Letting off air over external brake problems

‘Overkill’ is something which people are getting accustomed to.

You want to open a bank account, or buy land and need to transfer a quantity of hard-earned cash, and there’s a whole rigmarole of signatures and proof of identity needed, so the man in the moon knows that you are who you say are.

It’s essential security against money laundering, because thousands of miles away in a totally alien culture there are people who want to get ill-gotten cash into circulation.

And then, of course, we hear that the largest bank in the UK has been turning a blind eye to helping to hide the cash of the top criminals in the drugs, armaments and terrorist worlds.

So you somehow wonder if it wouldn’t be a bit better if there was less picking on the small fry, and more morals and ethics at the top.

Overkill is legion too in the world of health and safety at work. We’re limited to lifting no more than a six-pack when at work — yet we can break our bones with impunity in extreme sports such as coasteering (which includes traversing dangerous sea-cliffs and underwater swimming); or downhill skiing at speeds which risk life and limb; or motorbike, to name a few.

Farm machinery has its incidence of overkill, such as inflicted recently to an English farmer who took delivery of a new tractor . He thought the external braking system was less powerful and effective than his previous tractor, which happened to be the same model.

The trailer slowed, but not quite as powerfully as behind the old tractor, or so he thought. With the old one, the trailer’s brakes came on fractionally before the tractor’s, and the braking was progressive. The new one had no delay for the tractor, and he reckoned there might be less power.

The difference between the two tractors was not so much as to cause a complaint, but enough for a comment, which he made to the dealer.

So the engineer came out with his computer, gauges and other equipment, and found that the pressure in the circuit was indeed not what was expected.

“You must have a faulty valve, I’ll get one on order and fit it when it comes. It’s not so uncommon, maybe they had a bad batch.”

As in all things, the valve took its time, and the problem was passed to a jobbing mechanic who has his own agri-repair business. As he was just down the road, he offered to come and have a look at the tractor.

“I’ll bet you have some air in the system,” he says, “and down here is this little bleed screw which will let it out.”

This cured the problem, saving the company the cost of a new valve, and had the tractor operating the trailer brakes properly — in fact even better than they worked on the old tractor. The farmer wonders how many other tractors have external braking systems which contain some air. For quite a few farmers, it’s something they live with.

For others it could be the unnecessary replacement of an expensive valve — effective only because the fitter would bleed the system at the same time.

Some might find that the trailer brakes were so poor they failed to stop the machine in time.


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