Sometimes Things Just Happen…

Sometimes, when you take your vehicle in for service things happen that you don’t expect but, can result in serious damage.  The following are two examples of recent investigations where serious problems were caused.  The first claim involved a 2016 Toyota Tacoma that was taken to a Toyota dealership for an oil change.  Upon completion of the work, the vehicle was returned to its owner.  After arriving back at home, the owner noticed that his vehicle was leaking oil.  The owner promptly returned to the dealership.  However, unbeknownst to him, the oil drain plug fell out of the oil pan.  As a result, the engine was damaged to the extent that metal flakes were found in the oil drain pan indicating the need for an engine replacement.  Although the dealership denied any wrongdoing, a trail of oil was found and could be followed from the owner’s home to the dealership.  The photos below show the metal flakes found in the oil pan and the oil trail leading back to the dealership. 

Metal flakes found in oil pan indicating damage to engine
Oil trail leading from owner’s home to dealership

In this next claim, a lady was involved in a five vehicle accident when she couldn’t stop her 2011 Ford Escape and rear-ended a vehicle.  That impact started a chain reaction that involved four other vehicles.  Upon investigating it was learned that the vehicle’s front brakes had been replaced approximately two weeks before the accident.  It was also learned that the work had been done by a nationally recognized tire and auto service center.  The vehicle was later returned to the service center in order to perform an examination of the brakes and the work that had been done in the presence of service center personnel.  Upon removing both front wheels and inspecting the brake pads, it was noted that the pads on the interior sides of the rotors on both sides were missing.  It was clear that for whatever reason, the technician doing the work had only installed one brake pad on each wheel!  The photos below show the condition of the brakes on each wheel with one missing pad.

Missing brake pad on driver’s side front wheel
Missing brake pad on passenger’s side front wheel
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Why Does the Inside of Cars Get so Hot?

We’ve all heard the warnings: don’t leave your children or pets in your car (or truck) during this time of year.  The temperatures inside the passenger compartment can reach over 100 degrees easily and quickly causing heat stroke and death.  This sounds like common sense but, every year, during the summer, reports of a death of a child or animal left in a hot car, are not uncommon.  The reason that passenger compartments get so hot is because of the way heat is transferred into and out of the compartment.  First, in order for heat to flow, there has to be a temperature difference.  As long as the inside is cooler than the outside ambient temperature, heat will flow from outside to inside.  More specifically, heat transfer will occur by convection from the ambient air to the outer surfaces of the passenger compartment, including glass.  Heat will then be transferred by conduction through the roof, insulation and headliner.  Heat transfer by conduction will also occur through windows.  There is also a radiation component that serves to heat the interior.  The sun’s rays will heat the solid parts of the interior such as dashboards and steering wheels.  The heat absorbed by these objects is then radiated to the air inside the passenger compartment.  The real clincher to this process is that the heat entering the vehicle enters at a rate faster than it is dissipated.  As a result, the temperature inside the passenger compartment can only increase.  It is not until the rate of heat transfer entering the vehicle is reduced below the rate of heat transfer out of the vehicle that the temperature in the passenger compartment is reduced.  This point usually starts to occur at dusk. 

Remember, we still have approximately one and a half months of summer left.  Please be mindful of your young passengers and pets and don’t leave them locked in a death trap!

The photos below illustrate how hot a passenger compartment can get. The photographs were taken inside a Chevrolet extended cab pick up truck.

Temperature in cab after 7 minutes with windshield shaded
Temperature after 30 minutes, windshield uncovered

Temperature after 1 hour
Temperature after 2 hours

Condenser Water Piping Seminar

Two of the insurance industry’s biggest risk groups are builder’s risk and professional liability for architects and engineers.  Both of these groups are involved in the design and installation of HVAC as well as process cooling equipment.  We recently attended a seminar on the design and installation of condenser water piping.  The condensers that are referred to are large pieces of equipment that are used in conjunction with cooling towers and large tonnage refrigeration machines.  A number of problems can arise if the piping is not considered correctly.  For example, the life of a water circulating pump can be reduced dramatically if the friction loss through the piping exceeds the capability of the pump.  In addition, it is possible to introduce air into the suction line of the pump if the tower bypass is not done properly.  The net result will be flow instability.  Freeze protection can be another problem if not considered carefully.  In some applications, water is drained from the tower when subfreezing temperatures are expected.  But, if for some reason, water stays in a part of the piping and then freezes, the result will be a burst water pipe.  If the failure is not detected prior to start-up, then a large amount of water will escape from the system and clean-up can be become very costly, in addition to the piping repair.  These are the kinds of problems for which claims are filed and lawsuits can result. 

Vehicular Fire in Hayfield

The photograph below shows what can happen when a vehicle is driven through a hayfield.  Although the owner of the truck didn’t believe it could happen to him, he is now a firm believer.  The fire grew so quickly that the driver was lucky to get out of the truck as the flames were growing alongside the driver’s side door.  The fire occurred even though the ground was saturated after recent rain made the ground so soft that the truck got stuck in the mud.  While trying to extricate himself, the engine was heating the grass beneath the engine compartment.  Since the grass was already dry, it didn’t take long to ignite.  The only thing that kept the fire from spreading to the rest of the hayfield was the quick response of the fire department.  The heat that ignited the fire could also have come form the transmission and exhaust piping, including the catalytic converter.  If you have to drive through a field with tall, dry grass, don’t stop until you can get off the grass.  Be aware that stopping your vehicle over dry grass and allowing the engine to continue running can be just as bad as shutting down the engine while positioned over a tall patch of dry grass.  If you get stuck, get out of your vehicle, get away and then get help.      

Vehicular Fire in Hayfield

Wet Weather and Engine Damage

The recent rain storms in the southeast have been causing drivers a lot of trouble.  In addition to the flooding, the rain has been causing vehicle engines to stall.  It’s easy to see how water might be getting into engines and causing damage to pistons, rods, crankshafts, and bearings.  When such a claim is encountered, one of the first things to be done is to obtain an oil sample.  When water mixes with oil, the tendency is for the water to separate from the oil.  Water is naturally heavier.  Its density is 62.4 pounds per cubic foot.  Motor oil, on the other hand, has a density of approximately 55 pounds per cubic foot (depending on the weight of the oil).  After the sample has been obtained, if the oil appears to fill the entire occupied space, then no water most likely entered the engine.  However, if the oil appears to be “floating”, then water has most likely entered the engine.  Examples of oil in both states are shown below.

Uncontaminated motor oil sample

 

Motor oil suspended in water

WARNING:  if you know that your engine is about to fail and you are going to have to pay for a new engine, don’t try pouring water into the engine and claiming to your insurance carrier that it was flooded.  First, a wear metals analysis will indicate the condition of your engine.  Second, the vehicle better have been in a flood and even then, the entry point of the water into the engine will have to be established.  Third, the damage to the engine has to be consistent with that caused by water.

Watch Those Connections!

Some appliances such as stoves and dryers, do not come with line cords when the appliances are purchased.  As a result, consumers have to make separate purchases in order to use their new machines.  When attaching the cords to the appliance, pay close attention to the way the manufacturer requires that the line cords are connected.  For many do-it-your-selfers, this is no big deal.  It shouldn’t be a big deal for a professional electrician either.  However, we are all human and subject to making mistakes.  Case-in-point: the following dryer fire.  Although minor as residential fires go, the damage could have been much worse.  The photographs shown below illustrate how the manufacturer called for the installation of the line cord and the subsequent way, the cord was connected.

The manufacturer’s schematic drawing shows how the “hot” (red and black wires) lines of the line cord were to be attached to the L1 and L2 terminal block terminals.  The common line or white wire was to be connected to the N terminal on the terminal block.  Lastly, the green wire or earth ground, was to be connected directly to the appliance housing.  The photograph below shows how the white and black wires were reversed on the terminal block.

 

 

Since the common and earth ground points are electrically the same point, the dryer was, in effect, energized through the housing.  Anything in contact with the dryer housing, such as the exhaust duct, will also become energized.  Dryer ventilation ducts are usually coils of steel wire wrapped with a thin layer of vinyl or aluminum material.  As current flows through the steel wire, the external covering is heated.  If not stopped, the heat will cause the covering to melt and possibly ignite.

Wheel Separation in 2016 Ford Taurus-Possible Recall?

One of our recent investigations involved the separation of the left front wheel and whether it was the cause of a two vehicle accident.  The scenario was such that the driver made a right hand turn and felt the vehicle pull to the left.  The driver also stated that he lost control and hit a parked car.  Typically, in these types of impacts, the wheel is pushed into the wheel well.  But, in this case the wheel separated from the car.  Upon examination, it was determined that the threaded connection holding the strut to the frame was broken as well as the clamping part of the lower steering knuckle.  The failed parts are shown below.

DSC01046

Failed strut threaded connection

DSC01042Clamping part of lower steering knuckle found broken

It should be noted that the steering arm tie rod was also bent and broken and that a stabilizing rod connected to the strut was separated from its knuckle joint.  If either of these connections is broken, then the wheel will become unstable.  Are there other instances where drivers have experienced similar situations?  Is this a condition that warrants a recall?

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