Sunday, February 3, 2019

Back to the Polaris

I got an email from longtime reader Vanessa a couple weeks ago. Her Panther 303W had no spark so I sent her my procedure for cleaning points.
In a nutshell: Get a can of Caig De-oxit, open the points, squirt in some de-oxit, let it sit for a minute, pull strips of paper through until they come out clean, repeat.
Vanessa replied that she got spark bag and now has a running machine, sweet, score one for the good guys!
So yesterday I decided I'd get a snowmobile running, we really don't have any snow and theres none in the forecast (50s tomorrow...) but what the heck, maybe the snow gods need a sacrifice.


This is my '79 Polaris Cobra 340. When I first bought it there was no spark, I cleaned the points and got it running, then a couple years later put in new crank seals. This one has always been a little finicky to start if its been sitting awhile and since I didn't run it at all last year I knew it was going to be a challenge.

Right off the bat no spark on the mag side so as you can see in the picture I proceeded to clean the points which resulted in? No spark at all...

Rats.

This sled has always been sensitive to plugs and it uses B8ES which I don't seem to have in stock. I'm going to order a box of them this time...

Friday, January 18, 2019

Broken Groomer Part 2

It was the beginning of April, the snow cover was decent but the days were warm. We decided it was too warm to groom at night, the snow wouldn't move good so we made a plan to groom first thing in the morning, 6am. This would be our last day out, club picnic and the trails would close the next day so get the trails nice.

Everything south of Lake Dennison was already closed so just a quick run to groom the park. I only have one regular loop inside the park, Ben does all the rest but we figured after I'd done my normal loop I could pick up some of the other stuff. Mike was riding right seat, his second trip out with me, I had plans to get him some stick time.

Just as we turned onto the main drag I knew we had problems, little tendrils of steam. I'd never groomed when it was warm though and just passed it off for that but about the time I got the drag full of snow and grooming good the little tendrils became a big cloud, uh oh...

Looking under the machine I could see a geyser of coolant, I couldn't tell where from but it had to be a heater hose to the cab. We limped the machine to the beach where the picnic was to be held.


I didn't get any pictures but the cab tips up so the driver's door is about 4' up. With that tipped I could see a ragged hole in one of the heater hoses. Apparently this had happened to Chris the year before but on the other hose, he'd fixed that with a union connector. This time I used the same union to connect the two heater hoses together, topped up the coolant and drove it back to the yard...


A couple months later we moved it to my house. I wish I had pictures of it, the machine is heavy, like 9,000# heavy, too much to pull with a normal pickup. Glenn came with a 3 axle dump truck and trailer. The ASV looked puny on his big trailer.


 With the right seat out I could get to the heater, fortunately there are two unions right in the middle of the picture which were a lot easier to access than the heater core itself. I sent this picture to the other groomer operators with "That escalated quickly" as the caption.


I got a funny look from the parts guy when I asked for 18 FEET of 3/4" heater hose, apparently thats how much they normally sell each month. It took 17.5 feet in total...


These are the old hoses. Theres a hydraulic leak at the controls which drips down through the access hole below the cab and pools on these hoses which then deteriorate from the oil. I intend to fix the hydraulic leak, I think its just o-rings but I want to do it with help from somebody who really knows what they're doing, for now its not too much of a problem. I put a catch pan with a pig pad in it under the leak, hopefully it'll will prevent the new hoses from deteriorating.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Broken Groomer Part 1

Well, its not a dead sled but groomers are not without troubles.

Early on last season Ben had trouble with the Pisten Bully, none of the hydraulics at the front of the machine would cooperate. He couldn't lift the blade or manipulate it in any way. A little investigation revealed water in the hydraulic oil. After running the engine for half an hour or so the fluid would warm up enough so the water would go liquid and everything would work until the next time. This, of course, was a big issue. We swapped the fluid (its actually Automatic Transmission fluid, ATF) from the reservoir but the lines and pistons still had significant water. It was looking to be expensive (and a lot of work) to swap all the fluid when I hit upon an idea, could we boil the fluid to drive the water out? Thus began the saga of the weirdest thing I'd ever done with a Coleman stove:


In the post script we actually pulled and replaced the fluid 3 or 4 times, we'd draw the fluid out, boil off the water, let it cool, put it back in the machine and let it cycle for awhile and then repeat. Actually to be 100% honest we had 2 sets of fluid so I could be boiling off water while another batch was picking up water. This seems to have cured the issue, we also pulled the filter out of the fluid and actually submerged it in boiling fluid to get the water out of it, I think that helped a lot, I suspect water had gotten trapped in the filter and was being slowly released back into the dried fluid.

Chris and Harold, meanwhile, had both had trouble with tracks on the Northern and Southern Tuckers. I guess I haven't mentioned the Tuckers. When most people think "Snow-Cat" they're thinking of a "Tucker Sno-Cat". The club owns two, here's a terrible picture of the Northern Tucker.

I've heard a Tucker called "Farm equipment with delusions of grandeur. As near as I can tell its a 1 ton, rear engine pickup with tracks. They make several variations for personnel carriers but ours is the common type, its bigger than my ASV but smaller than the Pisten Bully. Power comes from a Cummins 4BT, the drivetrain is an automatic transmission with essentially 2 rear axles, the front axle pivots to steer.
I don't have much experience with them but so far the weak point seems to be the tracks, we replace/repair a lot of tracks on our Tuckers, like 2-3 a year.

Anyway with Ben, Chris and Harold all having troubles I was pretty pleased to get to the end of the season having zero breakdowns and feeling pretty smug, sadly that smile would get wiped off my face all too soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Groomer operator?


I went back and fixed almost 3 years of pictures, did you realize the blog is now almost 10 years old? I didn't...

Anyway something new and really the answer to why I haven't done much snowmobile stuff. You might remember back in 2015 when I was "Working with the Groomers" well last January Ben gave me a call "Can you get that ASV to start?" what a loaded question, remember I'd been in the ASV once, 2 years before. I gave him a "maybe" and headed over. 



We'd had some good snow and of course somebody had decided to replace the batteries in the machine but hadn't installed them. I plugged in the block heater and got to work on the batteries. 

Actually before I talk about the batteries let me mention the block heater. I'd been told a couple times it didn't work but I'm one of those "well let me try it" kind of guys. One thing I noticed is that the outlet we were using was GFI protected so I made sure it was set to on using my heat gun. Then after I plugged in the heater I wondered "How will I know if its working?" A couple years ago I'd tested it with a Kill-A-Watt meter but I seem to have lost that. On this day I used my infrared thermometer.


It was 6F outside, I figured if the block heater was 93F it had to be working. These days I just touch it, when its warm to the touch I know its good.

It is of course way more fun (sarcasm!) to repair something you didn't take apart so it took me considerable time to get the batteries in

You can see my heat gun in the foreground, that was the next step, I stuck it in air cleaner and waited until that was good and hot. It was really cold out and Ben was scared that I'd ruin the brand new batteries so I wanted to be sure this thing was going to start. A few minutes later I texted Ben

"We're in business."

And thats the story of how I became a groomer operator. It really how my life has generally worked, I'm usually the guy at the place that can do the thing. In this case my experience with driving (and starting) old Mercedes diesels was exactly what was required. The engine in the ASV isn't anything like an old Mercedes but the principle is the same and I knew I needed to get it warm to get it to start...

Anyway I don't want this to become a groomer blog but its closer to snowmobiles than anything else I've been doing and I don't want the blog to die from lack of content. Hopefully I'll find time to get the sleds out this year, in the meantime I hope this is good enough.

Holy Toledo!

I can't believe its been so long since I posted over here, how time gets away from me...
I also notice almost all the pictures are gone. In case you didn't know a year or so ago Photobucket decided people need to pay them some absurd about for hosting pictures, it was something like $300/yr. They did it all of a sudden and I basically told them to take a flying leap.

Fortunately all the pictures are backed up, I've uploaded them to Google Photos and will spend some time restoring some of them. If you find a post thats missing pictures let me know and I'll see what I can do.

I'll also add some new content but unfortunately I haven't been doing much snowmobile related stuff at all. I rode exactly once last year although that was a really grand day out...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Odds and ends

I feel sorry for how few posts I put on here, there really hasn't been much to talk about.

So lets go back, during the short couple weeks we actually had snow I did get in a couple rides. First was the abortive ride when the '91 Jag was leaking gas. On that one we took a ride through an area where the trail passes through a deep cut in rock. Its old railroad line and a really cool spot. I got a picture there back in 2015:


What you can't really see in the picture is that right in front of the sled is a pipe or knee wall of some sort. When theres lots of snow you can ride right over and not know its there, with only 14" when we rode over there was a looong drop on the back side. I got the '91 up onto the bump and gently slid it over. I rode ahead a little and looked back, I saw the skis as Angie came over and thought she had it under control. In reality what happened is she grabbed a handful of throttle and stood the '98 Jag right up. When she landed she went over the windshield. She wasn't seriously hurt but got banged up and of course was really upset with me for "riding off without me". In reality I was gone for maybe 4-5 minutes, I looped around and back back behind her but she'd already ridden off. *sigh* lesson learned, look back more often.




There was enough snow for those two weeks that we groomed 3 times. I got more seat time than ever before but I don't think I did particularly well. I'm starting to tap the drag on posts as I go through and need to go slower and be more careful. I also haven't been utilizing the drag enough, I hadn't realized what an art there is to that. There needs to be enough snow in the drag to fill the bumps in the trail but not so much snow that the machine can't pull it. Also if theres too much snow in the drag it'll spill over the sides leaving boulders in the trail. The last time we groomed I rode with Chris, he works crazy hours and let me drive when he got tired. He promptly fell asleep and I made it my goal to run smoothly enough that he'd stay asleep. A goal like that helps me to become a better operator...

The last ride I took the 98 and went out on my own:



The '98 is a much more comfortable machine than the '91 at the cost of some speed. On the long straights the '91 maxes out at about 70mph, the '98 will only make around 60. Same 440 engine but the '91 is a little smaller/lighter and has dual carbs.
I think this summer I want to find a Z skid and track to put under the '91, with better suspension it'd be a sweet machine.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Gas tank welding

Went for a ride on Saturday and discovered that the repair I'd made to my '91 Jag's gas tank filler neck was insufficient. It leaked gas on my left foot the whole ride. Relatively safe, the exhaust is on the other side ;)

Anyway today I finally had a chance to attack the problem. I got a Harbor Freight plastic welding iron and began by cleaning the crack with the included wire brush. Then I repeatedly stabbed the iron into the plastic perpendicular to the crack. My idea here was to essentially stitch the crack back together:

That worked pretty well and when I was done I could no longer see a strong flashlight shining through the crack.

Then I took some of the filler material that comes with the iron and worked it into the repair. I'm hoping it'll add some strength. Fortunately theres a groove there anyway. Here I'm partway done:

I ran the filler material over all of the damaged part. I left the undamaged section alone, I may live to regret that...

Tested by putting in a few gallons of water, holding my hand over the filler hole and flipping the tank upside down. If I can manage to not screw it up during install it should be okay:

Right now its got a quart of denatured alcohol (all I had on hand) in it to absorb the water. I'll get more alcohol later today.

As a measure of safety I rinsed the tank with water yesterday. I'd tried to have the filler neck full of frozen water but couldn't get the water to stay in long enough to freeze. I did all the work outside, there was a good breeze and the ambient temp was below freezing. I wore a full face mask and had an extinguisher nearby. I sat in the middle of the driveway away from anything flammable and of course had lots of snow on hand.

Overall I consider this a success, I didn't get blowed up, in fact I never felt like I was really in any danger, no sizzling or fire of any kind...