More Memories of a Field Service Engineer 4

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Exclusive Article
More Memories of a Field Service Engineer
by Brian Dye

Introduction: The author worked for one of the largest Ford tractor dealerships in England as a trouble-shooter on tractor engines, hydraulics and combine harvesters from 1963 to 1972. In 1972 he became a dealer manager and finally left the dealer net in 1975 to run his own electronic design and manufacturing company. [Editor]

My first workplace sold Nuffield tractors. One man serviced them and every chance I got, I worked with him. With Jack you actually got a chance to use the spanners not just pass them.

This was a trend I hope I kept to when I had my own apprentices in later years. It is certainly something I practice when I teach electrics and electronics in our local Agricultural College today.

Some times my pupils look at me with horror when I suggest that they look carefully at the machine in the classroom (usually a Stohl beet harvester with electrical controls).

My next ploy is to get them to note where all the wires go. Like most young men, they think they can remember all that is needed, they have no need for notes. Then, in front of them, I remove my cutters from my pocket and proceed to walk around the machine cutting off every wire from switches and valves. The look of horror turns to panic when they realize that I expect them to rewire the machine from their notes.

Its called teaching problem solving. Its not new.

Jack used it all the time and when you were slow at it, he used his Guardsman voice and Guardsman language to ensure that you did not forget. Jack had been in the Guards Regiment during the 1939 - 45 war and had driven a Daimler armored car with four wheel drive and four wheel steer. At 60 MPH on a wet autobahn he had lost it and got badly injured. We boys always said it was the reason for his temper. Many times my ankles have been rapped with a three pound hammer thrown across the workshop for singing out of tune or whistling.

We used to clean parts of engines and gear boxes in a huge tank of paraffin.

Jack was a heavy pipe smoker and one day when leaning over the tank, the pipe slipped from his mouth and went straight in to the tank. Jack pondered for a minute on what to do, then he rolled up his sleeve and groped around in the slug at the bottom of the tank for his pipe. When he found it, he rinsed it under the tap, attached it to the airline, blew through it to clean it, refilled it, re-lit it and carried on smoking. For a short time the smoke from the pipe was the same color and smelt the same as a paraffin tractor that has been turned onto paraffin before being warmed up.

Nuffield tractors had a problem that meant the rear axle had to be stripped down and a modification made. The large final reduction gear was held in place by a "C" nut and a lock tab. The lock tab used to break, the nut would come undone and the half shaft would go one way, ruining the oil seal on the end of the shaft and the gear the other, chewing its way through the bull pinion bearing housing.

When this happened, the axle trumpet housing had to be removed and modifications made. These housings are about 4_ long, made of cast steel and with the half shaft installed, weigh nearly two hundredweight (around 220lbs).

Our company had a special crane for removing and refitting these units. It was called Jack and Brian. When they were to be removed, it was a case of link hands underneath, take the weight, slide the axle housing outwards bringing the bull pinion shaft with it and put the unit in the van or on the bench depending where you were. The half shaft was then removed, new seal and bearings fitted, the gear replaced with a modified nut (one that would not come loose), and the whole lot lifted back into position.

Sometimes I wonder why I developed a bad back in later life.

Working with Jack taught observation. We had to take a lift off a Fordson Super Major that had failed. The Jack and Brian crane went into action. The bolts removed and the lift raised and put on the bench. Then, whilst Jack did the technical bit, I had to remove the hydraulic pump. We did not drain the oil, we took the bolts out of the pressure pipe and exhaust filter under the oil.

This was the first time I had ever worked this deep inside a Super. After just lifting the pressure pipe up and then folding it around the diff unit, I removed the pump bolts and the pump itself. Jack then allowed me to dismantle the pump and I was treated to an explanation of how it worked and how it differed from the one in the Nuffield. Jack also took time to explain what he had been doing to the lift top cover. New "O" rings were installed all round, the piston seals were replaced and the lift and pump reassembled. Then came the re- fitting.

All was going well until Jack asked what I had done with the pressure pipe collets.

" I have not seen them" I replied.

I was then informed that my parents had not been married, I was of low intelligence and that I was as blind as a bat. When the tirade had finished, I respectfully inquired:

" What did they look like"?

" Like a #$%&@! broken spring washer" was the reply.


"Why what have you done with them"

"I threw them away. I thought that it WAS a broken spring washer".

We were on a farm, in an old shed, miles from anywhere.

I remember the floor of that shed intimately. I had to look under every old sack, old piece of rusting machine or blade of straw over quite a wide area before I found the two collets. This was how I learnt that observation plays a very important part in repairing machines.

Observation was also taught the hard way by the instructors at the Ford Training School here in England, Boreham House in Essex. This was a large country mansion on the outskirts of Chelmsford where mechanics, salesmen, storemen and dealer principals went to get their "blue injections". It was like heaven. With a huge ornamental lake in the front. Just right for parking tractors. But more of that later.

The meals were all cooked and served by gorgeous Swedish or Finnish (John-Paul) au pair girls. We certainly did not see young ladies like these in the back woods of Norfolk. They were over here to learn English but most of the lads on the courses were speechless when confronted with such beauty.

On the gearbox course, the school room was lined with gearboxes from the whole current range of Ford Tractors. From 2000 to 7000. The average course was for six to seven people so you each got a box. You had to dismantle your box and lay the gears out on the floor in front of your box, in mesh as they were in the box. You then had to count the teeth on each gear. Then (Miraculously) it was coffee time, or dinner time served by Helga, (after all the years my hand still shakes as I type). After break you would go back into the class room to find that some kind person had collected all the gears from your neat layouts and placed them in a large heap in the middle of the floor. You now had to find your gears for your box from your notes, and rebuild it.

Oh. The tractor in the lake! After a day like I have just described, two bright sparks, in dead of night, stood an exhaust pipe in a lily bed and floated a cab roof behind it. There were a lot of worried Ford staff at breakfast that morning.

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