I’ve been accused of stringing cliffhangers together
because I’m an asshole by accident. So I thought I’d throw in a short post to tell you what caused Dipstick’s uh…downfall and maybe wrap up a few loose ends. Those of you with mechanical aptitude already guessed it long ago. Dipstick’s problem was…stupidity!
Oh wasn’t that specific enough? Well, the other problem is that he’d inadvertently screwed up while torquing the nut holding the battery’s solenoid wire. This is the wire that goes from the battery (positive or negative depending on your tractor’s religion) to the starter switch solenoid. (I may be using the wrong nomenclature but you get the idea.)
He twisted the cable too far and bent it until it touched the wiring harness on the other side and shorted across the solenoid. This powered the starter on a 100% cycle. The starter, since it was going nowhere, became an expensive source of smoke. It is possible that some smoke came out of my ears too.
I figured out all of this about ten minutes after Dipstick hightailed it down my driveway
with buckshot in his ass as the chickadees chirped peacefully. Then I rolled the tractor back in the garage and drove away.
The starter was (as expected) junked. Rather than fret over the Indian made “new” starter I chose to rebuild the original “made by Ford and strong like a rock” starter. I was going to do it myself but instead I took it to a guy who rebuilds starters. By chance (well not entirely by chance…it’s a sparsely populated place where I live) he knew Dipstick. He had already heard Dipstick’s rendition of the story and chuckled while asking my version.
All of us have a Dipstick somewhere in our life (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re someone’s Dipstick). The starter mechanic thought my story made more sense than the “it just smoked for no reason” he’d already heard. He sort of shook his head as if he’d heard of Dipstick doing various shenanigans that made my starter seem mild. I didn’t want to know. He said the starter would be done in a week.
As for the battery, it was unharmed. Cool.
A week later the starter was fixed as good as new. I like it more than the tin-pot Indian one I’d paid so much to buy. The price was fair too. Driving it (the starter) home I came to an epiphany. That rebuilt starter had been done correctly, competently, in a timely manner, and with a smile. It was the very first time since I tore the tractor down two years ago that I’d dealt with someone who’d worked on a tractor part who hadn’t either screwed up the tractor or hosed me over.
It is possible that I had this coming. It is possible that we all live many lives. It is possible that in my last life I was really really bad. Possibly a cackling maniac who carjacked nuns, stole candy from babies, and invested stranger’s money in Enron stock. This could be the reason why every machinist, mechanic, or Dipstick who’d gone near the tractor had done worse than wrong but practically sabotaged it.
In theory this shouldn’t have been such a big deal. I did my homework before I started. An N-series Ford is supposedly a pretty simple engine and you can buy all the parts you need. I had earnestly tried my best. I may be inexperienced but I’d been methodical and careful and followed the manual. Surely I’m not a complete imbecile. I’d been completely mystified by a crankshaft that had been machined incorrectly but everything I’d removed and re-installed was in the right place with the right torque and the right manner.
I was just too naive and trusted that the machinist would have done it right. A beginner has to start somewhere. But for once someone had done right. The starter was actually fixed. With that one thing done right…maybe my luck would change.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that after a machinist turns your drive train into a Rubik’s cube and an idiot burns the only burnable components…maybe the only way to go is up.
On the other hand I was thoroughly done with tractor tinkering. I’d meant to cross “rebuild an engine” from my bucket list but this just wasn’t the time. I needed to get this damn machine back on it’s feet. Little did I know I’d make great progress a few weeks later.
(For those of you accusing me of leaving a cliffhanger I’ll give you a hint…it was running well before Christmas. I promise.)
P.S. I should clarify, the tractor is running. It is positive ground 6 volt like I wanted and the way it was made. But it is not perfect. It’s running and working but it is nothing like totally restored. It might be fine and run for years or maybe it’s not fine and I’ll be going through it all over again in a season. I simply don’t have the confidence to know that. (Smoking starters and mis-machined crankshafts are excellent at building humility.) I suspect plowing season this spring (with my new plow!) will be the time I find out.