Sunday, March 14, 2010

Repairs and ruminations

This is my third tractor. I've always bought them used, and generally speaking my tractors have been getting more and more powerful. This one is a 90 horsepower diesel, with plenty of power to do most of the things that I'd like to do without too much stress.

Buying used equipment is a little bit of a crap shoot. You look at what you can, and I always plan on having some maintenance costs. With this tractor, I'm not sure who owned it before (I got it from a tractor dealer, who received it as a trade-in or a repossession, I was never clear), but whomever it was really didn't want to buy kubota parts -- or even use the correct parts.

One example of this was the front left wheel. I've gotten pretty adept at fixing flat tires on tractors because I seem to have a flat every 2-3 weeks. The tractor tires are big; the front tires weigh about 300lbs, and the rear ones weigh quite a bit more, as they're filled with calcium for additional weight and stability. So changing a tractor tire is really a review of your basic high-school physics class, with levers and ramps and so on. That 4x6 in the picture below was used to help mount and unmount the tire. the front tires are easier to change than the rears, mostly because of the front loader, which you can use the lift the tractor off the ground. The rear tires require a farm jack (yes, farm jacks are actually used on farms) and a solid surface to jack off of.

whoever last changed this tire apparently lost a lug nut, and substituted a regular nut for it -- which looks good to a casual glance but really isn't an acceptable substitute for me. Having the tires securely attached and the tractor supported properly is pretty darned important. So I toss the nut into my toolbox and spend a day hunting down an M16/1.5 nut -- eventually finding that only the kubota dealer has them after checking 5 different places. ugg. when you buy it from kubota you know that it's going to be gold-plated.

So I pull off the lug nuts and two of the studs come out in the process. They're threaded into the hubs. No big deal, but while I've got it apart, might as well check the condition of all of the studs. Turns out that three of them show signs of wear, and so I note that for my trip to the dealer, and inspect the brake pads and lines while I'm there, and grease the fittings. Sounds like a lot, but it only takes 2-3 minutes, and I've always had good karma when I treat my machines well.

After the trip to the kubota dealer, I am horrified to learn that the lug nut and stud combos are $20!!!! each. Good grief. So I buy 5, because they do wear out or break, and... well, maintenance costs money. You save it in the purchase price but pay it over time.

My first tractor was manufactured in the early 70s and had lug bolts; my second tractor had studs that were actually threaded bolts that stuck out from the hub. The third tractor, this one, has studs, but they're different than car studs. You pound the studs into a cars hubs with a hammer. These screw in, and so I double-nut them so that I can get them screwed into the proper depth and not damage the threads.

With everything greased and inspected, I put the tire back on and tighten the nuts in the approved way, a nut on one side, and then a nut on the other, so that you don't bend or distort the hub.

I actually like doing this sort of meticulous work. It reminds me a lot of software engineering. I think through a problem slowly and methodically. Tire is flat. Remove tire, inspect nuts and studs, brakes. make a list of replacement parts. examine hub and axle for signs of damage or wear. grease, buy parts, reassemble, torque bolts.

I like knowing that the corner of the tractor is in good shape, ready for another few weeks of work, and that it's well maintained.


Cosmic Blue Monkey said...

Hi Bruce, I just found your blog while searching information about aggressive turkey behavior. It's our first year raising heritage turkeys, and our Tom has suddenly begun to attack me when I enter the coop area. I'm not sure how to react and I wonder if you have written anything about it, or can give some advice?

Bruce King said...

It's been my experience that the Toms will pick fights with and be agressive with other toms. So your tom probably has figured in his turkey brain that you're competing with him for the hens. I don't have an easy solution for you. Here's stuff that I've done:

1) Eat him
2) Grab him and suspend him by his feet for a couple of minutes every time he's agressive with you. Carrying him around is humiliating for him, and if he starts to associate being upside down with agression towards you he may stop
3) Work out a routine where you can do what you need to do without putting yourself in his reach. Chickenwire divider between work area and his coop.

If you're raising this bird for breeding purposes, consider culling him for behavior after this current egg laying season is done. You can buy another batch of chicks and raise a few toms out of it, selling the excess next thanksgiving.

If you are breeding him, I'd suggest having two or more toms. I keep multiple toms because I lose them over the course of the year, randomly. So if I lost every tom of a particular breed, that's it for my poult production of that breed.

Hope that helps.