How NOT to Order a Tractor Spindle
How to Mow Your Property in Just Over a Week for Hundreds of Dollars
Spring has sprung all over your property, and it’s time to bring order to the chaos. The temperature is just right, and there is not a single cloud in the sky. In a matter of hours, you’ll be enjoying the satisfaction of another job well done. You check your trusty Ford tractor fluid levels, fill the tank, grease some spindles, and sharpen your bush hog blades before you head out to take on the lawn. You couldn’t have asked for a better day, but if you’re like me, you could use some better luck from time to time.
It’s two hours later, you’re not headed inside for a well-deserved shower after a job well done. Instead, you’re covered in dirt and grease and bleeding through an oily band-aid you keep in your wallet, holding the thief of the perfect day in the palm of your hands: your right-hand front spindle. It’s older than you, and it shows in the deep grooves where the now mangled bearings once sat upon it for a lifetime of good, honest work.
Even after that whole ordeal, you remain optimistic. You’ve changed a spindle and bearing kit or two in your life. Your dad always kept extra on hand but ordering a replacement should be a piece of cake. Over the years, you have seen dozens, maybe hundreds of the same color, shape, and size Ford tractors in fields, barns, and even parades. You bet you could order that part on your phone, and you’re right (mostly). Five minutes and an internet search later, you find a picture of a spindle that looks identical to the one standing between you and a mowing job that’s the envy of your street. You notice the words “Please Call Us to Make Sure This Spindle Fits Your Tractor” just as you tap the “Add to Cart” button. In less than a second, the next page prompts you for your credit card and address, and before you have a moment to reconsider that one tiny sentence, you have a date with the UPS driver on your front porch in 3-4 days, and your bank account is $50 dollars lighter. $68 lighter, if you add the shipping.
(Some of you know what’s coming next, but don’t spoil it for those who have a chance to learn from our mistakes).
The day has arrived, and it’s another Chamber of Commerce, County Fair Blue Ribbon winner! Your jack stands have been in place since the night before last, and you hear an unmistakable thump outside your front door. Your trusty pocket knife makes quick work of the reinforced packaging tape, and you slide the lower bearings down the spindle and install the bushings in your axle knee. The second you slide the spindle through the underside of the axle knee, that sentence flashes in your mind’s eye. It’s at least two inches too short, and has a good half-inch of play in the axle! How could this be?
You quickly find the invoice in a small sea of shredded paper packing material and confirm what you already knew. In plain English, the item description reads “NCA3106B Front Right-Hand 2wd Ford 2000 4cyl Spindle, New Aftermarket.” The next thing you see is the phone number in the heading. As the phone trills, you’re thinking “they must have sent the wrong box. Do they have the right one? Can they ship it to me by Saturday? I need a label for the wrong part they sent,” all the while becoming more and more agitated that you are missing another perfect day, and dreading how much worse your yard will look by the time this company rights their wrongs.
(Ok. I think just about everyone can see where this is headed now but bear with me).
The salesman greets you, and you launch off into the questions bouncing around in your head. You give your full name and invoice number and wait patiently while the person on the other end of the phone pulls up your information. “Do you have a 3 cylinder or 4 cylinder 2000?” the agent asks. A bit flummoxed as to why this guy is asking about the engine when your problem is the front axle, but you answer “3.” “Ah! That’s it!” the salesman exclaims. “You ordered a spindle for late model 2000, made after 1965. That will fit some of the old 600, 800, and NAA Ford tractors, but yours is much newer. Do you have the old spindle and a tape measure handy? I can help you find which spindle fits your tractor.” he says.
“What do you mean find me the right spindle? You just said I have a 2000 model Ford made after 1965, anyway?” you ask, remembering how long it took to work the broken spindle out of the aged axle knee. “About twelve, depending on the style of your front axle” is the response. “Twelve?! Wow. I’m going to have to call you back.” you reply. “Sounds good. Ask for me when you call. I’ll have your receipt in front of me. My name is Joe.” is the last thing you hear before you put your phone in your pocket to tackle the task of removing the “good” spindle.
By the time you pull the spindle and search the house to find the tape measure that’s never in the last place you left it, and retrieve your phone, it’s after 5 pm, Joe has left the office, and another day has gone by with your trusty Ford in as many pieces as you still have questions.
The next morning, you browse your call list from the day before and find the 800 number to get this problem fixed once and for all. Another voice comes over the phone and asks you to hold for Joe. A minute later, you’ve reintroduced yourself and you turn the speaker on in order to free up both hands to measure from the top of the elbow to the top of the vertical shaft, the width of the keyway, the horizontal shaft from the elbow to the end, and the outside diameter of the thrust bearing. Again, you wait patiently after contorting yourself to take the measurements and wiping the grease from your hands.
Finally, Joe speaks up. “I can get you a new aftermarket spindle coming. You’re looking at $125 for the parts and I can get that to you by Monday for $18.” Your Mama raised you not to say anything at all when you don’t have anything nice to say, so you pause for a moment before responding. Once you gather yourself, you say “The spindle I ordered was $50. Why is this so much more? I really need to get my lawn done this weekend. I can’t wait until Monday. How do I return this part? Can I just pay the difference? How are you going to make this right?”
Promptly but politely, Joe replies “Unfortunately, you ordered the wrong part off of our site, and we encouraged you to call us to make sure the spindle would fit before ordering. You can absolutely return that spindle, and get your money back for it, less the $18 for shipping to you. You will also need to pay to ship it back to the correct warehouse, and there will be a 20% restocking fee. Once I get confirmation that the warehouse has processed your return, I can refund directly back to your bank. Once that’s done on my end, it can take a couple of days before your bank processes the refund. As for the correct spindle: you have a high-clearance axle, and the one you ordered is much more common. That’s why your cost is higher. I’ll have to charge you for the second order separately, since you can’t wait for the return to arrive at our warehouse first. Also, If you need the new spindle by Saturday, it has to go 2-Day Air with Weekend Delivery. That will be $135, and we can’t be held responsible if UPS doesn’t meet their delivery time.” “I have to call you back” is all you can muster without losing your cool before you hang up the phone.
Once you process all of the charges you will incur, and murmur a few choice words under your breath, you realize you have three choices. You can let the yard go until Monday, drawing the ire of passers-by, you can borrow a buddy’s tractor, or you can spend the money for the expedited shipping. After considering the jungle you’ll inhabit by the time UPS ground gets your spindle out, and the dozens of things that can and likely will break if you borrow your friend’s tractor, you come to the only logical conclusion.
Joe is happy to take your call a third time. Wisely, you’ve decided to purchase the left-hand spindle, and another bearing kit since your old spindles are now both removed. He takes your payment information, and emails you the second receipt and tracking number. Now you’ve spent $250 for the parts, $135 for shipping, and you are out the original shipping charge, whatever UPS wants to charge to send it back, and a $10 restocking fee. Joe signs off the call saying “Please give us a call if you need anything else for that Ford. Thank you for your business.” As you hang up, once again, you remember that short sentence that could have saved you so much time, money, and headache: “Please Call Us to Make Sure This Spindle Fits Your Tractor.” You’ve always been a “glass-half-full” type of person, so you think to yourself “At least I won’t make that mistake again.”