Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2001   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Hurry Up and Wait

"BEANIE! Aren't you done yet!?"I was behind schedule, and our apprentice was still working on my truck. The 100 amp alternator on my '89 GMC 1-ton had finally decided to spin its rear bearing into dus...

“BEANIE! Aren’t you done yet!?”

I was behind schedule, and our apprentice was still working on my truck. The 100 amp alternator on my ’89 GMC 1-ton had finally decided to spin its rear bearing into dust, just as I was getting ready to leave on my weekend fishing trip.

Beanie was holding the reassembled alternator and turning the pulley, a puzzled expression on his face. “I can hear a scraping noise inside. Should I take it apart again?”

Now, I know that a good mechanic will pay attention to small details and double check his work if something doesn’t seem right. But as I said, I was in a hurry.

I grabbed the alternator and spun it. “Naw, it’s just the plastic fan hitting the case slightly. It’ll go away.” I’d been showing him how to replace the bearings, rather than just install a rebuilt alternator. Beanie thought I was furthering his education; in reality I was being stingy. I didn’t want to pay for a new one, and I had some bearings gathering dust in the parts room.

Beanie looked doubtful, but didn’t say anything. Once he reinstalled the alternator, we started the engine. The scraping noise was even louder for a moment, but it soon went away. It doesn’t take long for plastic to melt into shape with the heat caused by friction.

We did a quick load test for voltage and amperage outputs. They were good, so I slammed the hood and backed across the parking lot to hook onto my 5th wheel trailer. Then I headed for Buck Pincher’s place.

“What took ya?” grumbled Buck as he stowed his gear. “I’ve been waiting for an hour. Dolly almost found me some chores to do.”

“Relax,” I told him. “I just had a small mechanical problem. Soon we’ll be across the border and heading for Sand Point, Idaho. I can hear the fish calling already.”

Buck raised his eyebrows. “A small mechanical problem? I hope it got repaired properly, as I don’t fancy getting’ broke down State’s-side.” He opened his Thermos to get a head start on his coffee fix. “Who did the work? Beanie?” he asked, taking a large swig of java.

“Yep,” I said, “but don’t worry. I showed him exactly what to do.”

It took a few minutes to wipe all the coffee spills from the dashboard. When Buck stopped sputtering, he began to rant and rave. It’s not that he doubts my mechanical abilities so much as he likes to pretend he’s a prophet of doom. I solved the problem by turning up the CD player.

The fishing trip went well, and Buck even forgot to worry about the truck as we enjoyed our time on Pend Orielle Lake. Sunday afternoon found us winding home through the mountains of eastern Washington, when I happened to glance down at the instrument gauges.


Buck snapped his head around. “What’s wrong?” he asked suspiciously.

I tapped on the instrument cluster. “Looks like the charging system just died. My battery light is on and the volt meter is dropping.”

Buck groaned. “Turn around quick. I think we just passed a small town back there.”

We managed to limp into Republic, where the only campground in town was right beside the stock car track. The season finale had just finished, but the partying was long from being over. Somehow we survived the night without any local yokels using our rig for target practice with their squirrel guns.

Bright and early Monday morning we pulled up to the local Napa store and bought a new alternator. I changed it right there in the parking lot and handed Buck the old one to return as a core.

Buck stared at it. “I wonder what went wrong. Didn’t you just rebuild this thing?”

I ignored him, but he took a closer look inside the rear cooling fins. “Hey, what’s all this broken plastic stuff in here? Looks like the fan flew apart and ripped up all the internal wiring!”

Needless to say, Buck’s doom saying turned into a full-blown sermon on the way home. He even went as far as to make sure my staff found out about it.

“So,” said Beanie smugly at coffee break, “I guess we should have paid closer attention to that little noise?”

I gritted my teeth. “That’s the fourth time you’ve pointed that out, Beanie.” I glared at Tooner and Basil, who were enjoying the moment immensely at my expense. “I think we all get the idea. Now, there’s another lesson you need to learn.”

“What’s that?”

“That I’m still the boss around here. When you’re done your coffee, the oil drain bucket needs cleaning.”

About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 25 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”

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