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Mower Trouble

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Palm Growing coffee in Hawaii sounds like it is a life filled with beautiful tropical greenery, sunny skies and ocean breezes.  Those things are all here but so are all the other aspects of daily life.  There are still bills to pay, work to do and broken things that need fixing.  Recently I've been spending far too much time, money and effort fixing our mower.

The first problem was a broken hydraulic line.  I was mowing along when I smelled smoke.  It didn't smell like diesel fumes, burning oil, overheating engine nor melting fan belt (all problems I've had before).  This smoke was different and it appeared to be coming from the brand new mower deck.  When I looked closer I noticed what looked like hydraulic fluid leaking all over the mower deck.  The mower deck itself has no hydraulics so the leak had to be coming from somewhere else.

I immediately headed for the barn but I didn't make it, the mower gave out in the middle of the field.  All the hydraulic fluid had drained out which means there was no steering, no power, no nothing.  No steering meant I couldn't tow the mower back to the barn because it wouldn't roll in a straight line.  Instead, I had to tie the front end of the mower to the bucket of the tractor.  Lifting the mower slightly, I could then back the tractor all the way to the barn, half carrying and half dragging the mower with me.

This was my first experience fixing hydraulics.  Finding the leak was easy enough, removing the aluminum hydraulic line was more difficult because I had to remove a lot of other parts, including the drive shaft, in order to get at the broken line.  The next step was spending two hours on the phone (long distance to Honolulu) trying to order a new part.  I can't go long without the mower so I agreed to pay for overnight shipping which really means two or three days here in Hawaii.

A week later, when the hydraulic line still hadn't arrived, I called back to check on the status of my order.  "What order?" was their response.  Apparently, after spending two hours on the phone getting the exact right part number, the guy had never bothered to actually order it.

I couldn't wait another week so I decided to find someone that could weld the old line to fix the leak.  I found an engine mechanic in town.  Not many tourists see this side of Hawaii.  In the industrial section of town the tropical greenery has long since been paved over, the sunny skies reflect an oppressive heat off the steel buildings while shop fans struggle to bring in some of that ocean breeze.

The shop is packed with tools and machinery.  Rebuilt engine heads line the floor.  An American flag and posters of questionable taste adorn the walls.  Patching my hydraulic line took 30 seconds of welding and 20 minutes of interruptions from the constantly ringing telephone.

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Mower I was still happy with my service and $20 later I had a freshly patched hydraulic line that would have cost $50 new.  Several hours later I had a mower that was once again ready to tackle 13 acres worth of knee-high weeds.  Or so I thought.

I mowed one swipe across the front yard and was turning around for the second pass when the left wheel turned left and the right wheel turned right.  A weld had broken loose and once again the mower was without steering.

During all this I had also discovered that the brand new battery I bought a couple months ago had shifted a quarter inch and now had a hole worn in it's side.  It was a tiny hole but still large enough to leak battery acid all over the place.  After removing the old battery and cleaning everything up I carved a few blocks of wood to just the right size to help hold the new battery in place.

Hydraulic line installed, battery replaced and steering rod freshly welded back together, I was once again ready for some mowing.  This time I managed to make it through the entire farm.  Almost.

There's still a hydraulic leak.  It's a smaller leak.  It's not coming from any of the lines I worked on but from somewhere up inside the rear differential.  I probably hadn't noticed it before because I hadn't been checking for leaks.  I'm afraid I'll have to take everything apart again to fix it.  That will have to wait though.  For now I'll just add more hydraulic fluid every time I use the mower.

The latest problem is the trailer.  A rogue coffee branch hit the trailer and snapped off a sprayer line.  It's an easy fix, all it requires is yet another trip to town and another hour or so of my time.  It will have to get done before too long because the weeds continue to grow whether my equipment is working or not.

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