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Repair a buried cable.

If you're digging holes in your backyard, you should always call 811 a few days beforehand to mark all the underground utilities. Unfortunately, privately owned wiring will not be marked, so it's still possible to strike an electrical cable. It's especially likely if you're digging between the house and a freestanding garage, shed or yard light. If you do cut a power line, though, it's easy to fix. Here's how.

Assess the damage

Thin off the circuit breaker to the cut cable and double-check at the damaged area with a voltage sniffer to be sure it's really off. Then enlarge the hole to a 2-ft. diameter. If the cable is cut cleanly, you can just splice it back together with a single underground splice kit. But if it's cut or nicked in several places, you'll have to remove the damaged section and splice in a "jumper" piece of UF (underground feeder) cable using two splice kits.

Two types of splice kits

Underground AC splice kits come in two varieties: heat-shrinkable tubing and gel-filled shield. Both use a brass splicing block to connect the wires. But they differ in how they protect the splice.

The most common type of kit protects the splice with an 8-in, length of heat-shrinkable tubing filled with watertight hot-melt adhesive. (The Gardner Bender HST-1300, $14, is shown.) Slide the tubing over the cable before you connect the wires to the splice block. Then slide the tubing over the connector and shrink it with a heat gun (best) or a torch (gently!). The other type is a corrugated plastic shield filled with an encapsulating gel. (Shown at far right and in Photos 1-5 is the Tyco Electronics PowerGel Wrap-around UF Splice Kit; $30). It's twice the price, but it installs much faster, is goof-proof and is very long lasting.

Make the splice

Start by cutting out the damaged sections. Then cut, separate and strip the ends of the buried cable (Photo 1). Do the same for the additional section of cable (if needed). Next, secure the wires in the brass holder (Photo 2). Locate the splice block in the protective shield (Photo 3). Wrap the shield around the splice and secure it (Photo 4). Then repower the circuit to make sure the splice works.

To make it easier to locate the splice in the future, mark it with bright-colored surveyor's tape (Photo 5). Then refill the hole.

Splicing low-voltage cable

Besides underground power cable, it's also possible to slice through low-voltage lighting, irrigation and telephone cable and coaxial cable. Since they're low voltage, you may be tempted to just twist the wires and wrap the splice with electrical tape. It won't work. Instead, head to a home center and get a couple of low-voltage connectors for direct burial. They rely on gel to encapsulate the splice to prevent water intrusion and corrosion.

For low-voltage stranded cable, like you might find on lighting, use the wire nut/gel-filled tube style. Twist on the wire nut, plunge the connector into the tube until the gel oozes out the top, then snap the lid. For solid irrigation and telephone wire, shove the wires in an insulation piercing gel-filled connector and snap it closed.

Patch hairline cracks in concrete

It's easy to ignore hairline cracks in your sidewalk or concrete patio. But patching them early is the key to preventing them from growing into larger and uglier cracks. The type of sealant you use is critical to a long-lasting repair. Don't use a traditional vinyl or latex concrete patching product--it will dislodge as soon as the slab moves. Instead, use a self-leveling flexible urethane sealer (two choices are Quikrete Polyurethane Self-Leveling Sealant and DAP Concrete Waterproof Filler and Sealant).

Blow loose sand and debris out of the crack with compressed air. Cut the tube nozzle slightly smaller than the crack width and inject the sealer (Photo 1). Allow a few minutes for the surface bead to self-level. Clean up the excess with a rag and mineral spirits (Photo 2).


Hard drives rarely fail without warning. So if you hear buzzing, clicking or low-pitched squeals, your drive is about a day away from the big croak. You can replace the drive yourself and save all your data if you act fast.

First, shut down the laptop. Buy a new (and larger) hard drive to fit your computer. Expect to pay about $100 for a new laptop hard drive. If you don't already have an external backup drive, get one now. And, you'll need "imaging" software to copy your entire laptop drive onto the external drive and then transfer it to the new laptop drive. Finally, you'll need an antistatic wristband to prevent static damage to the new drive. Find all the parts at a computer or electronics store.

We're working on a Dell C840 laptop; it's typical of most PC-style laptops with a "slide-out" drive tray. However, to find the exact procedure for your laptop, just search online for your model number and add "service manual" to the search field.

Start the repair by backing up the failing drive to the external drive (Photo 1). Disconnect the power cord and remove the laptop battery (or batteries). Then remove the failing drive (Photo 2). Using an optional antistatic mat provides an extra measure of protection. With the drive tray out, swap out the drives (Photo 3) and reinsert the drive tray. Then boot the computer with the emergency disk and restore the data from the external drive to your new laptop drive.

Repair your office chair

When casters roll around long enough in dust, dirt and hair, they stop rolling and start skidding. And that's how your floors get scratched up or your carpet gets wear tracks. Sometimes you can bring casters back from the dead by cleaning and lubricating them. So try that first. Just spray household degreaser/cleaner right onto the roller axles. Then spin the wheels to loosen them up. If that helps, rinse off the cleaner, blow them dry with compressed air, and then lubricate them. If cleaning doesn't help, you'll have to replace them. Here's how.

Most office chairs use a twin-wheel grip-ring style caster. The grip ring compresses and snaps into a groove in the socket. The easiest way to remove a grip-ring caster is with a flat bar (Photo 1). Before you buy replacements, measure the width and height of the stem. The most common widths are 3/8 in. and 7/16 in. There's only a 1/16-in, difference between the two, so measure carefully! If you try to fit a 7/16-in, stem into a 3/8-in. socket, you'll crack the socket.

Next, measure the wheel diameter. If you want the chair to push back easier or roll over small items on the floor rather than get stuck, buy a caster with a larger wheel. Buy a urethane tread caster for wood (and composite), tile or vinyl floors. But if the chair will roll on carpet, buy a hard rubber or nylon tread caster.

To install the caster, tilt it into the socket to compress the grip ring (Photo 2). If you can't get it started, apply a drop of oil to the ring. If the caster only goes in halfway, tap it with a mallet (Photo 3).

Two online sources for casters are and

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:HOME CARE + repair
Author:Muscoplat, Rick
Publication:The Family Handyman
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Previous Article:Choose a faucet you'll love: style is critical, but don't forget the practical factors.
Next Article:Sharpening knives and tools.

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