“Hi, a friend gave me your mobile number. He said you are the engineer at XXXX. I am stuck among the  Jabal Akthar mountains. Please help”. It was a Thursday afternoon in January, a few years ago.

Those were the days when I was new to technical support. I had been trying very hard to earn a name as a reliable technical support engineer  and my efforts had started showing results. There were frequent calls from the branch network seeking my advice and support in technical issues.

In fact, I was eagerly waiting for such calls as those calls gave me the opportunity to test and prove my skills.

But there was a problem now…The call was not from a technician, it was from a customer. I was a little elated though, as I find my fame reaching the customers also! But the car was 150 km away from our nearest workshop. And, we needed 4 wheel drive vehicles to reach there.

“It was fine 2 hours ago,when I came here. Now it is not starting. I have to go back before the night falls. You see, it is very cold out here” I could hear his teeth chattering. Those mountains get extremely cold in that time of the year.

I called our branch which was nearby. It would take at least 4 hours before someone could reach him.

“My dear friend, you are an engineer, you guide me… it may be something very small… I will die of cold in 30 minutes”

It looked like an electrical problem. People with special skills and equipments are needed… Mistakes can be expensive…

“My friend, I am an electrical engineer from XXXX. I work for YYYY as an engineer. I have all the equipments to check a gas power plant with me in this car. If you can guide a technician of yours, you can guide me as well…’

An electrical engineer from one of the famous institutes of the West! He is calling me for techncal support!! I plunged immediately into action…

Soon he was at the engine control relay in the engine compatment fuse box, checking the voltage. Pin number 30 has battery volt. But no voltage at the relay control side, Pin number 85.

Now I knew, the problem was something minor. The voltage at the relay control side comes directly from the battery. One 15 A fuse. A junction after that. Two branches. One branch goes to the relay through a 7.5 A fuse. The other branch goes to the fuse block  in the pasenger compartment.

No voltage at the 7.5 A fuse.

By now the customer has started enjoying what he was doing. It was clear from his voice. He has started calling me by first name instead of “my friend” and “hello”

He took 15 minutes to reach the relay. But just 4 minutes to reach the 7.5 A fuse.

In another 2 minutes he reached the 15 A fuse and called out EUREKA.

It was blown.

There will be spare fuses in the fuse box cover and I asked him to try one.

“Sorry Suju…  no 15 A fuse. Two 20  and two 7.5. Shall I try 20 A?”

The car started. The customer was very happy. He stopped just short of saying that he would recommend me for next years Nobel Prize.

I did not realize my blunder. He too did not realize the dangers I was exposing him to.

I still thank God for giving him enough warning before the fire started.

“Suju.. I smell something strange from the dashboard side… like burning rubber”

It was after 45 minutes drive down the mountains.

Within seconds he was out of the car removing the 20 A fuse he had installed.

Later, our technicians who reached the spot found a completely molten wiring harness inside the dashboard.

Soon it will be April. A fresh batch of technicians will be joining me for the Electrical Systems Level 1 course on the simulator. This is their first course in Level 1. They will be progressing to Level 2 and Level 3 courses later, to get certfied as master technicians.

I always start the Electrical Systems Level 1 course with this story… oh no… not a story… real incident from the life of their trainer!