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I'd rather keep my fingers, thank you!

By Steve Schaeber, MACS Manager of Service Training
While visiting a local shop and taking some pictures for this edition of ACtion, I got to talking with one of the technicians who was working on a Chevy Suburban. I told him that this month’s theme is electric cooling fans, so unfortunately the thermostatic clutch he was replacing was not applicable. However, the story he told me does apply to all fans no matter how they’re operated on a vehicle; even those little ones that used to be on the front of alternators. It was about something that happened at the last shop he worked at.
One of their customers owned an early 90’s GMC pick-up truck; a 2WD, 1500 series with a V-6 engine. There was lots of room under the hood, and with the extra space left by the V-6 an elongated fan shroud is used to take up the difference from the V-8 models. One day the vehicle owner was tinkering around under the hood, when he noticed that the fan blade seemed able to turn very easily, even though it was directly connected to the belt and engine pulleys. Thinking this might be a problem, he figured it best to get the truck into the shop.
He brought the truck in, opened the hood, and discussed the situation with the shop owner and technician. The engine was running while he explained what he saw, and while doing so he started reaching for the fan blade. The shop owner quickly said “Stop, don’t touch that fan!” But it was too late. The man’s hand was already in motion, and right away they all heard that shrilling sound; tick, tick, tick, tick, as the fan blades came around, smacking the man’s fingers.
Turns out he didn’t lose any digits, but sure bruised up a part of his hand. Luckily the angle at which he reached was such that his fingers made contact with the trailing edge of the blades. Had he been standing on the other side of the vehicle, or had the fan been rotating in the opposite direction, this story might be a little bit different.
Figure 1 DSC_2993
After the commotion of the incident, the technician asked why he did that. The man said because the fan spun so easily at home, he thought it was just freewheeling and he would be able to stop it by hand. Of course, he didn’t figure (or know about) the thermostatic clutch, which had kicked as the engine temperature increased.
In the end, things turned out alright, and everyone learned something in the process.
Ever have something like this happen at your shop? Send an e-mail to and let us know!

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