PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
January 22, 2019

Are you the type of person who, once you buy a new piece of machinery for the farm, reads the manual before putting the item to use? Or are you the type who glances at the manual (if you examine it at all) before tossing it aside with the declaration “I know how a lawn mower works!”

I follow the first approach. I’ve always been a diligent manual-reader, so when setting up a new machine I like to follow the directions step by step and continue from there. I encourage you to do the same, which is why I strongly recommend that you take good care of your manuals and make an effort to keep them organized.

Let’s face it—it’s easy to lose instruction manuals. Even if you followed the setup instructions for a particular machine, there’s a good chance that you haven’t thought about the manual since then and have little idea where to find it if you need it. Is it loose in the garage somewhere? The attic? Is it mixed in with that stack of books you never read? Or stuffed in a stash of papers in a drawer?

OK, I’m guilty—I’ve been there, done that, but not anymore. Nowadays, I keep all my machinery manuals together in the garage. Some are on shelves, some are in a box, but I can put my hands on any of them at a moment’s notice.

Maybe you’re wondering why I would want the manuals, because I have presumably mastered the ins and outs of using the machines. Maybe I have, but think about it—do you know all the steps needed to replace a mower belt if it breaks? Have you memorized the maintenance charts detailing how frequently to change oil and other fluids? And, wait—what type of oil is the machine supposed to use? And come to think of it, what’s the model number of that broken belt?

Perhaps you can look up all of this online, but the instruction manual tells you everything you need to know in one place, and you don’t have to double-check its accuracy. In a quality manual, part numbers are clearly labeled, maintenance instructions are carefully detailed, and instructions are provided for all common maintenance and repair tasks.

This is valuable information, because even if you know a lot about machinery, every model is different and there have been times when I’ve been stumped on how to drain the oil from an engine because it just isn’t obvious enough without the instructions. And the last thing you want to do is damage your machine by trying to execute a simple task the wrong way.

So take my advice—keep your manuals, and keep them organized and accessible. They’re a great resource and should be considered parts of their respective machines. Consolidate them and store them in a safe place where you can find them. Somewhere in your garage makes sense because that’s typically where you work on the machines, but any safe place will do.

The next time you need to perform maintenance, you’ll thank me.

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