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Old 15-10-2015, 08:50   #1
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Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

I've just posted an article on DIY sailboat maintenance and why I think it's so important to take the plunge and get started doing your own work.

In it, I revealed my most embarrassing maintenance moment (I've had many, but this one certainly stands out!).

This got me to thinking it would be fun to get on the confessional and see what dumb things everyone else has done. I love learning and giggling at the same time.

So I'll kick it off. Here's mine:

Quote:
In reviewing my diesel engineís manual, I realized that the injectors were long, long overdue for servicing. Pulling the injectors is a pretty easy job, and itís cheap to have a shop service them. The problem came when I went to reinstall them.

Each injector is held down by a saddle with two bolts. I looked up the proper torque, set my torque wrench for half that, and started working back and forth to cinch up the bolts evenly.

BANG! One of the bolts snapped off in the block.

I was gobsmacked. How could that happen? I decided I must have not heard the click of the torque wrench, so I backed the wrench all the way off to only a few ft-lbs of torque and tested it on the other bolt.

BANG! Are you freaking kidding me? Did I just do that? There was a long, dumbfounded pause and then I pulled myself into the cockpit and stared, dejected, at the floor for a while. I might have mumbled and twitched a bit.

Lesson: When something unexpected and bad happens, donít do the same thing again. Figure out why it happened.

A trip to a big bolt on the dock revealed the problem. The torque wrench was jammed. I had been putting way, way too much torque on the bolt.

Lesson: Torque wrenches can jam. Test it at a low torque first and do some mental math on how hard you should be pulling.

At least Iíd had the foresight to buy a bolt extractor kit. The first bolt came out in about 10 minutes. I was on a bit of a high as I tackled the second one.

The problem was that there was a lifting lug right next to the second bolt. You run the drill in reverse to use the extractor kit and the chuck would run on the lug and undo itself. I managed to finally get a hole drilled for the extractor, but it was off center and crooked. Oh and I managed to break off a drill bit (not a good situation since drill bits are so hard).

As I leaned back and surveyed my screwed up attempt, I realized that the lifting lug was held on by a single bolt. Why the heck hadnít I just removed it? In fact, Iíd removed it a month ago to adjust the valve clearances! (Insert face-palm here.)

Lesson: If things arenít going well, use your brain power before applying more muscle power!

Now it just so happens that this particular lifting lug had the glow plug relay screwed to it. So I tucked the lug down out of the way and started to work on extracting the bolt again. This was now very difficult since the hole had been drilled crooked and off-center and now had a broken drill bit in it to boot.

And then the lights went outÖ

Turns out the glow plug relay had a bare contact. The lug and relay had slipped behind the heat exchanger and there were now hundreds of Amps flowing through the brass vessel. Oh, and it was jammed there.

Now hundreds of Amps at 12V DC is actually pretty safe other than the heating effect on the wires and batteries. There was so much current flowing that one of the oversize hose clamps holding the heat exchanger started to glow red and actually melted clean through within seconds.

With the heat exchanger now adrift, I was able to snatch out the relay and take a breath.

Lesson: Pay attention to things with wires coming out of them. Maybe think about where you put them.

At this point I decided that maybe it would be $50 well spent to get somebody with more skills than I have to extract the last bolt before I screwed up the threads.
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Old 15-10-2015, 09:51   #2
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

ACK !! No fuse/breaker on the glow plug?

Sorry to hear about your problem.
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Old 15-10-2015, 10:29   #3
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Chris,
As a long time mechanic type person on everything from motorcycles, to aircraft, to boats, your story brought a smile to my face .
Anyone who tackles mechanical work, whether home improvement, or rewiring a sailboat, has had those sequential disasters that are the result of bad luck, poor understanding of the needed actions, brain farts, lack of patience, improper tools, not reading the manual, etc., etc., etc.
It's the price of admission. I can afford the boat ( airplane, motorcycle, house...), but cannot afford to have the work done by someone else. By necessity one must become a skilled technician. It would take me a long time to relate all of my f*&k ups from 50 years of mechanicing.
Good luck! Most of us have been there, learned a lot, and pressed on
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Old 15-10-2015, 10:41   #4
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Had a OV-1 in the hanger years ago that had to be torn very much apart to replace the engine mount frame, mechanic had tried torquing the engine mount to Ft lbs, didn't notice it was supposed to be inch lbs.

Years ago I snapped off an easy out in a differential yoke, leaned the hard way nothing will drill out an easy out, so I replaced the yoke, leaned a month or two later after burning up the rear end that you had to shim the yoke to get correct bearing preload, who knew?

Busted a rear tire on my Z28 in Germany, replaced it with the space saving tire, drove home, who knew they were a different diameter and high speeds would burn out the clutches on a positive traction diff?

Nothing jumps out boat wise, hadn't put on a prop backwards or anything, yet
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Old 15-10-2015, 10:57   #5
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Quote:
Originally Posted by senormechanico View Post
ACK !! No fuse/breaker on the glow plug?

Sorry to hear about your problem.
That's a really good point. I'm pretty sure it had a push-button style breaker on it. I wonder if the breaker was held in when it got jammed behind the heat exchanger?

That was on a W27. I've since re-engined to a Beta 35.
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Old 15-10-2015, 11:21   #6
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

I recently replaced my old volvo MD17 with a new Vetus engine. Did it all myself, without any mishaps. Replace the fuel tanks as well. Plus a bit of rewiring. All finished smoothly except for replacing the prop which I'll do when I slip the boat.
The engine fired up on first crank. I was on a roll! I'm the man!

Time for a little test run; I just had to remember that with my LH prop still on, the throttle linkage was reversed. Yes - you guessed it. A little mishap in the lock on the way out of the marina. Nothing serious, but it certainly deflated me.
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Old 15-10-2015, 11:52   #7
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Recently broke a steering cable returning to the marina. Crew was fantastic, in a minute or so we had sails down and the emergency tiller on.

I order a new chain/cable, take the pedestal off, repaint all the parts, and just generally refiurb the pedestal.

Comes the day to reinstall it all. It's blazing hot. Takes 4-5 hours for me and a friend to get everything reinstalled - fishing the cables, wires, and controls through the pedestal is fiddly and annoying.

All done, spin the wheel lock-to-lock and the rudder moves nice and smooth.

Time for a sea-trial. Get the boat out of the slip (no rudder use) and go to head down the fairway. All of a sudden I'm headed on a collision course for some expensive boats. I assume that the rudder is jammed, and start to sit-n-spin just using power.

Anybody guess the mistake yet?

Lesson learned: when you repair your steering, make sure the rudder turns the boat to port when you turn the wheel to port. The cable needs to cross in the pedestal.

Got back to the slip once I figured out to just steer it backwards.

In retrospect, it was completely obvious that it needed to be done that way. I should have realized it while I was spinning the wheel and looking at the top of the rudder shaft.

2 more hours slaving away to re-run the cables. Then we went sailing.
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Old 15-10-2015, 12:16   #8
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

RE Torque wrenches. I had the EXACT same problem. Snapping bolt heads. Torque wrenches get ruined when someone is lazy and starts using it to LOOSEN bolts as well as Tighten them. Once you use the torque wrench to start loosening bolts, it's just a ratcheting driver from then on.


Lesson Learned.
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Old 15-10-2015, 12:22   #9
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

I know I have a bunch but this is the only one that comes to mind right now. I will add more as I remember them

I got a flat tire a few years ago on my Grand Cherokee while on the way to a meeting. So in my best Nascar manner I get the spare out, loosen the lugs, jack up the car, finish removing the lugs, swap the tire, and then start tightening the lugs. As I was tightening the lugs the car rocked backwards and fell off the jack. I had forgotten to put on the parking brake. My first reaction was to immediately look around and see if anyone saw what happened. Coast was clear so I finished tightening the lugs and did realize the good thing was that it was a very efficient and fast way to get the jack down and get to my meeting.
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Old 15-10-2015, 12:49   #10
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
Recently broke a steering cable returning to the marina. Crew was fantastic, in a minute or so we had sails down and the emergency tiller on.

I order a new chain/cable, take the pedestal off, repaint all the parts, and just generally refiurb the pedestal.

Comes the day to reinstall it all. It's blazing hot. Takes 4-5 hours for me and a friend to get everything reinstalled - fishing the cables, wires, and controls through the pedestal is fiddly and annoying.

All done, spin the wheel lock-to-lock and the rudder moves nice and smooth.

Time for a sea-trial. Get the boat out of the slip (no rudder use) and go to head down the fairway. All of a sudden I'm headed on a collision course for some expensive boats. I assume that the rudder is jammed, and start to sit-n-spin just using power.

Anybody guess the mistake yet?

Lesson learned: when you repair your steering, make sure the rudder turns the boat to port when you turn the wheel to port. The cable needs to cross in the pedestal.

Got back to the slip once I figured out to just steer it backwards.

In retrospect, it was completely obvious that it needed to be done that way. I should have realized it while I was spinning the wheel and looking at the top of the rudder shaft.

2 more hours slaving away to re-run the cables. Then we went sailing.
OK, that one is just awesome! I can just see the lightbulb finally going on that the steering's hooked up backwards. Love it!
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Old 15-10-2015, 14:49   #11
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

I’ve done so many stupid things on boats, through lack of knowledge or tools, or both, that it would take a complete forum to catalog them all, so I won’t.
Something I read on someone’s page has always stuck in my mind, and I think it’s opportune here
“If it ain’t broke, it will be when I fix it!”
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Old 15-10-2015, 14:56   #12
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrew View Post
RE Torque wrenches. I had the EXACT same problem. Snapping bolt heads. Torque wrenches get ruined when someone is lazy and starts using it to LOOSEN bolts as well as Tighten them. Once you use the torque wrench to start loosening bolts, it's just a ratcheting driver from then on.


Lesson Learned.
I did not know that. In my nearly 70 years, I've never used my torque wrench to loosen, but thanks for the heads up !
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Old 15-10-2015, 15:08   #13
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Quote:
Originally Posted by ontherocks83 View Post
My first reaction was to immediately look around and see if anyone saw what happened. Coast was clear so I finished tightening the lugs and did realize the good thing was that it was a very efficient and fast way to get the jack down and get to my meeting.
Reminds me of what a cat does when caught doing something stupid.
They get really embarrassed, or look at you as if to say, "WHAT?".


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Old 15-10-2015, 16:41   #14
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

Personally, I do not trust the "clicking" type torque wrenches. I always use a torsion bar torque wrench. Accurate enough for 99% of what I do, it is much safer to visually see the torque settings.

Somewhat related, my most common snafu is forgetting to tighten all the fasteners when assembling things. I guess because I'm always in a rush to finish something up. I once forgot to tighten an axle bolt on a motorcycle. Was lucky I stopped before anything serious happened.

On a boat, the most embarrassing mistake was spending half a day tracking down a non-existent wiring problem when the only issue was a loose battery connection. This has happened to me several times.
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Old 15-10-2015, 21:47   #15
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Re: Most embarrassing DIY maintenance moment

A very knowledgeable cruiser buddy of mine was looking at various things on the boat, giving me suggestions... we are looking at the heat exchanger, there's some salt precipitating out near the gasket on the end.

He's talking about possible fixes... I make some comment like "I should probably check and see if it's even tight"
and he says "get me a wrench"
so I hand him the wrench, and he turns the bolt, and the look on his face says "u dumbass"
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