Next-level fixes, and when to call for help.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Troubleshooting -

The door is stick­ing.

Check the top cor­ner, where the free-swing­ing edge (not the hinged edge) meets the jamb. Ex­am­ine the jamb to look for scrapes that in­di­cate the stick­ing point. Look for other ob­vi­ous prob­lems such as a loose hinge. Put down a tarp to catch wood shav­ings, paint scrap­ings, saw­dust. Scrape away paint from the door­jamb, then sand the scraped area smooth, or tighten a hinge. Lubri­cate the door-hinge pins while you’re at it.

Also: It swings open by it­self.

If some ge­nius over-planed or sawed the door, leav­ing a mon­strous gap be­tween it and the jamb, screw a small, thin wood block to the up­per cor­ner of the jamb to fill up the gap. Ad­just the thick­ness of this shim by saw­ing it on a ta­ble saw, hand plan­ing, or sanding. An­other fix: Add fric­tion by re­mov­ing a hinge pin and putting a slight bend in it with a ham­mer. Re­in­stall the pin.

The leg keeps loos­en­ing on my din­ing-room ta­ble.

Turn the ta­ble up­side down on a car­peted or padded sur­face and in­spect the leg. Tighten the cor­ner bracket that se­cures the leg to the two aprons (the hor­i­zon­tal mem­bers at­tached to the leg). No bracket? You can add one at each cor­ner. A set of four steel brack­ets costs less than R100 through wood­work­ing sup­ply cat­a­logues.

The handrail to the up­stairs, too.

A handrail loosens when the brack­ets fas­ten­ing it to the dry­wall studs pull out. Find the of­fend­ing bracket, and re­move one screw at a time and drive in a longer screw, so that the screw is grab­bing more tim­ber. You may also add more brack­ets. If some­one at­tached rail brack­ets us­ing hol­low wall fas­ten­ers, that won’t do. Re­place those with brack­ets se­cured to studs, not merely to dry­wall.

Fence post. Same deal.

Two com­mon post loosen­ers: teenage mower syn­drome and frost ac­tion. The first is on you. For the se­cond, tighten the post by dig­ging around it and pour­ing in a prod­uct such as Sika Pro Select Fence Post Mix, an ex­pand­ing polyurethane ma­te­rial. Mix the con­tents in the bag, slit it, and pour it into the open­ing.

Why aren’t the clothes dry?

Prob­a­bly a lack of air­flow caused by a clogged dryer duct. If the clothes come out moist and warm, this is your most likely cul­prit. Clean the dryer duct with a Linteater clean­ing kit and a cord­less drill.

The floor squeaks.

Pieces of wood floor­ing can squeak against each other or the sub­floor be­low, or mul­ti­ple lay­ers of sub­floor can squeak against each other or against the joist. With floors cov­ered in car­pet or vinyl, the prob­lem is nor­mally with the sub­floor or the sub­floor rub­bing against the joist. If pos­si­ble, make use of snap-off screws that can be driven from the fin­ished side of a wood, car­peted, or vinyl floor, but if you have ac­cess to the floor from be­low, such as through the base­ment or cel­lar, you can use an alu­minium brace. We like Squeak-re­lief.

The light won’t turn on, and I just changed the bulb.

Shut off the power and use nee­dle-nose pli­ers to pull up the tab at the bot­tom of the bulb socket. The tab gets mashed down from peo­ple over-tight­en­ing the bulb. If that doesn’t work, call an elec­tri­cian.

There’s mildew in­side the win­dows and on the tiles.

The most com­mon cause is an un­vented bath­room un­leash­ing mois­ture vapour into the house. To bet­ter vent a bath­room, first you’ll need to as­sess the ex­ist­ing fan and duct set-up. Or you need to think about how to in­stall a fan in the space. That’s no small job, as it in­volves find­ing a power source, cut­ting in the fan box, and in­stalling the fan, the duct, and the duct out­let on the side­wall or the roof. A proper bath fan is worth the trou­ble. It makes for a less soggy bath­room and a less hu­mid in­door en­vi­ron­ment over­all.

The sink keeps clog­ging.

Let’s as­sume you’re not liv­ing in an old house with steel plumb­ing that has an in­side di­am­e­ter the size of a pen­cil. With modern plumb­ing, nor­mally you’ve got resid­ual build-up in the pipe (hair or a thick bio film – a slimy black layer of mi­crobes and residue of what­ever went down the drain). You can etch this stuff out of the pipe with a pro­fes­sional-duty drain cleaner such as Powafix, which works best clos­est to the sink drain and trap. More pro­found build-up needs to be reamed out of the pipe with a me­chan­i­cal drain cleaner that you rent. Note: Ream­ing out the pipe from the kitchen sink to the street or your sep­tic tank is no pleas­ant job.

What’s with this drawer?

And if the drain sys­tem’s vent is clogged by a bird’s nest or a dead ro­dent (just sayin’), then the vent sys­tem needs to be reamed out as well. Brace your­self: There’s noth­ing quite like find­ing a hal­frot­ted crea­ture en­meshed on the end of the drain­clean­ing tool.

The air con doesn’t cool.

A truly filthy in­door air fil­ter may block enough air to cut cool­ing per­for­mance. Re­plac­ing it with a clean, new, ap­pro­pri­ately sized fil­ter is sim­ple. It’s also pos­si­ble that an out­door com­pres­sor/con­denser may need to be cleaned. It may be filthy, or cov­ered in leaves and vines. Frankly, you should call an air-con re­pair per­son. More likely rea­sons: The sys­tem’s re­frig­er­ant charge is low, the com­pres­sor is shot, or the com­pres­sor fan mo­tor is done. Make the call. Is it not clos­ing? Most kitchen draw­ers ride on drawer slides, so first make sure there isn’t a loose screw pre­vent­ing the drawer from clos­ing all the way. But you al­ready did that. Is it stick­ing? Se­verely over­loaded draw­ers will sag

and may even break apart. De­clut­ter the drawer and re­pair its loose parts with glue blocks.

Old-fash­ioned wood draw­ers will sim­ply wear away, or the drawer run­ner will. There comes a time when old-school draw­ers need to be re­fur­bished. In other cases, the paint on their sides may de­te­ri­o­rate, caus­ing stick­ing.

The car­pet stain … reap­peared?

What­ever caused the stain in the first place has sat­u­rated the car­pet pad­ding, and it’s pro­vid­ing a reser­voir that re­leases more of the ma­te­rial (spaghetti sauce, say) ev­ery time you try to clean the spot. The so­lu­tion: First, blot up spilled ma­te­rial as quickly as pos­si­ble. High-qual­ity pa­per towel is ideal. Ap­ply as much weight or force as pos­si­ble to the stain, and even af­ter you’ve blot­ted, weigh down a piece of pa­per towel over the spot, and leave it in place for a few hours. As soon as pos­si­ble af­ter the spill hap­pens, use an ex­trac­tor-style car­pet cleaner on the area. This may take a few passes.

The slid­ing cup­board door jumps its track.

Look up: Worn hanger rollers can cause balky op­er­a­tion; peo­ple will jerk the door off its track. Look down: A bro­ken floor guide will cause the door to swing when it’s pushed or pulled.


You need to do a mouse au­dit, elim­i­nat­ing food sources (bags of dog food and bird seed) and seal­ing ev­ery crack and crevice – cran­nies even! – where they can en­ter. Likely en­tries are through or around the garage door, at­tics, groundlevel gaps, and crawl spa­ces, es­pe­cially on the top edge of the foun­da­tion. While you’re busy au­dit­ing, set some traps per­pen­dic­u­lar to the walls along which the mice run.

There’s no hot wa­ter.

Some check­lists for a ba­sic hot-wa­ter geyser:

Gas ( rare, but some peo­ple have them)

__Set tem­per­a­ture is too low.

__Pilot is out.

__Ther­mo­cou­ple has failed.

__Gas con­trol valve

has failed.

__Poor in­ner cir­cu­la­tion

caused by bro­ken

dip tube.


__Set tem­per­a­ture is

too low.

__Heat­ing el­e­ment

has failed.

__Ther­mo­stat has failed.

__Cir­cuit breaker

has tripped.

The mildew in the shower keeps com­ing back.

A bleach-based scrub-down will buy you some time, but if the mildew forms in the grout where the bath (or shower pan) meets the wall, your only so­lu­tion is to cut out the grout, dis­in­fect the area, and seal it with a mildew-re­sis­tant grout.

Dead patches of lawn.

The top three lawn killers are: dog waste, grubs, fungi. Re­move dog waste as soon as pos­si­ble and soak the area with wa­ter to di­lute ni­trates and urea in the waste. Grubs are easy to find. Use a shovel to pick up the browned area. If you find grubs writhing around, ap­ply a grub killer. Fungi: Find pho­to­graphic sam­ples of fungi on turf web­sites and pro­ceed as di­rected. Get in touch with an ex­pert at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre or nurs­ery – ex­plain your prob­lem, and they are likely to of­fer up some help­ful ad­vice.

Does the toi­let flush seem weaker to you?

In­suf­fi­cient wa­ter level in the tank brought about by a stuck float or mal­ad­justed fill mech­a­nism will cause a weak flush. A flap­per valve that shuts too soon or even a flush han­dle that is out of po­si­tion can also cause anaemic flush per­for­mance. Take the cover off the tank, flush, and ob­serve. If ev­ery­thing in­side the tank looks worn out, just re­place the guts of the tank with a prod­uct such as Flu­id­mas­ter’s Com­plete All-in-one Re­pair kit. De­pend­ing on toi­let age and other fac­tors, for less than an hour’s work, it’s like hav­ing a new toi­let.

The plug point doesn’t work.

Check for a cir­cuit breaker that tripped from an over­loaded cir­cuit. Re­duce the load and try again. No go? Call an elec­tri­cian to fix the prob­lem.

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