Transmission Lost

BONEHEAD BLUNDER: Overlooking easy but important tasks
THE BONEHEAD: John, a retiree with an 18-foot runabout powered by a 115 Yamaha two-stroke
BONEHEAD RATING: 5++
WHAT HAPPENED: Earlier this spring I installed a water pump in John’s engine and tested it on the trailer. All was fine. John wanted me to go a-riding with him, so I agreed to, when the weather straightened out — which it must have done at 0520, because that’s the time the call recorded. He decided today was the day he wanted to go, with or without me, and the engine wouldn’t start and what did I do and what should he do to correct the problem? I called him back at 0600. He said the engine wouldn’t start but electricity made a sound like it was transmitting information. Then it quit transmitting. (I don’t make this stuff up, I swear!) I told him “You have a bad battery connection.” No way! He’d cleaned cables, terminals, and posts and snugged them down. The engine wouldn’t tilt. No gauges worked. I asked if he checked the main engine fuse. (I’m trying to pour a cup of coffee and hold my phone at the same time. Speakerphone makes sense at this point.) We go through the exercise of where the fuse is and end up with him getting frustrated and hauling the boat.

We go to early church to help set up, and mid-sermon — sorry, Pastor Jim — I have another idea. After the service I call John. “Tell me how many volts your battery has.” The voltmeter shows 13.1v. “How many does it show at the engine?” Zero (he measured). “OK, we need to transmit 13.1v of information to the engine, right? Do you have a jumper cable?” He does. (I can feel him having an attitude-attack) “Good. Get it and attach it to the negative post of the battery and a clean ground anywhere on the engine block. (Sigh) Okay. Now, push the trim button either direction.”

“OK.” Rmmmmm… “It’s working!” I knew.
“Now, did any of the kids come over for Father’s Day?” They did. “Get one to hold the trim rocker either way after you disconnect the jumper.” Nothing. “Good. Now, while she’s holding the button, wiggle the negative cable starting at the battery.” Rmmmm! “Okay, let the button go! What did you find, John?” (Choking sound) “I found a bad battery connection where the wire goes into the end.”

LESSON LEARNED: I think John now knows that if a battery has a positive post and a negative post, and the engine has termini for the cables, then the cables are a very important part of getting voltage information transmitted to the engine. Never overlook the easy — but important — things. Especially when you’re talking to me and I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee!

Bonehead Blunders

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