Out like a lion

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Man…2016 did not end the best at the farmstead.

Right before break…about the 20th or so I took the diesel to minot to catch rogue one.  Good flick.  On the way down there it seemed like it was throwing a little more black smoke out the exhaust than I thought it should.  It was idling rough in the parking lot…weird problems.  After the flick she still started rough, I stopped to grab something to eat, got a face full of exhaust…and damn near puked.  The diesel vapor almost knocked me over.  It was like inhaling a shot of straight diesel.  I did some reading and it looked like the most reasonable and easy problem was the EGR valve was plugged.  A couple days later I popped it out..and it didn’t seem so bad.  Fired up the truck and she was getting worse and worse…black soot from the exhaust covering everything around the truck.  I took it to town, the wife and kids had left for fargo, and the guys in souris sent me to a diesel mechanic in bottineau.  The truck died about a mile out of town…ran out of fuel.  I had plenty to make it under normal conditions…but with whatever was going on it was dumping fuel in to the engine.  There was a bunch of unburnt fuel in the exhaust and it ended up emptying the tank.  I hiked my fat ass in to town to get some fuel, got the truck going and limped to the mechanic shop.  He told me if it was an injector he could have it for me Monday, this was on friday.  I thought that was a pretty damn quick turn around…this guy is always busy.  This leads us to the 2nd and 3rd major problems…

The muffler/spark arrestor on the bobcat had rusted through.  This isn’t something that is just inconvenient or loud…this was causing me actual running problems with the machine.  The muffler sits in the engine bay with the little pipe sticking out the top.  The plug on the bottom of the muffler rusted through and dropped out so it was spitting all kinds of exhaust back on to the engine.  Aside from making things a black sooty mess it was sucking the exhaust in to the air filter and trying to cycle it back through the engine.  This did cause me an issue about a week earlier while I was moving snow.  It seemed to be losing power, then I had an alert go off (my panel is broken so I can’t see any gauges or alert codes…but I hear the beep alerts).  I got it back to the garage and quickly saw the air filter was plugged.  I figured I could have the welding shop in bottineau braze up the muffler for me and I’d be back in business.  Generally brazing up the exhaust on these types of machines will hold very well for quite awhile and it’s maybe 1/8th the cost of a new muffler.  After dropping it off with the machinist, I found out there isn’t enough material left to do a solid repair.  He could weld up the hole on the bottom where the plug rusted out but the seams that have come apart he can’t really do anything with.  So now I have to get a new muffler.  There was no place local I could get one within a day or so, plus it would have been a bit more than the places online….so I ordered from “allskidsteers.com”.  The price was good and they had free shipping.  Surprisingly enough they shipped from only a couple of states away, I was looking at having parts here within 5 days.  The shitty part…we were on tap for a hell of a blizzard over christmas.  Not only was that arriving before my parts, but it was most likely going to delay my parts…which is awesome!

So now it’s the Friday before christmas.  My diesel is in the shop, I’m in bottineau, the wife and kids are out of town and I need to get back home and bolt the fixed muffler back up on the bobcat.  My mother was home so I got a ride back to souris from her with my old grungy exhaust filled muffler in the back of her brand new crv.  I had it wrapped in garbage bags so it didn’t get soot all over.  Why did I go to souris instead of the farmstead? you ask…because my Ram was sitting in souris….

So about 18 months ago I had problems with the Ram over heating.  I had gone to bismarck to pick up a trailer.  On my way home it over heated and water blew everywhere.  I was able to limp back to town…buy water and get back to the farmstead.  I replaced both the thermostat and the radiator cap.  She seemed to run just fine for about a year…till the following summer, and then problems popped back up again.  I dropped it off in souris to have them look at it…they can’t find anything wrong.  I drove it for a couple of months without issue, then it started over heating again.  I dropped it off with them again about thanksgiving.  It sat and sat without them looking at things.  Then we had a couple of blizzards…and it still didn’t get moved.  My plan was to talk to them again over break to see what’s up and if they didn’t have time/desire to fix it, take it to a different shop.  I should have before then, but there was no rush since I had the diesel… The truck popped right off and I took it home.  It did heat on me, but it was still semi drivable.

Snowpocalipse 2016 hits the farmstead.  When I was growing up we’d had years where there was snow, but I’d never seen this much at one time before.  Coupled with the couple of blasts we had before this…we now had a shitload of snow.  Roads were impassible…my yard is packed.  I couldn’t open my front door.  Not going to lie, I did almost panic a little bit at that.  How the hell was I going to get out of the house?  My fat ass was going to have to wriggle out of a window?  I don’t think so…I’ll just die!  The real problem is the dogs getting out to piss.  I did remember that I had a couple of coal shovels in the basement for the wood stove.  So armed with a shovel, I opened a window and shoveled out enough to squeeze outside.

My yard was packed with snow, a solid 3 feet everywhere, 4 feet in some places.  My bobcat is buried, my garage door is covered….jfc.  Now keep in mind that I do not have a cab on my bobcat…it’s wide open.  The cab is packed with snow.  I spent about 2 hours shoveling it out to be usable, shoveling an opening so I can get to the door of the garage, then used my tube heaters to help melt the snow in the cab and on the foot pedals (which is a huge f’n problem I’ll get in to shortly….).  I finally got the bobcat usable and had just enough daylight left to clear a path to the end of the driveway so I could get out if absolutely necessary.  I spent the rest of the time that day clearing paths from the front door to the garage for both myself and the dogs.

The next day comes and I have quite a mess in the yard to clean up.  I spent probably 8hrs or so clearing snow and everything that comes with that.  I don’t mind moving snow, the cold sucks but operating equipment and clearing things is kinda relaxing to me.  You don’t really have to think too much, and one of the bigger things for me is you can actually see the progress that you are making.  In I.T. I get something running, setup machines, fix the network…etc you get a sense of accomplishment knowing things work but you can’t really take a step back at the end of day and see what you’ve done.  Using equipment to move snow, dirt…whatever you can see what you’ve accomplished.  There is a level of satisfaction in that.

I’d mentioned before that I don’t have a cab on the bobcat.  It’s easy to see how this could be cold and potentially wet, but what I never thought about was how this will dork with the overall usability of the machine in the snow.  As you make the piles higher and higher or as you are pushing drifts, the snow will fall back towards the cab.  It would push back in on me…which sucks but my carhartts kept me warm.  I found out that suddenly I can’t move the bucket.  I looked down and blamo snow is packed in the foot controls.  So now I’ve got to dig out this fine snow in a very small area.  I dug some out, but then I put the torpedo heaters down there and just melted it out.  I sucked out the water with the shop vac in areas where I needed to.  I also had to clear out the big hole in the bottom of the cab by the foot controls so I could get everything out of there…what a pain in the ass.  After this realization, I was more careful about snow falling back on me or the push pile rolling back over the bucket…but it would still happen from time to time.  I decided to order a canvas cab to help alleviate this issue and cut the wind.  I would have rather put plexiglass sides on it and then construct a door somehow, but I don’t have anywhere I can get inside and work on this thing.  I needed something I could do outside in the weather fairly quickly.  I ordered the cab from Northern Tools.  I figured it would be a couple of weeks, luckily it shipped from South Dakota and it arrived in 3 days.

So the yard is cleared, the women are now home.  I’m still waiting on parts for the bobcat, and I get the amazing diagnosis about my diesel.  It is not a simple injector.  There is no compression on the #5 cylinder.  We don’t know the extent of the damage or why it decided to take a shit…but this is a huge and expensive problem.  The engine needs to be pulled out of the truck, ffs what a headache.  I decided to go ahead and fix it.  Since the engine is coming out I told him to address a few other common issues with this engine.  He’s going to do an EGR delete, beef up something under the turbo (I don’t remember the part exactly), replace head bolts and gaskets.  It’s spendy, but hopefully it should be gtg when done.  Who the hell knows why #5 blew….maybe when he gets in there he’ll tell me there is something more major wrong and we just blow the whole thing up.  I have no idea.

Wednesday comes and I have to take my mother and kid to minot for dr appointments.  I suppose I didn’t have to, but it beat sitting around the house.  Since I was going to be gone all day I dropped off the Ram with the same mechanic to take a look at it and see if he can figure out what souris didn’t.  By mid morning he gave me a call…there is exhaust in the coolant.  This means it’s either a head gasket or a head is cracked.  The truck has 150k + on it and had not really given us any sort of significant mechanical issue.  It’d been pulled hard at times.  It’ll cost a bit but it wasn’t surprising.  The larger issue is he can’t get to it for a bit.  The truck is utterly undrivable at this point.  I can only go a few miles before it red lines and has to be shut down.  I’m down from four vehicles 2 of which are 4×4 trucks, down to 2 vehicles…1 AWD and a front wheel drive car.  During one of the worse snow fall years I can remember…this is not a comfortable situation, not to mention a very expensive one.

I lucked out and the following Friday was a spectacular day weather wise.  I was able to bolt on the new muffler, get the bobcat cleaned out and the cab on.  Since I now have an enclosure on there, I had to put a fan inside to keep the frost off the window.  So far it works pretty well…but there is yet another problem!

it got pretty cold about a week later.  My uncle borrowed the bobcat to clean out his yard, which is no problem.  He ended up getting sick so I had to go over there and bring it back to my place to open things up.  It was froze up pretty good.  I run the proper winter fuel in it with an additive that should help keep things moving.  I still end up with the fuel lines froze up when it gets cold enough though.  It’s more common than not this time of year that it’s frozen.  I have to put one of the torpedo heaters on it for 20 min or so to get things going again.  Last year it froze up pretty often, but I knew I had summer fuel in there and I hadn’t burnt enough of it off to legitimately mix in winter fuel.  This year I made sure to burn it off and put the correct stuff in before the cold and she’s still freezing.  I’m expecting there is water in there that isn’t cycling through.  I’ll have to drain the tank and all the fuel lines this spring…but that doesn’t help me now.  So I got it thawed out over there and started heading home.  It’s about a 2 mile drive, I don’t have a trailer setup for it yet so we just drive it around the “block” (section, 1 mile x 1 mile square).  Also…I didn’t have a god damn pickup with which to pull it anyway!  I got going down the road…and she died on me.  It popped right off and I started going again…but it powered out again.  She didn’t die, but it lost power.  i assume there was still a chunk of ice in the fuel line somewhere.  I let it idle a bit longer, and it seemed to free up.  By the time I got home I was an f’n ice cube.  I hadn’t taken in to account how cold the fan reflecting off the front door would be.  I used it a couple of times after that…and she’s just too cold.  Since I got a cab for it…I decided I’d put a heater in it.  I wanted to go with a water heater, just like a car, but again I can’t get it inside to work on anything.  I ended up ordering what the reviewers say is a decent electric fan to mount in the cab.  It should be here the end of January…. with the luck I’ve been having I wouldn’t doubt it’ll be April.  I also have a backup camera that I need to put in there.  I had installed a bluetooth one a few years ago…but some dipshit forgot the screen in the cab and it got rained on.  The concept had proven itself, so I now have a hard wired one to install.  The bluetooth one would get interference from my bluetooth headphones, so I wanted to go hardwired this time.  The backup camera is crazy handy on these things.  You can’t see shit behind you even if you twist and turn.  At some point I’ll also fix the display so I can see things again.  This probably needs to be done sooner rather than later.  They are not making these displays anymore…so it’s going to be very difficult to find parts, and it’s only going to get harder.  By quck-tach is also broken.  I knew this when I bought it, but still went with it anyway.  Upon reflection, I still would have bought it.  I should be able to fix it.  Also the bushings for the bucket need to be replaced…again not a huge deal but it should be done soon.

So that’s where I’m sitting now.  Both trucks are in the shop and I’m fighting snow.  For awhile there it seemed like nothing would go right…just one shot after another.  For the most part, it’s not stuff I could have really done much about.  The diesel going out on me couldn’t have been foreseen.  None of my monitoring apps found any issues at all.  The Ram I had in to the shop a few times…no dice.  The bobcat issues I should have been more proactive to avoid.  I’d gotten away with it the past couple of years, but this one finally caught up with me.  If that had been the only problem I wouldn’t bitch too much.  Not having a truck though is a huge problem.  Hauling garbage or fuel become a whole new challenge.

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