All my driving life, until I was the age I was last month, I had somebody else change my oil. When I bought my tractor, the dealer asked if I would do my own maintenance. With only slight hesitation, which might have been foreshadowing, I said no. He said the first service, at 50 hours (tractors have clocks, not odometers), would be “a big one”. I knew he meant that figuratively, as in big collection of digits after the dollar sign. He wanted to spare me the sticker shock. It would be $75 just to have the tractor transported to the shop and back.
I reasoned it would be money well spent. Leave the tractor maintenance to the experts, who would do it efficiently and painlessly. I would spend my time rendering people unconscious, waking them up again, doing farm things within the realm of my capabilities and occasionally blogging.
And then I got this crazy-assed idea, no doubt catalyzed by a dizzying array of expenditures related to starting a farm: What if I just did the 50-hour maintenance myself? At first I tried to talk myself out of it based on lack of qualifications and time. Then Kelly tried to talk me out of it. Clyde, my dog, didn’t say anything, but I know he thought I could do it.
Just to see what I was up against, I turned to the maintenance section of the manual and made a checklist of every required step of the 50-hour service. I didn’t know how to do any of it, but I am learning to like the challenge of traveling the winding highways through the state of ignorance. Besides, I reasoned, millions of people--though very few who I know--do this sort of thing, so one more is not likely to make the earth wobble out of orbit. If I could pull it off, I would have the satisfaction, or at least illusion, of self-sufficiency and I would save a few bucks, at least if not applying the typical hourly rate of an anesthesiologist.
I studied the pertinent sections of the manual, which made it clear that Kubota specializes in building tractors, not writing and drawing about them. For awhile I got a feeling that the only people who do their own tractor maintenance are people who already know how to do their own tractor maintenance. For every I can do that there was at least one What the . . . heck?
For example, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid and transmission oil are all the same thing. And there are two transmission oil filters, one on each side. Might be worthy of mention so that both get changed, right? Same for engine oil drain plug. There are two. It doesn’t say that, but now that I know it, I can see the other one in dashed outline on the diagram.
World Wide Web to the rescue. Tractor Mike showed me what a zerk looked like and how to load a grease gun. Grease guns are not complicated once you figure them out. Figuring them out would be very complicated without the web. The real on-line gem was a Youtube video posted by a guy who has an earlier version of the tractor I have. He demonstrated the oil and filter changes. Just about everything was the same on my tractor, except he only had one transmission oil filter, or at least only one that he knew about.
I can’t get over how many people post how-to videos. Perhaps they realize great financial gain from doing so, but I think a many people just like to share information. Either way, I feel like I should hug them.
The actual greasy-hands-on work did not take long, and the lack of complexity was well out of proportion to the hours of sometimes-frustrating research I invested. The good news is that I can skip the research next time. Added bonus: if you ask me to explain what 5W-40 means, I have a convincing answer.
Coming soon: The truck is due for an oil change. The tractor now has 74 hours on it. Before fall is over the 100-hour service will be due. I suppose I probably won’t do those myself. Maybe.
Is it called the 50-hour service because it takes that long to do it? --brother Bruce
I can fix anything with just two books: A phone book and a checkbook. --reader Glen, quoted by his daughter, Lauren.