Ryan M. Taylor: Cowboy Logic 9-16-13

Ryan m. Taylor
Towner, N.D.

It struck me the other day, when a hose on my rake broke and I lost 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid in the blink of an eye, that maybe less is more.

The rake probably had some hoses that weren’t good enough, but maybe the tractor had a hydraulic pump that was too good. I remember considering the hydraulic pump specs and reputation when I was shopping for the tractor. It was going to be a loader tractor and I wanted plenty of oil flow to lift those loader arms and handle the hay bales.

I remember looking up the specs on the tractor’s hydraulics when I was pondering the purchase. The whole tractor flowed at 37 gallons per minute, with implement hydraulic flow going at 26.5 gallons per minute and the power steering at 10.5 gallons in a minute. Boy, that was good … I thought.

Now, when the tractor went from winter loader to summer raker, I used those high volume hydraulics to raise the wheels on the rake, the hose broke and at 26.5 gallons per minute, 100 liters every metric minute, it took just 22.2 seconds to lose 10 gallons of rather valuable hydraulic fluid.

Incidentally, 22.2 seconds is about the amount of time it takes to break out of your hay raking daze, look up from the Twitter feed on your cell phone, glance back and realize you’d just broke a hose and lost 10 gallons of fluid.

Another interesting fact, it cost $45.36 to get a new hose, and, if you’re buying the good fluid and picking it up in 5 gallon buckets, $153.20 for the oil. And, like everything else that happens with machinery, we grimace a little, wince as we sign the invoice and conclude, “that’s the cost of doing business, I guess.”

Cost savings

Once things break, you have to fix them, at least if you’re breaking really critical, front line kind of things. You might be able to ignore a slow leak in a tire, but hydraulics are kind of an important feature. Maybe I should have been raking retro.

I had my old John Deere 4020 on the dump rake, and that does 13 gallons a minute through the hydraulic pump I read on a spec sheet. If I’d had that tractor on the rotten hosed wheel rake, it would have taken me twice as long to lose 10 gallons of fluid. If I’d had the Model A or Model B John Deere on the rake, I might have had even more time and saved even more oil. Less is more — less of a pump, more time to stop the gusher.

Or, if I’d gone way retro and decided to rake with a horse rake, even if I pulled it with a tractor, there would be zero chance of losing any hydraulic fluid because the rake dumps with the pull of a rope on a lever, a mechanical trip on the wheel and not a single hydraulic hose or cylinder.

I guess another thought would be to inspect those places where a $45 hose might save the next $150 worth of hydraulic fluid. Seems frivolous to replace a hose that isn’t even broke yet. And everyone says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I think I’ll just park the rake for a while and see how good the hoses are on the baler. ❖