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Light Repairs - Blow-Off Editorial

Check Engine Light For The House

Nov 20, 2014
Photographers: Trevor Reed
Much like KJ’s $30 camshaft position sensor adventure, at first, I thought about leaving a repair job to the professionals. Recently, the blinds in my living room broke, and I was stuck in the dark. At least they failed in the closed position, so I wasn’t going to look like an incredibly boring diorama to the neighbors each night, but the darkness in the house during broad daylight was really annoying. It was like a “check engine” light for my home—a constant reminder that some little thing wasn’t working properly.
My first thought was to look for local window shops that could fix the problem. Luckily, no one I called answered the phone, which sent me searching on Google for replacement parts. I ended up on a site with a name that seemed a little too “on the nose” called fixmyblinds.com. As it turns out, it isn’t just some click-trap designed to get a bazillion page views from people sitting in dark living rooms. It’s actually a specialized business in Colorado that’s been around for almost 15 years, has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and only has one BBB complaint on record during the past seven years (which has been officially resolved).
After learning the part that controls the opening and closing of the blinds is actually called the “tilt mechanism,” and not the “thingy turned by the stick,” I started getting more confident. After seeing the replacement part would cost just $10, there was no turning back. I was going to fix the blinds—or break them trying. A house call from a repairman would cost at least $50, and I figured if I was going to take down the blinds and cart them to a shop, I might as well take a shot at doing the work myself.
The blinds weren’t exactly easy to take down, but they were nothing compared to a heater core replacement I gave up on a few years back out of frustration and a lack of daylight. I ended up selling that truck with the heater core bypassed and a brand-new, in-box part for the next owner (who thought it was a great deal because it wouldn’t leak, and he could sell the part, thanks to the hot climate in which he lives). With the blinds at ground level, it was a snap to follow the instructional video on the website and remove the tilt mechanism.
Yep, the internal plastic gears were indeed stripped and the part was done for. The “cheap” $10 replacement unit that arrived in the mailbox just a couple of days later had metal gears and a metal shaft. It should last about 95 years based on how long it took the old plastic parts to wear out. Plus, if any of the other five sets of blinds in the house go bad, I can probably cut the repair time down by about 75 percent now that I’ve already gone through all the steps.
So, if you have a nagging “check engine” light on around your house, why not try fixing it yourself before calling in the pros? You might just teach yourself something, as long as you do some research and don’t get in over your head (no way I was messing with the natural gas meter after a plumber bumped it hard enough to trip the earthquake shut-off valve a few weeks ago). You can probably learn something new and save a few bucks at the same time. Plus, there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes along with doing a job yourself—especially when you thought it was too hard before you knuckled-up and gave it a shot.

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