breatherValve2 We don’t put that many hours on our tractor, but it seems like it’s in need of continual repair, since it takes a lot of abuse. This thing broke off recently, it’s called a breather valve. It’s part of the combined transmission and hydraulic fluid system, which contains over eight gallons of oil. (I recently had to change that oil, and it was a pain. Despite my best efforts to be tidy, I spilled oil all over.) This little valve allows the hydraulic system to “breathe” without taking in airborne particles.

It’s unfortunately seated right near the toplink connection on the back of the tractor. We have certain pieces of PTO-driven equipment that weigh a lot and are unwieldy (like the backhoe and post hold digger), and that can cause the person attaching the equipment to sort of horse the thing around in order to get the toplink connected. And, it’s possible to accidently let go of the said heavy equipment and have it fall on something, like the breather valve, and shear it right off. Which is what happened to this one.

It’s a little part, as big as the end of my pinky. A new one was seventeen bucks. Now that Brim Tractor has closed their Everett store, I have to choose between driving to Mt. Vernon to get parts, or paying for shipping & handling to have them mailed to me. This was little enough that mail seemed the better option. The nice thing about having a credit account with them is that when I call for a part, I just have to give them my name, everything else is on file. So it’s quick and easy to order via phone, like the olden days when businesses knew who you were. No reading off my lengthy street address or credit card number, or spelling “Snohomish” aloud.

breatherValve I worked for a while to dig the rest of the threads of the old one out of the hole. The threaded part already had a hollow interior, which was helpful; normally when extracting a sheared-off bolt, it’s necessary to drill a hole down the middle to facilitate getting it out. I tried using a tight-fitting drill bit and rapidly reversing it in the hole, hoping it would bind with the part and back it out. That didn’t work. I tried hammering in the square-shaft end of a rat-tailed file I found in the tool box, and turning it with a wrench. Didn’t work either. I tried ruining a star bit too, also failed.

So I had to buy the official four dollar tool for this task: an extractor. It’s got a special square shaft that narrows to a point, and each edge has a sawtooth on it that grabs when turned counter-clockwise. You hammer it in, then use a wrench to turn it, it grabs the inside of the bolt and backs it out. It worked perfectly. So, that was probably a thirty dollar little accident and an hour’s worth of tinkering.

The fifty hour maintenance gigs seem to come rapidly this time of year. Kirk is doing so much mowing and dirt moving that I can hardly find windows of time to do the oil changing and greasing. (I’m not sure how this became my job, either, but it’s probably related to the reason I do all the dishes, too?) One nice thing I’ve discovered is that Napa, the cooler of the two auto supply chains we have around here, can cross-reference most tractor part numbers in their database. So for basic things like oil, fuel and air filters, I can pick them up locally in town, and they usually have them in stock, versus going to the dealer. Curiously, it’s not any cheaper than official New Holland parts from the dealer, and sometimes slightly more expensive. But the convenience is worth it.