or in other words: "Yamaha sucks and so do we!"
Those at least are the words that most quickly come to mind after a recent attempt to change the oil on my Yamaha EF2800i generator. I've done it a couple of times before and it's always the same mess. It should be easy, if you follow the service manual, which shows you simply removing the drain plug and watching the oil easily drain away into a pan or reservoir somewhere underneat the generator frame.
I usually have put it up between a couple of cinderblocks or up on my Black and Decker Workmate bench, which can be opened up to leave a big space in the middle. In theory either of these solutions should have worked well. The oil would simply drain down and a well-positioned oil-catcher would capture it, the drain plug and anything else I happen to drop.
It should be easy, but in fact it's not. It's not easy because the pretty picture in the service manual is an outright lie. This is what the drain plug and the generator frame look like in real life, outside the fantasies of the service manual creators.
See a problem here?
Exactly where is the oil supposed to drain to?
Yup, straight down onto the generator frame, from where it will splatter all over the place, leaving most of the 0.6l of motor oil outside the collection vessel it's supposed to end up in.
The results are predictable. With the use of quite a number of shop towels, a bit of aluminum foil as a "splash guard" and a number of zip-ties and paperclips to hold it in place, the initial splashes of oil can be mostly contained to the general vicinity of where it's supposed to be.
Even beyond the the initial splatter of oil, it is all but impossible to keep a funnel wedged into a location where it will catch all the oil. It's a mess.
This is on a device that requires an oil change after every 100 hours of use, or every six months. Since it's mostly used for very limited purposes at my place, I've let it slide doing it only three times in the 5-6 years I've owned the thing. It's supposed to be a very common type of field maintenance that anybody with a few normal tools should be able to do. In use at a worksite, oil changes might be required every few weeks! Yet it's somehow not possible.
My local Yamaha generator and motorcycle dealer isn't very interested, but says they'd do it if I brought it to them. It's not Yamaha's fault that I don't have the "right tools." (Service manual says I need a 12mm socket wrench to remove the drain plug and nothing else!) An online contact with Yamaha suggested that some oil spillage is "to be expected." Huh? Last I checked used motor oil is classified as hazmat and must be disposed of properly. Spillage is not "to be expected" and in fact is illegal.
This is just poor design and reflects poorly on a company I always thought did pretty cool stuff with small engines. They've been trying to sell me a motorcycle lately, and I'm thinking that since one of the points of enjoyment would be doing my own maintenance, that I should perhaps look to one of the other brands. Maybe one of the ones that still believes in making things easily maintainable the way Japanese stuff used to be. You remember, back when they were putting Harley Davidson and Triumph out of business with designs that not only worked better, but which could be worked on by mere mortals like me?
But the design also reflects poorly on us, if for no better reason than that Yamaha apparently felt confident that they could foist this design screwup on us and get away with excuses like "oil spillage is to be expected." Our recently discovered national disdain for fixing anything at all has impacted the design of even industrial/commercial products that need to be fixed and maintained regularly. Even construction guys apparently are OK with taking their stuff to the stealership and paying a small fortune for a job that should take 10 minutes and a few dollars.
Americans used to know how to fix and do things themselves. Compared to Europeans and others around the world, that instinct for tinkering set us apart and was substantially responsible for the fact that we've been such an innovative country in so many fields. These days -- to judge by the state of my inbox and my facebook feed -- most people don't have sufficient "fixit" skills to even identify a good mechanic on their own, let alone do the job themselves. (Really, it should take no more than 5-6 questions to figure out who's good.) It's inexcusable that we allow a major consumer products company to sell us a $600 device on which the rechargable battery can't be changed except by a technician and possibly not at all. My grandfather's generation would not have stood for this kind ourright rape by manufacturers, yet we do, and we even convince ourselves that it's a "feature." It's sad.
At least it's done and I'm prepared for the next big earthquake or DWP screwup.