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Old 12-18-2016, 04:15 PM   #1
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An Important Rule

A lesson I learned from my father and my youthful attempts to get myself reliably back and forth to university in my 1958 Pontiac Pathfinder. I realized this was very ŕ propos to boating and I was reminded of this long-lost lesson this morning when confronted with a central vacuum in my house that refused to shut off.

What is the very first thing you do when confronted with a stuck solenoid? No, it's not disconnect the power, it's not pull the breaker, it's not panic because the guests will be here any minute (although my wife was beginning to show signs of same, flapping her hands, her voice higher than she can usually achieve in choir practice), what you do FIRST, is smack the solenoid with a screwdriver handle. Absolutely first. If that doesn't work, smack it again, harder. If that doesn't work, get a bigger screwdriver. If THAT doesn't work, go back to the first three rejects and cut the power.

When I unplugged the vacuum, tore the top off it, read the number on the solenoid, ordered a replacement on the internet, screwed up the order, cancelled the order, got refunded for the order then did it all again, I thought of the solenoid now sitting on my kitchen table. I got out my drill, drilled out the rivets, pulled the sucker apart and just as the top came off, the welded contacts made a small noise (sort of a "ha" sound) and popped apart.

Aarrgghhh!

It was then that I remembered the screwdriver-handle-rule (as important as other shop rules like not hitting your thumb with the hammer or not trying to hold that piece of bar stock in your hands when you use the drill press) and realized I had wasted a morning screwing with the relay when I should have just smacked it (smacking things with a screwdriver handle has many other uses in life, such as some reasons you might come across in a Walmart parking lot).

So remember this simple but very important rule when confronted with an electrical machine that will not shut off (sometimes it also works if it won't start, too),

Smack It With a Screwdriver Handle First!
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Old 12-18-2016, 05:29 PM   #2
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Three strikes from a screwdriver handle and no results escalates it to a hit with a small hammer.
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Old 12-18-2016, 06:07 PM   #3
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My son as one of the immediate gratification generation would have simply called gear head dad and whined.
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Old 12-18-2016, 06:18 PM   #4
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Thanks for the vivid reminder, Xsbank. Learned the same lesson at sixteen y.o., on my first indoor job, as a laundromat attendant.

Every washing machine had a solenoid-actuated drain pump, and naturally, every solenoid had thousands of on-off cycles under its belt. Nearly every day (more on busy days), at least one would stick, announced by the assertive humming- buzzing noise it made. That, my boss, explained, is why you always carry this rugged, heavy-handled Stanley flat-blade screwdriver in your pocket as you make the rounds on a heavy wash day. Using the business end of the driver, I unscrewed the fasteners holding the washing machine's front panel, then set it aside with one hand while reversing the screwdriver (in mid-air) using the other hand. After delivering a smart "whack" or two to the solenoid, everything went back together in about one minute, running smoothly.

These days I rarely encounter a solenoid though. Have they become museum pieces, like most of the things I first learned to fix as a teenager?
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Old 12-18-2016, 06:55 PM   #5
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Greetings,
Mr. Bb. "...like most of the things I first learned to fix as a teenager?" You raise the ultimate problem. The days are fast approaching where a "concussive adjustment" will not effect a repair and possibly make matters worse.
Our daughter got a new car and when I looked under the hood the first thing that crossed my mind is "where is the engine?" Other than checking the engine and transmission oil there are no user serviceable items. The manual is a 300 page volume which explains in detail the adjustment of the 5 zone heat/air conditioning and seat and headrest adjustment among a plethora of other "adjustments". I noticed several places that mentioned possible malfunctions with the solution for every one being "see your dealer".
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:04 PM   #6
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Starter motors, windlass controls, bow thruster controls, heaters, air conditioning, fans...built-in vacuum cleaners. Refrigerators, door bells...can't think of anything else.

Also, the relay was a "Beam" part, for which they wanted $50 or $60. Of course, they don't make them so you look at the part and find out who does. It has a little label on the side that spells out its specs, so I bought a White-Rodgers that is identical in size and specs, for $7. That is a great lesson for boat parts, nobody makes their own solenoids so you don't need to buy that brand name part, just like Onan generators are Kubota Tractor motors and Northern Lights are that other jaapanese one...forgot the name.
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:05 PM   #7
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Greetings,
Mr. Bb. "...like most of the things I first learned to fix as a teenager?" You raise the ultimate problem. The days are fast approaching where a "concussive adjustment" will not effect a repair and possibly make matters worse.
Our daughter got a new car and when I looked under the hood the first thing that crossed my mind is "where is the engine?" Other than checking the engine and transmission oil there are no user serviceable items. The manual is a 300 page volume which explains in detail the adjustment of the 5 zone heat/air conditioning and seat and headrest adjustment among a plethora of other "adjustments". I noticed several places that mentioned possible malfunctions with the solution for every one being "see your dealer".
Each year they move further away from mechanical and more toward electronics in terms of maintenance and repair. You analyze with equipment, not sound and experience. Those who are best in maintenance are those with mechanical and electronic knowledge and aptitude. More and more you can plug in a little box and find out what the problem is, especially what made the warning light come on. More and more, the person who doesn't have the equipment to analyze, the manual, and any special tools, can't do the job.
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:12 PM   #8
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RT, you need to buy a scanner. I bought one that could read all the engine and chassis codes on my dearly departed Mercedes, it worked on my friend's Tahoe and I will try it, but have my doubts, about my new F150. Then you don't need to throw parts at it or pay someone to tell you which part. Most of the electronics are self-diagnosing so it's very possible to do your own repairs.

Also, modern cars are software-driven, I can get a program called Forscan to make my truck do what I want it to, such as which lights I want on, for how long, whether I want to display actual numbers in the gauges or fold the mirrors when I shut off the truck. That sort of thing.

A lot of times the dealers either don't know how or just won't make changes you want.

Anyway, boats (or those I'm interested in) respond well to hammers.

Sorry BandB, didn't see your post until after.
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:25 PM   #9
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Greetings,
Mr. Xs. I hear what you're saying but I'm going to resist being dragged into the 21st century for as long as possible. Luckily, my 2000 Jeep has a self diagnostic program built in so when the lights start blinking I can usually get some idea as to the source of the problem.
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Old 12-19-2016, 10:03 AM   #10
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Never use force...just a larger hammer.

For a while in the '60s, dad's '59 Studebaker Hawk had a sticky Bendix drive on the starter. He'd lean out of the car and thwock it with a piece of 2x4 that he kept handy behind his seat. (That car came to me and I drove it 'till 1988.)

Shop tools with their smallish motors often benefit with a loving tap to free the brushes. Larger ones occasionally benefit by rapping the end of the motor that has the centrifugal switch for the start windings. (It's a little like 'immediate action' when your M 14 or M 16 fails to fire: cycle the bolt / cock the thing.)

I once was given a '50s 12" Dewalt Radial Arm Saw that had seen many years' service in a lumber yard. I had always admired that huge hunk of cast iron and asked what had happened when it was replaced by a dinky little Black and Decker. They said it was out for repair at a local tool shop. Some months later it reappeared sitting in a corner. They said it was too expensive to repair, that it needed a motor, and that one of their employees was going to try to fix it. Some months later it was still there and I asked what its symptoms of failure were, "you had to spin the blade to start the motor to run". Ahh! They gave it to me. I got it home, cleaned the contacts on the centrifugal switch and it has run fine for me for the last 30 years.

Rapping relays can lead to much annoyance if overdone for a period of time. I used to, about yearly and for many years, have to rap the relay that controls the house furnace's circulator pump. Finally, when we were on vacation, the thing quit and the furnace worked hard to heat the house using the gravity of rising hot water. We came home to find the furnace running, the radiators warm, and the polyethylene foam insulation on my newly-installed horizontal distribution system in the basement melted. I'd like to think that the overtemperature thermocouple shut the furnace down when it got hot, but the thermostats would of course keep calling for heat. I replaced the relay and opened the old one to see what had failed. The contact points had burned through and fallen to the bottom of the casing.
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Old 12-19-2016, 11:19 AM   #11
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Many years ago some of the best electronic calculators were made by Monroe. We had hundreds in our company. Every once in a while one would just stop. The instructions we were given was to hold them level and drop them on the floor from 2 to 3 ft height. Do it a couple of times. Well, it worked. They were sensitive to dust and you just had to shake it free. It was very difficult to get to that area and required taking it largely apart. So, many paid for service calls every time. We dropped ours. Did it for years and got very long lives out of the machines.
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Old 12-19-2016, 12:04 PM   #12
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A good rap or kick was called "repair procedure #1" Failing that #2 was call the mechanic and he would ask if you kicked it or hit it. He/She would then try kicking and hitting again. If still not working the Mechanic would call the Avionics tech who asked if you had kicked or hit it. If you both answered no, he would go back to #1 and #2. If you said yes he would reply "well that's what's wrong with it".
I used to carry Oilfield hands in the Gulf of Mexico. I trained a couple so that when the oil pressure didn't come up on start they would swat the instrument panel, always worked. Some would even go back and do the screwdriver trick when the second engine wouldn't crank, worked most of the time.
French helicopters, American/Rolls Royce engines.
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Old 12-19-2016, 12:54 PM   #13
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The Cheviacs were quite cool in the day. Confusing to a US farm boy. My solution to the Bendix problem was to use the heavy screwdriver as indicated above, and if that was unsuccessful, use the screwdriver to short the output lugs for one more start to get home. Then, disassemble the Bendix, and try flipping the brass (?) disc that made the start connection to the lugs. That exposed "fresh" surface to make the contact - a usual cause of the problem. Thanks Xsbank - haven't thought about that in half a century or so.
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Old 12-20-2016, 12:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bilge53 View Post
Three strikes from a screwdriver handle and no results escalates it to a hit with a small hammer.
Followed shortly by a BFH.

Marty..................
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Old 12-20-2016, 12:35 AM   #15
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Depends how far from the beach you are who owns equipment.
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Old 12-20-2016, 07:02 AM   #16
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My 2015 Toyota Rav4 does not have a transmission dipstick! There is no service requirement for it within 100,000 miles according to the garage I use...

Quote:
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Greetings,
Mr. Bb. "...like most of the things I first learned to fix as a teenager?" You raise the ultimate problem. The days are fast approaching where a "concussive adjustment" will not effect a repair and possibly make matters worse.
Our daughter got a new car and when I looked under the hood the first thing that crossed my mind is "where is the engine?" Other than checking the engine and transmission oil there are no user serviceable items. The manual is a 300 page volume which explains in detail the adjustment of the 5 zone heat/air conditioning and seat and headrest adjustment among a plethora of other "adjustments". I noticed several places that mentioned possible malfunctions with the solution for every one being "see your dealer".
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Old 12-20-2016, 07:10 AM   #17
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Tapping (or hammering) is a useful trick on DC motors with spring loaded carbon brush guides that are seized. A couple taps will sometimes loosen them making a silent motor come back to life when the brushes reacquire contact with the motor commutator.
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Old 12-20-2016, 06:46 PM   #18
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We used to call it "mechanical agitation ". A hard hat worked great. Even if the component started working perfectly it was still torn down for service immediately.
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Old 12-21-2016, 01:55 PM   #19
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Three strikes from a screwdriver handle and no results escalates it to a hit with a small hammer.
I just start with a plastic headed hammer.

Then move on to the ball-peen model.
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Old 12-21-2016, 02:38 PM   #20
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Then move on up to usin' a single-jack.
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