Modern farming is a capital-intensive industry. The large machines that family farms and corporate farming operations employ to seed, weed, tend, and harvest can represent sizeable portions of multiple years worth of revenue. In order for the farm to succeed, these tractors, combines, harvesters, and other large pieces of equipment must do enough work to create a return on their investment. And this is in an industry with historically thin margins due to variable seed costs and harvest prices, credit reliance, and the vagaries of weather, blight, and pests.
To succeed, farm equipment has to work hard every day of the year, for years on end. Machines don’t get to take sick days. Given the perishable nature of crops and harvests, lost productivity due to out of service equipment can have serious ramifications for a farm’s bottom line. If a harvest doesn’t come in on time, it may not come in at all.
So, farmers must conduct routine, effective preventative maintenance on their equipment to keep it up and running. When—not if—an equipment part does eventually fail, it must be replaced promptly and correctly to keep it from breaking down again. As many of the mechanical systems that make up farm equipment rely on threaded fasteners, a quality set of torque tools is essential for ensuring continued equipment operation.
Why Torque Control Matters for Farm Equipment Repair
Fasteners, large and small, are used by the dozens, hundreds, or thousands to hold together all manner of farm equipment. If a screw or bolt backs out or fails, it can render a piece of equipment inoperable until repair. If it fails during use, the breakdown can cause collateral damage as a result of its failure. Few, if any, major systems are held on by a single screw or bolt, but this doesn’t mean that fasteners in the system can fail without any consequences. When one part fails, it increases the stress and tension on every other part, increasing the likelihood of cascading failure.
To prevent fastener failure, use the right screw and tighten it properly. If you’re replacing a screw or bolt, use the same type that the manufacturer supplied. This ensures a snug fit since the fastener is rated for the shear and tension forces it will encounter in the field. It must be tightened to the right degree in order to prevent it from losing its grip and backing out while the machine is vibrating during operation. However, the screw, the bolt, or the equipment itself can also be harmed by tightening too far. This added stress makes the fastener and what it holds together more likely to fail during use.
To tighten it properly, you’ll need to find the torque value the manufacturer recommends. Consult the equipment repair manual to find this information or speak to the company. You’ll also need a tool that can limit the amount of torque you apply to make sure you get just the right amount.
Choosing Torque Tools for Farm Equipment Repair and Maintenance
While there are some screws and smaller bolts, farm equipment is primarily held together by large bolts with reasonably broad acceptable torque ranges. To tighten these fasteners properly, you’ll need an adjustable torque wrench capable of delivering high amounts of torque with accuracy.
For field repairs, adjustable click wrenches are a great option. They can deliver 750 lbf.ft of torque at the high end, allowing operators to securely fasten the bolts typically used in farm equipment. They limit torque by making a loud “click” noise when the right amount of torque is reached, telling the operator to stop. In the hands of a careful operator, click wrenches provide more than enough accuracy to repair farm equipment.
While other types of hand torque wrenches, like break-over and cam-over wrenches, can physically prevent their operators from over-torquing, they can’t supply as much torque as click wrenches can. An externally adjustable cam-over wrench ranges up to 90 lbf.in of torque, an order of magnitude less than a click wrench. These wrenches are also more expensive than click wrenches. However, adjustable screwdrivers with internal clutches are a good option to prevent over or under-torquing screws.
In the shop, farmers and repair professionals can turn to pulse tools for fast, effective fastening. These pneumatic tools deliver torque in a series of sharp taps against the head of the fastener. This allows them to deliver high amounts of torque without threatening an operator’s wrists like an impact driver does. A pistol-grip pulse tool can deliver about half as much torque as a large click wrench but in a quarter of the time or less. Powerful enough for most bolts and accurate enough to deliver torque within acceptable ranges for farm equipment, pulse tools are a great option for garage repairs. They can be used in the field as well, but just remember that they require an air compressor and hose and must be cleaned thoroughly after use.
There isn’t room for slack on the farm. If an important piece of equipment goes down, it costs money every second it sits idle on the field. If it can’t be repaired before the crops demand it, farmers may have to turn to rentals, cutting further and further into profits. To prevent farm equipment downtime due to fastening issues, it’s important to use tools which snug each fastener to just the right level. Using proper torque tools can help prevent problems with screws and bolts, keeping equipment up and running.