DIY Disaster - Score One for the Pack Rat

Sometimes a DIY project takes an unsuspected turn and goes poorly. The terms used for this phenomenon normally involve various forms of expletives, but I'll just term the situation as, "...going to hell."

Hot on the heels of my initial foray into the fantastical world of home automation, I began my quest to take it to the next level. Phase two involved the ability to monitor the status and and control my garage door via smartphone. I do these things for you dear reader, not because I have a serious gadget fetish.

Never fear, I am going to write the post about the garage door controller. This post, however, about when the delightful  project went from being a dashing success to one that rapidly began going to hell. It's actually your fault.

You see, when an handy DIY blogger such as myself does a project, it involves the behind the scenes theatrical work of camera placement, a remote trigger, and if I'm feeling saucy, video. This time, I was indeed feeling saucy, and began shooting video of myself controlling the door from an iPad. It was unique, bad-ass stuff. The camera on the tripod was shooting over my shoulder at the screen, where the garage security camera was also steaming.


I struggled with my reflection, camera focus issues, and timing. I did a few takes (for you) trying to get it right. The video was crap, but I was getting there. I figured, I'd do one last practice run, while everything was running smoothly. I pushed the open icon on screen, the door started to move, and from above me. just off my right shoulder...

I swear, that's what it looked like! 
BANG indeed. I don't how I gathered the Herculean level of intestinal fortitude required to refrain from soiling my pants, but I thank the heavens for it. I'm man enough to admit, that loud explosion of sound scared the absolute hell out of me. It was the cold-chill, instant-sweat, heat-skips-a-couple-beats kind of scare. Damn. (Although "Damn" was probably not the word I used.)

After realizing I hadn't been shot by a rogue, garage-based ninja sniper, my heart sank even lower. I could see the thick, creamy-white coils of smoke billowing out of the the garage door opener. The formerly, perfectly working before I messed with it garage door opener. Then, came the odor, the sickeningly plastic / rubbery smell of fried electrical stuff. I knew that smell. It was the smell of expensive.

I glanced at the workbench to make sure I'd returned the fire extinguisher after my yard torching adventure and climbed up the ladder The new. plug-in Insteon controller I had installed was fine. The smoke was coming from the Genie garage door opener. Crap.


Did I mention that it had been working perfectly before I decided to start adding technological gizmos? 

The automation stuff was fine. I'd managed to blow a completely unrelated item up. 

The light bulbs were still on, but there was a steamy-brown juice running down the translucent cover.


For those of you without garage door openers, steamy-brown juice is generally something you don't run into with these units. I added it to my mental list of bad signs, along with the explosion, smoke and odor. I removed the plastic back section that covered the motor. That's when I discovered the steaming black crust of vaporized, alien exoskeleton spattered against the back, wet with the brown mystery juice.

The juice tasted faintly like water-chestnuts and amaretto, with the woody aftertaste of,... OK, I didn't actually taste it, but wouldn't that have made some good storytelling if I had? 

With the motor compartment open, I found the culprit, The capacitor was blown. At least it wasn't the motor or a circuit board.


It was nearly too hot to touch. I assume my constant opening and closing. both in troubleshooting / programming the controller and in attempting to video the action had overloaded it. I guess 30 cycles or so, in about 15 minutes, falls outside the normal operating conditions. 


I figured it would be a quick and easy fix. I figured wrong. Have you ever tried to find a Genie garage door opener capacitor at 5:45 on a Sunday evening? Ace Hardware = Strike One, The Home Depot = Strike Two, Lowe's = Strike Three.

At Lowe's, I wandered back to the opener section. I noticed Genie had redesigned the new models since the last one I had installed. Actually, back in 2008 I had purchased a a whole new kit, but only swapped out a burned out motor. It had been a perfect, swap, just swap the new with the old. I'd even put the box with the rest of unused parts up in the attic, just in case I needed,... spare,... parts...

Holy crap! I thought I might still have the trove of freaking spare parts in the attic. I tore back home, grabbed the flashlight and crawled into the scuttle hole. There in the darkness, under an empty violin case, lay the box, preserved just where it had been left, ages ago, back in 2008.


Sure enough, for some stupid reason, I had saved the old, original motor too. The thing was likely a relic from the 1980's, now a paperweight of wire, circuit-boards, and steel. I had placed it into the 2008 box and grunted it up into the attic for archival. FYI - I prefer the term "well prepared" over "hoarder" or "pack-rat".


You may wonder what kind of moron saves a burned out old motor? Apparently, I'm exactly that kind of moron. Score one for the pack rats. The capacitor was intact. 


I carefully removed the leads and attached the ancient capacitor into the newer opener. It's a tricky business, handling capacitors. They can store a charge like a battery which can zap you pretty good if you're not careful.

I let it hang while I held my breath and hit the button. 


It worked. Of course! Who was worried? 

By then, it was pretty late on Sunday night, with work looming the next morning. I got the covers screwed back in place and called it fixed, pledging never again to open a garage door with such repeated exuberance.


There was only one thing left to do...


My name is John and I'm a Pack Rat.

The Liebster Award Challenge

Ok. I realize posts have been pretty sparse around the AZ DIY Guy's Projects of late. I've been doing projects and writing, but I've been far less prolific. Life's been super busy.

"The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry"
- Brooks Hatlen

Despite a flagging blogging momentum, I have been honored to receive a nomination for the Liebster Award from one of my blogging buddies. Jessica, the outstanding blogger behind Cape of Dreams.

The Liebster Award is an honor bloggers give to other bloggers to expose readers to new blogs that they enjoy. I understand the word "Liebster" is German for "favorite", or something like that. I thought it would be fun set down the power tools and answer Jessica's challenge. Here are the rules:
  • Write 11 Facts about Yourself
  • Link back to the person who tagged you
  • Come up with 10 questions to ask your nominees
  • Tag 11 other bloggers with under 200 followers
  • Let the person who tagged you know when you answer their questions
  • Have fun with it, and get to know some new people
So here we go. I'll start with...

Getting Started with Home Automation

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a hopeless gadget nut. If you know anything about home-renovating, tool-loving, DIY gadget nuts, then you know that home automation is the holy grail. Until now, his pinnacle of DIY technical wizardry has always been out of my reach, both technically and financially.

When I got a chance to work with Build.com, I jumped at it. Being the gadget dork I am, I immediately pursued their expansive site for automation products.  Not only did they have it, but they had a sub-page dedicated to the stuff. When I found a line of products by Insteon that was both economical and user friendly, I immediately placed my order.

Rewiring Reindeer and Decorating in the Desert

We truly do like to decorate for the holidays. It includes garish lights to be sure, but we really don't go to the full Clark Griswold treatment when we make the desert glow with holiday cheer.

One of our "lawn" decorations, a lighted "grapevine" deer is a two years old, and half burned-out upon being un-packed this year. I couldn't find the problem easily, nor could I find replacement lamps. These things deer cost almost 100 bucks, so I thought I'd take a crack at rewiring it fro about $20, rather than shelling out for a new one. 

Since I'm in love with the energy savings of the LED revolution of the last few years, it was only natural that I replace the old incandescent strings of lights with modern upgrades. I picked up a couple boxes at the home center and started the project.

The existing lights were clipped onto the metal parts of the frame. I popped them off by hand and trimmed any plastic ties that I found with my trusty diagonal cutting pliers. Come to think of it, these pliers are the only tool I used for the whole project. 

Favorite Stuff! 2014 Edition

It's back! The AZ DIY Guy's favorite stuff! It's been a little over a year since I last shared my new list of sweet loot that the average DIY'er can actually afford. This is all stuff I personally own and use that you might not think of.

This is stuff that might not be in every tool kit yet, so there are some good ideas for holiday gift giving (or gift card spending!). I've attached Amazon.com (affiliate) links for convenience, but you can find most of these things at other online or brick and mortar retailers.

 So, once again, in no particular order, I  present to you,...The Stuff!


A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.
- George Carlin


DEWALT Right Angle Adapter Attachment

I actually won this sweet, impact-rated driver attachment via a fan-photo contest on DeWalt's Facebook page a while back. It sat, poised for action, in my tool cabinet until it was called  to the forefront of the battle. It was a perfect storm; I just couldn't reach screws with normal tools. Horror! Heck, I couldn't even see what I was doing.