10 Safety Tips From DTN's Ask The Mechanic Columnist

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Welding is a common practice that requires special care around paint and batteries. (DTN photo by Dan Miller)

DTN/The Progressive Farmer's Ask The Mechanic columnist Steve Thompson has dedicated years and years to answering readers' mechanical questions. You can read Steve's columns in DTNPF's equipment pages.

At the end of his column, Steve always includes a "Safety Tip of the Month."

"Safety is something I practice, but there are always those moments when things pop up and hit you in the face. Sometimes, literally," he says. "These are 10 safety tips drawn from my real life, life on the farm. You might notice that fire is a fairly common theme here."

Take it away, Steve!


1. Safe-ty Light. A portable safety light is a must when working on equipment. However, it can be a safety hazard. Always make sure the bulb is enclosed securely in a cover. That cover, for some reason, always wants to come open. The hot filament of a broken bulb can ignite spilled fuel or oil, quickly setting your clothes on fire.

2. Jacked Up. Never trust an implement jack. Most jacks are not strong enough to withstand side-to-side, or fore-and-aft, movement of an implement, especially if the machine is on uneven ground. When pulling up on the hitch pin, you are not in a position to move quickly. If your foot is under the tongue, it is in danger of getting crushed. Keep your feet away and wear "smart-toed shoes" around equipment.

3. Paint Removed. Fumes hazardous to your health can be generated when a torch heats paint during the process of welding or soldering. Always remove any paint in and around the area to be heated or welded. Use an approved respirator to avoid breathing dust. When removing the paint with solvent or stripper, wash with soap and water before welding. After all flammable material is removed, wait 15 minutes. I know there is always a rush to get a machine up and running, but a fire tends to add unwanted time to a "quick" repair.

4. Pushpin Redesigned. The replacement part for the PTO pushpin that used to lock the implement's yoke to your tractor's PTO shaft may be difficult to find because the pushpin has been redesigned. Older American (sometimes called "old-style") PTO pushpin keepers can be a safety hazard because the squeeze clip that used to secure the lock in place can easily snag clothing or fly off, turning the implement's driveline loose. Be careful around PTO drivelines.

5. Front Wheel Space. Be careful when changing the spacing on the front wheels of a tractor. Never put your finger in the hole of the two-piece axle to push out a cap screw. When one cap screw is removed, the axle halves can separate in a shearing motion. A friend of mine tried to push out a cap screw with his finger and the axle shifted. He uses three fingers to tell that story.

6. Loose Drawers. Be careful not to open too many drawers on your rollaway toolbox at once (like I have). When the box begins to open, any unlatched drawer(s) will continue to open on their own, one after the other. The only thing you can do is get out of the way. Don't lose your drawers! Keep them locked up.

7. Amps Gone Wild. Be careful when working with electrical wires on your equipment. Just because the meter says 12 volts DC doesn't mean it can't burn up wires and start a fire. A little, bitty wire will read around 12 volts, and a large battery cable will read around 12 volts. However, the larger wire can carry many more amps, and uncontrolled amps can easily start a fire. Low resistance and high amps are dangerous, especially if the wires aren't fuse-protected. Remove, disconnect or cover exposed battery cables before you work.

8. Air Slapped. Have you ever been slapped by one of those long, compressed air blowguns with a tip on the end? Wow! It's like jet engine on super fuel. The blowguns that mount directly to the air hose and are only about 5 inches long are very easy to handle. But, if you buy one of those long ones to blow out radiators or the cab of your tractor, be careful. When you grab the lever, hold on tight. That thing will come up and slap you in the forehead. The length of the blowgun gives this jet-propelled object more leverage than your hand can handle.

9. Contact Fire. I know it is necessary to clean the wiring harness pins at a wiring harness connection. But be careful. I can tell you that the electronics connection cleaner can be highly flammable. After you spray the cleaner, clean the corroded pins with a nylon or plastic brush. I used a steel wire brush once, and the cleaner caught on fire when I raked across the connector.

10. Never ... Ever. Never weld near a battery, especially if it's being charged. The battery can blow up. I have acid stains on my shop wall to prove this one true.

Write Steve Thompson at Ask The Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email;

Dan Miller can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF


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