Over my years as a mechanic, three to be exact. I have had the opportunity to be a mobile service technician, on a part time basis (when service calls come in). With the exception of this new job, where I am a full time mobile service technician. What I have found is this- There is no greater learning experience for a mechanic than knowledge gained in the field.
I will share my most memorable service call experience. I was working at a small diesel shop, based out of a little mountain town in interior British Columbia. We mostly serviced logging trucks, some highway tractor’s, and vehicles designed to service the railroad. At the time I only had about a year and a half of mechanic experience, plus a year of diesel school. So, the call came in that a “buncher” or a unit that picks up and sorts log’s was miss-firing. No big deal, they wanted me to head out to the machine with the shops computer to scan for codes. I fired up the work truck and set off with just the computer, and no tools. My instructions were to drive to the edge of town, then turn left up a logging road and at the seven kilometer marker take a right. The road was snowy/icy, I was in four wheel drive the whole time, at the seven kilometer turn off I had to switch to four wheel drive low as it was now very muddy.
I finally reached the logging site, there was a fellow there who offered to show me around to the machine I was there to asses. I fired up the unit to listen to the engine, it was indeed miss-firing. I grabbed my computer/scanner so I could check for codes. Well, after trying every attachment/electrical connection I had brought none would hook up to this old piece of equipment. I was stuck. An Hour’s drive away from the shop on company time, what do I do? I grabbed my phone so I could call the boss and ask for advice, no reception, I was on the side of a mountain. I sat pondering for several minutes on how to solve this predicament.
I decided my best option was to remove the engine cover/hood, take a look at what was going on. I clambered on top of the big machine, pulled off the cover to find the engine. I checked what I could without any tools- electrical connections, fuel leaks, basically just looking for anything out of the ordinary or something that didn’t look right. Everything checked out fine. My next option was to remove the rocker cover to get a better look at the injectors. Since I didn’t bring any tools (lesson learned) I had to track down the fellow who originally showed me the machine and ask if he had any. Luckily he had a small kit I could borrow. I removed the rocker cover, and again had a look for anything out of the ordinary-everything checked out. My last option was to do an injector cut out test, and I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you are a trained technician. With the engine running I carefully removed each injector harness individually listening for a lag in the engine. When I disconnected the harness to the bummed injector, no lag from the engine was herd, thus determining the cause of the miss-fire. Yahtzee!
What did I learn from all this? To always be prepared! At my new job I’ve got a separate tool box on the service truck loaded with extra tools just in case. You never know what situation you’re going to find yourself in, and it’s important to remember that service calls cost a premium so getting the job done and done right is essential.