Monroe Quick Struts Install

A quick summary of some of the things i've fixed on the 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP in the past couple years:

Back in 2013 John and i  replaced the struts on my 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix.  The rear suspension of my car rode like it needed to be replaced, it was scraping the ground and I heard banging noises when I hit potholes.  I ordered the Monroe quick struts through the website Rock Auto.  It seemed like the QuickStruts were the way to go for me, it meant that i didn't have to use a spring compressor.

Back then the struts were $120 each and shipping was another $20 each.  I did notice at the time that the new spring was different to the spring that originally came in my car.  The new spring had several additional coils which were variable in space. I thought that this must be a new and upgraded spring and installed them on my car. 
factory struts, monroe struts, compare

I won't get into the details, if you want to see all the pictures of that first time installing the new struts, click on Replace Pontiac Rear Struts from 2013.  It was quite an ordeal which involved snapping a rusty sway bar link bolt. 

During the past year I haven't really noticed that much of an improvement with the new struts.  It seemed better at first, but after while the car was still bottoming out, maybe even worse than it was originally.  If I put any weight like luggage in the trunk there would be a banging noise when I went over any bump.

Fast forward to a month ago.  I tried contacting Monro, the company who made the QuickStruts.  I sent them an e-mail saying that the struts i bought had collapsed and asked if they would replace them under their warranty.  I waited a few weeks but did not hear any reply. So I decided to contact Rock Auto, which is where i actually bought them through.  Luckily they responded that same day saying the parts were under warranty and they would facilitate the replacement through the manufacturer.  Rock Auto was great.  

The process worked where I would order the new parts, replace them on my car, and ship back the old ones.  The only minor downside is that I had to pay for the $40 to ship the parts back and forth. But I figured I was getting off cheap since I was getting brand-new struts on my car for the cost of shipping.

How to Install Car Struts - Monroe Quick Strut


When the new struts came I was glad to see that the spring which was used, was this same spring which was on my car originally.  Not that variable height spring which they shipped me the first time.
repair struts on pontiac grand prix, 2005, monroe

You can see from the picture that the spring on the left is the part which is less than a year old.  The gap at the bottom of the variable spring when on the car was even closer than it is shown here.  At some points the spring coils were touching each other.
compare monroe struts, quick strut, shocks, old, new, rusted, collapsed

So I went to work removing struts by myself in the garage.  One big advantage I had was learning from the lessons that John and I went through the first time.  I knew that using the jack stand to lift swing arm at the knuckle helped to remove strut bolts at the top.  It applied just enough pressure on the spring so that the bolts wouldn't bink.   Also this time around i remembered to spray lots of WD-40 and JB Weld thread loosener on the sway bar link bolt.  Then I also used a wire brush to clean off the threads.  When it came time to remove the bolt, I was able to remove one side with the air impact wrench, but the other side required the big breaker bar.
how to remove rusted strut bolts, shocks, suspension, large,

Here's a picture of the two large bolts which hold the strut in place.  These both support the entire weight the rear of the car.  It took a big hammer to loosen them to where they could be removed.
how to remove rusted strut bolts, shocks, suspension, large,

It is nice having air tools to do this type of job.  I didn't have all this nice equipment a year ago and we had to do it all by hand.  It just makes it a lot easier removing rusted on bolts and getting into tight places.  Although for most of this job I did use basic hand tools.

Here's what the new strut look like after it was installed. You can see that with the new spring there was plenty of space in between the coils.
install new struts, pontiac grand prix, rear monroe struts, shocks

To attach the top of the strut to the car i needed to climb into the trunk and access the 3 bolts which were under the carpet covering.  It's definitely bit of a tight squeeze to get in there.  This picture doesn't do justice to how type of fit it really is. Using a 90° impact, wrench, and socket wrench it was a bit of work to remove the three bolts.
trunk access bolts, struts, shocks, springs

Even this picture makes it look like there is plenty of room.  But a normal socket wrench doesn't fit over the nut and clear the metal frame.
how to remove rear car struts, bolts, trunk, 3 bolts

Here's another picture of the new strut and old one that i removed.  It's amazing that they look this bad after less than one year.  The coils are all rusted and collapsed.
worn struts, car, monroe quick struts, rusted, warranty

The new struts went one on the same way as before.  Although I did make a big screw-up when I was reinserting those two large bolts.  I was using a big hammer to drive them in and I accidentally hit and cracked the ABS sensor on the hub.  I was hoping it wasn't broken but when i started the car some warning lights appeared.  It's annoying when you set about to fix something on the car and end up breaking something completely different.  One bad swing of the hammer and i had to replace the rear hub.  It was completely fine, but the ABS sensor was cracked and the warning light wouldn't go away.

I'll have to write up everything that went into replacing the hub and put a link to it here.  I've replaced the front hub and wheel bearings on the front tires of my car.

Anyway the ride is much better with the new struts on,  Now it's not bottoming out like it did before. Once I get the new hub in the mail I have to post more pictures of how I installed that. 

One last thing is that i found out later that after replacing the struts and hub i did cause the rear tires to be out of alignment.  It's not serious, just that your tires will wear unevenly and possibly wear out sooner.  So there's another $70 to get an alignment that you need to spend.  I saw online that you could sort of do it with a piece of string, but the camber and heel/toe part seemed too complicated for me to do myself.

Disc Sander - DIY Build for Free

Once again i was inspired to build something in my workshop after watching a Youtube video on Tested.  I've talked about Tested several times before, it's a website/Youtube channel, which focuses mainly on Adam Savage from Mythbusters.  My favorite video's are ones where Adam is building something in his shop.
tested workshop, adam savage, will smith, cases, youtube

Some of the other projects i've done in which i was partially inspired by those video's are:

Folding Tool Box - Nail Gun Case
folding wood box, nail gun case
 Link to build Video - http://youtu.be/weCN9YpEskY

Organize Parts Storage Stacking Cases 
build organize stacking cases, shop, cart
Link to build Video - http://youtu.be/ctgp7JBPLXs

While Adam is building he sometimes talks about the tools he uses and why he likes them.  A couple of times he has mentioned how much he loves using his large disc sander.  In a recent video he did a tour of his shop and again talked about how useful the disc sander is for quickly removing excess wood after cutting on the bandsaw.
adam savage disc sander, how to build, tool, use

Back when he first talked about how useful it was i started thinking that maybe i could use one in my basement workshop.  I do have a really nice PorterCable 3" hand belt sander, but i rarely use it.  It does a great job, but it's heavy and not exactly a precision tool.  With a big disc sander i figured that i could leave it sitting on the work bench.

When i started looking at buying a disc sander i noticed a few things.  First is that they are pretty basic.  There's a motor, framework, platform and the spinning disc.  Second is that most of them are pretty small.  A lot of the stores were selling 6" or 8" bench top disc sanders.  The sander in Adam's shop was a big industrial sander with something like a 16" or 18" disc.  I think he said that it's a 2 horse power motor and can really do some damage if your fingers get in the way.  Third is that they were pretty expensive.  Even for the cheaply made ones like at Harbor Freight they wanted $120.  Here's a pretty basic one on ebay, it's close to $300.
build a disc sander for free, cheap

So for all of those reasons i decided that i could just build my own 12" disc sander.  

Here's a video of everything i did from start to finish, in but there's a more detail write-up and pictures in this blog below

Disc Sander - Make DIY Build


I decided to make the spinning disc 12" for a couple of reasons.  If i'm going to build my own disk sander i might as well make it big.  There's no point in building a small 6" or 8" sander if i could just go to the store and buy one.  I might as well build something that would cost $200 at the store.  I did want to keep it simple though.  Just a motor, frame, disc and surface.  Also it had to be lightweight and compact.  Something like this.
expensive disc sander, price, build

Another thing i thought about is that i had to be able to buy round sandpaper for it.  There were only a couple of places that sell sticky-back round sandpaper in sizes bigger than 12" and it isn't cheap.  Amazon had some 16" sandpaper for around $30 a piece.  But Harbor Freight had a 2-pack of 12" round 120-grit sandpaper for $6.  I really wanted 80-grit but 120 is all they sell.
harbor freight 12" sand paper for disc sander

The last reason why i decided to build a 12" disk sander is because of the power needed from the motor.  I've had an old 1/3 hp 1750rpm electric motor that came from the furnace blower at my parents old house.  Here's the specs.
GE motors specs, HP, RPM wire

The furnace motor is the one on the left, the one on the right is a really old motor that my grandpa gave me years ago.
electric motor for woodworking tools, make tool

After reading a lot of things online, i was worried that it might not be powerful enough. Those big 14" and 16" sanders use 1hp and bigger electric motors.

Obviously i wasn't going to go out and buy a motor, plus i had already installed a small on/off switch on the back years ago.
ge motor, electric motor, size, motor for disc sander size

The 1750rpm was perfect, but many people said that 3/4 hp or a 1 horse power motor is really the right size.  I didn't want to go to the trouble of building the disc sander, just to have it bog down every time i tried sanding something.  But i thought "Eh it'll be fine" so i started building.  One of my goals, to make it as simple as possible, is always a lot harder than you'd think.  Looking back at the final product it looks like it should have taken 5 minutes to build, and yes if i had to build it again now it probably would take 5 minutes.  But there's always a lot of thought that goes into making something simple.  You have to strip away the unnecessary parts, getting down to just the basic core of the machine.

I drew lots of different versions of how i thought it might look.  From different motor mounts, to a sheet metal dust screen, to a pivoting platform so that i could sand at different angles.  But i finally ended up on a very compact and basic design.
diy disc sander plans, list, parts, disk, size, dimensions

I knew that in order to keep it cheap and light-weight i would make the "frame" out of wood.  But before i began building i needed to decide on the disc itself.  My original plan was to use metal, aluminum specifically.  Steel would be too heavy, straining the motor every time it tried to start spinning.  Aluminum is not only light but it's a strong metal that can be shaped on a lathe.  Disc sanders you buy in the store use an aluminum disc, which varies in thickness.  For a big 16" disc sander like Adam's, the aluminum disc might be 3/4" thick.  It has to be rigid enough to not bend when pushing on the end away from the center.

I looked for about a month for a round piece of thick aluminum that i could use.  But not surprisingly it's not easy to find a 12" piece of 1/4" thick aluminum just lying around.  I concluded that the disc i would use would not be made out of aluminum.  So i decided to use wood.  I knew that i wanted to use something like plywood or particle board.  If i had used a solid piece of cut pine, it's possible that it would bend or bow because of the variance in its grain.  With wood that's been laminated together, the difference in the pieces and direction make sure to keep it from warping.  So i ended up using a piece of 3/4" melamine.

Melamine isn't cheap, a 4'x8' - 3/4" board cost around $38.  I've used melamine in the past as the work surface for my work benches.  It's a very sturdy, rigid board with a really great smooth white plastic coating on both sides.  I've used it on both my work benches and i also used it when i built the table top for Karrie's arts and crafts table.  Here's me cutting out the top many months ago. 
melamine board, arts and crafts, table top

You can see the same piece of scrap wood in the picture above is the piece that i was using.  Also on the table were just some random scraps of wood that i thought would work.
parts needed to make a disc disk sander, free, easy, cheap

To begin i started by cutting the melamine in a 12" circle.  I did this by drilling a small in a piece of plastic, then drilled another hole 6" away.
easy circle drawing tool, make

Then i drilled into the piece of melamine and left the drill bit sticking out of the wood.  It acted as the center fulcrum for drawing the circle.  The first hole i put through the drill bit and the second hole i used to draw the circle. 
how to draw a perfect circle, wood, shop, tools, gauge

Then i got out my jig saw and cut the 12" disc out.  The funny thing is that the perfect tool that i could have used to smooth out the cuts would have been a big disc sander.  It would have been nice to use the tool i'm building, to help me build the tool i'm building.  (that sounds like something out of a Dr Seuss book)
how to cut a perfect circle, wood, saw

Then i came to the next, and probably the most critical step, figuring out how i would attach the 12" circle to the motor.  This was the part of the machine that had to be done right.  It not only had to be strong, but it also had to fit tightly to the motor shaft and the disc.  If it was wobbly or not at a perfect 90 degree angle the sander wouldn't work.  
12" disc sander mockup

The ideal thing to use would be a big pulley which fit the shaft of the motor.  Unfortunately the only things i had were a tiny 1" pulley, random metal bracket, and plastic sprocket.
main problem with diy homemade disc sander, attach

One good thing about the pulley is that it fit tightly and had a bolt that locked to the flat part of the shaft.  To strengthen the critical point and expand the area where the twisting force would be applied, i decided to add a large metal washer.  The washer provided extra strength and also gave me a place to mount the 12" disc to the motor.
choices for disc sander attachment

Next i drilled 4 holes through the metal washer, then marked and drilled 4 matching holes in the disc.  I figured that it would be easier to drill the holes in the washer before attaching it to the pulley.
how to attach disc to motor, wood, metal

To attach the washer to the pulley luckily i had just the right tool, my welder.  I bought a cheap 90 amp welder from Harbor Freight a few years ago and have used it on a few projects.  So far it's worked great for welding my mufflers and attaching wheels to metal tables.
welded muffler, muffler pipe weld

So i went to the garage and started welding the washer to the pulley.  I didn't do what you would call a pretty job, but it was definitely strong.  I welded full beads around the front and back.
welded washer, coupling, 90 degree, angle

Here's a closeup of what the coupling looked like.  Not perfect but hopefully good enough. 
pulley coupling, sander, weld

It was easy finding just the right bolts to use, now that i have my stacking cases.  Everything is so organized.
organize bolts, washers, nuts, parts, cases

To make it nice and strong i used fairly large bolts to attach the two together. Here's about where i was at.
basic sanding station

Before i went any further i figured that i should probably test to see if the motor can spin the disc fast enough.  So with one hand i held the motor to the table and with the other hand i turned it on.  Lets just say that there was plenty of power.  And that it's not easy to hold down a motor spinning a 12" piece of wood at 1750 rpm.  It almost vibrated off the workbench while i was holding it.  But it passed my un-scientific power test and i decided that it was plenty powerful enough, i could continue.

Next it was time to start building the frame to hold the motor and attach the platform.  To hold everything together i decided to use a scrap piece of 1x12.  I think it used to be part of a shelf board in one of the closets in the house.  It seemed pretty simple to me, just 4 boards and a platform on top for the surface to rest the wood on while i was sanding. 
mockup, disc sander, frame

With everything basically set, i was ready to glue it together.  I didn't have a good clamp for the 3 boards in the back so i used my 50lb anvil.  It worked well.
tools you need for a shop, anvil to glue

Then i had to make the motor mount.  For the 12" disc to clear the table i had to raise the center point at least 6" up.  The distance from the center of the motor to the bottom was around 3" so that meant that i had to raise it up at least another 3".  Back before i started building i came up with some fancy designs using bent sheet metal for the motor base.  What i ended up using was 3 pieces of a 2x6 pine board.  The wood was strong, light and provided me with a more than adequate base to attach the motor.
tools you need for a shop, wood, work, sander

The last piece was the platform.  This is where i would rest/brace whatever i was sanding perpendicular to the disc.  I originally thought about having the platform pivot so that i could sand an angle between 90 and 45 degrees.  But i figured that i don't ever need to be that precise, if i needed to sand an angle i could just lift the piece and eyeball whatever angle i needed.  Plus a pivoting platform would not be as strong as something that i fixed in place.  So i just glued and screwed two 2x4's and two 2x3's to the base.  On top of those i attached the melamine platform.
diy wood, shop tools, make, how to, need, have

Again i decided to use melamine because it's strong and great to work with.  Plus the scrap piece was large enough for what i needed.  So i attached the motor and disc to the completed frame and test it again.  Almost everything worked perfectly.
big disc sander plans, frame, how to, make, build

The motor was solid and the platform was fine, but the disc had a small wobble.  It must have been when i welded the washer to the pulley.  I assumed that the washer was flat, but it must have been slightly bent.  Something that isn't noticeable on a 3" spinning piece of metal, but that gets magnified 4x on a 12" piece of spinning wood.  I tried using small shims and adjusting the bolts, but that didn't work.  Eventually i got the disc wobble/fluctuation to go away by brute force.  With the motor locked in place i forcibly twisted the disc until i was able to bend the washer back to a simi-flat shape.  There was still a small wobble, noticeable when you spin it with your hand, but at full speed you can't tell.  

The last few steps were markings and paint.  I used a sharpie to mark the center of the platform and different angles to the disc.  It's important, for a counter-clockwise spinning disc sander, that you don't use the right side of the disc.  If you do the thing you're holding will go shooting from your hands, since the disc is spinning upwards.  You want to use the left side where the disc is rotating downward to the platform.
how to build a disk sander, disc, 12" big, wood, woodshop

Another angle of what it looked like.
diy 12" disc sander, electric motor, frame

And here it is from the back.  Super simple.
disc sander, diy, make, build

For paint i did what i always do, use whatever color paint i already have.  I used up all the old red paint with the welder cart, miter saw, and tool box.

Wood Tool Box
wood tool box

Welder Cart
welding cart, lightweight, wood, rolling

Miter Saw Stand
organize parts, stacking cases, harbor freight

For the last project i did:
Organize Parts Storage Stacking Cases
organize parts, stacking cases, harbor freight
I used some old lime green paint that was left in the basement when we bought it.  There was still plenty left so i decided to use that again.

I made sure i taped off the top melamine surface with masking tape, then applied 2 coats of the green paint.  After those dried i applied 2 coats of polyurethane.  And the sander was done.
free homemade disc disk sander, woodworking, free tools, build, make, plans

I'm super happy with the 12" disc sander i built.  It ended up being everything i had hoped.  It's small, light weight, easy to move and cheap to build.  Basically the only thing i had to buy was the sandpaper.  So really i only spent $6 for the whole thing.  A lot better than $280.
easy to build disk disc sander

It does a great job of sanding wood, even with the 120 grit sandpaper it can remove a lot of material in a couple seconds.  Once again i have a tool that i can't imagine having to get by without.


Car Window Regulator Track Fix

A quick summary of some of the things i've fixed on the 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP in the past couple years:

One day while driving home from work I rolled down all the windows in the car to get some fresh air.   After the inside of the car cooled down a bit I pushed the switches to rol lup the windows and heard a terrible grinding noise from the rear passenger door.   I knew something was wrong, there was a definite metal grinding noise and the window was jamming.   When I got home I left the car running and went to check the window.   Everything seemed fine but when I pushed the switch to roll it back down there was another grinding noise and the window didn't seem to be sliding very well.  I pushed the switch to slide it back up and there was more grinding coming from inside the door.   Even using my hands to help raise the window didn't work, it was stuck in place.  I thought that I had broken the window motor.  I knew it wasn't the broken switch, fuse, or electrical problem because it was obviously trying to work.

So I went inside and started doing some research on Youtube, as always.  It wasn't very clear as to what could be the problem, it didn't sound like a very common thing to happen on cars.  Some people complained about loose wires or faulty motor.  But I was pretty certain that I wasn't having the same problem they were describing with my window, motor or track.  So to fully understand what was going on I had to remove the inner door panel, so that i could get a look at the inner workings.

Here's the full video of what i did, over a couple of days, in an effort to fix my electric window.  I eventually got it fixed, but it wasn't easy and it wasn't cheap.

Fix Car Window Regulator Track - GM


I've removed the inner door panel of my car before.   A year ago I replaced the side mirror on Karrie's car.   She also has a Pontiac Grand Prix and to fix the mirror i had to remove the front drivers side door panel.   It's like everything when it comes to working on cars, the first time you try to fix something takes 5 times longer than the 2nd or 3rd time.  

For the Grand Prix's you have to pop off a plastic cover plate, remove 2 bolts, then use a thin plastic tool to work your way around the outside of the panel, wedging and popping the metal clips.  There's about 8 or 10 butterfly wedges which snap into the metal door.  Popping off those wedges is the hardest part.   You know you have to pop them off, but don't want to break the plastic panel.  You just have to work your way around the door, pushing and wedging plastic tool in, until you hear a pop sound and the door panel is loosened. Here's what it looked like after the door panel is removed and the plastic dust cover is peeled down.

Just a note, if you're doing this on a hot day, that black tar sealant is really sticky and you wouldn't want to get it on anything. It's best to just completely remove the cover and get it out your way.
how to fix a broken car window, won't work, motor, regulator

There wasn't a lot of space to see what was the problem.  But I eventually noticed that the wire connection which lifted the window had broken from its plastic mount. You can see that this white plastic piece in the back should be attached at the top of the metal frame, instead it was all the way down in the center of the frame.
car electric window won't work, roll up or down

I wasn't 100% sure that it was the only thing broken so I checked the other rear door.   I took off that door panel and plastic cover.  That's when I was sure that the only broken part was the white plastic piece and wire which was attached.

Here's another view of what it looks like.  The white plastic pies wasn't really attached to anything here.  It should be securely attached to the top of the metal frame.  You can see the residue where the plastic piece used to be attached at the end.
broken window track, regulator, wire, plastic, gm, pontiac

I decided that there was no way to fix it while it was in place.   I could barley see the broken part, let alone fix it inside the door.  So I had to remove the door track and motor from the inside of the door panel.  The first step was to loosen the bolts and padding which attached the track system to the glass window.  The window track system is technically called the window regulator.  Once those bolts were loosened the window was able to slide up and down freely.  But you want to make sure not to drop it or the window will slide down and break inside the door frame.   So I used masking tape to hold the window in the fully up position, out of the way.

Next I removed all the bolts which held the window regulator in place and was able to remove it from the door frame.  You don't want to leave just the masking tape holding your window up for 2 reasons.  First is that the tape could tear and the window could fall and break.  The second is that people will know that there's a problem with the window and could just break right into your car.  So I used a piece of 2x4 to wedge the window up in place inside of the door panel.  And a couple pieces of duct tape were used to hold the 2x4 in place.
how to remove car door panel, clip, plastic, window, motor, switch

At the center of the regulator was the electric motor which attaches to a plastic housing.  Inside that round plastic housing is a spool in which the two wires coil around.   As the switch is pressed for the window to go up or down, the motor turns and the wires are spooled in opposite directions.  Those wires pull the metal track up or down and the window, which is attached, is raised or lowered.

The problem I had is that the plastic piece which attaches to the wire at one end had broken.  It's amazing how much of this window track system is made of plastic.  With all the torque being put on the window, the motor, and the wires, it seemed like this little plastic piece was a weak point.  I thought I would be able to repair it but had problems fixing to the wire spool.  I had to go in the basement and completely disassemble the plastic spool and the motor.  Inside the wires were all tangled up.  So i had to completely undo the wires just to have enough slack on the wire that needed to be fixed.  Only then was I finally able to latch the broken plastic piece and glue it in place.  I wasn't sure how well the the glue would hold the plastic to metal.  Here's what my quick fix looked like.
fix broken window regulator, wire, plastic, motor

Before putting it back into the door frame I decided to give it a try to see if it worked.  I wasn't sure if I reassembled the motor spool and wires correctly and I wanted to make sure that everything traveled freely before I went to all the hassle of bolting it back in place.  This is the point at which I made a really dumb mistake.  

I had the car ignition turned on and the window regulator plugged in, but when I flipped the switch nothing happened. I didn't realize that I had the child security window lock switched to the 'ON' position and there was no way to operate the window with the rear door switch.  At the time I just figured that I screwed up when I reassembled the electric motor.  So I was settled with the fact that I needed to buy a whole new window regulator system, $70 later I ended up with this.
gm window regulator, pontiac, rear, drivers side

The new window regulator is on the left and the old one is on the right.  Again before bolting in the new window track system I wanted to check to see that it would travel up and down correctly.  I plugged it in, pressed the switch and again, nothing happened.  The only thing I could think of was that I blew a fuse or damaged something else more seriously than I thought.  This is when I need to remember that the simplest answer is always the right answer.   I only realized what was wrong when I walked to the drivers side door and saw that the child window switch was locked on.  After switching it off the window motor worked and the track moved up and down.

I felt like a bit of an idiot spending $70 on a new regulator which didn't need to be replaced.  I knew that I would eventually be installing the new track system, but I wanted to see if my fix would have actually worked.   So I reconnected the electrical cable to the original regulator system that I glued back together.  When I pressed the switch the track did move down, however when I tried to raise the track, the wires in the plastic spool became all tangled.  A few more attempts to raise and lower the window and the regulator was completely seized again.  I felt a little better knowing that I would have had to buy a new window track system anyways.

I unplugged the old broken window regulator and began installing the new one into the car door frame.  It only needs 3 bolts to attach the regulator to the frame.  Then 2 tensioning bolts at the bottom, which attached the regulator to the window.  With everything in place I replaced the plastic cover and inner door panel.  

Now it all works perfectly, just like it did before.   Sometimes when working on cars you can replace a single part, but in this case it's an entire "sealed" unit that you have to replace.