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Mechanics Corner: Record keeping is worth thousands

Jim Schlund Published on 03 February 2010
  • Hydraulic pump = $600 to $2,400
  • Control valves = $400 to $600
  • Cylinders = $200 to $500
  • Clean the system with labor and repairs = $1,500-$4,000
  • Transmission rear axle and other related parts; overhaul parts and labor = $3,000 to $15,000

This is a possible list of repairs you could incur if you had a hydraulic system failure caused by low oil or plugged hydraulic filters. Without keeping record of oil changes, filter changes, repairs and other seemingly small tasks, small problems combine to make a big headache or a series of repairs that will not only cost a lot of money but also render the machine useless until it’s fixed.

Another system that is overlooked is the engine cooling system. It is one of the most overlooked systems on farm equipment. Why? Because if it is full and the engine doesn’t overheat, it must be OK, right? Wrong! Cooling systems must be drained and cleaned as outlined in your operator’s manual or checked with a coolant pH indicator strip.

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What can happen to your engine if the coolant system is not maintained?

Very costly repairs may be required to repair your engine. Bad coolant can cause damage to piston liners, water pump and other cooling system parts inside the engine.

Coolant can enter the oil from gaskets, the water pump, oil coolers and piston liners and cause the engine to fail. The cost of such repairs can be very expensive.

Engine overhaul or replacement; parts and labor = $5,000-$20,000.

Knowing what can cause costly repairs will help you save money with maintenance.

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Proper training and knowledge of equipment will help in the long haul when you understand how to head off problems on your equipment.

What you don’t know can hurt you!

So what’s a good system? The system you will use! There are many different ways to keep records and track maintenance. Some mechanics will scratch the date and hours on the filters when they are changed. This works if you check those filters often. If you don’t, you may forget until it’s long overdue. Stickers can be used in the window of the cab to remind you when to change fluids. Many mechanics and businesses keep a book of records. I keep a little notebook with all my equipment. I write down the date and hours for the equipment when I do any maintenance or repair. A book of records with the tractor is also one way to remind yourself to fix things that might need some attention at some point but that you can’t get to right then. You don’t want to put a machine away broken. So if I find a leak somewhere, I will make a note to check it out. I can give myself reminders that I am getting close to the time when I need to service the machine. These notes will help you remember to service the tractor or fix things sooner, instead of forgetting about it until the machine breaks down and think, “Did I look at that last fall, when I saw the leak?”

Records are important because what you see may not always tell you what you need to know. Hydraulic oil and antifreeze don’t look any different new or old, not like engine oil that gets black and dirty. Antifreeze in particular can cause some big problems, if not maintained properly.

Your antifreeze will turn acidic when it has lost its conditioners. With the materials it touches – copper, lead and steel – you have a battery in your antifreeze, and it will eat away at your parts. You can replace the conditioners in your antifreeze and use little indicator tabs to show you the pH levels. Either that or change the antifreeze at the specified intervals in your user manual.

Without records you won’t know if your antifreeze is old or new, and consequently if it’s eating away at your equipment or keeping it working properly. PD

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