REPAIRING THINGS

No matter who you are, where you live or what you own, at some point you will discover that inanimate objects- things- break. Whether solid or liquid, hard or soft, electrical or computer related (Think Magick here.), eventually everything will break. Even if I haven’t been near it or you. Stuff just does that. Owning stuff is hard but repairing stuff is harder. Sometimes, explaining how something broke is even more difficult than repairing it.

When you own stuff, you have to remember things like “Is it mine? Or did I borrow it?” “Where is it?” “What happened to the instructions?” “Is this still under warranty?” (No.) “Can this be fixed?” “Or is it just easier and cheaper to throw it away and buy another one?”

Some of these questions are easily answered, like “Where is it?”. Just go out and buy a replacement and the original will just show up automatically before you get home from the store. Other questions can be tougher. “My car stopped running. Should I buy a replacement?” Unless you are a mechanic, you’ll need the advice of one to answer that question. Some simple fixes can be free (My mechanic found a bad wire and put in a used one he had hanging around. Wouldn’t take a dime for it). Other fixes can cost more than a 100 foot yacht. If, like certain people I know, you’re driving an 18 year old Toyota and you’re looking at a $6000 repair bill, not a lot of sense in fixing it unless you are exceptionally attached to the car. If this is the case, you have bigger problems than I can help with. But the point is, for $6000, you can buy three more cars identical to the one you have, each with its own set of problems.

If you have household electrical problems, I can help. First, determine whether the appliance itself is faulty. If it’s lamp or a small radio, take it to another room, plug it in and see if it works. Often, this will pinpoint your problem. However this trouble-shooting method has its limitations. It’s very inconvenient to use with refrigerators, furnaces and the like. Some folks use a “Multi-meter” to see if there’s power but it requires at least some basic knowledge of electricity. Do you set the meter for “Volts?“ “Amps?” “Ohms?” Are all three lurking inside your outlet? What the hell are they anyway? An “ohm” sounds like a place a Cockney would go after the pubs close. I find it easier to disregard these terms and look for smoke. Not active smoke, as in a fire, although if you have one of those, perhaps now isn’t the time for electrical work. The smoke to which I refer takes the form of a short column of soot above an outlet. If you plug a functioning electrical appliance into that outlet, it will not work. The soot is the clue. It means that all of the smoke has leaked out of that outlet and it will need repair. This proves, BTW, that electricity is, in fact, smoke. So forget the ohms, amps and volts and comfort yourself with being grateful that smoke rises. If it sank, it would form deadly puddles of electricity on the floor. Think of THAT! One wrong step and BLAMMO!

You’ll find sometimes, that you cannot get something repaired. Years ago, varying “repairmen” fixed things from washing machines to TVs and radios, irons, etc. I don’t even think that there are any TV repairmen around anymore. And if there are, it would probably cost more to repair your TV than buy a new one.

Liquids can also be trouble. In one’s home, liquids are supposed to be contained by the plumbing system. If you turn a faucet and water comes out, all is well. If anything else comes out, problem. If nothing comes out, also a problem. If you turn the faucet off and stuff still comes out, BIG problem. All of this is easily fixed by finding the main shutoff for the water in your home and closing the valve. Yes, it makes showering, washing dishes, etc. difficult/impossible and may cause complaining from others in your domicile. Just tell them that you’ve found a way to cut the water bill by 100%!

You can sometimes cure an ailing appliance by yourself. A friend had a washing machine go on strike, demanding a new pump. Since I live only a couple miles from an appliance sales/repair place that has EVERYTHING, I was provided with a serial and model number and dispatched to order or otherwise obtain another pump. The gentleman behind the counter takes a one-second look at the info and says “New or used?”. I ask the price differential, it’s $75 new, $35 used. I tell him “Used”. He says “Follow me” and we head to a field behind the business where there are about 100 used washers awaiting pickup for scrap. Five seconds later, he has the top off, shows me where the pump is (Surprisingly easy to get to.) shows the two bolts that will liberate the old pump and facilitate installing a different one and the two hoses that will have to be disconnected before surgery and reconnected after. All simple and straightforward. Even tells me that it is unlikely that the pump is bad, that this particular pump is very common, should last almost forever and only fails when a small bit of cloth gets lodged inside.

I take the pump to the washer. Someone has already removed the front and unplugged the machine. I explain all that the gentleman at the appliance place said. My friend notes that a very small section of a bath mat has gone AWOL and we both wonder if this is, indeed, the cause. We set to work. The hoses are a pain in the ass to remove as they are attached by old-fashioned automotive spring clips like they used on radiator hoses forty years ago. Of course, the water to the machine is off and eventually, after some ambitious and highly creative swearing, so are the hoses. The bolts are undone and the pump removed. A couple of hand-operated cycles of the old pump produce, as if by Wizardry, the missing piece of bath mat. The pump now works fine. We bolt the old pump back in place and take a quick break before tackling the hoses.

The final steps are to connect the hoses, test the pump and then put the front back on. I should have obtained new clips for the hoses but hadn’t thought of it earlier and it is now about 9:30 pm on a Sunday and the only way I can get newer-style hose clamps is to steal them from someone’s car. We both dismiss this idea as remarkably stupid (How the hell do you explain that to a judge without winding up in the State Home for the Bewildered?) and decide to re-use the original clamps. Since there are two hoses, one black and one white and since the black one was a real son-of-a-bitch to remove, we attach that one first. Finally, after even more ambitious swearing, the black hose is in place and the goddamned clip is back on. Another quick break.

Well, we both decide that it’s now time to test the pump. The washer is plugged back in, the water turned on and the “Start” button pushed. The old pump works a treat. Especially since we forgot to replace the white hose and water is flowing generously all over the floors and highly intemperate language is flowing everywhere else.

Remarkable sometimes, how astonishingly witless people can be. Especially if I’m one of them. Unplug washer, kill water, employ mop, swear vigorously and then, laugh at your own stupidity. Or otherwise, you’d put an old radiator clip around your throat and wait for your own pump to seize up.

Washer has finally been rendered operable. People have been rendered tired and wet. Home has been rendered wet. Tiredness of home is difficult to judge.

I had planned to cover more ground in this post but I don’t want to make this thing too long so, in a future post we’ll cover other useful advice, such as why you shouldn’t employ a 2×4 to install windshield wipers, how to get water to flow uphill, why wine bottles and heads are not good together, nor cats and computers, actual plumbing repairs, how to accidentally crush things you are attempting to repair and why it’s never a good idea to violate Sattingler’s Law.

Stay tuned.

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