Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Pony goes YouTubing

In the never-ending quest to bring readers of That Idiotic Tractor bold, new, cutting edge experiences, this post will take you for the first time into the fabulous world of PonyVideo.  I have been working on various components of the Pony’s clutch mechanism for the last few days.  Dr. Fullofit and I were trying to decide whether the Pony’s clutch throw-out bearing is still good, or might need to be…well…thrown out.  We decided there was nothing to lose by trying a little test.

First I soaked the entire bearing mechanism in solvent for a couple of days.  After removing it from the solvent, I thoroughly cleaned it, finishing with a good buffing with a power wire brush.  With the mechanism clean and dry, I set up the test.  Just click on the image below to watch the Pony’s first YouTube Video.

I know the test was very technical, but I think you can probably grasp that it spins around just fine, thus confirming that the ball bearings inside are “ok.”  Now, for my next trick…I’ll be attempting to get grease inside this “sealed” bearing.  Anyone with suggestions on that, please send an email or leave a comment.  Dr. F, don’t be bashful!

In this post the hits just keep on coming.  With the engine back in the garage, it was time for head torque-down redux.  I am incredibly happy to report that the machine shop’s new heli-coil in the block held fine and all 20 head bolts are now torqued-down to the spec 40 foot pounds.  Here’s a shot of the happy couple.

A lot of stuff is tightened-down under the head bolts, so with the torque-down the oil cleaner, oil filter and spark plug wire guide were all attached.  Now the real fun got going, as I began hangin more stuff on the engine just like a Christmas tree.  Next was the hydraulic pump.  After bolting it on, I sealed up the hydraulic fluid tank, and here’s a shot (courtesy of The Princess) of that process.

Next came the manifold.  One of the items that’s already in the Cost-O-Meter is the new manifold bought to replace the nasty one Gene and I took off the engine.  So, with that in the Pony’s parts warehouse it was easy to grab as the next ornament on the tree.  The next picture shows the new manifold, along with a nice new set of Champion spark plugs.

I know I’m kind of begging praise here, but isn’t that sharp lookin?

The last thing I did before taking a time-out to direct my first video was to attach the generator and fan belt to the engine.  After a trip to the local NAPA store for hardware, I was ready for the install.  Here’s a couple of shots of the end result.

This really looks great, but let me show you just how great.  I was going through some old shots of the Pony that were taken before we hauled him out to the woods.  Take a look at this oldie but goodie.

For those of you who’ve been frustrated with my lack of progress, I hope you’ve seen in this post some cause for hope that this project is getting somewhere.  I know it’s boosted my spirits.

The Princess just walked in the room and asked, “Aren’t you going to tell them how the trip to the Social Security Office went.  Before we even got to the office I had said, “Oh boy, this is going to be good blog material.”  I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.  We had an appointment, we were seen promptly, we got a very understanding young lady who accepted our word (along with our church marriage certificate) that we were married, and we walked out of there in a half hour total with The Princess all signed-up for Medicare.  That kind of understanding and efficiency just doesn’t make for interesting reading, but hey sometimes you just gotta accept the good with the bad.

Speaking of the good with the bad, even while the Pony and the Princess are locked in negotiations over the C-O-M ceiling, I’ve snuck a few more charges in there.  I think by the time they reach agreement (if ever), Gene and I will have finished the Pony and moved on to our next project.  Gene, I really like old Ford tractors, what do you think?

I just LOVE this project.  Thank you all for reading and now viewing too!

The Brou”ha ha” Over the C-O-M Ceiling

In the last post I alluded to the fact that I would be trying to work an easy fix for the stripped threads in the no.17 head bolt hole.  Gene helped me put together a 2 and 7/8 inch fully threaded bolt to replace the normal 2 and 1/4 incher that the engine takes.  With that longer bolt I was hoping that the new thread reached, would be able to sustain the 40 foot pounds of torque.  Well, typical for the Pony, no dice. 

So this meant the machine shop would have to install a helicoil in the hole.  The helicoil takes the place of the stripped threads and allows the same size bolt to be used.  So, Wednesday found Gene and I driving the engine over to  Durham in the back of his van.  Fortunately, the shop agreed to send the completed engine back to its Carrboro store, so at least the pick-up was convenient.  For loading and unloading the engine (incredibly heavy), I added a temporary little ramp to the engine stand.  The shot below shows the engine after we’ve slid it back up the ramp and then jerked it up onto the stand.

Alright, I admit this was staged after Gene and I yanked that damn engine up off the ramp.  We wouldn’t look so nonchalant if I had remembered to call The Princess in to take the picture while we were actually working.  But this gives you the idea.  Also note that before any of this moving took place I had attached two handles to each side of the engine stand for easier of lifting.  The guys at the machine shop thought these were pretty cool, and one compared lifting the engine with these to carrying a casket.  I don’t know if I like that comparison; I’m hoping that one day soon, what’s on that stand will be very much alive, not headed to its grave.

So now I’m back at the point I was about two weeks ago, just $26.50 poorer (the machine shop charge).  Big thanks to Gene for dragging me and the engine all over the place this week.  With some time to burn while the engine was idle, I picked up another part, the solenoid (correction, it’s the ignition coil; see comment), and refurbished it.  Here are the “before and afters.”

Ya know, we’re fast approaching the one-year mark since the Pony entered my life (and yours).  It could have been this approaching milestone, or just a brief attack of cussedness, but this week The Princess took on the Pony over the issue of the Cost-O-Meter Ceiling.  Huh, what ceiling?  Out of the blue, The Princess is claiming that because of some general statement made months ago about the Pony maybe costing altogether $1500, she claims that to exceed that ceiling requires her approval.  I guess this was bound to happen, as the Pony has always been pretty much a “tax and spend” kind of tractor, while the Princess in spite of noticeable lapses in her own behavior, is a fiscal conservative.  The two have been locked in what The Princess calls negotiations, but which the Pony views as spiteful intransigence.  The Pony keeps offering truly meaningful stuff:
*  Free rides when he’s operational. 
*  More time between oil changes.
*  A cut of the sale price when and if he’s ever sold.
*  Dollar for dollar “matching” of art supplies and Pony costs.  
And all he wants in return is to raise the C-O-M Ceiling to $2000.

Every time they get together, the Pony offers this stuff and more and the Princess just says, “No.”  She claims that she has signed some kind of pledge (the Pony thinks it’s a pact with the devil) that leaves her no room to negotiate.  After the last session, all I saw was The Princess stomping up the stairs from the garage, her face having acquired an odd orange tan, and her lower lip trembling as if she was about to cry.  I entered the garage and the Pony says, “She just walked away and says she’s done trying to negotiate with what amounts to cold hard steel.” 

In the meantime, guys like Gene and me are stuck in the middle worrying about what the Pony will give away next and whether The Princess will finally do something to avert crisis.  I asked the Pony what his bottom-line, drop-dead number is, and after all kinds of posturing allowed as he might except a number in the $1800 area, but that would have to be matched by $200 in reduced salon expenditures by The Princess.  I caught up with The Princess a bit later and her one word response, you probably guessed, was “no!”  All this drama just left me thankful that stuff like this only happens in ThatIdioticTractor Land and not out in the real world.

Try to stay cool everyone and thanks for reading.

Green Card…or Prove it Princess!

Thursday The Princess and I made what has become our monthly trip (60 mi round trip) to Siler City, NC.  I think there are more Tractor shops and stores in that town per capita than anyplace else in North Carolina.  I mention that, because I walked into a tractor retailer down there called Clapp Brothers (sounds like there should be a joke there), and when I walked-up to the counter the guy told me I must be in the wrong place.  I looked at him quizzically for a moment before the guy continued, “…at least if that t-shirt you’re wearin’ means anything.  Oh yeah, I forgot that I was wearing my Massey Harris Authorized Service t-shirt.  He continued, “You probably want Black’s Tractor.”
“Where’s that?”
“Not going to tell you.”
More comedians.

At Black’s I did get a new felt dust seal for the Pony’s distributor, but also showed him a spring that goes inside the distributor.  He said that it had been discontinued, whereupon I was dumb enough to say, “What am I gonna do.” 
“Dont break that one.” 
I’m tellin ya, that whole town thinks its funny.

On the way down there we saw another one of those home-made, hand painted signs in the front yard of an old farm-house.  Just four words:
STEAL HERE, MEET GOD.  Wow, how’s that for brevity.  I’m thinkin’ that guy could do one of my thousand-word posts in maybe 25 words.  But really, he is good; look at all you get from just four words.
1.  As I said, he’s concise, probably has a BA in English from a way better school than I went to.
2.  He’s got stuff that’s worth stealing (probably shouldn’t have tipped us off to that).
3.  He’s a believer and likely favors the old testament over the new.
4.  This one is a guess, but as his alarm he has big, mean, ugly loud-mouth dog that runs faster than the wind and can clamp his jaws around your ankle for about a week.
4.  He’s got a fire arm and is a crack shot (or crackpot, or both).
5.  He means business.
Of course, this could all be a bluff, but I don’t think I’d mess with the guy.

Do you folks know what irony is?  To me it’s always been that funny taste that well water has.  Well live and learn.  I was sitting at the table eating lunch and reading an electronic book on my iPad.  The Princess looked over and said, “There’s some real irony.”  I looked up with a question on my face.  “You know, you’re reading an e-book on a iPad and to prop it up so you can read it, you’ve got an actual book under it, and to top it off, it’s Shakespeare!”  I still looked a question, but she just said “nevermind.”  Like I said, it wasn’t a very good school.  Just to finish this part off, the book I was reading was excellent, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  It’s non-fiction and recounts the efforts of two “couch potatoes” to walk the Appalachian Trail.  It’s always interesting and often hilarious.

I’ve always refrained from saying anything about The Princess’s age, but I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of it when I say that last week we started looking into getting her signed-up for Medicare.  We started going through the on-line application on the Social Security web site, but after about three pages of input, we got a message that said something like, STOP NOW, YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE TO USE THIS APPLICATION.  CALL OUR TOLL FREE NUMBER FOR GUIDANCE.  What the heck!  So, we called, and the long and short of it is that unless The Princess can prove that she is married…TO ME…her medicare sugar daddy, she’s outa luck.  We also have to go in to the Social Security office for an interview (it’s next Monday), and we were told we’d need to bring along our marriage certificate.

Thus began a long and fruitless search for our official marriage certificate, that’s the one issued by the government, not the cutesy, flowery thing the church gave us.  Now I’m just a bit concerned that we’re facing a scene reminiscent of the one in the movie Green Card where we have to tell good enough a story,  that they’ll believe we’re married.  The Princess claims she’s not concerned.  Her “ace in the hole,” so to speak is to just say, “Look at him, do you think I’d still be with him, if we weren’t married?”  Boy, that hurts!

Just a little Pony activity, mostly thinking and shopping.  The thinking part involved me figuring out that there is a bunch of unused thread in the Pony’s engine block that could hold a head bolt, if only we had a longer bolt.  We believe we have a solution to that, but I’ll fill you in on that in the next post.  As for the shopping, in addition to the $1 felt dust seal for the distributor, I bought a few more Pony-related items today.  I talked to my Parts Detective, Maggie, up at Kuhn’s, and she’s sending me a new head gasket, an oil filter for my refurbished oil filter canister and new radiator cap.  Oh, there was also $20 worth paint from Tractor Supply.  So, that’ll all spin the Cost-O-Meter up another $78; I don’t know, but to me that’s pretty cheap entertainment.

Could y’all find your marriage certificates if you had to? 
Oh, and here’s a photo of last week’s “sign of the week.”

Have a great week-end everyone, and thanks for reading.

The $20 Toothpick

Observed in the Yogurt Pump, downtown Chapel Hill, a guy standing in line to buy frozen yogurt carefully working a $20 bill back and forth between his  front teeth.  This says so much. 
*Here’s a guy who believes in dental hygiene to the extent that he is willing to die from whatever bacteria are on that bill. 
*He’s not using a $1, or a $5, or a $10; he’s got so much money that only a $20 will do the job for him.  I’m thinking the recession has left Chapel Hill practically unscathed.
*U.S. currency has utilitarian value, perhaps even beyond what it can buy.  I saw an article in the paper today that fewer $1 dollar bills are being printed, because of the use of credit cards for practically everything.  But a dollar bill will always be good as a patch in a bicycle tire, a book mark, the means for playing liar’s poker, and apparently…a toothpick.

Boy, here’s a “before and after” series you just never want to see.

You’re probably thinking, idiot, he got the sequence wrong, but nooooo.  There is a specific pattern to torquing-down the head bolts, which is what I’m doing in the first picture.  You essentially move from the middle and work your way to the outside, and the service manual actually numbers each bolt, so that you do it right.  Well, in the first picture you’ll note that I have circled the head of one of the bolts; that’s no. 17 in the manual.  I was happily moving along with Gene’s torque wrench set at 40 foot pounds, The Princess snapping pictures as I proceeded from bolt to bolt.  At some point we had enough pictures, so she wasn’t there to see my crest fallen look as I finally got to that damn no. 17 bolt, put some real torque on it, and almost fell backward onto my butt as the bolt stripped the threads in the hole in the engine block.  Oh man…

So, the “after” photo shows me removing chunks of the head gasket from the fire deck.  In order to assure a good seal between the head and the block, Jim had suggested that I spray the gasket with a copper sealant that can withstand high temperatures.  Here’s a shot of me spraying the gasket just before torque-down.
 That stuff made a great seal, so great that I couldn’t get the head off the block without leaving hunks of gasket material stuck to it.  In the “after” picture, I’m using a single-edge razor blade to go over the whole surface of the fire deck.  Dr. F advises that I’m going to have to take the engine back to the machine shop and have them install a heli coil.  The shop will drill-out the head bolt hole to a slightly larger size and then insert the coil, which will serve as the new set of threads for the bolt.  So, with Gene off on vacation I’m in a holding pattern.  Gene, help!  Do you think you and I can lift this thing, and could we use your minivan to get it over to the shop?

Jeez, I went in for my annual physical on Tuesday.  I had some issues, but I always have issues.  My doctor gave me the medical once over (and the bend over!) and then sent me off for blood tests and said he’d let me know in about a week how everything looked.  Tuesday was also our anniversary, so we went out to dinner, returning home around 9:00 pm.  There was a voice mail message waiting, and it was the doc (not Dr. Fullofit), saying he’d already seen some of the results of my blood tests and he wanted to talk to me.  

Well, that did not sound good.  He never calls, and why was he calling in the evening, the same day of the tests.  The Princess and I right away and continuously through a fretful Tuesday night and  all day Wednesday worried ourselves sick.  I didn’t leave the house for most of the day and willing the phone to ring with some kind of news.  That went on until around 6:00 pm when he finally called.  Turns out he had noted that the tests showed a very high level of bilirubin, something which I’ve known about for years, but that he did not.  A high bilirubin level is generally and indicator of liver problems, but in a few people (like me) it’s just the normal state of things.  Whew, another bullet dodged!   And bring on the martini’s!  The Princess and I have been walking around for the last two days as if I’ve been given a new lease on life.  Of course, this will wear off, and quickly, if that damn Pony keeps grinding me down with all his problems.

A sign popped-up sometime in the last week in front of an old, broken-down house out in the boondocks not to far from here; I rode by it on my bike.  Crudely hand-painted in black on a white background, “You have to no me, before you can judge me.”  And I thought, wow, there’s a real unintended mixed message!  But the thought he or she was going for (I think) was a valid one, and one we should all take to heart.  And something I know for sure, is that The Princess No’s me better than anyone.
Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.