If I can’t fix it, it’s not broke. We have all been there, right? Now, I can’t tell about all you, but I have prided myself in having the ability to fix pretty much anything that breaks. There is an inner mechanic inside all of us, even if we don’t act on it. Not all of us have the luxury of going to the dealership or a top-notch mechanic around home. I’m one of those old relics who fancies himself as a darned good shade tree mechanic. And the older I get, the more convinced I become in my own opinion. Well, I may be convinced, but I guess not everyone else concurs.
How often does a smart (person) aka “hotshot” jump into the conversation and give their 2 cents worth of opinion? If you’re like me, you smile and carry on with the original plan – regardless of how stupid it sounds to them (and you) when it doesn’t go as planned. I only mention this because stupid happens to all of us, myself included. How often have others quoted “such wisdom from the mouth of babes” or, in this case, my wife.
What does all this have to do with trucking? Well, this story began last year when my speedo (speedometer, not swim suit) started messing up. How hard can it be to get it working? Something probably just came unplugged. Maybe there’s a break in the wires or some other electrical issue. I’ll figure it out – just give me a minute to slide under the truck and look around. Well, I’ve unplugged and re-plugged every connection I can find, and still no luck. That’s when my wife chimes in, “Just get a new speedometer!” No honey, they never quit. I’ve had trucks for years, and the speedometer has never just quit… ever!
After moving the wires around, BINGO it works, all good… for a while. Then I start the process all over again. Each time, I fiddle with the wires and it starts working again, but only for a while. The intervals of disruption have become more frequent as the months wear on, and now it’s messing up my fuel mileage reports. We went through a fuel audit last year, and that audit reinforced the requirements of start and stop mileage in every state, not just the total mileage. This is because we do not use a computerized program excepted by them. Since my wife fills out those reports, I get a lot of grief when they aren’t complete. “How much can it cost? Just stop at Peterbilt and pick one up,” is what I hear every time I mention it’s not working again. But do I listen? Of course not!
You are not a mechanic so please no comments from the cheap seats. I got this! Or do I? Well, it has now finally quit working altogether. I’ve been under the rig for hours, and no luck. Nothing happened with the dash, it must be the pick-up sensor. The speedometer heads NEVER quit. Oh, would you look at the time, it’s 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. The dealership isn’t open, but maybe I’ll call my parts house and at least get a price. “Hello, what’s the chances you guys have a (give your best description of part) and how much does it cost?” They don’t have a factory replacement, but there is a part that will work. At this point, I don’t care the cost or the brand. I’m dead in the water, because the one in the truck is no longer usable since it busted in the removal process. Must be my clumsy mechanic (me).
Two hours later I have the pesky part in my hot little hands. Now to install said part and be on my way. How can a part no bigger than your thumb be so difficult to install? Since I crushed the original one beyond recognition trying to remove it, I shouldn’t be surprised when the replacement one doesn’t just slide back in, right? Back into the shop I go to find my dremel tool. Yah, that didn’t work, either. Now what? When all else fails, use emery cloth and bust your knuckles. Finally, I removed enough corrosion and rust to allow a snug fit.
Now that it’s all back together, it’s time to take a test drive, where I realize it still doesn’t work! It’s a good thing we didn’t book that load for the next day. That’s when I hear someone say, “Why don’t you just get a new speedometer?” I don’t want to spend all that money. Okay, let’s compromise – I will go out back and scavenger a used one from the spare parts trucks. Two hours and three trucks later, I found one that will plug in to my dash, kinda. The plug end is right, but no tripmeter. I will try it anyway, just to prove “someone” wrong.
At this point, the job required two of us to test it, so there was no way I could hide my surprise. Oops! And then that little voice next to me says, “I told you it was the speedometer! You should have just got a new one.” These things aren’t cheap, and I really didn’t believe it was bad. Everything pointed to an electrical issue. So, I called the dealer and got slapped with sticker shock – $500 for a new speedometer, and they no longer make a factory replacement. All they have now are the digital gauges, which I can’t read as easy as the old ones. No thank you! I will call the salvage yard and get one of the old-style gauges. This shouldn’t take long – after all, how hard can it be to find an old Peterbilt and rob the speedo from it?
I’m not sure how hard they found the task, but I was still standing at the counter when 4:00 PM rolled around. $200 later and I’m headed back to my shop. Now to set the appropriate code in it and I’m on my way. We all like to save a buck when possible, and this day looked like a winner for me. This shouldn’t take long to install. Maybe 15 or 20 minutes to button-up the wiring and I’m done. Problem solved, right? In a perfect world, maybe, but not in my world. I install the crazy thing and hook up all the wires, fire it up for a test drive, and WHAM! Just like that, fate kicks me in my seat cushion, as the darn thing doesn’t work. And now it’s too late to take it back today for an exchange.
What didn’t work? Well, let me tell you. When you get a new speedometer, it doesn’t come pre-programmed. Most electronic speedometers can be used for any configuration of specs. The rear end ratio and tire size are used, along with some other numbers, to find the right sequence of switches. In my case, I was working with my son, who was on the telephone doing the math computations and reading the dig sheet (digital settings list). While he was multiplying and dividing numbers, I was driving up and down my road relaying speeds to him from both my GPS and the truck speedo. Each time I stopped, I had to remove the gauge from the dash and punch a series of trip switches on the back of the crazy thing. This went on for a good hour, until we got it narrowed down to a speed difference of just 1 mph.
All is good, until I notice we hadn’t racked up any miles on the tripmeter. That’s not good, since the purpose of this entire exercise is to record my mileage correctly. It’s not the voice in my head that keeps reminding me to listen, it’s the one in our kitchen that smiles and gently prods me, “Just get a new one.” Now, I have wasted three days and countless hours of my time, and I still can’t load the wagon and get back to making money. At least not until I make the trip down Eaton Crow Road and pay homage to my non-mechanic wife, who, from time to time, has the ability to see a problem just for what it is – a broken speedometer.
In the morning I will be making that trip to Peterbilt for the correct new part. On second thought, I think I have time to call 4 State Trucks in Joplin, Missouri. It’s not too late since there’s an hour difference in time zones. Their website shows one that goes to 120 mph. That should look impressive, even if it will never get over 65. I called and they said it would go out the same day – I could even have it overnighted to me. Sure, send it on a fast horse. I’m three days into this, and really need it to be done. Today is shot to heck, so I might as well take my dog Penny for a ride down the dirt roads in my old pickup. Every thing’s better when you’re riding around with the windows down and the music up. Then, on the way back, we can stop and try to return the broken parts to the salvage yard. Who knows, maybe I can get my money back.
Well, the UPS driver just left, and true to their word, I received my new replacement part just like clockwork. Thank God for small favors (and the shipping guys in Joplin). The only good thing to come out of this is that my dog still likes me, and she never says, “Hey dummy, I told you so!” This whole episode has stressed me out. I think I will take a trip by the Frosty Freeze and get an extra-large turtle Sunday for me and a doggy cone for my four-legged friend. I’m thinking it would be a good idea, too, if I found something for my faithful and patient wife who lets me continue doing things my way. And even when I give her the opportunity to say, “I told you so,” she doesn’t. But that will be our little secret, 10-4!