My neighbor and I share a shallow well with a jet pump. A couple of months ago, I was out of state when I received a text … "Any idea why there’s no water?”

The current pump and motor was 10 to 15 years old. I had not yet begun writing the date of purchase on things. I suggested checking the well house for leaks and pressure, also seeing if the breaker was tripped on the power post.

Pondering what to do, a new text showed up saying that the switch was off and now all was well. The history of this pump and motor included a couple of times a suction leak had caused it to run constantly until it overheated and tripped the thermal failsafe on the motor.

Then …

A couple of weeks ago, again no water. At least this time I was home. I tripped the breaker and the pump started. Once. Then nothing. I dug out my good old electrical tester and checked hot wire to ground on both of the 220-volt power wires at the pump. I showed 110 volts on each, so I mistakenly assumed I was getting the correct power to the pump motor.


Since it had been running, I suspected the capacitor, the part that stores electricity and releases a pulse on start-up, giving the single-phase motor the boost it needed to start turning. I could not find a replacement, but I did find an electrical shop which tested my capacitor and found it good. With the age and multiple overheating shutdown history, the consensus was that a new motor was needed.

Now I had two issues. Finding the proper motor would be a challenge, and if I did, there was one more thing. Anything operating in the humid environment of a pump house is going to be rusted together. I also found that a new complete pump and motor assembly would cost about the same as a replacement motor by itself. I was able to find the replacement jet pump unit, and I was about to run out of daylight.

Plumbing in the new unit was easy. We primed it. Powered it up, and nothing. I rechecked the power. Same as before. 110 volts from each hot line to ground. My electrician friend was kind enough to number one, not laugh at me, and number two, explain what I was doing wrong.

Checking from hot lead to ground is not correct. I should have been checking hot lead to hot lead, and if I had the correct power my meter should be showing 220, 230 or 240 volts. He explained that checking hot lead to ground would tell me nothing because one hot lead would leak across and show the other one also hot, at 110 volts.

He said if hot lead to hot lead at the motor showed 110 volts, that one of the hot leads was not getting electricity. This is what I had. I went to the power source with my meter. Power into the breaker showed the correct 230 volts. Power coming out of the breaker showed 115 volts. I cycled the breaker with no result. Then probing the output of the breaker again, with more pressure, something sparked. Making sure my meter and probe was still intact, I heard the youngster helping yell from the well house, “It’s running!”

After 29-some-odd years, the breaker had stopped transmitting power. Poking it where the output wire was held in place by a screw jogged something loose, and it started working again.

The next day I found the correct replacement breaker switch and I’ll replace it.

I also have on my hands a perfectly good used jet pump I don’t need.

I should have called my electrician friend first. It’s been more than a dozen years, but part of my job included diagnosing electric motors that didn’t want to run (usually in the middle of the night) from house current up to 480-volt three phase.

There is a very good reason why it takes training plus a tedious apprenticeship to become a journeyman electrician. Journeyman means qualified to work unsupervised.

Then there was the fellow who, when his purchased new automobile was due for a transmission fluid and filter change …

Let his brother and brother’s buddy make the change. They got the oil pan off without incident. They got the filter changed without incident. They got the pan replaced without incident.

Then they found the owner’s manual and found the capacity of the automatic transmission, and carefully poured the whole amount into the little car’s transmission. They did not check fluid level per the dipstick as they added fluid. They didn’t realize that dropping the pan and draining what fluid would come out while changing the filter only uses a third to a half of the total oil in the transmission. The torque converter and transmission cooler retain the rest of the fluid.

On start-up and test drive, the new little car with about 30,000 miles on it blew multiple transmission seals and gaskets and left an oil trail visible from Google map satellites. Caused by being grossly overfilled with transmission fluid.

I don’t remember him getting the manufacturer’s warranty to cover that fiasco.

“Just Google it. Just find a YouTube video.”

Be aware that Google or YouTube may or may not have a correct answer or technique. Those posting videos get paid based on the number of viewers and not on correct content.

If you fit the group who doesn’t understand enough about something to ask an intelligent question, please don’t touch it.

On the other side of the spectrum, no matter what you’re working on, the guys who made it are not smarter than you are. More training, yes maybe. More experience. Yes, maybe.

You can acquire both, if you have the time.

In the meantime, if you don’t understand something, don’t touch it. Especially if you’re on a first date!