In The Shop: Quit Messing Around With Repairs

Published on: 09:01AM Apr 04, 2020

This is just the opinion of a grumpy mechanic: It's possible to waste a lot of time saving pennies.

For example. A customer once asked how I would replace a rusty hex drive shaft in a planter. In a perfect world the shaft would slide through all the bearings with just an application of WD-40. His was all rusty and mangled. I told him if filing the rough spots and lubing the smooth spots didn't allow it to slide out, I'd cut it in sections with a torch, remove the bearings from those sections, and then I'd be ready to install a new hex shaft and bearings.

He nearly pitched a fit, arguing that it was too expensive to replace the entire shaft and bearings. He came back a few days later and proudly explained how he had carefully hand-filed and sandpapered the shaft, then carefully worked it back and forth until it would slide through the bearings. "Took me all day, but I got it out! I even saved the bearings."

I'm happy for him. If it was me, I'd have sliced the shaft, then installed a new shaft and bearings. That would have been expensive, parts-wise, but saved a lot of time. As a mechanic, for me time is money. He considers his labor "free," so his only concern was the cost of parts. 

But...he spent a day doing a job that could have taken only two hours or less. What other work or chores was delayed by him focusing on salvaging that shaft? Yes, he saved money by re-using the bearings, but if the shaft was that old and mangled, at least one of those bearings will fail in the middle of planting season and he'll have to re-do the whole process to replace those bearings he "saved."

I've heard this argument go on for hours between farmers. Is it better to spend money or time? I guess it depends on which you value most. There's no right or wrong answer, just opinions. This has been mine.