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.
In The Shop: Patience Is The Expensive Part Of Repairs
Jun 12, 2011
I use as many shortcuts as possible to save my customers money and make my job easier. Rather than disassemble a dozen shields, remove wheels, or unbolt additional parts, I'm never shy about jacking, prying or winching things to access pieces on machines to save time. And I re-use parts whenever possible. New is nice, but as long as the old part is within tolerances, I'll use it.
The trick is to know when to shortcut and when to take the long, laborious route. Last week I had to replace the shoe auger cross shaft and all the bevel gears in a combine. It's quite a process to remove the bearings and bevel gears before removing one set of dual wheels so you can pull the shaft out the side of the combine--at least that's what the tech manual recommended. I knew the shaft needed replaced; I knew I wouldn't re-use the bearings; I didn't want to spend the time and effort to remove the dual wheels. So I torched the shaft into three pieces, burned out the bearings, and the shaft and associated gears literally fell onto the floor.
I saved the cost of additional disassembly time, but probably used that bonus up when I reassembled and installed the new shaft with new bearings and new bevel gears. Could I have re-used some of the parts? Yes. But that shaft and associated bearings and gears are buried deep in the combine. My policy is, if a part is easy to access, I'll consider re-using that "old" part if it's within tolerances. But if I'm doing a job that is in a hard-to-reach spot that takes a lot of disassembly to get to the specific component---I'm replacing everything with "new." I don't want to do that time-consuming, expensive job more often than necessary.
I appreciate that my current customer understands and agrees. When I used a flashlight and mirror-on-a-stick to show him what buried parts I needed to replace on his combine, he didn't hesitate when I suggested replacing every part with new. "I don't want to be tearing all that apart in the middle of a cornfield this fall just because I was too cheap to let you put in a few new parts," he said. "I'll cheap-out on the easy stuff, but that looks like a deal where it will save money to spend money."
Now, THAT'S my kind of customer! Cheap (uh, let's call him "economical") whenever possible, but realistic when it comes to what it costs to keep machinery in good running condition.