Edged the Sidewalk and Washed the Deck

I woke up this morning and made myself a vegetable omelet to give me the energy to edge the sidewalk. After the smaller side was done, I took the kids to the skatepark. We skated for an hour and went back home for Mother’s Day lunch. We enjoyed BBQ on the deck we washed last week.

After lunch, my brother-in-law drove his family home. My sister-in-law also drove her kids home. I went back out to continue edging the sidewalk. My kids went out and helped me. We finished the job around 5:30 pm. I couldn’t believe edging the sidewalk took the entire day. Just like washing the deck last week took an entire day—even with the kids helped out a bit.

I would be lying if I say that I enjoyed doing these things. I didn’t, but I had to. I wished I could spend time doing something else. I still have more maintenance to do. Next week I have to take the kids to scouting camping. The following week, our family will have another camping weekend. I need to mow the lawn on a weekday next week.

Welcome to the summertime joy!

Replacing The Second Headlight Bulb for 2011 Toyota Sienna

As documented, I replaced a headlight bulb for our 2011 Toyota Sienna on December 3, 2022. I didn’t write down if it was the driver side or the passenger side. Last night, I noticed the driver side bulb was dead. I ordered the replacement on Amazon instead of Toyota Dealer. Now I have an extra bulb.

Toyota Sienna 2011: 170,00-Mile Repair & Tune Up

After Toyota dealer provided a list of recommendations for repair and tune up, I took my minivan to Khang Auto for the following services:

  • Replace 6 spark plugs (tune up)
  • Replace right front axle
  • Replace 2 lower ball joints
  • AC service
  • Check alarm horn

Total cost: $1,200

It was still a big cost, but much less that $7,723.93 the dealer had quoted. Another big item left to do is replacing the timing cover gasket. The dealer quote was $4,200.79. I will try to get this one done in the near future. I wanted to keep this car for as long as I can. Hopefully, it won’t cost me too much more to maintain. I don’t want to spend another $50,000 or $60,000 for a brand new car. Depending on a vehicle sucks.

Toyota Sienna 2023 (170,000-Mile Oil Change)

Took my car to the dealer for an oil change and received the following recommendations:

  • Oil & filter change, 6 cylinder, synthetic oil includes checking under-hood fluid levels and tire pressures in four-road wheels: $88.02
  • CV Boot Cover Replacement: Right CV Boots leaking. Recommend replacing CV boots (inner and outer): $816.59
  • Ball Joint Replacement (Lower: Boots leaking, worn): $908.25
  • Alignment: $139.66
  • Timing Cover Gasket: Leaking oil (Original factory seal): $4200.79
  • Tune Up: Including spark plugs and PCV valve: $1150.36
  • BG Transmission Synthetic Fluid Service: $420.26

Total: $7,723.93

I declined all the services except for the first item. I will be looking into an alternative shop from Vietnamese technicians.

Adding an Expansion Pressure Tank

A couple of days ago, I pulled out the manual from the Rheem water heater tank I recently installed and came across the section about open vs. closed water systems. I believe we have an open water system because our previous tank didn’t have an expansion pressure tank and it worked fine for 14 years until it started to leak. The new tank I installed didn’t have an expansion tank either and it seems to be working fine. Nevertheless, I decided to add a 2-gallon expansion pressure tank after I did some more reading and a friend also recommended it.

The installation process was not too difficult, but I made a small error. After putting the expansion water tank and the pipes in place, I turned the cold water on. The pipe that connected to the cold water line on the water tank was leaking. In order to tighten it, I had to take the expansion pressure tank out. I forgot to shut off the water before unscrewing the expansion pressure tank. Water shot out before I could shut off the valve. I had to clean up all the water before reinstalling the expansion pressure tank. As a result, the installation took longer than I had expected.

Another valuable lesson learned. I hope the expansion pressure tank will give us peace of mind and I don’t have to worry about the heater water tank for at least 10 years.


Replacing the Fourth Water Heater Tank

I woke up early this morning to get ready to go snowboarding at Liberty. I went down the basement to pick up my gears. My paranoia told me to check on the brand new water heater tank we just installed a week ago. To my dismay, I spotted water all over the drain pan. I soaked up all the water from the pan and ran floor drying fan. I checked the pipes and pressure relief valve and they were dried. When I pointed the fan at the bottom of the tank water gushed out. I knew we were in deep shit. I had to cancel my snowboarding adventure. I came right back home after dropping my eldest son to school.

My only option was to replace a new tank. I couldn’t call Tilo (the previous installer) because it was not his fault that the tank leaked. I determined to do it myself. After two defected tanks, I was done with A.O. Smith. I went to Home Depot to pick up a Rheem tank. I also bought a hand truck to move the tank myself. With my wife’s help, we transported the new tank to the basement. When we cut the box open, the tank had big dent at the top. The screws were twisted. My wife told me to get another tank and I couldn’t agree more. When we bought the second A.O. Smith tank, it also had a dent at the bottom. In retrospect, we should have exchanged it for another tank.

I asked my wife to come with me to Home Depot to exchange it. When I told the customer service rep about the defect, I asked her if I could open up the box to make sure the tank was in good shape and she agreed. We brought the new tank back home as the old tank drained out all of the water. Obviously I turned off the power before draining the water; therefore, I just had to screw the pipes back on. The hot line went in fine, but the cold line with the shut-off valve wouldn’t connect to the new tank. No matter how many turns I made I couldn’t get it in. I went back to Home Depot to get another flexible pipe to connect the pipe with the valve to the new pipe. Since the new pipe is longer, I decided to remove two SharkBite connectors Tilo had put in. I wanted to simplify the connections. Trying to disconnect the SharkBite was a bitch. I tried tapping, pulling, and it still didn’t come out. I decided to just cut the pipe off.

After connected all the pipes, I turned the water back on to make sure nothing was leaking. After the tank was filled with cold water, I connected the electric wires. I flipped the breaker back on and I could hear the tank started to heat up. I am keeping my eyes on the drain pan and keeping my fingers crossed. I hope this is it after the fourth tank.

When I took out the O.A. Smith tank, there was indeed a crack at the bottom. I had to take it back to Lowe’s to return it. My whole day was wasted on installing the tank. Then again, I am now becoming proficient at installing water heater tank.


Replacing Water Heater

Yesterday I noticed water coming out of the water heater and I knew we needed to replace the tank. I called Ricardo, but he is in Mexico partying with his girl and won’t be back to the States until early next month. I called a friend and asked for a plumbing recommendation. He told me to get the specs from the current tank then buy a new one with the same specs. We installed an A.O. Smith water heater when we first bought our house, which was almost 15 years ago. I went to Lowe’s and brought the same brand with the same specs.

My friend told me Tilo, a contractor, would come around 11 am to replace the tank. Then I watched a YouTube video from Lowe’s showing how to replace an electric water heater. The process didn’t seem to hard and I could pull it off, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it myself.

Tilo arrived around 11 am. We went to Lowe’s to pick up some SharkBite connectors. He cut out the copper pipes to take the old tank out and reconnected them using the SharkBite connectors. Unfortunately, one of the pipes was bent; therefore, he took it back out. As he tried to pull the SharkBite back out, he bursted the pipe that was connected to the tank.

We headed back to Lowe’s to pick up a SharkBite that would connect the pipe into the tank’s faucet and another SharkBite connector. He accidentally picked up the SharkBite Check Valve. When he installed it, the arrow on the SharkBite Check Valve was pointing up, which blocked the water from entering into the tank. When he turned the water back on, he didn’t realize that the water was not filling up. When he turned the power on, we heard a loud pop. We assumed that the coils were burned. He tested the top coil and it was fine, but the bottom coil had no current.

It was already 2 pm; therefore, we headed out to Chipotle for lunch and went back to Lowe’s to pick up another coil. After replacing the bottom coil and filling up the water, we waited for the water to heat up. Nothing happened. He decided to take everything out, return the tank to the store, and buy another one.

Seeing him struggle with the copper pipes, I suggested the flexible pipes based on the video I had watched. The flex pipes were a big time-saver. He connected the water pipes in less than half an hour. We waited and waited, but still no hot water. It was already around 8 pm. I told him to go home since the manual stated that it could take up two hours to heat up the water. He charged me $250, but I gave $300 since he already spent all day. We still didn’t have hot water.

The Diagnostic Scam

The next morning, January 19, 2022, I got anxious and googled for a plumbing company and came across an ad from My Plumber Plus for a $49 plumbing repair diagnostic. I called to make an appointment. The technician came, looked at the water heater, gave me two quotes: about $450 for repair and about $650 for repair and parts. The only things he did were turning on the hot water at the sink and scanning the power line with non-contact voltage tester. I asked for the diagnostic and he said he just had to fix it. I thanked him for coming in and paid $49 for nothing. What a scam. I would steer away from My Plumber Plus.

The Fix

Tilo came back in the evening trying to figure out why the water heater was not heating up. He started with the power wires. One of the wires broke off inside the wire cap. He rewired it again and we could hear the coil working inside the tank. Luckily I didn’t pay $450 to My Plumber Plus for such a small fix. I should have kicked myself in the ass for not opening up the power wires to inspect, but I learned.

Learning Experience

From watching YouTube video, observing Tilo, and helping him installing the water heater, I gained valuable experience and gave me a peace of mind. I kept having the recurring fear that the old tank would just bottom out on me one day. Now I can be reassured that I can minimize that risk. Furthermore, I will be able to replace the tank myself in the future. Being a homeowner, I have to be responsible for so many things in the house. With the except for the HVAC unit, I can handle almost everything in the house. Being a handyman would cut down the cost of fixing and replacing things around the house, which make me enjoy living my house more and not having be in constant fear.



  • Installer: $300



The lowest quote I had received from a dozen of plumbing company was $1,700. In addition to saving about $750 from hiring a company to install the water heater, I learned the hands-on experience.

Replacing Headlight Bulb for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Replacing the dead headlight bulb is super easy. Once again, YouTube rocks for these type of DIY. I followed this short video. I bought a new bulb from Toyota dealer for $38. I should have bought the two-pack from Amazon for $24. Oh well, lesson learned.

2018 Toyota Sienna SE 48,000-Mile Service

As the winter approaching, we will be traveling to ski resorts; therefore, I wanted to make sure our 2018 Toyota Sienna SE will be in good condition. We have been driving it for almost 50,000 miles and we haven’t done anything other than changing oil and tires. I took it to Khang Auto for the following services:

  • Front & rear brake pads
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Air filter & cabin filter

Total cost: $540

This was the first time I used Khang Auto. He’s a nice Vietnamese fellow and his price was reasonable. I will definitely come back again.

Fixing Water-Running Toilet

The Kohler Highline Classic toilet I installed in 2018 has minor issues here and there, particularly its canister flushing system. The latest issue was that the water kept running and would not stop. From searching YouTube, my initial fix was to replace the flush-valve seal from the canister. That didn’t resolve the problem.

When I opened up the cap on the adjustable fill valve, I suspected the fill-valve seal had worned out and it turned out to be the culprit. I replace the seal and the problem went away. The fill-valve seal was $4. I could have reused the old flush-valve seal and saved 8 bucks, but I just left the new one in.

I am not fond of the canister flushing system and thinking of replacing it, but I am starting to see how it works. It’s not bad.