BMW 535xi Touring E61 Tailgate Hydraulic Strut Popping off the Ball Joint - Set Screw Repair

My BMW 535xiT is my daily driver - use it for going back and forth to work every day and running all the errands to keep the household running. So - the tailgate and back window get lots of use. The car was manufactured in September, 2009 and now has 175,000 km on the odometer, and since BMW hasn't inported the 5 series touring to North America since 2010 - it looks like I'll be hanging onto this car for a while longer. The 3 series touring is too small, I'm not an SUV kind of guy, and I'm not ready to go to a Mercedes E series wagon just yet...

The completed set screw repair - neat and flush. 
So - about 6 months ago the hydraulic strut in the tailgate stopped lifting all the way to the top of travel - it started sagging and making ominous noises. So - I took the time to dig out the hydraulic pump and reservoir, replace the fluid with the BMW service kit, change the 10mm strut ball and get the tailgate functioning well again. I wrote about all that here.

Well - it took about 3 weeks until the hydraulic strut started popping off the ball - you can see the state of the bottom socket on the hydraulic cylinder here, there was finally enough wear that it wasn't going to stay in place.

This is not good....
This isn't good either....
So - just to keep the socket engaged, I cut a piece of styrofoam to jam in behind the strut to try to keep it in place - that worked fairly well for about a month, then the strut would pop off about every time I opened the tailgate, and it was time to make a more permanent repair.

There was a good discussion on the forums, the idea that I decided to try out was a set screw. I did a bit of research and found some really nice ball tipped set screws and decided to try them out. 

5mm ball tipped set screws
So - I ordered a lot of these set screws and set out to do the repair.

To drill and tap a 5mm hole - you need a 5mm tap, and a 4.2mm tap drill bit
First step is to dismount the strut from the tailgate - you need to remove the plastic trim on the left side of the window. There's a small clip you need to get out of the way to get the trim off. 

Lift the trim underneath the window to get this clip out of the side trim.
Removing the lower half of the left hand tailgate trim - once this is removed, you can remove the hydraulic strut. 
With the hydraulic strut removed, it was time to set the hole placement for the set screws, and drill two holes - one on each site. I put a small sheet of plywood on top of the security screen - was very useful to support the strut during the machining.

With the strut removed, it's easy to rotate to drill and tap the set screw holes. The plywood makes a good work surface.
I aimed the drilling to intersect close to the steel circlip. Very important to use a pilot drill to locate the holes properly - a pilot hole of 2.5mm would be perfect before drilling out to 4.2mm which is the tap drill size for a 5mm tap. 

Drilling each side of the strut base. 
The first hole on the top side - this hole walked a bit because I didn't use a pilot drill hole - don't make the same mistake I did...

Aim for the steel ring clip...

With the first hole tapped to 5mm - testing out the set screw. 
With the holes drilled out to 4.2mm tap drill size, it was very easy to tap the holes - this is a fairly soft steel part and it cuts well. 

Strut replaced, and the set screw does a great job holding the strut in place. The bottom set screw is easily accessible.
To access the set screw on the top side - its easiest to access with the window open and the left side trim off.
A dab of blue Loctite will hold the set screw in place, keep it from backing out. 
In case anyone is interested, I've created an eBay listing to sell the surplus set screws from the lot that I had to purchase - you can purchase the set screws here at eBay listing 183298383219.

The Nest Hello Video Doorbell - Upgrading from an old central intercom system

When I moved into my current house, it had a vintage central intercom system, with yellowed plastic indoor speakers, yellowed plastic outdoor speakers, and an archaic esthetic. We immediately pulled out the system components, drywalled over the cutouts in the interior walls, and I was left with two very ugly metal boxes in the brick at my front and back door.

The completed Nest Hello installation over the Nutone box
A bit of research lead me to the Wifi enabled video doorbells - very simple, they connect to your Wifi router, and ring your smartphone and interior door chime whenever someone rings at the door, and provides live video of the person at the door. In addition, you can use the internal speaker and microphone to speak with the person at your door - even from a distance away from your home.

I started out with a Ring video doorbell. Now I've purchased and installed the new Nest Hello video doorbell. This post describes how that installation goes.

Vintage Nutone Door Speaker and Connection Box - Don't forget to cut the power to your doorbell circuit before working with these wires.Unscrew, Remove the Wires
A Nutone Intercom Connection Box is 4 3/8" Wide and made of Steel
A Nutone Intercom Connection Box is 5 7/8" Tall
Nutone Intercom Box - can be identified by the Model IR-6 label.
The first step was removing the old Nutone intercom speaker. 2 screws, and I took note that the orange pair of wires in my installation was used for the 17VAC doorbell switch circuit. By connecting the Nest Hello Video Doorbell to your existing doorbell switch wires powered by an internal transformer, the Nest Hello will keep itself charged, and pressing the button on the Nest Hello will sound the doorbell in your house. Something to note here however - the Nest Hello will not ring the door chime if you have kept your indoor intercom speaker system - you also have to retrofit a normal door chime in your house.

I started by making a blank cover plate to fit over the old intercom connection box, countersinking the holes for the screws for a neat installation using a metal punch.

The Nest Hello is smaller and more compact than the Nutone Speaker unit. This caused an issue in my installation because the Nutone was installed in a custom installation box - set into my masonry. I decided to create an aluminum cover plate to hide the old box, and create a flat surface for installing the Nest Hello.

The Nest Hello Video Doorbell adapter plate is smaller than the Nutone Speaker installation Box, so an adapter plate is required. I cut a rectangle 4 3/8" wide by 5 7/8" tall to cover the old Nutone connection box in the wall.

Nest Hello baseplate installed on the aluminum adapter plate for the Nutone Door Speaker box
Just below where the doorbell wires will attach to the back of the Nest Hello , I punched an 8mm hole to fit a 6mm (1/4") grommet, to protect the intercom wires from the sharp edges of the Aluminum adapter plate.

I then reinstalled the Aluminum Adapter Plate over the old Nutone Intercom connection box, isolated the correct pair of wires running downstairs to the transformer, and...

From this point it was relatively simple to install the Nest Hello. Just clip the Nest Hello onto the Nest Hello installation plate.

On the inside - you need to install the Nest Hello Power Kit within your existing doorbell chime. I had removed the old Nutone Intercom System, including the Nutone door chime - and installed a simple Honeywell direct wired doorbell chime. It was simple to remove the cover and install the Nest Hello Power Kit following the instructions provided in the box.

Inexpensive Honeywell Mechanical Chime - Installed using the wiring run for the Nutone Intercom System
Now that all was installed, it was time to reconnect the power to the Nest Hello by turning the breaker back on for the doorbell transformer. Once you reconnect power, the Nest Hello will "speak" recorded audio configuration instructions, and the ring around the doorbell button will circle in white light.

Completed installation of the Nest Hello using the Aluminum Adapter Plate over the old Nutone Door Speaker
Now is the time to install the Nest Hello app on your smartphone, and run through the Wifi configuration sequence. That's pretty simple, just follow the sequence on your app until all is installed.

The Nest Hello Setup tutorial includes installation instructions. 
Once configured, you can test the doorbell button. You normal doorbell should sound inside the house, plus you'll hear the distinctive chime of the Nest Hello Video Doorbell.

With the Nest Hello app installed on your smartphone and/or tablet- ringing the Nest Hello doorbell switch initiates a video call with your smartphone or tablet. On the smartphone you get a notification on the home screen, and the video application launches so that you can see who is at your front door. You can decide whether to accept or reject a call to talk to whoever is at the front door - and this feature is available anywhere you have internet connection with your smartphone or tablet. Very cool. You can also set up motion notifications, and Nest has a service for archiving video and playback.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. I have started manufacturing blank and pre-drilled retrofit kits for the Google Nest Hello Video doorbell to popular intercom rough-ins and electrical boxes.

Click here to purchase a prefabricated aluminum adapter plate for the Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell on eBay.

New option - purchase a prefabricated aluminum adapter plate for the Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell on eBay for the single gang standard North American electrical box. 

New option - purchase a prefabricated aluminum adapter plate for the Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell on eBay for the double gang standard North American electrical box. 

Upgrading my cordless tool charging station for my new Dewalt 20V tools

Back in March 2015, I converted one of my Ikea garage cabinets into a cordless tool charging station for my 18V Ryobi and Dewalt tools. It's been a really useful addition to my home shop - very convenient always knowing where to find the charger and batteries, and not having the chargers out on work surfaces in the way.

I started finding that my Dewalt 18V batteries were losing their runtime, and I was looking at reinvesting in new batteries. I had a look at my workflow and my mix of tools, and ultimately decided I was going to go fully cordless - get cordless versions of my reciprocating saw, jigsaw, circular saw, die grinder, 1/2 impact and upgrade my cordless drills, drivers and yard maintenance equipment all to a single tool family. I settled on the Dewalt 20V system for its variety, power, design and common availability. I may write on this whole experience in another post.

One of the big drivers was to get away from having two tool families - so that I could have a single common set of batteries to manage. I wanted to have a more efficient, simple workflow.

The completed charging station upgrade
And - here's where I started with the previous version - with the two tool families - Dewalt 18V and Ryobi 18V:

The original Dewalt and Ryobi 18V system - lots of batteries to manage
One of the motivations for this whole upgrade was to reduce the number of batteries to manage in the shop, and to make the storage space a bit more efficient. I search the interweb for a rack to store the new Dewalt 20V batteries, and I found these StealthMounts on eBay - these are moulded in the UK so I decided to purchase a 5 pack and try them out.

Stealth Mounts installed on the underside of the upper shelf. Note the orientation with the battery gauge to the front.
When I arranged the chargers vs. the StealthMounts - I was careful to space them so that there would be lots of space to pull the batteries out from the StealthMounts towards the rear - without interfering with batteries in the chargers. I had to move the chargers lower on my mounting board, and install the StealthMounts right near the front of the cabinet. Results - lots of space to move batteries around without interference.

20V charging action - with the batteries stowed in the Stealth Mounts - lots of space for the Vacuum, drill, driver and flashlight
Detail of the StealthMount. These are nicely moulded, generous clearances with the batteries so that the batteries clip on and off quite easily, yet the batteries are held securely using the battery locking tab. They can be used as a belt carrier for batteries as well.

The Stealth Mount


So - I've been using this new setup for about 6 weeks - and I'm really happy with the results. It was a great move to consolidate on one tool family, all new batteries with larger capacity / longer runtime is a great upgrade (especially for the yard maintenance equipment) and the StealthMounts are a really nice addition. All good here.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following link to Stealthmounts available here on eBay


Insteon Control Panel for Patio Awning Somfy Motor and LED Lighting

I just added a new awning over my back yard patio. The awning is made by Palmiye, with a high quality aluminum post and rail system that opens and closes using a Somfy motor. The awning has integrated LED lighting. I'll write up a separate post on the awning itself, the purpose of this post is to describe the control panel that I fabricated so that the awning and lighting would be integrated with my whole house Insteon system.
Completed Weatherproof Remote Insteon Control Panel for Patio Awning and Lights

The completed Palmiye Awning with Control Panel (upper left corner). LED Lights are the white globes.
Insteon makes a small awning control module with an open close two pole switch which could have worked in my installation, however the Insteon Remote Control Micro Open/Close Module is rated for up to 2.5 amps (motor) and this awning is right at the limit with 2.5 amps on the nameplate. So I decided to use two separate Insteon On/Off DIN Rail Modules to control the awning open/close function. When I purchased the awning, I specified the electrical control option instead of the Somfy remote option - so I could simply control the awning by switching the 120V leads using the Insteon modules, instead of having to perform a Somfy automation to Insteon network interface.

Laying out the Insteon DIN Rail Modules on the panel base plate
I also needed to control the LED lights integrated in the awning structure. This awning had an array of 12 LED lights, each drawing approximately 3W. Total 12V power draw of 36W. The awning was supplied with a control panel constructed to european specifications - and the LED controller was designed to be Somfy radio remote controlled. I wanted my panel to be constructed with completely CSA / UL certified components, so I didn't use the LED controller supplied with the awning. I decided to go with an Armacost LED driver with voltage dimming capability, and then drive the LED driver with an Insteon DIN Rail Dimmer module. The fourth DIN rail module in the panel photo shown above is for the control of the soffit lighting - which is the 120V line feeder that I used to power the entire panel - so I wouldn't have to run a new feeder from my electrical panels inside the house.

Insteon DIN Rail Modules next to Phoenix Contact terminal blocks
I like using Phoenix Contact terminal blocks, so I arranged the panel so the 120V neutral and line connections were ganged together with a separator block. I arranged the DIN rail modules next to the terminal block to simplify the wiring and minimize the length of the runs - inputs on the bottom, output on the top of the modules.

Problem with the Insteon Modules - they will not clip onto a rail mounted directly to a flat surface!!
I quickly noted the first design problem with the Insteon DIN Rail Modules - they will not clip onto a rail mounted directly to a flat surface!! One the rail is mounted - you have to slide them onto the rail from the end - the geometry of the module prevents the bottom clip from engaging on the rail! I've never seen this before on a DIN rail module for other automation components. Solution - I had to space the DIN rail above the bottom panel.

Using washers to lift the DIN rail from the back panel to allow the Insteon modules to clip on / off the rail
With the DIN rail shimmed off the back panel with washers, the Insteon Modules will now clip on and off the rail
Why is this important? Insteon modules don't have particularly high reliability - I've had to replace about 10 insteon modules of various types in my installation over the past 10 years. Not being able to clip these on and off the rail would have meant having to remove the back panel from the fibreglass enclosure, disconnecting and removing all the modules to get at a module near the center of the panel. This is a design aspect that should be corrected by the Insteon team.

I then arranged the wiring channel around the Insteon modules and Armacost LED driver as shown below for a neat installation. 

Wiring the Insteon On/Off and Dimmer DIN Rail Modules
This is where I found out how poor the screw terminals are on the Insteon DIN rail modules - they consist of flat headed pins that "drill" into the wire inserted in the connection slot - and only work well with solid core wire. The pins will split multistrand wire and give you a poor connection. There is no comparison with the Phoenix Contacts terminal blocks - which use a flat clamping mechanism instead of a pin - and work quite well with multistrand wire. In addition - the Insteon flat head slots are quite wide - so they don't work well with a terminal block screwdriver. The terminal block screwdriver fits loosely in the slot - and doesn't take tightening torque very well. The feel of these screw terminals on the Insteon modules is very "consumer grade" - it is not confidence inspiring and not very nice to work with - you don't get the feeling that you are working with a well designed product.

One other comment on the Insteon DIN rail modules - they are HUGE. If these modules could go on a diet and lose 3/4" in width at least - then you would be able to pack a decent number of modules in an enclosure. As it worked out in my case - I needed 4 DIN rail modules and I needed a fairly large enclosure to accomodate them. 

The completed and installed control panel.


Well - how does it work? Quite well. I wrote a few simple programs to ensure that if one of the modules controlling the Somfy motor is turned on - the other would be switched off by the program to ensure I'm not feeding both leads of the motor at the same time. I have to tune up the ISY 994i controls a bit to ensure that the retry commands don't interfere with the program just mentioned. The DIN rail dimmer and Armacost drive work GREAT - no LED flickering, just a real nice and smooth full range dimming adjustment.

Does anyone else have comments about these DIN rail modules? Write a comment below - I would love to hear about your experiences. Insteon - if you're listening - these DIN Rail modules are good - but they could be great by making them narrower, by improving the clip interface on the bottom, and by improving the quality of the screw terminals so that they work better with terminal block screwdrivers, and work with stranded wire. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States. My go-to place in Canada for Insteon automation components is I purchased the Armacost driver from Lee Valley Tools. The waterproof enclosure was purchased from Westburne - my electrical wholesaler.