In The Shop: Must-Have Tools to Fix It Yourself

08:56PM Nov 16, 2017
( Farm Journal )

As modern farm equipment gets larger and more complex, farmers are discovering they need to expand their tool inventory and shop accessories to tackle basic maintenance and repairs. Here’s a list of items do-it-yourself farmers will find helpful/necessary when working on modern-day farm equipment.

  • 1"-drive, air-powered impact wrench: The wheel bolts on four-wheel-drive tractors and semi trucks require serious torque to remove and install. Choose an impact wrench that provides at least 1,000 lb. per foot of torque. You can’t go wrong with more torque, though. Keep the impact wrench lubed with high-quality air tool oil between uses. Price range: $750 to $1,200.
  • 1"-drive impact sockets: For safety and durability, use black impact-style sockets, not chrome sockets, on air-powered impact wrenches. You’ll eventually need metric (24 mm to 36 mm) and standard (15⁄16" to 1½") sockets as well as square sockets for Budd-type wheels. Price: around $100 per set.
  • High-capacity air compressor: 1"-drive, air-powered impact wrenches require at least 10 cubic feet per minute of air. A 220-volt, 5-hp dual-stage air compressor on a 60-gal. tank is probably a good starting point to provide enough air so big air tools can operate at full power. Price range: $1,000 to $2,000.
  • 50' of ½" inside diameter air hose and ½" inside diameter fittings and couplers: A traditional 3⁄8" inside diameter air hose, fittings and couplers reduce air flow and strangle the performance of big air tools. Be sure to buy a rubber-coated hose because economy-grade, plastic-coated hoses are stiff in cold weather and have a habit of tangling more easily. Price range: $50 to $70.
  • Air/hydraulic floor jack: Hand pumping a 20-ton hydraulic bottle jack is time-consuming and lots of work. A 20-ton air-actuated hydraulic jack easily raises trucks, tractors, combines and small buildings with the flip of a lever. For shop work on concrete floors, a wheeled air/hydraulic jack saves a lot of pushing and shoving to position the jack under large equipment. Price: simple 20-ton bottle jack, $200; commercial-duty wheeled jack, $500.
  • Digital multimeter to check voltage and ohms of resistance: Throw away your grandpa’s old test light that looks like a pointed screwdriver with a bulb in the handle. CAN bus systems on modern farm equipment run on voltage ranging between 4 and 5 volts, making it essential to be able to accurately measure voltage. Ditto for ohms of resistance. Price range: $40 to $250.
  • 20-ton jackstands: It’s safer to use adjustable jackstands that won’t wobble or buckle to block up equipment. Price range: $150 to $400 per stand.
  • Jumbo wrench set: Big equipment has big nuts and bolts, requiring standard wrenches from 13⁄8" up to 2" and metric wrenches from 30 mm to 50 mm. Price: large, professional-quality combination wrench sets durable enough for everyday use, $500; discount store wrench sets for infrequent use, $150. 
  • Battery booster pack: With farm machinery scattered over multiple farmsteads, starting equipment that has dead batteries can be a challenge. A battery booster pack provides a jump when you can’t get a pickup close enough to use jumper cables and in places where electrical outlets aren’t available to power a conventional 120-volt battery charger/booster. Price range: $100 to $160 for battery packs capable of starting large diesel engines from 400 to 1,000 cranking amps.
  • Metal cutting chop saw: Grandpa used a hacksaw and a vise for all of his metal cutting needs. Today, it’s easier to use a metal-cutting chop saw with a 14" abrasive blade to cut everything from keystock to PTO shafts. Price range: $100 to $170. Cheaper saws can handle square cuts of thin metal. Higher-priced saws offer more power and the option for beveled and angled cuts in thicker metal.