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Hero to Zero

Digging in the guts of the machine

Another day and the scenery remains the same.   A South Texas Brush Country summer;  Weatherbug is saying 109,  Miss K says 111 on the Suburban thermometer driving to town,  my meter outside the Old Girl in the shade says 117 and I say it is damned hot.

So I am pretty smug sitting here in the Old Girl with 3 air conditioner units humming away.  The thermometer over the range hood says 79 degrees.  Pretty danged smug… everything serviced and preventive maintenance done to insure we will have no surprises.   Then the front AC rattles like somebody threw a cat in a bug zapper and I get the distinct feeling my good day is going to change.

The  Progressive Industries PT30C 30 Amp Electrical Management System kicked in about 4 times over the next ten minutes as I scrambled around trying to figure out if it was the air conditioner blowing up on me pr if it was the generator.   Best I could tell it was the gate guard generator which gave me some degree of relief.  Now let me preachify a little bit here.  It did not look like I was running a high or low voltage situation nor did I have a wiring problem.  It looked like the frequency was low coming out of the generator.  I was showing 54-55Hz and it shoulda been 58-60Hz since it was loaded up pretty heavy.  Folks, an el cheapo surge guard is simply not gonna catch crap like that.  You have to spend some bucks and get a good ‘un if you are going to hook to these oil patch generators.  Frequency is determined by nothing more than generator engine speed.  A clogged fuel filter and a heavy load will slow that engine right down and screw up a good party.   I say it all the time but people just do NOT  get it.   You have to have clean electricity for your recreational vehicle and in this case,  you get what you pay for!

The Generac NP66LP / Camco Gen Turi combo. The front grill has been removed to facilitate cooling in excessive heat.

I figured as hot as it was, I might as well fire up the Generac 6.6kw propane generator that lives in the snout of the Old Girl and exercise it a bit while I figured what was up with the gate guard generator. It took me 60 seconds to put the Camco Gen Turi in place for safety’s sake.   I elected to change both fuel filters on the company generator.  The one up on the engine head had a date from January 2012 so it had been quite awhile since it had been changed.  Makes sense since that one requires 5X the effort to change out as the other one does.  10 minutes or less and I was ready to fire that puppy back up.  I cracked the bolt on the top of the one filter on the head to bleed air out of the lines and reached over for the priming bulb to pump some fuel through.  When you are bleeding the air out of the fuel lines on a diesel, you pump it until no more air bubbles are evident at the bleed screw.

But what’s this?   I am pumping the priming bulb and my hand has diesel dripping off of it?   Uh oh!  Bad juju for sure now.  The priming bulb had a hole in it for some reason.  If I attempted to start the engine that was going to be a problem; most likely sucking air into the fuel line.

So I packed up shop and cleaned up my hands and called my service guy.  It was 4:30pm.   I know these guys are busy this time of year and I cut ’em all the slack I can.  I told him exactly what the problem was and the parts I needed.  I also told him I was running on my back up generator and we had A/C so the situation was not critical.

18 hours later I am still running on my back up generator.  It ran all night since we never really cooled down.  It was 86 degrees when I came on shift at 3am.  I am a nice guy and all but you don’t need to beat me like a rented mule.

Oh well huh?  I am just glad we DO  have a Plan B.  I am glad we reserve the onboard propane tank for emergencies such as this.   It was 3/4 full (40 gallon propane tank) when we started and I am showing almost 1/2 a tank as I write this.  Both of my external propane tanks are empty and will get filled this afternoon when Miss K gets up.

UPDATE: One of the options offered to the service guys was a drive by and drop the priming bulb off.  The service tech did that and I replaced it in short order.  The first start sequence was a no go.  Cranks fine but it just will not catch.  This is at 3pm in the afternoon under a boiling. I bled the rascal all the way to the injector lines with no change in the outcome.  Called the service tech and told him what I had done and also mentioned I was getting no fuel at the injectors.   At the 26th hour in, the boss shows up, cracks the injector lines cranks the engine and gets the same result.   I said my guess is the injector fuel pump and he agreed.  The guy come back, changes out the injector pump in less than 15 minutes all the while with a phone stuck in his ear solving someone else’s problem.  I gotta admire the guy  — he is relentless.

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6 comments to Hero to Zero

  • Clay

    I debated whether or not to leave my welding skid on the truck when we came out here. But the thing has 100 amps of pretty darn good electrical capacity out of 4 different 120 volt single phase outlets and one 240 volt single phase outlet and one 240 volt 3 phase outlet. ( I am talking about a Lincoln Vantage 400 machine here.) All while running the welding leads as well. It uses phase inverter technology with various assorted gadgets internally to produce good clean electricity. Having been around patch for a while and seeing what is out here I opted to keep the machine on the truck and after hooking up to this little mickey mouse gen set I am glad I did. Popped the breakers 3 times on the gen set the first night when I kicked on all five of those 500 watt halogen work lights. (Smiling a devious smile here cause I knew it was an 8kw set up before I even hooked up to it). I had my doubts for sure but fired em up anyway. Wife came outside a few moments later and said the electric went of in the house. “I know honey. I’ll fix it.” Had to wean off 3 of the five bulbs to keep everything working properly. Pulled my VOM Meter out about 3 this afternoon and the little contraption was only putting out 106 volts at load. Called it in. Kinda reminded me of Ron White and his little excursion in the twin prop puddle jumper out in Arizona w only one blade spinning. “How far can we go on only one engine? All the way to the scene of the crash.” Said that to say this. Glad I brought our plan B with us. Probably gonna have need of it pretty soon cause my setup is sucking the life out of this little rig.

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    • Andrew

      106v is pretty low. I think my EMS shuts everything down at 108. Most of those gennies have a POT to adjust the voltage regulator — just gotta hunt for it. Make sure it is running and under a load when you do it.

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  • Clay

    Breakers popped again this morning about 3 oclock. Weaned off another light bulb and tripped it back on. 3 seconds later out again. Took em both off. Nothing. Moved the welding rig around back and fired that fire breathin electricity making machine up and we are currently enjoys loads of nice cool air. Funny, rig lost a generator early in my tour this morning. I offered to fire the beast up for them. They just looked at me funny. I was serious. Time Keepers has been notified and I was asked via email if I had heard from the service company. I kinda chuckled. I get 2 bars of service on my wireless cause I got an antennae stuck up in the stratosphere. But voice service is non existent. And I kinda like that. Need me? Shoot me an email. I might email back! ROFL! Otherwise, communication is down to smoke signals. And I kinda like that too!

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  • Bob

    Yikes. I admire your tenacity. Plus, damned fine idea to have a backup plan. I think I’d be sweating right about now. Gate guarding ain’t for sissies it seems. Well, I don’t think I’m exactly a sissy, but the learning curve would be a challenge.
    Sure hope the doofus that you notified comes out soon. The backup plan is just that.

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  • Coal

    I gots the air conditioning blues too, low voltage coming out of the shop and a ac unit that’s creeps up on amp draw during the hottest part of the day. Gonna clean the coils again and see if that helps.

    At times my voltage at the fiver drops to 105 with the ac running, too low

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  • LJ

    Andy,
    enjoying looking back over the comprehensive blog/story/entertainment of your life swimming upstream. My life’s cloth is not from the same bolt of fabric as yours, but I can identify w/ the electrical issues. When we had the invaluable experience of paying the local ‘robber baron’ banker who held the note on “our” Brooder Egg Farm” just outside of Hot Springs Ark. any weather front, cold-hot-thunderstorming-weather change would effect those damn chickens, any weather event other than the one we had for a few days would reward us w/ a drop in egg production, which would equal in loss of income. Especially bad was HEAT, We had banks of 12 48″ diameter fans that would suck large amounts of air from one end of the 600 foot x 40foot chicken houses through ‘swamp cooler cells’ to the other, thus keeping the birds cool, so when the power from Arkansas Power folks was interrupted sometime for a day or more, our 30K diesel powered generator was supposed to start up within 30 secs.
    Usually during cold icy weather did we hear the Genset fire up after ice would cause power lines to fall, But on a really hot day in July, I see the lights go off, and I wait for the muffled roar of the that big gen to roar to life, but was greeted w/ an explosion that made me jump. I hussled down to the Gen Shed to find no smoke, flames or scattered metal, but found instead shards of battery plastic scattered all over the shed, and imbedded in 2×4 studs. The starter cables dangling in the air holding onto nothing but the neg/pos connectors. I always ran the Generator 5min every week, but failed to check water level in that Battery, which I suppose caused that large juicebox to short out and ignite the fumes in a rapid manner. How fortunate for me, the ‘BOOM’ was not while I was doing the weekly warm up while standing astraddle of that battery box to reach the switch.

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