Without a functioning tractor the lawn lost all respect for authority. In a rush I picked up some tools and set out to find what I’d screwed up. Man it sucks to undo “repairs” that you just finished. All those nice new seals I’d lovingly put in place. Ripped apart! Mangled gaskets wound up laying on the floor without a single run cycle. I ordered another gasket kit. Gotta’ break a few eggs to make an omelet. Plus an electrical harness came into the picture. By now I’m “all in”.
A new starter came in the mail (the old one has been dead forever). I reluctantly ordered a steering link that I’d inadvertently mangled (twice).
I played Rock and Roll really loud, pounded a beer, swore, dropped a wrench on my foot, took a deep breath, peered into the crankcase and…
Nothing. Everything looked right. I measured tolerances with plastigauge. (As if I hadn’t before.) I checked torque specs. (Again.) I loosened stuff, tightened stuff, hit things with a mallet, drank more beer…
I could not figure out what I’d done wrong. I was as stuck as the tractor.
So I turned to the wisdom of Sherlock Holmes:
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes
Everything I had done was done correctly. (Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are!)
It must be something I hadn’t done. What was the one thing that I hadn’t done?
The machining! Perhaps the crankshaft was imperfect? How would I know? I couldn’t tell. I could tinker around with a micrometer but what was the expected measure and how does one check that the axis is correct? I needed a wizard’s help.
I hoisted the whole block (not stripped of it’s parts but bristling with components…what a hassle) and strapped it in my truck. Then set out to find a machinist. If a good mechanic is a boon to society, a machinist is the frightening dark wizard that goes beyond mere mechanics and manipulates metal at it’s most elemental level. The machinist works his magic on the very materials that make everything everywhere possible. The day the last machinist dies is the day we’re all consigned to living in mud huts and throwing rocks at each other.
I was received like something he’d stepped in. I explained precisely what was wrong “it don’t work” and what I’d like him to do “find out why” and how important it was “please…I beg of you.”
A week later the oracle of machinery summoned me to his castle. “Your crankshaft was machined wrong.” He eyed me suspiciously. Had I been dabbling in his arts?
“No shit!” I was relieved. “You’re sure I didn’t hose something up?”
“Well maybe you did…but the crankshaft isn’t right. How did you machine it?”
“I didn’t.” I stammered. “I paid a guy. At a machine shop. About 300 miles away. Apparently he hosed me?”
“Yes,” he smiled, pleased that I hadn’t done the terrible deed on my own, “you have been hosed.”
“Could you please machine it correctly?” I said, trying to act cool while thinking ‘Oh please please please. I’ll do anything. I need that crankshaft. Help me Obi Wan you’re my only hope!’ I do not lose my dignity before scientists, surgeons, lawyers, famous authors, rock stars, or generals…but a machinist. There’s a man with power!
He seemed pleased. He agreed to get around to it sometime. I left an offering of money and slipped out the door.
A week later the crankshaft was done. Excellent. I paid more money. I’d have given him a kidney.
And that’s where the story ends… Interruptions took over again. There was a medical emergency. Some zombies needed killing. I have the tragedy of a day job. The IRS did a rectal probe. Some work travel was necessary. The Huns were massing on the border and I had to ride out and kick some ass. Then the weather seemed to favor cutting firewood over garage work. (Long grass sucks but frozen pipes are worse. Don’t taunt winter!)
Nothing yet has happened with the tractor. The crankshaft and bearings are stacked neatly next to the gutted tractor. The engine rests bolted in a stand.
The auxiliary tractor is covered with cobwebs, has a chicken roosting under it, and is leaking everything everywhere.
And the grass…it’s evolving into a dangerous vegetative phase. It may start attacking the cats, but we could use a few less cats.
I’ll try to find time to work on the tractor again in a few weeks. If it speaks again I’ll report it. Wish me luck.
Update: I would like to point out that I took 4,329 photos of the disassembly; none of which identified the problem stemming from a mis-machined crankshaft. As someone who knows once said: “the pictures you take as you disassemble in order to avoid problems will not be the pictures you need for the problems you have on reassembly.”