Maintenance Tips & Tricks

Time-conserving, money-saving, aggravation-avoiding ideas for solving typical maintenance problems should be shared with others in the plant engineering profession. This idea-exchange concept serves as the basic philosophy for Plant Engineering magazine's 15th annual "Tips & Tricks" article. Details of this article were explained in the February issue.


Help pick the best tips
Safety first
Quick pipe plug
English tap drills
Gone fishin'
Fan shaft rotation
Oil bucket vent
Filters for filters
Tennis anyone?
Speaker polarity
Hold tapes
Disconnect lock out
Chisel screws out

Time-conserving, money-saving, aggravation-avoiding ideas for solving typical maintenance problems should be shared with others in the plant engineering profession. This idea-exchange concept serves as the basic philosophy for Plant Engineering magazine's 15th annual "Tips & Tricks" article.

Details of this article were explained in the February issue. Readers were invited to submit shortcut maintenance methods or procedures used over the years for solving commonly encountered problems. A review panel examined the submittals and selected those appearing on the following pages.

All items not selected for this article will be considered for future appearance in Plant Engineering's monthly "Solutions" department. A $35 honorarium is paid for each tip published.

Help pick the best tips

Review the 12 suggestions offered by others in the plant engineering profession, and vote for the 5 you believe are the most useful by writing the tip numbers on the special ballot next to p 62. The item receiving the most votes will win the "Plant Engineering Maintenance Tip of the Year Award." The submitter will receive $1000 for the suggestion. Both runners-up will each receive $250.

Please return ballots by August 29, 2003.

Safety first

In all cases, even if not specifically mentioned in the descriptions, verify that the tip does not violate any relevant code, standard, or practice. Always use the appropriate safety equipment and procedures when applying the maintenance tips.

Quick pipe plug

Problem : When working with copper pipe sweat fittings, sometimes the line cannot be completely shut off. Is there a way to stop the flow of water long enough to sweat on a ball or gate valve?

Solution : Take a piece of rag and wrap it around some wire. Stuff this into the pipe to stop the flow. Sweat the valve on and pull the rag and wire out.

Contributor : James G. Strebe, Sr. Process/E&I Engineer, Minergy Engineering, Neenah, WI

To Vote, Write 221 On Ballot

English tap drills

Problem : For one not familiar with tap drill charts or lacking access to one it is difficult to determine the correct drill size. Is there a way to calculate the correct tap drill size?

Solution : Subtract the inverse of the pitch, (in threads/in.) from the bolt diameter. The number is close enough, within 0.006 in.

Contributor : John Barbour, Bayer Corp., Clayton, NC

To Vote, Write 222 On Ballot

Gone fishin'

Problem : A tool or something else falls into a 55-gal drum of product. You can see it. Is there a way to retrieve the item without emptying out the drum?

Solution : Make a noose, similar to one a dogcatcher uses, out of 316 stainless steel tubing and TIG wire. Bend the end of the noose at an angle to the tubing. To grab the item, pull the TIG wire.

Contributor : Mike Holmes, Production Supervisor, Halocarbon Products Corp., N. Augusta, SC

To Vote, Write 223 On Ballot

Fan shaft rotation

Problem : When checking out fan operation, it is sometimes difficult to determine if the fan is rotating in the right direction. How can you easily determine the direction of fan rotation without shutting down?

Solution : Cut a strip of paper 1/2 in. wide by 4 in. long. Touch the paper strip to the exposed shaft. The paper will immediately move to one side, indicating the direction of shaft rotation.

Contributor : Lance Lemings, Engineering Manager, Gallo Glass Co., Modesto, CA

To Vote, Write 225 On Ballot

Oil bucket vent

Problem : Oil pours out slowly from 5-gal buckets. Poking a hole in the top helps, but lets dirt in. Is there a way to vent the bucket and keep dirt out?

Solution : Make an installation tool and vent from common pipe and fittings as shown. Now the bucket can be vented and dirt excluded.

Contributor : Pete Marquardt, West Point, VA

To Vote, Write 224 On Ballot

Filters for filters

Problem : Multiple filters in wastewater treatment plants for ion exchange columns and sand filters are necessary, but expensive. How can I make multiple filters and not break my budget?

Solution : 30-in. cartridge filters are inexpensive and effective but their housings can cost a lot. Make a housing out of Schedule 80 PVC pipe as shown. It utilizes the cartridge filter and saves money.

Contributor : Brian Kramer, Facility Engineer, PCC Airfoils, Mentor, OH

To Vote, Write 226 On Ballot

Tennis anyone?

Problem : Sometimes you have to run a wire above a suspended ceiling where the distance is greater than 30 ft. Is there an easy way to run the wire without disturbing the tiles?

Solution : Run a piece of string through a tennis ball. Throw the ball to the point where you want the wire. If the ball falls short, an observer will note which tile bounced. Pull the wire with the string.

Contributor : Hal Hansen, Lau Industries, Dayton, OH

To Vote, Write 227 On Ballot

Speaker polarity

Problem : Speakers work efficiently when they are connected with the right polarity. How can speaker polarity be determined if they are not marked?

Solution : Connect the speaker leads to the terminals of a used 9 V battery. When the positive speaker wire is connected to the positive terminal of the battery, the speaker cone will move away from the speaker magnet.

Contributor : Ralph Bauer, Ellenville, NY

To Vote, Write 229 On Ballot

Hold tapes

Problem : T-bars are usually used to hold rolls of tape in a tool pouch. The bars are awkward and don't work well. Is there an easy way to hold and release tapes?

Solution : Replace the T-bar with large O-ring. Now tapes can be easily removed and replaced.

Contributor : Kevin Wilson, Project Engineer, Landis Plastics, Inc., Tollesun, AZ

To Vote, Write 228 On Ballot

Disconnect lock out

Problem : A piece of equipment is fed by an air line with a quick disconnect fitting. How can the air line be locked out while repairs are being made?

Solution : Get a spare female quick disconnect that matches the one on the airline. Drill a hole for a lock to fit through. Connect the female disconnect and install the lock.

Contributor : Mark Comes, Maintenance Supervisor, Ferro Corp., Evansville, IN

To Vote, Write 231 On Ballot

Chisel screws out

Problem : Often Phillips head screw grooves will strip out if overtightened or overused. How can the screw be removed if this happens?

Solution : Use a cold chisel to cut a groove directly in line with one of the screw head grooves. Now, the screw can be removed with a standard flathead screwdriver.

Contributor : Mathew R. Mullins, Sr. Mechanical Reliability Eng., Alcoa Warrick Operations, Newburgh, IN

To Vote, Write 232 On Ballot

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