Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Composed Of Suck, Fail And Triumph

     This day.

     I did finally solve a nagging problem with an accursed Ku-band uplink system, which could have been collateral damage caused by either A) a loaner encoder that suffered a power supply failure that made the case "hot" to ground by 120 VAC or so, ahead of the fuse or B) a fancy dual-source, automatic-switching power strip that decided to add series resistance in the neutral of one source -- and connect it to the neutral of the other input, while also showing signs of control-electronics-insanity.  The problem (in a well over $100,000.00) piece of equipment was, however, not that.  Nope; it was actually fine.  But the replacement-loander encoder wasn't sending out any 10 MHz reference along with the modulated L-band, and that was driving the widget (an SSPB, an' don't we love our alphabet soup?) nutso.  All I had to do was be reminded of that by a factory support engineer, and then dig through the menus to turn the reference output on, and voila, it worked.

     Here's what didn't work: in cold weather, my car tires tend to leak.  Every three days or so, left rear and right front have to be topped up.   There's free air at work, in the equally-free dark and cold, but who's complaining? I started up my car at the end of my day, let it warm for a minute* and pulled over to the overhead door nearest the air.  Left rear, from 20 (!!) to 30 psi, all okay.  Right front, put the filler on it and it started hissing.  So I reseated it.  Still hissing.  But there was  a pressure reading, low, and I brought it up to 28, disconnected, still hissing.  Oh, thinks I, the valve, she are stuck.  Put the filler back on, blip it--  Hissing.  Repeat -- and soon after taking the filler away, POP!  The end of the stem flew off!  I put my thumb over  the open end on the wheel, 'cos I am clever like that, muttering, "Oh, no, no, no..."  But it was Too Late.  The stem had broken at the lowest thread and carried the valve with it.  There was nothing to be done but let the air out and put the spare on.

     The spare in a Hyundai Accent, at least of a certain vintage, looks like a joke and not a nice one.  It's below tiny, an appetizer-sized tire on a monstrously distorted, undersized, deep-dish wheel.  I prised it free from the ancient padding where it has been since the car was new, took a good look and called Tam for a ride home.  But my car was still blocking an overhead door and I was going to have to put that wee little tire on it and move it to a real parking space.  There was no other option.  Cold, dark, and out of options.

    The jack is twee, too, and I couldn't find the handle.  Nor could I find the Company's nice floor jack, which I would've borrowed and never thought twice.  So I borrowed a honkin' big Philips instead.

     Oh, the temperature was in the vicinity of 4.  F.  And the asphalt was darned cold.  I borrowed a scrap carpet square, broke the lug nuts free (this involved me doing an impromptu Tarantella on a cross wrench. Inelegant but it works), jacked the car up one half turn of fine metric threads at a time, got the wheel off, manhandled the spare into place, lowered the jack with the same endless repetition of half-turns, and watched the tiny spare compress, compress...  There was a vertical inch and a half, easy, between the wheel and the parking lot when it took the weight from the dinky jack.  And my phone was ringing.

     Tam.  Outside the fence in the visitor's lot (from which my location was quite effectively screened), wondering if I had been abducted by the NSA or what.  I mumbled some kind of explanation, put the borrowed tools and kneeler back, and eased my car into a nearby space.

     Oh, when I was putting the jack, trunk floor and so on back, guess what I found hooked to the underside of the trunk floor?  Guess?  ...Yeah, the jack handle.  Well, how convenient.

     I eventually let Tam in the gate, we moved the tire to her car along with my briefcase, etc., etc. and headed home.  And that, dear friends, that is the "suck and fail" portion of the festivities.

     The tire needs a new stem.  It may need a new tire, too.

     On the other hand, double gloves and a ushanka-style cap made a huge diffidence in comfort. So at least there's that.  And I have certainly now broken in my new gloves. 
* Look, unless you're leaping right onto the high-speed freeway or driving a very, very old car, that's all it takes.  Really.  


Keads said...

That sucks! If it is ANY comfort to you, my new car has NO spare at all. Just some happy magic plastic box that will make it all better. Well, unless its a sidewall puncture and you can kiss that 70 buck pressure sensor and maybe the 19" alloy wheel goodbye after deployment of said magic box anyway.

Stay warm!

Borepatch said...

I must protest, Madame! The NSA doesn't abduct people. They don't have to because they know everything that you say ...

BGMiller said...

It's for precisely this scenario that I keep a cheap foam kneeling mat from the garden center in my breakdown box*. And a pack of inexpensive dust masks lives in the winter kit. Bad enough to deal with cold hands (doubly so after some serious burns in my past) but freezing my lung by gulping super cooled air as I exert myself is to be avoided.

*The breakdown box is actually a basket with folding handles such as you find at the grocery or drug store. Perfect for toting jumper cables, selection of basic fluids, work gloves, and a plastic coffee can of select hand tools from trunk to whichever bit of auto has earned attention.


Jay Dee said...

SSPB? The Scissors Sisters Party Bus?

Roberta X said...

Jay Dee, an LNA = Low Noise Amplifier; LNB = Low Noise Block upconverter-amplifier. Those are at the receive end. At the transmit end, SSPA = Solid State Power Amplifier; SSPB, well, you get the picture. The one in question has already been returned to the factory for service twice.

Jay Dee said...


Please pardon my low humor. Working in defense for a couple decades, I have great fun slaughtering the acronyms endemic to the industry. Sometime I'll have to tell you about COWPIE.


rickn8or said...

Oooh! I love it when you talk technical.

Sorry to hear that the Hyundai picked the coldest day to manifest its' poor pneumatics' condition.

I've had a tire do the rotten stem trick in the middle of nowhere and then ran over a discarded muffler clamp five minutes later, taking out the spare.

So see, it's not just you the universe is picking on. For instance, I just posted this on the wrong entry.

Jim Dunmyer said...

Keads beat me to it, I also have a new car with some magic juice and a little air compressor instead of a spare. Thankfully, it's been a while since I needed a spare tire, drove my Jetta for about 10 years and 140,000 miles and never pulled it from the trunk.

Of course, now that I said something...

Windy Wilson said...

My car also has one of those toy spare tires. Once one of my real tires disintegrated in the middle of the freeway (we were only going 15 in rush hour traffic so it wasn't quite as traumatic as it could have been). Nothing left but a fringe around the wheel like the beard on a clam. Took out the spare, and it was narrower than the real deal, and had 50 Miles 50 MPH stickers all over it. Since then I've gotten a fifth wheel and tire for times when 50 miles won't even get me to a seller of gasoline, let alone tires, and 50 miles would only prolong the agony.
But your tale of trouble has me beat. I didn't think that could happen. My life has a ways to go before it can even get to the red part of the weirdness meter.

Rob K said...

If there's free air at work and it's delivered at a high enough pressure & volume, they should obtain an inexpensive air impact wrench and a set of metric & SAE impact sockets-- should be under $100. That would have made your life so much nicer, and I'm sure it could be justified for actual work uses.

Roberta X said...

Rob K: Not a bad idea, and one we have discussed. There are some issues with needing an oiler and that would have be a separate branch off the clean air system.

Jay Dee: No offense taken, just me getting a little aspie.

Rob K said...

If you're only using it once in a blue moon, you don't need an oiler on the line. A squirt in the inlet is good enough. It's not like you're going to run a full service garage.

Ritchie said...

Due to advancing age and wisdom partly keeping up, I hope, each of my vehicles in the fleet has its own 1/2 inch drive breaker bar with suitable sockets and extensions. Its a multipurpose tool whose uses are limited only by your deviousness.