A Troubleshooting Lesson From The 'Coal Face'

March 3, 2015
When faced with a problem there's a natural tendency to assume a serious or complex fault is the cause. But the statistical reality is the opposite is more likely to be true.

I was sitting at the breakfast table Saturday morning when my 12 year old son marches in and disturbs the peace by throwing down the following challenge:

"You're not a troubleshooter unless you can fix my camera!"

The back story to this is, last year I released a new book, 'The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook', which is subtitled: 'And how to troubleshoot everything else!' Although Ben hasn't read it, he's heard a lot about it, and so now he's gonna find out if I'm the 'real deal'.

Turns out he hasn't used his digital camera for some time. As a result the battery is flat and won't take charge. And he needs it for a school project, like, yesterday. Ben has already decided the battery is dead. So he pulls it out of the camera and shows it to me. I explain that while it's possible the battery has failed, it's too early to make this call with any certainty. So I inspect its contacts, and together we ensure it's re-installed correctly.

Not wanting to waste the teaching opportunity, I grab a copy of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook, and open it to Troubleshooting Principle #3; Check the Easy Things First.

"What else can we check without taking the camera apart?" I ask.

After thinking about for a moment, Ben replies, "If it's getting power?"

As is quite common these days, the power/charging lead has 3 pieces. An AC whip lead. A step-down transformer/rectifier: AC in; USB out. And a low voltage whip lead that connects the transformer to the camera. We check all the connections: wall socket; transformer in; transformer out, camera in. All good. So I grab the book again and jump to Troubleshooting Principle #8; Isolate to Eliminate.

"How can we isolate and eliminate the different parts of the charging lead?" I ask. Ben's not too sure.

"Let's plug it into a different wall socket", I suggest. We do, and there's no change.

"Let's plug the low voltage lead into a different transformer" I suggest.

"I don't have another transformer," Ben replies.

"Your ipad charger is USB out, so should be the same," I explain.

We check the specs of the two transformers and they're close enough to be safe. So Ben plugs the low voltage lead into the USB output of his ipad charger and bingo, the camera is charging! To say Ben was delighted is understatement. But being that he's 12, I didn't get much kudos. But that's OK. Not living up to his very high expectations would have been much worse for me.

And the reason I'm sharing this story with you today is because it has a couple of instructive takeaways:

  1. All troubleshooting assignments are simple AFTER they've been solved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but NO help whatsoever at the outset.
  2. When faced with a problem like: "my camera is dead", there's a natural tendency to assume a serious or complex fault is the cause. But the statistical reality is the opposite is more likely to be true--as it was in this case.

And when I say that I use the troubleshooting system outlined in The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook whenever I'm troubleshooting ANYTHING, I mean it. The best part is anyone can use this system to become a reliable and effective troubleshooter.

Bottom line: not following tried and tested troubleshooting principles can result in costly mistakes. And to discover six other costly mistakes you want to be sure to avoid with your hydraulic equipment, get "Six Costly Mistakes Most Hydraulics Users Make... And How You Can Avoid Them!" available for FREE download here.

About the Author

Brendan Casey Blog | Author

Brendan Casey is a war-weary and battle-scarred veteran of the hydraulics industry. He's the author of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook, Insider Secrets to Hydraulics, Preventing Hydraulic Failures, The Definitive Guide to Hydraulic Troubleshooting, The Hydraulic Breakdown Prevention Blueprint and co-author of Hydraulics Made Easy and Advanced Hydraulic Control. And when he's not writing about hydraulics or teaching it, Brendan is flat-out helping consulting clients from a diverse range of industries solve their hydraulic problems. To contact him visit his company's Website:

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