Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘troubleshooting

Simplest Solution

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I don’t know how many times I am going to face this lesson before I comprehend it well enough to no longer be fooled. It’s batteries. Apparently, I know just enough to fall prey to a key misperception. My understanding of electronics is deeper than many others, having attended years of technical school and working in high tech firms with engineers for most of my career, but batteries seem to be a repeating weak point for me.

The problem preventing the diesel tractor from starting which I had come to suspect was related to a missing safety interlock signal turned out to be the most obvious and likely cause of a bad battery.

Sure, the “fully charged” light came on when I connected a charger to the battery. Sure, the instruments on the dash lit up deceivingly bright when I turned the key.

It was all a facade. There was no “oomph” behind that initial twelve volts that allowed my ‘too smart for its own good’ brain to wander off after several much less likely possible component failures.

With essential assistance from Cyndie, who rose to the occasion to provide tenacious problem-solving brainpower and impressive muscle, we extracted the heavy battery from the very difficult to access front end of the tractor.

I’m particularly pleased with our simultaneous insight to use blocks of wood tucked under the unwieldy battery after lifting it just inches at a time in order to get it up where we could finally muscle it clear of the multiple obstructions.

After reversing that process to drop in the new battery, starting the tractor was easy. The afternoon project of chipping branches turned the area beside Cyndie’s new gardens into a lumberjack camp of cut branches, sawed logs, and flying woodchips.

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Turning logs into split firewood and branches into woodchips are two processes I find most rewarding for getting greater value out of the material left over after the initial project of needing to remove trees.

It isn’t necessarily a simple solution, but it is a wonderful achievement of making full use of our resources.

I can only hope that I will now find it easy to recognize future occasions of weak batteries being the simplest solution in my troubleshooting of equipment failing to start.

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Changed Plans

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How many times lately have we heard that plans have changed? More than a few, I dare say. It reaches a point where I’m finding myself less inclined to make any future plans of substance. My 6-month dental checkup and cleaning appointment due in March was rescheduled when the shutdowns started occurring.

I LOVE the feeling after having my teeth professional cleared of plaque and asked for the next earliest appointment. They gave me Tuesday, May 19. Last Thursday, the scheduler called me to cancel that appointment and said they can’t even guess when the next possible chance will be.

Yesterday, I had planned to connect the chipper to the diesel tractor PTO to convert those tree branches to woodchips before the coming rain arrived. The weather allowed the whole day as the precipitation didn’t begin until dusk. The tractor did not cooperate. It was rather depressing.

I am not a tractor mechanic, but I am willing to naively explore possible solutions to problems. My best guess is that one of the multiple safety interlocks is keeping the starter from working. It’s actually happened before. The very first time I tried to start the tractor, I couldn’t get it to work. The seller had just changed the battery and assured me he would pay to have a service person look at it.

That technician arrived and immediately put the tractor on his flatbed truck, but decided to try one last time before hauling to the shop. It fired right up. I asked what he did differently than me and he said he didn’t know. We assumed it was making sure the gears and PTO were properly in the off/neutral position.

Last year, this happened to me again, but I persevered and after multiple tries, it fired up. Problem was forgotten.

Until yesterday. I tried the same thing over and over again so many times I surpassed the “insanity” definition ten times over. I finally broke down and called my next-door neighbor for advice. He knows tractors as a guy who collects them, refurbishes them, and buys and sells them. He even owns the exact same New Holland model as mine, among his many International Harvester collection.

Diagnosing remotely, he worried about the battery, since I admitted I hadn’t ever cleaned the connections. Well, his concern was well placed, as the neglect was evident and cleaning was warranted. But it wasn’t the problem.

I tracked wires and disconnected and reconnected junctions. While rummaging around beneath the belly of the beast, I found how much corrosion resulted from the mess after the valve stem broke on the liquid-filled tire last year. I spent hours tinkering cluelessly, interspersed with the repeated insanity of positioning and repositioning the PTO lever that I think is the problem. Nothing changed.

Eventually, I gave in to a change of plan and moved on to something else to salvage some glimmer of accomplishment for the day. I removed 24 blocks from six pallets that got added as eight rows to our boardwalk in the woods on our main perimeter trail.

That will be valuable since we’ve already received 1.5″ of rain overnight and it’s still falling.

I plan to call a professional to service the tractor.

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Yay Internet!

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Amid all the clutter and junk on the internet, the social disasters and false information of the great technological curse of the century that we can’t live without, this week I was able to enjoy one of the gems that occasionally make life better for those in search of answers.

The overly complex Denon receiver for my home theater unexpectedly went silent one day. I sensed something was amiss right away upon power-up because the tell-tale click of relays engaging was absent. There are so many features that we aren’t utilizing, it’s difficult to know what buttons are even pertinent to my situation, let alone which one might have been inadvertently toggled.

It is so rare that I even look closely at the displays on that unit or the power distribution module beneath it that I couldn’t tell if something was lighting up different than usual. In fact, something I did find hinted at an over-current surge which was certainly believable given the stormy weather that transpired on Tuesday when no one was home.

I was prepared to deal with disconnecting everything and sending in the receiver for professional service, but not without spending a little quality time using my digital meter to step through rudimentary troubleshooting. The light on the sub-woofer was not coming on, so I started there.

Measured good voltage at the power plug, pulled the fuse and happily found that intact. Like magic, reconnecting everything brought the sub-woofer back to life. The power light came back on.

Next step, remove AC voltage to the receiver and let that sit for a few minutes. Not so lucky on the magical reset there.

The final step before finding a service center was to see what the manual offered. After spending more time than I wanted to waste in the manuals file in the den and not finding what I wanted, I went to the computer.

Before even downloading a manual for review, in the search for my unit, I included the words: “loss of audio out to speakers.”

Multiple forums with a variety of similar issues on Denon units appeared.

“The problem may be dust in the headphone jack.”

Really?

That was certainly something I could investigate myself. I grabbed a 1/4″ headphone plug and headed up the spiral stairs to the loft. After a very technical step of blowing into the headphone jack on the front of the receiver, I plugged in the phones.

Music!

The output amplifiers are not blown! I unplugged the jack and the room speakers came to life.

Imagine if I had taken the time to disconnect all the wires and pack up the unit to be shipped for service for that repair.

Thank you, internet. Thank you.

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Written by johnwhays

August 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

Machine Ghost

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I don’t know what it is about this place, but my laptop is showing mysterious behaviors when I try using it up at the lake.

It doesn’t make sense to me that it is related to the internet connection, because the symptoms appear so hardware related. It’s as if the touchpad is getting repeated input, despite not being touched.

Maybe it is picking up electrical interference from something here, but I don’t know what that might be. It’s happened in different rooms. Once it starts, relocating doesn’t seem to help. Shutting down and then rebooting sometimes works for a short while, but not dependably.

The phone hasn’t been affected, so I am finger-poking the screen to create this post.

We sat around the fire till late last night and saw stars in the sky, but this morning dawns with a foggy overcast. I need to knock sand off my bike and pack it in the car for the trip home early today, hoping I can get there with time left for the weekend chores I skipped out on with this unexpected getaway.

The many laughs have been well worth the modifications to my routine.

I’m looking forward to getting the laptop back home to see if normalcy returns like it did last time it showed this spooky behavior up here. What are the odds the ghost will travel all that way just to haunt one specific machine?

Don’t bother answering that. It was mostly wishful thinking on my part.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2018 at 7:29 am

Winch Works

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I discovered that my problem with the dead winch on our ATV wasn’t the winch or the solenoid. It all works just fine if the wires are properly segregated. What would mess with the wiring?

dscn5177eRODENT invaders!

What is the deal with mice and chipmunks that they choose to chew on wires? Does the plastic coating taste good to them? Are they trying to get more copper in their diet?

The other question I have, from driving past farm after farm with equipment parked outside year round, is how they deal with the constant threat of damage from nesting critters.

We leave our truck parked outside most of the time, and now when we lift the hood there is the disconcerting sound of collected acorns rolling down inside the lid.

The heat tapes that our gutter installer put in the problem spots of our roof and routed through the downspout and into the garage to the AC outlets only lasted one year before rodents chewed through both of them.

Maybe this explains why one of our neighbors has so many outdoor cats. A way to keep the rodents at bay.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2016 at 8:36 am