Coping: With “Luck” and Power Equip,ment

Why, just yesterday we “was havin’ us a cup” talking about “luck.”  And today it’s time to explain how “luck” with runs with you or in some cases over you here in the ETex Outback.

Saturday morning, just as soon as Peoplenomics was finished and posted, I jumped out on the lawn tractor and was playing the time-honored game of “beat the thunderstorm.”  Mowing like hell, I was.  But I lost.


But it t’weren’t nothin’ I did, honest!  Sure, the rain was pouring down…

It was just that after umpteen hard hits with this, that, mostly stumps and t’other things, the old Husqvarna TH2348 ride’em mower was about done-for.

Elaine was in the house when things began to come apart.  So was Zeus the Cat.  He’d run into the guest bedroom (the one in the house) trying to get away from the 115 db noise level outside as this madman  tractoring in the rain for all he was worth had a machine that suddenly dwarfed the auxiliary ground power unit on a 727.


The blades stopped whirring – and I was more than slightly pleased.

I don’t know how many troubleshootizing problems you have come across in your (statistically) shorter than my life, but I’ve always found it easier to trioubleshootizing something which is all busted to shit. (Troubleshootizing is Googlese, easier than writing in Mandarin.)

None of this intermittent, works sometimes kinda crap for us out here on the range.  Hell no.  Run the sucker till it’s broke good. Cracked, thrown, burned up, or flat…break ‘er good or don’t stop work.

In electronics we call it “Letting the smoke out.”  I’ve used this technique with considerable success to blow up questionable resistors, dried-up capacitors, and questionable transformers on electronics as small as your thumb but scaling right on up to a Collins 21-E/M 5 KW AM Broadcast transmitter. (At those power levels, BTW, the blowing up capacitors can be as loud as a shotgun…about a .410 gauge with #4 shot to be exact.)

Suffices to say that the blades stopped right about when the rain began to pour down…so it wasn’t until later in the weekend that I tore apart the mower deck (which I could finally locate it under 3-years of dirt) and there was my problem.

The crime scene above shows that the port (left side) spindle tower had (more or less) disintegrated around the top.

My choices were simple:  cobble up a get-along and do more yard work and still have to make the repairs right. The thought of a cobble with some hose clamps intrigued me… OR I could just tear things down and put in an order with Jack’s Small Engines.

Never heard of them?  It’s a home handy-bastard’s secret on the order of Rockler’s, Harbor Fright, or Northern Tool.

Best damn parts house for power equipment needs I’ve found.

A few minutes in the online parts diagrams and here comes my order:

Truth be told, I could have slid by reusing a couple of things, and maybe the deck drive belt would get by another season, or three.  But I like to give things a good going-over once and then be done with it until the next ear-splitting failure.

I’m hoping that installing the new deck belt and three new blades on (already on hand) doesn’t “spoil the machine.”

There’s a Ure family theory that tools are made to be used and if they can’t take the beating, buy Snap-On or Craftsman and learn the error of your ways. (Some would argue Craftsman has peaked…and I have some Bostich tools that are first-rate, but that’s a discussion among tool sluts.)

This problem should resolve in a week to 10-days as we await the parts.  It may be $95 for parts and shipping, but can you imagine what a shop would charge for all this?  Rebuild a deck spindle tower, new bearings, new blades in an a new 137.5″ drive belt in and adjusted?  I figure $350-$400….What’s mark-up 3-4 TIMES the parts?

This is the kind of thing I need to point our to our Millennial Caller reader.  Two “old man” advise lessons here:

  1.  Fix your own broken sh*t.  Corollary: Buy things you can repair.
  2. Never pay anyone to do what you can do yourself if you have time to safely do the job yourself.  And buy the tools to do it.

This project was a breeze (at least so far) for several reasons that should be noted if you’re planning to earn the highly coveted UrbanSurvival Outback Power Equipment Maintainer Badge.

  • You need the 20-gallon 2 HP 120 LB PSI air compressor.
  • You need the Harbor Freight air impact wrench with sockets.
  • You need the oddball Torx screwdrivers (why Husqvarna uses these to attach the spindle cover is beyond human knowing, but we have the right tool).  Torx heads don’t keep idiots out of machinery.  Only idiots that don’t buy the tool.  See our discussions of business models for guidance.
  • And you need a regular floor jack and a bunch of scrap 4-by-4’s to lift things up so you can get at them.

Armed with the right tools, the work isn’t as hard as the waiting on parts.

The wait is why God allowed beer to be invented.

Next Project, Then?

This next one was pretty interesting because it was two failures back to back.

The first one was some of our diesel seems to have gotten water in it.

Kubota, near as I can figure it, doesn’t have a simple drain at the low part of the tank, so when there is water in fuel, it accumulates in this bad-boy:  The fuel oil filter:

About half way down the barrel of the fuel oil filter you will see a line.  That’s the bottom of the filter element.  Tractor has been running like a top…

But then (confessions of a management failure coming, be ready to make notes…) Oilman2’s boy (Jared) was over and cutting up fallen trees (from our solar improvement program) and the project manager (a fat old sot who answers to “George!”) failed to mention that I always lift the diesel pump drop pipe about 4″ off the bottom of barrels to prevent any chance of sucking in water.

Well, wouldn’t you know:  Here last week Jared comes to the office with an S.O.S. about the diesel being broken.  Yep, management failed to notify on the possibility of contaminated fuel and so that’s the price.

So now, our second power equipment project is waiting for the “right stuff” to fix this problem once and for all.

Step 1:  Find a way to get a lot of water out of the tractor tank.  Answer is at Amazon and it’s called a “1” Diesel Water Absorber.” (Or a water snake for short.  Since it can be reused 10 times, I figure we will wick out the tractor water and take on the storage tank, too.

Step 2.  Toss in a jug of CRC Diesel Dry.

Step 3:  Get some fresh diesel jugs and don’t lose the caps.  The present jugs have been in constant use since 2004 and some young pup who did so assisting in land surgery 10-years back lost one cap.  The other was either stolen by aliens of run off with a pack rat – which we really do have out here.  But that’s another story.

Step 4.  Put some Diesel Dry in the two drums that are still full.

Step 5.  Put contractor size garbage bags over the barrel ends again.  Hate the bugs that call such areas home, but a dead tractor is worse, we figure.  Belatedly.

Step 6.  Add a chapter to our UrbanSurvival Ranch Policy and Procedures Manual.  Not that we need it, but if we sell, or if OSHA gets on to us handing out beer and hotdogs to the working class here…might keep me out of Leavenworth.

Step 7.  Convert all documents into Spanish and Farsi. Not telling when Obama will be back, or God forbid Chelsea.

Step 8.  Wait for the Amazon delivery which will be slow ground because the diesel dryer doesn’t mail.

Step 9.  Write a clever article about how much fun farm maintenance is when it’s 85 and humid out.

Step 10:  Keep diesel tank of tractor full to reduce condensation.

Seriously?  Except for the sweat burning the eczema sores and being 1/2 blind, it really is a lot of fun.  But then so is doing your own dental work.  It’s just not for everyone.

So much for a peek under the hood of real power equipment maintenance.  Royal Purple oil, gas engines get AvBlend in their crank cases, and as I can now swear, there’s nothing wrong with 12-year old diesel once you get the water out.

On the other hand, and I will have to check with Elaine on this, but I can thing of at least two or three other 12-year old liquids that either one of us would prefer.

Ya’ll come by Thursday.  That column is seriously titled:  Ure Seeks Contract Killer.

I kid you not.

Write when you break-even get rich,

15 thoughts on “Coping: With “Luck” and Power Equip,ment”

  1. George,

    Noticed your problem with water in the diesel fuel. Even at 66, I still actively own and operate a row crop farming operation of 220 acres. I don’t hire a helper, because I would have to show them how to do a task and probably still have to do it anyway.

    I buy diesel fuel in bulk which goes into a 1,000 gallon tank. The output from this tank goes through a water/particulate filter before it goes into my tractors or combine. Drain the water from the filter bowl and change the filter cartridge to prevent water and debris problems. I also add a product called “StarTron” to my fuel and gasoline. It prevents the buildup of bacteria in diesel and counteracts the ill effects of alcohol in gas. (No I do not own stock in this company) Stuff works great! I have had zero problems with small engines since I started using this product, and the diesel fuel never turns “cloudy” from storage. Hope this helps for your future use.

  2. It’s always a good thing to DIY if you possibly can. In addition to the fact that $1 saved is equal to $2 earned due to the tax structure, you not only cut out the markup on labor(and taxes THEY have to pay, but cut out all the overhead, including insurance, OSHA compliance, and other regulatory BS.

    You also save the time and effort of finding a good shop/contractor and that of getting your stuff to the shop, waiting, and getting it back.

  3. ROFL!! I needed a good laugh and your story did it for me. Reminds me of “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank”. Perhaps you could churn out a home handy bastard ebook in that style of writing. Such work is often aggravating so adding a big dollop of humor along with the beer would lift spirits.

    • I am all about lifting spirits. As early as the workday schedule will permit, too

  4. Before Step 1:

    Remove fuel filter enclosure.

    Dump out accumulated water.

    Replace fuel filter enclosure.

  5. “Nothing wrong with 12 year old diesel fule once you get the water out..”

    Quite right. In a past life I had a tow truck and hauled away wrecks. A lady called and told me she had a 1963 Mercedes sitting in the woods behind her barn, and she wanted it removed. (This was about 1995), I cut some small trees out of the way and hooked it up. Because snakes like to call such places home, I started to tow it directly to the salvage yard about 10 miles away. Going down a long steep hill, I thought the tow felt a bit funny, or maybe my brakes were fading… I stopped at a coffee shop about 2 miles down to check the hookup, and almost dropped my teeth. The car was sitting the on the hook purring very contentedly away, and I had no idea how to shut the thing off as there were no keys for it. Apparently the early Mercedes could not be towed in neutral as it still spun the torque converter and thus, the engine. I finally got it shut down by cramming a towel in the carb intake. I dropped the hook and proceeded to tow it from the rear!
    After dropping it off, I pulled the hubcaps and made a clock out of one, which still hangs in my garage.
    I don’t think diesel ever goes bad now…

    • Yup, transmixer has both a front, and a rear pump (early/mid ’60s Ford and American Motors vehicles, and I believe Rolls & Bentley used Borg Warner M35 and M36 slushboxes, which had the rear pump also.) The Owner’s Manuals included instructions for push-starting “your automatic-transmission equipped vehicle.”

  6. After you are finished troubleshootizing the problem it’s time to Mammygize the solution. This process is best left to the seasoned mammygizer. One who is well past the rank of apprentice or mid level journeyman mammygizer. Trouubleshootizing is an advanced course only allowed to those who have passed the TIS (time in service) test.

  7. George, getting ready to do spindle bearings on my Deere, and so was studying up… Suggest you check the bearings in your other spindles while the deck is accessible. ANY noticeable runout indicates a bearing failure in the near future (followed soon after by the self-destructing spindle.)

    • Thanks ray – duid that already – and Jack’s Small Engines has the parts landing Friday – which is a week earlier than I was expecting – way to go Jacks!

  8. Diesel does have an unbelievable lifespan. The former owner of our ranch filled up a couple of 500 gallon tanks with red diesel some time back before he died in 04, I think it was. We’ve been using the tractor with bucket and backhoe a lot more over the past few years but still only fill it up about once a year with the old fuel. I’ve started putting Diesel Kleen in the tractor’s tank just for good measure but it keeps trucking along as long as I keep its hydraulics repaired.

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