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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 13 Apr 2012

Things I recently -- and successfully -- fixed: shower valve, laptop screen, overheating car

Not that I'd swear off fixing what I could if I had unlimited funds, but I don't. So I fix things.

A few weeks ago I did the latest rebuild of the hot-water valve in the shower. It goes more than any other as it is a Price-Pfister valve with a rubber washer, gets a lot of use and is very close to the water source and hence gets more pressure despite the new pressure-reducing valve we had installed (by Philip the plumber; I know my limits, or at least I think I do).

The valve seat was OK, and the valve stem was replaced (by me) the last time I rebuilt the faucet. Despite the pressure-reducing valve, a whole lot of pressure builds up in the system when the water is off for any length of time. I might need one of those little tanks above the hot-water heater that helps even out the pressure. Or something else. I'm open to suggestion.

My Lenovo G555 laptop, now two years old, has had a failing LCD inverter for a while. I know this because it's happened in a bunch of other old laptops I have owned.

The symptoms presented as the backlight of the screen refusing to turn on when the machine (and the LCD inverter itself, which sits at the bottom of the screen) was cold. When warmed up (if I could ever get that far) the screen lit up just fine and I could use the laptop.

I was about 90 percent sure it was the LCD inverter. And since I only paid for the laptop and had it a full two years, I was confident in doing the repair myself.

I looked for the part and found it for to from a few online sources. That's a lot for such a small part.

I finally found it for less than . Yep, new, too. On eBay. I bought the part for and change -- shipping was INCLUDED -- and waited a week or so for it to arrive. Turns out it came all the way from China. but it was packed well.

I spent about a half-hour on the repair, removing the rubber bumpers, then the screws, then the plastic bezel from the laptop screen. Then I unscrewed and pulled the old LCD inverter out, unplugged it on both sides, replaced it with the new part and put the whole thing back together.

I powered up the laptop and it worked perfectly. It's nice when things go well (and quickly). I'll take a victory when I can get it.

My 2001 Ford Focus has been overheating when idle for long periods of time for over a year now. I had to think long and hard about what was causing it. It wouldn't overheat when the air conditioning was on, as a secondary fan cycles and blows on the radiator.

First, about six months or so ago, I replaced the relay (cost about ) that controls the primary radiator fan. That did nothing.

Then a couple weeks ago I went to the Ford dealer and got the temperature-resistor that controls the main fan. It's mounted in the fan housing. I had pulled the part a few weeks before that. I had read on the Internet that getting the part was difficult.

But the Ford dealer had the part for . I plugged it in, mounted it in the fan housing, and the overheating stopped. Another quick, successful repair. I had help from a repair manual for the Focus that I got at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood for $1 about a year ago.

For this repair I spent a long, long, long time thinking and eventually a lot less time actually doing.

For the laptop screen, running into the problem before helped me recognize it when it happened again.

And I've done lots of valve rebuilds on my faucets.

So my takeaway is that experience is the best teacher, and thinking before pulling out the tools is a very valuable part of any repair.