Thursday, December 24, 2015

where in the truck is...

As I was composing my last post, I kept thinking of vehicle-related "common sense" stuff that newbies may not be aware of.

In consulting, we tend to drive a wide range of vehicles - our own, various rentals, and/or company trucks/vans. We also tend to hop into each others' trucks to move them out of the way or grab something, so we may not be that familiar with whatever we're driving. However, the rest of the field staff is going to expect newbies to know these things. So here's a guide to the non-driving aspects of cars/trucks/whatever.

1. Gas cap: if you can't flip it open, push on it. If pushing on it doesn't work, it probably has a lever down close to the floor by the driver's door with a little gas pump icon.

2. To open the hood: there's usually a pull lever under the dashboard to pop the hood. To actually disengage it, you need to feel around the front inside of the hood for a lever.

3. The fuel gauge has an icon with a gas pump. The arrow next to the icon indicates what side the gas cap is on.

4. Emergency blinkers are marked with a red triangle, and may be on the top of the steering wheel or somewhere in the middle of the dashboard/center console.

4. The rearview mirrors should be extended out so that you can just barely see the edge of the car in them without moving your head. Most rearview mirror adjusters are located on the driver's side door, and have a switch or toggle for the left or right side mirrors. If not there, look around the center console.

5. If you're being towed/pulled out of a ditch, put the vehicle in neutral.

6. Yes, you can buy an inverter to plug into a car's cigarette lighter/auxiliary power supply, so that you can plug in a pronged cord. But you cannot run energy-intensive equipment (like, say, a drill or a big printer) off that power supply, as you'll blow the fuse.

7. You can replace fuses easily - all vehicles start out with spares tucked away somewhere. But if you have an old or rental vehicle, chances are the spare fuse you need has already been taken. Fuse boxes used to be reliably tucked under the dashboard, but I've also found them in the engine bay.

8. If you need to lock in 4-wheel drive, most modern vehicles will have a switch or button somewhere around the dashboard for that, and that's all you need to do. The dashboard should indicate that you're in 4-wheel drive. Some may require you to cruise forward for a bit for 4-wheel drive to engage. A few require you to put it in neutral first. And rare older trucks will require you to physically get out and lock the wheels (turn a lever on the center of the wheel).

9. It's ok to open the manual to find something! If you're using a rental vehicle, the odds are about 90% that the manual will still be sealed in its original packaging.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Life skills and fieldwork

Ugh. I got a bug and then was distracted by holiday obligations, so I haven't posted for ages. But I'm back!

So, life skills for environmental/geology fieldwork: when we hire newbies, we often assume a level of experience that they don't have. So we don't think to mention things that are common sense for us. So here's a list of various common sense skills/tools that I've had to explain or demonstrate:

1. Taping packages: The goal is to secure the package reasonably quickly, not to make sure every square inch of tape is stuck to the side. So you tape the first side, then extend the tape to a length a little more than the distance to the next edge you're going around. Then press the tape to that surface and swipe to seal. If you're taping a box, extend the tape several inches beyond the top on each side. If you're taping a cooler or something else that doesn't stick well to tape, your goal is to stick the tape to itself, not the cooler, so you keep stretching the tape and sticking to the edge again and again until it's fully wrapped the required number of times (if you have such requirements - see this post for more discussion of the infinite variety of shipping requirements).

2. Ratchets: We often use ratchets with sockets to open bolts on wells, drums, and miscellaneous equipment. If you fit a socket to the bolt you're trying to loosen/tighten and it just spins with minimal resistance, there's a little switch thing on top of the ratchet (the handle) closest to the socket. Switch that over to change directions.

3. Righty tighty, lefty loosey: If you're approaching a strange knob/nut/whatever, unless it's a gas valve (which may tighten differently depending on the gas content), you need to twist it so that the top swings to the right and down to tighten or to the left and down to loosen. Sounds simple, but if you're hanging onto a stuck thing and trying desperately to loosen it, you don't want to be going the wrong way.

4. Generators, trash pumps, and other simple, old tech: These are common and simple enough that they won't come with instructions. They have 2 sliders (the choke, the throttle [usually has a rabbit and turtle symbol]) and 1 on/off switch. To start a cold generator, make sure the throttle's all the way up, the choke is, uh, "off", and it's switched to "on" before yanking the cord (I can never remember which way the choke is supposed to be). If you don't get any response, switch the choke to "on" and try again. The thing will run better once if it's started if you slide the choke back the other way. Once it's been running a while, it will start easier and you just need to make sure the switch is "on".

5. Car/marine batteries: To connect to a battery using clips, attach the black clip to the negative (-) battery post, then attach the red clip to the positive (+) battery post. Reverse when disconnecting. If you're running something off a vehicle battery, either run the vehicle the entire time, or turn it on for a few minutes every half hour or so if you can't do the former.

6. Fumes: Ventilate if you're running a gas-powered thing inside. If sampling, position the gas-powered thing downwind or as far away as possible.

7. Padlocks: Sometimes you need to stick the key in and turn it to be able to push it closed. Try this method before slamming it shut with a hammer. Please.

8. Tool names: We're not mechanics, but we expect a basic tool vocabulary. Flathead screwdrivers look like "-" at the end and phillips head screwdrivers look like "+" at the end. And a few common "gripping" tools:

Adjustable or crescent wrenches (smooth gripper, screw part of the head):

Pipe wrenches (jagged gripper with separate screw mechanism):

Vice grips (technically, jaw-locking pliers, as vice grip is a brand name) - shapes may vary, but they all have an adjusting screw in one handle and a locking mechanism in the second handle:

Any other "common sense" stuff that you had to explain?