Friday, November 20, 2009

Breckwell Pellet Stove

My Father recently acquired a non-working pellet stove. It's a Breckwell p24fs Pellet Stove 1992-1996. manual (propane torch) ignition. I believe I have diagnosed it, but it hasn't been used much yet.

  • Auger won't feed automatically. 
  • Light comes on, 
  • Manual feed button works. 
  • At first the breaker blew when plugged in. (someone had some wires mixed up)
    • The previous owner had 2 diagnoses: Their book said: Bad auger control therm-o-disk ($15) and "The guy who works on them" said: Bad control board ($250). 
    • Jumping the thermodisk had no effect so that leads to the control board. 
    • Although not noted anywhere there is a 3/4amp fuse on the control board. You have to disassemble the front (switches, knobs) to access it. Be careful of the stop ring on the fan control switch, it fell off and I had to figure out which hole it goes in. 
    • With a new fuse we still get the same exact symptom. Sounded bad for the board. Now however jumping the thermodisk results in a properly working auger motor!
    Both diagnosis were correct.
    • A new auger therm-o-disk is needed.
    • If a repair man had come he would undoubtedly have replaced the control board. (although it only needed a $0.50 fuse) 
    • Time will tell if there is an underlying problem or if we can blame it on the switched wire or an unknown cause.
    Notes: at some future point (1997 perhaps) they changed the design of the control board. the fuse(s) are now accessible without disassembling the board. just pop the control module out, fuses are on the back. Smart folks, why wasn't this like that? I wonder how many control boards are replaced for a fuse?

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    2005 Saturn ION no crank, no start.

    I just finished repairing a 2005 Saturn Ion that broke down (conveniently) in my driveway. My brother drove it in and a couple hours later it would not crank.

    The Symptoms
    These cars are known for a ignition switch malfunction, but the symptoms were slightly different (the security light did not flash*).

    • Everything seemed to power up but would not crank.
    • PWR STR, SERVICE VEHICLE, and COOLANT errors were displayed on the dash.
    • I was unable to connect to the OBD2 bus.

    The Diagnosis
    The Battery is located in the truck. There are 2 positive wires running from the battery forward. the big main one to the starter motor and fuse-box and a smaller one with an inline fuse holder several inches from the battery which apparently goes directly to the ECM.

    • The spare tire compartment had about 1" of water setting in the bottom which submerged the connector just after the inline fuse.
    • The wire corroded off both sides of the connector, shorted and blew the fuse.

    The Repair

    • Twisting the wires together and replacing the fuse resulted in a running car. The wires were soldered.
    • The Check engine light was on however with a code p0315 Crankshaft Position System Variation Not Learned. According to most websites, solving this requires a "CASE Relearn Procedure"on GM's Tech2 scan tool. Apparently it will never clear itself. However there are several aftermarket scan tools that can do this. I happen to have a TriCAN from I love this tool, it does a huge amount of things many expensive hand held units don't. It has it's downsides though, it requires the use of a laptop, and in this case I could enable the CASE Relearn, but had to figure out what to do next from forums, etc.

    The CASE Relearn procedure
    • Bring coolant temp up to 158F+
    • Shut off car
    • Wait 10+ sec
    • Start car
    • Hold foot firmly on brake from now on
    • Enable CASE Relearn
    • Steadily increase RPM until it hit's the (lowered automatically by the test) rev limiter at 4000RPM
    • Remove foot from throttle immediately at the first blip
    • MIL should go off at this point
    • Clear code (stays as historical)
    The Moral
    Always check the simple stuff, I spent several days hunting for problems up front because the truck was so full of junk I couldn't even look at the battery. I assumed that as long as i had power up front the battery area was fine. How wrong I was...
    Oh, wiring diagrams are your friend.

    * If your security light is flashing you probably need a new ignition switch, they are a very common problem.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    An Introduction

    This is a brief introduction of Steve's Fix it Shop

    I've had a knack for mechanical, electrical, and miscellaneous troubleshooting as far back as I can remember. As a child i really enjoyed tearing things apart and trying to figure out how they work, I never quite outgrew that. So now I build and fix things.

    It occurred to me that others may find some of the lessons I've learned useful. Thus I intend to document my adventures whenever possible. This will serve both as a reference for me and anyone with a similar problem. I don't warrant that anything described here is safe or correct, but I will try my best to achieve both. I also have an strong interest in alternative energy, Linux, dogs, organic gardening, and about a million other things. Some of these will undoubtedly end up here as well.