First Disaster - Gear Box & Motor Destroyed

Here is a look at the damage after I forgot to stop the motor when the tower was all the way down.

I had three disasters happen to the tower and the first one inadvertently led to the second one. The first one was all my fault. For starters, let me mention that the motorized folding plate does not have a limit switch that would automatically turn off the motor at the top or bottom. A person has to sit there by the power switch and turn it off at just the right moment. And then let me mention that it's not quick to lower the tower--it takes about 20 minutes.(See footnote 1) Those two factors are a deadly combination for me because it's just enough time to go do something else while the tower is slowly coming down. Let me just say that I ran the tower up and down this way for several years smoothly without a hitch. But one day just the right combination was in place for me to goof up royally. To say that I misjudged how fast 20 mintues go by would be too kind. Frankly, I got distracted and plum forgot that I was lowering the tower. My first hint was a loud BANG! followed by repeating CLANK!, Clank! Clank! sounds.

My first reaction was, "What was that? It must be something coming from the neighbors house." That's how out of it I was at the moment. It didn't take but two seconds to come to my senses and realize what was really going on. "Oh, no!", I yelled. Actually, it was a four-letter expletive that emitted from my mouth over and over. I bolted out the back door toward the control and killed the power as fast as I could but it was much too late. My heart was racing. The tower had been grinding itself (or more accurately, the beams) into the ground and it had taken only a few seconds for the gear housing to explode. That was probably the BANG! I heard. The housing is die cast and is apparently the weakest link once the tower meets an immovable object like the ground. Considering the tremendous leverage imposed by a 100 foot long tower, the forces must have been inconceivable.

I ran out at a full gallup to the ruins of what I had spent years and thousands accomplishing. What I saw made me sick inside. There was oil all over everything and a big puddle under the motor. The steel framework that held the motor in place was a mangled wreck. The motor was hanging free suspended only by the worm gear. The power wires were wrapped around the shaft. That Clank, clank, clank had been the motor rotating and hitting the tower as it continued to freerun. It seemed like the end but it turned out fairly well.

A new gear housing was about a hundred dollars, obtained locally. Turns out the motor and gear housing are also used to remove swimming pool covers. Finding the parts locally is fairly easy at swimming pool dealers. The gimble had seized to the worm gear so both had to be replaced. Heights Tower has always been excellent with customer service and shipped those parts quickly for a reasonable price. The whole experience cost me about 500 dollars. Little did I know what was to happen next. Replacing that gimble was the cause of the second disaster months later.

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