In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Back at the Parts Counter...
Apr 19, 2010
Last week I was on a service call and needed a simple little spring that tensions a chain idler on a 24-row planter. I fired up my laptop and started looking for that spring and its part number so I could call the dealership to see if it was on hand. I'm usually pretty good at finding parts in parts catalogs--it really helps to have taken the machines apart to see how they all fit together.
Long story short, I couldn't find the part. Even when I was standing right beside the planter, holding the laptop in my hands, trying to match "stub shaft B" with "frame tube D" where they met "main frame A." I narrowed it down to one of three possible springs, and sent the customer to the dealership with the broken spring and instructions to bring back the spring that best matched the broken one.
Later that night at home, I brought in the laptop from my service truck and painstakingly went through the ENTIRE parts manual for that planter, page by page, screen by screen. I still couldn't find that specific spring, the chain idler it tensions, or the frame component they both mount to.
Imagine being the parts person at a dealership if a farmer had sent his wife, hired man or father to find that part. I couldn't identify it when I was standing right by the machine with a factory-authorized parts breakdown in my hands---what hope would the parts person have finding, "the spring that tensions the short chain that runs on the left side of the seed transmission drive wheel frame?" The parts person would be embarrassed and frustrated, the wife/hired man/father would be stuck the middle knowing they'd be in trouble if they don't bring back the correct part, and the farmer would be out in the field thinking, "How hard can it be to get a simple little spring...?"
So, here's a tip of the hat and renewed respect for those folks who sit on the stools behind the parts counter at local dealerships and politely respond to customers who say, "I don't know what model it is, just give me a drive belt," or, "I bought it here, can't you look it up?" and "No, I don't know the serial number, what difference does it make?"
At least when I get frustrated with a piece of machinery I can take a big hammer and beat on it until I feel better. That's not an option for parts people.