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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

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.

Midwinter Annoyances

Jan 17, 2010
Everyone has personal pet peeves about working on machinery. One fellow mechanic (oddly, for a professional mechanic) detests having grease on his hands. Another mechanic works on hay balers and manure spreaders without complaint, but avoids working on combines at every opportunity. 

My mechanical pet peeves are small, but odd. For example:

-Battery clamp bolts make me throw wrenches. No matter how much grease or protective gunk I put on battery bolts, they always end up corroded and needing replacement. They're always rotted,corroded, frozen into place. In my mind and according to our flat rate book, it should take 10 minutes to replace battery bolts. It annoys the heck out of me that my average time to replace a couple lousy battery bolts is 45 minutes.

-I have never used a "trouble light" without wanting to cuss. I've frequently mentioned in past blogs battery-powered trouble lights, corded trouble lights, LED trouble lights and other shop lights. Probably because of my quest to find a portable, powerful, durable shop light that shines where I want it. No matter what I try, it seems every portable shop light ends up shining IN my face rather than on the area where I'm working. And if I get it rigged to shine where I want, it inevitably falls or gets knocked loose and breaks when it hits the floor. 

-Phillips-head screws are an evil invention. If there are 6 Phillips head screws holding an instrument panel in place, it's a sure bet that one of the last two screws I remove will strip out the head. I know that Phillips head screws are supposed to be an improvement over regular slotted screw heads. All they really do is get my hopes up that I might actually remove screws without problems. 

-I dislike buying the same tool over and over.  Modern electrical connectors--those big 32-pin connectors so common on tractors, sprayers, combines and modern planters--require a special tool to remove damaged pins. The special tool in many cases is a small, thin-walled plastic "pin pusher". It's unusual to remove more than three or four pins before the plastic pin pusher self-destructs and I have to practice my vocabulary of Sunday School-acceptable exclamations at the prospect of buying another set of those wonderful, self-destructing plastic pin pushers.

-Engineered inconvenience annoys me. The kind of situation where you have to lay underneath a machine then reach arm's length up inside to unscrew the drain plug. There's no way you can unscrew the plug the last turn and get your arm out of the way before oil gushes all over you. Some Kenworth trucks with Cummins engines have engine crankcase drain plugs guaranteed to give you a bath of crankcase oil. The hydraulic oil reservoirs on John Deere self-propelled sprayers were designed by sadists who enjoyed knowing mechanics would drown in in hot oil every time they tried to drain that reservoir. They even routed hoses and other plumbing beneath the drain plug so experienced mechanics can't install an extension pipe to put the actual drain plug in a sane location. 

I guess all these annoyances are just opportunities to practice using those Sunday School-approved euphemisms. And I've been getting a lot of practice, lately...

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COMMENTS (7 Comments)

All engineers with a new college diploma should be required to do a three year internship of being a mechanic on the equipment they will later be designing.
4:07 PM Jan 19th
Good article Dan. Battery terminals are the devil!!!
Phillips screws....should be outlawed! Don't even try to tell me that engineers don't scheme up those hard to reach places on purpose! There must be a conspiracy!
10:36 PM Jan 18th
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