Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Messy Calamity

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I had been told about just this type of disaster, but filed it away as something that happens to other people, not me. Saturday, I joined the dubious club of tractor owners who’ve experienced a catastrophic failure of the valve stem on a large rear tractor tire filled with corrosive calcium chloride.

It actually started calmly enough. I stepped in the garage to do some organizing and discovered a small puddle under the deforming sidewall of the tire. Now, this was an issue I’d been hoping to address before it reached this point, so I did have a plan.

First, I wanted to remove the weights bolted to each rear tire. Next, I hoped to jack it up enough to take pressure off the tire and rotate it so the valve was at the 12 o’clock position. Then I would try adding air.

The only other time I had tried to add air, the pressure of fluid was greater than the compressed air I was trying to add, and escaping fluid corroded the air chuck fitting something awful.

Worried that the tire needed air, I asked around for advice. I was repeatedly told it looked fine, so I kept pushing the issue for some future day.

Well, that day arrived and I needed to take action on the plan I had contemplated. I grabbed a big wrench and a hammer and started turning those bolts on the weights. It didn’t take long to realize they were just spinning because there was a nut on the other side that needed to be held.

That required getting Cyndie for help, because I couldn’t reach both at the same time.

Then, calamity.

As I reached behind the wheel to put a wrench on the nut, the valve stem let loose from the rusting hub and the gallons of calcium chloride began spraying out all over everything. At first, there was no putting a bucket under it, because it was shooting everywhere.

All my brain could come up with was profanity. I paced around in a total useless panic because I had no idea what to do while that yucky fluid was quickly making a mess of everything.

Eventually, I noticed the spray had turned to a flow and it might be possible to catch it in a bucket. Then it struck me. I could put my finger over the hole and stop the leak while we figured out a plan.

We tried, and failed a few times to plug the corroded hole. A foam ear plug worked for a while, but for some reason it got sucked inside. I had already jacked it up a little to keep the weight from pushing fluid out, which made sounds of pulling air in, but that didn’t stop the flow.

For some reason, there was a pulse to the continued escape of fluid.

In the end, we used a tampon to slow the leak to a manageable drip, while I lifted it as far as my inadequate equipment allowed to put blocks under the axle. I’ve removed all the components of the 3-point hitch, and detached the loader bucket from the arms in preparation of whatever happens next.

That will be determined in a call this morning to the service department of the local implement dealer.



Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2018 at 7:00 am

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