Sometimes we get so laid back in life we forget how easy life can leave us. One stupid mistake. One time not thinking actions all the way through. One time, that is all. Here is the tale of my stupid mistake. (On a side note: I was a mechanic in the U.S. Army for 9 years. I know safety under vehicles. But ‘stupid’ chose this day to come out and play).
On the week of July 15, I received a package in the mail. It was the electronic parts for the transmission in my 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 with a Cummins Turbo Diesel. The transmission had been shifting incorrectly. Once in gear, it was fine, but sometimes, it would forget which gear it needed. A Google search identified the issue as a bad Governor Solenoid (yeah, he’s an important political figure). Forum posts suggested also replacing the pressure sensor too. It’s right next to the solenoid. I checked online and for the price of buying these two parts locally, I purchased a kit online with pan gaskets, filters, as well as the 4th gear shift solenoid, torque converter lockup solenoid pack. The kit also contained a couple of other parts that I wasn’t planning on using, but still, the price was right.
I had planned all week to put these parts into the tranny. I looked at many forum posts and YouTube videos and the task looked simple enough. On Saturday morning, the day my family was all to come up and celebrate my eldest son’s birthday (he had turned 13 during the week), I set out in the morning to tear down the lower end of the transmission.
I moved my truck so that it crossed my driveway. On the inside of the drive, the lawn has somewhat of a sharp hill. I put the front tires on this hillside. The ‘valley’ of the hillside and the driveway created enough space under the truck to work without lifting the truck. I placed a concrete block under one of the rear tires. At this point, I would usually get in the truck and place it in neutral to check the block works. But not this day. I wasn’t planning on removing anything that would allow the truck to move.
Once I was inside, I removed the section holding the governor solenoid and pressure sensor. That was easy. I looked at the wiring harness for the 4th/torque converter lockup pack, and the wire went toward the top of the transmission…sigh, more research to replace that part. Granted, I could have replaced the two bad parts now and been finished…but, no, I moved forward.
So, now I went into the house, cleaned up a little, then set out on another Google search to find out how to remove that wire harness. Luckly, the same shop that sold me the parts, also had a video on YouTube. The guy in the video showed removing the valvebody to get to the screw holding the wire harness in place. He did his work on his transmission on a workbench, so I missed a key point in his video. the valvebody contained a rod that holds the transmission’s parking sprag. I went outside, and removed the bolts and some other parts so that the valve body would come loose.
If ever in your life, you notice you’ve just made a big mistake, like leaning just a bit too far in a chair, and the feeling as it tips over; or the feeling when that heavy object leaves your hands and falls toward your feet; or the feeling when you pull out at a green light and notice the large semi bearing down on you from right, while failing to yield to the red light. That feeling. That is the feeling I had when I heard the parking sprag let loose.
I did have the concrete block under the rear wheel, but it did not stop the truck. The truck began to roll. I did not have enough time to roll out from under the truck. The only direction I could be was to stay under the truck. My body was almost parallel with the frame of the truck.
A full sized Dodge truck with a Cummins engine weighs around the 7000lbs area. My whole 240lbs body was not about to stop the momentum of this truck, even as it slowly rolled. I tried to no avail. I felt the lower control arm push my head. It forced my head into my chest. I tried to call out, but my wind pipe had already been closed. The though then ran through my head, “So, this is how I die…”
All went black.
Seconds, minutes, hours went by, I don’t know. Time did not exist.
Then, as if waking from a deep sleep from some dream world, I turn my head, my body to try to figure out what is happening to me. Nothing was familiar. “Where am I?” “What is holding me down?” Slowly the dark figure of the truck’s frame came into focus. I slowly realize I am under something. I reach out to grab something to get me away from this place. My hand slaps against the side of the truck. Then I hear a voice. I did not recognize the voice. I could not identify the source of the voice. My mind still hazy from the dream. I hear it say, “Are you alright?”.
I call out, “No, help me.”
“Where are you?”
My consciousness finally caught up to reality, “I’m over here, under the driver’s side.”
I hear footsteps, “How can I help?”
“Grab my arms and pull me out”
The person grabs ahold of my oily black arms and pulls…I am free. I am still in some dreamstate in which I was never under the truck. I stood as blood rushed down my face into my eye.
I don’t remember saying any more to the soul that pulled me from danger. I barely remember his face.
I rushed into the house and called for my wife. The look of shock and horror of her face will never be forgotten. I got me a towel for my head. My body was covered in the crimson red of transmission fluid…or was it blood.
Moments later, a team of first responders came in as I sat in this very chair from which I write this. They braced my neck, placed me on a stretcher and wisped me off to the hospital. I was safe. I was alive.
I do not remember my time under the truck. But the truck rolled about ten feet with me under it. But during this time, I had a conversation with Death. Apparently, we had a good chat and saw that this was not my time.
At the end of the day, my son had a good birthday party. I came home from the hospital without a broken bone, no internal injuries, only scars of my battle.
Why did I write this? I dunno. Maybe someone will someday read it and take that extra step to make sure their tires are chocked (metaphorically speaking).