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Pill Bottles are Great for Holding Screws

A long time ago, I removed a lot of bolts from the center of the dash, to mess with the stereo. Then I had to remove more bits to get into the center console.
I used pill bottles to hold the screws and small parts, and just kept them in the car. The dash was partially apart for a year, and the center console a couple months, but I didn't lose screws. At least I don't think I lost them.
Anyway, it's back together and functional, thanks to prescription pill bottles.
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To solder two stranded wires together, you need a few tools and supplies.
Stuff: low watt soldering iron - 30W or less; rosin flux, or solder that contains flux; wet paper towel; electronic solder made with tin and lead; electrical tape or wire nuts; knife; bulldog clip or clothes pin, and some way to clip the wires to something like a stick or thin plank of wood.
Note that it's electronic solder, not plumbing solder.

I use lead-bearing solder because it's easier to work. It is toxic, but I figure it's a tiny amount and used extremely infrequently.

Rosin flux is used to clean off the wire, so it'll accept the solder more readily.
 Strip around 1/2 to 3/4 inch of insulation from the wire, using the knife. Do not nick the wire.Twist each piece of wire so the strands aren't loose.Twist the wires together.Dip the wire into the flux to get a little bit on there.Clip the wires to a stable object, like a piece of wood. This is  your "third hand".Heat the soldering ir…

Starter Rebuild

I decided to wise up and buy a starter rebuild kit. I got one from Ross AP on Ebay. It cost $25 shipped. Not exactly cheap, but not as expensive as a reman starter.

I think it's close to the price of a used junkyard starter, but given my history with this specific type of Toytoa/Delco starter, I figure they wear out.

The one thing I wish I did was measure each of the parts carefully. All the starters are pretty similar, except that they differ in the plunger size and shape of the contacts.

If you know the plunger size, and have a stock of contacts, you're home free. Of course, it's all a bunch of parts that you won't use if you don't happen to keep a Corolla, or Prizm, or another car that uses this part.

Refilling the A/C with New Refrigerant

Symptom: the air conditioner just won't blow cold air anymore. This happens after several years of not blowing that cold.

The A/C system has this "freon" in there. It's no longer freon, but a chemical called R134a. It's a refrigerant.

To replace it, you need a can of refrigerant, and a hose to put the refrigerant into the A/C system.

If you have two cars, get a gigantic can with an included hose that you can re-use. I think mine was called A/C Pro, and it looked kind of fancy, with a trigger switch.

If you have only one car, get a small can with the hose kit.

Follow the instructions. It's pretty easy. You just attach it, then turn the car on, and turn the A/C on full blast. Open the passenger side door or window so you can feel the airflow.

Then, you squirt the R134a into the A/C system, keeping an eye on the pressure.

You have to sweep the can from a 12-o-clock position to the 3-o-clock position, because ice forms in the can as you unload it into the car. Th…

Washing the Floor Mats, Washing Seats

I don't know if there's a right way to do it, but I usually pull them out, and beat them on the ground, preferably, grassy ground.

Then, I spray or pour soapy water on them, and work it in a little bit. This loosens the dirt some more.

Then I hose it down at high pressure, to float away the dirt. Putting the mats on the hood and spraying is a lazy way to make sure the water drips out.

I leave the mats out several hours until they're dried.

Seats Seat fabric is pretty much impossible to really wash. I have tried dry cleaners, and other things, but I usually end up doing a spray then soak, and then soak up the gunk.

You need a stack of clean bath towels.

1. Spray the dirty areas with some cleaner like Awesome or even just soapy water. This is like a pre-wash to get the dirty areas nice and soft.

2. Using a brush or rag, and a bucket of slightly soapy water, wash the seat down to get it wet.

3. Put clean, dry towels on the seat, and then sit in it. Roll left and right a littl…

Testing and Replacing the Alternator

This is one of the easier replacements. It's also one of the weak points in the Corolla. You mainly need the instruction manual and some videos.

The only tool  you need is a wrench.

Before you buy a replacement, though, test everything first. Get out the multimeter. If you don't have one, get a cheap one. Keep it in the car.

1. Check the battery terminals. Make sure they are clean, and there's no resistance between the post and the clamp.

2. Test continuity between the battery and the alternator. You can also look for a voltage drop. It should be < 1V drop.

3. Test the battery voltage. It should be > 12v. Mine is usually around 12.7v.

4. Start the car, and then check the voltage at the battery. The alternator should be running, and charging the battery, by bringing the voltage up to around 14v.

If the voltage is low, it's probably the alternator. There is a part in the alternator called the regulator that controls the voltage, but I have only purchased an entire…

Replacing Cheapie Probes for a Cheap Multimiter

I got a $12 multimeter from Autozone - market value $8 according to Ebay and a bunch of other places. So, I overpaid, but not by much.

My only advice is spend the extra dollar or two for a backlit display. You need that at night when your car stops working.

The probes started to break, because the plastic or silicone or whatever it is that covers the probes has broken at a joint.

The fix was to cover the break with hot melt glue. It stops the probe from flexing.

Then, I ordered a similar-looking replacement from AliExpress. Chinese vendors have an edge of US vendors because they pay less in postage.

I got a < $1 probe set and paid postage to bring the price up above a dollar.

Now, I just need to wait a couple months for it to arrive.