Dishwasher repair success

My LG dishwasher had an odd problem. Some days it would wash everything in the top basket but not items in the bottom basket, other days it would wash stuff in the bottom basket but not the top.

The dishwasher is still under warranty but LG customer service are more interested in annoying their customers than helping them. They refused to honour the warranty so I guess it’s up to me to fix it myself.

After checking for obvious things like blocked nozzles on the spray arms or clogged filters, I tried an experiment. I pointed the top and bottom spray-arms straight ahead then ran the dishwasher. The bottom arm was still in exactly the same position after the wash. So no water was getting to the bottom sprayer which suggests a problem with the diverter valve which distributes water between the top and bottom sprayers. The cause could have been lots of things including:

  • Blocked jets or pipes
  • Wiring problem
  • Faulty sensor
  • Controller board or software problem
  • Mechanical jam of the valve

Next I put an AC voltmeter across the valve motor. This proved that power was going to it at the right times, it just wasn’t turning. So it must be either a mechanical jam or a faulty motor. I disassembled the valve itself and it didn’t seem jammed so I guess it’s the motor.

A replacement motor costs $54 from LG but Statewide Appliances in Adelaide have exactly the same part for $18. You have to be a bit of a contortionist to reach under the dishwasher and get to the motor but after a bit of swearing, scrapes and bruises I got it out and swapped in the new one.

Three days and about 7 loads of dishes later and it’s running fine. I call that fixed.

2011 The Year Stuff Breaks

One thing I’ve noticed about 2011 so far is that I seem to have a higher than normal amount of breakdowns with all my machines. We’re not even a quarter of the way through the year and already I’ve easily spent more than $2000 and more hours than I’d like to think, repairing or replacing failing equipment. My car blew a clutch and a radiator in the same month, the lawnmower won’t start anymore, I had a blown up PC power supply, a faulty dishwasher, my kitchen mixer seized on me, the battery for my cordless drill fizzled and my bluetooth headset just died for no apparent reason. Now the DVD player is acting up, it’s probably on it’s way out, the new dishwasher I got to replace the failed one has developed a fault already. I even seem to be experiencing an above-average amount of blown light bulbs around the house.

There must be some bad technology vibes about this year, or maybe it’s some kind of karmic message that I own too much stuff.

 

Concatenating SRT subtitles

Ever get a movie which is split into two parts? I usually use AviDemux to join the parts back together but what if the movie has srt subtitles – Here’s how to join two srt files together and adjust the timestamps using srttool in Ubuntu:

First install the tool:

sudo apt-get install subtitleripper

Then use ffmpeg to see how long the first part of the movie is:

ffmpeg -i movie.part1.avi

Look for the line which tells you the length of the movie. It will be something like 00:45:15.56. Whip out your calculator and work out the length in seconds, in this case it will be 2715 seconds.

Finally use srttool to displace the timing in the second subtitle file and append it to the first one:

srttool -d 2715 < movie.part2.srt >> movie.part1.srt

movie.part1.srt will now contain complete subtitles for your movie.

Car Repair Win #2

Of course as soon as you fix one thing, another thing breaks. I went to open the tailgate on my Subaru today and couldn’t.

So I climbed in through the back seat and attempted to open it from the inside. Trying to force the catch with a screwdriver didn’t work so before I broke anything by trying too hard, I yanked off the inside trim and had a look. Turns out there is a short cable running from the door handle to the lock and this had broken.

Now that the trim was off, I could yank the lock mechanism by hand and get the tailgate open.

Of course this had to happen on a long weekend so I had to wait until Tuesday before I could call Subaru and try to get a replacement cable.

How much would you expect to pay for a very ordinary-looking cable about 20cm long? $5? Maybe even $15? – Not Subaru. They charge $90 and it’ll take a month to get it!

“Sod that” I thought (or words to that effect). I went to a bicycle shop and bought a gear cable and sheath for $4. I got a gear cable rather than a brake cable because they are thinner and less likely to stretch. Now to fit it.

The first problem was that the gear cable was much larger – both longer and thicker than the Subaru cable and did not have the same kind of connector at the end, cutting it is no problem but I can’t fit it inside the original sheath because it’s too fat. I had a go at cutting the bicycle cable’s sheath down to size but I had some difficulty fabricating an end cap that would fit the car – so in the end I just unwound a few strands from the cable so it was thinner and could fit inside the original sheath.


The next problem was the custom Subaru hook-things on the end of the cable. I just ripped them out and searched my parts box. I found a couple of small bolts with spring washers, the washers have teeth which should grip the cable pretty well. This arrangement also allows me to adjust the tension on the cable. It was a bit of a struggle tightening the bolts because of the position of the lock mechanism, there was no chance of getting a screwdriver down there so I had to use two pairs of pliers, one in each hand to hold the nut and tighten the bolt.

So here’s my finished job. It works pretty well although the action was a bit stiff which I don’t mind but it caused a problem that the return spring was not strong enough to pull the cable back which prevented the central locking from working. Even though I thinned down the cable it was still slightly thicker than the original so I just dumped a load of oil and WD-40 down it and hopefully I won’t have any further issues with it.

Overall, I’m pleased with the result.

Car Repair Win

I have this Subaru Outback, it needs repairing a lot and it costs me a fortune. So I’ve started attempting some repairs myself. I’m not naturally mechanical so I only attempt jobs where I think I might have a chance – that is, jobs which are light on the grease and torque-wrenches and do not involve removing the engine for example. Definitely no welding!

For some time I have noticed two puzzling symptoms with this car:

  1. The car sometimes lurches forwards or backwards, especially on the highway
  2. Sometimes, but not always, the engine revs go up to 2000 rpm or more when stopped at traffic lights

I thought the first one must be mechanical, a worn bearing, excessive play in the 4WD system or something like that. The second fault had to be electronic since the idle speed is electronically controlled.

 

After doing a lot of reading of Subaru forums, car repair guides and whatnot, I realised that both these problems may be related and caused by a faulty Throttle Position Sensor. The high idle speed is because the engine computer thinks I’m pressing the accelerator when I’m really not, and the lurch happens as I lightly press the accelerator on the highway and the engine computer misinterprets it as me stomping on it – I went for a test drive to confirm this, the lurch even happens when I’m using cruise control.

So I had a look around some spare parts sites and eBay of course for a new Throttle Position Sensor. Now if I was driving a Ford, a new TPS would cost me $25. But a Subaru TPS? How about $400!

Not wanting to spend that plus another $100 to get a mechanic to put it in for me, I thought it might be worth just cleaning the thing. The TPS is essentially a potentiometer and being an electronics guy I know all about those and how they can behave erratically when they get a little bit of dirt or corrosion in them. Or it could even be the connector, dirt in there would certainly mess up the signal.

 

So the first thing to try is simply cleaning the connector. Before I did that, I had to locate the TPS. It sits on the throttle body on the opposite side from the throttle cable, it just looks like a small black box with some wires connected to it.

To remove the connector, squeeze the release catch while pulling.

I sprayed some contact cleaner in it and blew it out with some compressed air (not having a compressor, that means just blowing into it really hard and having the contact cleaner spray back into my face).

I reconnected the plug and went for a test drive. The car was much smoother. Problem solved in five minutes (if you don’t count the hours of research to figure out what to fix).

I’d call that a win!

Fear tactics

Sometimes I think the world has gone mad.

Does this label imply that all other drink bottles contain leaded plastic?! What will we have next – Cyanide-free Weet Bix?