By David Skroch, Process Engineer
I went into engineering after a high school shop class trip to Owatonna Tool Company and Mustang Skid Loaders - both located in Owatonna, Minn. All I knew after this trip was that I needed to somehow find a way to work in a manufacturing environment. The drop forging of tools is what really hooked me. Growing up, I was so intrigued by how things worked that I was continually taking things apart and usually struggling through the re-assembly process. This led to work in automotive service shops followed by a longer stint at Sears Automotive as I was going to college.
I knew first hand that a corporation’s focus generally lacked in designing products for ease of maintainability. To this date, no more significant example of this came in 1986 as the new model year Hyundai pulled into the Sears shop where I worked. I believe this was the Excel model that Hyundai used as its entry into the U.S. market. As I pulled the new “foreign” car into the shop that was comprised of half young-bucks and half old-timers’ no one paid much attention other than the usual grunts and pessimism heard for any other vehicle entering the shop.
That is, until, I started doing what should be a routine oil change. The car had the solid black oil filter on it indicating to me that this was the first real oil change the car was to receive after coming from the factory. I dropped the engine’s break in oil and headed for the filter. I started getting an audience in the shop after I had done nothing but pace back and forth under the car for about 10 minutes looking perplexed . Reluctantly, I asked Corky, one of the old-timers to come and take a look and confirm if my findings were just the cause of a 20 year old college student’s night-before brain cramps. Soon everyone in the shop was in my service bay giggling, poking fun, and generally wearing their “Proud to be an American” faces. Directly under the oil filter was a cross brace frame connector. Ok, standard design, no problem. Well…seems that the engine assembly folks didn’t get the latest revision print from frame assembly folks or vice versa. The oil filter had approximately ¼” clearance between the bottom of the oil filter and the frame, perhaps ¼” short of that needed to even disengage the threads of the filter, let alone remove and replace it. After we all had our moment of “glory” and everyone went back to work, I grabbed a pole jack and lifted the motor up to the maximum stretch that the motor mounts would allow without further lifting the car off of the shop hoist. It worked, but to this day I still laugh about the poor schmuck who wanted to change his oil in the driveway the next time.