30 Quick Fixes For Everyday Disasters – A solve-it-fast guide for home, car and more.

A solve-it-fast guide for home, car and more. Because–sometimes–duct tape just
isn’t enough.
The world is populated by two kinds of guys: the ones who
know what to do when something goes bust, and the ones
who are always asking the first guys for help. Here’s your
secret manual for staying on the right side of the divide. It’s
filled with experts’ shameless shortcuts for dealing with
and water will get rid of ants,” says Amy Devers,
ng out of hiding.”
AR FACTOR: A weed-ridden asparagus
as you about ready to give up on your
THE QUICK FIX: Add salt. “Asparagus is the only
everything from flooded basements to mysterious oil leaks
to flat mountain bike tires. These down-and-dirty repairs
won’t all last a lifetime, but they can certainly save the day.
INVADING ARMY: Ants are having a feeding
frenzy in your kitchen, and you don’t want to use
a toxic brew to defeat them.
THE QUICK FIX: “A 50/50 mix of peppermint oil
co-host of the DIY Network’s “DIY To The
Rescue” show. “Fill a spray bottle, and spray
wherever you see them comi
patch h
vegetable that can withstand salt,” says Penny
Griggs, an organic farmer in Vermont. “Spread
salt around your plants will kill the weeds but
leave your asp
ptop is
are a littleing
aragus unharmed.”
r la
known drain on laptop batteries. “If you can
SPILLED JUICE: The battery in you
losing its charge much faster than e
THE QUICK FIX: Wireless operatio
disable your wireless networking and still get your
work done, do it,” says Andy Hooper, owner of
Intelligent Systems, an IT security company.
“Some wireless cards can eat up half of your
laptop’s power.”
Photo by HP
FROZEN OUT: Cold weather has stiffened the
mechanism of your garage door opener, causing
it to lose powe
SCREW LOOSE: You’re trying to replace a
woodscrew, but the hole is stripped and the screw
won’t grab.
HE QUICK FIX: Insert two short lengths of thin,
The water in the trap of your
ement floor
Most garage door openers
made in the past 15 years have pressure
adjustments for both raising and lowering. Chec
and adjust these settings seasonally to keep
things running sm
insulated wire in the hole before adding the
screw. They’ll allow the screw to bite.
bas drain dried up-and now your cellar
smells vaguely of nasty, nasty things.
THE QUICK FIX: Pour nontoxic plumbing
antifreeze down the drain to fill the trap. You can
use water in a pinch, but it evaporates faster than
antifreeze, so you’ll need to repeat the process
more often.
HOT WHEELS: The temperature gauge on
car is headed for the danger zone, but you’v
no time (or place) to park and cool your jets
THE QUICK FIX: Turn the heater on full bla
pening the windows so you don’t fry). The extra
e got
volume of the heater core and its hoses, as well
as the airflow of the heater fan blowing across the
core, may dissipate enough heat to get you
home–or to the garage–without a meltdown.
Illustration by David J. Pullman
ICE RAGE: Your car doors freeze shut in cold
THE QUIC ipping
around the door frames with s Al
cold weather. “It keeps moisture from
your car’s battery, but don’t want to los
settings on the car’s radio, alarm, GPS
K FIX: “Spray the weathers
silicone,” advise
Toutant, a technician at Heath Auto Service in
Greenwood, Maine, where they know a thing or
two about
collecting and freezing your doors shut in the
winter, and it keeps it from drying out and
cracking in the summer.”
o remove
e the
Illustration by George Retseck
THE QUICK FIX: A 9-volt battery adapter can
plug into your cigarette lighter to keep those chips
powered up. Result: No more auto amnesia.
Illustration by George Retseck
DAMPNESS AT NOON: Your clothes dryer
seems to have lost its zip.
THE QUICK FIX: Clear the vent duct by removing
the vent pipe and pulling out any accumulated
debris from the pipe and duct. It’s a 3-minute fix
that can save you a $75 visit from a technician.
UNPLANNED POOL: A big rain has flooded your
basement. And, since it knocked out the power
too, your usually reliable sump pump won’t pump.
THE QUICK FIX: If you live on a slope, try
making a siphon. First, fill a garden hose with
water from the outside spigot. Seal one end with
your thumb and have a friend seal the other.
Place one end through the cellar window and into
the standing water. Then, have your friend carry
the other end as far downhill as possible (the
outlet has to be below the intake). Release your
thumbs and let gravity do the rest.
SHAGGY LAWN: You need to cut the grass
before the in-laws show up but your mower won’t
THE QUICK FIX: Before you give up and take it
to the repair shop, try this. First, take out the
spark plug and empty the gas. Then, get a new
plug, add some fresh gas to the tank and, more
often than not, the mower will start right up.
CRACKED TEETH: Someone–not you, surely–
has broken a key off in a door lock, which is now
jammed shut.
THE QUICK FIX: Use a grinding wheel to shape
an old hacksaw blade into a harpoon-like point.
Then, slip the point into the lock over one of the
key nubs and use the hook to fish it out.
Illustration by George Retseck
Illustration by George Retseck
BLURRED VISION: The zoom shots from your
fancy new digital camera are fuzzy.
THE QUICK FIX: Only use your optical zoom.
Most digital cameras have both optical zoom, in
which the lens moves (just like a zoom on a film
camera), and digital zoom, which manipulates the
image electronically. The digital zoom can
compromise the quality of the image. If you want
more magnification than the optical zoom can
handle, it’s better to achieve it on a computer after
the fact.
RISING WATERS: The toilet is about to overflow,
and you know that your usual tactic of slamming
the lid and crossing your fingers won’t work.
THE QUICK FIX: As soon as the water level in
the bowl starts rising, reach into the tank and prop
up the fill valve (the ball or cylinder that floats on
top of the water). That will stop the flow to the
toilet, thwarting an overflow. The plunger,
however, still awaits.
Illustration by David J.
Illustration by George Retseck
IMMOVABLE OBJECT: A stubborn nut on an old
lawnmower or pickup truck refuses to budge.
THE QUICK FIX: The standard tactic since the
dawn of the acetylene torch has been to heat the
nut until it glows red. When heat alone won’t cut
it, touch a candle to the glowing nut. The wax will
melt and flow into the threads, acting as a
SNEAK LEAK: You can’t find the source of oil
leaking from your engine.
THE QUICK FIX: First, spray the area with Easy
Off kitchen cleaner. (It’s cheaper than automotive
cleaners.) Then, hose the area down, let it dry
and spray on aerosol foot powder. The oil will
stain a path in the powder, which you can follow
back to its source.
Editor’s Note: We’ve already received mail on this
one. Yes, Easy Off can corrode aluminum, but the
damage isn’t instantaneous. Make sure to rinse it
off with a hose both promptly and thoroughly. Illustration by George Retseck
SUN-DRIED TOMATOES: You need a way to
water sensitive tomato plants during your summer
vacation, without asking your neighbor to take
care of them (again).
THE QUICK FIX: Collect some liter-size plastic
soda bottles and punch a few small holes in each
one. Then, bury a bottle up to its neck next to
each of the plants. Before you leave, simply fill
the bottles; they’ll slowly release the water over
the next four or five days and keep your plants
from wilting.
STRUCTURAL COLLAPSE: A broken tent pole
is threatening to ruin your annual family camping
THE QUICK FIX: “As long as you don’t need it to
hold up to serious weather, you can splint a tent
pole with a branch,” says Michael Hodgson,
author of Camping For Dummies. (Use medical
tape, dental floss–or, yes, duct tape.) “Heck, you
can even pitch a tent entirely with branches if you
need to.”
Illustration by George Retseck
POLTERGEIST DOOR: Every house has one, a
door that slowly drifts shut every time you try to
leave it open.
THE QUICK FIX: Rather than resetting the hinges
or propping it open with a potted plant, remove
one of the hinge pins, lay it over a nail atop a hard
surface, and strike it lightly with a hammer until
the hinge pin has a slight bend. Tap the pin back
in place. The increased friction will keep the door
where you want it.
TRASHED SINK: The kitchen garbage disposal is
THE QUICK FIX: “Ninety-five percent of garbage
disposals have a reset button on the motor,” says
Chris Hall, a former appliance repairman and
founder of Repairclinic.com. “No other appliance
has this, so people assume they need to call a
technician. I’ve answered literally dozens of calls
that just needed someone to hit the reset.”
Photo by HP
BLANK SLATE: You’ve lost the stylus to your
THE QUICK FIX: Use a toothpick. It works as a
replacement–and does double duty after dinner.
CHILLY DEPTHS: There’s a puddle of water
under your refrigerator, and it’s growing.
THE QUICK FIX: “I see this all the time,” says
Jeff McKinney, owner of JEM Plumbing and a
member of ServiceMagic.com. “Usually, it’s
because the icemaker line has sprung a leak.
People don’t realize that there’s a shutoff valve.
Typically, it’s under the sink. If not, look in the
basement, beneath the fridge.”
CRACK HABIT: You’ve always used Spackle to
patch cracks in plaster walls, just like your father
did. But the pesky fissures keep opening up.
THE QUICK FIX: “Use a clear latex acrylic caulk,
rather than traditional patching compounds,” says
John Stauffer, technical director at the Paint
Quality Institute. “The caulk has some flexibility,
so it won’t open up if your house moves a bit.”
DRIP SERVICE: A toilet tank is dripping and you
can’t tell if the water is coming from harmless
seasonal sweating or a bad seal.
THE QUICK FIX: Dump some food coloring into
the tank and see if the color reaches the floor. If it
does, check the tank for cracks and the piping for
loose connections.
Illustration by George Retseck
SPARELESS MISTAKE: You’ve got a flat tire on
your mountain bike, and you don’t have a spare
inner tube.
THE QUICK FIX: Create a makeshift inner tube
out of leaves and grass. “It sounds absurd, but it
really works,” says Scott Kaier, a mechanic at
Onion River Sports in Montpelier, Vt. “Leave one
side of the tire bead hooked on the rim, and cram
the opening with as much soft stuff as you can
find. Install the other bead, and away you go.” At
least it will get you home.
CHIMNEY SEEP: No matter what you do, the
paint on your masonry chimney keeps peeling.
THE QUICK FIX: Install a galvanized (good),
stainless (better) or copper (best) rain cap. These
start at about $30 and are available in most home
repair and building supply outlets. “Peeling
chimney paint is almost always caused by water
working its way from the inside, out,” explains
John Stauffer, technical director at the Paint
Quality Institute. “A rain cap will keep the bulk of
the water out of the flue.”
Illustration by David J.
Photo by Tom Klenck
A TWO-WEEKEND PAINT JOB: You want to put
away your paint-laden rollers and brushes without
cleaning them.
THE QUICK FIX: Wrap the painting utensils
tightly in a plastic bag and stick them in the
freezer. Once thawed, they’ll be ready to use.
Caveat: Paint is for painting, not eating. Be sure
to seal the bag tightly to eliminate any chance of
food contamination.
FLUID LOSS: Your radiator is leaking, you’re in
the middle of nowhere, and there’s no repair shop
in sight.
THE QUICK FIX: Dump in a small container of
ground black pepper. The pepper won’t dissolve,
but instead will remain in suspension. This allows
it to temporarily plug minor leaks, buying you
enough time to get to the shop.
CROSSED SIGNALS: You’re constantly getting
kicked off the wireless link on your home
computer network.
THE QUICK FIX: Other devices are probably
interfering. If you have a 2.4-GHz cordless phone,
switch to a 900-MHz, or a newer 5.8-GHz, model.
These phones operate on different frequencies
than your wireless router. (Some 2.4-GHz phones
allow you to change frequencies–check your
owner’s manual.) Microwave ovens can also
disrupt your wireless signal.