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Friday, August 29, 2014

Vacation - 2014

With our family Mini-Van repaired it was time to take off for our vacation away from the hustle, bustle, and noise of the NYC area.  Earlier this year, my wife found a farmhouse in the Catskill mountains using a website called Flipkey.  The house, in Hobart NY, was located on The Rich Family Farm.  The reviews were positive and we placed our deposit for the days we wished to stay in late August. 

Our day came to leave, our bags were packed and off we went, over the GW Bridge, up the Pallisades Parkway to the NY State Thruway to Kingston.  From there it was local driving winding through the small towns along the way until we reached Hobart and found the farmhouse.

We unpacked and were surprised at how large the house was.  It had a spacious kitchen with a nice enclosed porch, perfect for morning and afternoon coffee.  The living room was tremendous as well with a large dining room table.  The living room was comfortable for all of us.  The first night, we turned off the TV and played games with the kids. 

The next day, we went out in the morning and visited Howe Caverns.  It was a nice tour underground with cool temps and a fun boat ride.  We got back to the farm house and rested and then used the fire pit to start a fire and make S'mores. 

On Wednesday, we slept in and went into town.  There we visited 2 of 4 bookshops located off the main street of the town.  My children got a kick out of the cats hanging out in one of the shops.  The staff of the shops were very nice and we found books for the kids.  We got back to house, had lunch and headed off to Cooperstown. 

Cooperstown was about a 1 hour drive from the Farmhouse and as we got to the town, we opted to park in the first parking lot suggested by the town trolley service.  Parking could be tough near the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We got on the trolley, drove past some beautiful homes in the village and was then dropped off in front of the Hall of Fame.  This is Baseball Mecca for any fan, passionate or not.  From a historical perspective the last 150 years of our country can be seen through the baseball lens displayed in Cooperstown: from its pastoral beginnings to its place in big business today.  We had a fun time checking out all the exhibits of the HOF.  There were so many to see.  We did get some nice pictures there. 

After leaving the HOF, we picked up dinner in a small local diner and watched some of the Little League World Series.  As we left the diner, it began to rain.  We got on our trolley and headed to our van.  As our drive to Hobart began, the rain became something biblical with a deluge of pouring bucketfull of rain.  I had to let Aimee drive as I couldn't see so well on the dark road out of Cooperstown.  We decided to take the way we took from Howe Caverns back to Hobart as we weren't familiar with the road we took to I-88 going to Cooperstown. This added a few extra miles but the weather was mixed all the way through until we got to Hobart.  Thankfully, the lights were turned on for us by our hosts otherwise it would have been hard to find the farmhouse on our return. 

The next day was sad as we had to pack up for our return home.  Our family had a fun and peaceful time at the farmhouse, I don't think I ever heard an airplane flying overhead the whole trip.  We regret we didn't get on the bikes to explore the hiking trail but who knows, maybe next year.

 

Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 2 - The Repair.

Just a brief post to update my loyal followers and visitors about the repair done on my wife's Mini-Van.  Just to recap, there was smoking coming from the van's engine.  It was determined that a heater hose Y connection was leaking coolant onto an exhaust manifold and would burn the coolant giving off the smoke and smell.

Researching this problem on the web, I came across quite a few Chrysler/Dodge owners who've experienced the same problem.  One website was useful in providing step by step instructions to replace the Y connection.

http://tearitupfixitrepeat.blogspot.com/2012/08/08-dodge-grand-caravan-antifreeze.html

After obtaining the replacement parts, I chose a brass t fitting from Lowe's to replace the plastic Y connection as well as heater hose, clamps and anti-freeze, the repair was made.  Other than having to remove the battery from the van - it gave me a chance to clean it - the repair was straightforward.   Remove the connections from the Y cut new heater hose (I used a PVC cutting tool which worked great) make the connections and clamp down the hoses.  New coolant was added to the proper levels and the car was run with no evidence of smoking or leaking on to the exhaust manifold. 

Now, we would be ready to take our vacation upstate a few days later.  







Friday, August 15, 2014

Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 1 - Diagnosis

This post will describe the diagnosis of a leak in one of our heater hoses in our family mini-van and a plan to perform a do-it-yourself repair to correct it.  First some background.  The mini-van is a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.  It is similar to the Chrysler Town and Country and Volkswagen Routan.  Our mini-van was purchased in 2010 and has performed well for us in transporting our family of 5 on trips near and far and for my wife to use as her daily vehicle.  The engine is the 3.3 liter V-6 engine which doesn't allow for the greatest pick-up when entering an interstate but once it gets going it's okay.

Recently my wife, who drives the car, experienced problems with her brakes.  It was repaired and then within a month, she experienced a symptom of the original brake problem: smoking from engine after driving for awhile.  We returned the car to the mechanic who redid the brakes for no charge.  I also must add we found on the internet numerous complaints regarding premature wear on the brakes for these vehicles as well as questioning why Chrysler/Dodge and now Fiat has done nothing to improve the brake system.

Well after a week or so after the 2nd repair job was done, we were experiencing the smoke and smell in the cabin.  My wife took our kids to visit her sister's home for the weekend.  I noticed a small circular mark on the driveway after they left and while talking to her while she was travelling I suggested she ask her brother-in-law to investigate the small leak.

It turns out one of 2 heather hoses was leaking coolant.  These hoses connect by a plastic Y connector and the connector is situated above a large exhaust manifold and when it leaks it evaporates and begins to smoke.  Luckily, she was able to drive it home safely and I made sure to add coolant to her reservoir so she had enough coolant for the engine.  I also researched this new issue and, to some surprise it seemed to be another issue faced by owners of this vehicle.  However, this problem was one that could successfully corrected through a DIY project.  

I found a blogger who successfully replaced his y connector as well as a You Tube video of another Y connector repair which he modified his repair using a brass T connector he purchased at Lowes. 

http://tearitupfixitrepeat.blogspot.com/2012/08/08-dodge-grand-caravan-antifreeze.html


This is the DIY repair I plan on doing for our Minivan.  It's amazing that Dodge uses these plastic Y connectors that are prone for leaks early on in the vehicles life cycle.  I used to own a Ford Taurus and it gave me a lot of problems.  I swore off Ford Vehicles.  Now must I avoid Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep products as well?  So much for buy American.

Wish me luck.