Category Archives: DIY – Do It Yourself

Preparing a Pressure Washer For The Winter

Whether you call it them pressure washers or power washers, these are darned handy machines to have around. For portability, we use models with a gasoline engine and are on our second one. The first lasted for a few years until one wither the water in the pump turned to ice and finally cracked the housing. As they say “and that was that”. I thought about just buying a pump but for a little bit more we bought a whole new unit. My friends also cautioned me to always winterize the unit to make it last through Michigan winters. That was 6-8 years ago and I have learned a few tips to share.

By the way, the photo above really is of our pressure washer. I don’t have space to store it indoors so I really do need to Winterize it. Regardless of the brand you buy, there are three things I would tell you to do.

Drain the gas and/or use a mix with Stabil

Assuming you have a gasoline pressure washer, you might want to drain the gas from the tank and run the unit until it stalls. There are two reasons for this – gas can spoil if left untreated and also, when it evaporates out of the carb it will leave a gummy residue that may need to be cleaned out. In my case, my washer only sits idle a few months so I don’t always drain it. I’ve not had a problem so far. I always drain my chain saws because they may sit an unpredictable amount of time.

The second recommentation that you can do along with the first is to always add Stabil, a gasoline conditioner, that keeps it from breaking down for at least 12 months. I always add it to all of my gas cans when I fill them.

Blow out the system and disconnect the gun/wand and hose

What did in my first pressure washer was not draining the water out of the pump. I made a small air fitting by taking an old piece of hose and a 1/4″ air fitting that I can screw into the pressure washer and blow all of the water out of the pump, lines and wand. It works great.

I just use junk hose to make the adapter. You just need a male hose fitting on one end and a way to connect your compressor on the other.

If you really want, you can buy pre-made winterizer fittings for $12-20. The above fittings were all made with old stuff I had laying around.

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Sun Joe Electric Pressure Washer | 2030 PSI | 1.76 GPM | 14.5-Amp | Black

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Garden Hose High Pressure Power Hydro Jet Washer Water Spray Gun Nozzle Wand US

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Pressure Washer Pump Saver and Winterizer Attachment

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Drain The Soap Tank

Don’t forget to drain the soap tank also. You don’t want it to freeze and crack anything. I did forget this one year and had to rebuild the fitting that cracked with epoxy.

Don’t forget to drain the soap from the plastic soap tank.

Add a Winterizing fluid

I then use an aerosol based pump winterizer. It can blow the water out by itself technically but I’m paranoid. I use my compressor to blow out everything and then I disconnect the air lines and wand/gun. I then connect the Briggs & Stratton 6151 Pressure Washer Pump Saver Anti-Freeze and Lubricant to further protect against freezing and to lubricate the pump and prevent the O-rings and seals from drying out. This works great for me and one can will last me 2-3 years at least.

This is what I use and have never had a problem.
All you do is connect the hose assembly to the hose inlet and push the trigger. The foam will come out pretty quick – it doesn’t take a lot. Note, stand to the side or you will wear the foam. I kid you not that it took me two years of wearing foam until I remembered to stand to the side when filling the unit with foam. Also, remove the hose and wand/gun before doing this or you will use a lot of material to purge them also. You can blow them out or even hang and drain them vs. using this stuff unnecessarily.

Now a ton of reputable companies sell some form of pump protector / winterizer. I suspect one or two companies actually make it and then applies different labels – Generac, Briggs & Straton, Stabil, etc. Just go with a name brand and I bet you will be fine.

Pressure Washer Pump Saver Uses Anti Freeze And Lubricant Formula 4 Oz 6039 New

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Pressure Washer Pump Saver and Winterizer Attachment

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Summary

I hope this helps you out. My current pump is still going strong even though it is out in the winter weather every year. The paint is fading but it is mechanically solid.


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Replacing the Drive Belt On A 1998 Simplicity Broadmor 16HP Tractor

This fall we had a ton of leaves to mulch as usual. This means every week I mow our acre and a half for about two hours at a time. Long ago, I replaced the OEM Simplicity blades with Oregon Gator blades in the tractor’s 44″ mowing deck to help with this. At any rate, I pushed on the parking brake and all of a sudden heard a weird rattling sound so I turned the tractor off expecting to see a branch stuck underneath – no such luck. I started feeling and looking around and the drive belt felt loose and the idler assembly was as far as it could go. I looked closer and could see the cracks in the 21 year old original drive belt. Argh …. it needed a new drive belt and I really didn’t have the time but what are you going to do?

Finding the Belt

Simplicity did me a favor by having a decal under the hood that identified the drive belt part number along with a few other belts:

The top one is the drive belt – the 1717932 part number.

The correct drive belt part number for the tractor is the 1717932. If you look that part number up, it is an 84″ belt with a 4L profile. “4L” means that the top of the V=belt is a 1/2″ wide and from top to bottom, it is 5/16″ tall. The “L” means the belt is for light industrial or lawn & garden use.

Now, one could argue the original belt lasted 21 years so just get the same thing – either an original Simplicity part of a good 4L-84 belt. I tend to like safety margins and when something is a bear to do, I really just want to do it once and not worry about it again for a long time if ever. I have no idea how long the tractor will last – I’m replacing parts like the ignition switch and starter and even more recently torquing the motor mount screws back down. More concerning is that it smokes just a tad after it starts (wearing valve stem seals I bet) and has a slow oil drip (seals). At some point it will die on me but I do hope it is a long way down the road plus a friend pointed out I like tinkering and it gives me something to do – as if I ever have free time anways.

At any rate, let’s get back to the drive belt. All belts deteriorate over time. The question becomes how fast will they break down? There are many factors including the rubbers and fibers used plus the strain placed on the belt. 21 years was really a good run but I wanted to up my game and move to a 4LK belt – the “K” means that that Kevlar fiber is used vs. polyester or whatever.

Ordering The Belt

Once I knew the Simplicity part number, it was easy to do the searching and I found a Kevlar belt on Amazon that I ordered. Amazon’s delivery speed is astounding now – I have Prime, ordered in on 11/21 and receiver it on 11/22! I like Amazon because I can see the ratings and the delivery speed is fantastic.

I did take a bit of a gamble on the D&D PowerDrive belt – it had one good review and one complaint that it was the wrong size. D&D belts get mixed reviews but seem to be more positive than negative so we’ll see. I’ll post updates about how well it lasts because it definitely will be installed correctly.

If you are wondering why I didn’t get a Gates or a Dayton – I tried to go with an easy purchase experience. Hopefully it sorts out in the long run and time will tell.

How to Install the Belt

The installation went pretty well with two notable exceptions that I will cover shortly. I did some digging on the web and found a PDF of what to do that I then converted into a screenshot for you:

My two biggest headaches were unplugging the PTO clutch snd the moving the damn cotter pin on the brake rod. For the PTO clutch electric fitting, slide a blade up under the locking tab and then keep working around the block with a small screw driver to try and loosen it up. I suspect that fitting hadn’t been disconnected since the factor and it did not want to come loose. Be careful to pull the fitting apart by focusing your efforts on the plug and the housing – if you pull on the wires, they may pull out. Eventually it did come apart and when I reassembled it, I applied silicone di-electric grease to both seal the connections and ease disassembly in the future.

The hardest step was removing the cotter pin (C) that secures the brake rod (A) onto the brake lever (B) in Figure 42 above. It is an absolute pain in the ass to get to and I had to work blind because I could only get one hand back in there. How they made it a pain was that the closed end of th pin was facing towards the inner rear meaning I could not hook it and pull. What I did was to take and hook the flared ends and pulled them relatively straight. I then shoved one jaw of a pair of needlenose pliers into the eye of the pin. To remove the pin, I then rotated the pliers and wound/curled the pin around the jaws until it was out of the hole. Sheeesh. When I reassembled it later, I put the eye facing the front of the tractor so I can grab and pull it way easier. By the way, I did not use a Dremel to cut out the pin because the plastic reservoir for the transmission oil was too close for comfort.

Before you remove the old belt, pay careful attention to the belt and how it passes around the brake assembly, through the idler assembly and around the arm. The illustration above is pretty good but the devil is in the details and the belt must not rub on anything when reassembled. My tip would be to take a ton of digital photos to refer to. In the old days you had to sketch stuff and the photos are way easier.

Here’s the original bet relative to the brake assembly.
Idler view one
Idler view 2
Clearing the steering arm
The electric PTO clutch
The original belt was in tough shape
The new belt was just a tad bit shorter when I stretched them out side by side with my hands. I learned years ago to confirm the belt as best you can before you install it. I double checked the part number on the bag before I even began just to cut my risk. It sucks to have stuff apart or be in a real awkward position and then find out you have the wrong part.

In Conclusion

Kudos to Simplicity for a good illustration and guide. Re-assembly went smoothly and I then mowed/mulched leaves for two hours including some really thick areas so it passed the first trial by fire. Looking up under the tractor, the belt looks solid – no fraying or cracks. We’ll see how it holds up over time and I’ll report back but so far, so good. I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Simplicity / Allis Chalmers Lawn Garden Tractor Mower Rear Wheel Weight Pair Set

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SIMPLICITY LEGACY XL RIDING LAWN TRACTOR REAR PTO KIT 1694399

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Simplicity Garden Tractor Rear Tires And Rims

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simplicity landlord lawn mower garden Tractor

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Allis Chalmers Simplicity Garden Tractor Snowplow Mount choice

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Wheel Weights 12” Cast Iron Simplicity Allis

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VINTAGE GARDEN TRACTOR CAST IRON WHEEL WEIGHTS 21291

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391074 Carburetor For Briggs 16HP 14HP IC Allis Chalmers Simplicity Tractor

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SIMPLICITY ALLIS CHALMERS garden tractor CULTIVATOR

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PICK UP ONLY Allis Chalmers Tractor 42" SNOW BLOWER Simplicity 3212V Mower Part

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I thought My 1998 Simplicity 16HP Broadmor Tractor Had Bent A Crank – The Real Problem Was A Surprise!!

We bought our Simplicty 16HP Broadmor tractor back in 1998 mainly because my dad had a Simplicity that he kept running for almost 30 years. So here are in on 2019 and the tractor is starting to show its age plus the dealership is long gone so a lot of self-service and tinkering happens now.

I was mowing leaves a few weeks back on out acre and a half property when I had to turn the tractor off to pick up branches and move stuff around. I went to start it up and immediately heard thud, thud , thud, thud … so I turned the tractor off. Oh crap … the last time I heard a sound like this a car had bent a rod. I immediately checked the oil and it was almost empty.

Now I was really pissed off at myself. I knew it was burning oil but why had I let it get so low? I thought it had a low oil level protection device to stop it running … Needless to say,I was mad and I knew the fault was all mine. It was the worst possible time also – we simply could not afford to replace the tractor.

So, I filled the oil and figured I would run it until it failed. I had to get the leaves done and that’s just what I did. I ran it for another hour and put the tractor away while feeling like an idiot the whole time.

A week later we had a ton more leaves on the ground so I went to get the tractor out of the shed fully expecting it not to start. Much to my surprise, it did start and I made it half way through the yard when I had to turn it off to eat lunch with my wife.

When I went back out I started it up and it was really clanging away and the tractor was really vibrating but the engine sounded good. I turned the engine off and thought about it. I assumed it was a rod because of the low oil but what if that was not the problem?

The exhaust was tight and not rusted out. The oil level was good. So I started it with the top open and put my hand on the engine to feel for vibrations and the thudding stopped …. Holy Crap???? I took my hand off and it started thudding. Put it on and it stopped. I turned the ignition off and found that I could move the engine on the frame!!

I looked under the frame and one motor mount screw was in the hole but loose. Another was cocked in the hole ready to fall out and the other two werre missing. As luck would have it, I found one screw in the yard. Looking at it jogged my memory of a screw I found a few weeks earlier and couldn’t figure out where it came from. To this day I am not sure if I threw the screw out or tossed it somewhere in my shop – I thinkI threw it out.

So, after almost 21 years, the motor mount screws came loose. It never occured to me to check them. Now, here’s what I want to share with you – the screws are M8 diameter x 1.25 pitch x 30mm long. You can find them at hardware stores, etc. The original bolts also have a washer and lockwasher. I bought the replacement and was good to go.

Say hello to Mr. replacement bolt, washer and lock washer. After torquing things down, the tractor was running smooth again. Duh.

The torque spec is 40 foot pounds and if you want to never deal with them again, put a bit of blue loctite on the screws. Note, I would highly recommend that if the engine is hot, let the engine cool down before torquing on aluminum. I’ve watched threads strip on hot aluminum way too many times and have learned to be patient although a floor fan pointing at the engine will help it cool down a lot faster.

When I started the tractor again after replacing the bolt and torquing down all the bolts it was a huge relief to see and hear the tractor operating normally. I figured it was a good story to share.

Moral of the story – don’t assume and check before you jump to a conclusion. I did make a big assumption based on the sound and freaked myself out before I started the process of elimination that I should have started with. I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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3/8" Drive Adjustable Torque Wrench 120-960 in/lb Inch Pound

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1/4 Inch Professional Drive Click Type Ratcheting Torque Wrench

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Set of 3- 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 Drive Click Type Torque Wrench Snap Socket, Reversible

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How To Find Out Torque Specifications for Screws and Bolts: An Outstanding NASA Reference Guide

We’ve all been there – you’re working on a project and wondering how much to torque something so either we don’t bother or just take a guess. What I only found out recently was that in 2017, NASA published a really cool guide called “Installation Torque Tables for Noncritical Applications” – with the document ID as NASA/TM—2017-219475.

The document provides the torque specifications for a ton of general purpose fasteners that do not have an exact specification assigned – hence the term non-critical. As you can imagine, they get very specific in critical/risky situations.

At any rate, given the size of the bolt or screw, the thread pitch, the material and the depth, they provide a reference torque specification you can follow for both metric (M6, M8, M10, etc.) and SAE (#8, #10, 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc.) fasteners. Note, they provide an assembly torque (which is a 65% load from failure) and 100% torque. I use the assembly torque spec.

They also recommend that the depth of thread engagement be 1.5x the diameter of the fastener. So a 1/4″ (0.25″) fastener should have at least 0.25″ x 1.5 = .375″ (3/8″).

Here’s an example table. This is for fasteners going into 6061-T6 aluminum with a thread depth of 3/16″. If we go down for a 10-32 UNF screw, the assembly torque is 22.2 inch pounds. I’d use that lacking any other detailed information. I could go up to 34.2 inch pounds but I have stripped so many fasteners I don’t risk it. I’m a huge fan of Loctite so I go with that and the assembly spec.

Kudos to the two authors and to NASA for making it available. The PDF is a cool reference document and one I use whenever I can’t find a specific torque value for a given application. All you machinists and engineers – you know way more than me so please let me know if you have other resources you recommend.

To access this cool guide, click here for the NASA link or click here for the copy on our server.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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The Ryobi RY40620 24″ 40 Volt Hedge Trimmer Is Excellent – Seriously Portable Cutting Power

I told you about my very positive experiences so far with the Ryobi RY40230 String Trimmer in my last post. I bought a RY40620 24″ 40 volt hedge trimmer at the same time because it made a lot of sense to me to buy the whole hedge trimmer kit from Home Depot for $169 vs. spending $129-149 for a spare battery alone.

The box arrived beat up with the battery missing. The unit was undamaged and when I called Home Depot’s customer support number they shipped me a replacement battery right away. I don’t know what happened but I used the battery from the string trimmer and ran the unit without any problem. I was impressed by their customer service – they could have run me in circles but instead moved quickly to do what I asked of them which was to simply send me the correct battery that was missing. No hassle at all. I appreciated that.

I also bought the unit because we previously had a Black & Decker Hedge Hog that did a great job but required an extension cord to work and I wanted to get out to our hedge rows to trim them vs. just the bushes by our house. I also wanted plenty of power because a lot of the branches were 1/2-3/4″ thick.

My experience with the 40 volt Ryobi unit is very good. It came fully assembled and has a ton of power. It’s a tad heavier due to the battery but is well balanced. It will chew through 1″ and even slight larger branches no problem.

One feature is that it can rotate the battery relative to the blade 90 degrees either left or right. I have not needed that feature but it does give you some additional clearance.
I should have taken before and after photos. I am largely done here. The unit made very short work of this hedge. All of the branches were well under a 1/2″. When doing trimmer work, I have not drained a battery yet.
You can see part of the far hedge row. If I could get a branch into a 1″ cutter slot, the hedge trimmer would cut it. It was pretty amazing. I used to do this manually with pruning snips and it took forever. With the Ryobi, I walked along while swinging the unit up and down in arcs and quickly cut back a ton of brush.
This side too. You can’t tell all the brush I cut back here. This isn’t a traditional hedge – more like an overgrown part of our property between us and neighbors,

So, I’ve now used the unit probably 4-5 times to trim parts of the property and probably use it for about a 1/2 hour at a time. No problems – I do lubricate the bar with a spray dry Teflon lubricant just to help it out. Ryobi does not say this is required but I do it anyways.

I’m very impressed by this hedge trimmer and have no reservations recommending it.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


The Ryobi 40 Volt RY40230 Brushless String Trimmer and RYTIL66 Cultivator Are Amazing

Getting ready for this season’s outdoor chores on our 1.5 acre property, I had some decisions to make. For the last two years I had been trying to live with an anemic 18 volt string trimmer that was way, way underpowered for what I needed. I bought it after an old Homelite my father-in-law bought be in 1998 finally gave up the ghost after years of repairs.

The 18 volt Ryobi trimmer simply lacks the power for big lawns where you need to trim around lots of trees, tough to cut areas, etc. It has a single line and you have to make real slow thin cuts to get the work done. With my old Homelite,I had about 30 minutes of work to do on average and living with the old 18 volt Ryobi, it took closer to an hours and two batteries. It did have two things going for it – it was quiet and I didn’t have to mess with 2-cycle gas. So with this current season fast approaching, I started reading up on what to get and it really amounted to my wanting a far more powerful electric trimmer.

Enter The Ryobi 40 Volt RY40230 Line Trimmer

I did quite a bit of reading and opted for the Ryobi RY40230 line trimmer for a number of reasons:

  1. It was 40 volts and the motor had far more power based on all reviews
  2. It was brushless meaning the motor design did not require spring loaded brushes to transfer electricity that wear out and brushless designs tend to have a lot of torque.
  3. It was a Ryobi and it came with a 5 year warranty. Folks, I’ve had good luck with Ryobi battery operated tools.
  4. It used 0.80 line with two strings protruding
  5. Reviews were very favorable
  6. For $199 it came with the trimmer, a 3.0AH battery and a charger
  7. It was expandable – if you look at the Ryobi series of 18 volt and 40 volt tools, they are expanding rapidly. I needed a hedge trimmer also – they had one. I also wanted a light cultivator – they had an attachment that would swap right onto the base trummer.

I took a leap and bought both the edge trimmer and the hedge trimmer. I bought the hedge trimmer because it came with a 40volt battery and charger also. I knew I needed a second battery so rather than just buy a spare battery ($129-149 depending on the capacity) , I bought the whole hedge trimmer kit made way more financial sense (it was $169 with a 4.0Ah battery).

Here are the major parts from the string trimmer. Assembly went very smoothly. The first thing you should do is pull out the charger and start the battery charging while you assemble the rest.
Here it is ready to go, It comes with line already installed in the head plus they give you some additional pre-cut pieces and a winding handle for loading the bobbin.
Here’s a closer look at the business end.

The Test Bed

We have a small garden area that is fenced it. Cutting the grass in there just would kill the 18v Ryobi. This was my first test with the 40v model and as you can see – the grass was about 4-6″ high.

The 40v model would either cut this to my satisfaction or get returned.
Boy, it kicked butt. I saw no power difference between the 40v Ryobi and my old Homelite from years ago. For all I could tell, it was just as strong or stronger. I could cut right into the tall grass and a nice regular pace. I was happy. This also meant buying the cultivator head was worth doing to tackle the old overgrown planting bed on the left.

Folks, this brushless trimmer is dong a great job. I’ve now used it for half the summer and have cut a ton of grass with it. I’d say I get 30-45 minutes from one battery but that depends on how thick the grass is and it’s a best guess also since I cut and move, cut and move, etc. I’m glad I have two batteries as I run one until it is drained and swap it for the other.

Next, let’s talk about the cultivator attachment they offer for it.

The Ryobi RYTIL66 Cultivator String Trimmer Attachment

A few weeks passed before I ordered the cultivator attachment from Home Depot. The string trimmer was doing great on our property so when it came time to tackle that garden bed, I drove over to Home Depot and picked the RYTIL66 attachment up. They do sell a dedicated 40 volt cultivator but since I already had the powerful brushless motor unit, it made more sense to just get the attachment.

When I first opened the box I thought assembly would take a lot longer than it actually did.

It looks daunting but the four steel tines (the wheels that cut into the earth) slide right on and are held in place with supplied cotters keys. The replacemnet handle goes in place of the plastic original. I like that handle so much I just leave it on the unit even when not cultivating.
There is some kind of synthetic felt washer that goes between the tines. Note the holes in the axle, you can run 2 tines, 4 tines or whatever you want. I started with all four.
All four tines installed.
To change heads, loosen the grey locking wing nut and push the silver detebt in. The head pulls right off. Put the new one on and tighten it down – done.
I’m getting started. The head uses a ton of power. I went through about one and a half 4.0ah batteries to do the area that was about 4’x18′ long and I tilled down about 3-4″
Here’s what it looked like after about 30 minutes of work. It did the deepest tilling when I pulled the untit backward. I then went through and removed all the roots that it dug up with a rake. We now have tomatoes planted in there.
Other than losing some paint on the tines, which is totally to be expected, the head and the motor held up just fine.
I liked the handle so much that I use it when trimming too.

The cultivator rocks. Growing up my dad had a big heavy one from Simplicity. Due to its weight, it could really sink down in and tear up the soil. The Ryboi unit is relatively heavy but you still need to do some pushing and pulling to get it to work. It really did a good job given its weight, portability and that it attached to the existing line trimmer shaft and motor. I feel it was worth it and am glad I bought it.

The Bottom Line

The 40 volt string trimmer is totally worth it. The brushless model is considerably more expensive but it ought to last a lot longer and be more powerful. Now that I have used it for half the summer I can say it does a great job. I used the cultivator the one time but I used it hard for half an hour – even my wife was impressed. It’s stored in the shop for the next project.

I’ll post about the hedge trimmer next. It’s also done a very good job and held up well.


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Videos: How to Diagnose Faulty 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Switch Causing Intermittent Alarm Problems Plus Replacing the Micro Switch

Okay, while researching what to do with my 2008 Toyota Highlander’s flaky alarm, I ran across some good videos you can watch on how to diagnose the switch and even how to replace the microswitch. As for me, I wrote up how I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug from the old sensor’s wire. My approach still allows the rest of the alarm system to work just fine and can be done in less than an hour with little to no cost. With that said, let’s take a look at these really well done videos that helped me think out my approach – especially the first one on diagnosing the switch.

Diagnosing the Switch

The following is the best video I found on diagnosing the problem and he even disassembles the latch to show you what is going on in detail – it’s very well done. This video helped me figure out my approach and kudos to Ozzstar for making it:

If You Want To Replace the Microswitch

This next video is really well done and is specific to the 2008 Highlander. He ordered the same Panasonic automotive grade micro switch that Toyota used: ABS1413409 from Digikey.

I hope this helps you out.



If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Easy & Cheap Solution for 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Sensor Switch Causing Faulty Alarms: Make A Loopback Plug

We recently became the new owners of a 2008 Toyota Highlander. It was in great shape and I thought we got a pretty good deal on it. The previous owner disclosed to us that the hood alarm switch was flaky and the car alarm would go off randomly.

After we bought the Highlander and returned home I did some research that night. There is in integral microswitch in the hood latch assembly that detects if the hood is open or closed. The alarm system will not arm if it detects that the hood is open and it will sound an alarm if someone tries to open the hood. Uhm… ok. My first thought was “you can only open it from the inside lever that is protected by the door alarms so why have this one?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the switch is a known problem. It’s also one of the rare times where I will say Toyota did a bad design. Putting a basic microswitch in the front of a car where it will get wet all the time and corrode, not to mention the impacts and grease/oil from the latch itself, is not really that good of an idea — at least not to me.

After reading and watching videos, it seemed like there were three options:

  • Replace the whole hood latch assembly that includes the sensor. Third party, these latch assemblies were about $56 on Amazon and $50-60 on eBay. Original Toyota would be higher, of course. Pro: It is pretty easy to remove the assembly and install this one. Con: It’s a relatively expensive and will fail sooner or later unless someone fixed the switch design and sealed it better.
  • Replace just the microswitch. You can get the unit real cheap from Digikey and other suppliers plus there are Youtube videos that show you what to do. The previous owner did this and it worked for about two years he said. Pro: Real cheap (under $10 including shipping). Cons: Takes time and will not last without figuring out some better way to seal the original design.
  • Simply bypass the switch. As mentioned earlier – you can’t open the hood from the outside so what are the odds that someone will successfully break into the car and then open the hood without setting off the alarm? The risk is real low – low enough for me to go with this option. Pro: Easiest of all and is a permanent solution. Con: The hood alarm sensor will no longer work. This is the one I went with.

I’d like to point out that just unplugging the sensor is not an option. Doing that will make the computer think the hood is open and the car alarm will not arm at all. This means you must pick one of the three options listed above. I opted for the last one – I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug – a fancy term meaning I joined the input and output wires together thus making it look like the switch was always closed so the computer would think the hood was closed regardless of whether it was or not.

If you’d like to learn more about diagnosing the problem, seeing how to remove the latch and/or how to replace the microswitch, click here.

What I want to do next is walk you through what I did. If you are not comfortable with basic wiring, I’d recommend against your trying this just to be up front. Always ask yourself if you can reverse what you are about to do or can you recover if something goes wrong – if the answer is “no”, then don’t do it. For example, don’t cut wires off right next to a fitting – leave yourself some pigtails in case you need to reconnect them.

One last comment – these directions are just based on my 2008 Highlander. Different years and models may not be like this. Research your vehicle before doing anything like this.

Bypassing the Sensor

So, to bypass the sensor we just need to create a circuit that normally exists when the switch is closed. First, I needed to get a better look at the location of the wiring so the cover needed to come off.

The plastic cover between the grill and the frame needs to come off. It is held in place by Toyota push-type retaining clips and two 10mm screws. The screws are to the front on the left and right sides. Note that two of the clips on the right side are bigger than the others – this will help you with reassembly later.
I use a small flat screw driver to pop the middle part up. You then grab hold of that, lift up and the clip comes right out.
Just remove the clips and then the plastic cover simply lifts off. I found one more that anchors the grille in the middle of the grille vertically and I removed it. That gave me ample room to work and I did not need to remove the grille given what I planned to do.

I did not take as many photos as I should have so let me explain. With the plastic cover off and the middle anchor clip removed, I had plenty of access to the switch and wiring to see what to do. The wire assembly runs from the hood latch – and there is only one wire – do not pick the hood cable used to open the hood. The wire runs from a small switch in the latch assembly and then plugs into a connector shortly below it.

I inserted a small blade screw driver to release the plug from the socket. To be safe, make sure you confirm the wires that you plan to cut lead up to the sensor and are *not* the wires going to the harness / wiring loom.

Why care? Because if you cut the wires on the sensor side and connect them together, you can easily replace the hood latch assembly and go back to having a sensor if you want. However, if you cut the wiring loom, it’s gone. You can manually splice in but it simply is not an elegant approach.

Note I am saying wires and when you look at the plug it looks like just one black wire. What you are seeing is the insulation tube that is black. Inside are two thin green wires that run from the plug to the sensor switch.

I’ll not get awards for artwork but hopefully this will give you an idea. When I faced the front of my Highlander, the wiring from the sensor was on the right hand side. You need to confirm this just in case. It is the wire to the sensor switch wire that you want to cut and not the wiring from the harness. On my 2008 Highlander, the harness wiring was on the left.

Once I was certain which wire to cut, I reached in with some snips and cut the wire leaving a couple of inches to work with. DO NOT CUT THE WIRES FLUSH TO THE PLUG!! You need a short length of the wires to connect together to make the circuit loop back.

To make work easier, I took the short wire with the plug on it and worked at a bench where everything was handy, I stripped a bit off the end of each wire, twisted the bare wires together, soldered them, bent them over the small wire pigtail and then used heat shrink tubing and electrical tape to secure everything. Total overkill but I never wanted to bother with this again.

Here’s the finished result. The front of the car is to the left. Part of the hood latch spring is to the upper right and we are looking down at the newly made loopback plug. As far as the alarm system is concerned, the hood is closed. The red color is the heat shrink tube I had on hand. I folded the heat shrink tubing over at the end and then applied electrical tape to seal it.

I installed the newly created loopback plug back into the socket. I then tested the system by turning the alarm on with the key fob, putting the key fob out of signal range in the garage and waited for the system arm. Once the alarm indicator light went solid on the dash, I simply reached in through the open window and tried to open the door from the inside and the alarm went off. Yeah, I had to run back to that fob to shut it off 🙂

If the system thought the hood was open, it would never have armed by the way. That’s why you can’t just unplug the switch. I then reinstalled the plastic cover by installing the clips and then pushing the middle piece down to lock it in place. By the way, remember that the right two clips are bigger than the others. The two 10mm screws went back in with a dab of non-seize on each just in case they ever need to come out again.

That was it – the alarm is happily armed and protecting the Highlander as I write this and not one single false alarm since. I hope this helps you out.

9/3/2019 Update: This has worked great for me. Not one single problem since.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.