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Give your oven a tuneup before holidays hit

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to fire up the oven and start cooking. Even if you aren’t the cook, you still might be responsible for firing up the oven, or at least the go-to person to fix the oven when it doesn’t fire up. Here are some simple things you can check before calling the repairman to come out.

Keeping your oven clean is the best way to prevent a lot of these issues. Persuading your spouse to do that is the challenge.

Oven temperatures are determined by a thermostat, which usually is visible inside the oven if you just look. It looks like a long tube near the side wall of the oven. They can go bad and are fairly easily replaced. Shut off the current to the oven before working on it, and check your owner’s manual for specific instructions. It’s usually just a matter of disconnecting the wires of the old thermostat and removing it, and then installing the new one in reverse.

If you find that one of the electrical heating elements isn’t working, you can replace that as well. Again, shut off the power, disconnect the element and install the replacement.

If your oven is gas, then check the flames to see if they are even. Sometimes the ports where the flames come out are blocked, and they can be cleaned out to work better.

On some gas ovens, you may be able to adjust the settings for the flame, so check your owner’s manual to see where the adjustment is located.

The igniters on gas ovens also can go out and are an easy-to-install replacement.

If you are unsure of how to replace or repair any of these parts, just call a pro. You don’t want to make a mistake with your oven or with your family get-together! If you need additional information about your oven and don’t have an owner’s manual, check online to see if the manufacturer can supply one to you. Online sources like also are a handy tool to use.

@Neighbor leadin:Add security to sliding door: A sliding patio door may let in a lot of light, but it also can let in a thief if you are not careful. Many are not as secure as they ought to be, but you can add another layer of security by adding a piece of pipe to the track. When one is placed behind the movable door to fill the track all the way to the back of the door frame, the door will be impossible to slide open. A piece of PVC pipe is an easy choice because it is inexpensive and easily cut with a saw. You’ll hardly know it’s there, except that you will sleep a lot better at night!

Reuse labels: We hardly send anything through the mail anymore, and we have accumulated a lot of extra stick-on address labels. These labels are super for branding your tools and other supplies. Put them on hand tools, power tools, books, cameras and anything else that you might leave lying around or loan out to friends who might forget who it belongs to.

Reader tips

Ÿ We are getting ready to move again, and decided to have a quick garage sale to cut down on the packing. To draw attention to the house, I painted the side of the car to get people to come to our garage sale. I got some paint made for decorating cars and wrote “Garage Sale” on the side, so everyone driving down the street could see it and stop. It worked, and we did save ourselves a lot of packing.

Ÿ We love camping out, and since we live near a forest, we are able to do it often. I had an old flashlight that we replaced with a newer, LED model. But I kept the old one, since it was watertight. I removed the battery and put several emergency items inside the watertight case. I have a light stick, matches, bandages, medicine, phone numbers and some extra cash. It floats, too.

Ÿ The last time it rained, water was overflowing from my gutters. It turned out I had a clog in the downspout over my patio. I got out there and climbed my ladder, and the ground was still so wet that the ladder was sinking into the mud. I got the rubber floor mat out of my car and put it under the ladder legs, and that stopped the sinking. I was able to get the gutters unclogged before the rain started up again. I even let the rain wash off the floor mat by leaving it in the driveway.

Ÿ Baby wipes are great for chores around the house. I have a toddler, so we go through a lot of them. When I buy them in bulk, I have so many that I end up using them for lots of cleaning chores, too. They work great. They are so much easier to grab than cleaner and a paper towel or sponge. They even work pretty well on grease, and I also like the smell.

Ÿ We always carve jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween. Each child does his or her own, and even my wife and I participate. We have switched from candles to the small LED “tea lights.” These work using small batteries and can be turned off and on by a switch on the side. My wife has used them for other things around the house, and they work for a very long time before you have to replace the batteries. We buy several at a time and save money. As an added bonus, the pumpkins will last longer and the lights will stay lit all night, unlike the candles.

Super hints

Ÿ Don’t open your garage door with the automatic opener unless you can see the door. Someone or something may be leaning up against it and could accidentally fall or be injured.

Ÿ One creative idea to clean out a stopped-up drain is to remove the water and the clog with your wet/dry shop vacuum. It’s messy, but it usually will do the job.

Ÿ I’m not a super gardener, but I do try. I dig up some bulbs and store them in my garage during the winter in order to protect them. The best way to store them is to let them dry out, then knock the dirt off the roots and put them in a mesh bag. I save the mesh bags that I get from the grocery store when I buy onions and potatoes. These are great for storing bulbs, and they are free, so why not use them? I usually put a card in each bag so I know what bulbs are inside. Each spring, I get them all out and start planting. It’s one of my favorite times of the year!

Q. We have a nice storm door on the front of our home. The problem with it is that the screws are coming out of the hinges where it is attached to the door frame. What can we do to fix it?

A. You can try using longer screws. That should resolve the issue. If not, you may have to fill the existing holes with dowels and redrill for new screws. Your third option is to replace the doorjamb, but that will entail removing both doors first.

Q. We have a clear finish on our wood floor that was applied several months ago. I can see bubbles in it, and wonder if this is normal. I don’t think they should be there. Can you get rid of them somehow?

A. No, you should not have bubbles in the finish. Either the clear finish is to blame, or the application process is. Either way, I would contact the installer and have that person correct the problem. The finish will need to be removed and reapplied.

Q. Our refrigerator has the water-in-the-door feature. Now that the kids are all in college, we don’t seem to use it as often, and it has slowed to a trickle. How do we unclog it and clean it out?

A. The first thing to check might be the solenoid valve. This valve is responsible for starting and stopping the water flow, and if it’s not working, then the water won’t come out. It’s also possible that the line might be blocked by mineral deposits, which tend to build up due to your water supply. If you can get to the line, you might be able to clean it out with some vinegar. Good luck!

Shop talk

Ÿ If you have a Dremel rotary tool, check this out. The Sharpening Kit has everything you need to sharpen a wide variety of commonly used blades. The kit includes three attachments the Chain Saw Sharpener, Lawn Mower Sharpener and Garden Tool Sharpener. You get the sharpening bits as well as the guides, which help to give you the optimum angle. It makes these sharpening jobs fun to do, and will keep your tools ready to go when you need them. A sharp edge will make the chores go faster, too, and with much less effort. And you can use it on other garden and household tools. Check it out at or at your hardware store or home center.


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