From Oilman2 who’s building out 30+ acres for aquaculture down the road a piece from us:

“There is a REASON that I bought and continue to buy older farm equipment. It isn’t just the purchase price George…

In addition to un-Godly maintenance costs, much of the newer equipment has been “shaved” using design engineering. As you know, I own a design engineering company. One of the things we do is remove excess material, based on strength analysis. Another is to use alternative materials that are cheaper in non-critical areas. Why?? Pure profit…

In tractors, this means going to aluminum wherever possible. Why?  Freight charges and easier manufacturing. Less force to press aluminum shapes, means smaller forging presses and lower shipping weight…

In tractors, this means the tie rods are engineered ‘to specification’, not over engineered to prevent breakage when they are put in an extreme bind (normal in farming). Older designs were over engineered to prevent complaints, as part failures were considered bad design engineering.

In tractors, smaller overall design footprint means more tractors per shipping container. It means a smaller plant and handling equipment. It means the tractor can be used in cities more effectively where space is often an issue.

With parts, proprietary parts produce downstream revenue.

Let me give you typical example from my operation:  Last weekend we were felling trees. The 4-wheeler went down (gear position switch, which locks out the starter for ‘moron safety’) and so we were going to put the battery charger on our little 1984 Kubota diesel, which hasn’t seen any mowing this winter. My son went to crank the genset and the pull cord broke.

Ok, no problem – remove cowling and replace pull cord….well, no.  You see, the genset uses both metric and standard nuts in random places. Fine – we are prepped for that. BUT….under the pretty plastic covers were some type of asymmetrical torx-like screw heads, not Torx. The carburetor had one mounting bolt 10mm and the other this weird not-torx bolt head.

The use of these items in design is to force the buyer back into the arms of ‘certified repair facilities’, where the labor rate is minimum $75/hr to check it out and then $75-125/hr shop rate for repairs. I know this because I have been forced to use these guys before.

Farmers get shut down, as we were, by this kind of stupid design and manufacturing idiocy. In the past, dealerships wanted happy customers because that meant referrals and repeat business. Today the “supply chain” mentality has made FORCING the customer into the maintenance department a necessity, the hell with what the cost is to him – we need more profits.

And I haven’t even started in on “safety features” for the shallow end of the gene pool – like the starter lockout used on most motorcycles and 4-wheelers and mowers, etc. 

How many millions were we forced to give up when for “safety”, we had to buy a mower with a “blade stopping mechanism”? Crazy, because if you do slip and fall, how likely are you to let go of the mower? It takes 1/10 of a second to maim your foot, so let’s stop the blade in one second…

How many millions were we forced to spend for “explosion proof” propane bottles? Why? Because idiocy is rampant – who leaves a pressurized valve ON during disconnect? I know who, and these guys shouldn’t be allowed to buy propane, much less use it. Instead, we all have to ‘upgrade’ for safety.

Business practices are making it more sensible and reliable to consider rebuilding older tractors, trucks and even classic cars – the sticker shock and maintenance burden (money in labor, parts and lost time) for new technology is excessive now. The response by many farmers is a little loving sweat equity in older, more standardized, reliable, reduced-tech and robust machines. The payoff is peace of mind and losing that imminent BOHICA feeling …

I think the wheel is slowly turning – we self-sufficient types HATE the new way of doing business with “supply chain” companies…



Virtues of Old Farm Equipment — 4 Comments

  1. I recently needed to replace the headlights on my 2007 Prius. In olden times, this would have been a 10 minute job. First, hit auto store, buy the “standard” headlight replacement (either 2 or 4 headlight system – depending on auto), remove a few screws, replace headlight, go on down the road.

    Now, it’s like this:

    This is a several hundred dollar job at the dealer.

    There are supposed shortcuts you can find, but with big hands, I could not do it.


  2. I love old tractors. There are a few idiosyncrasies, but these are well known. Like when rebuilding an IH letter model engine, use new bolts for the rod caps. Reusing those bolts leads to a rod through the side of the block. No need to find out the hard way, just buy the new bolts. I also love old Mercedes Diesel cars. With mechanical fuel injection, everything is user repairable except the injection pump itself, but Bosch repair shops are available to rebuild and recalibrate if needed (Seldom if you keep the fuel clean) Mechanical Injected diesels, whether car, tractor or truck are not subject to EMP damage, as an added benefit.

  3. Oh Yeah, pretty clear the govvies are out to protect stupidity in the gene pool.

    Started with seat belts in the 60’s, now look at us, if I wish to bring in a foreign made automobile it must be “FEDERALIZED” on my dime and on my time otherwise NO CAR FOR YOU!

    There are some pretty cool plywood cars out there that are handy for many things and ultra cheap, do I have one (in 1 word) NO!

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