By Spc. Howard Alperin, MND-B PAOSeptember 14, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - With a multitude of wires sticking out, lugs and nuts scattered around, mounts to place and a variety of parts to install, replacing an engine on a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle can seem like a jigsaw puzzle.
Swapping out an engine on an MRAP is not a common occurrence for the mechanics of Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, but they answer the toughest of challenges with urgency and a high quality of workmanship.
"This is only the fifth engine we've had to replace since January," said Staff Sgt. Ashley Waruch, the shop foreman, from Accord, N.Y, assigned to Headquarters Support Company, DSTB.
Waruch explained that because engine replacements are so uncommon, he has to bring members of the team together to assess the situation.
"We make sure all problems have been troubleshooted and all avenues are exhausted," he said.
The issue for this particular engine was with the fuel pump and the fuel injectors.
"No fuel was getting pushed through the system," said Waruch. "It cranked, but didn't start."
The ins and outs of how fuel injectors and fuel pressure function to keep an engine running smoothly are complex. Yet, most people can relate to the feeling of a vehicle cranking up and not starting.
"If you ever ran your car to empty with no gas and then try to turn it over with the ignition, you'll hear it cranking but not turning over because there's no fuel getting through," said Sgt. Jonathan Mesa, an all-wheel mechanic from Dededo, Guam, assigned to HSC, DSTB. "This is how it was for this MRAP, but it was not on empty. There was plenty of fuel in the tank," Mesa emphasized.
Ordering a new engine is not a decision taken lightly.
"We tried alternatives; we replaced the fuel pump and did diagnostic tests, but kept coming up with the same problem," said Waruch.
The older engine was sent to be repaired and the DSTB mechanics turned their attention and their teamwork to installing a new engine.
In order to get to the engine, the mechanics had to remove the body armor. The nature of its bulkiness and weight made it difficult to take off and fit back on. Mechanics deal with the armor using heavy hammers and lots of grit, determination and their wits.
After taking the armor off, a crane is used to lift one engine out and put the new one in its place. Mechanics work quickly, side by side, stooped on top of the truck in the best way possible to mount the engine while it is held steady by the crane.
For this kind of an overhaul, mechanics tackle many components besides just the engine. The transmission is attached to the engine, so all the lines must be unwired to remove it. Also, the radiator must be removed because it is in the path of the engine, said Spc. Harold Rust, an all-wheel mechanic, from Helena, Mont.
Taking out the radiator and transmission are big tasks on their own, but only part of the process. Communication is essential and the mechanics often talk to each other, one under the belly and the other on top of the engine while wiring and rewiring the vehicle.
The mechanics consult one another as they disassemble and reassemble all the wires for the starter, drive lines, batteries, generator and all aspects of the electrical equipment, said Sgt. 1st Class Maria Parrish.
The electrical equipment includes a wide variety of panels and switches for lights, radios, a fire suppression system, high-tech communication systems, tracking equipment, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear equipment, added the Geneva, N.Y. motor sergeant.
"Once you disconnect things, you have to memorize where everything goes," said Parrish." If you hook up something wrong, the truck might not start."
Just about any kind of work dealing with the complicated issues of a new engine requires both comprehensive planning and spontaneous actions.
"It's very intense labor and sometimes you have to be creative in order to make things work," Parrish explained. "I have a good group of guys. They're very proficient in what they do."
The MRAPs have a huge amount of parts that can weave and twist like a maze, but the DSTB mechanics are up to any task, no matter how complicated.