Sharing Experiences from the School Bus Garage is the Best Way to Solve Issues

Do you have any mechanic stories to share? Is there a job that totally stumped you for hours or even days? Once you found the problem, was it a learning experience?

John Whelan, school bus shop foreman and STN blogger.
It’s human nature to analyze the situation surrounding a problem, and sometimes we can over-analyze and miss the simple solution. Through the years, the experiences you have never leave you; as the saying goes “experience is the best teacher.”

Experience is not something you can buy; you have to get into the trenches and carry out a job until it’s done. Once you find the solution, it’s locked in your memory permanently.

It’s really nice to search your memory banks and remember the exact same problem you had in the past. You then focus on it and fix it.

I remember when I was an apprentice hearing about a mechanic who was working on a diesel engine that would not run. He changed the injection pump and later found out the fuel tank was empty. He was immediately given his walking papers.

I never forgot that story and always made sure to “check the source” of the problem. It’s such an easy step but at times, overlooked. I’ve done it and learned from it over the years. It becomes a humbling experience and checking the source is my first step with any diagnostic procedure.

Checking the batteries and grounds, for instance, has solved more problems than I can remember and continues to be the first plan of attack when confronted with an electrical problem. If there is no flow of electrons nothing is going to happen. Wiring resistance, shorts and bad grounds have caused a lot grief for many mechanics over the years.

Here’s a memorable story I have to share. I worked at a truck stop for a year and worked on anything that came through the door. One time, an older Chevy pickup came in with no power. At full throttle there was no engine miss with a top speed of 30 mph.

After a couple of days scratching my head not finding a reasonable cause I had a hunch that I needed to chop the exhaust pipe before the muffler and find the plate from the heat riser. It had broken away and made its way down to the muffler inlet, blocking it off and causing major back pressure, just enough so the engine would still run.

From that day forward I always check exhaust back pressure when there is a diesel or gas engine power complaint. You just never know!

If you have your own oddball mechanic story or an issue you're having trouble with, please share it with us in the Tech Net group on STNSOCiAL. It's a free, useful, online tool being used by hundreds of student transporters across North America. We would love to hear from you, too!

Whelan has worked as a school bus and truck mechanic for the past 34 years and is currently shop foreman for the School District No. 73 transportation department in Kamloops, British Columbia. Read more about Whelan's shop experiences at his personal blog site.

Last modified onFriday, 25 April 2014 05:42