Friday, January 22, 2016

Car fixin

You never really think about your ability to set the fan in the car at different speeds until all of a sudden you can't...

Angie has been driving our 2005 VW Golf and thus it wasn't for some time that I noticed the fan only worked on the high position. She doesn't complain much and since she had a work around she took it. Winter is an especially annoying time to have the fan not work at low speed since a warm car will tend to fog the windshield so I knew this had to be fixed.

The problem turns out to be a common one caused by a failed thermal switch:

 That's the little blue headed pointy thing in the picture. The big green part is the resistor pack that actually runs the fan at lower speed. The thermal switch is there to keep the resistor pack from burning up if too much power is requested.

So I could just replace the thermal switch but that doesn't address the root cause of the problem which is a sticky fan. The 4th generation Golf and Jetta have a tendency to get some water in the fan which gums up the motor, the gummy motor draws more power and pops the thermal switch. So I popped out the fan, cleaned its bearings (well, bushings actually) good with carb cleaner and dripped a variety of lubricating substances in. I saw a YouTube video where the guy used WD40 but WD is "water displacing" its not really a lubricant. I started with Marvel Mystery oil lubricating formula and moved on to PB Blaster in an effort to find something that would make its way into the bushing. Then I reinstalled the fan and replaced the thermal switch.

I was a little nervous about soldering the new switch in, it is a thermal switch after all but I limited myself to just quick touches with the soldering iron and I'd bought a 5 pack of the switches from Amazon so I knew if my soldering didn't work out I could always resort to crimping on another one.

Fortunately I seem to have done a good enough job, the fan has been working correctly for a couple weeks now.

Of course I could have replaced the whole resistor pack, IDParts has them for $35 but for $1 and a couple minutes with a soldering iron I'm well pleased with this fix. If this happens again I'll probably replace the fan, its difficult to get oil in to the bushings on the old fan, although maybe if I used a needle oiler...

Friday, January 8, 2016

Lamp oil

With the onset of winter I always try to be prepared should we have a big power outage like back in '08. That time we were without power for a day and a half which was quite bearable with minimum supplies but if it'd have lasted much longer we wouldn't have been so well off. These days I keep more supplies around just in case. One of those supplies is kerosene, the other is lamp oil.
I use lamp oil because kerosene by itself smells pretty bad, even in the Aladdin lamps that are designed to burn it. This is especially noticeable in the summer time, when its warm the lamps will off gas a little and can really stink up the room. To fix that issue in the summer I drain the kerosene out and put just a bit of lamp oil in.
Lamp oil is derived somehow from wax, when you put out a lamp burning lamp oil it smells like you're melting crayons. The problem with anything made from wax is that it has a relatively high temperature at which it'll turn solid, its waxing temp if you will. So to get around that I've been mixing some kero with my lamp oil. This also helps to control costs, the lamp oil is SUPER expensive, like $5 a quart. Kerosene at the hardware store is expensive too but at $10/gallon its about half the price of lamp oil. I can get Jet A at a local airport for $4/gallon, Jet A is basically very low sulfur kerosene, it burns well with low odor on its own. I haven't Jet A in an Aladdin lamp yet but I've burned a lot in Colman and Tilley lamps and friends assure me its good in wick lamps too. Using Jet A my cost comes way down and I think I can reduce the percentage of lamp oil since the Jet A doesn't smell too bad anyway.

Anyway on a recent evening I picked up a new bottle of lamp oil, its the big one on the right in the picture. The little bottle in the middle is full of a 50:50 mixture of lamp oil and kerosene, the kero came from the bottle on the left which you can now see is marked "Jet". I refilled the kero bottle with Jet A because its easier to pour out of than a bigger jug. The big bottle has about 30 percent kero and 70 percent lamp oil.

I took this picture this morning, the temps were hovering just about freezing although the interior of the garage hadn't really warmed up yet. You can see the large bottle with the 30:70 mix has turned solid, its real hard, like ice. The smaller bottle is still liquid, no sign of gelling or waxing at all.

So the extra percentage of kero in the smaller bottle is clearly doing its job.

Here's the result:

Burning well, basically no scent. There was a little smell when I first lit the lamp but once it warmed up all the way the smell was gone. I've had it burning for about four hours now and its steady as a rock.