The $5 car fix – Or, the psychology of an Elantra

This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, which is why I celebrate it when it does.  Usually my car repairs end up being much more than I want, which is often roughly double what I will have a week from the time the failure occurs.  However this repair is about as good as the flood episode, when I somehow managed to save a car from flood damage and a $5,000 engine replacement with nothing but a set of spark plugs, a half roll of paper towels, some starter fluid, and lots of net research and elbow grease.

A little background:  My Hyundai Elantra is battered, dented, from 2006, but quite faithful.  One thing it likes to do however, is have the check engine light come on right around the time I need to go through emissions so I can renew my registration.

This time was no different.   With concerns about expensive gasket, valve or seal replacements dancing through my head, I went to the local auto parts store and had them read my trouble code.

Much to my relief I found that the trouble code was indicating a faulty sensor.  It was a hundred dollar part, which isn’t bad but then I needed to have someone replace it, which brought the cost of the repair to around ninety dollars more than what was in budget.  Especially with those registration fees coming up, too.

So what’s a penny pinching driver to do?  Net research.  I fuzzily remembered that this sort of error could also be caused by a dirty sensor.  Lo and behold, I found out that it was indeed true, that the Mass Air Flow Sensor could easily be dirty and it just took a can of special cleaner to fix.  And sometimes a special tool to get the thing off, depending on the car.

Okay, so I was willing to find out where this thing was.  I did more research.  It turned out that the sensor was right up top next to my air filter, which I had successfully changed, and I would only need a screw driver for the hose clamps holding the sensor in place.  Yet more research revealed that the fancy cleaner could be swapped for simple isopropyl alcohol, administered by a clean spray bottle.  Total cost of some 91% alcohol and a spray bottle at my grocery store?  Less than five dollars, and I bought the PRETTY spray bottle.

With a hopeful heart I set about my repair.  The only difficulty was in getting the electrical lead unclipped, but luckily my intrepid partner knows more about clips than I  do and she got it undone.  A few minutes of spraying and an hour of air drying later, I had my little sensor back in place.

Now, if I was right, the check engine light should go off on its own.  I researched further, into something called the “drive cycle” for my car, which should allow the vehicle to do all the standard tests to figure out if the engine is healthy or not, and (hopefully) let the check engine light come off.  It sounded more like figuring out the psychology and motivations of the car than anything!  I had no luck on the long drive to work, even though I kept the car at steady RPMs between 2000 and 2400 for more than 10 minutes, idled for a minute, and did some but not all of the other parts of the drive cycle.  I wasn’t expecting much as I had found out that having a full tank of gas wouldn’t allow some of the tests to happen, because those need a certain amount of space in the tank to even run.

On the way back home I decided to buy a trouble code checker, since I’d found out that one was said to be available at a local big box store for about fifteen dollars.  It wasn’t until I traipsed through that entire store and found a code checker (for three times the price so I didn’t buy it) and got back to my car, started her up and drove out of the parking lot, that the check engine light finally went off on its own.

That evening I had the emissions test done with not a single problem.  I was floored but also elated.  I, the not so mechanical person, had actually managed to get the light to go off, not by some cheat or trick but by actually getting to the root cause.  As a bonus, my idle was smoother and I’m pretty sure my gas mileage is slightly better.

So that is how I won, for a change, and managed to get a $150 repair (at the least) down to less than $5.

The moral of the story is to always research.  No matter what the repair is or the problem is, there is usually information online to help you, and at the very least, knowing more about the problem will prevent you from being taken for a ride.

 

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Life with backyard chickens

beak bird chicken close up
Photo by Souvik Pradhan on Pexels.com

If you want to live with chickens, prepare for noise.

Even if you leave that noisy rooster (who doesn’t just crow at dawn, mind you, he crows often during the day, pretty much when he feels like it, and his voice carries for miles) at the feed store, the hens will make a racket.

You know how hens just make soft clucking sounds in movies?  Well, they do that, but they also have their ultra-loud “I just laid an egg and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done” call, that usually sets off the other hens, until they finally settle down.  Until another one lays an egg, that is.  That one sounds like “buckbuckbuckbuck B’GAWK!” repeated seemingly ad infinitum.

Then there’s the “I’m really completely hungry and haven’t eaten in days” sound that sounds like a raspy “raaaaaaaaaawk, raaaaaaaaawk, raaaaaaaaaaaaawk,” and once again has all the hens involved.  I don’t care how often you feed them, chickens are basically bottomless stomachs and have very little memory.  So they always think they are hungry.

I love taking care of chickens, and I even love the obnoxious roosters.  But they’re a bird for the country unless you have understanding neighbors.  My advice is, bribe them with fresh eggs.

Did you know chickens can fly?  Surprisingly long distances at times, even for the fat, heavy ones?  They can get up on roofs, into trees, and over fences.

Chickens are good for pest control, provided you don’t allow them near baby plants.  You might try a portable run that you could move around the yard.  Properly fenced, they are an asset.  The eggs are fantastic when you have your own chickens, they even taste better than the fancy free range cageless eggs at the store.  Chicken manure is great for your garden if you age it properly.   They will help you dispose of kitchen scraps and my even kill rats and mice.  Mine did, anyway.  Some chickens will become friendly and start following you around.   So definitely have them if you can, just be aware that it’s not at all like what you see in the movies!

That’s what I learned from a childhood of chicken-keeping!

Early Rising

It’s so easy to be a night owl.  I was.  I may be again someday.  I have worked swing shift for years and years.  I finally found a job that starts no LATER than eight but we can show up at six thirty if we want.

I thought “Argh!  I’m used to getting up at nine!  Going to bed at two or three!  I’m an incurable night owl!  How can I ever adapt?  Why would I want to?”

There was angst, trust me.

Then I moved into my new house.  Everything was so topsy turvy, and I was so tired from all the hoop-jumping with the overly long loan process, not to mention packing, cleaning, hauling, cleaning, moving boxes, putting things away, and worrying about car troubles – I was ready for bed every night by ten.

I decided “It’s a heat wave right now.  It’s already over ninety by the time I have to drive in.  I’m going to get up early.”

It felt strange at first, but I realized I really liked it.  It’s so cool and quiet in the morning.  The traffic is light.  It’s not so stressful to commute.  The people at work are quieter at six thirty and we can get a lot done before the rest come in at eight.  There’s a bit of camaraderie between all the early folks.

I mention all this because it can be so easy to think “I can’t change, I have to do this because x and y and z,” and by doing that you might actually be missing out on a lot.  Getting up early can give you a little more time in the morning, to get ready for the day, have caffeine of some form, maybe even sit down to eat breakfast.  Who knows?

Hopefully life will allow me to stay an early riser for a while!

If you don’t get up early now, and you get a chance to try it, you might like it.

An Archaic Thought

Courtesy Meme.png

 

Perhaps I should share a bit about why I was moved to make this meme.  Right now the people of the US are beset by divisiveness.  There are many groups trying to “stir the pot” and cause more contention, because not only is a house divided more likely to fall, but it’s easier to make a profit from.  Unhappy people buy more goods, trying to buy happiness.  I see this in Democrats and in Republicans both, so I’m not pointing fingers in either direction, but rather thinking about what’s good in the world rather than what’s bad.

At my favorite coffee shop, there are some guys who are from Africa.  I don’t understand a word of Swahili and they understand a few words of English, but smiles are enough.  I like those guys. They are sweet and polite, despite the language barrier.

At my favorite grocery store, I see recent immigrants all the time.  They are mostly refugees from various war torn countries.  I love hearing them speak in their native tongues, and once again, smiles and polite gestures aid in communication. The people who run that store are Vietnamese – and I don’t speak their language either.  Little bows are good though, gestures and more smiles.  I speak a bit of Spanish and use it at my local carniceria along with much laughter.

Once when I was new to Arizona, my battery went dead in my car.  I had no money for a new one and no way to get a jump start.  I hoped for someone to come along to help me out.  Finally I was in luck.  There was a young guy in a brand new truck who parked nearby.  I politely asked for help.  And got turned down flat – he was worried that his new truck would be damaged by jump starting my little sedan.  He left.

Along came another truck.  Not shiny, quite dented, with a work rack on back.  Out came a deeply suntanned fellow with a wide hat.  I think he knew two phrases of English – please and thank you.  We  understood each other though and he helped me get going again.  With a hearty muchas gracias, and a vaya con dios, we parted ways.

Language was no barrier.  Perhaps the young fellow really would have damaged his truck to jump start my car – but I’m not so sure.  His heart was a bigger barrier to helping than language, as he spoke perfect English.

A smile, a bow, a handshake, a fistbump – they are all part of our common language that does not depend on words.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Archaic

Sourdough Bubbles

I had a strange thing on my bucket list.  Ever since I heard about sourdough cultures, I always wanted to raise one.  That odd little dream has been realized and it was easier than I had ever thought it would be.  I busted several myths, too.

First of all, I’d thought that if I didn’t have access to a sourdough starter that was old and pedigreed, my bread wouldn’t be very good.

WRONG!

“Bob” is about three weeks old and is producing delicious loaves and rolls.

Then I thought that if I DID want an old and pedigreed starter, I’d need to pay a lot for one or know somebody.

WRONG!

Thanks to the fine folks at Carl’s Friends, you can get one for the price of postage.

I thought you’d need a bunch of fancy equipment and materials.

WRONG there too!  I was able to do it with nothing but flour, water, time, and the warm spot on top of my hot water heater.

Bob the Starter 800
Meet “Bob”

I am not going to tell you how to make a starter other than to say that it’s actually pretty easy.  I’ve included the article I used at the bottom of this post.

However, there is something so amazing about mixing flour and water, feeding it every day, and after a couple weeks of waiting having a wonderful, bubbly, symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria ready to lift my dough.  That’s why I’m calling my second culture (the one from the Carl’s Friends site) “SCOBY-wan Kenobi.”  I named my own culture, Bob, after my coworker’s split personality.  Long story.

The bread from this process has been light, wonderfully flavored, and filled with bubbles to an extent I haven’t been able to achieve with yeast.  Having “Bob” to feed every day has been oddly like having a pet – or an alien creature that bubbles energetically when I Feed it flour and water.  It has rhythms and behaviors, of a sort, all within its little plastic crock.  I can even refrigerate or freeze it if I want the culture to cool its jets a bit and give me some breathing room.

So far, baking sourdough has been a fun and rewarding project!  Here is my latest bake.  If anyone wants to know where I got those rings, here is where I got them.

sourdough loaf 900
Loaf from last baking – using only four ingredients!
sourdough bun
Eight of these little beauties came out of the oven last night.

When I bake sourdough, I don’t think it’s all just my doing.  It’s a partnership between me and my starter.  As with anything, if I treat that starter well, I’ll get great results.  If I neglect it or don’t understand it, my efforts will fall flat.  Maybe it’s just the culture getting to my brain, but I get philosophical when I bake.

For those who want to join me in this wacky, bubbly journey, here are my sources:

Carl’s 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter: http://carlsfriends.net/

How to make a Sourdough Starter in 7 steps: https://www.theperfectloaf.com/7-easy-steps-making-incredible-sourdough-starter-scratch/

Where I bought my rings and other kitchen equipment: https://amzn.to/2HYDwKH

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Bubble

The Pain-Free way to emergency preparedness

It’s so easy to get into a rut, to keep saying “I’ll get to it later” about things you know you should do.

I’ve been that way about all kinds of things including emergency preparedness.  One of the best ways to get out of any rut, however, in all kinds of areas including fitness, weight loss, and housecleaning, is to set mini-goals.  Do one small thing repeatedly, and you’ll be surprised about how quickly the effect builds up.  This can open up all kinds of new horizons, and allow you to accomplish things you never thought you could!

Everyone needs an emergency food supply.  Anything could happen – a car could break down, preventing you from getting to the store for a while, there could be a bad snowstorm, a temporary job loss, or any number of other unfortunate events.   The sense of peace provided by an emergency food supply is incredible.  And it’s easy to do!

First, set aside your space.  It could be a cupboard, a closet, a few buckets in the corner, a shelf.  You want your supplies to be in one place so they are easy to inventory and rotate through.

Pick what kinds of things you want.  Canned goods, freeze dried items, vitamins, bottled water are all good items to keep.  Think about what you and your family like, and think about what you can prepare if you don’t have electricity in the house.  For example, I have a large supply of sardines in tomato sauce.  That’s protein, vitamin C, lycopene, calcium, and other nutrients.  It may not be fancy but all I need is a can opener.  Protein bars or energy bars can be another good choice, depending on what you buy.  Read labels!

Then, when you go out to do the weekly or biweekly grocery shopping, just buy one or two extra items each trip.  Put them away in your food storage space.   Don’t forget to buy a gallon of water every now and again and keep it sealed.  When you see vitamins on sale in the mark down bin, get those too.

Finally, once you have a good stockpile, make sure you check your expiration dates occasionally.  Every once in a while, use some of them up as you buy more, that way your stock stays fresh.

That’s it!  A little planning, and a few extra dollars every shopping trip, will soon turn into a respectable stash of emergency supplies.  You can do the same for first aid supplies – things like gauze, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, aspirin, calcium antacid, etc are available very cheaply at your local dollar store or discount store.  It’s worthwhile to have a stockpile.   I know I love having one.  It’s such a good feeling to know that if I lose water for a while, my family will still drink, or if I can’t shop, we won’t go hungry.

Bonus emergency tip for American readers:  If you buy the 50 milligram Unisom generic gelcap (dipehnhydramine) it’s good to keep around for sudden allergic reactions.  It’s basically a double dose of Benadryl only it’s faster for the body to absorb and only costs a dollar at Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only.  It might save your life!

 

via Daily Prompt: Horizon

May all your journeys be mild

I’m generally a fairly mild mannered driver.  I drive defensively, keep an eye on what’s going on around me, and look ahead so as to avoid trouble.  I know what places are going to be congested so I get to the part of the road I need to be on before I reach those places.  That’s part of the reason why the only accident I’ve ever been in occurred at slow speed, at a stop actually, when I was rear ended by a sixteen year old driving her Daddy’s big pickup.  Her foot slipped off the brake.  I haven’t, to my knowledge, caused any wrecks either.

I’ve needed all those skills this holiday season.  I don’t know what it is but this is the most intense year for holiday driving that I’ve ever seen.  One night, I nearly met disaster no fewer than five times!  A neighbor nearly plowed into me as I was leaving my driveway (I had looked both ways before starting) because he felt the need to zoom through our unusually crowded neighborhood without looking, even though there were lots of holiday visitors walking back and forth looking at lights, then he had the temerity to blare his horn as if it had been my fault.  On the same trip, a couple of distracted drivers decided to stop suddenly without giving warning.  Another did a U-turn in the middle of the road through fairly heavy traffic.  A pedestrian ran across that same busy street, mid block (posted limit is 40 and there are five lanes plus a bike lane), apparently aiming for our car.  Luckily, the pedestrian missed and made it safely to the other side.  I’m pretty sure two new eyeballs had grown on the back of my head by that point.  I stayed relatively calm but didn’t come down off Alert Status till I’d pulled the car into my spot, locked it, and gotten safely inside.

Every time I have poked my head out of my domicile between maybe four PM and 10 PM, I have witnessed something that can only be called holiday insanity.  People are acting as if their brains have been scooped out by a melon baller and replaced by something resembling warm tapioca.  I’ve also seen a heartrending number of accidents, several each day, far more than I’ve ever seen before.  I think people are maddened by having to do EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, feeling pressed for time, frustrated and frazzled, and probably not used to the area because many of them seem to be new Snowbirds.

I’m happy to stay out of those accidents.  I’m staying most firmly INDOORS today and tomorrow.   I’ll be eating spice cookies and chicken, thank you very much, watching some good anime and spending time with the love of my life.

So here are a few tips to protect you, dear reader, at these frenetic times of year.

 

Tips For Holiday Driving

Stay calm.  If someone cuts you off or does something stupid, don’t let it get to you.  Honk only when needed for safety.

Look ahead and all around  you.  Keep your head on a swivel.  Somebody should be looking, after all, and they certainly won’t.

Keep in mind the distractions other drivers have.  Phones, lane change alerts, automated braking, in-dash navigation systems or other screens, screaming kids, meals grabbed on the go.  Be extra vigilant.

Don’t go unless you have to.  If you can, plan your trips for calmer times.

Know your alternates.  It’s nice to have another way to get somewhere if you see a wreck or an obstruction.

Don’t distract yourself.  Conversation with others in the car or MAYBE music on the radio.  No phones, for pity’s sake no texting.  Nothing is more important than keeping your car, and yourself, in one piece.

Think ahead.  Along with looking ahead, think ahead.  Watch other drivers, observe how they are reacting and acting.  Get away from ones who can’t hold their lane or are driving erratically.  I can’t tell you how many times this has saved my skin.

Allow a bit extra following distance.  This includes at stoplights.  Aim to be able to see the tires of the car ahead of you, at the least.  That way you won’t get stuck behind someone, and you’ll also have more time to react.

If you are too stressed out to travel or shop, find another way.  Shop online, plan the trip another time, ask for help, or find some way to reduce the stress burden.  A few extra deep breaths work wonders.

Stay safe out there, and may your holidays be merry and bright!

 

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