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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ideal Mini C24: Fix or replace?

It had to be a fix, really. Even if I had the money, I'm not paying a guy a grand for one day's work swapping a boiler over. Unfortunately I don't have the money so this was only ever going to be a fix.

Righty, my boiler is an Ideal Mini C24. It's a gas "combi" so delivers hot water on demand. There is no hot water tank. From various labels stuck on it, it seems to have been built in 2004 which means that it is getting on a bit. I don't know who fitted it but they could do with some lessons in pipework. There is literally a nest of pipes weaving in and out of each other under the boiler. But that is mainly aesthetics. My boiler had several issues which required attention:

  • The central heating circuit would lose about one bar of pressure during the course of a week (but no visible leaks on the circuit)
  • Running a hot tap would cause all the radiators to get warm
  • Whether it was central heating or hot water, the boiler was noisy (not unlike the sound of a boiling kettle but perhaps a bit more rattly)

So, I did a bit of research. The first thing I looked at was whether I was allowed to work on my boiler at all. The Gas Safe Cartel... sorry... Gas Safe Register would evidently prefer it if I was legally barred from even thinking about working on my boiler. Alas, that is not what the law says and the GSR appears to accept that (without enthusiasm, evidently), in one of its downloadable leaflets. The true position seems to be this: where the law applies, a person working on the boiler needs to be competent. Moreover, it seems doubtful that even that legal requirement applies where the job does not involve interfering with or touching the gas side of things (the gas pipes and valves, any module which controls gas, and within the combustion chamber and flue). Lucky for me, then, my research suggested that all my boiler's issues were on the "wet side" of things. This is where I ended up:

  • the pressure drop in the central heating circuit was likely to be a faulty or dirty pressure-release valve
  • the issue with the hot tap and radiators was due to a faulty or jammed diverter valve
  • the noise was due to a partially blocked secondary heat exchanger (which is where the mains-fed cold water is heated for the purposes of the hot tap)
Since I was still reeling at the prospect of laying out for a new boiler, I didn't mind spending a bit on some new parts (Ideal part number in brackets):

(172494) Pressure release valve
(172507) Diverter valve repair kit
(075460) HW Heat exchanger
(172525) Auto air pressure release valve
(172504) By-pass pipe
(075412) By-pass pipe o-ring (x2)

The last two items on the list were necessary because the original by-pass pipe (being push-fit and held in place by spring clips) had had a liberal dosing of "plumber's mate" or some such white stuff, during original fitment. I ended up wrecking the pipe when trying to remove it because it was stuck fast. Total bill for parts  was £110. Apart from the by-pass pipe, everything else came from ebay. I also bought a second-hand replacement temperature/pressure gauge as the one on my boiler had stopped working in both respects...

As far as the job goes, all in all it took a couple of hours. I'd never drained-down a boiler before so had to read up on that, and make preparations in my new kitchen for potential water spillage. Luckily, there was not too much mess. It also only occurred to me after starting that I would need to replace the fibre washers in various bits that I was disconnecting, so I had to nip out for those. I'm not doing a step-by-step because removing and replacing the parts is actually quite straightforward. In terms of tools, I used a couple of different sized wrenches, an allen key and a screw driver. Nothing special was required. 

Everything I removed was caked-up internally with gunge. The PRV was obviously leaking (draining down a pipe which led through my kitchen wall and into a garden). The air pressure release valve had failed in the "open" position so was presumably letting air into the system whenever the central heating was cooling down. The internals of the diverter valve had seized rendering the valve un-operational (hence the warm radiators whenever the hot tap was run). As far as the noise was concerned, the HW heat exchanger was likely partially blocked - certainly, with the new part fitted I now have pretty much mains pressure hot water which is actually very hot indeed! And the boiler runs so quietly! I'll let everything settle in and confirm no leaks. I'll then look to doing some sort of system flush and add some rust inhibitor.

Here are some pics of the old parts:

More soon, no doubt....


Friday, 18 August 2017

SIA R8 - 70cm gas hob with five burners

Not a fix but something I've been busy with. A year ago I started my kitchen project. The kitchen, then, was tired and old, and needed updating. So last year I bought some new cupboard units and doors and arranged things such that when funds would allow, I could install a new hob with five burners. This meant losing a bit of wall-cupboard space as I needed at least 70cm of open space above the hob which, due to it having five burners, was 10cm wider than the hob that was already in there. Anyway, I got as far as I got with that but due to lack of time and funds I never got to install a new hob. So, for the last year I've been coping with a half done kitchen that had some nice bits in it and some grotty and/or unfinished bits. This included my old 60cm hob (which, to be fair, was fully functional but looked well past its best).

So, this past week I've been busy completing the project and that brings me to my new hob. I also bought a new worktop for it to go into (and so that side of the kitchen now matches the other side that got its new worktop (and sink) last year...).

The hob is the SIA (Ship It Appliances) "R8".

Features courtesy of SIA's ebay advert:

Front controls

Black glass easy clean surface

Cast iron pan stands

Wok burner

Flame failure safety device

Heavy duty burner caps

LPG kit included


Front left semi rapid burner / 1.75 kW

Rear left semi rapid burner / 1.75kW

Rear right rapid burner / 3kW

Front auxiliary burner 1kW

Centre wok burner 3.8kW


Nominal rating 11.3kW

Appliance power supply 220-240V 50Hz

Max electrical power 2W

Fuse rating 3A

Weight 14.7kg


Product dimensions L 700mm x W 510mm x H 90mm

Cut out dimensions 477mm x 557mm

I settled on the R8 because I wanted separate pan supports on each burner and those on the R8 looked really chunky. I thought that that would reduce the chance of pans toppling over. In real life, I was pleased to see that the pan supports are very substantial. But before I get to that, I will say something about actually installing the hob. Even though it is 70cm wide, the worktop cut out is 57.7cm which means that the hob can be installed over a standard 60cm carcass. Also, the depth (under the glass hob top) is only 4cm which, once the foam underseal is in place, means it sits perfectly in the B&Q "Arlington" worktop I'd chosen. I cut the new worktop myself after lots of very careful measuring and marking. Here are some pics:

And now some close-ups of the hob. First, the gas connection. My installer told me that this was 1/2 inch BSP. There was no other fitting supplied but my installer had the right bit to hand so I presume it is fairly common:

 Here is one of the burners without the bits on it:

The knobs (which I think are plastic with a metalised coating on top):

Electrical connection:

And here is the hob on the worktop (dry fit because I didn't know whether the installer would need to do anything to the hob before it was fastened into place on the worktop):

So, that's about it, really. The pictures below show the hob as fitted and fully operational. They do give a proper sense of scale. The fact that the hob is flat rather than indented, combined with the big chunky pan supports, means that pans sit quite high. I was also concerned about "room" for big pans but a quick test shows that the space between the four burners around the outside is enough for my full size frying pan, large steamer and stock-pot. Obviously, the middle burner is for a wok and I think it might be a struggle to fit anything else on the hob whilst cooking in a wok (but then again, why would anyone need to use more than one pan in a wok-cooking scenario?). Finally, one more thought occurs now that everything is fitted: if a pan boils over it will go everywhere. So, I will have to keep an eye on things...

Incidentally, that grey stuff on the walls is laminate floor. If you like the look of that I can do no better than point you in the direction of Katie Bower's blog. The only thing I did differently was using "no nails" in place of silicone sealant and brads. Also note the clear glass splash-back behind the hob...

More soon, no doubt....


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Mondeo ST24: water pump replacement

My car has now hit 157,000 miles. It's also 19 years old and the bodywork has seen better days. The car still goes well but from time to time certain age/wear related problems arise. Last week I returned to my car to discover a puddle of water on the floor under the front bumper. Last time I had something like that, the bottom connector on the radiator had cracked. That was last summer and the remedy was to fit a new radiator, which I did, last October. Seeing this puddle reminded me of that, and filled me with dread; could my new radiator have sprung a leak?

I happened to have a two litre bottle of water in the car. I used that to brim the expansion tank and then drove home. Once I'd pulled up, I jumped out and look underneath at the front. I could see a trickle of water dropping down from behind the engine under-guard. This was a relief because it meant the leak could not possibly be coming from the radiator. On the other hand, what was leaking? I popped the bonnet and had a look around. I could see drips on the bottom edge of the water pump. This was interesting because I had fitted that water pump as a precautionary measure when I first bought the car about 5 years ago. As the car has done about 55,000 miles since then, I was planning on replacing the pump and already had a shiny new one in my spares pile. That night I swapped the pump for the new one and started the car up, hopeful that the leak would be sorted. Here are some pics I took:

Alas, it was not to be - the leak was still there but I could now see, with the aid of a torch in the dark, that the leak was coming from the water pump housing. And that revelation led me to this discussion on the TalkFord website:

V6 Water Pumps

I therefore reviewed the pictures I had taken. The first one, which appears above and which I took by holding my phone down into the space next to the pump, shows clear damage in the housing. I could have saved myself some time by actually having a look at the pictures I had taken...

So, the next day I removed the (new) water pump together with the housing, and split them apart. Now, removing the pump/housing from the car is technically straightforward. I removed the air filter box and the battery to make some room, and the belt, and that just left three 8mm bolts and three spring clips (on the hoses attached to the housing) to remove. The bolts were easy enough (they have to come out when replacing the water pump, anyway). The hoses and clips on my car are, I think, original. They were a total bastard to remove and it took me about an hour to do all three. My hands are still sore from the experience. Anyway, with the housing off the car and the pump removed, I was presented with this:

I'd noticed that shiny disc was in the wrong place when I changed the pump the night before but I didn't think it was significant. But having since seen the posts on TalkFord, I now knew that the disc was in the wrong place and was likely to be the cause of the leak in the housing. I removed the disc and turned the housing over, looking for some sort of hole. This is what I found:

So, the shiny disc had worn a tiny hole in the housing. The next question was what to do about it? A bit of research showed that some manufacturers sell new pumps that are supplied with new housings. The most frequent "hit" in my searches was the Dolz F149CT for £60 - £100 depending on the seller. I also found the the complete unit could still be bought from Ford. To be honest though, I wanted to sort this for zero expense. I don't know how much longer the car is going to last and I don't want to be spending money on it. So, I cracked open a tube of JB Weld High Heat Epoxy Putty that I happened to just have. The packet says that it is good for cracked engine blocks so I figured it could handle a bit of hot water, like that which would be found in a water pump housing. This is my repair:

I used the putty to re-fix the shiny disc to the housing, and also fill the groove made by the disc when it was loose. For good measure, I put a big dollop on the outside of the housing. I waited a few hours before reassembling everything (the putty hardens in less than an hour but needs 8 hours to fully cure). I refilled the system on my car and then ran the engine up to temperature. No leak ;). I've done about 150 miles since then and all seems well.

More soon, no doubt...


Monday, 26 December 2016

i5 gaming PC with RX470 graphics

Not a repair but a build.

It's about 10 years since I last built a PC from scratch so when I was commissioned to build this PC, I had a lot of developments to catch up on. No doubt spending the maximum amount possible on components would have yielded an impressive machine but there was also a tight budget to stick to, and a monitor, keyboard and mouse, were also required. The remit included some future proofing so the core components were selected to last. Moreover, the PC was intended to be a surprise Christmas present so eliciting information about its intended use without raising suspicions from the eventual recipient was a further challenge, especially when it came to the GPU. I'm (now) aware (from all my reading) that when it comes to GPUs, the choice between AMD and Nvidea is hotly contested and there seem to be pros and cons in each respect. However (again from all my reading and knowing what I know about the machine's intended use), my choice of an AMD card was carefully considered and deliberate.

Finally, I should also add that several Black Friday bargains helped me out a lot....

All things considered, I think I've hit the spot with this machine.Once it was all built and running, I couldn't help but wish that I was keeping it for myself.

So, the Parts List:


Motherboard: MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK
CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K
CPU Cooler: Arctic Freezer 11i
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX XMP 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4 3000 MHz




Monitor: Asus VS248HR
Keyboard: Roccat Ryos MK Pro
Mouse: ASUS Gladius


Windows 10 Pro

And now the build. I took photos of most of the build but I got a bit carried away when installing the CPU, etc, and forgot to take any pictures of that.

Here's all the bits, ready to go:

Now some photos of the case. They've certainly moved on since my last build. This case has two 120mm fans built-in. The one at the front sucks in, the one at the rear blows out. That fact determines the CPU fan arrangement (more of which in a moment). The case itself is lined with sound deadening material. Lots of space inside, with plenty of slots and openings in the back panel for cable management, and more fans if required. The hard drive caddies simply clip in which makes installing the drives (2.5 or 3.5) a breeze - simply screw the drive into the removed caddy, and then refit..

And here the hard drives are going in. They mount sideways which helps with cable management.

And now we fast forward to the assembled motherboard, ahem. I hadn't noticed the opening in the back panel which would have allowed me to fit the CPU cooler with the motherboard in place. Still, no harm done doing it all on the kitchen table. The picture below shows the RAM in place, and the PSU mounted in the bottom of the case. The PSU contains a large fan which draws air in from underneath. There is a corresponding opening in the bottom of the case to facilitate that, along with a removeable dust filter.

As for the actual fan and cooler, according to the blurb it comes ready smeared with MX4 paste so I installed it as is. The fan and cooler can mount in any direction (blowing up, down, or to the front or back). Bearing in mind the fan arrangement in the case, I've set it so that it is drawing cool air from the front, through the cooler, to be collected by the exhaust fan on the back of the case.

Whilst I'm on about the PSU and its fan, I should mention a small problem I discovered once I'd put everything together and switched the PC on for the first time. This was a distinct rattling from the PSU fan. On closer inspection, I could see that some of the PSU's internal wiring had moved (in transit?) and was just fouling the fan blades. With the PSU removed and unplugged, I used a thin plastic drift through the grill to gently poke the wiring down, back into place. On the final fit, the PSU fan was totally silent. The wires in question can be seen in the photo below.

So now the PC is sufficiently built to run. I switched it on and checked the BIOS was happy. It was. Very nice BIOS, by the way... Here's some photos of it running. The third photo I took without a flash. The motherboard has some red LEDs on the back which cast a nice glow...

And now the graphics card goes in. It covers two slots on the motherboard. The fan and cooler arrangement is very nice and it exhausts out of the back of the case.The word "Sapphire" also lights up in blue. Note that the case still is still covered in its transit material which is why the view through the window in the side panel looks a bit wonky.

The build, including messing around with the rattling PSU, took about 90 minutes. Most of that time was required once assembly and initial testing was complete, and I was trying different configurations of cable management. I'm probably not going to win any awards for my efforts but its a tidy enough job.

I then installed the OS from USB. The SSD inside made short work of that, then some Windows updates and then installing and updating all the drivers for the motherboard and GPU which took a good while. Finally, over  the next couple of days I ran some burn tests to check that all was in order. Since I'm not a gamer I didn't have any actual games to try, I used a couple of different benchmarking programs. There were no issues with any of that and temperatures remained exactly where they ought to have been. I then did a mild overclock from within Windows using MSI's motherboard utility tool. I wish I'd taken some pictures of that, and the results in general, because it was all very exciting. No doubt the PC's new owner will want to have a play with all of that one day, and do a proper job from within the BIOS, but I was happy to see the PC stable, quiet, and cool, running at 4.2Ghz. That was enough for me.

More soon, no doubt....