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Christmas Fuse Box Fun - Shop Talk

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Where's My Screwdriver?
During last year's winter holidays, I took a few days off to make a feeble attempt at basic household wrenching. Looking back at it, I'm pretty proud of accomplishing what little I did. However, what I experienced with this adventure was all too similar to the snags we all run into when working on our street machines; namely, stripping threads, breaking off bolts, and throwing away things that you obviously meant to store in a safe place.

So there I was on Christmas morning, and instead of waking up to my automated cup of caffeine, the heater was out and I nearly stumbled down the stairs because I was fixing my eyes on where the light bulb would have normally been shining. Anyhow, I ended up making my way around my home, flipping switches, and ta-da! Half the lights won't turn on.

My knee-jerk reaction was to check the fuse box. Sure enough, the entire panel was soaking wet. We had a storm two days earlier, but it still seemed a bit odd to me. Without thinking, I went ahead and reset the breakers, and this is where it gets good. The large 40/40-amp breaker that controls the central air started sizzling like bacon on a hot frying pan. At the same time, I heard my heater kick on. I immediately clicked the breaker off. At that point I decided to let the entire panel dry off and let it sit for a day.

Three days later the entire panel was still a little damp, but I went ahead and turned everything back on. The good news: The sizzling sound wasn't as noticeable. The bad news: Less than an hour later the breaker tripped again, and resetting them didn't do a thing. Feeling a bit defeated, I called an electrician, but unfortunately he wanted a grip of cash upfront to even schedule an appointment. I didn't even bother and went another week and a half without lights or heat.

Finally, on a late Friday afternoon, I had enough. I called up a buddy of mine and asked for his suggestions. His response: "Don't get electrocuted." It seemed so obvious, but you have to love the simplicity of the answer. Long story short, I opened up the panel, pulled the breakers in question, and swapped them out with new ones. Easy enough, right? Almost. Let's just say it took an hour of digging through my garage and the milk crate I use as a toolbox, only to realize that I didn't have a long-reach flathead screwdriver. It was amazing; I wasted so much time checking out the same spots as if one would magically appear. All said and done, it took three trips and four hours to complete the job. The best part: It cost less than a C-note to fix, which is a third of what the electrician wanted, and I found a great mom-and-pop electrical shop.

What did I learn this time? It reminded me that uncharted territory can definitely cause a bit of hesitation in anything you do. If nothing else, it was certainly a humbling experience. Diving into an engine bay head-first is second nature to me, but this home wiring thing really threw me for a loop.

Oh yeah, one other thing. It's time to suck it up and buy a real toolbox. That said, this is to everyone who has ever been unsure of tweaking a wrench on his own project; Just get past the first step and you'll be fine. Have a similar tale to share? You know what to do; send them to me at the email listed below!

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