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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.

Shine A Light On Night Repairs

Sep 14, 2009
 Most of you have some kind of flashlight in your combine cab during harvest to provide illumination for maintenance and repairs after dark. The latest generation of battery-powered LED worklights provide another option for illumination.

These worklights look like the conventional "trouble light" found in every farm shop, but they don't require a power cord and they don't use incandescent or even florescent light bulbs. Their light comes from anywhere from three to more than a dozen white LED lights mounted in special reflectors. Rechargeable batteries make them handy for use in the middle of a crop field. Their LED lamps are extremely resistant to impacts or getting dropped from the top of a grain tank. Hooks integral to the reflector and/or handle make them more useful during repairs than traditional flashlights that have to be held and pointed. I added a magnetic clip bought at Sears to the handle of my LED worklight so I can stick it to nearby metal surfaces and aim it exactly on the area where I'm working. Heck, I use my LED worklight even when I'm in the shop and 115-volt outlets are available to plug in a conventional trouble light--I like not having to drag a cord along when I'm working in awkward locations.

Not everyone will like battery-powered, LED-type worklights. The produce an odd, white light that is extremely--and I mean extremely--directional. If you aim a conventional worklight in the general direction of what you want to see, you'll get a fair amount of illumination. If you aim an LED worklight slightly out of its field of focus, things get dark. And their run-time isn't as long as a traditional battery-powered flashlight or lantern---after about 2 hours illumination begins to weaken, and any claims of run-times longer than 4 hours have to include the final period when the light isn't much brighter than a small candle.

If you haven't been around battery-powered LED worklights it would be best to ask to test one in a dark restroom at your local auto parts store or hardware store before you invest. As long as you understand their limitations and don't expect floodlight-quality illumination, they're a handy tool. Especially if you get an adapter so you can keep them charged via a cigarette lighter socket.

However, if I'm making extended repairs after sunset it's still better to fire up the gas-powered generator and set up my 115-volt floodlights. One of my co-workers took that strategy to an extreme and mounted on his service truck some of those arc-lamp type lights you see on new combines. The kind of that make a combine after dark look like the alien spacecraft from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." He can definitely see what he's doing when he sparks off those lights, with the added advantage that he keeps a deep suntan throughout harvest and well into winter. 

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