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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

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.

Never Turn Your Back On A Bored Co-Worker

Sep 12, 2008
 First, let me emphasize that the first concern of dealership mechanics is the quick, economical and accurate repair of customers' equipment. Most of us have farm backgrounds. We take very seriously our role in American agriculture.

However. There might be rare occasions when the opportunity to harass, annoy or play a prank on a fellow mechanic becomes just too good to pass up. For example:

-a mechanic had just finished extensive repairs to a combine and pulled it from the shop to test run it. Just before he engaged the separator, another mechanic tossed a smoke bomb onto a rear sieve. When the cleaning fan in the separator hit full speed, smoke billowed from every bolt hole, crack and body seam. But the prank backfired, because the mechanic test-driving the combine noticed in the rear view mirror that his co-worker had tossed something into the machine, and wasn't panicked when smoke started rolling. He calmly drove the combine to a parking area. It looked like a cloud on wheels.

-Another mechanic had spent hours rebuilding the final drives on a 4WD tractor. After finishing the repairs, he took it for a test drive, then parked it outside the shop to see if any leaks developed, while he went for lunch. While he was at lunch, another mechanic took a bucket of used gear oil and dumped it inside the rim of one of the wheels so that oil filled the rim, ran down the tire and across the paving. When the first mechanic returned from lunch, he nearly lost that lunch when he saw the newly repaired tractor with gear oil pooled below the final drive he had just repaired. 

-A new mechanic had just finished his first significant repair work on an older combine that used a fuel shut-off cable to stop the engine. He parked the repaired machine outside, engaged the separator, then carefully walked around the machine meticulously inspecting all the spinning pulleys, chains and drives. Another mechanic sneaked up into the cab and pulled the fuel shut-off cable half closed, starving the engine so that the entire machine shuddered and stuttered and sounded like it was in the process of puking a couple of pistons. The novice mechanic aged 3 years in the time it took him to run around the machine and clamber up the ladder, where he found his coworker holding the shut-off cable half open.

- A veteran mechanic was test running a combine that had a mysterious, rhythmic knocking. Every time the mechanic engaged the separator the knocking mirrored the shaft speed of a different component. Sometimes the knocking was in syncopation with the cleaning fan, sometimes it matched the chopper speed, and occasionally it didn't match any shaft speed on the combine, but sounded mysteriously similar to the first bars of the drum solo from "Inna-Gad-Da-Vida." Eventually the mechanic adjusted the mirrors on the combine and caught one of his co-workers as he darted to a blind spot on the other side of the machine and tapped on the frame with a big hammer whenever the separator was engaged.

As I said, farm equipment mechanics take pride in keeping farmers rolling. We also take pride in keeping our co-workers on their toes.

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