Friday, July 31, 2020

2014 Dodge Ram Integrated Trailer Brake Controller

I like factory looks on things.  I love adding accessories, but only if they have that original feel.  Case in point, all of my lathes.  The anomaly is the corvette.  Anyway, I needed to be able to haul my in-laws trailer after their truck experienced issues, and wanted a trailer brake controller.  One (factory look) plus one (wanted brake controller) equates to pay-a-way-over-priced-dealer-or-partially-overpriced-parts-and-do-it-yourself.  Add in the third variable - I'm cheap - and it just happened.  $400 later, and I saved $200.  Can I tell my wife that it was on sale, so it should be okay?

You absolutely HAVE to have the two connectors in the wiring harness for this to work.  For a picture of those, scroll down to the bracket photograph - they are the ones covered in a foam protector.  Anyway, here are the parts :
  • Three screws to attach the bracket to the dashboard frame - DO NOT USE PHILLIPS, SLOTTED, OR TORQX screws - you won't get a screwdriver on them (or a ratchet)
  • Switch itself (part # 68105206AC for a 2014 ram 1500)[the big switch bank [with the tow-haul button] is part # P56054468AA, in case you break that - don't ask me how I know.
  • Control module (part # 68092738AD)
  • Bracket (not sure of a part number, but a tag with a handwritten note had 68160146 if I read that right, see below)
Tools :
  • 7mm combination wrench (if you h]ave one that ratchets, use that)
  • 10mm socket and wrench (for the battery cable)
  • Phillips screwdriver (for the switch bank removal)
  • Small slotted screwdriver (to disconnect tabs)
  • #20 torqx bit (either screwdriver or ratchet wrench/socket, for the small tray at the top)
  • Tiny hands
  • A good vocabulary (see previous tool)
Here are pictures of the parts to the kit :

It's a 2014 Ram 5.7l (everyone says "Hemi", but I don't think it is) 1500.  I ordered the parts, and set to work.  There are a number of videos out there on the installation.  I liked the briansmobile1 video up to the point he used electrical tape instead of the third screw - and he had a dealer make the configuration change.  Another video seemed great, including the configuration change using AlphaOBD ( - that's what I chose (because I didn't want to spend $200 and wait for 2 hours).

Briansmobile1 indeed skipped that top forward screw - and with good reason.  It is painful. I don't want to show my hands after that.  Brian shows running the screws in before any installation to get the bracket threaded.  This is a MUST!  It will allow you to get the screws started using fingers.

After the preparations (threading and disconnecting the negative battery cable using the 10mm), I began.  I pulled the dashboard apart.  Yes, that's my stereo - I had a short and wanted to see if I could solve that problem while I was in there.  Turns out, you find a lot of stuff.  My radio connector on the back wasn't completely connected.  It snapped in.  I found a Camel cigarette wrapper buried in the dash.  I was missing two screws.  I found three wires just hanging out (those were under the steering column).  It looks like this had been in an accident, and had a new wiring harness that had some unused wires.  Oh, well.

With the dash taken apart, I swapped out the switch.  It's an easy change, just four screws, pull the whole switch bank panel, and then pop out the old and pop in the new.  Then re-insert the panel and screw it back in.  Don't re-install the whole center dash panel yet, though, as you will need to put the bracket in.

Next, the bracket.  This shows that I have those two connectors for this to even work, and where that bracket goes.  It's in the drivers foot well (under the steering column, yes, you need to remove that, too).

I started the bracket using that forward/top screw.  It's the painful one that everyone seems to skip.  I had to use the open end 7mm wrench to make it work, and it was very much a contortionist experience.  My hand came out raw and scraped, but once that screw is in, I did the others with less stress.  Expect that bracket to take the longest time.

After getting the module bracket installed, peel off the foam from the connectors, and install the controller module and the two connectors.  Re-install the lower dash panel.  And then plug those center console connectors in.  Make sure they clip all the way in.

With that, you can snap the center console back together, and re-install the top "coin tray" screws.  I was missing those, so i had to go to my hardware bin.  You can take a moment to step back and gaze in amazement that you didn't shoot the truck and leave it for dead with that painful bracket screw from earlier.

Yes, that looks dark.  When doing this on a black truck when the outside temperature is 102.8 degrees Fahrenheit, you start going indoors to cool back off.  It takes longer.

Next is the AlfaOBD install. I used an OBDLink MX+ bluetooth (don't do the wifi version).  Also, thinking I could use the demo version as it claimed to have all the functionality, I ended up paying the $50 for the app because it will not do a car configuration change in demo mode.  There are four changes to make, and when you are done, it should be fully functional.
  • CustSetMenu 2-Trailer selected CSM
  • CustSetMenu 2-Trailer name CSM
  • CustSetMenu 2-Trailer type CSM
  • P/T Chassis Net-ITBM/HWM Integrated Trailer Brake Module
So, after all of that, I kept seeing the check engine light (I hadn't started the truck yet), and grabbed the codes.  I was getting a U113B (lost connection to switch bank module), and I have a random yellow wire hanging out :

It turned out the switch bank (next to the brake switch) had a broken connector lock, so it came loose.  That's what the U113B was telling me.  I made a quick repair (I didn't want to spend another $60 on that module, so I used a soldering iron to melt the clip back together and then used electrical tape to ensure a solid connection).  That part number (for my own future reference if the "fix" doesn't hold up) is listed in the following picture :

Looks good, and it triggers properly!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Wood Lathe Carbide Skew Chisel

I'd made two carbide insert wood lathe tools, and I was hitting the point of wanting to finish the trifecta.  First was the round insert tool, and then came the diamond insert tool.  The inserts are :

10x28mm diamond insert by YUFUTOL
12mm round insert
square 30mm 1.18" (30x12x1.5mm) used for small planing cutter headers

All three were made using 3/8" square bar from the local box store.  Yes, it works, and no, if you have better options, do the better options (like a 3/8" stainless steel square rod, but remember it will need to be welded for the skew).  Even if this is the best you can use, it will still suffice.

The first one (the round one) was simply a matter of milling an arc, tilting the head, and milling the bevel to match the insert, then drilling the hold down screw and tapping.  The second one increased in difficulty.  I had to cut a diamond shape and mill the bevel to go with it.

This one was easier than the diamond, but involved more.  I first ground the end to an angle.  I cut off a second 3/8" square bar, and welded it on to the end where I had angled it.

I placed it into the mill, and flattened my weld out.

Then I marked and drilled some holes.  The holes were tapped, breaking the tap in the last one.  That tap was so far in I gave up on getting it out, and re-drilled the holes offset and tapped.  I did bevel the bottom chin and the side(s) to have a little more clearance.

It turned out nice, even with the apprentice mark.

I still need to make the handle for it.  Also, I need to build some mounts for the tool rests and the tools now onto the stand to make the wood lathe a complete mobile workstation.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Inherited Singer - Sewing the Songs of Heart

About that title, whoever is editing this blog needs to pay attention more.  I don't know, I needed some extra "pizazz" somewhere, and the title of only "Inherited Singer" just didn't cut it.  So, the editor let it past.

I recently inherited the treadle sewing machine owned by my great grandmother.  She lived to be 100 years old (which she swore she'd do).  She was a truly magnificent lady.  Two of her sons, my dad's uncles, did not marry until late in life (one never at all, the other had his first marriage begin in his 70's).  Even though those men were our uncles one step back (great uncles?), they were OURS.

Early this past week, I was contacted by the wife of the one uncle (he passed away a number of years ago, and she has since remarried), and she asked if I wanted the treadle sewing machine from our great grandmother.  Of course, I said "yes".  I picked it up yesterday.  The experience was rejuvenating (except for the allergies).  Here's a backdrop story for you just so you can get an idea of what these boys, uh, uncles were really like.

When we'd visit them on the farm, they had rifles by the door.  They only put them away when people came to visit who were not trusted.  They left them out when we visited, even when we were kids that were 4 to 18.  And they were loaded.  It was because they knew we'd not get our hands in things we shouldn't.  They left black power out in the shop that we ran around in.  No worries.  These guys had home-made cherry bomb competitions (the cherry bombs were to help keep the starlings away in maintenance of the farm).  They were partially deaf because when younger, they sat in the bathroom with the shotgun barely out the window to kill the magpies (because the magpies were smart enough to recognize a barrel sticking out a window).  These guys would give you the shirt off their backs.  They could fix anything, they could make anything, and they also knew how to cause a little mischief when they needed to.

Back to the present day.  My aunt choked up, still missing that old geezer.  She brightened back up when she remembered his giggles as he suddenly had some mischief to get into, or mischief he'd already gotten himself into.  That made my day.  She told me of when some the trees at the orchard and died out because of disease, and after they had been cut down (even in his old age), he was ready to go dig a couple of holes and fill them with dynamite to remove the trunk.  Watching her giggle thinking of his giggles - folks, it's contagious.  I'd rather giggle from mischief (even if it's indirect) than think of everything else going on right now.  So, we loaded up the Singer, and I got it home.  Here it is with the drawers removed.

Yes, those are my great grandmothers scissors in there.  There are dice, bobbins, needles, awls, and a belt to connect the treadle to the sewing machine itself.

This was this mornings project, actually.  When I was picking it up, I noticed a piece of wood that had broken off.  My aunt didn't know where it went.  This morning, I was able to find where it went.  I used a wood carving chisel to remove a previous attempt at repair (looked like lacquer was used as a glue).

I glued it up, and clamped it down and gave it a few good long hours to cure.

Once it had cured long enough, I moved it indoors and proceeded to work on better identification.  Knowing my uncles, that thing should have simply needed some light oiling, and I know it would have worked worked.  Everything was well taken care of.

However, there are a few things that were allowed to get dusty since that time.  I will need to remove the machine, and walk through every little thing.  That means I'd better find the model.  I grabbed pictures of every little number I could find on it :

With that done, I set to work on the identification.  I could find no model number.  That meant the serial number is the best option to work from.  Patents should provide some additional detail.

The serial number puts its date of manufacture between June 22 and June 24, 1910.  The design elements pin it to a "model 66" (which began manufacture in 1902) called a "red eye".  The cabinet is a Singer "Cabinet Table No. 5" or a "No.6" cabinet.  The manual was found over on, so a big shout out to them.  A history on the 66 can be found over on if you are interested.

A "model 66" was considered the "queen of the sewing machines" by the previous writer because of the engineering that went into it.  The basic model sold for just under $41 (not much, but in 1910 the average worker made 22 cents/hr, meaning the average person would have to work for 164 hours to pay for it).  To put that in perspective, an average wage in 2019 is $19.33/hr, making this machine cost around $3,200.  Since it had such a price, and since Singer was smart enough to market this to people who may not be able to afford it, you could purchase a sewing machine using a rent-to-own method, paying for it over a 20 year span.  Obviously, sitting at my house now, it's lasted a bit longer than that (110 years, to be honest).  For a sewing machine, that's the cream of the crop.

When I first received this, I hand-turned the spindle once or twice to gauge the shape.  I could feel the grit in there, and knew it needed to be dismantled and cleaned.  I took a brief opportunity to take it apart.  Yes, as someone who does some machine work, I only had a little hesitation.  The machine needed to be brought back up to working condition.  I took each piece apart until I could get to every bearing surface for oil.  I started with the belt end, and slowly worked my way through it.  Each piece was removed, and cleaned.

I moved on to the foot and bobbin side, and gave it a good look and cleaning.  There was quite a bit of lint in there, so I knew it hadn't been cleaned for a long time.

I shifted to the back side :

I grabbed the underside, and worked through that (including the bobbin shuttle (what houses the bobbin), and the foot.  I oiled it a third time,and had it back together.  I had to grab a quick picture of the bobbin winding assembly - this whole thing is really magnificent in it's engineering, and laid the foundation for all of the newer, modern sewing machines.  This is awesome!

However, on getting it back together, a quick hand turn and I could feel a major difference.  I had also replaced the tension spring and pieces, so this is essentially a usable sewing machine.  Perhaps I'll go sew some masks for my wife.  She does often joke about me getting in touch with my feminine side because I want to sew leather for car seats, use vinyl cutters to create stencils for etching aluminum, and toaster ovens to set Cerakote.

Anyway, it's done, together, and functioning again. I think I will actually use this one (not like my other sewing machine).  It might be able to do some light leather, too.  And the power consumption is measured in ice scream scoops (because it's me doing the work).  I think it will work at the rate of 4 scoops per hour.