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Keep it Simple Part 10

Published on: 02:38AM Jan 15, 2019

A customer brought in a combine for repairs. He handed me two idler pulleys, one that was mangled, one that was brand new.

"We tried for two hours last fall to put on that new idler, and couldn't get the nut started on the inside of the frame," he said. He took me to the rear of the machine and pointed to a bolt hole barely visible in the sheet metal under the engine, right beside what appeared to be a fist-sized access hole in the sheet metal. "We tried every way we knew how to put extensions on wrenches, crowfoot wrenches, and couldn't figure out a way to reach through that hole and hold the nut on the inside long enough to get the bolt that holds the pulley bolted in place. We finally went to town and got a shorter belt, pried it onto the drive pulleys, and finished up that way."

I promised that I would get the pulley installed along with the proper belt. I studied the situation and I'll be darned--they were right. It was impossible to reach through that hole and turn your hand/wist, or hold a wrench at the proper angle to install that nut. I tried all sorts of wrenches, angle-tip needlenose pliers, and even tried gluing a nut to the end of a stiff piece of wire in hope I could fish the nut into place on the inside of the frame and get the bolt started from the outside.

 I eventually took a break to re-assemble my patience. Another mechanic wandered past and, seeing the look of frustration on my face, asked what was the problem. I handed him the pulley, pointed to the hole and described all the attempts I'd made to put things together.

He grinned and said, "Go stand behind the combine and look up over the top of the straw chopper housing, under the engine." I did, and when he took his mini-flashlight and shined it through the accursed hole I'd been fighting, I could plainly see a small beam of light shining into the large cavity under the engine but atop the chopper housing. I grabbed the nut, crawled up over the chopper into the 6' by 4' cavity, and easily held the nut in place with my hand while he installed the bolt.

This is proof yet again that if there are two ways for me to accomplish a task, I'll always take the hardest, stupidest route first.