Category: Vehicle Maintenance

So Chuck showed up pretty much right on time, despite only pulling out of Maryland very early Sunday morning.  It felt somewhat weird meeting someone that you “know” from YouTube but I had talked to Chuck on the phone before he came down so it wasn’t a huge deal.  Chuck’s personality in person matched what I had seen online which was a good thing.  I could tell we wouldn’t have a hard time getting along.

So I had done some prep ahead of time, pulling out all of the tools I thought we would need and setting them up on a folding table in the garage. Despite my best efforts we did have to make one trip to AutoZone to grab a deeper 14MM socket to torque the bolts in the recessed area of the front spacer.  It gave me an opportunity to ride and drive Chuck’s truck which was a cool experience.  Since Chuck had already installed a more involved lift on his 4×4 Tacoma we used a combination of his past experience and the detailed color instructions I printed out to guide us.

So from the steps detailed in the instructions, the front lift seemed like the more complex part of the job to accomplish and it was, but it turned out to be less difficult than what we ran into in the rear of the truck.

The issue we ran into was the instructions were written from the perspective of the work being done on a car lift, not on the ground using jack stands.  As a result we had to come up with our own on the fly method to support the rear axle while getting space to install the lifting block.  After we got the blocks in there we had a hell of a time getting the alignment pins on both sides where they needed to be.  At one point Chuck and I were basically holding the rear axle up ourselves, one on each side, while getting the the blocks seated.  It was a bit hairy for a short period of time but we got it in place and secured.

You can tell from the video of the rear that things were tough as I tried to describe exactly what we did and didn’t do a good job of doing it.  There was a lot of seat of the pants actions.

So after everything was all back together we took my truck for about a 10 mile test ride to verify everything felt normal.  It felt and drove just fine, the only difference was the higher driving position which was immediately noticeable.  It’s hard to believe that raising the front of the truck roughly three and a half inches would feel and look so much different but it really does.

Shortly before Chuck pulled out the FedEx truck containing my Monster arrived which was funny timing.  I opened the box while he was still there so he could see one of my non-Tacoma hobbies.  He is an avid motorcycle guy but was impressed with the size of the Monster as I struggled to pull the 60 pound beast from the box.

So it was time for Chuck to roll out back to Sarasota to meet up with his family for the rest of their Florida vacation before they return to Maryland.  I thanked him repeatedly for all the help.  Although I may have been able to eventually complete the job by myself, it would have been MUCH more difficult.  Having Chuck’s experience , tools, and great attitude made the job much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

So Patrick and his girlfriend Nico were due to arrive later in the day although I wasn’t quite sure when.  It gave me some time to edit the large amount of video footage I had from the day.  They wound up pulling in around 7 which worked out pretty well since Cindy was teaching an evening class anyway.  Once Cindy got home we piled in the Prius for a nice dinner at Pelican Larry’s.  We got to hear a lot about the adventures they have had so far in Key West and Miami.  Both Patrick and Nico are adventuresome explorers and seem to be a really good match which is awesome.  Today and tomorrow we have no script although I do need to get my truck to a shop to have an alignment done after the lift sooner rather than later.


After work last night I stopped at Home Depot with the recommended tool list for the leveling kit install.  I needed to pick up a couple impact sockets, wrenches, and even a crow bar.  Chuck is going to be bringing down some of his tools as well so between the two of us we should have everything covered.  I cut a short video last night revealing what the next mod was on YouTube, something I had not done as of yet.  It seems like teasing projects is a popular formula for keeping your subscribers engaged.

So I am off Monday through Wednesday next week.  Chuck and I are doing the lift on Monday during the day and Patrick and his girlfriend are supposed to show up late in the afternoon for a quick three day visit.  I met his girlfriend Nico during my January trip up north and she seems like a great girl.  I am sure we will have a fun visit with them as Patrick is always up for pretty much anything you throw at him.

This weekend I’d like to do a few clean up operations around the household in anticipation of housing visitors.   I also am anticipating the arrival of my Monster which I have been tracking regularly.  As of 9:30 last night it was damn close to entering the Florida panhandle.  I am crossing my fingers that it might actually show up on Saturday instead of Monday.

Yesterday after I verified Retro Fitness was officially closed I drove immediately over to Planet Fitness to join up.  I am crossing my fingers it is only a short term, stop gap measure until some other lunchtime fitness option becomes available. By the time I got done signing up half my lunch hour was spent so I decided to ride my EUC over at Sugden park for a little bit.  I did mostly backwards riding practice that went well except for one incident where I came off the wheel and it kicked around wildly, part of which included the fast spinning tire grinding into my calf, leaving a nice brush burn.

I had a box at my front door last night which contained my latest mod for my Tacoma, color matching dash accents.  When I was speccing out my truck I thought all Inferno colored Tacomas had these accents.  It turned out only the trucks with a black interior got them.  My gray interior instead has the far less visually exciting dark gray accents pieces.

Last week the idea popped into my head that I could probably just order the color coordinated accents and install them myself.  A brief investigation confirmed this and I ordered the parts from the same dealership I ordered my replacement grill.  When I pulled the parts out of the box I did a double take, they almost looked red to me in the dining room lighting.  I verified the parts tag that these were indeed the Inferno colored pieces.

Installation of the pieces was pretty simple, really only requiring a screwdriver and my hands to pry the pieces off the dash and pop them back on.  Of course like any automotive project I shot a video for any other Tacoma owners that might have the same idea as I did.  I like the end result for sure.

So the driver side headlight was out on Cindy’s Prius for a few days.  With her new job she has been on the road early in the morning to teach 530 AM classes so it was sort of important to get it fixed.  I figured I would do it last night instead of waiting for the weekend.  I had prepped by watching a number of videos on YouTube by amateurs.  Watching those videos gave me a good sense of what the job entailed and it was clearly a pain in the ass.

You would think Toyota would make a common maintenance item like headlight bulbs relatively easy to replace.  Well I can attest that they definitely did not consider easy maintenance when it came to bulb placement.  In total I spent around an hour replacing both bulbs.  The majority of the time was spent blindly trying to jam my hand into a small space trying to perform frustrating precise movements.  If you watch the video you will get a sense of how annoying it was, and I cut A LOT of it out.  So anyway, eventually persistence paid off and I got both bulbs swapped out so Cindy can once again drive down properly illuminated roadways. I heard a dealership will charge anywhere between $100 and $300 to perform the same work.

Katie and Bowser were at the house last night for the first time in a couple days.  I have to say, even though Bowser is a big lovable dog, there is a lot more peace and tranquility in the house when he is not there.  Elsa kicks things into the next level of crazy when Bowser is there and his spontaneous barking episodes are something that I can do without quite easily.

So the Tacoma was at the dealer all day having the replacement wire harness installed as well as having some things checked with the transmission.  I made one call a little before 4PM just to make sure the truck was ready to go and had Ann return the call within 25 minutes, a far better response than I ever have received from the old service advisor. She said the truck was indeed finished and ready to be picked up, the first time I have been able to pick up the truck the same day it was dropped off.

When I got the truck I was happy to see the work had indeed been completed but also the car wash that I was promised was actually performed, the first time that has ever happened since I took my Tacoma there. I am hoping I now can enter a prolonged stretch of no unexpected dealer visits except for free maintenance.

Tonight Cindy and I are going to the opening game of the Tarpons.  For the first time ever I opted to not buy season tickets.  Instead we are just going to buy tickets at the door tonight and see how good/bad things are this year.  There are only four home games and one is on a Sunday afternoon with another being on a Monday night which sucks.  The first couple years of the teams existence the games were always on Saturday nights which was so much better.  I also plan to get some cheaper seats instead of the $25 a pop variety we normally had.  That money basically buys you a cup holder and closer seating, neither of which really matters all that much to your enjoyment of the game.  If we have fun we may go to another game or two, if we don’t we won’t.

I hope to get some quality EUC riding in over the weekend as well as attending to the normal cast of to do’s.

So the Tacoma is once again back at the dealership.  The defective wiring harness that took over a month to get has arrived and is due to be replaced to correct the SRS warning light problem.  While it is there I am having them check the fluid level in the transmission. There has been widespread reports of the 2016 Tacomas coming from the factory with low trans fluid levels, especially if the truck has the towing package with the auxiliary trans cooler.  The reason I suspect mine is low is some odd surging I have had while shifting first thing in the morning.  It almost feels like the truck hits neutral for a split second in between third and fourth gear.

I did follow through and request a new service advisor after having back to back nearly identical frustrating experiences with the guy I had.  I asked for a woman that has been there for a long time and that I had dealt with successfully in the past when we had the 2007 Camry Hybrid.

My experience with Ann this morning was great.  She was friendly, conversational, and clear in setting expectations.  She got bonus points when she saw me waiting outside waiting for a loaner vehicle to be brought around.  She asked why I was still there as I had been sitting around 10 minutes.  I told her they said it had to be brought around.  She immediately gave some of the lot guys shit, saying it should have been ready to go. 60 seconds later the car was there and I was on my way.  I am really hoping for a positive dealer experience this time around.

Last night after work I decided to get 20 minutes in on the rower, something I had not done for quite awhile.  The biggest reason for the rowing hiatus was the same thing that stopped my running, the right knee/IT band pain.  I figured since I have now been dipping my toes back into running it is time to row again as well.  It felt good to get a few thousand meters in.

My ass is dragging today due to another night of poor sleep from several different external reasons, the last of which being Sadie deciding to unceremoniously throw up at about 4:30AM.  I will battle the drowsiness with coffee as best I can.  Hopefully tonight I can get the roughly seven hours of sleep I seem to need to perform at a normal level.

So the past few days there has been a growing brush fire in our area.  On Monday night one of the roads I use to get home was closed just past where I get on.  Last night the fire had spread and that road was no longer open to traffic.  The end result was me getting diverted into a quagmire of vehicles, many of which would normally be using the interstate to get home.  My normal 40 minute commute took almost double that this time.

The skies by my office have a doomsday sort of appearance to them from the thick smoke in the clouds.  There is nowhere you can go right now that does not have the persistent smell of smoke, indoors or out.

Tomorrow my Tacoma goes in to have the wiring harness installed that I have been waiting a month for.  I called and requested a new service advisor, hoping to avoid the incredibly frustrating experiences I have had with the other guy who thinks communication with a customer is optional instead of a requirement.


Last night before dinner I wanted to get a quick ride in before dinner so I hopped on my Msuper and headed to the first cross street.  I quietly carved back and forth as I traveled both ends of the street under the bright full moon.  It always feels good to just get out and ride.  Even brief 10-15 minute sessions like last night helps clear the mind and dull some of the sharp things jabbing me in my daily grind.

I was surprised and happy to hear that Cindy was actually out on her wheel in the backyard yesterday practicing, using the new chicken fence as a support.  She said she actually launched herself away from the safety of the fence a few times and free wheeled it.  She said she feels less danger when the potential for falling is on grass instead of asphalt or concrete.

So today on my way to work I had two annoying things happen with my Tacoma.  Shortly after pulling out of the driveway the RPMs on the truck jumped way up, it almost felt like the truck was in neutral.  I immediately backed off the gas.  After doing so when I reapplied the gas the truck felt normal but it concerns me because of the widespread transmission issues that have been reported with the new Tacomas.  I already had mine at the dealer once to have a reprogramming done to the transmission controller to address shifting problems.

Then about five minutes later my information center lights up with alternating ABS/BSM warning lights, the same problem the truck spent 3-4 days at the dealer for a couple months ago.  At that time they replaced the driver side wheel sensor and the problem had not reappeared, until today.

I have to say my new Tacoma ownership experience has not been as smooth as I had hoped it would be.  These various electronic gremlins, transmission issues, and dealing with a shitty dealer have been the source of a lot of frustration, the sort of frustration you hope to avoid by buying a new vehicle.  I turned the truck off and on which made the error disappear but I am pretty sure it will be back.

This weekend I hope to do one more big load of sod and topsoil to raise certain areas in the new chicken run and patch up areas that are bare.  It is always dirty, unfun work but I am hoping it will be the last of it for a little while.  I’d like to take the wheels down to Marco this weekend to try riding around the hilly areas.  We will see how that works out.

So yesterday was Chapter 2 in my SQL corruption trial by fire experience.  Early in the morning we saw the document imaging system generated an error importing a single file overnight.  When we looked in the Windows application log we saw the SQL server generated a 824 error which is bad news.  It basically means for some reason it was unable to write data.   I ran a dbcheck on the database and was not happy to see around 150 “inconsistencies” reported.  I was actually surprised the DB was still online and functioning as this was similar to the errors I saw when the DB went offline 10 days prior.

So I spent the rest of the day trying to determine my best course of action.  Contacting the application vendor last time proved to be pretty worthless but we placed a call with them anyway, which didnt get returned until later in the day, after I already decided on a new course of action. In my research I determined I was missing an important part of a good SQL management plan, regular dbchecks.  By running these checks you can catch inconsistencies early, making it easier to recover from them with minimal data loss.  The only time I ran these was after a problem already existed.

So it seemed like my best option was to pay for a Microsoft professional services incident where you pay $499 and they have a high level tech contact you to remedy the issue.  I placed the ticket around 3PM.  They had a four hour response window.  When I closed my door shortly before 5 I assumed we would be tackling the problem in depth the following day.  Well as I took a couple steps down the hall I heard my phone ring in the office.  I instantly wondered if it was Microsoft calling.  I ran back into my office and picked up the phone.  It was indeed Paul from SQL support group.

We embarked on a roughly three hour trouble shooting session that involved restoring back ups and testing their integrity.  We determined that even the back ups had the same inconsistencies as the production database.  The plan then shifted where the tech ran a repair on one of the backed up DB’s which fixed the inconsistencies by deleting the records that contained them.  The downside of this was a handful of data was deleted but in the big picture in a DB containing millions of images, losing a few is not really a concern.

My main concern was that the application still ran correctly after the clean up.  The tech swapped in the repaired DB and I brought the application back up.  I was able to test various aspects of the document imaging process, it all seemed to be working fine.  I thanked the tech for all of his help.  It was great to deal with someone so knowledgeable and even better that he was not from India.

I didn’t leave the office until a little before 8.  I felt badly because we made plans go riding the PTV’s with Katie and Daniel to look at more Christmas lights.  I was happy that even though I got home late they were still there and ready to ride.  Instead of going to Ave Maria as originally planned we went to the nearby Waterways development which had some very pretty lights as well.

It was a bit chilly with temps in the mid 60’s when combined with the wind from rolling around at 10+ mph.  Even so we had fun and were out there longer than we originally planned.  We made plans to meet up again Friday evening and head out to Ave Maria on the wheels, it should be a very festive and fun way to start off Christmas weekend.

I have known for awhile that the struts on the Prius have not been in good shape which probably helped accelerate the wear of the tires that were just replaced.  It sort of hammers over bumps.  I have now watched the replacement process for the front and rear struts/shocks.  It involved taking a LOT of stuff off just to access to the parts I want to replace.  So although it is involved I would not call it difficult work.  I think I will buy myself a Haynes repair manual shortly and tackle the job as an early 2017 challenge.

This will be my last working day until next Tuesday.  I am looking forward to a great four days with lots of giving peppered with some receiving.



Yesterday I had a different sort of work day that started and ended with riding my Msuper.  I headed to the greenway after work and had a very pleasant roughly seven mile ride before sunlight was totally expired.  I wore my gym clothes and actually felt a bit chilly as I tooled around.  I was cold enough that I actually used the heated seat feature of the Tacoma for the first time ever on the way home.

This weekend I have some automotive work on my plate.  I need to rotate the tires on the Prius to try to stretch a few more thousand miles out of them before they get replaced.  I bought them shortly after we got the car.  It seems nearly impossible that we already have put over 50,000 miles on them.

2017-toyota-tacoma-trd-pro-inline1-2-photo-666034-s-originalThe other task is replacing the overly chrome grill on my Tacoma with the darker and cooler version found on the Tacoma TRD Pro.  I have watched a few install videos for the grill, it looks like it takes some time but is not high on the difficulty scale.   I actually ordered the grill over a month ago.  It took this long to get it due to high demand.  Evidently this is a popular swap out among Tacoma owners.

I am going to willingly subject myself to what is surely going to be a madhouse scene at Costco after work today.  In addition to some grocery items I am hoping to score the few remaining Xmas gifts I need to cross off my list. I just remember to take deep breaths and remind myself it will all be ok.

I was sort of freaked out most of the afternoon yesterday from the news that I guy I knew from the gym for quite a few years dropped after doing a heavy set earlier in the week and died the following day.  He had a brain aneurysm which surely could have been related to the strenuous activity he was doing at the time. He was 49.  Nothing like having mortality thrust in front of your face  to ruin your day.  I can’t help but feel a little weird each time I am in the area of the gym where it all went down.