In the Shop: Tricks and Time Savers

January 27, 2014 03:27 AM
Dan Anderson

There are dozens of tricks to save time, effort and money when making repairs to farm equipment. Here are a few of them:

To avoid having to drain a hydraulic system when working on hoses or components connected directly to the system’s reservoir, duct tape the end of the suction hose of a shop vacuum to the filler neck on the reservoir. Most shop vacs create enough vacuum to hold fluid in the reservoir and allow quick repairs to the hydraulic system with minimal fluid loss—as long as the hydraulic system doesn’t have a vent separate from the filler neck.

Use powder to identify slow, hard-to-pinpoint leaks on valve blocks and hydraulic components. First, pressure wash away all the accumulated gunk and use pressurized air to dry the component in question. Spray the area with contact cleaner to super-dry all surfaces. Take a handful of baby powder, planter talc or baking flour and fling it at the component so the surfaces are covered with a powder.

Start the machine and activate the leaky component. Cycle the hydraulics a couple times, shut off the machine and inspect the powdered surfaces. Even the tiniest, slowest hydraulic leak will show up as a dark spot that pinpoints the origin of the leak.

Rather than unthreading nuts that hold tension on spring-loaded drive belt tensioners, use a pry bar to remove spring pressure from the tensioner so the belt is slack. Then clamp a pair of lock-jaw pliers on the exposed tensioner bolt to hold it in the slack position while the belt is replaced or other work is done.

Use a pneumatic hammer to remove lock collars from bearings. "Unlocking" lock collars on a bearing can take three hands: one to prevent the shaft from rotating, one to hold and aim a punch in the set-hole of the lock collar, and one to swing a hammer. Instead, use an air hammer with a pointed chisel bit. You’ll need one hand to hold the shaft and another hand to hold and aim the air hammer’s bit at the set-hole in the lock collar. A quick "braap" and the lock collar is loose.

Frozen Allen head bolts or set screws—or the square-type fill plugs on corn head row unit gearcases—can often be broken loose with a socket-type Allen wrench mounted on a 3⁄8"- or ½"-drive breaker bar. Insert the Allen head socket into the Allen head bolt or set screw. Strike the head of the breaker bar sharply, repeatedly, with a hammer while applying counter-clockwise torque to the breaker bar handle. The impact transfers directly down into the fastener and miraculously frees frozen threads.

Use an acetylene torch to free hubs or pulleys frozen to tapered shafts. Install a gear puller on the hub or pulley. Apply significant tension with the puller, then use the torch to heat the center of the hub or pulley. Stand clear—the tension of the gear puller can cause the component to release from the tapered shaft with a literal "bang" once the heated hub expands enough to break it loose from the shaft.

Hammer-type rivets, such as those used to attach poly to the skid shoes on the bottom of grain platforms, are finger smashers. It’s faster and less painful to use an air hammer equipped with a rivet bit. Place the hammer rivet in its hole, press the concave tip of the bit against the rivet to hold it in place, then pull the air hammer’s trigger to "brraaap" the rivet into place.

Plain, clear RTV silicone sealant makes good "pipe dope" when installing threaded plastic hose fittings on spray­ers. It doesn’t dry and shrink like traditional pipe dope, and it won’t risk overtightening or cross threading like low-friction Teflon pipe thread tape.

Waterless hand cleaners are great lubricants for installing rubber hoses onto barbed hose fittings.

Need to hold a shim washer, poppet or orifice inside a hydraulic valve or hydraulic component during assembly? Coat it with grease to "stick" it in place. Hydraulic oil will dissolve the grease once the machine is operating.

Rather than fight to lift a heavy wagon wheel and align all the bolt holes, you can align and install one lug bolt, then rotate the wheel so that bolt is at the top of the bolt pattern. The weight of the wheel will suspend from that bolt like a pendulum and automatically align the other bolt holes for easier assembly.

Cool Tool

pneumatic hammer

A pneumatic hammer fitted with a concave-tip bit speeds installation, helps remove lock collars from bearings and eliminates smashed fingers. Air hammer: $60 to $250. Rivet bit: $20 to $40.



An experienced farm mechanic by day, Dan Anderson’s practical shop tips, tricks and fixes are tested and true. Contact Dan:



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