January 2009

electronics are equally female.

electronics are equally female.

There are some basic fix-it things that every woman should know. Fixing an electrical cord is one of them.

I found this out the hard way when the temperature dropped to 33 below and my truck wouldn’t start. The culprit: the three-prong head of the cord of the block heater had snapped off. The truck is an ’89. I should start expecting these things. Fortunately I have a partner who knows a thing or two about such things and is willing to share his knowledge (so next time it won’t be him freezing his fingers off).

Turns out it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. Here’s my first electronics crash course:

Basically we spliced the broken wires with the corresponding wires of a newer (working) cable.

Step 1: peel back the plastic housing of the cords you want to splice together. We used the knife on a leatherman, being careful not to cut the wires themselves. We peeled back the end of the snapped off cord to about an inch and a segment about a foot from the “female end” of the extension cord in order to preserve the useful plugs that can accomodate things like a trickle charger and engine blanket.

Beneath you should find three smaller coloured plastic cords. Green, White and Black. Assuming the cord has been assembled properly Green = the ground (green like grass growing on the ground) and represents that round prong in the middle, White = neutral, Black = “hot” (I just watched the Malcolm X movie last night, so I’ll avoid furthering the White/Black stereotypes, though in this case they apply).

In my case, one cord followed the colour conventions, the other one had green, black and black housing. Taking a closer look at the wires themselves, we saw black coloured wires in with the copper… we guessed correctly that this was the hot wire.

Step 1.5: Go inside to warm up for 10 mins. When you can feel your fingers and toes again, go back outside.

Step 2: Wrap the corresponding wires together, twisting clockwise with pliers (righty-tighty). Double check that you’ve put the right wires together. Pop one of those electrical wire connectors (you know, the plastic end-caps thingies that twist on) on each set of twisted wires. This keeps them isolated from each other and helps ensure a connection.

Step 3: Ensure there are no exposed wires and make it look nice with electrical tape.

Step 4: Zip tie or otherwise affix this new section of cord to the grill of the truck to make sure it’s not going to get abused to much. Coil and secure the long end of cord, that is essentially a permanently attached extension cord (ya don’t want that dragging on the road).

Step 5: Plug it in, cross your fingers nothing explodes and listen for the sweet clickin sounds of the block heater coming to life.

You can also buy new plug ends to attach to avoid the complicated splicing. But when it’s 30 below and you can’t drive to the hardware store, you make do with what you’ve got.


We’ve been up here since June and have yet to see the Northern Lights. The aurora report is 7/10 and the sky is clear. I’m leaving the blog-making to get out and away from the light pollution.