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Tips for Organizing Parts

Paper bags and detailed descriptions are the keys.

Oftentimes, the most challenging part of working on any machine is keeping the fasteners, brackets, or parts in order and properly identified. An additional concern may be the location of a special fastener due to its size, length, or a worry over marginal threads.

The issue of keeping things organized and identified changes little if you are working on an engine, planter, or center pivot irrigation unit. The system you employ to accomplish this must be easy to work with, adaptable, and inexpensive.

A picket-fence stand of corn speaks volumes about the quality of the farmer. Putting everything back in its rightful place when reassembling a machine makes the same statement about a mechanic. You wouldn’t plant corn with a broadcast spreader, so why throw parts in a box and try to figure it out later? As an aside, properly identifying and storing items removed from a machine makes reassembly extremely quick and produces better results. Plus, you can stand back and look at the job with pride.

It is extremely important when it comes to wear and moving parts that they be reinstalled in the same location. For example, all rocker arms, pushrods, locks, and retainers need to go back to the same cylinder head location.

In like fashion, if you take a seed meter apart, the cover and brush need to stay with the same row unit. Anything that moves will create a wear pattern and should go back with its mate.

When I had my shop, I’d have apart as many as 10 engines at one time, so I struggled with storing and identifying the small parts. I tried all different methods with varying success, until one day, I stumbled on a concept that worked great and cost little to no money. I used brown paper lunch bags purchased in a supermarket. (You can get 100 new bags for around $2.)

be very descriptive

It is best to use a marker and write on the bag what is inside. If need be, you can make any notes or a crude drawing to identify a location or concern. My bags read something like this: Cylinder #2 intake valve parts.

Depending on the concern, simply add a footnote: Check rocker arm stud threads. Or, you can note a fact with a drawing and words: Long bolt at 2 o’clock position.

If the parts are fairly clean when they go into the bag, you’ll be surprised at how sturdy the bags are. If the machine will be apart for a long time, gather up the bags and place them in a tub or in the cab. When it comes time to put it all back together, it will be a breeze. 

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