Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

15 November 2006

I Am An Idiot

Oh yes! Repeat after me: I am an idiot. I let self-proclaimed "experts" tell me what was wrong, and they were wrong. And we lost a day of work because of it. And I know better!

At our marina construction site, we have three Caterpillar products: A D3 bulldozer, a track-hoe (like a back-hoe with dozer-tracks instead of wheels), and a 924G front-end loader. The three of them are almost in constant use. They're amazing machines; together they can move earth like you wouldn't believe.

So on Monday the front-end loader was lifting up our bulk diesel tank so we could do some work on it (hidden behind the white storage building in the picture below). It was just sitting there, idling when suddenly, the huge machine died like the operator had switched the key off. But he hadn't. Puzzled looks were exhanged all around. Panels were opened, and a half-dozen heads and sets of hands started exploring. They seemed to know what they were doing, so I backed off. Hey, what do I know about front-end loaders? Nada, that's what. And I didn't want to appear like the know-it-all boss telling them what to do.

Our Broken Loader
The guys decided it was a clogged fuel filter, so it was removed. What they did not tell me was that they had no fuel pressure (which meant that it didn't matter whether the filter was clogged or not - it wasn't getting any gas in the first place). I had to leave the jobsite, but I did so with confidence that they'd get the machine running shortly. At the end of the day my foreman reported the bad news: No go. He said that a "little square fuse" had blown.

Um, a little square fuse? You mean a relay?

"Yes, that's it."

The fuel pump relay?



Next morning, out of curiosity I asked to see this "fuel pump relay" fuse. Sure enough, it looked like every other small, black, square five-prong electronic relay in automotive use. I asked where it came out of? My foreman pulled a cover off the fuse panel and pointed to the empty slot. So far, so good. On the inside of the cover was a diagram...where they always are...with the location of all the fuses and relays as well as what they are. Nobody had noticed it. A quick glance showed me that the relay they removed was for the...get ready...brake lights. Hmm. Looking over the diagram a little further, I noticed that there was a 10 amp fuse listed as "Circuit 150 ECM." Electronic Control Module. "That one," I said. "Pull it." My foreman did and, sure enough, it was blown. We put a spare in and it blew as soon as we turned the ignition key on. Well there ya go! There's either a dead short in that circuit or one of the components in the circuit has gone bad. Troubleshooting 101.

Needless to say we didn't have a wiring diagram for the loader. Urgent emails and calls to Catepillar went back and forth, and now Wednesday - two days later - I have the wiring diagram and am tracing out that "circuit 150." Only problem is, the wiring diagram is about three feet by four feet. Looking at it on my computer is like examining an elephant through a straw. It ain't easy.

Troubleshooting mechanical things is not hard. What's hard is *not* jumping to predrawn conclusions about what is wrong. Keep an open mind, and start at the beginning. If something stops, before you start turning wrenches, check the fuses first!

So here I sit, kicking myself.

1 comment:

La Gringa said...

Trust yourself, Bob. Every time I have relied on a so-called expert telling me something that just didn't quite make sense to me, it turned out that they were wrong.

Being a woman, and not having construction experience, I was hesitant to insist on something that I only knew from do-it-yourself books or the internet. Time after time, though, in the end I regreted it when I didn't stick to my guns.

So, trust your instincts!