Saturday, February 8, 2014

Maintenance: Oh Crap!!

That's not right, is it?

We had a pretty good cold snap in our part of the country and I was working on some model railroad kits inside the living quarters we have tucked into one corner of the barn, the only heated space around, when I heard the air compressor cycle on out in the barn. And I heard it and heard it and heard it. . . Something was wrong! It doesn’t usually run near that long when catching up to incidental leaks in the system.

I bundled up to go out to the 50 degree barn (Less than 30 outside the barn.) expecting to find a burst hose or cracked fitting, but nothing; so I opened the door to the sound-deadening cabinet where the compressor lives and checked the gauges. They were both, the tank gauge and the regulated gauge, sitting on 120 lbs. which is about right for the regulated pressure but low for the tank since it’s usually up around 135. I watched for a while and, despite the compressor running, neither gauge was moving. That didn’t seem good and I had visions of that video of a distracted guy standing in front of a tractor-tire inner tube as it grossly overinflated before bursting, except if this thing burst there was going to bits of steel flying around and flying steel doesn't mix well with my flesh, so I killed power to it before something bad happened.

 The next day was quite a bit warmer so I drug the compressor out of its little cabinet to see what I could do for it. I bled it down and clearly one of the gauges was stuck. I took that apart, knocked off some of the rust, WD40’ed the crap out of it, banged it around, and actually got it working again, though I had to pull the needle off the shaft to re-zero it. Emboldened by my success I then pulled the pressure switch off since it was clearly not working either, did the WD40 and banging routine again since there was rust built up inside it too; a lot of rust! I then stuck an Allen key, the biggest one that would go through the hole, into the business end of the switch and tried squeezing the whole thing in one of my vices to simulate air pressure building up, but only succeed in bending my Allen key.

Even as I was doing all this I knew I was just putting off the inevitable, because the more I messed around the harder and harder it became to ignore the sloshing noise I got every time I joggled the compressor tank. I don’t know about where you live, but around here air doesn’t slosh like that. . .


OK, show of hands; who here thinks I should have been draining the tank more often than – oh, say, once every two years?? (If you're undecided, just so you know, there's more of that rusty syrup oozing off to the left and puddle-ing out in the gravel drive. . .)

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I’ve clearly screwed myself; a full penetration, no romantic dinner first, no lube during and no cuddling afterwards, screwing.

Even if I did manage to get all the bits working again I now have visions of a tank that’s rusted nearly through from the inside and just waiting for the right moment to explode.

It wasn’t in the budget, but guess what I’m going to be buying next week.

And guess what I’m going to be adding to my list of monthly maintenance items now. . .

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