26 July, 2011

The Dreaded "Freon"

You know what I can't stand about mobile air conditioning? Improper terminology being used by so-called "professionals". This mostly revolves around the use of the word "Freon". Freon is not a type of refrigerant. It's a brand name, used by DuPont, for R12. R12 was somehow deemed evil by enviromentalists, but it's not the refrigerant's fault. It's the fault of shade tree mechanics letting the stuff get into the atmosphere by not properly recovering it from vehicles. Anyway, R12 had been used for so long that it was referred to by it's brand name, "Freon". It's mostly due to DuPont manufacturing most of it at the time and "Freon-12" was the most prominently displayed word on the canisters of the stuff. Well, since R12 became the singular cause of greenhouse gases (Sarcasm!) it's use in mobile air conditioning came to an end in the US with the 1993 model year vehicles. Unfortunately the new kid on the block (since 1994), R134a, is referred to as "freon" to this day by the people who don't know any better. You want to guess who's fault it is? Mechanics. You can't blame the customers. If they hear their mechanic refer to the refrigerant in their car as "freon", then that's what it is. The mechanics should know better. It's my opinion that if you have take your car, 1994 or newer, to a shop for air conditioning service and you hear the mechanic say "freon", you should leave and go find another shop. In the shop I work at, my incessant bitching about the whole "freon" thing has been taking its toll. My foreman still occasionally asks me things like "How much freon was in it?" My response is "None. There shouldn't be ANY 'freon' in this system." He rolls his eyes and , depending on his mood, might tell me off for being a smart-ass. Time after time I explain how we are supposed to be professionals, so we should use the proper terminology. I even get to be a smart-ass with the customers. "My a/c isn't cooling. Probably low 'freon'." "Nope. I can assure you it isn't a low 'freon' level." I then go into a mini-course on refrigerants. I'm not being a dick, I'm educating my customers. Another thing about air conditioning that annoys the hell outta me is when I hear shit like "So, are you going to suck it down?" Again, if you hear your mechanic say shit like "...suck down the system" Find another shop. As with the use of "freon", chances are the person doesn't understand how an air conditioning system works and they won't actually solve your problem. They'll probably just "suck it down" and recharge it without actually diagnosing the system and figuring out what the problem is. Also, if they're solution to your problem is putting a one pound can of refrigerant into the system, run away. R134a is very "charge sensitive". With the old R12 systems, you could overcharge them and it wouldn't affect performance. Not so with R134a systems. If the system requires a three pound charge of refrigerant, three pounds is all that should be in there. More is NOT better with R134a. I see "Air conditioner tune-up" kits in truck stops all the time and it disgusts me to no end. They consist of a one pound can of R134a and a hose that connects to the low pressure port. Well, I'm spent for now and it's time to get some sleep. More air conditioning rants to come tomorrow.

10 May, 2011

Head against the wall

What's the most important thing in the trucking industry? Getting the load to its destination. On time. The people at a certain break down service don't fully understand that fact. I was called out last night by a national road service provider (like AAA for semis) to go look at a truck that shut down. The driver said he got a "no oil pressure" message from the DIC (Driver Information Center. An LCD display on the instrument panel.) and the engine shut down. Simple enough. The ECM (Engine Control Module) wasn't getting an oil pressure signal so it assumed that there was no oil pressure. Wanting to protect the engine, the ECM cuts off the fuel and the engine stops. Well, not knowing what the exact problem was, I had to consider what would cause a no oil pressure condition. Here's what could cause it.

1.) There's no oil in the engine. Could be from holes in the oil pan (damage due to road debris), a hole in the block caused by engine parts failing and piercing the block, a leak from crank seals, failed turbo lines or the turbo itself, loose oil filter, bad oil filter gasket, leaking head gasket, bad front cover gasket etc. An oil pump can't create pressure if there's no oil to pump.

2.) The oil pump failed. That's pretty straight forward.

3.) Something is blocking the oil pump pickup tube.

4.) The oil pressure sensor failed or the wiring to it has been damaged.

5.) The ECM has malfuntioned.

OK, having considered the things listed above, I loaded up the truck with some oil filters and extra oil. I got the scan tool from my foreman and asked him for a mechanical gauge so I could verify oil pressure, or lack thereof. He told me that I didn't need it because I could check oil pressure with the scan tool. This is a true statement, however stupid it sounds, because the scan tool's data stream shows the oil pressure sensor's data. I made the point that if the sensor is bad, how would I verify the oil pressure? I left without a gauge. There's no point in arguing with the foreman. He can be a stubborn cur. I drove 50 miles to get to the casualty. The truck was pretty much in the middle of nowhere considering the time of day. Parts can't be had anywhere at that hour if we don't have what we need in the service truck or at the shop. Aside from getting the driver to sign my work order, the first thing I did was to look under the truck for a puddle of oil. Nothing. Looked all over the engine for signs of leaks. Nothing. Pulled the dipstick out. Full crankcase. Hooked up the scan tool and found a code for oil pressure sensor voltage. That tells me where to look and also that the ECM hasn't failed since it was able to communicate with the scan tool. So now what? I have no idea where the sensor is aside from that it has to be screwed into a spot that has oil passing by. There's a lot of things attached to engines these days, so which component is the oil pressure sensor? I had no idea. I tried calling the shop, but everyone had already left for the night. OK, time to call the service provider and let them know what's going on.

I called the service provider (SP from here on out) and told them what I had found. I asked them what they wanted me to do. The SP asked if I hooked a gauge up to the engine. I said I didn't have one with me. I could hear the frustration in his voice that was leading to him basically wanting to tell me I was incompetent. I calmly explained what my foreman had told me and he eased off a bit. This particular person is a dick, plain and simple. He never thinks about the most important thing in trucking. He wants to get trucks fixed no matter how long it takes or how unreasonable his requests may be. He didn't understand that this truck wasn't going anywhere regardless of whether I had a pressure gauge with me or not. Here's why.

Let's assume I had a gauge with me and actually found a place to connect it. If the oil pump isn't creating pressure, it's junk. Call for a tow truck. I'm not dropping an oil pan and changing a pump on the side of the fucking road. Where the hell would I get a pump at midnight anyway? If the pump WAS creating pressure there's still the problem of the ECM not seeing any signal from the sensor. Again, where am I going to find a sensor at midnight? The SP dude loves to suggest jerry-rig fixes and I knew he would bring up the stupid idea of bypassing the sensor. First off, that's totally stupid. Secondly, this ain't the old days anymore. You can't just unplug a sensor and stick a paper clip into the plug to make shit work. Thirdly, I'm not stupid enough to put my ass on the line like that. IF I could find where the sensor was on the engine and IF it was possible to bypass it, I would still refuse to do it. What if the pump makes pressure but not enough? What if the pump works randomly? If I bypass an oil pressure sensor, send the thing down the road and the engine seizes, guess who get hung out to dry? Yep, me. Like I said, I'm not that stupid. Time for more hypothetical situations.

Let's say the nearest place for me to get a new sensor was open 24 hours a day and the SP told me to go get one. The nearest place would have been 60 miles away so we would have a 120 mile round trip to get a new sensor. The trip is all interstate highway with a 65 mph limit. That's about 1.8 hrs of just driving. Add in time at the parts house and a couple of traffic lights and we're easily at 2 hrs. You, in the back, what did you ask? "How do I know that the sensor is actually bad?" I don't. Determining that would require diagnostic procedures from a manual or from Insight (Cummins Insight. The truck had an ISX engine in it.) Well, we don't have a manual and our subscription to Insight has expired. If I had information at my disposal, there would still be a good chunk of time devoted to diagnosis. Let's say that I was able to determine, without doubt, that the sensor was bad. Great. I spent an hour on diagnostics (still on the side of the fucking road mind you) and then have to waste 2 hrs getting a sensor. Sensor in hand, I put it in and... the engine still shuts down. Call the SP and update them. The SP in turn calls the truck's owner and updates them. The downtime thus far is... Hmm, let's add it up.

22:15 we get the service call
22:30 Service truck loaded and I'm on the road
23:25 I arrive. Start paperwork and preliminary diagnosis
23:45 I call the SP and update them
00:00 Done talking the the SP, I hit the road to get a service manual and a new sensor
02:30 Return to the site and begin sensor diagnosis
03:30 Diagnostics done. Sensor changed. Engine still shuts down
03:50 Updated SP

The truck was, obviously, sitting still for AT LEAST 15 minutes before we got the call. That would put total downtime thus far at just over 6 hrs. Imagine being the truck's owner. You've just been told that after 6 hrs of downtime, the load on your truck still won't be moving. You'll be paying for 6 hrs of service call to boot. Now, that's about $800 that we would bill the SP. They, in turn, would slap their fee on top of that. Probably $900 - $1000 when it's all said and done. Now, you would find out that on top of the service call you would be paying for a tow (the distances involved would easily make for a $1000 tow bill.) I'd venture to say that steam would be coming out of your ears. Now, guess who the bad guy is in this hypothetical situation? Yep, me. Shit rolls down hill. Customer raises hell with the SP who, not wanting to take the blame even though they ARE to blame for this whole cluster fuck, will contact my shop and raise hell. The shop owner not wanting to lose a good customer looks into the situation. I get interrogated and even though I did exactly as I was told, some fault will be found and I'll get hollered at. I know how shit works around here.

As the service call went in reality. I was only gone for about 2 hrs and the truck's down time was kept as low as it could be in this situation. There's certain service calls where it would be best just to call for a tow truck and be done with it. Service calls are best left for problems you KNOW can be solved. Flat tires, brake chamber or valve leaks, bad air lines etc.

So, you can see that Captain Jerry Rig at the SP likes to have people banging their heads against walls. Hell, it ain't his money that's being wasted. Jerry Rig doesn't understand that sometimes it's best to just get a tow truck on the road and keep the down time to a minimum. Get the load moving!

19 March, 2011

Oh, the questions.

Here's some lovely questions mechanics receive. Blatantly stupid or extremely vague, they're whoppers. I present the questions and the responses I would give if they weren't customers. Or if I had a few beers in me.

"I have a Dodge Dakota and until yesterday it worked perfectly. I went shopping and the station, but since I had no battery. They helped me handing me another battery power. I get to my house. From today does not work, only to hear a martilleteo on (I think it\'s motor starting) and I can not do from the truck.Do not want to take it to a shop because I am female and know nothing about cars and I can cheat"

-Nothing wrong with this question. It's just a hilarious auto translation.

"Problem with the 1987 Chevrolet S-10 Pickup. was driving out of nowhere truck engine stopped but all lights stayed on, and the "check gages" light came on, this light has never come on before. i changee the starter , coil, and the moduale. please help!"

- Why do they always go for the battery, starter or alternator first? If the fucking engine shut off, why would you replace the starter? If the starter cranks the engine, fucking leave it alone. That's the starters only job. Turning the engine.

"replacement of fuel filter"

- That's it. No make, model, year or engine. My response would be "Remove old filter. Install new filter. Check for leaks." Bone head.

"Replace spark plugs for 2000 cavalier"

- That's all there was. Is it a statement or a question? I would just love to watch this person attempt the job. Seeing their reaction when the plug wires break because they haven't been changed since Christ was a corporal, stripping the threads in the cylinder head, not gapping the plugs before installation...

"Lights in dash and radio are blinking - why?"

- There's a rave going on. Weren't you invited?

"smells like something is burning"

- Carry a fire bottle.

"I have 86 Mercedes I rebuilt the top end and got it running drove it about twenty miles thy day it was done then the next day I try to start it and it trued to turn then it started click in when turn it over the belts try to turn it over then nothing but click could it be my timing or could it be the starter"

- Punctuation, motherfucker! Punctuation! Again, is this a question or a statement? I'm guessing the dipshit got his valve timing wrong and it's an interference fit engine (meaning the valves and pistons get together when valve timing isn't 100%) and has a shit load of bent valves. That's an expensive lesson.

"need a fuel tank diagram for a 1998 chevy/geo tracker 1.6 liter 2 door"

-Seriously? It's a tank. It holds liquid.

"my van keeps shutting off"

- It's supposed to do that when you turn the key off. Don't want the engine running 24/7.

"I have a 95 Caprice Wagon and can\'t get the key into the ignition. What\'s going on?"

- Try using the right key.

"how to change a timing chain in a 1971 buick skylark 350 "

- Easy. Remove the old timing chain and gears, install the new chain and gears. Road test.

"key wont turn in ignition"

- Wrong key or wrong car.

17 March, 2011

Get off your high horse, pal

Having read some article comments on Yahoo regarding the current nuclear problem in Japan, I present this little gem. And I quote...

" I guess they simply chose to look pass the fact that Japan attacked military instillations and the US nuked cities with civilian women and children. It sickens me that human beings can be so petty and ignorant as such. It just confirms to me the thought that man will eventually be the cause of our own demise simply because we cannot get our heads out of our own asses long enough to come together for the sake of humanity and this planet."

What Mr. High and Mighty here doesn't realize, aside from the fact that his spelling is atrocious, is that Japan was as bad as Germany in WWII. If not worse. Japan slaughtered millions of Chinese civilians during the war and made no effort to treat POWs humanely. It has nothing to do with revenge for Pearl Harbor. Japan had been on a rampage since the mid 1930s. As for the bombing of German and Japanese cities by the USAF and USN I'll paraphrase from the book "The Wrong Stuff" by Truman Smith. "You don't win wars by being the good guy. You win wars by being worse than your enemy." If German and Japan had had the industrial capability to bomb the hell out of the US, they would have done it. Wars are brutal.

I also need to comment on this gentleman's little ditty about "the US nuked cities with civilian women and children..." Further evidence that he doesn't know his WWII history. The atomic bomb was devastating to be sure, but the destruction wrought by "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" pale in comparison to what General LeMay was doing to Japanese cities. People tend to forget that B-29s had been in service in the Pacific theater long before the atomic bombs were considered. Conventional bombing showed mediocre results, so they switched... to incendiary bombs. Japanese cities were mainly built of wood and paper. You do the math. One fire bombing mission created as much destruction (a little more in some cases) as one atomic bomb. Firebombing didn't happen just once or twice, the USAF was doing this nightly. The firebombing of Dresden is considered one of the most horrific things done by the allies, but Dresden was a mere flickering candle to what was being done to Japanese cities.

OK, so I'm wandering off topic. Have any of you expected anything different from me? The quote I posted in the beginning of this post is but one example of something that really pisses me off. The cause is mainly shitty education in the school system when you get right down to it. Any bleach blond bar slut will be able to tell you who Hitler is. Ask that lovely lady why Hitler was a bad person and you'll receive a three letter response at best. "He killed Jews!" Ask this belle how Hitler managed to get into power and you'll get a blank stare. They probably wouldn't even be able to tell you Hitler's first name. They know the important thing, that Hitler was an evil motherfucker, but they don't know how it all happened. Asking our little Tavern Princess why Japan wanted to take over the Pacific would be an exercise in futility and lead to you becoming an asshole. Trust me, it happened to me once.

23 January, 2011

Hobby and Reality On Converging Courses

My main hobby is virtual aviation. Both flying and controlling. My real life is concerned with the lady I wrote about in the previous post. These two things are likely to converge and touch a nerve with me regarding the same thing. I don't need to describe my problems with the lady again. My hobby of controlling on the VATSIM network is giving me problems though. The ATM at my ARTCC resigned from his position today after a lengthy "witch hunt" by a handful of my fellow controllers. I won't deny their complaints of our ATM not being around much and not having much of an online presence, I have issue with the way they went about airing their grievances. They did almost everything except hang the ATM in effigy. I took neither side as I usually do, but I have lost all respect for those controllers who made up this "lynch mob". Our ATM posted on the message board his resignation for all to see and a few of the mob had the audacity to post well wishes such as "best of luck to you." It disgusts me to no end. This leads to the parallel with the lady in my life.

I'm lazy and a bit of a slob, I'm one of the "working poor" formerly known as the middle class so I don't have much, but I have a very old fashioned sense of duty and honor. I say "sir" and "Ma'am", hold doors for women, help people whenever I'm called on etc. I don't know where the saying came from, but I live by it. "My honor is my loyalty." With the controllers of the mob, they were out for blood and they got it. Then they turned around and wished the ATM well? Two-faced sons-of-bitches is what they are! No loyalty to either side equals no honor! With the lady her infidelity of the past means no loyalty, hence no honor. I'm capable of forgiving people for many things (thank you for that gift Grandpa!) but forgiving someone for such a gross breach of honor is almost impossible for me to do.