Tool Tips


Quick assessment in troubleshooting the problem makes all the difference

Quick assessment in troubleshooting the problem makes all the difference

This is the first in a series of articles starting with troubleshooting and ending with how to

replace the broken tool:  1. It’s broken, 2. Now what—repair or replace; 3. so what should I buy?  We hope that you  will be able to relate to these situations,  and that the suggestions will be helpful to you.


You’re sitting in your office or driving to your next job, when you get the dreaded call—your employee says the piece of equipment he was using stopped working—“it just died”.   Your first question—what happened?  The invariable response, “I don’t know; it just stopped”.


1.    What stopped?  Did the engine stop?  If it’s a mower, did the mower blades stop?  Was it under load when it stopped?   It is essential to narrow down the problem.   the more specific you can be, the closer you can get to the source of the trouble—ask the right questions.

What were you doing when it stopped?  How long was it running before it stopped?  Was it running properly before it stopped?  Did it really stop, or it never started?  Prior to stopping was it hard to start?  Asking the right questions requires that you, as the boss, have some working knowledge of the machine, and basic understanding of how it works.  Until some key questions have been answered you are not ready to attack the problem.  As a matter of fact, you may be creating an additional layer of problems which may be totally unrelated to the original problem.

2 .    What part of the machine has the problem—the engine or the part that does the work?  If the engine stopped in the middle of the field while he was mowing, this leads you in one direction. If it stopped two minutes after it started you might want to know how it was running the last time it ran.  Or more commonly –  It never started.  “I pulled and pulled, and then the starter broke.”  (Hint:  there was a problem, which caused it not to start. so now you have two problems—a broken starter and an engine problem.)   Always confirm when the last regular maintenance was done, and how it operated at that time.  Did any parts need to be changed, and why.

3.  “Boss, I don’t know; it just stopped.”  By this time, and after asking all these questions, you should have a mental list of where to start looking for the problem –fuel, air, ignition, engagement, electrical, carburetion, etc.  If you don’t, keep asking questions until you have the problem narrowed down to two or three possibilities.

“Now what boss?”  Is the machine fixable in the field or does it need to go back to the shop?  In either case zero in on what you think the problem is.  Be prepared with alternatives to resolve the problem, and you can start working in that direction.

BROKEN EQUIPMENT IS MONEY AND TIME WASTED.  The sooner you can solve the problem and get the machine running properly, the better.  Troubleshooting takes practice, and requires that you have a working understanding of what makes the machine run, and the variables that can affect its performance.  Good, regular maintenance greatly reduces breakage, but as machines age breakdowns become more frequent.  ( Remember, warrantees do not cover abuse or lack of maintenance.)

Boss, HAVE YOU DONE YOUR SHARE?  Do you know your machines history—age, previous repairs or major problems.  How much money has been spent on repairs?   In the next article, we will discuss—it’s broken; now what.  We will discuss some of the factors to consider when confronted with this problem and where to look for help.

If you have any questions, or would like clarification on anything discussed in the article, please feel free to contact me at atozhi@yahoo. com.  I welcome your feedback.  See you next time.

 Phyllis Jones, A to Z Equipment and Sales, formally A to Z Rental Center, in business for over 25 years.

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About the author  ⁄ Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert

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