PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
August 28, 2018

If you’ve lived on a farm for any amount of time, you’ve probably learned the value of having a collection of spare parts for when machines inevitably break.

Of course, “spare parts” can refer to many different items. You’re probably nodding your head and thinking of spare hay rake tines or lawn mower blades and belts. Or maybe you’re smiling because you already have a garage full of extra spark plugs and filters for your (presumably numerous) motor-driven machines such as tractors, ATVs and snow blowers.

That’s all fine and good, but have you ever considered keeping an organized collection of less specific and more general spare parts, such as household hardware, and nuts and bolts of varying sizes?

It might sound vaguely packrat-ish, but I assure you, hanging on to those seemingly homeless spare parts that inevitably gather can provide crucial components when you least expect it. In my garage, I have a set of small drawers holding all sorts of random nuts, bolts, hinges, screws, nails, hardware—you name it—sorted by general type and size so that I can quickly put my hands on what I need.

Just recently, I was mowing one of my fields when I noticed one of the wheels on my mower deck had come loose. The mower deck is supported by four small wheels that are adjustable in height thanks to a removable bolt held in place by a cotter pin; unfortunately, this bolt had worked loose and fallen off at some point, leaving me with only three good wheels.

An examination of the three remaining bolts revealed no specific details to point me in the direction of a replacement—clearly, the bolts were generic and not specific to this particularly lawn mower. Therefore, because I wanted to quickly get back to mowing, I turned to my drawer of spare parts to seek a suitable replacement.

In a pinch, I would have tried to make do with something less than a perfectly sized bolt (while planning to purchase an exact match at a later date), but to my delight, I opened a drawer and discovered a bolt that was exactly the size to fit the mower wheel. The diameter was perfect, the length was perfect—it was seemingly made for my mower, with the only difference being that this bolt would be held in place by a nut rather than a cotter pin.

No matter—because I don’t adjust the wheels very often anyway, screwing it on with a nut was fine by me. The repair required a matter of minutes thanks to my spare parts collection, and since then I’ve put in many more hours of mowing without an issue.

My point is that you never know when you might need a relatively obscure item for a simple repair, so the next time you find yourself with a few homeless bolts or whatnot in your hand, don’t just toss them aside—file them away instead with other spare parts, and you might just find the perfect use for them at some point.

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