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.
Frustrated By High Cost of Repairs
Jul 20, 2014
Customers sometimes cringe when they hear the cost of repairs to farm equipment. Heck, I cringe when I hear the cost of repairs to farm equipment. One of my biggest frustrations when I'm on a service call is the knowledge of how much every minute of my time on their farm costs my customers.
A few customers joke that they'd make more money if they quit farming and became mechanics, considering that they get billed more than $100 per hour for service calls. My response is that they'd have to take a pay cut, because I'm taking home much less than 1/4 of that hourly rate. Which then devolves into a good-natured argument about how profitable farming IS or ISN'T. But, getting back to my original topic, why are dealership shop rates and service calls so expensive?
I don't know the exact breakdown, but I can point to some of the costs of service calls. In our dealership's case, many of the guys who do service calls work out of 1-ton trucks equipped with welders, air compressors, generators and other high-ticket tools. Many of the trucks have cranes, which are extremely useful during repairs that require lifting transmissions, planter frames, wheels and other components that have grown increasingly heavy on modern farm equipment.
The majority of our technicians are provided laptop computers programmed with our manufacturer's tech books and parts manuals, allowing them to access information on everything from 1930s tractors to the latest combines and sprayers. The dealership pays a pretty stout fee to our equipment manufacturer for access to all that brand-specific information. The laptops also provide the capability to work directly with troubleshooters at our manufacturer's headquarters for problems and solutions that haven't yet made it into the tech and parts books.
It's also great for mechanics to carry all their tools in built-in toolboxes on their trucks. Many of us started out decades ago tossing a 5-gallon bucket full of the tools we might need to make field repairs into the back of a 1/2-ton pickup truck. All the mechanics at the dealership shared pickup trucks, transferring tools between trucks as needed. We are without a doubt more efficient and faster when each of us has our own truck loaded with ALL our tools.
So, yes, it's expensive to have a dealership mechanic make on-farm repairs. And, yes, you pay for the expensive truck and accessories even if the the mechanic walks up and only turns a nut or flips a lever to fix the problem, and never uses the welder, air compressor, crane or laptop computer. But some dark night when it requires the welder, the air compressor, the crane and all the mechanic's years of experience to repair your machine in the field, we hope you'll feel like you got your money's worth out of the service call.
In my experience, the guys in white trucks with a dealership name on the side are painfully aware of what it costs to have them on your farm, and do their darndest to give you your money's worth.