Training Corner: Troubleshooting Basics
By Nate Brooks, NAMTS Instructional Systems Designer
Troubleshooting is the systematic analysis used to identify the cause of a particular malfunction. It is important in maintaining and operating mechanical and electrical / electronic systems. It requires an understanding of equipment operation and an ability to recognize the symptoms of faulty operation. Troubleshooting and repair may correct the problem before a more serious equipment casualty occurs.
Troubles tend to gather around mechanical moving parts and where electrical systems are interrupted by the making and breaking of contacts. Attention as a technician during trouble-shooting should be centered in these areas. When a component fails, the primary concern is to locate the trouble, correct it, and get the equipment back online. In most cases, this involves troubleshooting the equipment and tracing the trouble to the defective component. Troubleshooting is performed in both mechanical or electrical / electronic systems and consists of six steps.
The Six-step troubleshooting method.
Technicians and maintainers may have the job of maintaining or helping to maintain some electrical or electronic unit, subsystem, or system. Some of these jobs may be complex, but even a complex job can be broken down into simple steps. Any repair of mechanical, electric or electronic equipment should be done using the six-step troubleshooting method in the following order:
1. Symptom recognition.
2. Symptom elaboration.
3. Listing probable faulty functions.
4. Localizing the faulty function.
5. Localizing trouble to the circuit.
6. Failure analysis.
Symptom recognition. The understanding of normal operation is critical in the understanding of abnormal operation. This is the action of recognizing some disorder or malfunction in electronic equipment.
The knowledge of proper operation through gauges and meters of what is observed as normal through the minimum and maximum limitations will enable the technician to quickly identify issues that lead to equipment degradation.
Symptom elaboration. Recognize/observe the faulty operation of the equipment. Obtain a more detailed description of the trouble symptom is the purpose of this step.
Listing probable faulty functions. This step is applicable to equipment that contains more than one functional area or unit. From the information gathered, where could the trouble logically be located. Develop a list of possible causes for the malfunction.
Localizing the faulty function. In this step, determine which of the functional units of the multiunit equipment is actually at fault by identifying the most likely areas of failure that would create the symptoms noted.
Localizing trouble to the circuit. The goal of this step is to verify which component(s) is/are faulty. This may require extensive testing to isolate the trouble to a specific circuit.
• Determine which part is faulty.
• Repair/replace the part.
• Determine what caused the failure.
• Return the equipment to its proper operating status.
• Record the necessary information in a record keeping book for other maintenance personnel in the future.
Troubleshooting as a watch-stander.
Every watch in the Engineering Department is a vital part of the ship’s maintenance and operation program.
Engineering watch standers are the “eyes” of the Engineering Department. In the event of any casualty or unusual operating characteristic, the primary course of action is to report the problem to the immediate supervisor then follow with an investigation into the cause of the problem and then the correction of the problem.
In most cases it is better to place a stand-by or alternate unit on the line and secure the affected unit until a thorough investigation can be made to determine the cause of the problem.
Equipment operating logs allow for trend analysis of long-term machinery performance.
• The logs serve to record the equipment’s historical and pre-sent conditions.
• Most operating logs are retained aboard ship for a period of two years.
Slight changes in equipment performance can indicate component degradation or malfunction that may not be detectable from one day to the next.
Careful review of logs over a long period of time can alert personnel to negative performance trends. The evaluation of the data of a particular log will enable personnel to provide proper treatment and other corrective action.