Ace Salt Cell FAQ for Hotsprings spas and Scepter Replacement Cell installation

We have a hotsprings “Pulse” tub. Recently the saltwater system menu cane is with a message “call dealer for service.”

I noticed the salt cell electrode had a crust over the plates. It looks like it is completely shot after approximately 18 months of use!

I tried cleaning the electrode in a 10:1 water / hydrochloric acid soak for about 15 mins…Nothing. So I call the dealer.

After calling the dealer I’m rethinking my options. They want $899 for an ACE salt cell PN 77401 and $349 for a controller PN 76078 In addition the service call fee is $60 plus a mileage fee of $20.

This link is all I can seem to find online regarding the operation of the ACE system. Frequently Asked questions.pdf

A call to the local Hotsprings retailer revealed that the error can be cleared by unplugging the controller from the main board in the tub. That’s good news because that means the system can reset itself without having to have some error reset by a dealer.

So the next step is to figure out what’s wrong. The configuration of my tub appears to be an “ACE controller” plugged into main board with a 4 pin connector and 2 bullet style crimp disconnects to connect to the salt water cell.

It appears there are 2 identical connection points on the main board. One was connected to the sound system and the other was connected to the ACE controller. I have an untested theory that these are basically just input channels to the system and either one can be used for either purpose or possibly control other accessories.

Unplugging the ACE control removed the saltwater system from the main display menu (did this hot with power applied). The yellow flashing panel light “call for service.” (AKA “send service check to Hotsprings dealer reminder light”) immediacy went back to solid green.

The cell is basically 2 “diamond” platinum electrodes. Supposedly the “diamond” makes the electrodes on this system amazingly better at breaking up bad stuff in the water and creating some overly spectacular form of chlorine. That is some marketing BS for sure. Diamond is not a catalyst nor is it a conductor (normally). (Side geek note: Synthetic diamonds can be “doped” when created to make them conductive but this cell is built so shitty that there is no way that level of engineering was put into this). So in this case in my amateur assessment it serves no electrochemical purpose in the chemical reaction. Also why go to all that engineering trouble when you can just increase the anode surface area or increase the current or duty cycle to get more chlorine?

ACE Salt Water Sanitizing System Automatic Chlorinator model ACE PN: 1484901 Rev C

Connection from ACE controller to main spa board

ACR Salt Cell wire connection from cell to controller

Enter the “Scepter” from The Hot Tub Wizard. Made by Hobbits and previously only available somewhere in middle earth!

This salt cell is $239 vs. $899 and has a 18 month warranty versus 12 months. Can be purchased through Amazon.

The cell is also clear so you can See it working and see if it needs to be cleaned!

Make sure you follow the included instructions step by step. The kit comes with everything you need to do this.

I highly recommend doing 2 things.

1. Test your new cell to make sure it is the issue before you install it. Do this by plugging in without pulling it through the hottub.

Scepter salt cell test before installing

2. When you do get ready to pull the cable through…cut the old cable off the ace salt cell and use it as a pull string to pull the new cable through. I could have saved a lot of time doing that. A small fish tape would work equally well.

Ace Salt Cell Controller normal operation mode LEDS

Unit back online.

Add salt to your water softener

If you are new to water softeners most of them require salt to clean the media bed inside them during their cleaning cycle.

Buy in bulk. Most big box stores give you a discount if you buy at least 6 at a time.
Check level. I usually fill to the absolute brim of the unit because we go through salt fast with the hard water in this area.

Click mode-set

Salt level will flash a number of 0-8.

Use the up and down arrows to set the level to the actual fill level.

Click the mode-set button until completely cycled through to main menu.

Enjoy nice water.

Label small engine fuel tanks

Engines have special fuel requirements especially small engines. Ignore the fuel requirements and you will likely spend more time trying to start your engine than actually using it.

I have several engines that run on conventional 4 cycle fuel (the same stuff you usually put in your car).

A few items that work on conventional gas…

Pressure washer, lawn mower, generator.

Now we come to the two cycle engines that need oil mixed with the gas. These are much simpler engine designs. If you use regular gas with no oil, you will quickly throw whatever 2 stroke engine you have away. The oil lubricates the engine as is burns with the fuel. It is essential to making these engines work.

A few 2 cycle engines – chainsaw, leaf blower, string trimmer…

I used to mix my own oil and gas. It worked but not great. I was always struggling to get these engines started or keep them running. Turns out pump gas is terrible. It doesn’t stay stable for long at all maybe a few weeks or so. I started buying pre-mix fuel from big box stores. They are precisely formulated for small engines. The most common formulations are 40:1 and 50:1. There are also some formulations that can supposedly be used in either engine. Nice. But. What I have found after trial and error is that the manuals for these engines are actually right!

Put the right fuel in the engine and it will work much better than with a fuel designed for another engine. The optimal ratio will give maximum power and minimal frustration while starting and running.

So if you have a few different fuels in your garage, label your fuel tanks with a sharpie (and maybe a stencil if you are really obsessive) to keep it all straight. Your engines will thank you.

Cordless shop vac trick

My cordless RIDGID 18v XLi shop vac is probably my favorite tool. For being battery powered, it has loads or run time good suction. I tried the Dewalt and it is good for picking up sawdust and paper clips. The RIDGID unit can pick up a full canister of rocks without stopping. One just needs to keep the filter clean and the filters are not inexpensive.

So here is an amazing secret…You can operate your shop vac in reverse as a blower without the collection canister attached to the bottom of it.

Why on earth would angone do this? ….To clean the filter.

Take your shop vac outside, put the hose on the exhaust port, remove collection canister, turn on and point the hose at the filter. Cleans fast, saves money on buying new filters! Reassemble when finished.

Rust spots on bathroom tile

One of these cans is not like the other. (Hint, take a look at the bottom of the can.)

Rust resistant vs. Rust proof can. The only thing that jumps out at you is the difference in price at the checkout.

Shaving cans for decades have used the same material for the bottom of the can as the rest of the canister. Steel…which contains iron oxides in it. So as steel gets wet it releases those oxides as rust which ruins tile.

Recent improvements to can “technology” include making the same cans with aluminum bottoms. Aluminum doesn’t really “rust” per-se. Aluminum when exposed to water and air actually creates its own protective covering which prevents it from rusting. As an element it is much more susceptible to attacks from chlorides such as salt / salt water.

If your tile already has damage done to it by rust you can try cleaning with a mild hydrochloric acid such as a Lysol toilet bowl cleaner or CLR (calcium, lime, rust) remover.

Once it’s all clean, spend the extra dollar for an aluminum bottom can. Your scrubbing arm will thank you. …High five!

Idling problems

My Jeep has had problems idling for quite some time now but I finally decided to do something about it.

One evening after getting home I tore the air intake off the car to check out the IAC valve.

The IAC controls the idle of the engine when the foot is off the accelerator and the computer needs to mix a precise amount of fuel and air to keep the car running while at idle.

Air intake box atop throttle body
Air intake box removed, throttle body exposed. The IAC valve is bolted usually on the drivers side of the throttle body near the rear.

My IAC valve attached using one screw but was fused in place by 14 years of carbon deposits. It took a LOT of persuading for it to come off. I really thought I might break it while pulling on it as hard as I did but eventually it pulled loose. Use pliers if you have to but be very careful to not destroy the electrical connector which has a plastic housing.

Idle air control valve (IAC)
Inside view of IAC
Carefully remove O-rings. I used a fancy pick. A toothpick or screwdriver would do.
Brush gently (or not so gently if you have a decade plus of carbon deposit) make sure you use a good cleaner that is generally designed for this type of stuff. I chose throttle body cleaner.
Still a little to clean out
Clean as a whistle. Reverse the process and start it up.

You can also just replace the IAC altogether. Some cost more than others. Ranging from ~30 to $90. If you have a BMW it’s probably a cool grand and requires 14 special tools and a computer to install.

If you replace the IAC with a new one, the computer in the vehicle is going to need to “relearn” the fuel / air mixture curves. Your car is very smart and does this type of calculus on the fly. However be prepared. If you don’t reset / relearn the sensor with a scan tool, your car is going to have to learn while driving and the first 5 minutes or so your car is going to run terrible while it sorts things out.

Happy cleaning! Hope your car runs better!

The monster in the car

My daughter’s 2010 Cobalt was making terrible metallic growling noises as it drove up our driveway. It didn’t take much troubleshooting to diagnose a sorely overdue front brake job. Pads and rotors. Easy.

Horror! There is literally no brake pad left on one of these. Just the metal plate that the pad is affixed to. I’m not really sure how the car was stopping! Yiiii!
Here you can also see the effects of delaying replacement of brake pads. This is the metal on metal scraping noise you hear. The lack of pad material grooves the rotors which in turn doubles or triples the cost of the job because now these need to be replaced.

After the front brake job, I drove the car and it was responsive to the brake pedal but there was still something clearly amiss. The car still had a “growling / grinding” metallic sound when turning the wheel right at above 5 mph.

My daughter had to go to home. I was tired and the car was at least operational and could stop if there were any traffic lights or stop signs on the way home and someone opted to proactively depress the brake pedal. Time for some research.

Google brought me to wheel bearings. Wheel bearings hold your vehicle’s wheels in position while allowing them to spin. This is a “newish” car (2010) so the wheel bearings are integrated into an assembly with the ABS wheel sensor called a wheel hub.

At first it seemed like replacing this part was digging a bit too far into the car but the more I thought about it the procedure basically was just taking 3 more bolts out and unscrewing the wheel shaft. Besides, I had already done the brake job so I was familiar with this area of the car.

It was a good excuse to buy a massive 200ft lb. torque wrench and I got the 30mm 1/2” socket for the axle nut. It does look manly carry a two and a half foot wrench out of the hardware store.

While I really liked the knurled finish on the handle of the Kobalt brand, I decided on the Craftsman wrench mainly because the numbering was red on black instead of just stamped chrome with no visibility. Both were 89.95 but as one gets older visibility becomes a much bigger priority when working with precision tools. The one thing I don’t like about Craftsman these days is that the warranty is 90 days on this tool versus the lifetime that Sears used to carry. The Kobalt wrench had a full year.

The wheel hub was aftermarket “Master Pro” brand and cost 109.99. However, you can get OEM ones that are maybe slightly better for about $160 if that suits your budget.

I like O’riley. The employees at my local store seem to know more than most of the big box auto stores in town. They also accept my used oil for recycling. So far the parts I have purchased from O’riley have worked great.

I fretted a bit about the logic I saw on the internet about diagnosing which bearing might be bad based on all kinds of silliness about inside turning and the opposite thrust direction etc. …a lot of YouTube videos of various hacks trying to figure out which bearing was bad.

Turns out all you have to do is jack up each side and grab and shake the wheel side to side and up and down. If the wheel wobbles…= bad wheel hub / bearing.

Besides the torque wrench, here is basically what you need.
Undo the rotor and caliper assembly
Then further unbolt the wheel hub. Usually 3 or 4 bolts. Unscrew the axle / shaft nut. This one was 30mm. I used an air ratchet to speed things along.

Here is the failed wheel hub. It felt like it had some play in it but not nearly as obvious as when I had the wheel jacked up and was rocking the wheel back and forth. A little bit of
Scratchiness was heard when spinning the hub after removal.

Reverse everything you took off and make sure you plug in the ABS sensor and bolt the dust shield behind the wheel hub. I highly recommend using a torque wrench to not over stress the bolts. The axle nut was torque rated to 155 ft. lbs. Tighten a bit, put the tire back on (100 ft lbs per nut), lower the car, and do final torque on the axle nut with the tire touching the ground.

The test drive was fantastic.

The car was SILENT!

Then I decided to do the rear brake shoes! My words for the next 2 hours as I did one side of the car broke the silence. More than once. 🙂

9 Common Wiring Mistakes and Code Violations

Link to an excellent article at I have referred to several times during home projects.