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    56FordGuy's Avatar
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    Shop Tales

    So, lately I've seen a number of posts that made me think of something I've experienced over a career that's included working on everything from lawnmowers to bulldozers, cars to 100% electric material handling units, for private companies and as a dealer tech. I know there are several of us on here that repair things daily as a job, and most all of us have dealt with repair shops in some form or another. Not limited to mechanics, but any interesting/ funny shop related story. This isn't to just gripe about bad dealers, shops, etc but things that happen that either make you laugh or scratch your head and ask "Really?"

    It's kind of a long shot, but let's see where it goes.

    We had a client call in one day, forks fell off of a propane forklift. Not unheard of, due to the way they attached on that particular model the lower attachments would wear down and if not checked on the maintenance they would let the fork assembly come off. When I got there, I found the forklift sitting in the building with no forks and a couple of destroyed hydraulic lines about like I'd expected. I tracked down the customer and asked where the forks were. "Outside, stuck in dock door 7"

    Well, that's new. I went outside and sure enough, there was a set of forks sticking out of the dockplate. The customer had been loading a truck with Forklift A, and it got stuck in the trailer. They backed Forklift B into the trailer to push it forward and get unstuck. Forklift B was then facing toward the dockplate, and when the operator started out of the trailer he had the forks sitting on the floor at just the right angle. They went under the lip of the dock plate, right between the supports, and wedges under the plate and over the 2" diameter hinge pin. That stuck the forklift, so they got a chain and used Forklift A (which was still in the nose of the trailer) to try and pull Forklift B out. It didn't work, they just ripped the forks off of unit B. They moved the trailer to another door and drove both units out, leaving the fork assembly hanging in the dock.

    I went to the office and got the semi with a 20 ton winch on the Landoll. When I returned to the customer, the dock plate service guy had arrived as well. We used the bed of the trailer to keep from pulling the dock plate straight out of the building, then hooked the winch to the fork assembly. The trailer didn't have a pressure gauge for the winch, but it loaded down as hard as I ever heard it. The engine on the truck started lugging down at high idle, and I squatted down below the trailer deck height. Something was about to let go, and I didn't want to be in the way if it went sideways. The fork assembly finally snapped free and shot 20' across the bed of the trailer. Yup, it was stuck. A new set of hooks with a couple of new hydraulic lines, good as new. Can't say the same for the dockplate, when I left the service tech was explaining something about a bent pivot frame and complete replacement.
    -Blake

    Your mileage may vary.

    JD 6410
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    Superglidesport's Avatar
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    I worked as a fleet technician for a liquor distributor back in the '70's. Union shop for all the drivers, helpers and warehousemen. Back in those days it was all about delivering the load without any consideration for weight and safety. As some may know liquid loads are very heavy. Most of the trucks left the warehouse extremely overloaded. I remember dealing with trailers breaking in half and dumping the entire load of beer in the middle of the road. Trucks too heavy to tow, breaking down in a raging blizzard and having to go out and get them running. Driveshafts breaking in half. Going up through the truck body floor and taking a couple of pallets of beer out.

    One day the CFO came out to the shop and asked me why I spent ~$15,000 buying clutch & transmission parts. At the time I was replacing a clutch a day and overhauling a transmission a week. I asked him to get into a loaded truck and take a ride with me down to the local sand pit. We scaled the truck at around 85,000# and then I showed him it was only legal for 35,000#. 50,000# OVER the maximum combined gross and legal weight limit and subject to $1 per pound fine. Get the picture? He then spoke to the warehouse manager who explained it as being a declining load. By about the middle of the day it was almost at the legal weight limit for the truck........Solution? Buy big trucks! This incident led us to order HD tandem axle, diesel powered delivery trucks with double reinforced frames and Allison automatic transmissions. We also switched to tandem axle tractors pulling tandem axle pup trailers for bulk loads. We still ran heavy but at least the equipment was up for the tasks.
    Last edited by Superglidesport; 02-09-2016 at 03:14 PM.
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    56FordGuy's Avatar
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    SGS, I have to be careful with the trucking tales. Like you mentioned, it was a time of paper log books and weight limits were really just weigh...suggestions?

    We went down into Georgia once when a plant shut down. I took the big truck, and one of my guys brought a tandem axle straight truck. Think super sized rollback wrecker with a tag axle. We got to the facility and tore down 4 large machines, cribbed them up and got loaded. We also picked up a few big forklift batteries before chaining down the forklift we'd brought along for the tear down. It was a long day, but we got wrapped up and hit the road home. We knew what all our weights were and everything was fine. Trucks were clean and well maintained, everything was chained correctly, we were a textbook worthy photo of how to do it.

    We twisted and turned through the back roads up to I-75 and headed north for Tennessee. Everything was great until we hit the last scale in GA, the one about five miles before the TN state line. Why they have a scale that's only accessible by traffic leaving the state I don't know, but they do. I guess they're really worried about that last five miles.

    I rolled through first, everything was in order so the gave me the green light to keep going. I saw them flag my helper around into the inspection lane, but I figured it was routine paperwork. I went down a couple of exits and stopped at a gas station. I thought I'd get a drink and he would catch up shortly. Twenty minutes later I got a phone call, "Hey I need you to come help me." I turned around and went back the to weigh station to find his truck parked in the back parking lot and him in the office. That's not a good sign.

    Now semi trucks have to abide by weight ratings. You have your gross weight which is the most the truck can weigh at all, and then you have individual axle weights to ensure the load is properly distributed. Some trucks have a drop axle (a tag or pusher depending on where it's mounted) to allow it to carry more weight. Our smaller truck did, but there was a problem. The state of Georgia doesn't allow drop axles that can be controlled from inside the cab. The driver could lift it after leaving the scale and be illegal. As it turned out, our gross weight on his truck was fine but since Georgia didn't count the tag axle he was 9,000 lbs overweight on the rears.

    Okay. Stuff happens, it's a $450 fine, lets just take the citation and go. "No" he says, "You don't understand. With it that far over I can't let you leave until you make it legal."

    Boy. Didn't see that coming.

    With the equipment we were hauling, the lightest part of our load was 2-3,000 lbs and none of it was easily moved. It's not like we could go rent a Uhaul and throw some boxes in it. I asked the officer what we could do, and this is where being nice and polite paid off. "I'm not allowed to tell you how to fix it, but you" he said pointing at me "Just came back to help him, right? You don't have to scale when you leave. He does." Message received, officer.

    We spent the next five hours in the parking lot behind the weigh station winching everything off both trucks, dragging it around and reloading it. It was well after dark when we finished, but he scaled the little truck and it was deemed good so we didn't waste any time getting out of Dodge.

    Both trucks would've been legal in TN, where drop axles are allowed. Five hours of work to go the last five miles through Georgia and a big fine. We never sent the little truck back down there for anything too heavy to be hauled in a pickup.
    -Blake

    Your mileage may vary.

    JD 6410
    Some other stuff

    YouTube- Life in Wyoming

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    2LaneCruzer's Avatar
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    I don't have any tales to match these, nor was I ever a truck driver or mechanic. It does bring back a few memories though, of when I was in college in the 60's, and working construction during the Summer. We were laying storm sewer at the Will Roger's Airport, and my job, among others was to mix the grout used to connect the sections...and they were big, like 48" in diameter, and as I recall, something like 6' long. I also had to deliver the grout to the guys laying the pipe. The only thing they had to deliver the grout was tractor trailer with a flatbed; suitable for hauling a Caterpillar. I have to say that I probably looked pretty silly driving a flatbed with only 6 or 8 five gallon cans of grout. I know I felt pretty silly, but it's decisions like that they were paying someone else the big bucks for.
    Have wings, will travel.

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    Zebrafive's Avatar
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    Last plant I worked at was closing. All other plants had to do was request any spare parts and pay transportation and they were theirs.
    A "suit" from another plant was making a trip to our plant. Someone from his plant asked him to bring back 4, 6" gate valves.

    He was sent to out boss who told us to load 4, 6" gate valves, in his company car and gave us the keys to it. It was a brand new Caddy. We brought it inside the shop, opened the truck (which was empty), lined it with cardboard and used the overhead crane to carefully place the valves in the trunk. We secured they so they would not slide around and closed the trunk. This really sagged the rear of the car. To our surprise when we started the Caddy the rear end rose back up. It had some type of auto load suspension

    We parked it out side and returned the keys to our boss. Later the "suit" came and asked where the 6" valves were. We told him in his trunk. He asked why we did not just put them in box in the back seat, they were after all ONLY 6" valves. We told him open the trunk and take a look. He came back inside and asked "How I am I supposed to get them out?" I told him they same way they were put in, tell an hourly guy to do it.
    J
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    56FordGuy's Avatar
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    Way back when, I was an 'in house' mechanic for a trucking company. Our shop was divided into two sections, one for trucks and one for trailers. The office, bathroom and parts room separated the sections. I worked a mid shift, covering part of 1st and part of 2nd. For a couple of hours I was the only one there aside from the shop manager.

    One night as 1st shift was leaving, an over the road driver brought his truck in for new tires. They were going home and I was in the middle of something else so he left it. A while later I was down behind the truck I was working on when I heard what sounded like welding for a few seconds. I thought maybe the 2nd shift trailer guys had gotten there and were working on something, so I didn't pay it much attention. Our welding repairs were usually short, fix a bracket or maybe reattach a bumper. When I heard the 'welding' start up again it lasted much, much longer than normal- long enough that I got up from what I was doing (a wheel seal or brakes if I recall) to check it out.

    As I stood up, thick white smoke was rolling out from under both sides of the truck the driver had just dropped off for tires. I grabbed an extinguisher off the wall and sprinted across the shop to blast it. The noise stopped, the smoke slowed, and I breathed a split second sigh of relief until the welding sound came back and smoke began rolling once more. I gave it another blast from the extinguisher and ran to the office, bursting through the door and shouting "Truck's on fire!"

    That'll get people motivated. The shop manager bolted out after me as I raced back to give it another dry chemical blast. He grabbed a set of cable cutters and sliced the main battery cables right at the box. Another blast or two from the extinguisher and the fire was out. As it turned out, the main battery cables leading from the battery box had rubbed together and shorted. That set fire to the insulation on the wiring, which set fire to the under hood insulation, which set fire to an oil leak, etc...

    As strange as it sounds, I was really grateful that it happened in the shop. Once 2nd shift arrived we spent hours cleaning up the dry chemical powder and the next day I spent probably as long steam cleaning the burned truck. If that had happened going down the road though, the truck, trailer and load would've been lost. The small extinguishers in the trucks are nothing for a blaze like that, and if the battery cables hadn't been cut I could've emptied 20-30 of the big shop ones with no effect. What honestly scared me though, was the thought of the fire starting while the driver was asleep. It lit up just sitting still in the shop, no different than sitting still at a truck stop. We were very fortunate that if it had to happen, it happened the way it did.



    Another fun one from the truck shop days involved a warranty job. We had just started getting trucks with a new Eaton transmission. It was an electronically shifted manual transmission. It had a clutch and gears like a normal Road Ranger transmission, but there was no clutch pedal in the cab and the display in the cab was much like an automatic in a car. The driver hit a button for reverse, neutral, drive or 1st gear. Otherwise they had no input to the transmission. Those early trucks had plenty of problems, mostly in the wiring and control circuit. We had one come into the shop for a shifting problem. After starting the truck, it would shift correctly until you stopped. Once the driver came to a stop, it would only shift into 2nd gear unless the truck was shut off and restarted. 2nd gear in a semi is pretty darn slow, 5-10 mph. Since it was new enough to be warrantied, it got parked out back until we had time to carry it to the dealer. Out of sight, out of mind it was basically forgotten unless we needed parts for another truck. Being a private fleet fixing a truck right now was a priority, so if we could rob parts off of something to get another one back on the road that was the plan. By the time we 'had time' to get the truck over to the dealer it was Friday afternoon and the truck was wearing a junk turbo, had a broken door, missing a seat, a few light bulbs, mudflaps, etc. Hardly a roadworthy vehicle, we (the techs) wanted to have it towed the 6 miles to the dealer but management wouldn't go for it. Two of us had our CDL, so we would drive that truck to the dealer and one other for a ride home. A short argument ensued, and it was declared that we would either do our jobs as instructed or pack our tools and go. Since there were only two of us with our license, we flipped a coin to see who had to drive the junker. Lucky me, I won.

    We headed out of the yard with my truck blowing thick white smoke and howling, by the time we reached the stop sign a half mile away I had both windows down to try and clear the cab out. I shut it off at the stop sign, otherwise it wouldn't shift out of 2nd. We turned right onto a very busy main artery in the greater Nashville area that ran literally right through the airport. Praying for green lights all the way, we made the turn and began cruising toward the dealer with the junker bucking and blowing smoke. As luck would have it, my luck ran out. Not only did we come to a red light, but there had been a traffic accident and the police looked to be just finishing things up. As I sat there waiting on the light to change with my truck idling out a cloud that would put a rock concert fog machine to shame, I couldn't help but notice both officers had suddenly gotten very interested in me. I didn't want to shut the engine off for fear it wouldn't restart, but leaving it running meant that it wouldn't shift out of 2nd gear when the light turned green. Didn't have time to worry about that though, for the light had turned green and we had to go. Accelerating from the stop, the smoke rolled to fast and thick that I couldn't see 15' behind me to the end of the truck. Before I'd even reached the 10 mph road speed that would've meant needing to shift out of 2nd gear, the officers were right behind me with the lights and siren blaring. Yup. Had a feeling that might happen.


    I pulled over on the tiny little shoulder and shut the truck off as the angriest police officer I've ever seen stormed up to the window. I forget exactly how he said it, but he didn't want my license, registration, or any paperwork. All that mattered was where I was going in that blankety blank truck, who I thought I was taking such a junker out on the road and just what the blank I thought I was doing. For a brief moment, there was a glimmer of hope when I told him we were just trying to get it to the dealership for repair about 5 miles away. Brief and fleeting, the next words out of his mouth were very clear. "If this truck moves again without a wrecker attached to it, I'm taking you and him (Pointing at the guy following me for a ride back) to jail and impounding both of these trucks, do you understand?" The officers escorted us to an exit ramp where we left the junker. I scrawled a "Please don't tow me" message on the back of a hazmat placard and stuck it in the window, then hopped in the other truck and we headed back to the shop. Management ended up calling that tow truck after all...
    -Blake

    Your mileage may vary.

    JD 6410
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    YouTube- Life in Wyoming

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    Jim Timber's Avatar
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    I did two years as a breakdown manager (phone mechanic who diagnoses the customer's problem then sources and contracts a shop to fix it) and Ryder consumer rental was one of our biggest accounts. We got all kinds of calls like "my brakes are on fire" and "I hit the ceiling of the parking ramp", but the one that took the cake for me was when I got a call in Los Angeles for a guy who had 4 flat tires in a 10' cube van. All 4 in the back.

    Now flat tires aren't our problem, so I told the guy I'd call our preferred vendor in the area and they'd be able to take care of him, but he'd have to pay them. Guy's irritated and starts yapping about being in a bad neighborhood. Blah blah blah... Heard it all before buddy. 45 minutes later I get a call from the shop. Tech came out to fix the tires and his jack won't lift the truck. Says his bigger truck is tied up for a few hours and driver doesn't want to wait. Huh? Then he tells me the whole box is just about sitting on the pavement and I need to talk to the driver. Ok, put him on. "So are you going to tow me now?" No. "I can't stay here all night!" Why would you? Leave the truck and we'll deal with it when the other service truck is available. "Because there's sensitive documents in this truck and I can't leave them!" Now I'm really curious - truck's on the frame with 4 flats and he's saying it's got papers in it? This thing's only a 10'er. 1T chassis. "I'm a lawyer and we're moving my office. The back of the truck has all my clients information in it." Ok, give the phone back to the tech. "Ok boss, do we wait for the other truck?" Ask him if you can look in the back? "Sir, I need to see something in the box." I hear the door roll up. "You're not going to believe this." What? "The truck's filled with file folder boxes. Each one's gotta weigh 40#." Get a roll back and put it on a scale and call me back with the weight. "You got it boss."

    2 hours later they call back. 7,200# over. 3.5T Over. It scaled at something like 21K.

    Called driver back: Sir, you've overloaded your truck and will be responsible for all damages. Have a good night! At which point he started swearing a lot and hung up.
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    BigJim55's Avatar
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    them are good stories now, I tell ya!.

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    Zebrafive's Avatar
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    A friend worked for a truck rental place. He gets sent on a call, truck is stalled on a street and will not move. He gets there and the truck, a flat bed, size I no longer remember, is loaded with rail road ties. What he finds is the drive shaft has twisted to the point it became so short a spline/slip joint had come apart.
    J
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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    It's a long one.

    Ok, I'll share one....


    A few years ago, ok, many years ago I was in the Army. I was a helicopter mechanic. I was a crewchief, kinda like a man-for-all-tasks regarding the aircraft. We had specialized guys for sheet-metal repairs and avionics, but the crewchiefs pretty much did every thing else.

    One day we pushed a bird out for a flight. We fired up the APU (auxiliary power unit), a miniature jet engine used for power before the main engines are online and running. Once the generator is turned on, the aircraft 'comes to life.' All of the electronics turn on, the radios come alive, the instruments start displaying information. The AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) which controls the large control surface, the stabilator, which is on the tail of the helicopter also comes on and starts to lower the stabilator. (It's stowed in the up position during shutdown.) Well in this particular case, the stab only moved about two inches, quit, and the Master Caution/Warning alarm starts hollering and flashing lights. Well darn, that's no good. Can't fly now.

    We pull it back into the hanger for the sparkies to chase down the problem. They get out the stabilator amplifier test set and get to troubleshooting in accordance to the manuals and procedures. It took a whole day to say, yup, the left stabilator amplifier is bad. $30K and a few days later, the new amp shows up. The install it, get it inspected, now have to test it to verify operation. The hook the test set up and go through the test procedures again. Another whole day. Ok, it's good now, let's go for the required test flight to re-certify the bird. We push it outside, fire up the APU, turn on the generator, and POOF! Stabilator only moves about two inches and the MCS is going nuts again..... Pull it back into the hanger.....

    Another day goes by for testing again. Yup, the left stab amp is bad. Huh. We just replaced that.... Maintenance test pilot gets mad and orders a new one. Another $30k and a few days go by. They install the new amp and the test again takes all day on the test set. Everything tests ok. Push it outside for the test flight. Fire up the APU and turn on the generator. BLAM! The MCS is screaming again...... Dadgummit.... Pull it back in the hanger.

    Another test day to verify the left amp is bad. Yup, it's bad. Well the Maintenance test pilot says it's something else burning up the amp. He orders a new amp and an APU generator control unit. $45K and a few days later we test the newly installed amp. Yup, it works. We push it outside, fire up the APU and proceed to burn up yet another stabilator amplifier.

    MTP is getting really mad. (Why is a pilot in charge of maintenance? Oh yeah, he's not. But he is an officer, so "yes sir.") He says it has to be the generator causing the issue. We order yet another stab amp and a new APU generator. A few days later and probably at least $50k later we burned up another stab amp. Really? Wow.... Bite your tongue. They know what they are doing.

    Well someone up higher in the food chain told us we needed to send the aircraft over to Intermediate Maintenance, another unit who specializes in heavier inspections, maintenance, and repairs. We push it over to those guys who proceed to burn up a few more amps and who knows what else they changed. Things like the entire APU $250k+, right stab amp, and who knows what else....

    It sat there for a few weeks becoming a back-burner project. Eventually the MTPs let the aircraft go to the avionics specialists the had at the Intermediate Maint hanger. After a week of actual troubleshooting, a good friend of mine discovered a short in the wiring harness. He found it was a cowling that pressed on a main harness into a metal stringer causing the short. Well the cowling only contacted the harness when it was closed. Well every time you pulled an aircraft inside to work on it, the cowlings are opened up. The short dissapears.

    So all of that down time, money spent, just because they wouldn't let the techs actually do their jobs. All for a $2 clamp that was worn out.
    - Jason

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