Monday, August 16, 2021

Oh Man! Here We Go Again - - -


The first part of this was originally written April 19

When I get the tool-case and a bucket full of miscellaneous crap out, it's never a good sign.

Four years ago I had to rebuild this hydraulic cylinder on the front-end loader hanging off the tractor.

With my level of mechanical ineptitude it took three consecutive posts to chronicle my misadventures, starting with this one where I went back and forth, and back and forth - and back and forth - between the main barn where all my tools are kept and the tractor barn where the - well - tractor - is kept.

I eventually got the 20 minute job finished up in about three days, but that was just one of four cylinders on the front-end loader.

 Fast forward four years and yep, (big sigh) another one is leaking now.

No - not really leaking so much as gushing like an incontinent old man after a night of playing (badly) beer-pong.

Every time I put pressure into the cylinder a solid stream of fluid the thickness of a pencil-lead gushed forth. Of course I discovered this as we were using the loader to lift a 100 pound window-mount heat-pump onto a cart up on the deck of The Wife's barn so we could roll it inside and replace the old one who's bearings had failed to the point where the fan-motor wouldn't spin at all but rather just groan that dreaded locked-motor groan. (Which was arguably better than the God-awful rattling and clattering when it did spin!)

So it was with great trepidation, and a handy container of additional hydraulic fluid on the foot-board beside me, that I lifted that brand-new, and rather expensive, heat-pump unit seven feet into the air with the leaking loader to reach over the railing of her deck.

We all survived and the wounded tractor festered there beside the deck as we installed the new heat-pump.

I wasn't near as nervous about lifting the old unit off the deck (I just told The Wife to stand well clear and if it fell it fell) and putting it on the trailer so we could drop it off at the county recycling center, (For a $25 fee) but it's a good thing we switched to using environmentally friendly hydraulic fluid some 10 years ago (Even at the best of times this tractor is a bit weepy) because I left trails of the stuff all over the driveway and back down to the tractor barn - where the tractor sat, red-tagged and forlorn, until my new rebuild-kit arrived in the mail.

Which it has, so now procrastination time is over and I could think of no excuse  not to head down to the tractor barn and fix this thing - And I did a lot of thinking! - Not a project I was looking forward to!

This time, harking back to what I learned the first time I did this, (Hey, I'm inept, but not an idiot!) getting the piston shaft out of the cylinder was - oh - about five times faster. But I did still have to use a pipe-wrench instead of a proper wrench to get the gland out of the cylinder because I just don't have a wrench that big.

I also left the cylinder body attached to the loader this time because I was going to have to do that anyway to get the gland loose. At first I was just going to leave the hydraulic lines hooked up to the cylinder,

but even before that thought finished flitting through my mind I realized that if I did that I'd have to pull the piston out against the full resistance of the hydraulic system. Yeah - that wasn't going to happen! So I broke the fittings loose so I could pull against air and not fluid.

With the important bits in hand I grabbed my bucket and tool-kit and headed back up to the main barn where I could perform the real work at my somewhat clean bench.

I was careful to compare the orientation of the old bits and seals and stuff with the new,

 then with a #11 blade, cut the old bits out, (The first time I did this I used a brand new blade, but this time I just used whatever blade was in the handle.)

Though when it came to the gland-nut there wasn't a lot of cutting involved, more like picking out little bits and pieces of the disintegrated rod-wiper and U-cup. No wonder it was leaking so bad!

The new bits are way too hard to bend and stretch and coerce into place at room temp.

I watched several youtubes where experienced mechanics recommend simmering the new bits in 180 degree hydraulic oil to make them pliable.

Um - Yeah - No thanks! I was involved in a hot-oil incident, several hundred gallons worth, (there were flames! Lots of flames! and I was five decks down inside the engine-room.) when I was building Navy ships. I'll stick to plain old hot water thank you very much!

Maybe it was because of my extensive experience - you know - having done this once before - but the new bits-n-bobs went into place a whole lot easier than I remember from last time and it wasn't long before I was off to the tractor barn to put everything all back together again - and top up the severely depleted oil reservoir.

And yes, the tractor is back in service again - - - so now I need to go pick up those four 100 pound boulders The Wife has decided are in her way - - - Wait! Remind me, how is this a good deal for me?!

- - - BONUS - - -

How many of you fell off your chair laughing when you looked at the photo above?

Well of course I put the gland back on the shaft the wrong way around the first time! After all, I have a reputation, a certain expectation, of mechanical idiocy to maintain here!

When this second cylinder failed I tried to buy two of those rebuild kits, after all, after fixing this one there are still two untouched cylinders on that loader and the odds are pretty good that at least one of them will also fail, and soon, but at the time the supplier only had one kit in stock.

I have since been able to get my hands on another and it is on the back of the bench for next time the tractor starts dribbling.

Edit - July 1:

So come mid May I had to use that replacement re-build kit to deal with leaking from the third cylinder. And I turned right around and ordered a fourth kit because - well - even I could see where this was going!

And yes, a few days ago, right on schedule, the inevitable. The fourth cylinder was regurgitating fluid out the wrong orifice.

I very confidently grabbed the necessary tools, headed on down to the tractor barn - and promptly fell flat on my face - success wise.

I'd already done this successfully three times - you know, getting the gland-nut out of the cylinder. Granted, I was doing it with the wrong tool, but the pipe-wrench was the only one in my limited inventory that came close to doing the job.

Only this time, the fourth time when my confidence was at its highest, it didn't work - and my flight-too-close-to-the-sun came crashing back to earth as I chewed the crap out of the aluminum gland trying to get it free.

I filed fresh flats on the gland to improve the wrench's bite. I tried a little bit of heat. I tried a lot of heat. (Damn! Certainly shouldn't have grabbed it there with my bare hand just after setting the torch down!) And I tried 48 hours of soaking in WD40 while peening around the cylinder with a small hammer every couple of hours to encourage the oil to penetrate.

Nope, still not budging.

Finally I resorted to sending an SOS to my mechanic brother.

Following his instructions I drilled a dimple into the gland, (Because of weird lighting the dimple is deeper than it looks here) angled a punch into the dimple, conservatively tapped the punch a few times with no success, then whacked the tar out of the damn thing with my biggest hammer!

After repeating my angry-man-whacking-a-mole a dozen or so times I got the gland backed out far enough to make the rest pretty easy.

A real mech-head would replace the gland at this point. Fortunately for my bank account I'm not a real mech-head, so I just cleaned up the mangled bit, (This photo is pre-cleaning) installed the new O-rings and seals, and reused it.

I'm beginning to think that if I do this three or four times a week for a couple months I will actually gain a level of - well - less suckyness - at performing this job!

Oh - and yes, even though all four cylinders have now been rebuilt I just ordered another rebuild kit just so I have one on the shelf, because I often find that being prepared for a possible event, such as seal-failure, is the best way to prevent said event from happening in the first place.