by Gary Weidner, Editor / Published February 2015
I just sat back and thought about some of the interesting experiences during my years as a pressure washer mechanic. Here are several.
• Water Hazard—As a mechanic on the East Coast, I had to occasionally service hot water skid machines that were semi-permanently installed on the decks of rather large watercraft. They were used for oil spill cleanup in the area of Long Island Sound. The first step was to ride a launch out to the big boat. This meant handing my two heavy tool totes over the water twice going out and twice returning to the dock, and I was always worried that they’d be dropped into the Sound. And, a skid machine on one boat was installed so close to the edge of the deck that to get to some items, I had to work with my backside and tool belt hanging above the waves.
• Delayed Ignition—That’s when gas is fed into a combustion chamber for some while before it’s finally ignited. One time, I encountered this scary phenomenon while working on a portable, propane-fired machine in the shop. For reasons I don’t remember, the propane poured into the machine for quite a few seconds before the standing pilot ignited it. The result was a very loud BAM, and I was totally engulfed in a huge ball of orange flame. The flame disappeared so quickly that I suffered no harm, but to the panicked bystanders it looked as though I had been incinerated.
In another instance, I was called to service a natural gas-fired machine installed on an eight-foot-high platform in an industrial building. The delayed ignition was so major that only a railing around the platform saved me from being blown off it. Thankfully, again no harm done, not even to my eardrums.
• Baby, It’s Cold Outside—In the middle of a Midwest winter, I had to repack a pump at an industrial facility. For some reason, I couldn’t do the work at the machine; I had to take the pump, head outside, and work on the service truck tailgate. My fingers quickly became stiff and numb and to top it off, installing the new packings proved unusually difficult. It finally dawned on me that the water film and scattered droplets in the pump cylinders had already frozen solid, interfering with packing insertion.
Please kindly lend a sympathetic ear when your servicepeople tell of coping with something unusual.