12 August, 2009

The Borg

The diesel borg is trying to assimilate me. At the shop I work at I don't do much engine work aside from replacing the things bolted to the outside. Coolant pumps, exhaust manifolds, thermostats etc. Every now and again they throw an injector job my way, but those are so few that I have a hard time remembering how to change them. It's fine with me, because I'm not really interested in engine work and I don't know enough about heavy duty diesel engines to do that sort of thing. If I have a decent service manual at my disposal I can do whatever needs to be done, but it takes me a lot longer than someone who does engine work frequently. Things seem to be changing these days. I've been given more engine work and I'm not sure why. Maybe the foreman is getting tired of doing it (he's gettin' pretty old) or they've realized that my neat, clean and orderly working habits (bordering on obsesive-compulsive) are suited to engine work. Last night I was doing a head gasket job on a Cummins M11 and much to my chagrin, I was actually liking it. I guess it's because I'm more familiar with diesels than I used to be. I have no problem tearing into a gas engine in a light truck or car, but I think my lack of knowledge with diesels made me fear having to work on them. Adjusting valves on a diesel is humorous though. Car engines haven't required regular valve adjustment for decades, but the archaic diesels that are installed in big trucks still have to be "tuned up" from time to time. It's a perfect example of how big trucks are "old tech." Speaking of old technology, while I was working on that M11 there was a driver in the next bay talking cars with my foreman. The driver gave the old "I'll work on old cars, but the new ones.... What do you need all those wires for?" I smiled to myself and thought "Oh great another one of those guys." The truck this guy owned was an old and decrepit 1996 Freightliner with a Cummins N14 engine. Which, of course, is all mechanical. I was wondering if he kept clinging to that old clunker so he didn't have to drive something with one of those "new fangled electronic pieces of shit." Back to the engine work. I'm not knocking guys who like doing engine work. Someone who's a good engineman is a valuble asset in any shop. It's just not the thing for me. I never understood the fascination with engine guys. Just because someone can spit out specifications for a few engines doesn't necessarily mean he's good. It just means he has a great memory. But, the guys who get all their specs from memory aren't always right. They do things the same way so often that they think it's not just the right way, it's the ONLY way. For example, the last time I was being punished with a valve adjustment job, before I could find the engine's data plate (valve lash specs are always on the data plate) my foreman spit out HIS specs. By the time he finished his sentence I had found the data plate and *snicker* he was wrong. Now, I know better than to tell him he's wrong so I made sure he saw me writing down what he told me and even asked him to repeat the specs. There's a touch of the "I'm right" disease in our shop and I'm just as guilty as anyone. Nobody wants to admit they were wrong and I learned early in my employment at this shop that it's easiest to salute, say "Yes sir!" and then do the job how you want to do it. This sort of thing happens so often that a former coworker and I would salute each other whilst being lectured by someone who was "right." So, what I did with that valve adjustment was said "Yes sir!" and waited for the foreman to hide in the office. Then I did the job with the manufacturer's specifications. Everyone walks away happy. I guess things like that contribute to me not wanting to do engine work. Because I have to do it their way, and their way might not work well for me. Since I'm a bit of a noob with engine work, I frequently do things the way I'm told to. If I find a way that works better for ME, then I do it my way. In the end, if they'd just provide me with a service manual and leave me the hell alone, I'd probably be happy doing engine work. It's a small shop though, so the politics will always be getting in the way. Maybe I just don't play well with others.

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