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.
Make Your Mechanic Happy And Save Yourself Money
Aug 08, 2013
One of the more frustrating situations for mechanics is have to charge customers more than their repairs cost. I'm not talking about price-gouging--I'm talking about the extra time it takes to remove accessories and add-ons, and then re-installing them after repairs have been made.
Tractor loaders are good examples. If a mechanic has to do major engine or transmission work on a tractor with a loader on it, then the customer pays for the mechanic to remove the loader and reinstall it. If a combine cornhead has "stalk stompers" installed to crush corn stalks, the customer pays for the time to get the stompers out of the way if they interfere with access to the cornhead driveshafts or gearboxes.
Sometimes it's not mechanical stuff that costs customers extra money. Livestock growers who bring chore tractors caked with manure and mud often end up paying for an hour or more of time spent simply steam-washing off the grunge. The same applies, to a lesser degree, if a mechanic has to work inside a tractor or combine cab and has to dig his way through layers of clothing, beverage cans, notebooks, and assorted wiring harnesses for accessory monitors, smart phones, laptops or video display screens. I've had to add an extra hour to repair bills because of the time it took to unfasten brackets and holders for extra spray monitors, GPS screens or other gadgetry that prevented me from simply removing four Phillips-head screws that held a cornerpost display--and then re-installing them after I did a 25-minute repair to the display.
I also know a mechanic who got chewed out by a customer for the cost of major repairs to a tractor. The customer was annoyed because his bill was significantly larger than a neighbor who had similar repairs done. It was only after the mechanic walked him through the repair bill and explained that the higher labor fee was due to several hours spent washing layers of caked manure off the tractor, then removing a rusty, bent and sprung loader, that the customer acknowledged that the charges were appropriate.
I'm not complaining. Sometimes cleaning manure, rotten grain, raccoon droppings, or removing accessories is just part of the job of being a farm equipment mechanic. But that means those chores also become part of the bill for repairs to that equipment.