Fixin’ Stuff

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As a bike racer, I’ve always had to fix things.  Back in the day, we used to completely disassemble, clean, and reassemble our bikes before each race.  It was like having a little pre-race party every Friday night before the race.  I remember having chain issues at a junior State Championships and realized, right before the race, that I put my rear derailleur cage, on my Campy derailleur, back together wrong.

Anyway, then it progressed to automobiles.  My first car was a Volkswagen pickup truck.  The engine blew soon after I got it.  My brother and I took the engine down the basement and completely rebuilt it.   The engine is really simple, but it took the idiots manual to get it back together again.  We bought a simple set of tools at Sears and a torque wrench.  Soon, my favorite tools were metric open ends, 10 and 13.

After that, it was home repair.  Changing the electrical sockets for grounding to roofing my house.  The first time you do something, it is sort of intimidating, but after, it usually seems pretty simple.

The Internet is a wonderful resource for fix-it-yourself types.  You can nearly always find someone that has had you exact problem and most of the time has posted something about it.  It is great when there is a video, especially in auto repair, but forums etc., usually have something about nearly any issue you might have.

Now I fix things usually because of either convenience or because of incompetence.  Not my incompetence, but because of other peoples.  Plus, you can fix something yourself for a fraction of the cost of paying someone else.  Sometimes it costs nothing to fix something that someone might charge you 100’s, if not 1000’s of dollars to repair yourself.

I will very, very rarely let someone else work on my car.  Over history, my experience with auto repair is that most auto mechanics are incompetent.  I usually get my car back worse than when I dropped it off.  But there are somethings on a car I can’t do myself.  Front end alignment and stuff like that I have to have someone else do.  But nearly everything else, I do myself.

A few days ago, at the 100 mile Gravelluers Raid race, the drivers side automatic window quit working.  Actually, it just broke.  I’m not big on automatic doors, windows, etc. on cars.  Just more stuff to go wrong.  Anyway, Trudi said she heard a snap and then the window wouldn’t go up.

I took some Gorilla tape and taped the window up and drove home.  I started the project last week.  I realize that there are lots of different ways an automatic window works.  In a Town and Country, or Caravan, it is with a weird window regulator, that looks like it shouldn’t fit in the door.  I went to Youtube and watched a video about replacing it.

I ordered a new regulator from Amazon.  It was $95 at O’reilleys and $50 at Amazon, plus $3.99 next day shipping.  I’m sort of ying/yang about this on-line vs. local shopping.  There really isn’t a local autoparts store.  It’s all national chains.  I really can’t understand why I can buy something at Amazon for pretty much half the price of a National chain store.  Guess it must be overhead, employees etc.

Anyway, I wouldn’t say the replacement of the window regulator is for a weekend repair person.  It is probably one level above that.  Snapping the trim on and off newer automobiles always is a challenge.  Not breaking those plastic snaps is nearly impossible.  You needed torx bits and some other tools a normal person might not have.  The project went fine and worked out great.

There is a certain amount of self satisfaction you get from repairing something yourself.  Plus, it usually doesn’t take any more effort that arranging to get it repaired by someone else.  The hassle of dropping you car off and picking it up takes an hour on both ends.  By that time, I had the window repaired.

But, I do have way too many projects queue up.  So many that it is a little overwhelming.  Sometimes it is a little hard to prioritize.  But, that is just life.  We prioritize things in our lives lots of ways.  Sometimes consciously, and many time unconsciously.  We just cope as best we can.

Door disassembled.

Door disassembled. Regulator out.

This is the window regulator.  It is a little tricky threading it in and out of the door.

This is the window regulator. It is a little tricky threading it in and out of the door.

This is all that was broken.  I wish I could have replaced this.

This is all that was broken. I wish I could have replaced this.


I used Gorilla tape to hold the water barrier back on.

I used Gorilla tape to hold the water barrier back on.

Door all back together.

Door all back together.




17 thoughts on “Fixin’ Stuff

  1. MS

    My sentiments exactly. people get ripped off so much from not being able to do it themselves. Fortunately Dad had me fixing tractors, ranch equipment, construction equipment etc early on. Now I only take stuff in out of sheer laziness or like you, my queue of stuff-to-do is longer than I can handle.

    Would love to know how you re-wired for ground. Our home has no grounds, no armored cabling to cheat with, nothing without running wires back to the main? Electrical is my weak point.

    I used to fall for the local vs online but soon realized nothing is local anymore. We have a couple of True Values and a non-chain hardware store I will patronize but the home centers are nothing but Walmart-esque hardware stores bringing in the china stock. Stealerships are a definite no-go for me.

  2. bobby

    Hey Steve-

    Becoming a regular reader over the last couple years has actually inspired me to do more home/auto repair myself. It’s incredible how easy it is do do something like re-tiling a bathroom floor with a YouTube tutorial to reference.

  3. BoneCrusher

    Just completed a whole bunch of under the sink plumbing work including replacing the sink strainer. May not seem like much, but the Mrs was impressed and saved myself a ton of $’s from not calling the plumber. Amazing what you can now find on youtube and other sites to get things done.

  4. Jeff D.

    Ya’ll must be better @ home repair than me, I seem to be able to take a minor problem and make it a major problem on a lot of stuff.. learned my lesson trying to replace a rusted trap pipe under the kitchen sink, every time I tried to loosen a pipe the one next to it broke off, wound up having to have a plumber come and replace the all the pipes from where they came out of the wall, If only my wife had of listened to me when I told her “duct tape” will fix that!! (lol)

  5. EC

    It’s quite interesting to me to see the different responses to this post. The people most apt to identify with your take on fixing things are unlikely to understand why some people just don’t get it. To them (and probably you too), it all seems easy or even logical to fix something or to dig in and figure it out. In many respects that is true. But there is another truth as well.
    To some it may seem easy to write a novel or a symphony or produce some other kind of art. The arts are often foreign lands to the craftsmen of the world and fixing things (a craftsman’s work) is completely lost on the artist.
    There is an interesting divide here. Perhaps the real beauty of the world lies in these differences. Both artists and craftsmen can create and do wonderful things. The lack of understanding between them isn’t and shouldn’t be a point of contention, but rather a source of wonderment.

  6. Nathan

    I did the “add a ground” project. Turned into a home rewire, but worth it after finding several hack-it-yourself fire hazards. In short, I pulled the old 2-wire out and dropped new 3-wire romex. The lack of insulation helped. Lots of blue rework boxes. I recovered at least 1/3 of the cost in new wire by scrapping the old. The 2 key 1st steps were getting the house’s service and circuit breaker box upgraded (hired a bike team sponsor and didn’t regret it) and creating a new home wire diagram. This book (Wiring Simplified) was a good reference and something I wish I had before I started:

    I’ve had similar experiences with car maintenance. Usually have to follow up their work afterwards. Least favorite was getting a bearing replaced in my transmission. The re-install guy missed a bushing on the shifter connection. I noticed the slop as I was leaving, but they insisted it was normal wear & tear. Put it back on a lift and make me feel like I’m wasting their time. A weekend later I discover their error and find a few other mistakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t use someone local, so I ended up crafting a new bushing from brass hardware at the local ACE.

  7. Paul Boudreaux

    Not handy myself but do get a great sense of satisfaction after troubleshooting/fixing/installing something myself that would have cost me hundreds of dollars. Of course the problem for us recreational guys is that cycling takes so much time (vs. say running) and there is a great temptation to just farm everything else out to spend time with the family, etc. vs. doing yard work, fixing stuff etc.

    Keep the posts coming Steve as they are always stellar. Seems like you have lots of skills but above all else you are a true “craftsman” on the bike. Would be cool to hear about what you consider to be your absolute ultimate effort on the bike – when you transcended what you thought to be your limit.

  8. Mark G

    Steve , you still have not told us how you delt with tranny on van. must be too painfull $$$ , to talk about

  9. Wildcat

    Agreed, I don’t get to complain about not having time to fix things or mow the lawn/etc. because the moment I begin complaining about how busy I am my wife says I could magically have 3 hours many days of the week to do things around the house if I didn’t go out on the bike. Things get done in time. As long as I don’t complain about not having the time or being too busy it’s all good. I just wish the fat guy next door didn’t have such a freaking perfect lawn.

  10. The Cyclist

    Done the WV engines. Done the wiring. Built a few cars. If I were better than I am in chemistry I’d be doin my own undetectable PEDs, too… just as in Breakin Bad. What I don’t get is why you need to pull derailleur cage apart cleaning a bike. Never done that, despite cleaning my bikes on regular basis. Could someone explain please?

  11. James

    The Cyclist
    You would disassemble a derailuer cage in order to clean and lube the jockey wheels and tension spring.
    On the older Suntour Superb derailuers (and some Campy if I recall correctly), you could completely disassemble the whole derailuer, inner and outer pivot plates, everything.

  12. Charles Dostale

    To lube the jockey wheels on Campy Record stuff, you pushed 10 weight oil through the pores in the bronze bushings from the inside. You had to take the bushing out of the jockey wheel to do that, which meant you had to disassemble the cage.

    Re: fixing things. I learned so much from my dad just holding the flashlight while he fixed stuff. I wish now I would have learned how to swear in Czech from him too.


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