1988 - Volume #12, Issue #1, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Freelance MechanicAbout 25 farmers near Ovid, N.Y., share an unusual service: they hire Eric Thompson to make on-farm equipment repairs.
Five years ago, Thompson left his job as a mechanic with a Deere dealership to be-come a freelance mechanic for farmers within a 25-mile radius of Ovid. There's been good demand for his services, which covers everything from engine tune ups to major repair jobs, such as overhauling engines, hydraulic systems and transmissions.
Thompson, who relies on word-of-mouth for advertising, says farmers hire him be-cause he makes "house calls" and offers relatively low rates, flexible work hours - and he fixes only what needs to be fixed. He charges $18 per hour. "Most implement dealerships in this area get $25 or more per hour for mechanical work," he told FARM SHOW.
"When a product is under guarantee, many dealership mechanics replace all wear parts, though possibly only one part is faulty. It results in higher labor costs. I try to save my customers as much money as possible by fixing only what needs to be fixed. For example, last spring I rebuilt a diesel engine which had spun a rod bearing. I partially disassembled the motor, re-moved the bad crankshaft and journal, re-placed one bad cylinder, then reassembled it with all of the original parts. I still had almost $2,000 in parts in my job, but a dealership mechanic would probably have installed all new sleeves and pistons and charged $7,000 or $8,000."
Thompson doesn't offer 4 written warranty. "I do my work in good faith. If I mess up, I'll fix it at my expense."
Thompson, raised on a New York dairy farm, says he's been "tinkering with machinery ever since I was old enough to tinker." He bought his first tractor at age 16 and rebuilt it while attending Colbleskil Agricultural School, from which he graduated in 1977.
He carries a full supply of work tools in his pickup, along with a supply of implement and tractor factory service manuals "that I swear by."
For others who may want to become a freelance farm mechanic, Thompson offers this advice: "You must be diverse enough to work on a variety of things, and you must be ready to work on anything and everything right where it might be. For example, last Saturday I had to dig a disabled tractor out of the snow to get at its faulty fuel injection pump. It was cold, windy and a miserable place to be working without heat or shelter."
But Thompson says he made the right move. "After you've worked for yourself for five years, it's tough to get an offer good enough that you'll go back to work for someone else."
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Eric Thompson, R.D. No. 2, Box 116A, Ovid, N.Y. 14521 (ph 607 869-5330).
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