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...

Friday, January 13, 2017

A new season

After the washout that was the 2015-16 season I'm sure hoping for some snow this year. So far its been exciting and disappointing. Early season snow had things looking good and the Wednesday after Christmas I spent the morning putting up signs for the snowmobile club and the afternoon trying to get my old junk to run.
Right before Christmas I'd given it a shot and neither Jag would fire up. The '91 would pop a little but wouldn't stay running, the '98 wouldn't even pop unless I primed it with gas down the sparkplug holes. I figured dirty carbs.
The '98 has a single carb while the '91 has duals so I figured to try the single first. Access is tight but not impossible. The bowl had a soup of water and gas which was almost certainly the issue and although I did have to prime the engine with a shot of gas down the sparkplug holes it fired up and ran good. Its still got a weird bog but I *think* that might be because of how much sitting its done.

I ran out of light so the '91 waited until the next day. I pulled the carbs and found the filthiest bores I've ever seen...

See the schmoo down at the bottom of the bore? There should be a hole there, the carb on the left was totally plugged I ended up soaking it with carb cleaner and running a welding torch cleaning rod through it until I could get it to come out clean.

 The bowl from the left side carb. Both were gross but the left side was worse.

So knowing that the carbs were nasty I knew I'd need to do something about where the goo was coming from. I couldn't actually see anything in the airbox but I knew there had to be something in there. To remove the airbox the gas tank absolutely has to come out, then the steering column has to be loose. To get the gas tank out the seat has to come off leaving me with this:

Well that escalated quickly huh? I just wanted to clean the carbs and now...
While pulling the tank out of the way I realized the bottom of the filler neck was cracked. I wonder if this is why I was getting terrible gas mileage a couple winters ago.

So I got the airbox apart and evicted the mouse nest, and got it back together without breaking the old hardened plastic too badly. Then I ran some ThreeBond around the crack on the gas tank.

Threebond probably isn't the best stuff for fixing the crack but I cleaned the plastic good before I tried it and it seems to be holding well. The Threebond stays flexible and its strong against gasoline, we'll see how it lasts.

Finally probably the worst part of it all is that the seat wood is ruined and completely came apart. I'm kind of glad I found this now rather than bombing down the trail but I wish it hadn't happened at all. In retrospect the problem is I park my sleds pointed down hill which allows collected water to run under the seat rather than just running out.

A trip to the hardware store got a quarter sheet of 3/8" ACX plywood. The original stuff appeared to be 3/8" OSB but in retrospect (since the plastic trim doesn't fit) is probably 1/4"

The cut along the front is pretty important, it fits around the gas tank mount to hold the front of the seat down.

So I've got the seat base cut out and ready to go, the last step is to staple the base onto the seat and reinstall.

Meanwhile I got the carbs all cleaned and reinstalled and the sled fires up and runs nice.

Finally I wanted to at least try to prevent this from happening again or maybe mitigate the problem some. I got there by taping some hardware cloth over the opening to the airbox:

Thats quarter inch hardware cloth which is probably too big but its what I had. I usually use a couple yogurt cups of mothballs in the footwells. This spring I'll add more mothballs to the cup and I'll maybe add another cup under the hood.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

No much happening but, the end of an era

So winter 2015-2016 is looking to be a washout. Probably to be expected really, we had 2 years of excellent snow, you can't count on greatness every year.

Obviously I haven't been doing much riding and having 7 sleds around doing nothing seems pretty absurd so last Saturday I finally said goodbye to an old friend, the 1995 Ski-Doo Grand Touring left the yard for the final time.

I accepted less money than I'd planned to but I still got better than 2/3 what I paid for the sled 7 years ago so I suppose I didn't come out too badly.

Friday I took the '91 Jag out for a spin, we'd gotten maybe 4" of snow and I just couldn't resist. The trails were rotten, the water holes had a skim of slush on them and were slippery as heck in the bottom, I had to keep hard on the gas to get through. The odo says I went 2.5 miles but I bet it was closer to 2 miles with half a mile of track slip. Still even a bad ride is better than no ride at all.

Finally I got the Wankel Panther going again. I'd gotten kind of disgusted with wrenching last winter and it was a challenge to get going again but I managed it. The change is nothing short of remarkable, the entire time I've owned it that sled was a challenge to run, I could never get it tuned well and it was just never happy. Once I got it back together and dealt with the fact that the gas line in the tank had melted it fired right up and ran pretty much perfectly. I think I could open the low needle just a little more but otherwise she's all set. I was so pleased I made a video:

Eventually I want to make a bunch of these where I show off the machine and take it for a ride, sort of like Jay Leno's garage but for snowmobiles.

Anyway, theres an update, we got another inch or two of snow last night so I reckon I'll get the '98 Jag out today and see what it can do. I've been fighting the carb on that one, it spits and dies. I think I had water in the gas so I finally bought an electric fuel siphon and drained the tank. With fresh gas it runs better but I think I need to go through the carb one more time. This summer I'll put a rubber glove on the gas cap in case its leaking...