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.

A Nervous Wreck

As the man in the house, I am responsible for my family’s livelihood. As a result, I am constantly worried about every little thing and it has increasingly become an emotional stress for me. Even though I know everything will be fine, I still put my mind into stress cases.

When we drove 14 hours from Virginia to New Hampshire and back, I constantly worried that the cargo carrier on top of our minivan would pop open. All of our skis and helmets would fly out and would cause massive collisions, or worse, would kill other people. I slowed down my speed and prayed that we would make it to our destinations safely. Even though we had never experienced anything like that all these time we had traveled, and yet, the worry never left my mind.

As we were driving home last Sunday from skiing, my wife called and asked if I closed the outdoor faucet because she couldn’t turn it and the hose was frozen. Although I knew I had shut off the water, I didn’t disconnect the hose. I became a nervous wreck during the drive home. Thankfully the rain washed away the snow and the temperature increased; therefore, I was able to disconnect the hose from the faucet with some warm water.

On Monday, I found some water on the cover of the toilet seat in our basement and we hardly used that bathroom. I looked up at the ceiling and spotted a small hole. I touched the ceiling and it was wet. I broke off the drywall and found the water running along the beam. I tore off more drywall to see where the leak was coming from. It seemed to start from the outside. I suspect when the snow melted, the water seeped into our foundation and entered our basement. A leaking foundation would be a nightmare and I became extremely worried. I checked the outside foundation, but didn’t find any cracks or holes. I looked up YouTube videos to see how I could seal the foundation.

Yesterday, I went back down to check the leak area and the water was dripping. This time, the water seemed to come directly from the top floor because there was no snow or rain outside. I went upstairs and the dishwasher was running. I looked at the bottom of the Whirlpool dishwasher and spotted water dripping. I placed a small plate underneath to catch the water. I searched up YouTube and found several videos that showed similar issues. The worn-out dishwasher diverter seal grommet caused the leak. My wife placed an order on Amazon and it will arrive tomorrow. I hope that is the only issue. We’ll see what will happen when I replace that piece.

On one hand, I am increasingly feeling more comfortable with fixing things around the house. We don’t need professionals for these small issues. I also understand that they have overheads to pay; therefore, they would charge an arm and leg for something like these. On the other hand, the increase of constant worries is not good for my mental health. I am afraid that I will get a nervous breakdown over things that are unnecessary. I am just hoping that I can hold myself together.

I am doing my best to leave all my worries behind and just deal with issues as they come. Life is too short to worry about mundane things. I hope that my sons will be a better handyman than their father or they will make enough money to hire professional services to take care of everything so I won’t have to worry anymore and just live a peaceful life. Until then, I am just going to be a nervous wreck.

Replacing Water Pump for 2011 Toyota Sienna

I started hearing an unusual grinding sound coming from my 2011 Toyota Sienna engine about six months ago. It was irritating, but I couldn’t figure out where exactly the noise was coming from. I ignored it by playing loud music. The noise had increased recently and I suspect it was from the alternator.

On Monday I took our minivan to Ourisman Toyota, which is close to our house, for an oil change. Because our minivan hit 150,000 miles, I suspect they were going to give me a list of recommendations, but they didn’t. They just changed the oil. I informed the advisor about the noise and he said they had to diagnose it for $160 in order to find out what went wrong. Although I didn’t want to do the diagnostic, the technician noted the noise was coming from the water pump.

I knew I had an issue on hand and it would cost a fortune to fix, but I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t want to take it to Phạm’s Auto Care Center because their price would be closed to the dealership. Then I remembered Merrifield Citgo an acquaintance recommended for good service and fair price.

I dropped off my minivan. The service advisor seemed nice. He told me that they would charge $50 to diagnose the problem. He confirmed that the water pump and the drive belt needed to be replaced. The cost was $750.

I checked back my record and discovered that the alternator was replaced in 2018 for $700. I wonder if C&G Specialty Auto Repair and Auto Body didn’t do a good job on it that caused the grinding.

The cost for fixing and maintaining these cars are incredibly pricey. I despise owning cars. I wish I could do away with them. I have been thinking about Tesla simply for the low cost of maintenance. Someone once told me that when there’s an issue with an electric car, you simply reset the computer. If that’s true, I am all for it.

Nevertheless, here’s the breakdown of the cost from Merrifield Citgo:

  • Water pump ($184)
  • Anti-freeze coolant ($40)
  • Drive belt ($18)
  • Labor ($396)

The final cost is $716

2018 Toyota Sienna SE Maintenance Service (30,000 Miles)

I was roped into the intermediate maintenance package from Priority Toyota. It concluded the following services:

  • Change engine oil, up to 5 quarts, and filter
  • Add BE Advanced Formula MOA Oil Treatment
  • Rotate tires, adjust tire pressure and check tire wear
  • Replace engine air filter
  • Replace cabin air filter
  • Treat HVAC with BG Frigi Fresh
  • 4-wheel brake inspection and measurement Top off under hood fluids
  • Perform multi-point vehicle inspection
  • Review maintenance action plan

The cost was $160, which was reasonable. Then they recommended:

  • 4 new tires ($1,000)
  • Replace windshield wiper blades ($65)
  • Brake fluid service ($145)
  • Mass air flow sensor service ($80)
  • Throttle body service ($115)
  • Evap service ($97)
  • So they recommended $1,502 worth of services. My wife bought the wiper blades from Costco and I replaced them in 10 minutes. I am not sure if the rest of the recommended services are necessary, therefore, I refused them for now.

Washing Windows

Today I washed all the windows for the first time after living in this house for 12 years. I started at 10 am and finished around 6 pm. Removing the windows was easier than I expected. I was also surprised that the windows weren’t as dirty as I thought.

Although washing windows was such a mundane task, it felt good to accomplish something. I still don’t like doing home maintenance, but I can’t afford hiring someone else to do it. A man knocked on my door and gave me a quote for $2,800 to fix my driveway. I am not going to spend almost three grants just to park my cars. I’ll patch it up myself. So that will be my next project.

Now that the kids aren’t into ice skating anymore, I might as well spend more time maintaining our home. I still enjoy rollerblading in skate parks. I am not sure if I will continue ice skating lessons. Will see.