Toyota Sienna 2011 Shows Its Age

I woke up this morning, drove to the nearest Toyota dealer to get an old change. Toyota Sienna 2011 is clocking in at almost 160,000 miles. Because I didn’t have an appointment, I would have to wait for three hours. No big deal. I could work remotely.

I told the service rep about the alarm blaring off at random time and he said they would charge $189 to diagnose the issue. I told him the air conditioner isn’t producing cold air and he told me another $189 to diagnose the issue. Not even fixing anything, I already have to pay them $378. Sure, they would waive the fees if I make the repair, but they will charge me an arm and leg.

I am OK with the AC not blowing cold air. I apologize to my neighbors if the alarm goes off at night. I was not going to fix these issues. I left and headed back to work. The price we have to pay to maintain these cars is just ridiculous. I am going to use the smaller shop for the jobs.

A couple of weeks ago, the speaking on the sliding door on the passenger side produced static sounds. My kids kept asking me to replace it. In order to replace it, I have to rip open the panel. I kept pushing it off. Yesterday Xuân told me the static had gone. It had, indeed, gone. I supposed it fixed itself. I hope that would be the case with the alarm and the AC.

Replacing Outdoor Spigots

Ever since we moved into our house, I never gave a thought about winterizing our spigots because I had no idea I need to do that. Last winter, I didn’t even disconnect the hose from the spigot. When we were driving back from skiing on a snowy day, my wife told me about it, she made me worried. I was praying the pipes wouldn’t bust. I disconnected the hose from the spigot the next day. Fortunately, we didn’t have any issue and I started looking into winterizing out spigots.

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law noticed that the spigot in front of the house started to leak. Although tightened up the screw stopped the leak, it was time to replace the old spigots with the hose bibb round wheel handles with the ball valves. I called my handyman Ricardo.

I watched him replacing the spigots and learned so I could be more confidence if I have to replace them on my own. When he cut up the ceiling for the back spigot, we discovered a shut-off valve to winterize the spigot. I asked him to replace the valve as well. Even though we didn’t discover a shut-off valve for the front spigot, I asked him to put one in as well just to make sure we won’t have any issue in the winter.

While I had him in the house on Monday, I asked him to replace the shut-off valves for the kitchen faucet. I could have replaced them myself, but I rather had the professional taking care of them for now. He recommended Sharkbite technology for the plumbing works even though he could also do the soldering. I now have a peace of mind knowing where all the pipes are and how to fix them.

Here are the products we used:

The labor was $400. He also fixed the leaking PVC pipe that drains from our half bath. I forgot what the part called.

Fixing Random Alarm Sound from 2011 Toyota Sienna

Last Saturday, the alarm from our 2011 Toyota Sienna went off at 7 pm, 12 am, and 3 am. I lost my sleep and decided to find a fix for it. I searched up YouTube and found this video, which seemed to have similar issue with a 2011 Toyota Sienna. The sensor right underneath the hood latch was clogged up; therefore, it triggered the alarm. The fix was to clean the latch.


  • Engine Degreaser: $5
  • Brake Cleaner: $5
  • I cleaned the latch on Sunday morning. The alarm hasn’t gone off since. I hope that did it.

Setting Up My Ski-Tuning Station

Last year I bought a pair of used Head skis for $50 and spent $75 on tuning. I also had to wait for a week for the service. With 6 of us skiing in the upcoming season, the tune-up alone will be expensive. I decided to take the matter into my own hands.

I am putting together a ski-tuning station in our basement since my wife bought the Demon Complete Basic Tune Kit. I had the table setup and bought a pair of WSD Tuning Vise. Of course, I learn tuning from watching YouTube videos. The guy from Adventure School gives enough details in his three-part series: sharping the edges, repairing the base, and waxing.

I am working on four pairs at a time. I am in the middle of fixing the base, but I ran out of Ptex candle. I ordered some more to continue the job. Scraping off the Ptex with a razor blade worked really well in addition to the stainless scraper, which should be used first than the razor blade.

I can’t wait to get to the waxing part. We are still looking into buying a pair of skis for Xuân and a snowboard for Đán.


Tuning Up The Honda Lawn Mower

I am transitioning the lawn-mowing responsibility over to Đạo now that he is 13. Two weeks ago, he did a decent job for the first time. Today he hit the curb and bent one of the blades. I tried to straighten it back, but it was impossible. I even took off the blades, but I couldn’t hammer it back either. I had to get two new blades.

While I had the blades removed, I might as well give the lawn mower a tune up. Other than changing the oil every year or two, I haven’t done anything to the lawn mower ever since I bought it about ten years ago. The Honda engine is unbelievably reliable. I bought it used from my brother-in-law after my brand new Troy-Built broke down after three or four years. My brother is allergic to grass; therefore, he couldn’t use it.

Ever since I took over, today is the first time that I gave it a tune up. I replaced the blades, the spark plug, the air filter, as well as the oil. The tune up was not that difficult at all. I just had to buy the socket to remove the spark plug. I also cleaned up all the dirt and debris. Now the machine works so darn good. I should have done these tune ups regularly.

I haven’t done anything to the mower because I was expecting it to die any day now, but the Honda engine is just so darn good. I looked at a brand new one for $600. It’s expensive, but it is definitely worth the investment if you are looking into buying one.

Parts for tune up:

Flushing Our Water Heater

Replacing the water heater has been on my mind for about a year now. I don’t want it to bottom out and flood our basement. A few months ago, I asked around for a few quotes and the price range was between $4,000 to $6,000. Thirteen years ago, I had a water heater replacement for $600 or $800. I can’t remember the exact number, but $4,000 to $6,000 is a bit too much.

When Ricardo came by last Wednesday to fix the dripping pipes, I asked him about our water heater. He told me it still looks good. A water heater could last 20 to 30 years, but if I wanted a peace of mind, he can replace it for me. I just need to buy the tank and he only charges the installation. I also asked him about flushing it, but he said it is OK since our water heater is electric.

After thirteen years, I finally flushed our water heater. I didn’t even know about it until recently when my brother-in-law casually mentioned to me and I started to look into it. This morning, I decided give it a shot after watching this helpful YouTube video from AmplifyDIY. I followed his steps closely and I flushed it about six or seven times. I saw rust coming out of the pipe as I drained the water. I wonder if it should be replaced. I’ll call more companies for estimates.

While waiting for the water to drain, I came across The Grumpy Plumber who suggests that we should not have to flush our water heater. If I came across this video before I started the job, I would have just said, “Fuck it, let’s just leave it the way it is after thirteen years.” The process was actually quite simple to do. I might as well just do it every year to maintain its lifespan. Yes, another job added to the growing list of owning a house.

The $400 Drips

After discovering water dripping from the copper pipe from the main water line yesterday, I called Ricardo, a handyman I had hired in the past. He came by at noon today to do the job. While having him here, I might as well hire him to not only fix the leaked pipe, but also to replace another pipe with black tape wrapped around, and two water valves for the washing machine.

He charged me $400 for the entire job, which seemed reasonable. It took him about three hours. I also bought the two valves for $16. I observed him while he worked. The job didn’t seem to be that difficult. I probably can do it next time if I don’t have to do the soldering, or I should just learn soldering.

We talked quite a bit and drank some hard coffee. He couldn’t resist the caffeinated drink with a kick. He told me that he is getting his citizenship tomorrow after living 22 years in the U.S. He also shared me his DUI story. He had to pay the lawyer 30 grants to keep him in the U.S. He’s a funny, hard-working man.

I didn’t sleep too well last night for the obvious reason. Even though I knew it was not the end of the world, I still worried. I can’t help it. I am a born worrier. I am glad things are fixed. I need to go to sleep early tonight.

Fixing Samsung Dryer Again

A little over a year ago, I fixed the Samsung dryer’s noise and heat element. In the last few weeks, the noise returned. Last night, I opened it up again and replaced the wheels that hold the bowl. Problem solved.

As I was putting back the dryer, I noticed a wet spot on the floor. The water dripped from the copper pipe from the main water line. I am not going to mess with the soldering; therefore, I called a handyman. He replaced our main water shutoff valve in the past and he did a good job. I’ll ask him to replace the water pipe going into the washer as well. It looks bad too.

Then I have more things to do in the coming weeks:

  • Replace the toilet fill valve
  • Fix the wood gate
  • Wash the sidings
  • Do something with the driveway

See why I hate owning a house? I didn’t have to do any of these when I lived in an apartment. I didn’t have to worry about the water flooding my basement or the wind knocking out the trim of the roof. Once the kids moved out, I am going to go back to renting a small space for me and my wife and we just travel most of the time.

Replacing Tires for 2018 Toyota Sienna SE

Replaced four brand new Michelin Primacy Tour A/S Tires for our 2018 Toyota Sienna SE at 40,000 miles. The tires were purchased from Costco for $970. Then performed wheel alignment at Ourisman Fairfax Toyota for $140. Another day, another grant spent.

Total cost: $1,110.

Fixing Dishwasher From Leaking

For the backstory, read this post first. Because many people had experience the same leaking issue from their dishwasher, which includes the Whirpool brand, there are a handful of YouTube video showing how to fix it. I followed this one.

Replacing the dishwasher diverter valve seal grommet was straightforward. I just needed to wait for the product to arrive from Amazon. The first time I replaced it, the water still leaked in tiny drops. My wife read somewhere that applying sealing tape around the grommet would stop the leak. I did that and voila: no more leak.

The grommet cost $5.

Dust Life