Category Archives: DIY – Do It Yourself

Going Nuclear on Mosquitoes – Awesome Affordable DIY Sprayer System

For whatever reason, maybe the really wet Spring, the mosquitoes have been horrible this year. For the first month or two of the season I was trying to use my M4 sprayer to apply the Talstar P Pro insecticide to combat them but they were still coming. Seriously, in the past the M4 sprayer and Talstar were a powerful combo and all but eliminated the damn mosquitoes but not this year. We did not have any standing water and they seemed to be coming from all of the vegetation that I could not reach with the M4’s relatively small spray pattern and reach. I needed to up my game.

The My 4 Sons M4 sprayer had worked well but it could not reach out far enough and with enough droplets to be effective this year. I still use the unit for smaller areas but it is now largely replace by the unit I’ll tell you about in this post.

My First Choice: Get a Tomahawk Fogger

My first thought was to get one of the big Tomahawk backpack foggers. Those things are amazing and can project an atomized fog of Talstar 40 feet horizontally and 25 feet vertically. It’s really wicked and my buddy John has one that he bought off Amazon. He uses it on his property and loves it. I looked at it and the unit is remarkably well made.

There was only one thing that stopped me – the weight. It’s 38 pounds empty. The tank can hold 3.7 gallons of mixed Talstar and water at about 8.3 pounds per gallon, which comes to 30.7 pounds. Add the two together and you get 68 pounds. I knew there was no way my back would be able to handle that load. John’s in way better shape than me and admits it is a heavy load.

So, even though it works amazingly well, I had to pass on it due to the weight. I find I have to think about these things as I get older. In case you want to get one, here’s the listing on Amazon:

Needed to Find Another Solution

I started researching other sprayers and foggers and ran into an unanticipated problem. It turns out that tons of businesses and people are buying these foggers to apply disinfectants to sanitize surfaces in response to COVID-19. Either units weren’t available or the prices were jacked up – mostly they just weren’t available and I bet part of that is disruptions in the supply chain causing supply shortages as well.

Crap.

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Solution

The solution came from a surprising angle. I knew I needed a long reach and particles that could drift around. Literally, I woke up thinking of what might just work – have you ever used a power washer? They are essentially kicking out water under a ton of pressure using a tip at the end of the wand that adjusts the pattern. Therein was the idea. I need a something with pressure, was portable and would not cost a fortune and then luck entered the door.

This is the Ryobi RY120350 cleaner. The tip has three settings and I find 15 degrees to be best. The siphon hose has a quick connect that makes storing the unit easier. The One+ 18 volt battery is protected by a gasket sealed cover that snaps in place. I find I can almost spray 10 gallons before I need to swap batteries with a 4 AH battery. It can hold both the 6 and 9 AH batteries and they can do all 10 gallons.

At the beginning of the summer Home Depot and Ryobi announced the RY120350 Power Washer. It was a cordless power tool using one of ther 18-Volt One+ batteries. The pump could prime itself and could siphon water out of a bucket and spray 0.8 gallons per minute at 320PSI. I was hoping it would make it easier for my wife and I to wash cars and so forth without lugging out my big gas-powered 3,200 PSI pressure washer. Well, it turned out that the spray it generated was way too weak to do much of anything. By the way, I notice the listing now on HomeDepot.com says “Cold Water Cordless Power Cleaner” to probably admit it isn’t very strong. At any rate, it sat in the garage after initial testing for maybe 4-6 weeks but for whatever reason I held on to it.

Back to killing mosquitoes – I was thinking about how I could spray the Talstar out of a pressure washer pump and suddenly remembered the Ryobi unit and recalled it did kick out a better spray than the M4. I dug the Ryobi out, found the misplaced sprayer hose, set the sprayer tip to 15 degrees, dropped the siphon line into a pail of water, squeezed the trigger, let it prime and out came a great spray pattern!!!

It kicks out a really decent spray pattern at 15 degrees. I find the other two settings useless for this application – they are too weak.

Okay, the unit was never designed to be a insecticide sprayer and nobody has really used it for sanitizing because it is bulky and an odd configuration for that so guess what? It’s in-stock at most Home Depot stores and online for $79 + S&H — best of all, it kicks butt as a Talstar delivery system.

What did I do?

If you are concerned about the unit holding up, all I can tell you is so far so good. At $79, I’m really not worried about the unit wearing out. I have pumped at least 70 gallons of Talstar mix through the unit without any problem thus far but it did take some trial and error to get to where I am today.

So my first try was to drop the whole siphon unit into a 5 gallon bucket and moved it around by hand. Well, 5 gallons x 8.3 pounds per gallon comes in at 41.5 pounds and that got heavy plus it was sloshing around. I used a hole saw and put a hole in a lid with a rubber gasket and strapped it to a dolly. It still sloshed some out through the lid until the fluid level went down and the dolly made it way, way easier on my back. Some duct tape to cover the hole and seal around the hose solved that problem.

This is a 5-gallon Ace Hardware pail with a sealing lid strapped to an old dolly with a bungee cord. You can see all the long white siphon hose that comes with the Ryobi. You have a ton of tubing to work with. This worked better and when I sealed the top with duct tape it was solid but I wanted more capacity.
Safety Note
Insecticide is inherently toxic and you need to protect yourself. I wear gloves, usually a face mask (except for photos in this article), am very careful to watch the direction of the wind and take a shower with soap as soon as I am done. John, my buddy with the Tomahawk, wears painter’s Tyvek coveralls, goggles, rubber gloves and a respirator. John is taking the safest approach and what I want to stress to you is that you don’t want to coat yourself in this stuff as if it were water – it’s not. Follow the safety guidelines for whatever insecticide you decide to use and take precautions.

Coverage

So, the unit was proving itself but it was annoying to go refill the unit part way through the property. Our 1.5 acre lot is flat and bordered by a ton of brush and trees. I found that I could get really good coverage with 10 gallons of spray (1 oz Talstar to one gallon of water) and man could I nuke the brush and undergrowth. I could see the spray running off leaves and and stuff glistening wet.

Getting a Bigger and Better Tank

So, armed with the good results, I decided to get a 10 gallon tank. In searching online, it turns out there are a ton of vendors but only a few actual manufacturers. I went with a Act Roto-Mold model VT-10 10-gallon tank. I ordered it from Tank Depot and it arrived about a week and a half later.

By the way, the tank was $57.99 and shipping was $48.62! Ouch. None of the local farm stores had a tank that size in-stock otherwise I would have bought local. You can definitely just use a bucket if you want to — it worked fine for me in terms of reliability and performance. I just wanted to reduce the trips back to refill the tank.

In terms of weight, even though I was using a dolly, I didn’t want the unit to be a bear to pull. A 10 gallon tank weighs about 83 pounds when full. The dolly with a full 10-gallon tank is very “do-able” for me as I walk around the lawn pulling the unit.

Doing the Plumbing

One irritating thing was that the engineering drawings said there was a 3/4″ pipe fitting at the bottom. That fitting is actually 1″ so I had to return the PVC valve I bought and get the right size. Also, for whatever reason it is shipped lose. I had to tighten down the tank’s pipe fitting prior to installing the valve and other fittings.

Ryobi designed their hose nicely. It’s secured to the ends via fittings and it was very easy for me to remove their filter end and push it onto a 3/8″ barb fitting and secure it with a hose clamp. By the way, they do give you 20 feet of hose and I plan on going back and probably cutting it in half at some point. I velcro wrapped the extra to the dolly and it’s just way more than I think I need for this application. I’ll save the left-over of course just in case.

The Proline 107-135 is made from PVC and has 1″ female NPT fittings on both ends. It’s installed into the tank via a small male-to-male piece of PVC pipe. Bushings were used to step it down to a 3/8″ barb fitting that was used to connect to the supplied Ryobi siphon hose. It works great.
Note I turned the valve assembly to the side. As I pull the dolly along everything is at an angle so by having the outlet at the side more if the liquid can come out before sucking air. I did use a ratchet clamp to secure the tank to the dolly. It’s a lot of weight and I don’t want it shifting around on me. Quick comment – the Ryobi’s pump does need to prime so expect it to expel air until it draws liquid. Also, I used their same siphon hose to not constrain the pump.
It does a heck of a good job. Note I am spraying with the wind and letting it carry the droplets even further into the brush. Normally, I am wearing a face mask.
Let me show you a video of the spray pattern – it works great!!

Conclusion

Boy, am I happy with this set up. I spent about $300 on the sprayer, tank, strap and pipe fittings. The dolly is close to 20 years old so I am not counting that. I’ve put about 70 gallons of mix through the sprayer and used the tank system three times now. The combination of tank, dolly and Ryobi sprayer is fantastic and will be using it going forward.


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What To Do When Your Highlander’s Battery Is Dead And the Remote Power Door Locks Will Not Unlock?

My wife and I ran into a first for us – she went to unlock our 2008 Toyota Highlander and it wouldn’t unlock with either remote. Yeah, I figured the battery was dead as we hadn’t run it for maybe two months due to the pandemic crap. We put it on storage and I really hadn’t thought about the battery … until the doors wouldn’t unlock.

How to get in the highlander with just the key fob?

Okay, I tried both key fobs and my wife was right – no sounds of any kind came from the Highlander. There was a key slot in the door so I figured Toyota must have had some kind of plan. We bought the car… truck… thing, used and never needed to get in manually until now.

I knew with other keyless cars that I had seen in the past there was a backup key that could flick out of the fob so I took a close look at the fob for the Highlander. There was a small rectangular button on the side with the image of a key on it.

I pushed on it and nothing happened. I then looked at the attachment where the key ring connected and noticed it looked really beefy. The button wasn’t the key, it was a rocker that unlocked the key to pull out.

There’s the release button right there. Push on the circular dot for that end of the release to push in.
So push the dot in and pull from the end and the key slides right out of the end with your key ring.
So there’s your skeleton backup key. Just reverse the operation to push it back in.

Not Home Free – Expect to Lubricate the Lock

Okay, I saw one key slot in the driver’s door and thought I was home free. Nope. Wouldn’t turn. Not only that, there were no other key slots because I thought I would try another one.

There’s the one manual key slot to the right of the handle. You do not want to break your little key off in there.

Okay folks, piece of advice here from past mistakes – don’t crank on the key or you will break it and then you are completely out of luck and will need to pay a ton to get help. I busted a key in college trying to do just that and had to enter from the passenger side and slide across for almost a year before I could afford to have the door fixed.

Push the red tube all the way to the back of the lock and start spraying as you pull it out. Why that way? I tend to find I make less of a mess. I am still standing their with a towel to wipe up the black goo as it runs out. I sprayed and tried the key three times. After the third spray and testing, the mechanism freely turned. This stuff works great for sticking door and ignition key cylinders by the way. I keep it in stock.

So, if the key will not turn, spray lubricant in the slot. You will get a ton of conflicting advice on the Internet. What I have always used is Lock-Ease. Put the little red tube on the nozzle and hose down the inside of the key slot starting as far back as you can. Try and turn the key. If it still will not turn then spray it again. What I have found is that most of the time things turn fee with the first try and almost always by the third. I think the solvent that is carrying the lubricating graphite helps free up what is sticking and then the graphite takes it from there.

Okay, so the door was open and now I could open the hood. The battery read 0 volts – empty and introduced a new hurdle.

Why Smart Chargers Aren’t Always

So this takes us to the topic of smart chargers. The designers built in all kinds of safe guards including the need for a voltage to be present before they start. I really like my NOCO Genius chargers and was using one of the G26000 models. Here’s what I tried:

  • Just attached the charger – it would not switch to charging
  • Went to boost mode – it would sense the lack of voltage and switch off
  • I tried turning on the 5A 12 volt supply mode and that was just enoug to make the security system chirp and reset over and over.

So much for the easiest ones. That meant I needed to try and trick the charger. I brought my Landcruiser over and connected good old jumper cables to start charging the “dead” battery and also hooked up a digital meter. It showed the alternator was cranking out 14.09 volts and as soon as I disconnected the positive cable from the Landcruiser, the meter showed the volts dropping down through 13 volts down into the 12s and so forth over the space of a few seconds.

Now this is the trick, for about 5-7 seconds the “dead” battery would appear to have enough juice for me to connect and start the NOCO. So, I staged stuff and had the gear ready to go, disconnected the positive jumper cable from the Landcruiser, safely moved it out if the way and quickly attached the NOCO charger and it started charging. I jumped the dead battery just enough for it to show a charge to the NOCO that then turned on and did the rest.

I really like the NOCO G26000 charger and definitely recommend it and their other chargers. Here. the battery is past 50%. It just so happens my camera caught the flashing 75% light while it was illuminated.

After about 12 hours the battery was fully charged and I then set the NOCO to repair mode to desulfinate the plates. The battery appears to be okay and we’ll see what it looks like come this fall when the temperatures start cooling off — the colder it is the harder it is for batteries to work and the marginal ones fail.

Lessons Learned

First, I now know where the spare key is. Second, I plan to hook up my smaller NOCO G7200 charger and run the cable under the power out of the hood so I can periodically top the battery off. Modern vehicles have a ton of electronics in them so I am not overly surprised it ran out of juice.

I hope this post helps you out!


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Upgrading A Char-griller Competition Pro Model 8125 Smoker For Use WIth Firewood

As a father’s day gift this year, my kids chipped in and bought me a brand new grill. My wife helped them hide it and together they surprised me. Man, that really touched me. I’ve had a Char-griller Super Pro 5555 grill for almost 10 years – we’re not exactly sure how old it is but it was rusting through in a number of spots. The kids know that I love to grill and decided to go in together to buy me a new 8125 Competition Pro Offset Smoker Charcoal Grill. I had made a few assumptions about that grill that didn’t quite turn out as expected but with a little bit of work I was able to make a grill I really like.

Eye catching packaging and it weighs a ton – 140 pounds.
My two daughters helped me assemble it. The size and weight of the components really make it a two person job.

My biggest problem has to do with my preference to cook with wood and not charcoal and some usability issues this created. Here are my observations after using this for a few weeks:

#1 – The 8125 was really designed with charcoal in mind and they say that right up front. It has a fairly small fixed gap between the grate that holds the charcoal and the expanded metal cooking grates. It would work for a layer or two of charcoal but not for wood.

You can see there’s not much room between the lower rage and the shelf that would hold the cooking grates. Note the expanded metal food grates sitting on the left end of the shelf.

#2 – The paint they put on the 8125 flat out burns right off. What in the world were they thinking? I’m sure this is why the manual says not to exceed 400F but come on. My old grill never did that.

Yeah, the junk paint came right off where it got too hot. We read this might be a problem so it was entirely a surprise but for the price they could have used a high temp paint.

#3 – The expanded diamond-pattern sheet metal is really thin and doesn’t help at all when it comes to transferring heat. I prefer a heavier grate that will help conduct heat to the food.

#4 – Maybe because I am using wood but I can’t seem to run the little smoker piece as well as the big section. Not a big deal but definitely an observation. I’m not even going to worry about this and save the little side smoker box for when I do really want to smoke stuff.

So what did I do?

In looking at the grill’s performance there were three things that I needed to do – retrofit it to use wood, replace the thin expanded metal cooking grates with cast iron and to use a high-temp paint vs. whatever stuff Char-griller chose very poorly to use.

Welded Fire Plates To Burn Wood

Okay, my old grill had a relatively thin sheet metal cradle that you could raise and lower to adjust the heat. The nice thing was that I could lift it out and dump the ash. What was real important is that is shielding the bottom from the burning wood. I really wanted that.

I bought some 14 gauge mild steel and cut it into strips. I did the wings at 4″ and the base at 5″ wide. If I had it to do over, I would have done the base still at 5″ wide but the wings at about 4-1/2″ to get a tad closer to the shelves that are tack welded from the maker. You could go in with a cutting disc, cut the tacks and remove the lower shelf supports really easily if you wanted to. I decided to just leave them.

Laying out the 14ga sheet metal to cut my fire plates. The straight edge helps me make clean cuts with my Hpertherm Powermax 45 plasma cutter. I could have used a cut off wheel too but at this thickness, a plasma cutter is nice and fast. I tend to spend more time setting up than I do actually making the cut.
I’m always impressed by how fast the plasma cutter goes through steel. Wow. The Powermax 45 is nice and straight forward. Amperage, air flow is indicated on the top right and the bottom three position toggle is for the type of cut you are doing.

Yes, I did think about doing more strips because the grill’s bottom is round. That would have let me follow the contour even more closely but I just wanted to keep it simple. If I were to go this route, I would cut the strips such that they came close to 14-15″ across or whatever you want really.

To form the angles, I actually took a simple short cut. I did three small tack welds to hold the plates together – one at each end and one in the middle. I then took the assembly to the grill and pushed/whacked it into place. This caused the sides to bend up and I got just the angle I wanted with the base plate centered. I then removed the unit and did the final welds all the way around.

Here are the two raw plates. My next step was to paint them with 2000F paint – yes, there is such a thing.

Now the interior length of the grill is about 40-3/4″. The 14ga sheet metal I bought was 24″. I thought about cutting and welding the sheet metal but instead decided to let the two pieces simply overlap in the middle.

There are rivet nuts installed at each end of the grill to hold the legs. These stand that plates off from the bottom of the grill at each end. I put a spare piece of folded 14 ga sheet metal in the middle to lift the plates off as well.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a 2000F heat resistant paint. This Rust-oleum High Heat paint is really interesting stuff and has a staged heating protocol you will need to follow to get the best temperature resistance.
I first sprayed the plates down with brake cleaner to degrease them and put on rubber gloves to avoid contaminating them with oil from my skin. Boy, they got hot in the sun and dried really fast. There are four coats on each side of the
I then installed the two plates into the grill. Next up was to load wood into the smoker unit and heat the grill up following Rust-oleum’s prescription.

Here’s what Rust-oleum recommends in case you have access to a big enough curing oven: “Bake at 400°F (204°C) for 30 minutes and allow 30 minutes to cool. Bake at 600°F (315°C) for 30 minutes and then allow 30 minutes to cool. “

In my case, I loaded the smoker up with wood and used it to heat the grill. I’d open both dampers and hit the recommended temp for at least the allocated time and then close the both dampers to smother the fire and let it cool down. My thinking, and time will tell if I am right, is that you need to hit the target temperature for bonds to be made and then cool down sets them — at least that’s what I think is happening. If it all flakes off then my assumptions will be proven flawed.

Note, I did install new grill plates and baked them at the same time so let’s talk about them next.

Bought Quality Cast Iron Grill Plates

Alright, the expanded metal cooking plates really are a joke. I’m sure they made sense to someone looking to cut cost but you really want a nice thick metal to sear meet and also to evenly spread the heat. My old 5555 grill had cast iron and they really did a nice job. Based on that, I really wanted to upgrade to heavy cast iron.

I did a lot of digging and hit on the perfect cast iron cooking grates on Amazon. These things are amazing!

The replacement cast iron cooking grates I ordered off Amazon fit perfectly. They are very thick and heavy, which will help cook food evenly.

The grates are Vicool model 7526s and measure just over 17-1/8″ deep and about 11-7/8″ wide and almost a 1/2″ thick — they are heavy! The grates come two per package and this meant I would need to order two sets to go the length of the grill.

The inside of the smoker has tabs to limit travel of the grates they installed. I could set in three complete grates. For the last grate, I marked where I needed to cut it and used a grinder with a cut off wheel to cut the last piece to size and drop it in. Since I don’t grill to the far left, that’s where I put the partial piece. It really turned out nice — I am very, very happy with these grates and definitely recommend them (the link is above or click here for the Amazon page).

I used a cut off wheel on my Dewalt 4.5″ grinder to quickly and easily cut the piece off the last grate. I cut the piece slightly too big and then sanded it down to fit perfect. Since I will need to remove the grates too add more wood, I wanted them to not slide all over the place but also easily lift out when hot and the metal has expanded.

One last comment, these grates are heavy. You will need a tool to move them out of the way when they are hot. I bought the following tool – it’s well made and up to the task.

Started Touching Up With Ruse-Oleum High Heat Ultra Spray Paint

The paint that Char-griller put on a supposed competition-grade smoker sucks. I’m not going to mince words – somebody made a very, very poor design decision. Yes, in their documentation they say not to go over 400F but why the low limit? Of course the cooking chamber or the side unit will go past that.

Rust-oleum High Heat Ultra is perfect for replacing the OEM paint that will literally curl and come off your grill.

Dealing with it is a nuisance but not hard and there is a good paint to use to do the touch ups. Rust-oleum High Heat Ultra comes in a semi-glass black version that works great. I use a wire brush wheel on my cordless drill to remove the loose paint and then apply 3-4 coats of the High Heat Ultra. Let it dry for at least an hour and then heat it up to 400F to cure it. Note, they do not recommend it for direct contact with flames which is why I used the 2000F paint mentioned above on my fire plates.

I use a wire brush in my drill to remove the curling original paint. It’s happening less and less now that the high-heat areas have largely shed the original paint.

So far, this paint has held up with no problems. When ever the original paint curls back, I wire brush it and apply the High Heat Ultra. It’s annoying but I don’t feel like using a chemical stripper to remove all the old paint so I just keep doing this over and over.

If you have a BBQ or grill that you want to touch up, this stuff rocks and you’ll see why so many people recommend it.

A Cover

I do want this grill to last so I bought a cover that fits it pretty well. It’s made by iCover and is intended to fit 60″ offset smokers. I bought it due to reviews and wanted to save some money compared to the Char-griller cover and am happy with what I got. We’ll see how it holds up over time including Michigan winters.

Hint: Break In The Grill

If you don’t break in your brand new grill, you run the risk of your food tasting funny not to mention eating some chemicals you really shouldn’t be. Before you use a grill to cook food, get it good and hot – 350-450F and hold it there for at least a half hour to get rid of paints, oils and what not. For example the 8125 came coated in some kind of oil or corrosion protection agent that needed to burn off. After that, I close the dampers and let a good coating of smoke go around and coat stuff inside and let it all cool down. After that, you ought to be ready to use it for cooking.

I’m seasoning the grill here. You can’t tell from the angle but there is over 6″ from the bottom of the grill to the wood. I’d stocked it up more than normal to season the grill and to get ready for cooking out that night. I split oak and maple from our property for cooking with plus whatever else my buddy John gives me such as cherry and hickory. The cherry is simply amazing to cook with.

Conclusion

My kids really surprised me this year. They knew my old grill was on its last legs and really wanted to get me something nice. They were way more upset than I was when the paint started coming off and that it really couldn’t handle the wood I wanted to burn. To be honest, the 8125 is a pretty good platform to make improvements on because they did use relatively thick sheet metal in the construction. You can take the base 8125 and make it do just what you want – that’s what I did and I honestly had some fun working out the details. I am thrilled with the result and want my kids to know they are awesome!!

I have a nice bed of coals going on and am getting ready to do hotdogs the night of July 4th. It did a great job. Those thick cast iron grates do an awesome job of helping to both sear and cook the meat evenly thanks to their ability to conduct heat and thermal mass.
It did a great job on this chicken. The thick grates seared the meat and I could dial in the temperature right where I wanted it.
Pork steaks too!


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