Never Trust an Expert

Well, maybe not never, but at least take what they say with a grain of salt.

Pro tip – a brush assembly is not supposed to look like this.

Case in point: the alternator in my tractor blew up on Saturday. Not literally, of course, but pretty close – it smelled like burning. And the idiot light on the dashboard was on. The tractor still ran, but when I slapped my meter on the battery I found that the voltage when running was the same as the voltage when stopped. It should read 14 volts when running, and seeing only 12 volts means the alternator isn’t putting out. I also did a quick rectifier test, hoping that a $30 replacement rectifier would get me back to work, but alas, it was not to be. Time to get an alternator.

I called my equipment dealer on Monday, and from the figure I was quoted by the parts manager, it must have been a crack smoking weekend – $428! Granted, that’s new, not remanufactured, and an OEM part to boot, but c’mon – I can get a remanufactured alternator for my truck for like $150, and it’s three times the size of the tractor’s. I said thanks, but no thanks, and asked her to look around for a rebuilt unit. I also found a place that specializes in rebuilt alternators nearby, but they couldn’t find anything.

At this point, Mrs. P was green-lighting the $428 – just get back to work, it’s the cost of doing business. But Yankee thrift and stubbornness is strong in me, and the desire to prove the “experts” wrong goes back at least to my grammar school habit of correcting my science teacher, so I kept looking.

She cleans up purty.

Good thing I did. I stumbled upon Robert’s and Sons, a supplier of industrial alternators and starters based in New Jersey. A rebuilt alternator for my tractor clocked in at a much saner $165 plus $50 core charge. Shipping was an extremely reasonable $13, so I opted to add $6 to get it upgraded to UPS 3-day. I placed the order around 2:00 on Monday, and they shipped the same day and it was here the very next day. I can’t say enough about the quality of their customer service – what else can you say but they did exactly what I wanted them to do, they did it for a reasonable price, and they had the order here two days earlier than I expected. They even threw a sweet mouse pad into the box! I almost felt bad sending back the core. Almost.

Putting in the new unit was the work of all of about 15 minutes, and the tractor is back in service, none the worse for the wear I put on the battery using it on Saturday – bad prepper! A good thing, too – I really need to knock out the firewood this weekend, and the tractor is an essential part of the process.

But the take home lesson: listening to “experts” can be hazardous to your wallet. I saved over $250 with a little Google-fu, and found a new favorite supplier to boot. And I made sure to share my find with the parts manager at my tractor dealership – hopefully they’ll send some business to Robert’s and Sons.

But if they can get $400+ out of someone for an OEM part…

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