Fall 2012 Home Improvements

Somehow I’ve had some time to do some home improvements over the past couple of months, mostly the past few weeks.

Pressure Washed and Painted the Fence

With the neighbors help, I got the fence painted! Nothing special, we used the same Cabot Cedar stain as before. The first coat lasted 4 years, though it could have used a coat a year ago. Pressure washing showed a lot of black staining over the years, and I repaired one broken picket, otherwise the fence looked great.

Lamp Post Replaced with Solar LED Post Light

I’ve been thinking about repairing the leaning post and replace the natural gas lamp light with a solar powered one. Last weekend the weather was finally warm enough for me to investigate. After digging around the post about 3-4″ deep, the post fell over. Quick examination I found the post completely rusted through. Fixing the lamp post turned into a replacing the lamp post project. I proceeded to dig out the hole beyond the frost line, about 34 inches deep.

I thought I could find a simple replacement lamp post at Lowes/Home Depot, but guess again, they sell more complicated posts that are way over priced. Since I don’t need a fancy post with an extra electrical socket built-in, I found a simple and affordable post at Menards, though it required a trip across town. When I got back, I just had enough time to pickup 2 bags of concrete, mix and then set the post before nightfall.

While I was disconnecting the gas line to the lamp post I went ahead and removed the line to the gas meter and capped it with a 1/4″ NPT cap.

The following Wednesday the solar powered lamp I ordered arrived. It only took 5 minutes to install. Compare that to the entire day it took to replace the post! We had to wait another day to see if it would charge and light up. Thursday night it came on when the sun fell. As expected, it put out a comparable amount of light to that of a gas lamp. Three hours later  the battery died. Luckily you can add a 2nd battery pack to extend the battery life. I knew the light from an LED solar powered lamp would not be as bright as a electric light bulb, but it is as effective as the gas lamp it replaced. If it could just last a little longer into the night then we’ll be all set. Most important though the yard looks good again!

Solar Powered LED Post Lamp

Front Door Sealed

In October I decided it was time to do something about the draft under the front door. I first replaced the bottom gasket with a one size fits all 4 blade model at Home Depot. I quickly discovered the bottom seal of the door was not designed for the gasket I had purchased. After a few days of the family struggling to open/close the door, I decided to modify the gasket by removing the first 2 blades with a utility knife. It did the trick, but it also allowed a slight draft at the corners of the door. The draft was due to the door sill plate having a slight pitch running outside (rather than flat or to the inside). This pitch is also why the newer gasket was so hard to open/close the door.

This past weekend I decided to fix the entire problem by replacing the bottom sill plate. It was not as easy a task as I thought it would be since the original door sill plate was attached to the door frame, rather than the sill plate attached to the bottom house framing. Once it was removed, it was just a slow process fitting the replacement sill plate in place. I put a small bead of silicone between the sill plate and the house framing to insulate between the two joints. I also had to add about 1/4″ of spacers to the assembly of the sill plate so the top of the sill was tight against a new 4 blade door gasket. It did the job, the door is now easy to open and close and it’s air tight!

Future Home Projects

There are a lot of things we’d like to do with the house, such as finish part of the basement, redo the master bathroom, upgrade the bathroom fixtures throughout the house, and install a wood laminate flooring on the first floor. Perhaps 2013 I’ll have something more exciting to blog about as far as home improvements are concerned.

Project Trans Am – Month 30, Focus on Interior

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last August with photos is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/11/05/project-trans-am-month-30-interior-and-wiring/

Outline of Accomplishments

  • New Windshield Installed
  • Interior  hard plastics and metal restored (except headliner, seats and carpet)
  • Carpet and headliner material ordered
  • Inner fenders painted
  • Wiring problems assessed and added 4 relays to power windows with my own changes

Window Interior

Plans for November

  • Remove rust from floors, paint, and seal seams
  • Install sound deadener and insulation in passenger compartment
  • Install carpet, dashboard steering column and center console
  • Slowly install remaining interior while working on the motor

Hopefully I can get the interior far enough that all the necessary gauges and wiring is hooked up so I can focus on finishing and installing the new motor.

Project Trans Am – Up to October 2012

My Trans Am resto-mod project is finally coming together!

October is ending up as the interior and wiring month for the project, something I’m more comfortable working on frankly. The interior parts have been refurbished with fresh coats of interior paint applied. The electrical wiring is being evaluated currently, the plan is to reuse the existing harnesses as much as possible and only repair as necessary. Check out some pics of the freshly restored interior.

Hopefully over the next 2 weekends I will have all the wiring fixed, dash installed and sound deadener/insulation with carpet installed, which will allow me to think about installing the engine this November!

Check out the work I did last month on ModAandRods.tv blog: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/10/02/project-trans-am-month-29-brakes-and-ac-delete

This May be a Stupid Question But…

I hear this all the time on forums and in email when helping folks: This may be a stupid question but... When I was young my mother would promptly correct me “There are no stupid questions”. If you haven’t guessed, my mom was a teacher. By college I was trained never to add that to my questions. With the constant use of “this is a stupid question but…” still happening in America, it made me think about it.

Is there a stupid question?

Applying logic, as I always do, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to have a stupid question. Think about it, you’ll find that answered questions cannot be stupid since they have answers and unanswered questions cannot be determined to be stupid.

The only one who can determine if a question is stupid is the person asking the question. Obviously anyone willing to ask questions will not value their thirst for knowledge as stupid.

There are stupid answers!

Sometimes answers are answered in a way that makes us feel stupid. If someone has the tenacity to answer a question and also claim that the question is stupid, think twice about the answer given as well as the person giving it.

Perhaps the smartest questions are those that are unanswered or cannot be answered.

What is stupid is not seeking the answer to a question.

Amazon.com and Raybestos Brakes – Bad Customer Service, Poor Quality Control

Update on May 2nd:

I got an email apology from Raybestos about the experience I had with them and they want to call me to discuss further.

Other than my experience dealing with the product warranty with Amazon, the Raybestos rotors are good quality. Just knowing that they do want their customer experience to be a good one may have just restored my faith in their products.

Original post on April 23rd:

Part of my Trans Am restoration includes restoring the brakes. After seeing a number of endorsements for Raybestos products on TV I decided I wanted to use Raybestos brake pads on my project car.

In early January I ordered AC Delco Advantage rotors to go along with the new brake pads, but when I received them I found their casting and machine work in the wheel hub area was quite horrible. I returned them and decided to pay the extra $10 a rotor on Amazon.com for Raybestos 5040 PG rotors. Since I’m using their brake pads, I may as well use their rotors!

When I received the Raybestos rotors in mid January, I quickly inspected the wheel hubs and found the machine work was excellent and casting was nice and centered. I did not think to inspect the rotor surface on the rotors assuming that they were fine (why would they sell a rotor with a bad surface). From what I understand, the wheel hub area needs to be right otherwise you get a serious wobble. Anyway, my failure to review the rotor surface right away was my mistake. Even so, the rotors have a no rust and no turn warranty, so if I didn’t get to the rotors till March then that’s fine, so I thought assuming there wasn’t rust on them. At that point I stored the rotors in my house until the weather warmed up.

In March, the weather did warmed up and I had an opportunity one weekend to tackle the front brakes. I did my normal procedure with the first rotor, cleaning the surface with brake cleaner, packing the bearings and installing the rotor hub on the spindle. When I started unpacking the second rotor, to my surprise the back side had 8 obvious spots of rust (see photo). Aside from that, there were 3 deep scratches that ran against the pattern of the rotor, meaning they were not caused by being machined. From that point on, I dealt with both Amazon and Raybestos and had a horrible experience with both companies. The details follow.

First I called Amazon.com. Initially they did not want to help me because it has been over 30 days since I purchased them. Then after being persistent, they said they would take the rotor back and issue me a refund, and that if I wanted a replacement I could order a new one. Well that was super lame, the price of these rotors went from $51 to $64 on Amazon.com between January and March.

So then I called Raybestos to see if I could have them exchanged directly under warranty. The gentleman I spoke with wasn’t technically rude, but he sure had an attitude. He was utterly surprised I was even able to buy Raybestos products from Amazon.com as he personally was the one who made the deal with Amazon to sell Raybestos products. The first impression I got was he didn’t believe I got them from Amazon directly (you can buy things on Amazon.com that are not actually sold by Amazon). Furthermore he made it very clear all warranty handling of Raybestos products is handled by the retailer.

So the only option was to get a refund from Amazon and order a new rotor. I paid another $63.66 and ordered a new rotor right away, and shipped the bad rotor the following day back to Amazon. 3 days later my replacement rotor arrived, with the box ripped open (see photo). A quick look inside and the rotor appeared ok, but rather than take a risk that the rotor may have slipped out and bounced around some UPS sorting facility I decided to ship it back and get another one. This time because I made the request within 30 days I was able to exchange the rotor without incurring additional costs. Thanks Amazon, you could have done this in the first place and I wouldn’t be telling this story!

The 3rd rotor arrived 3 days later, box in tattered but unopened condition. I inspected this rotor inside and out and it appeared ok.

Two weeks later I got an email from Amazon.com that they received my returned Rotors (both the original bad one and the second one I got in an open box). The email went on to explain that they will not refund me the full 51.49 that I paid in January, but instead only refunded me 41.19, the $10.30 difference going to a restocking fee (which was not mentioned to me when they finally let me return it with my call with Amazon.com). I sure hope they did not restock that rotor, it needs to be shipped back to Raybestos and the rust needs to be fixed.

If Amazon refunded the $51.49, I most likely would have left the whole ordeal alone, but the restocking fee for a faulty part just pushed me too far.

These are Automotive Brakes People!

The lack of seriousness to get the problem resolved for this particular type of item bothers me. We’re not talking about a book or a computer gadget, we’re talking about the brakes that go on a vehicle.

Amazon.com and Auto Parts

After this whole experience, I wouldn’t buy any critical or important automotive parts from Amazon.com. If I have a problem, I’ll take my part to my local auto parts store and get it resolved without dealing with 3 days to wait, product inflation and paying restocking fees to get a warrantied item replaced.

Raybestos and Warranty Coverage

Raybestos, you messed up big time. Seeing what Raybestos does for charities and watching their products on some of my favorite car TV shows, combined with their rotor “NO TURN GUARANTEE” and warranty, I expected a better phone call when I gave them a ring. Instead I was not treated as a customer or product advocate, I was treated as some guy who bought their products from someone else and it’s not their problem. Uncool!

My Conclusions

If Amazon wants to be in the automotive parts business, they are going to have to take it seriously and handle returns/exchanges accordingly. This stuff is serious business, brakes stop cars, they are serious parts to the safety of vehicles. They either need to support these products or don’t sell them in the first place.

If Raybestos does not want to deal directly with its customers, they should only sell their products through automotive retailers that will honor their warranties. Furthermore, they should still offer to warranty their products directly for those cases like mine or when retailers go out of business leaving the customer with no place to go.

I’m no longer going to purchase critical automotive parts from Amazon.com, and I’m certainly not going to recommend Raybestos products anytime soon. When you get a good Raybestos rotor, they rock, but the quality is not worth the poor customer service and lack of warranty support.