Dodge Nitro Steering Column Repair

Seeing as I haven't posted much here in a while, I'll start things off again with a repair that I did to my 2007 Dodge Nitro today...

About a month ago I noticed that my steering wheel was starting to have up and down "play" in it, which seems to have gotten worse this past week. So, today, I decided I'd Google it in case it had already been discussed elsewhere.

Well, that payed off with this thread on What was also noted there was a clicking sound coming from the steering wheel / column -- something I had noticed since driving my Nitro off the lot in April 2007. Something that I simply wrote off because it sounded like a spring clicking inside the column, which could have been normal.

Anyway, to make a long story short, here's some images of how the repair was done (click on any image for a larger view);

CAPTCHA module added

I have added the CAPTCHA module today due to the large amounts of spammers that have been signing up for accounts. Most of them seem to have Gmail accounts -- so, it was either CAPTCHA or block Gmail accounts from signing up. I'll start with CAPTCHA and see how that goes as I don't want to block legitimate users from signing up.

So far I have only enabled CAPTCHA on the registration page as spam has not been a problem in the comments section. If it becomes a problem, I will enable CAPTCHA side-wide.

The frustrations of Linux (UPDATED)

If Linux really wants to see itself installed on the average Joe's home computer, it HAS to be better than it's counter-part, Windows. As an OS (Operating System), it IS -- it's light-years ahead of the Windows architecture, IMHO. However, there is a side to Linux that is SERIOUSLY lacking -- error and system messages -- they SUCK large.

Now, I don't claim to be a super-user, but I do my fair share of computing -- from websites, to blogging, to programming, to just plain old web-surfing -- I've used my fair share of computers, right on up from the TRS-80. Accordingly, I am not in the "{whatever} For Dummies" category either. I'm "above average", as far as the general public would be concerned, simply because of the time I spend on computers. I've seen my share of error messages, let me tell you. So, if I'm complaining about them not being descriptive/helpful, what do you think the general public is seeing?

On to the problem...

Banned IP Blocks (UPDATED)

Well, today I simply got tired of wading through the crap posted by Russian guests -- so I've blocked the entire country. While I was at it, I've also blocked Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia & Estonia.

Turkish universities, web hosts and Turk Telekom customers - scammers, spammers, phishing websites and server script exploiters have been blocked.

If this crap keeps up, the next to go will be China, Korea and all neighboring countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).

If you are from one of these countries (OK, not Russia as you can't read this anyway) and are tired of seeing your list of websites that you can visit get smaller and smaller, then do something about it!

For those of you interested, here is what I have added to my blocklist;

Junebug -- USB PIC Laboratory

Well, I thought I'd start an Electronics section on my little blog, for those of you interested in electronics as a hobby, or just wish to read a little about embedded devices, such as the PIC Microcontroller, to gain a little insight as to how they work. So, with the need to start somewhere, let's start off by taking a look at the Junebug -- a USB PIC programmer and debugger (ICD - In Circuit Debugger), from


Click the image for a full size view


I've had my Junebug for just over a month now, and I love it. I also have the Inchworm+/Unicorn combo, but the Junebug is far superior, IMO.

Let's check out some of the features of the Junebug;

PICKit 2 Compatible Programmer / Debugger & UART tool
1. USB-B connector, provides power and communication for the Junebug, Tutor & target projects
2. Programmer status Power, Target Power & Busy
3. PIC18F2550 preprogrammed with .hex
4. 18F2550 ICP, expansion & PK2 compatible
5. Tutor mode switch see page 6 for details
6. ICD programming / debugging connector (2x5 type)

Yes, the Junebug is a PICKit 2 Compatible Programmer / ICD and fully supported by the Microchip software. This means that you can use the Junebug anywhere the PICKit 2 is supported, such as MPLAB, MPLAB C18 and the PICKit 2 software.

Not only can you program a wide range of PIC products, you can also use the Junebug as an ICD (In Circuit Debugger). For those of you, like me, that can't afford a hardware simulator, the Junebug is perfect!

Click here for a list of products
that can be programmed/debugged with the Junebug


OK, so you can program, and debug your target boards/PICs, what project or board should you build first? Well, why don't you have another look at the Junebug -- it's much more than just "a programmer" -- it's also a complete development board suited for so many projects and applications, well, let's just say it will keep you entertained for many, many hours, without building a single PCB.

Let's check out a few of the features from the TUTOR side of the Junebug;

PIC18F1320 Tutor / Trainer
7. USER I/O connector U5V,RA1,RA2,RA3,RA4,RB1(TX),RB2(RX),GND
8. 38KHz Infrared detector / demodulator enable with DIP switch IR IN
9. Reset or RA5
10. CON4 A3,A4,GND socket designed for iButton® / 1-wire®, and various small parts
11. VR1 & VR2 variable resistors on RA1 & RA3 (DIP switch selectable)
12. Six multiplexed LEDs
13. Pushbuttons on RB0, RB2 & RB5
14. PIC18F1320 for user programs and software development
15. CON5 designed for buzzers, servo motors, PWM and general I/O

Yeah, I'd say that's enough to keep you busy! Start with the LED's -- learn how to light them up -- flash them in patterns, back and forth -- be inventive and experiment. Once the flashing of LED's is understood, add in A/D conversion with the variable resistors (VR1/VR2) and make the patterns change with the pushbuttons.

Still a little too basic for you? How about an IR send/receive device (such as a TV remote)? What about PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) for servos/stepper motors -- want to build a robot? You could add an iButton reader to it and design your own lock. Or maybe use the serial port for communications within a home automation project. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

OK, so that's about it for this post -- I hope that I have possibly encouraged you to join the world of embedded devices, get yourself a Junebug and start experimenting! A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I'll update this post as I add some code here so that you can play with the Junebug Tutor. If you want to check out the Junebug in more detail, or any of Bill's other porducts, shoot over to

Grandma wins again!

The Ancaster Fair was on this weekend past -- and I am happy to announce that my grandmother won many prizes, yet again, this year! I'm always happy to see this time of year come around -- it's the time when grandma drops off many delicious, homemade pickles, salsa, fruit and preserves. My mouth watered just walking around the fair and snapping pics of all her entries! :)

First for cherry pie filling and third for dill pickles!


Second for applesauce and first for chili sauce!


Other entries that are winners to me! (Variations of her chili sauce)


Way to go, grandma!

Abuse of Power (UPDATED)

Just another example of the abuse of power.

Here we have a Ministry of Transportation Ontario Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer who has used his status to park illegally. And for what? To do his grocery shopping. This was taken in a mall on Hurontario North in Brampton, Ontario (around the 10906 range), -- Sept. 20, 2007 around 2:00pm EST.





If you wish to voice your displeasure in seeing this type of abuse, you can contact the MOT here -->

Oh Brother!

Just this past Thursday I was waiting on a fax to come through with a BOL (Bill Of Lading) for a package that I needed to get shipped out ASAP. I got a call back from the trucking company dispatcher that she was getting "no" as a reply to their faxes. "No", I asked? "That's what it replies with", she said. Well, I was about 1/2 hour away and was on my way back, so I told her I'd check it out and get back to her.

Upon my arrival to my shop, I looked at the fax machine -- a Brother Intellifax 1820C -- it said "Machine Error - Code 41 -- Unplug machine and call Brother". So, I unplugged the machine and let it sit for about 10 minutes and plugged it back in -- with the same results.

That's when I hit Google up for some answers. A simple search for "Machine Error Code 41" produced all the answers I needed. The error is caused by the printhead -- which is not sensing a quick enough voltage change during it's initialization. A real quick explanation of it is, the machine uses voltage to heat the ink to the proper temperature before/as it is "sprayed" through the ink jets -- if that doesn't happen, the ink doesn't flow properly.

If you do enough reading on the problem, you will quickly find that Brother is completely aware of this problem and has extended their warranty times on the printheads to 24 months without a bill, and 30 months with. The strange part is, Brother didn't improve the printhead (well, not for quite some time after anyway). They produce "crap" printheads (from the mouths of their own techs) that should be fixed, with ALL EXISTING printheads covered under warranty!

How can you have a product that has a known problem, yet you decline warranty on the item because of a date issue? Arrggggg! It is my opinion that if a company is aware of the problem, then they should warranty the product -- period. I'm not asking for a recall of all products, as most of the products may never fail -- but those that do should be covered -- period. But that's just me.

So, I'm reading that the printheads are about $30 (this was from posts in 2005 and in USD, so I'm not sure what they are now) + labour to install, and I'm soon in need of ink, I decided that the money to fix and reink was not worth the effort.

So, knowing I need my fax working tomorrow, I went looking. Here's a couple of tips for you; 1) Best Buy doesn't carry JUST fax machines -- you have to buy an "All-In-One" and 2) Wall-Mart -- no fax machines either. Just trying to save you some time! :)

I ended up picking up an HP 1040 Plain Paper Inkjet Fax for $109 at Staples. Well, at least it has a much better review!

So far, so good -- I've run some copies through it, and a couple of test faxes and it looks good. For what I need the machine to do, it's perfect. It's your basic fax machine, without all the bells and whistles, but still has enough features to give you a very good bang for your dollar. Now, we'll have to see how we do with ink consumption! It comes with a 14ml cartridge, while the replacements are 28ml.

Which brings me to my final point -- extended warranty. I say to the salesman - because I know you have to ask me three times if I want extended warrnty -- no, no and no. The machine costs $109 -- I might buy 1, maybe two cartridges for it and, a year from now, probably find something else on sale for $79 with ink included. If it weren't for the 14ml cartridges to start, they'd almost be disposable machines.

Actually, I guess my final, final point would be -- the reviews say "don't buy Brother", "stay away", "bad product", "evil" and all kinds of nasty other stuff -- although I didn't buy Brother (simply because I don't believe they have fixed the problem from what I have been reading), I really have no complaints -- the machine worked out to something like $5.25 per month that I owned it (ink is another story, but I have to buy ink for the new one too) -- it did it's job.

At the race track

I went to the races last weekend to watch a friend of mine, Sean, race. I enjoy the races and haven't been in a while, so I thought it would be fun -- especially since I knew someone racing.

To make a long story short, I didn't get to see too much of Sean as he had some "technical difficulties" with his transmission and had to be pushed off the track after a half lap. Bummer. Actually, to be quite honest, this happened August 4th.



The good news? Sean works at a Transmission shop! The bad news? The transmission is from a 1971 Ford Pinto and they don't have parts to fix it! Double bummer.

Of course, when stuff like this happens, I seem to be the one my friends bring their stuff to when it needs fixing. Ah, but I enjoy a challenge! :)

The problem was that the transmission got stuck between gears, first and second, and was jammed. Good thing it was in neutral so it could be pushed off the track of he'd have been in some real trouble!

Below is a shot of the completed repair. I've got to get my butt in gear for work this morning. As the repair will take a little explaining, I will get the rest of the pics together and post the repair, in detail, when I get home tonight. (Oh, the part I made is the aluminum housing for the shifter -- but I'll detail that later.)



UPDATE (08.26.07) - Well, I'm just got back from a great weekend -- a buddy of mine had his annual pig roast (but I'll leave that for another post) -- so I thought I'd get the rest of those pics up regarding Sean's tranny.

85 Chevy P/U - frame strip down and paint

This post highlights the rebuild process of the old 305 in my 1985 Chevy Short-Box, Step-Side Restoration Project.

I'm finally getting some pics taken of my progress (which has been relatively slow as I simply have a ton on the go this summer). This weekend past I finished up the frame restoration. Basically, it involved grinding down, spot blasting, cutting out, repairing and painting of the frame. It's actually done, but I haven't taken pics of the painted frame yet. Here's what I do have;


A bad portion of the frame needed to be repaired. Here, I've ground off the original rivets used to secure the leaf spring supports to the frame -- and pounded them through to remove the supports. The bad section was then cut out with a small cut off wheel in an air grinder.



After welding in the new piece of steel, the welds were ground down to produce a smooth, finished surface (well, better than the rest of the frame anyway!).


The leaf spring supports were then reattached with grade 8 hardware. The key to this was marking the location of the support on the frame before removing it. Of course, I had to do this on the top of the frame as I was cutting out most of the side. I would imagine you'd track poorly if you were to be off much here, which would cause excessive tire wear, among a host of other problems, such as handling.


Last, the frame was ground down with an angle grinder and stone, then with a wire cup brush to remove as much rust as possible. (Yeah, the underside was fun.)

I'll have to take a few more pics and get them posted -- I'll update this as soon as I do.

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