD40. I forgot about it until after dinner (about four hours). I considered dumping the WD40 back into the can but after seeing how much gunk it had in it I decided to throw it in the oil disposal bottles.

I didn’t really bother to measure out the proper oil/gas ratio, generally if you put one capfull of oil in the saw and then fill the gas tank and shake it you’ll do OK. Remember – it doesn’t have to be 100%, especially if you’re letting the saw warm up and not chainsawing stuff in the middle of winter, but you can’t run straight gas and expect your gaskets and rings to live forever either. If you’re seeing blue smoke come out the exhaust when you start it, it’s about the right ratio, since this indicates the oil isn’t being completely consumed (and thus some still is in the cylinder to lube it up). For bar oil, bar oil is SAE30, which means any 30 weight oil will work. Note that your car is 10w30, which means it’s 10 weight oil. If you’re going to use automotive oil (and I suggest you do since it’s literally a 10th of the price), then buy a few quarts of honest 30 weight oil. 10w30 simply means it’s 10 weight oil which has 30 weight when it’s cold. Again, unless you’re using the saw in the dead of winter, that oil is 10 weight.

I changed the plug and filled up the tanks with the appropriate fluids. I forgot about the stupid choke and tried starting it several times without the choke and ended up looking up the manual online. Go me – best laid plans and all that. Finally texted my brother and he reminded me the choke lever (which is blue of all things…) needs to be set. Pull the choke, hit it until it tries to run, then push the choke and give it a yank. Yay, it started right up (and put a layer of oil all over everything in my workshop). I let it idle long enough to send my brother a hilarious video of this thing dancing it’s way across the floor and called it a success.

Camry Breakdown!

Everything happens at once. I got the MR2 moved to “classic” insurance so I’m paying $12.80 a month to insure it (or about $200 a year) so the camry decides to buy the farm. I’m driving into work today going “hm, seems like it doesn’t have as much power as it should”. Pulling into the parking lot it goes WHEEEEEZE and dies right as I pull into the parking spot.

It’s a weird feeling with your hand about to touch the keys when the car does exactly what you’re about to do.

Needless to say, it might be the plugs but I’m much more inclined to think it’s the igniter or battery. It’s enough to make you want a Jeep, which my wife owns a 1996 cherokee and it doesn’t give her nearly the raft of crap it should. I don’t really want to spend the money on the camry, but I also know once I get the house I’ll really not be interested in working on cars for quite a bit. Obviously I need to fix this now and cheaply.

For those not in the know, the shop manuals for a 1992 to 1996 (“Mark 3”) camry are getting hard to find, but Turbo Ninjas hosts them for us. You may want to mirror their site while you can…