Showing posts with label Tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tools. Show all posts

Shop-Vac is going out of business

 You may not have heard, but Shop-Vac is in receivership. This was announced on September 18, 2020, but I only realized it when I needed a part that I accidently discarded after cleaning my large Shop-Vac. I went to their website and found all of their manuals and customer support information was offline. 

I've had one or two Shop-Vacs for as long as I can remember. As soon as I realized that getting a part might be difficult, I went to Canadian Tire and managed to find what I needed, however I was surprised to find the shelves almost bare of Shop-Vacs, parts and accessories. So I picked up a few spare dry pickup bags. 

Shelves are bare of Shop-Vac at my local Canadian Tire
Shelves are almost bare of Shop-Vacs at my local Canadian Tire

This company is an icon, and their components drove standardization in wet/dry pickup vacuums. Knock-offs abound, and accessories tend to be universal fit across brands now. Maybe this is the reason that they're in financial difficulty. Hopefully someone comes in and rescues the brand and the North American manufacturing facilities based in the Eastern United States. 


Quickjack Hydraulic Fluid Contamination and Quickconnect Fitting Failures

I had the BMW wagon in the garage up on the quickjack for a few weeks at the start of September, fixing a Low Boost Pressure code, oil pan leak, replacing rear drive axles, and treating some underbody and rear bumper corrosion

I've had the Quickjacks for two years now - they've been a great tool, really useful to quickly get all four wheels in the air for doing seasonal tire changes, or drivetrain maintenance. Halfway through the last job, the hydraulic hoses began to get difficult to reconnect, there was residual hydraulic pressure in the hoses. I was in a hurry, so I tried forcing the connectors onto the pump. The next time I hit the lift control, I started losing a lot of hydraulic oil from the quick connector. 

Quickjack hydraulic pump releasing its schmoo

It didn't take long to figure out the problem - forcing the connectors cut the o-rings in the face of the connectors. I trashed two connectors of the four female connectors. 

Notice the protrucing piece of O-ring left of the center pin

I was in the middle of raising the car and I wanted to get the next step of the job done, so I simply removed the bad connectors and made fixed hose connections, using 3/8" NPT unions, and a 3/8" bulkhead fitting to replace one of the pump male quick connectors. However, I had lost a lot of fluid. I went to my automotive fluid bin and grabbed a bottle of brake fluid. Big mistake. The spec is for automatic transmission fluid, and I added about a pint of brake fluid and got back to business. 

Two days later I went to lower the car - and the cylinders wouldn't hold the car raised without the buttons pressed. I had difficulty removing the lift locks so that I could lower the car. Fluid was bypassing the check valve that holds the car in the air when there isn't any button input. I removed the check valve, and found little bits of white plastic jamming the check valve open. 

Quickjack check valve - marked with a CV on the valve body.

Not good news - but I immediately realized the contaminated fluid was the probable cause. Once I was done with the Quickjacks, I drained all the fluid from the system - removed the reservoir, removed the quick couplings from the hoses, and stood the jacks up to drain the cylinders by gravity. 

Draining fluid from hoses and jack cylinders by gravity

When I opened the reservoir, that's where I encountered the real mess. Bits of white plastic suspended in hydraulic fluid. Larger chunks in the bottom of the reservoir. The inlet strainer was detached from the inlet elbow, and just lying in the bottom of the reservoir.  

Inlet strainer (round) detatched from inlet elbow.

Bits of white plastic in the reservoir

Inlet strainer missing its attachment hardware (likely made of the white plastic which dissolved)

White plastic in the inlet port of the pump

More white plastic in the pump inlet port

I don't have a replacement inlet strainer yet. I have seen all metal inlet strainers and inlet elbows on the internet - but I'm having difficulty getting my hands on them. For now, I've replaced all the fluid with clean ATF and I'm running the jack without the strainer, just the inlet elbow. I'll drain and flush the fluid a second time once I have an inlet strainer to install. 

A few recommendations from what I've learned the hard way.

1.    Put a label on your quickjack hydraulic reservoir near the fill port - "ATF Only"
2.    Always hold the "down" button for 5 to 10 extra seconds when descending the quickjack, to release as much pressure as possible from your hoses before disconnecting them. This helps prevent residual pressure buildup in the hoses. 

Not my finest hour - but hopefully the information in this post helps someone else avoid the same issue in the future. 


Quickjack Portable Car Lift - Rubber Feet upgrade on Hydraulic Pump Unit

I picked up a Quickjack portable car lift for the BMW turbo replacement project, and really took advantage of it. Very solid, good lift height, quick lifting and descending, very convenient. The only nitpick I had with this was the rubber feet on the hydraulic pump unit - they clip into holes in the base of the pump frame - and any little movement and those feet would pop out. I quickly lost one.
Original rubber foot on right (note tab), and upgraded rubber foot on left. 

Hydraulic Pump Frame with the rubber feet that pop out easily
 This got annoying pretty quickly, so I got online and purchased some replacement rubber feet for the hydraulic pump frame. I was careful to size the hole in the new rubber foot so that it would be compatible with the holes on the pump frame. The optimal hardware size was 5mm (about 3/16 of an inch).

5mm Stainless Steel Hardware with Upgraded Rubber Feet


Simple project, quick and easy, no more running after the rubber feet for the pump frame.
Upgraded rubber feet installed on the Quickjack Pump Frame with 5mm Stainless Steel Hardware

Sources and Links

I have some spare hardware from this project so I'm selling some of these as kits - if you're interested, you can purchase them on eBay here: Listing 173979355180

Tap and Die Organization Using Plano Half Height ProLatch StowAway Utility Boxes

I've had an inexpensive tap and die set forever. I bought it from Canadian Tire, came in a blue metal case - and I'm sure there's hundreds of thousands of these out in garages everywhere. Mine got to the point where the plastic organizer started coming apart, and, there is no space for expansion when you purchase new taps and dies.

The completed reorganization - Taps and Dies, One box for Metric, One box for Standard, Plano ProLatch StowAway
I don't use these regularly enough to really do much about it, until I got into a turbo replacement project on my daily driver and had quite a few threads to clean up. I was also annoyed that the metric and standard taps and dies were mixed together, it just slowed things down when trying to find the right tap or die quickly. So - a new project was born.
Mastercraft Tap and Die Set - The plastic organizer had reached end-of-life
I did a bit of research, and the idea of a machinists tool chest was quickly ruled out - I don't use these very often, and I want the storage to be as space efficient as possible. I organize all my hardware in Plano Prolatch storage boxes - super convenient, and I went to see if I could find something suitable for the taps and dies. I found that Plano makes a half height Prolatch - the 2-3601 with 21 adjustable compartments. Here's how it went.

Plano ProLatch StowAway 2-3601 Utility Box 
 This was quick and easy. Separate metric from standard, and organize taps and dies from large to small - outer corners towards the center. I double stacked dies - this works well because you can pair the fine and coarse threaded dies of the same size.

Metric Taps and Dies, with enough space left over for the tap holders, in the Plano 2-3601 ProLatch StowAway
I know that taps shouldn't be stored where the tap cutting surfaces can rub against other taps - I'll have to look into sleeves that I can use to protect the thread cutting surfaces a bit better, but I don't think this should be a major issue for me. If these were rattling around the back of a service truck, it would be a different story.
Both sets - labelled. Plano ProLatch StowAway 2-3601
I've bought a few more of these Plano boxes - they're quite space efficient, and will fit in my hardware rack nicely. Here's a photo of how I store all my hardware in the regular height ProLatch StowAway utility boxes:

Plano ProLatch StowAway utility boxes arranged in Ikea Kitchen Wall Cabinets - Good Fit

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.


2017 Subaru Outback Oil Drain Plug Head Rounded - First Oil Change

This seems to be a common problem - first oil change on a late model Subaru 2.5L engine - and the oil pan drain plug head gets rounded by your socket and you can't remove the drain plug. So - what to do? Trip to the dealer? I've been changing my own oil for many years - first time this has happenned to me. I decided to purchase a set of bolt extractors and sort it out myself. Here's how it went.
14mm Hex Head on the Drain Plug - Just rounded enough to make it impossible to remove
 I purchased a slightly used 2017 Outback with 17,000 km - lease return. At 25,000km I went to do my first oil change. The dealer had informed me that they had changed the oil at the lease return. When I went to remove the drain plug - I didn't lift the car because I thought I'd be able to spin it off with the car sitting on the ground (as I had done many times with my 2006 Outback - it sits high enough off the ground that you can slide the pan underneath and not have to lift the car to change the oil). This time it went differently - with the drain plug at an angle, and recessed slightly below the aerodynamic underbody cover - it's quite awkward to get a socket on the drain plug and apply the torque at an angle. It would be much easier with the drain plug oriented vertically. One bad move and I rounded the head.
Another view - Drain Plug accessible through a small access port, sits on an angle
 So - I put everything away, got online and ordered a set of chinesium bolt extractors. I've never tried these before, so this was an experiment for me. Using a ball pien hammer, I tapped the 14mm extractor onto the drain plug so that it was well seated, then popped on a short extension and used my Dewalt 3/8" impact gun which can generate about 100 ft-lbs of torque - and nothing moved - at all. I was stunned - 100 ft-lb of torque on a drain plug? Clearly not normal.
Dewalt 1/2" Drive Impact, 21mm deep socket, 14mm bolt extractor, and the drain plug in question
So - I pulled out the Dewalt 1/2" impact which can generate 400 ft-lbs of torque - and a 21mm deep impact socket to be able to fit over the extractor (instead of using the 3/8 socket drive square) and leaned on it. After about 15 seconds, the drain plug broke free and loosened, with no damage to the oil pan. The bolt extractor was hot to the touch from the impact force. The drain plug was well grooved from the force of the bolt extractor.

Check out the grooves on this drain plug head. Exctractor worked like a charm.
I installed a new Dorman replacement drain plug - with a larger hex head - and completed the oil change.

Bit of a mess - An angled drain plug will shoot your oil about 2 feet sideways
So - what do I think about this? Drain plug with small head - should be larger - like 19mm for a 16mm bolt size so that you can get a tool on the drain plug. Soft metal and the paint interferes with good contact with your socket. This plug should definitely be re-specified. The plug installed on an angle - shooting oil sideways? Brutal - plug should be installed vertically on the pan. I don't know if the dealer ever actually changed the oil - have sent the oil out for analysis to get an opinion on that. If you're in the same situation - up to you to decide what to do - take it to a dealer or extract the plug yourself. In my case - it worked out okay. Let me know if you have any questions.

In case you're wondering, the new drain plug is a Dorman 65325 - M16-1.50 threads. Nice piece with 17mm hex head - 3mm larger than the stock drain plug.

Dorman 65325 Oil Drain Plug

Update - December 2019:

6 months have gone by, did my second oil change. Drain plug spun off normally, no problem at all, oil change completed in 30 minutes. Definitely a manufacturing defect with the way the drain plug was delivered from the factory. Blackstone Labs oil analysis came back on the first oil change - they did not think that the oil had not been changed as described by the dealer - which was good news. It also meant that they must have sucked the oil oil out of the dipstick tube. FWIW.

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.


Heat Gun with 2 Heat Settings, Which is High and Low?

I've got a decent Black and Decker 120V heat gun, with two heat settings marked "1" and "2" on the switch. However, there is no clear mention of which setting is high heat, and which setting is low heat. I don't use the heat gun regularly, so if I had to use it on low heat to avoid melting something, I would flick the switch back and forth to try to figure out which setting was the low heat setting.

I finally got tired of this routine, and took 5 minutes to figure this out and label the heat gun for clarity.
500W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
 I have a Kill a Watt energy meter, so it was quite simple to connect the heat gun, switch the Kill a Watt meter display to instantaneous power (Watts), and flick the switch back and forth to determine that switch position 1 is 500W, and switch position 2 is 1000W.
1000W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
I have a Brother TZ label maker in my garage toolbox, 30 seconds later I had the heat gun labelled for clarity. No more uncertainty as to what switch position is low, and what switch position is high. Nice.

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.


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.

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


Troubleshooting Central Vacuum Suction Issues - Old Nutone CV-400 Power Unit and Upgrade to Cana-Vac

It's been a while since my last post - life has been flying by at a rapid pace - and I'd like to post how I verified my central vac performance and resolved the suction issue.

30 year old house, central vacuum was installed at construction, and when we moved into the house about 6 years ago - one of the repairs I had to do was to repair broken or unglued central vac piping that was accessible in the basement. The other thing I did at that time was move the central vac to a corner of the basement utilty room to get it out of the way. Once I repaired the piping issues - the central vac cleaned up about a pound of sand and grit that was lining the bottom of the central vac piping - and the system was serviceable.

In the past year however, it was clear that the central vac wasn't performing well - it couldn't pick small pebbles off the floor, and it really wasn't dealing with the dog hair all that well. I did some internet research - looked at my options - and the first thing I decided to do was to baseline the suction performance before doing any repairs - so I would have some data to show whether my repairs did any good.

I rigged up a suction test using a plastic shop vac adapter, some duct tape, and a vacuum gauge that I had in the garage for tuning dual carburetor motorcycles:

Shop Vac Tool Adapter - Opening Covered in Duct Tape - Vacuum Hose to Vacuum Gauge

Vacuum Gauge Hooked up to the Central Vacuum Port

Vacuum Gauge - Reading approximately 35mm Hg
35mmHg converts to about 19 inches of water column suction. Comparing that to specifications of new vacuum cleaners - new machines are rated to pull up to 110 inches of water column - so my system was performing at about 20% of a new machine. No wonder it was struggling.

The next step was to remove the Central Vac from the installation - so that I could get the covers off and inspect it - and once I had the central vac removed - I installed my Shop Vac on the piping system to check to see if I could remove any debris from the vacuum lines and improve the suction at the test port.

Install Shop Vac on Central Vacuum Piping to Test Vacuum Lines
This worked quite well - the Shop Vac was able to triple the suction at the test port - and I got to about 60 inches of water column. I think I was able to clean some debris from the suction lines as well - I tested each port in the house - however I don't think that I had any fully clogged lines that would have accounted for the poor Central Vac performance. One thing about this test - the Shop Vac worked quite well as a power unit for the Central Vacuum piping - you could probably do this in a pinch without the installation of a proper Central Vacuum power unit.

Inspecting the Motors of the Central Vac Unit
Next step was to remove the top cover of the Nutone CV-400 power unit to check motor brushes and the air pathways. I powered up the unit with the top cover off (you have to take care - there is live 120V AC in this compartment of the central vac - to inspect the running of the brushes. One motor was giving quite large blue sparks at the brushes - which seemed to be an indication that the brushes were finished. I also removed the motors from the installation and found that one motor inlet was almost completely blocked by a piece of plastic that had worked it's way by the bag filter at some point - which certainly would have impacted performance.

I then started looking for motor parts - brushes - for these two Lamb motors. The only numbers marked on the motors were these green letters on the vacuum housing. And guess what - no motor nameplate, no motor part number, and no part numbers on the brushes. No way to identify which motors these were, no simple way to order the replacement brushes online to make a repair with the confidence I would get the right parts. 

Casting numbers for the metal vacuum housings - these are not motor part numbers
Not cool - not putting part numbers on these motors / brushes - certainly not a way to support sustainable development and the ability to repair your appliances instead of replacing them. At this point - my option would have been to take the unit to a repair shop that would be able to identify the motors and make the repairs. When I assessed the time and cost of doing that - I decided to replace the central vac with a completely new power unit. I did some research on suction and performance - there is a liability with running two motors in parallel as this central vacuum is configured - you get much better performance with a single larger motor with a vacuum impellor of larger diamater, so I decided to go with a new, single motor, tangential bypass power unit made by CanaVac.

New Central Vac Power Unit by Cana-Vac
Measuring the suction at my test port - I was up to close to 100 inches of water column - a five times improvement in suction - and the performance increase was substantial at the end of the hose. This has turned out to be a great performance upgrade - although - I was disappointed that I couldn't repair the original vacuum but I figured that even once repaired it still wouldn't have great performance - it would have been limited by the sub-par performance of the smaller parallel motors.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions.