In the Shop: Tool Tricks and Trick Tools

February 8, 2011 05:26 AM

Maintenance and repairs on farm equipment rarely go as planned. Special situations often require special tools that are unavailable or too costly for the average farm shop. Here are a few tips to make repairs and maintenance in the field or shop a little less frustrating.

At the first indication that an Allen-head fastener is going to be difficult to remove, find a punch with a tip small enough to reach the bottom of the Allen-head cavity without contacting the hex sides. Smack the tip in the bottom of the cavity several times with a hammer to jar the threads
before using an Allen wrench.

Even better, put an Allen-head socket on a breaker bar and repeatedly smack the head of the bar with a hammer while applying steady counterclockwise torque to the bar’s handle. Applying torque to the fastener while shocking the threads often breaks it loose like magic.

Make a driver. Modify a big punch or cold chisel to remove races from gearcases or housings. Tool suppliers sell special bearing race drivers that are essentially long punches with oval tips. Their length allows you to reach through a wheel hub or thick bearing housing and drive out a bearing race. The flattened tip makes better contact with the slender edge of a race than the rounded tip of a punch.

For a homemade race driver, take a long-shafted punch or chisel (or in an emergency, a piece of round scrap-iron rod) and either grind the tip oval or use an acetylene torch and hammer to heat and flatten the tip. Over-length punches with flattened or oval tips are multipurpose tools once you have them.

Turn up the heat. Got a big outer bearing race that needs to be removed from a dead-end cavity in a gearcase or housing? Set your welder to hot and weld a bead completely around the inside surface of the race. Immediately after welding, tip the gearcase or housing upside down, and the race should fall easily from the cavity. Welding contracts the metal and makes press-fit pieces "loose-fit." Flush and clean all the spatter and slag before reassembly.

Buy and keep on hand a set of cheap wrenches to modify for special situations. Professional mechanics often have a drawer in their toolbox full of customized wrenches.

Don’t be afraid to use a torch to put an extra bend in a wrench handle to reach awkward bolts or nuts. Cut a slot in the head of an expendable wrench to fit over a metal fuel line and seat on a fuel-line nut. To fit a wrench on a jam nut in a tight spot, grind the flat side of the open end until it’s thin enough to slide into place.

Dust for leaks.
For an annoying hydraulic leak that’s difficult to pinpoint, first clean the area with a power washer or engine degreaser. Use compressed air or alcohol-based contact cleaner to ultra-dry all surfaces. Toss talcum powder or cooking flour onto suspect fittings, housings and couplers. Then fire up the machine and activate all hydraulic functions related to the leaky area. The powder or flour will darken and discolor at the first drop of oil, pinpointing even minuscule leaks. This is also a good way to double check that repaired components have no leaks.

Keep a 3-gal., hand-pump-style garden sprayer handy in farm shops and especially on field equipment. Before torching, welding or grinding in the field on combines, balers and other machines covered with dry, fire-prone crop debris, use the garden sprayer to dampen the ground beneath and the machine itself, where flames and sparks may fall. A half-gallon of water sprayed in advance can prevent a fire that would take hundreds of gallons to douse.

Note: The user assumes all of the responsibility and liability if a homemade tool causes injury during use.

Cool Tool of the Month

If you have a nut to thread up or down a long bolt but can’t get a ratcheting wrench to the nut because both ends of the bolt are blocked, Wright Tool Company’s Ratcheting Flare Nut Wrenches are nifty timesavers. Their box ends snap open, then close over the nut. Ratchet mechanisms then allow users to ratchet nuts up or down bolts or adjuster rods. Available in standard sizes from 3⁄8" ($23) to 1" ($34). Visit

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