...so that google can help organize my head.


Hacking Tractors

Busted Tractor

When you buy a modern car, you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to servicing it yourself unless you are willing to dump a lot of $$$ into special equipment and, potentially, training. Similarly, most electronic or mechanical systems now have seals that will void the warranty if broken.

In other words, "fix it yourself" is actively discouraged. Personally, I think it is because the internal engineering is so shoddy that many companies want to hide their design sins behind scary tags.

It is refreshing to work on something where "do it yourself" is not only supported, but actively encouraged.

Which brings me to a story that involves a tractor and a beaver.

I was using my dad's John Deere tractor to mow paths around the property, including in the valley. A beaver had gnawed off a tree such that there was a stump that was about 12" high left behind. Now, being a beaver, the damned stump was shaped like a spike.

That spike just happened to be the right height such that the front axle bounced over it. But, the front wheel tie rod -- the piece of model that connects the two front wheels for the purposes of steering -- did not. In fact, the tie rod bent. Severely. What was straight was now bent to about 75 degrees and the front wheels were aimed in completely different directions.

This, of course, occurred about a half mile from the house down a road that can barely be traversed by a 4wd truck. Bump city. Kind of fun.

So, we cut the stump off and are faced with removing the tie rod. This requires a special tool to remove the bolts that hold it in place. Upon visiting the John Deere store, they happily "rent" us the necessary tools for $26, refunding the full $26 upon return of the tools!

Once we removed the tie rod, it was off to the JD store again. They had to order the part, but it took less than 12 hours to show up with no charges for shipping (regional supplier, I suppose). They also, for free, removed a bolt from the old piece that we couldn't loosen given our rather consumer oriented tool chain.

So, in the end, what would have cost several hundred dollars if we had brought in a professional cost us $76 and a bit of sweat. Every step of the way, the John Deere folks were offering suggestions and providing useful guidance.

In this day and age of sealed boxes, we found it quite enjoyable and, even, educational to be able to fix something ourselves.

I wish more companies would follow suit. At the other end of the spectrum, Apple is certainly on that path with the fully user serviceable iMac. So, if a tractor company and a computer company can enable their customer's to fix their own damned equipment, maybe there is some hope?

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