Monday, 25 November 2013

Ford Galaxy wipers slow and juddering and not clearing whole screen

[Edited - it lasted 6 months, so I have done it again and improved the technique I hope, new version below. Also its something to do every 6 months as maintenance, it takes a few minutes that way.]

I have had two Mk2 Galaxy now and both have had the same problem when they got to about 7 years old. The wipers start getting slower and slower, eventually not making it across the screen. They also start to leave a large gap at the top right because they don't move freely.

I have read various solutions, including a very expensive one to replace the whole mechanics, and another to drill holes in the spindle bearings and inject grease.

However, I have a much simpler easier solution that has worked for 6 months before needing doing again (its on my calendar now to do it twice a year).

The problem with the mechanism is the spindle joints, where the wiper arms are fastened to the car. There are bearings there, which are basically a metal cylinder a couple of inches long, and have a splined shaft through them. The wiper arms bolt on to these shafts.

What happens is that the lubrication in the bearings eventually disappears, and the bearings start to seize up and slow down. If your wipers are still moving, you can feel the whole metal cylinder getting hot - in my case the drivers side was hot, the passenger cold, so I knew which was the problem.

The idea of drilling the holes is to be able to inject grease into the bearings. But you can lubricate them from the outside instead, which is much easier.

First, get a decent oil - I chose a weatherproof bicycle chain oil (Finish Line Wet Bike Lubricant), as I already had some, and the 'stickiness' it has to stop it being washed off in rain seems likely to help it survive being used in the wiper mechanism.

Second, pick a cold day, with the engine cold. If they are seized, then heat makes them worse. By picking a cold day, with the engine cold, you should be able to free them more easily as they will move better, so the oil will work its way in quicker. Also, if they are seized, they heat up quickly as you try to use them - let them cool down if you can't free them up, and try again.

To oil the bearings:

1. Remove the wiper arm nuts. Each arm is held on by a single nut, which is easy to remove.

2. Mark where the wiper blades go, or take a pic on the phone, so you get them back in the same place afterwards.

3a. Remove the wiper arms (leave the blades attached). This can be tough. The arms are basically a push fit onto the splined spindle shafts. However, they become very attached to the shafts. By judicious and vigorous wiggling of the arm, I got one off, but the other was not having it. However, I used WD40 and sprayed it on the splines that were exposed when the wiper nut was removed (the nut screws on to the end of the shaft). After 5 minutes I gave it another wiggle and the arm came off. Time is your friend here - let the WD40 do its stuff, wiggle a bit, repeat, and it will come off.

3b. On the end of each spindle there is a metal circlip, then a washer, then a rubber o-ring. You should remove all of these (make sure you don't drop them...). The shaft will not be able to fall out of the mechanism because there is a stop, so it can only drop about 1cm (you can easily get it back later on).

4. Once the arms are off, you can turn on the wipers and see the shaft rotating in the bearing. If it doesn't rotate, then you can push one of the arms back on, and bolt it to make it secure so you don't strip the spindle, and 'help' it.

5. Now, with the wipers running on high speed, get your oil and put some on the bearing, on the gap where it is rotating, on the top side. Keep the wipers running and keep feeding in oil, a few drops at a time. The oil gradually will work its way into the bearing. I put about a spoonful of oil in each bearing, over about 15 minutes, all with the wipers running, with the arms NOT attached.

You can also try to get some penetrating oil in from below - once the spindle has dropped a bit, you can get some oil onto the bottom of the lower bearing, which should penetrate upwards and help.

You can ease the spindle up and down (though only while the wipers are turning if its seized badly) by putting the wiper arm bolt back on and using a claw hammer to lift the spindle while its moving. On mine it would move all the way back into place in 5 seconds of lifting with the claw hammer. I could not get it back in place without it moving though (well, I didn't want to pull that hard).

6a. (optional step) You can also oil some of the other joints in the mechanism. After you remove the wiper arms, you can remove the plastic trim surround (that goes across the bottom of the windscreen). Note that when you do this, the thin plastic strip that clips to the bottom of the windscreen can come off the trim. To put it back correctly, first clip the strip to the plastic surround, and then when you put the plastic surround back, you push it on to the screen.

6b. (optional step) The joints are a long way underneath - I used a piece of grass and some oil on the end of it, to drip oil onto the bearing, but it would be better to use eg a long straw, to get oil to the joint. What I did was stop the wipers by turning the key, at the point the mechanism was reachable, and then ran some oil on to the joint. It took a few goes for each of the two joints I could get to, but I did get some oil on the joints. From what other people say, the spindles are the ones that matter though, not these joints.

7. Test it before putting it all back together, by bolting back the wiper arms and see if the mechanism is now working correctly and at speed. If its nearly there, the oil will continue to spread, so it will improve further.

8. Put it back together - o-ring, washer, circlip, wiper arm. Make sure to get the wiper arms back in the correct place per where you marked them, before tightening up the splines.

9. Once back together, run the wipers on high speed for a few minutes to make sure they are OK.

10. Put a note in your diary to oil them again BEFORE they start seizing up - it will save you hours. I reckon every 4 or 6 months is about right. At the first sign of them seizing, oil them, don't wait.

USB cables and slow charging

When you charge things, the cables make a huge difference. I have bought various cables, microusb and apple, at various times, and I have never really paid attention to them, as long as it charged, I assumed the charger was the thing that made the most difference.

However, it turns out that most cables are utter junk.

I have a microusb cable and used it to charge a Nexus 7. However it was excruciatingly slow - about 7 hours to charge fully. I recently bought a really good 2 metre USB extension cable, and a very short 3-way adapter (microusb, apple, new apple) and I have discovered that it charges the Nexus 7 more than twice as quickly - 3 hours - on the same charger.

I guess the same thing applies to all pads, and to a lesser extent, to phones. I had one cable that wouldn't charge an iPad at all, because it was so bad - it would charge a phone, but not an iPad.

I now use a 2m high quality USB extension cable, with a very short splitter that goes from USB to microusb, and both the apple connectors. Very convenient.

Do not skimp on cables, especially long ones - quality pays.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

TomTom Go, 940 etc battery goes flat when turned off

Anyone who has used TomToms such as the Go series, or the 940 Live, will have found that the battery goes flat when it is turned off. So you have it fully charged, turn it off and take it in the house. A week later you want to plan a route or something, or just fire it up and set the destination - but its completely flat. Its very very annoying.

Finally I have worked out how to turn the thing off so it does not drain the battery.

Basically the TomToms have three modes: On, Standby, Off.
When you turn it off normally, it goes into Standby.

You can tell if it is in standby, because when you turn it on, it goes straight to the splash screen. If it was Off, then it goes through a much longer bootup process, including a progress bar and so on.

The problem is how to make it really turn off.

I now know of two methods!!

1. Full reboot and turn off during reboot.
- Press and hold the Power button for 20 seconds (really, keep holding it this long)
- You then get a little drum roll sound and a small TomTom logo. Let go of the power button.
- It starts a reboot
- As soon as you see this, press the power button, and it will abort the reboot, and turn off.
- You can check you did it right, by turning it on again normally, and you should see the long startup process.

2. Plug it into the computer
- Turn it on
- Plug into the computer
- The TomTom will do a reboot - TomTom logo shows up
- As its rebooting, press the power switch to turn it off
- Unplug
- You can check you did it right, by turning it on again normally, and you should see the long startup process.

There you go - now you can leave your chuffing TomTom on the shelf and still be able to use it a month later!!


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

SOLUTION FOR: Canon MG6150 Ink Absorber Reset / Error 5B00

Hi Folks,

I HAVE THE SOLUTION - for real - for an actual Canon MG6150. Probably works for MG6100 and other similar generation printers. Use these instructions at your own risk, as they are obviously not Canon approved.

When you have used your 6150 for a LOT of printing, maybe 50,000 sheets, it will finally decide enough is enough and start telling you its Ink Absorber is almost full. This will happen every 20 pages or so, and you can continue the first 10 or 20 times. Eventually though, it changes and starts giving an Error 5B00 and refusing to print.

There are two stages to fixing this problem:
- Get the printer into service mode
- Use servicetool.exe to reset the ink absorber to 0%

There are lots of wrong instructions on the web for the first of these. I worked this out by experimenting and lots of patience (and cussing...).

If you do the wrong thing, you can recover it. But it makes you panic at first, because the printer stops responding, won't turn on, and all sorts of scary things. BUT you can simply unplug the power for at least 30 seconds, and the printer will reset itself and you can try again.

*** You will need the printer plugged into a USB port on your computer to use the reset tool.

To get the MG6150 into service mode:

1. Work out where the STOP button is. The printer very helpfully hides all the buttons. If you look closely though, you can just make out the squares. The Stop button is the one near the Error light (which will helpfully be orange because of the error you are trying to fix).

2. Turn the printer off

3. Press and Hold the Power button. Keep it pressed down.

4. Wait about 2 or 3 seconds - the blue light will be on

5. Press the STOP button 6 times. Each time you press it, you will see the lights change from the Orange one to Blue one. After the 6th time, the BLUE led should be on.

6. Let go of the Power button.

7. The blue light will now start flashing for a while. This may just be 5 seconds, or it could be a minute, if the printer decides to do a head clean first...

8. Eventually the blue light will stay on. The main display will be BLANK. This is Service Mode.

9. Connect the printer via USB to your computer.

To reset:

1. Download and launch the servicetool.exe program. Search on Google for "Service Mode Tools Version 1.050" or "canon servicetool.exe" and you should find it to download.

2. You should see all the buttons and functions are enabled. If they are all greyed out, its because either the printer is not connected to the computer, the printer has crashed, or you are having a bad day.

3. You will see an option, Ink Absorber Counter, and a Counter value. Make sure the counter value is set to 0%, and press the Set button. You should get a message saying A function has finished. If you get an error message, then it means the printer was not in service mode.

Now its done. Just turn off the printer (power button) and turn it back on again. The dreadful 5B00 error should be gone.

My MG6150 is happily churning out more perfect prints while I write this!

If you do notice that you are getting lots of smudges, you can probably extract some ink from the absorber pad by using some tissue paper. The pad is a sort of white square thing, under where the printer parks its heads. Just open the cover as if to change a cartridge, and the cartridge should move to the middle, revealing a gunky mess, including the ink absorber. Lots of good quality kitchen paper should help you absorb a fair amount.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

How to Stop Snoring

Snoring is one of the big problems couples may face. Its a big claim, as so few people talk about it. But scratch the surface and you discover many many couples have abandoned the marital bed. Those that have stuck it out are really struggling - usually the long-suffering partner of the snorer is suffering from lack of sleep, which leads to increased stress, and resentment of their snoring partner. Those in separate beds lose out on intimacy and bonding, which has long term effects as well.

I snore myself, and shortly after my wife and I were engaged, I decided I had to do something about it, as I really did not want to start married life in separate beds.

I did some research and tried some cheap options - sprays and nose clips - and they were useless. Then I found a Danish product called SnoreMender. It was a bit like a gumshield, and worked by holding the lower jaw forwards. The idea was that holding the jaw forwards would move the tongue away from the back of the mouth, opening up the airway.

It made sense, but I was sceptical. Still, I shelled out and bought one.

Well - it was uncomfortable at first - in fact I could only wear it for an hour, the first two nights. But needs must, so I persevered.

And it was the best thing ever - my snoring was gone, and my wife has not been driven out of the bed by my snoring (except the rare night I forget to put it in...)

Summary: Snoring - Don't despair, it can be solved - 6 years of experience using SnoreMender proves it!

To find out how to stop snoring visit and see what they say.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tuition fees - nobody understands

Tuition fees is being continually raised as a Lib Dem failure and a huge increase in what students pay - both of these are wrong.

I have modelled the costs of this scheme, compared to the old scheme.

The results are quite scary, and people are completely misunderstanding what the new system means, for students, universities and the country.

The problem is that its actually the exact opposite of how it is being portrayed by the media. The system was engineered by the Lib Dems into a very very progressive system, and in fact they have made it far too progressive in reality.

The key facts are:

- More than half students will pay LESS than under the old system
- It makes it even easier for poorer students to go to University
- It is a shift in tax towards the higher earners
- Studying degrees that will lead to poor earning jobs is more favourable in the new system
- Tuition fees or no fees - the money has to come from somewhere - there is no such thing as a free degree - I have yet to hear a single person say this, but its an obvious truth.
- Average graduate starting salary (including students who fail or do poorly or drop out) is about 17000/yr
- A large proportion (over half most likely) of loans will be partly written off after 30 years.

Some example figures:
Start: 15000, 30yr: 35000, Old cost: 17310, new cost: 13284
Start: 17000, 30yr: 40000, Old cost: 24231, new cost: 21262
Start: 21000, 30yr: 40000, Old cost: 23830, new cost: 25723
Start: 25000, 30yr: 50000, Old cost: 22585, new cost: 44664
As you can see, its cheaper for low earners, more expensive for high earners

The problem for the LibDems is their TOTAL FAILURE to communicate the policy by all concerned (Vince Cable needs the folks who wrote their manifesto to put out some human readable information about it).

The real problem is that the new system is not fit for purpose and open to abuse and will encourage all the wrong things (more photography degrees).

1. Universities are going to realise that they can run a useless belly dancing course, charge 9000/yr for 3 years, and collect 27000, for a course that can be taught for 500/yr. Basically they can use it as a moneymaker for the university.

2. Students are going to realise they can use it as a 3 month holiday. Anyone who is not going to earn a big salary, or who intends to become a full time parent, or knows they are going to only earn say the national average wage, can take 3 years out, do some rubbish course, collect their part of the loan, and have a great time but achieve nothing.

3. The whole point of state funded education is that it is the country investing in its future. That means spending money where it will achieve a return - not providing leisure activities for people with no desire to pay their own way in the world.

4. One assumption of the new system is that higher earners will over-pay, thus funding those that never pay off their loans - basically the higher earners will fund the 30 year writeoffs. BUT The problem is that once this is realised, there will be a market in selling loans to those likely to pay them off - eg Oxbridge candidates, doctors, dentists, accountants etc. A smart financial instutution will basically undercut the government scheme, and take the profits themselves, rather than them being used to fund lower earning graduates. It will be akin to toxic debt - the government will be left holding the bad debt, and the banks will end up with the valuable debt.

We need instead to turn the whole fee system upside down and start again. Key goals should be:

- Availability to all, regardless of financial background
- Focus funding on degrees with value - eg engineering, computing, sciences, medicine, media (we need entertainers), journalism (they all need a statistics course added in...), politics, business, management etc etc
- Reduce the cost of educating (universities are hugely inefficient - why don't they share best teaching instead of guarding it so jealously?)

Its time we had a proper debate about university funding, tuition fees and faced up to the facts, rather than everyone indulging in misleading rhetoric.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


I have been using email for a long long time, and have always stuck with downloading my email using pop, and storing it on my computer, but as I am now sending out 100+ customer emails per day on top of other business email, it had to be something I could share the work with someone else, so I could hand off customer support.

I had heard good stuff about gmail, and so I did some experiments.

Now my email setup is complex - I have about 6 domains, in multiple languages, and the customers need a reply in their language, from the domain they contacted (or spam filters cause even more problems than they already do).

Also I have a huge amount of historic email from customers (60,000 emails approx) that I needed to be accessible.

So after some quick tests, I decided to try for switching over.

gmail will pull email in from up to 5 pop accounts so that let me pull in all the incoming email. It automatically does this every few minutes - you can enable a labs option to give you a refresh button, but in practise I haven't used that - but if you had someone on the phone emailing you, you might find it useful.

I used the imap feature to upload all the history. You can upload the same message more than once, and it does the right thing and doesn't duplicate it, so it made it easy to manage the handover period - just upload everything from the changeover period again, and it sorted it out.

After that, it was just a case of learning how to get the most out of it - and its a much nicer system than it appears at first.

The key features that make gmail a really useful practical small business solution are:

Labels - These are the equivalent of mailboxes. Basically you can tag an email with one or more labels. Inbox is just another tag for example. That can make for confusion as you can have emails in several mailboxes - but if you tend to just process your inbox, and then file in another mailbox, it works well as you just 'Move' it (gmail feature) that basically tags an email with a label, and then archives it (archive, to gmail, just means remove from inbox)

Automatic translation. I have this enabled, and it makes it so much quicker to do things like pre-scan email for urgent ones, no matter what the language. It also is really easy to see the original message as occasionally the translation is not that clear.

Canned responses - Very simple, but a huge time saver. Around 80% of responses are partly or entirely a canned response - just change the appropriate bits and send it. This has even more so been important for the support folks. Some minor wrinkles in the canned responses (eg the order of them in the menu is not sorted, its just in last saved order, so you have to save them in the order you want) - but basically an incredibly useful feature.

Searching - well, this is fine IF you look for whole words. As soon as you want to search for a partial - eg the first part of a misspelled name, or part of a transaciton id, its a huge fail. This is the biggest weakness so far in gmail. My workaround was first to try CloudMagic - but in the end that still only does 'begins with' so I gave up on that. Now I rely on the imap connection to Eudora OSE (basically Thunderbird), and it downloads all the emails and Eudora lets me search very well.

Threading (conversations) - Don't bother trying - its useless. It basically puts different conversations into one, and is ridiculously confusing. But its fine without it, because the search works well for this - just search on the customers email and you see all the emails.

Preview - not directly available, but there is an option to enable it fairly conveniently (right click on a message). Also the summary line includes as much of the email as you have width for, so just make the window wide and you can see the start of the emails.

Settings - That brings me to the key thing you need to know about gmail - the default settings are a bit poor - all the good stuff is hidden in the "Labs" part of their settings. Go in there and enable the following:
- Canned responses
- Automatic translation (if you need it)
- Reply to All as default - saves remembering to not reply just to sender.
- Message sneak peak - gives instant preview by right clicking on a message
- Inserting images - allows you to embed images fairly easily
- Auto advance - so it shows the next email, after you 'archive' one
- Undo send - lets you set a delay on sending - I have it set to 20 seconds
- Advanced IMAP controls. Use this to stop your email client downloading several copies (in particular the All Mail folder and the 'account' tagged emails (ever incoming email is tagged with the account it was emailed to by default))

Multi-user access I saw a nice option to let someone else access your gmail account, so eg you could have 5 support folks all accessing the same account. Well, it turns out its useless, because you can NOT have any of the 'Labs' options enabled for those users.

However, you can just let several people all use the same email account - multiple logons work fine - you just need to have a modus operandi so you do not both reply to the same email - in my case we do it by starting at top or bottom of the inbox - you could do it by alphabetic breakdown or whatever. Worst case is if you both reply at the same instant the customer gets two replies, but its unlikely to be a problem.

Bits - hover over things with the mouse and there are useful options, such as hover over an email address and there is an option to show all emails with that person. Hover over a date and it shows the time. Also get used to using your back button - when you are replying to someone, and want to check something out, you do a searc etc - just go back a few times, to get back to the email you were writing.

Spam control - well, disable it - you have to do this using a filter - you use "is:Spam" in the 'Has the words' field, and when you go to next step, there is an option to never send to spam.

Backup - well, there are custom utilities that will do it, but I prefer to just use an Imap email client and sync it all with my local email client, and backup the data from the local client. Make sure to configure that to download full emails and so on of course - as you can set imap clients up to only download headers or recent emails etc. I'm using Eudora OSE for this.

Summary - Overall I am thoroughly impressed with gmail. Sure, it has some wrinkles, and is not perfect, but its transformed my job as I have offloaded most of the customer support now, and I can handle the rest of it a lot more quickly.