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.
Sep 18, 2013
A professional mechanic takes pride in fixing things "right." But there are times when there isn't time or proper parts available to make emergency repairs. So you do what has to be done. I'm not bragging about these "fixes"....I'm confessing.
-The threads on the drain plug hole in a "pot metal" gear case stripped out. The cost of the entire gear case was frightening; there were enough threads left to screw in the drain plug, but not enough to keep it from leaking. With the customer's permission I used contact cleaner to clean the threads, smeared quick-drying JB Weld on the remaining threads and on the threads of the drain plug, and screwed in the plug till it was snug. We did other repairs for a half hour, then poured in oil, crossed our fingers, and...no leaks. To my knowledge, that drain plug is still in that gear case. I apologize to whoever bought that machine when the customer finally traded it off.
-While making other repairs to a combine, I noticed a hole worn in the bottom of the clean clean grain elevator housing. With the customer's encouragement, I layered duct tape over the hole and wished him good luck. He finished the final 500 acres, and the patch was still in place when he brought the combine to the dealership for winter repairs.
-A bearing went out on the hexagonal drill shaft on the wing section of a 12-row planter, stripping the hexes off the shaft where the bearing sat. With a thunderstorm on the horizon, we pulled the shaft, installed a new bearing, reversed the shaft so the bearings sat in slightly different places, and finished the field. That was five years ago, and every spring the farmer reminds me that he still hasn't spent the money to get a new shaft.
Rats. I apologize. This blog isn't working out like I hoped. Over the years I've performed dozens of temporary miracles with duct tape, welders, zip ties, fence posts, pieces of inner tube and other "accessories" in my efforts to keep customers' machines running. I thought I could regale and entertain you with examples of my creativity. But aside from the few repairs I've mentioned, the rest have faded into a hazy corner of my memory that's cluttered with, "This might work...", "We can try this..." or the classic, "What have we got to lose..."
I've done some pretty spectacular cobble-jobs over the years. Unfortunately--or fortunately--my mechanic's mind has blocked out most of them. Customers will come in and say, "Remember when you welded this or that, or duct taped that whatchamacallit..." and I honesty can't say that I remember doing it. My mind protectively deletes things I've done that have potential for embarassment or OSHA fines and penalties.
So you'll have to take my word that when you're desperate and customers are pleading, you can do amazing things with duct tape, zip ties and/or a welder cranked up to 300 amps.