There's an old adage that says if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you. Over the years I have been very fortunate with having minimal unexpected repairs. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's my lawnmower, personal vehicles, recreational vehicles, or the semi-trucks I ply my trade in. 

I was reminded of this last weekend when I pulled my old lawn mower out of storage after three years. After pulling the push mower out of storage I checked the oil, poured some fuel in the tank, pressed the primer ball three times, stood up, pulled on the recoil starter and my old lawnmower came to life ready to serve me once again. I have always maintained this mower since purchasing it in 1994. Over the 26 years that I have owned this mower, I have sharpened the blade more times than I can count, I have replaced the wheels three times, and I have kept the oil changed and the air cleaner replaced on a yearly basis. Oddly, this lawnmower is on its original spark plug. Every time I was done mowing with it the deck was cleaned to prevent it from rusting. 

I think the keys to having equipment that lasts and serves you reliably are the same whether it's a simple push mower or a semi-truck in which I earn my living. It has been my practice to buy quality equipment, read the owner's manual in order to properly care for the equipment as the manufacturer intended, and to use the equipment in a non-abusive fashion.

When I sit around at the truck stop counter or other places where drivers gather and gossip, I hear about all of the repairs these people endure to just keep their truck moving down the road. In all of my years since 1983 I have only needed to replace four brake chambers (but in reality only one needed to be replaced but I did all four at the same time), one clutch, a charge air cooler, one turbo, a few air conditioner compressors and an engine camshaft due to a broken roller. For a career that started in 1983 spanning millions of miles, I consider this list to be quite short compared to the lists I hear from the chatter amongst other drivers.  

Let's go back to the lawnmower for a moment, I remember my neighbors going through multiple mowers of similar quality while I lived there. I guess maybe some people have more disposable income than I do because they would replace rather than maintain or repair their lawnmowers. I still remember the next-door neighbor pushing his 3-year-old mower out to be taken away with the garbage. I asked him “What's wrong with the old mower?” “It's done! It's finished!” he said.  I asked him if he minded that I take it. He said “Sure!” He had just bought a new one and would not need it anymore. 

I pushed it over to my garage, took out the spark plug, and saw it was fouled. Next I took out the air cleaner and sure enough it was nearly impassible due to debris and dirt. I just happened to have a spare spark plug and air cleaner in my garage, so I installed them to see if this old mower would start. Sure enough, the mower came right to life! 

At this point, I shut the mower off, took a look at the blade, sharpened it, changed the oil, and took it down to a single mother's house who was having trouble with her mower. As I went by my next-door neighbor’s house he said to me “Where are you going with my old mower?” I told him I was giving it to the neighbor to use. At which point he asked, “It's running?” I said “Yes.” He says “What was wrong with it?” I told him he needed a spark plug, air cleaner to get it running, an oil change so that it would keep running, and the blade sharpened so that it would cut the grass instead of beating it. 

I got down to the neighbor's house and she was thrilled with the mower and I asked to see her old mower. She told me her old mower never did mow the grass properly. I started her mower and it ran fine but as soon as you tried to mow the grass it would stall out. I looked underneath the mower and saw there was a good reason for it stalling out... the lawnmower blade was on backward which meant it was not cutting the grass, it was beating the grass! She had a toolbox sitting in the garage so I borrowed some tools and flipped the blade over. And miraculously, it cut the grass fine! As I pushed the original mower back home, I found another neighbor who needed a mower for their parents which ends this part of the story.  

The key here is, whether it's a lawnmower or a semi-truck to make your living, maintaining your equipment and using the equipment properly are the keys to having a long uneventful service life from your equipment.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/T™, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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