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...