In The Shop: More About Aftermarket Accessories
Jan 18, 2012
In my last post I commented about add-on components and accessories to mainline equipment--mechanical add-ons like grain tank toppers, rock boxes, and bolt-on dual and triple wheels. This blog is about aftermarket accessory systems, such as guidance systems and other in-the-cab technology added to tractors, combines, sprayers and other farm equipment.
Since I'm a mechanic at a mainline equipment dealer, you probably expect me to bad-mouth add-on systems, but I have a lot of admiration for many of the companies that offer those systems. Yes, they are a hassle because they add extra wiring, hoses, hydraulic valves, solenoids, consoles, displays and other paraphernalia to cabs and machines that often don't have room for more components. Yes, some of the installation and owner's manuals seem to be written by Japanese fifth graders, then translated to English by dyslexic junior high students. There are definitely aftermarket systems and accessories that I discourage customers from adding to their machines.
But many of the aftermarket systems are cutting-edge, well-designed and well-supported. Smaller companies can respond to the needs of farmers faster than mainline companies---small companies offered combine yield monitors and GPS-based guidance systems 5 to 10 years sooner than mainline manufacturers. The thing I appreciate about successful aftermarket accessory manufacturers is that they try REALLY HARD to provide customer support after the sale. For the most part, every time I've been stumped while installing, diagnosing, or repairing an aftermarket system and had to call a tech support number, I've been impressed with the knowledge and friendliness of the guys I've talked to.
I admit it's easier for me as a mainline mechanic to deal with systems built into our machines at the factory. There aren't as many consoles and wiring harnesses cluttering the cab, there aren't extra hydraulic hoses and wires on the machine that risk getting pinched, crushed or damaged when things are folded for transport or storage. But I'll always admire the creativity, the fast response to developing technologies and farmers' needs, and the well-trained and friendly tech support guys at most of these aftermarket accessory companies.