One of Those Days

The concept was simple. Start the dozer, plow both driveways and then drive out to the woods to pull down the two hung-up trees, and skid back the 5 logs that are ready. I could do it with one eye closed and a hand behind my back. Ha!

Things started off pretty well. I plugged the dozer in and a couple hours later, it started right up. I used the bucket to scrape the driveways down to the gravel, and even cleaned up the mailbox. Then I drove out to the logging operation in the woods. I backed around toward the first leaning tree I wanted to pull down. As I was maneuvering, the dozer slipped a little, and I realized I was on the side of a hill (this is easy to do in the winter when the snow smooths out the valleys.) There was no danger at all, but I didn’t want the dozer on an angle when I hooked up the winch, so I moved the machine forward a few feet to level it out. As soon as I moved forward, the engine lost power.

I really wanted to get out of that dip, so I kept going. Mistake number 1. By the time I figured out I was out of fuel, the engine had sputtered to a stop. This is bad news for this machine. For some reason, when you run it out of fuel, it takes quite a bit of effort to get new fuel all the way from the fuel tank in the back of the machine up to the engine in front. Also, I was a long way from home, and if the dozer cooled off enough, it would be hard to start and there was no way for me to plug it in.

So I jumped off the dozer and walked back home. I threw my 5 gallon plastic fuel can in the truck and headed for Karvakko’s for diesel. I got about 4 gallons and headed back home. Then I carried the fuel back to the dozer and poured it in the tank. I got to thinking that the reason it ran out of fuel when it did was because I was on that angle, and the remaining fuel in the tank sloshed away from the pickup. My instinct to move the dozer to a more level orientation might just have worked if another few seconds of fuel had remained in the tank.

With 4 good gallons of fuel in the tank, I sat in the seat, sprayed starting fluid into the air intake (mistake number 2,) and pressed the starter lever. The engine spun merrily and sputtered a few times. I sprayed a bit more starting fluid in the intake, and pressed again. More spinning and sputtering, but no starting. And the spinning started slowing down. I sprayed a bit more and pressed again. More half-hearted spinning that slowed to a stop. Dead battery.

Having a diesel engine like this one with starting fluid in the cylinders is not a good thing. But I had to get back inside because I was making some yogurt, and had to check it and adjust the temperature as needed. So I walked back with my empty fuel can in one hand, and my logging chaps in the other hand. (I bring the chaps along to sit on because the dozer seat is saturated with snow and ice from sitting outside.)

Once inside I did my yogurt chores and then grabbed my spare battery and put it on the charger. This is a big and heavy 12 volt deep cycle battery. Once charged, I headed back out to the job site with the battery in one hand and my jumper cables wrapped around my shoulders. The battery was so heavy that I had to shift it from hand to hand, then shoulder to shoulder, and finally carried it next to my chest. The cables around my shoulders slipped while I was walking and the ends hooked onto my boots and almost made me fall down. Franco kept hopefully putting his stick in front of me for a toss, but I ignored him.

When I got everything out there I hooked up the battery, and decided to avoid mistake number 2 this time. If I spray the starting fluid into the air intake, it has a ways to travel to get to the cylinders. Instead I removed the plug from the intake manifold and sprayed in there instead. The intake is right next to the cylinders. Then I climbed back into the seat and removed the cover from the air intake. If things worked like they should, the engine would start, and I’d keep it running with a few squirts of starting fluid in the air intake until enough fuel sucked down from the fuel tank to keep the engine running. I pressed the starter.

The engine started. Then it sputtered and started to die. I grabbed for the starting fluid can, but I had not placed it where I could easily reach it, and by the time I got some fluid in the air intake. The engine died again. I just sat there and looked off into space. I may have said something too.

The battery still seemed ok, so I got back off the machine, unscrewed the plug from the intake manifold again, sprayed in some more fluid, and climbed back into the seat. I pressed the starter again, and the engine started again. This time I was ready with the can of fluid, and when it sputtered I gave it a squirt. It came back to life. It sputtered. I squirted. It ran again. As it was sputtering for the third time, the fuel finally found its way from the tank, and the engine roared to life. Yay!

I had the choice of staying out there and doing the skidding I came out there for, or driving the machine back home. I chose the later. I noticed about now that I had neglected to bring the logging chaps back out, so I was sitting on frozen snow. The dozer didn’t have far to go, but it goes very slowly, especially when you have a cold butt. I tried various contortions on the way back and finally settled on bracing my feet on the firewall and my back on the seat back, thereby lifting my butt a few inches off the seat. Not the most comfortable, but the best compromise I could think of for the 10 minute drive back to the garage. I was one happy camper when I pulled back into the parking spot and shut the dozer off.

It would have been better for me if I’d have had something to blame for this chain of events. I had not, in fact, checked the fuel level when I left for the woods; a mistake I hope I don’t make again any time soon.

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