Empty School Bus

Sometimes a simple solution solves a problem. I’m usually pretty good at not over-engineering things, but a reminder like this is always good.

Home Fixes

Yesterday I set out to fix a couple of things around the house.

Garbage Disposal

It stopped working several weeks ago when the cleaning lady was using it. I was out golfing at the time so have no idea what happened. There was no sound or anything when the switch was flipped. My first step was to make sure the outlet worked.

test-socket

So then I moved everything out from under the sink, got a bucket to catch the water, and removed the unit. I noticed a red button on the bottom.

disposal-button

It responded like the button on a GFI outlet. Then I plugged the disposal back in. There was a humming sound for a few seconds and then it stopped. The red button had popped out. Must be some kind of safety mechanism so the unit doesn’t burn up the motor. While cleaning out the cupboard I had come across an allen wrench.

disposal-allen-wrench

There was also a hole in the bottom of the disposal where this fit. Gave it a bunch of turns and it started to feel pretty smooth. Pushed in the button, started plugging it in, and holy shit! The torque on that thing nearly sent it flying across the room. Glad I had barely touched the plug to power because my hand was able to jerk it away from the outlet.

I put the garbage disposal back in place, reconnected all the pipes, and I was back in business. No leaks either. Something must have been jammed inside.

As a bonus it turned out to be a good reason to clean the cupboards under the sink, which had accumulated a bunch of junk.

Garage Door Opener Light

It’s been flaky for several years. I had tried replacing bulbs and sometimes they would work for a bit or flicker here and there, but eventually stop working. With my new knowledge and confidence with electricity and circuits I figured there had to be something going on with the connection. After unplugging the garage door opener, I took off the face plate and disconnected the wires from the back of the light socket.

garage-door-old-light-socket.jpg

Looking at this socket, 2 things stood out to me: 1) seems like both contact points were corroded and 2) unlike a lot of light bulb sockets where the sides are metal, this only had the contact pad which is at about 1:00 if this were a clock face. I grabbed my favorite tool, the digital multimeter…

I may have been able to clean up the contacts on the socket, but I figured it was better to replace it. The only thing at Home Depot that looked like it would work was this waterproof light socket for $3.47.

waterproof-light-socket.jpg

I carved off some of the rubber with an X-ACTO knife for a better angled fit and applied a bunch of hot glue. Here are views of the front and back…

garage-door-opener-light-socket-frontgarage-door-opener-light-socket-back

It ended up working much better than expected. I reassembled everything, plugged in the garage door opener, and voila!

garage-door-opener-light-on.jpg

I also replaced a 3-way light switch I could hear shorting out, but it was an ordinary replacement job.

Negative Voltage

The girls were having some problems with the LEDs in a couple of stuffed bears. Mom thought there might be a short in the wiring because they’d work for 10-15 seconds and then the LED sequence would freeze up or turn off. Before tearing into the bears I got out my multimeter (has become quite the handy dandy tool for me) and tested the batteries, which had been straight out of a package when they were used in the bears.


Two of the AA batteries were reading right around the expected 1.5v, but the other was -0.3v, as shown above. I’ve never seen that before, so I did some Googling.

Any type of battery can and will begin to charge a dead cell in reverse if you keep trying to draw current out of it. Remember, a battery is a series connection of cells, so in any pack regardless of chemistry, a dead cell once depleted is going to be subjected to voltage reversal.
– Source

It looks like something happened to reverse the polarity during manufacturing or the battery was DOA and got charged in reverse from the other two AAs.

After replacing the batteries all of the bears work again. It’s a good reminder to check your power source when things don’t work.

A Quick Multimeter Fix

The last couple of times I went to use my multimeter, it wouldn’t read voltages or do a continuity test. I didn’t really need it at those times, so I set it aside. Well, I needed it tonight to diagnose something causing problems in a circuit, so it was time to figure out what was wrong.

After unscrewing the back of the multimeter and looking inside, I noticed there were contacts where each of the cables plug in. I got out some alligator clips to use as test leads and the device worked fine. Then I did continuity tests on the cables and the red one failed.

It was time for some surgery so I hacked the ends off. The wire inside was so small and fragile that it had pulled apart from the probe’s end. I cut a new cable using some silicon wire I bought last week since it’s really flexible compared to the wire I use to build circuits. Soldered the ends back on, put some heat shrink tubing over the connections, and I’m back in business!

WingTite Shower Drain

The stall shower in my master bathroom was leaking. I tried getting the drain out, but quickly realized it wasn’t possible without access underneath the shower. I didn’t want to cut a hole in the ceiling of the floor below and wasn’t going to tear out the shower. I found this WingTite drain (less than $35 on Amazon). The instructions looked easy enough for me to tackle.

Once I was able to cut out the old drain, the install was a breeze. It helps to get the right mini hacksaw, which was only a $3 add-on when I bought it. It’s been installed for a few months and there hasn’t been any leaking since.

Unlock iPod Screen Lock If You Forget The 4 Digit Combination

I’ve have several a lot of people post questions on other posts here at MDV asking how to unlock the iPod Screen Lock function if you forget the 4 digit combination/pass code, so I figured I would write up a short tutorial here to direct people to.

There are basically three ways to unlock the Screen Lock on your iPod:

  1. The most obvious and will not work for most people (or else you wouldn’t be visiting this web site). Simply enter the 4 digit combination/pass code at Extras > Screen Lock.
  2. Connect your iPod to the first computer it was synced with or the computer set as the primary one in iTunes. Open the iTunes application, then disconnect your iPod from the computer, and it should no longer be locked.
  3. Use this final way only if the first two options do not work for you because it is a destructive process.

    Everything on your iPod will be erased.

    This should not be a problem if you have all of your songs, videos, and other media stored in iTunes and you can synchronize once again after getting the iPod unlocked. Besides, if you don’t unlock your iPod it’s useless right? Learn how to Restore your iPod using the instructions from Apple’s site.

If your iPod is simply frozen, follow my instructions for an iPod Lockup Reset.