All posts by crowz

Just an old computer guy that loves working on cars.

Carport solution against hail damage

A few weeks ago Jacksonville Alabama and several other areas were hit with very bad hail storms and tornadoes.

I know you can’t do much to protect your cars and such from tornadoes but hail is another story. Knowing those people had to just sit there and watch mother nature destroy their cars and trucks and not being able to do anything to stop it had to be horrible. I was worried the storms would make it to where I live but luckily we didn’t get any of the hail.

After seeing how much damage the hail did I decided to try to do something to protect the cars and trucks I have. I ordered 18 x 20 foot carports for the house. I am having 5 of them delivered in total with the first one due anytime now. I will try to get some pics of them being built and definitely will take some pictures of them when they are done.

Four of them will be for the cars and trucks and I may add more for that later but that will give us 8 covered parking spots at least and will help a good bit. The last one will be assembled over my well pump. With the well pump in the rear corner of the carport that should leave me a ton of space to build a workshop out of that one.

I plan on enclosing the well pump covering carport into a shop with large doors I can bring a car in to work on it and also to park my 4 wheeler and lawn mower inside of. The entire time I have lived here (20 years or so) I have never had a shop. This will be sooooo nice to have. Just being able to get out of the weather for car work is nice enough but to have a place for a work bench with a vise on it will be icing on the cake.


Got a new riding buddy :)

My daughter and granddaughter bought me a cute gift to ride in the X5 with me.


For those that don’t know my forum avatar that I use is this :

So its a pretty good match I’d say 🙂 Now I just need to get a BMW roundel for him to hold like my avatar has !


Talk about feeling old….

Kind of dawned on me today I’m getting old or maybe its just the passage of time getting noticed finally.

My son moved to Indiana Friday. Then Saturday he drove all the way back to Alabama to get the big screen tv we gave him and some furniture. I guess the main thing is when your kid moves a few states away they are “really” moved out 🙂

When they are just a few miles away its not the same thing as they can show up anytime or you will see them often enough that its not really that much of a change.

My daughter has been married, divorced and has a daughter of her own. Having a granddaughter DEFINITELY makes you feel old….. But in a good way !


Bought another BMW X5…

I bought a 2013 BMW X5 E70 xdrive35i Turbo. It was supposed to be for my wife. Kind of a his and hers X5 thing.

Well it turned out it had a recall on the airbag with no replacement airbag available. The wife was not happy to say the least.

So we swapped and I gave her my 2005 X5 E53 3.0 so she is happy to have an X5 that doesn’t have a claymore for an airbag 🙂

I ended up with the 2013. I’ve owned enough BMW’s with airbag issues that it really doesn’t bother me that much. So far I like the 2013 well enough. It has taken some getting used to but its growing on me. Here’s what it looks like.

Crowz’s 2013 BMW X5

Seems were converting over almost exclusively to BMW’s these days. I’m shopping for a 2014 to 2016 BMW Z4 for the wife now. The reason for the narrow search range has to do with features she wants. It has to be a metal roof convertible so that narrowed it down a good bit. She also wants the electronics package as its called which has navigation and all the other bells and whistles. It has to have heated seats which also gets your a heated steering wheel which all of our BMW’s have now. I upgraded the ones that didn’t have it from the factory recently.

The plan was to order a new Z4 and do the European delivery of it. So we could have a cool vacation in Europe driving the car there and then they would ship it back to the states after we left. The problem is they don’t make the Z4 right now and the 2019 BMW Z4 is a ragtop so that’s a no go for us.

We still want to do a euro delivery one day so we may buy one more BMW of some kind after the Z4 just to do that.

That’s about it for now. Nothing much else going on.


Snow continued..

So what does snow look like in Alabama?

The above pic is from my front door. I think you can see where Molly went out to do her business.


We lost power on Friday night at about 10pm and didn’t get it back until Sunday night about 11pm. That was one loooong weekend considering we heat with electricity. Luckily we had the solar power setup I had installed and the gas generator. We managed to stay warm.

I will be increasing the size of my power system over the next few weeks to handle more loads better. As it was the heat pumps plus the other heaters put a load on the system pretty bad but it handled it.


Snow… and more snow !

We had snow. This in most parts of the world isn’t big news. But in Alabama its huge. Usually if we ever get snow its either flurries that don’t stick or maybe 2 inches tops and that’s considered heavy.

This time? A foot and a 1/2. That’s serious snow cover for here. Cars and trucks were getting stuck all over the place but my X5 handled it like it wasn’t even there. I didn’t even have the new tires at the point but the old Cooper CS3 tires did fine.

I now have my CS5’s on there and it drives even better now.

On the first outings down my driveway I was dealing with the normal drooped over frozen trees and it wasn’t any problem till I was almost at the end of the driveway. Each time I went through a tree’s branches it dumped snow on the windshield cutting visibility to zero. On the last tree something was different.

It turns out it wasn’t drooped across the driveway like all the others. It was a large pine tree that had fell over from the weight of the ice and snow. So it was pointed up the driveway like a spear. I drove right into it.

The tree nailed my windshield dead center and cracked it in a U shaped pattern.

This I the tree that nailed the windshield after the snow melted and after I went ballistic on it with the saw 🙂

I was coming from the other direction that morning and I think you can see what speared the X5.

Here is a shot of the windshield after the tree.

I think it held up pretty good all things considered. Just a huge semi U shaped break.

Also the X5 seems to handle hauling pretty good too space wise. This was actually 6 tires in all inside at the time. The 4 new CS5’s for the X5 and two new tires for my daughters 528i.

And last but not least before some snow pics. They call the mountain I live on lizard scrap mountain. I found out later why.

Check out my co-pilot that hitched a ride with me to town one morning.

He was wandering around back and forth on my hood that morning.

I think I’m going to continue this into another post to keep this from being so long so the next “snow” post will have snow pics 🙂


X5 Updates

Well I can say now that I have owned my X5 for a few months that I flat out love it. Fun to drive, reliable and handles my driveway with ease. I have even had it in a few spots the passenger front tire and the drivers rear tire were off the ground at the same time. With most vehicles that would be instant stuck city. The X5 paused for about 1 or 2 seconds deciding how to handle it and just went on like it was nothing. Love it.

I also joined a site called Xoutpost at

Great community there. If you have an x series bmw I highly recommend it. Get the premium account too. Its not but $30 a year I think and well worth it to support the site.


Bought a BMW X5

I had been wanting something that drove like a BMW and could get up my driveway. I own several BMW’s already but they all are a pain to get up the driveway when it rains. I started looking for an X5 over 6 months ago and finally bought one.

So far I like it. Drives like a dream just needs some TLC to get it to where I’m happy with it.

The air conditioner worked great but took up to a hour to actually come on. This was very annoying to say the least. I had never dealt with a variable displacement air conditioner compressor before. All the normal compressors I had worked on either worked or didn’t. When the compressor type used on my X5 went “bad” it caused the a/c to have to be on for a long time before it actually started cooling. Once it did it would blow 38 degrees out the vents so it worked great but took forever to kick in. I replaced the compressor yesterday after first trying to change the valve in the old compressor. The new compressor seems to be working good. I will know for sure later today when I crank the X5. If it starts cooling instantly then it is fixed.

Next project will be the headlights. The X5 has adaptive headlights. Its pretty wild watching them in action. Most modern vehicles with xenon/hid headlights have auto leveling, which these also have. But the cool part of the adaptive headlights has to do with them being able to turn left and right not just up and down for leveling. When you turn into a curve the headlights actually turn to point to where your going.

The problem with the headlights on my X5 is there are horribly dim. It has the worst amount of light output of anything I have ever owned. The headlights lens are frosted bad and I have a kit coming Friday to try and polish the haze out. That should restore some of the light output. But I’m afraid the actual bowls the bulbs sit in have lost the reflective coating and that is why they are so dim. The lens that covers the bowls make it difficult to know for sure if that is the problem and the headlights are sealed so I can’t take them apart to see if that is the problem either.

Well more later.


More Solar updates and car shopping

This entire month has been a mad house work wise so I haven’t had time to do much on my various projects. I did get a free day one day to install two 255 watt 24 volt panels to my system bringing to primary bank to 1 kilowatt or 1000 watts. I’m running multiple controllers so I’m way above that total but its nice to start switching over to the 24 volt panels vs the 12 volt panels for the house.

The 24 volt panels are more efficient since its a single panel at 24 volts and not two 12 volt panels in series. Also 255 watts is better than 200 watts of two 100 watt panels in series.

The only drawback if there is one is the size of the 24 volt panels. These suckers are HUGE. Almost the size of 4 of the 12 volt panels combined.

I still have a bunch of new parts to add to the system just no time to install them right now.

Hopefully I will be adding two more vehicles to the stable soon. I have my wife’s BMW 528i and a BMW 318i up for sale and both are supposedly spoken for. If they both sell shortly I will be picking up a BMW X5 for myself and a Corvette C5 for the wife.

The X5 will handle the driveway far better than my 323i does and my wife wanted a civilized corvette for her to drive. The C4 is a bit much the way its built for normal driving.

I also managed to get the 24 volt to 12 volt step down converter installed on the house solar setup. With that installed I was able to wire up the in wall usb plugs to power phones and such to do away with all those wall-wart power supplies running up the power bill.

Even went with a 12 volt car cigarette type plug on a few on them and bought a 12 volt version of the power supply for my wife’s notebook computer so its charging and running off the solar setup now.

One annoying thing is I increased the size of the solar setup charging wise but I can’t buy anymore batteries for the system. It seems walmart is having a battery shortage or something. All of their marine batteries are out of stock across the entire country from what I can tell. I checked all over Alabama and surrounding states and then randomly across the country. All out of stock. Since you basically have to use the exact same batteries across your entire battery bank to work right I’m stuck till walmart gets more in.

I searched for news stories or even anyone else commenting on the shortage but couldn’t find any information anywhere. Oh well I will just have to wait it out.

Well that’s it for now.

Catcha laterz !


Solar Update 12-30-2016 Mower to Generator Conversion

Almost the end of the year and looking back on the progress of my solar setup over the year I think it turned out pretty good.

I’m at 900 watts total power and I’m producing around 2 kw a day with that which isn’t to bad.

Most of the 110 volt needs are met with solar now. I still have to purchase a 220 volt inverter to handle the 220 volt appliances. That will happen later in the coming year.

I will be adding a section on my new generator solution for charging my batteries. Most people use a gas generator to power their home when their batteries are low from bad weather and general heavy clouds. I own a gas generator with the idea of using it as a back in the same situation. But this struck me as kind of a stupid way of handling the issue when you think about it.

The norm is to make AC power with a gas generator to supply your AC needs during cloudy or bad weather and then use that same generator to run an AC battery charger to charge the DC batteries. Not only does this not work that well it makes you go through gas very fast.

My solution? Simple. Don’t use the AC generator at all. I don’t need AC anyway. I need DC to charge the batteries. I already have inverters that are far more efficient than a gas generator so I just need my batteries charged. So all I need is an alternator like a car has to charge my batteries back up in the event of clouds or bad weather. So I took an old mower I had that the deck had rusted out.

I think you will have to agree its yard mowing days were over without a new $700 deck and it was cheaper to just by a new mower when all was said and done.

I removed the deck and I’m in the process of mounting a 24 volt 100 amp alternator where the deck was. Presto killer power to charge the battery banks back up.

Also it will use far less gas running the 15.5 hp riding mower vs the 6 hp gas generator.

That may not make much sense at first but you have to take into account the mower is basically idling since the alternator is run thru a belt on pulleys and the generator is direct drive so the motor has to spin at whatever rpm is required to make 110 volts. An alternator will make power from 800 rpm on up easily but the generator has to spin at 3600 rpm to make 110 volts.

So even though the mower has a larger displacement engine on it the gas generator is using a ton more gas because its having to spin so much faster.

I will have a howto page on the conversion soon showing how I did it and how my inverter will crank the mower when the batteries need recharging without me even being here.

It sure is nice DRIVING my generator to the battery bank now and charging them up vs lugging that AC generator around by hand.

Not to mention DRIVING it back out of the way when I’m done with it. But I actually have setup a spot beside the battery bank in the last few days so it can be remote started and stay connected.

Well here’s wishing everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

See you in 2017 !