Why knowledge is power|
The chill of the first days of winter here down under motivated me to light the gas fire in my lounge room for the first time in eight months. It worked perfectly for about half an hour then went out. Each time I relit it, it stayed alight for about five minutes before snuffing itself out.
Fearing there was a problem with the gas regulator or elsewhere in the gas supply, I called a repairman. He showed up a couple of days later and fixed the problem within half an hour. His callout fee was $132 and I was fine with that - he had fixed the problem quickly and no additional parts or labor were required.
On his way out he explained the problem was a quirk of this particular model of gas fire; over time, dust builds up around the thermocouple which prevents it from functioning properly. This causes the gas valve to close as a fail-safe mechanism.
As it turns out, I have the same type of gas fire in my home office - albeit a smaller version. A couple of days after the repairman had been to the house, I lit this fire for the first time this winter. And guess what? It did exactly the same thing; it worked perfectly for about half an hour before it went out.
My first reaction was to kick myself for not getting the repairman to check out this heater while he was here fixing the other one. I wasn't so bothered about paying another callout charge - it was more the inconvenience of having to wait several days for him to come back - without heat. It's a bit hard to type when your fingers are frozen.
However, the difference between this breakdown and the previous one was I now had machine specific knowledge. It took me five minutes to locate and clean the thermocouple. Problem solved. And I was pleased, not so much because I saved myself $132 - that was a bonus - but because I avoided the several days of downtime while I waited for the repairman to come back.
This whole episode got me thinking about the value of knowledge--specialized knowledge. And the acquisition of it. The ridiculously simple problem that occurs with these gas fires is no doubt a good little earner for my repairman. And that's fair enough. After all, this is the whole point of having specialized knowledge - to make a good living. It's also why we visit a doctor, consult an accountant or, heaven forbid, hire an attorney - because they have specialized knowledge that we don't.
It's also why the acquisition of specialized knowledge has such inherent value. When the repairman explained the cause of the problem with my gas fire - I acquired some of his specialized knowledge. And it turned out to be valuable (and extremely handy) to me. Not in a professional sense of course, because I'm unlikely to start a gas fire repair business anytime soon.
But the principle is the same. And it's why if hydraulics is involved in what you do for a living, ~Contact.FirstName~, there's real value in being plugged in to everything we do here; not only this e-zine, but also our professional development programs, Hydraulics Made Easy, Advanced Hydraulic Control and the Hydraulics Pro Club monthly print newsletter and CD. As the above story demonstrates, it should come as no surprise that our most successful members get it all.
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Heavy Equipment Mechanic
Who DO you trust with your hydraulic equipment?|
If you own or are responsible for hydraulic equipment, this is a question worthy of your serious consideration, for reasons David McCutcheon, one of our members from the UK, explains:
"A winch on a new hydraulic system was not performing and so the crew sent the directional valve - a Danfoss unit with a rated flow of around 130 L/min, to a
reputable service centre in Holland. The valve came back with a clean bill of health and was fitted back into the system - only to find the performance of the winch was as bad as before."
"Now knowing that the directional valve and the service lines to the winch were good, we then spent two days tracing pipes and checking for blockages in the pressure
and return lines. Nothing showed up and we were running out of ideas."
"So I took the decision to remove the directional valve again and take it to another
service centre. I stood over the technician while he stripped it. And we soon found the cause of our problem: a 4" plastic dust cap stuck inside! The valve was cleaned out then built up again and tested out OK."
"I stomped directly into the original service centre to read them the riot
act. When I got there I demanded to see their service facilities. I was
taken around the back of the premises and found a "workshop" that my
garden shed would put to shame."
"I later found out that before stripping the valve, they had tested it first by using it to stroke a small hydraulic cylinder backwards and forwards. Because the cylinder moved as it should, they assumed the valve was OK and didn't even bother to dismantle it!"
"The moral to this story is always check out your repairer's facilities no matter how
impressive the front of the building is."
Those of you who have read Insider Secrets to Hydraulics know I deal with this subject at length in chapters 14, 15 and 16: how to choose a hydraulic repair shop; the things to look for when you do; and how to avoid common repair scams and rip-offs.
Unfortunately, like most other industries, the hydraulics repair biz has its share of shoddy operators and rip-off merchants. And as the above story illustrates, if you don't do your homework when choosing a hydraulic repair shop it can cause a lot of heartache.
But there's another lesson here. And it's got to do with troubleshooting methodology (read/re-read chapters 7, 8 and 9 of Insider Secrets to Hydraulics). The crew broke one of my golden rules of troubleshooting: NEVER remove a hydraulic component from a system unless you've PROVEN it to be faulty, FIRST.
The decision to remove the directional valve and send it for testing was a guess - a correct guess, but a guess all the same. And because it was a guess, when it came back in the same condition as it left, it was assumed the valve could be eliminated as the cause of the problem.
We're told the crew then spent two days looking for the problem elsewhere in the system.
What should have happened, before any components were removed, was the flow and pressure to the valve - and between the valve and the winch should have been tested using a flowmeter.
This would have established without doubt, the valve was THE cause of the problem. This is important, because it has to do with CONVICTION. When the valve came back in the same condition as it left, the most the crew would have done is repeated the same flow tests to re-establish the valve was STILL the cause of the problem - rather than getting sucked in to spending two days looking for the problem elsewhere.
And if you're thinking: oh but a flowmeter wasn't available; that's a cop out. And in this case an expensive one. The cost of the two days downtime would have paid for the flowmeter, and if that wasn't an option, a flowmeter can always be hired with a technician attached.
So the real moral to the story is: yes the crew got screwed over by a shoddy repair shop. But in this particular case, they left themselves wide open to the run around it caused. Because of their flawed approach to troubleshooting.
"Thanks for the great work on the two publications, Insider Secrets to Hydraulics and Preventing Hydraulic Failures. I have been in the hydraulics business for the past 20 years and it's very difficult to find any decent material on hydraulic maintenance, troubleshooting and failure analysis. These two books cover it all in easy to understand language... I conduct hydraulic training courses and plan to purchase copies to distribute to my students to share your practical approach to understanding a not so understandable subject."
Paul W. Craven, Certified Fluid Power Specialist
Motion Industries, Inc.
How to select the CORRECT hydraulic oil|
If you only ever do ONE thing to ensure the reliability and service life
of a hydraulic machine, making sure it's got the right oil in the
tank should be it.
In this NEW 20-page report and accompanying 34-minute video,
titled: "How to select the correct hydraulic oil
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you are currently using is the right one!", I show you how
to get this right - step-by-step. Find out more
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