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: The Expense of Critters and Sunshine
May 21, 2011
Some of the most expensive, unnecessary repairs I've made to farm equipment in recent years have been to wiring harnesses damaged during off-season storage by varmints or exposure to weather.
Planters and combines are the most common victims. Combines by nature attract mice, rats, 'coons, 'possums and other critters during storage because of the leftover grain and crop residue inside or on the machine. Planters often have leftover seed in the boxes, the seed meters, or spilled around the frame, plus they have frame tubing big enough for rodent travel but too small for farm cats due to hydraulic hoses, etc..
Whether from hunger or boredom, critters like to gnaw on wiring insulation. I've been told that some insulation used on wiring is/was made using soy oil, which may explain why the little varmints strip insulation from wiring--it may actually taste good. Whatever the reason, no good comes from having the insulation stripped from a 32-wire planter control harness so that all the wires are bare and in contact with each other. I take that back--it can be good for dealerships and equipment manufacturers because a new harness, stretching the width of a big planter, can easily sell for more than $1000, plus the labor it takes to methodically run all those wires to all the individual rows.
Exposure to weather can be just as damaging to wiring harnesses and electrical systems as varmints. Constant exposure to sunshine eventually degrades most wiring harnesses to some degree, making their insulation or protective coverings brittle and prone to cracking as the machine flexes when it's annually put back into service. Add the corrosion caused by moisture that insidiously blows, seeps, leaks or condenses inside control boxes, switches, and sensors, and machines stored out of doors are almost guaranteed electrical problems if they're left parked outside year-round.
I understand that not everybody has access to sheds big enough to store all their machinery indoors. I understand that even with adequate shed space, it's tough to keep varmints under control. But anything that keeps sunlight, moisture and critters away from machinery will eventually save money.