Trailer Troubles on Hwy. 2

June 21, 2010

My son and I love to find things on the Internet and drag them home.  The garage is strewn with empty cardboard boxes and every gust of wind produces a new crop of Styrofoam peanuts and Purolator shipping manifests on the driveway.  Charlie primarily trades in components for his Porsche. I buy tractors and shoes.

No kidding.  The footwear I buy online tends to fit better and remain in use longer than what I pick out in a store.  But I don’t want to talk about shoes.

My latest tractor, on the other hand, is an excellent topic.  It’s a 1981 Bolens 17 hp, 4WD diesel, 1200 pounds of brute force. Built for decades by Iseki in Japan for the rice paddy market, these tractors have all of the moving parts of larger 4WD machines, just fewer cylinders.  This one spent most of its career in Leamington working in the greenhouses of a tomato farmer.

But I found it on Kijiji, offered up after a year of ownership by a guy who couldn’t resist the appeal of a new Massey-Ferguson hydro with loader.  He wanted something bigger, and I badly needed a narrow tractor to mow in places the 65” wide TAFE could not go without grievous harm to my little trees.  The Bolens is only about 41” wide, and it came with an ancient but functional 48” mower, so it would fit.

A few cell phone calls resulted in my booting it down the 401 toward Cornwall with trailer behind.  All went well until about 5 miles this side of the Maitland exit.  Traffic dropped to a crawl until we cleared the construction 40 minutes later.  Not in the plan.

The seller would be unavailable for several days after this one, so I needed to get to the village this side of Cornwall right then.  My usually trustworthy navigation system couldn’t make sense of the guy’s address.

I drove around the suburb where the Tom Tom had directed me until I saw another man about my age unloading a mower off a landscaping trailer.  I stopped beside him, he gave me directions, and I was on my way.

I liked the tractor and so the purchase went smoothly.  I loaded it onto my trailer, made my cordial goodbyes, and headed out onto the road, where a loud grinding squeal from behind pulled me over to the shoulder no more than 200 yards from the guy’s driveway.

Ulp!  I knew what was wrong because it had happened before, and it was entirely my own fault.  Peter Myers keeps telling me always to use washers under the nuts on machinery, but I’m usually too rushed to bother.  This time my laziness had caught me.  It’s a tandem trailer and there’s a short steel beam which evens the weight between the wheels on the each side.  A pair of 3” flanges joins each end of this beam to the springs in front of and behind it.

The nuts had worked their way off the heavy bolts and the inside flange was missing.  This allowed both bolts to work their way over to dig into the side of the trailer tire, producing a loud whine and clouds of blue smoke.

Last time it happened outside Baker’s Feeds in Forfar with an empty trailer, so I nipped inside to buy nuts and washers, giggling at my good fortune to have a breakdown next to a hardware store.  This time I was 75 miles from home with 1500 pounds of tractor and mower aboard and no parts.  Not good.

The guy who sold me the tractor happened by.  I asked the location of the nearest Canadian Tire.  20 minutes west on Hwy 2.  O.K.  I unhitched and headed off. Thursday night at 7:00?  Lots of time. This can still work.

Morrisburg Canadian Tire doesn’t carry flanges or heavy bolts.

In desperation I pulled into the first open shop door.  It turned out to be the maintenance garage of Cruickshank Construction.  A young man was just getting out of a large service truck.

I unloaded my tale of woe and asked if he had any ½” bolts and nuts.  He went to the bin and handed me a pair of magnificent, gold-coloured ½ inch bolts with nuts and washers.  Hope arose.  “I don’t suppose you’d have a flange?”

“Not here.”  He led me back to a bench near the open rear door of the large shop.  He held up a piece of ¼” strap steel.  “That do?”

“Coupla holes?” He walked over to a large drill press with a 5/8” bit in it, cut one hole and handed it to me to mark for the second.  I guessed 3” and he drilled it, then cut the strap off and burnished the edges on the abrasive wheel.

He wouldn’t take anything for the parts.  The flange with the oversized holes fitted perfectly and I was under way in short order for a leisurely drive up Hwy 2 and home with my new tractor.

This story could have gone off in a much different direction except that an off-duty Cruickshank employee at 7:30 on a Thursday night gave a stranger a break.   Thank you for the help, Matthew Barkley.

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