Today Was A Good Day…
…if not for the whipper I took off the side of the excavator this morning it would have qualified as outstanding.
I’ve been battling with the EX300 all summer but think I’ve finally gotten the upper hand. A couple of weeks ago I was ready to fire up the hoe and put the site to bed for the winter. The steel I-beams that I had used to deck the crummies over the summer needed to be gathered and stored out of harms way. With the arrival of Fall also comes the opportunity to dispose of the accumulated brush piles from the fuel reduction program we started this Summer and the 300 was key to maintaining and managing those fires. Not to mention the various nuggets I had placed around the oil water separator to keep traffic from driving over it. After doing my checks on the machine and giving it a generous amount of time to warm the hydraulics I set to tuning up the grades around the Homey Cabin as that is where the machine was parked. After tickling the ground for a few minutes, being as subtle as you can be with a Hitachi EX300, the machine coughed, spluttered and died.
Hmmmm… Fuck… Fuel system problem. Lots of fuel in the tank so it must be on the engine. We have the technology on hand. <takes off operator hat, puts on mechanic hat>
Luckily I have some experience with fuel problems in an old hoe. Alpines EX60, which while definitely my favorite in the fleet, suffered from chronic crap in the tank, requiring regular fuel filter replacement. Always had two under the seat with a filter wrench nearby. No biggie. It’s just a pain in the ass to recharge the system as any air in the lines starves the engine of fuel and shuts it down. So, change the fuel filter and the fuel water separator.
In this particular diesel engine, the fuel travels from the tank into the F/W separator which has a priming pump on top which operates like performing compressions in CPR. It then travels to the fuel transfer pump which has another priming pump to charge the injector pump which then sends just the right amount of fuel to the injectors at high pressure. The TP pump plunger unscrews from the body of the pump and is operated moving it up and down like a bike pump. The FW Sep. pump is awesomely placed, right on top of the engine and in plain view. The TP on the other hand is a bastard to get to with all manner of cables, hoses and protrudy bits getting in the way. Plus it’s halfway into the engine compartment on the side of the motor block. I usually rest my forehead on the intake plenum while kneeling on the upper deck of the house. Quite a comfortable position.
Once the fuel is being pushed and pulled through the system by the Transfer Pump it passes through a largeish filter before getting squeezed and shot out by the Injector Pump then spraying into the cylinder through the injectors. Theory-etic-ally the TP should have enough jam to push fuel through the IP, purging the air from the lines if you crack the nut that connects them to the injector. Homey J and I pumped and pumped, purged, cracked, blew out lines with compressed air, concocted alternative fuel supplies (diesel jerrycan) and cranked the shit out of her for two days. To no avail…
After being bent over for big ticket repairs three times this summer, I was loathe to have to get Brandt up for another spendy service call. The summers tale of woe consisted of main manifold seals, a failed bearing grenading the camshaft, both requiring visits from the pros, capped off by a dud alternator that I replaced. Not too surprising given the machine has over 13,000 hours on the clock. Everything wears out eventually, nothing lasts forever, especially on big machines that exist only to do battle with rocks and dirt and steep grades. Just unfortunate that the break downs all happened back to back to back. Now this… You can only beat your head against the wall for so long before it starts to leave a dent. Had to throw in the towel and walk away for a bit, gather my thoughts and regroup. Home for the weekend…
A lovely, relaxing spell. Broken by the replacement of the right front CV and drive axle on our BMW 325xi. Which also required the purchase of a new tie rod end and stabilizer arm trailing link as I had issues removing seized or stripped fasteners on the ones I already owned. Two trips to Trail in Heathers car, who happened to be working in Rossland that day. This because Lordco gave me the tie rod end for the wrong side. At least they had one on hand for both sides and a sway bar link too! Bolted everything up and immediately drove to dinner at The Ace of Taste in Trail with Carolyn, Heather and her boyfriend Ty. Awesome meal.
Saturday was bus day. New starter in hand, it was time to get Fritz moving. Unit installed, still no movement but for the familiar death rattle of a dead battery playing castanets with the solenoid. Back down to Trail for a nice big, new on sale, battery. Plug her in, CONTACT! The rest of the afternoon was spent shifting and enlarging the barn door on the front of the shop, clearing a path and parking the old Volks inside. Just dealing with the hulk of the Hovervan remains.
Back to work yesterday afternoon, JP and Estelle doing work and Dad/Daughter stuff at the Lodge, had a brief chat about the 300 and got on with everything else. Spent the evening moving lights and lasers around in the main Lodge then went to bed. After waking to beautiful blue skies and preparing a nice mug of joe, my phone rang. It was Roy at Maglio Installations with a hot tip about the 300. He wrenched on the beast when Terry owned the machine and told me of a small inline screen filter right as it enters the filter body and that it was specific to this one production model year… Yay! Shovels and wrenches in hand, Homey J and I uncovered the freshly buried excavator. A couple of connectors and clamps later and I was picking a significant amount of mung from the nickel sized screen. HJ blew it out with some compressed air in the shop and we discovered it was actually a rubber flapper valve to control backflow in the fuel supply line. Or something like that, I think.
The moment of truth had arrived. Pumping and cranking produced smoke followed by sputtering then a triumphant roar as the motor sprang back to life. FUCK YEAH! A brief shut down to reconnected and re-prime the fuel system and it was off to grab the digging bucket and park the old girl for the winter. As I was getting ready to walk away I remembered I still had to shut off the master switch. Snow on smooth, painted metal makes for a dicey foothold so of course I slipped off the side rail while trying to un-dog the side guarding to get to the night switch. No real damage incurred, just got a finger caught in the chain holding the door pin which now feels like I hit it with a rock or a hammer. The same finger I slammed in the door of a crummy 14 years ago during a heli transfer at 15km on the Baldface Main. Hurt like a bastard then but only hurts like bitch now.
After that small blip, drove around in the snowcat for a bit, got some more shit done and figured some more shit out, all culminating in a stunning but chilly sunset. As I got colder and colder watching the subtle dance of pastel shades in the fading light, I couldn’t help but smile and have a chuckle. As I said, today was a good day.