Bingham Twp. mobile repairman digs working on old tractors
The 30-year-old mechanic’s preference, however, would be working in the cherry fields. That’s where he does his most work as a mobile tractor repair and service man.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 or 11 years. I like it better when we’re a little busier and have two guys in here and all I have to do is the service calls,” said Herman, who has just one mechanic with him in the shop.
Herman, who grew up working on his grandpa’s farm in Northport and did some work as a mechanic for a Northport cherry farmer, is the owner of Herman’s Mobile Service. The company specializes in equipment repairs “bigger than a lawn mower,” and services every make and model of tractor. Herman can fix almost any piece of farm equipment, other than tires.
“We’ll still order a Branson if someone wants one and do the warranty work, but we don’t stock them,” Herman said.
Herman said there isn’t a No. 1 tractor used by farmers he serves in Leelanau, Benzie or Grand Traverse. It’s a personal preference, he said.
“What I have found is you either have red tractors on a farm or green ones,” Herman said. “But there’s a few that just don’t care.”
If he had his choice, however, Herman would work only on Case Tractors.
Herman also likes older tractors because they have less electrical components.
“The old tractors ran big wires,” he said. “There are computers on them now that break down constantly.”
Herman keeps his shop stocked with John Deere, Case and David Brown tractor parts, including used ones from tractors from the 1970s.
“People must have made money in the 70s, because there are tons of tractors and parts from the 70s,” he said.
Herman also buys after market parts for repairs because “it’s a fraction of the costs.”
The cherry harvest in Leelanau County is usually a prime work time for Herman. But a late winter storm and ensuing heat wave put a damper on this year’s crop.
“I’ve been through one before. It’s no fun, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Herman said. “During a normal cherry harvest, we don’t even schedule shop work and we’d be busy from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day out on calls.
“This year was a short harvest and the latest I was out was 8:30 p.m.”
Herman said about 90 percent of his mobile repairs during the cherry harvest can be fixed in the field. The most common repair is that a piece of equipment won’t start or has a broken spindle.
“A lot of times they put mats on the front and they blow front ends out all the time,” he said.
Sprayers are also a big repair item.
“When they break, farmers need them fixed yesterday,” he said.
One of the most popular tractor equipment repairs these days is the thermostat in the cab’s air conditioning unit.
“We do the whole range of repairs,” Herman said, from hydraulics to engines. “But in the last three years, the most popular one is air conditioners.
“It’s probably the best thing I ever got into. Even on (overcast days) like today, you don’t even want to be in there.”
Herman, who is always looking for a tractor to repair, likes to find good deals on old tractors.
“We try to buy them broke,” he said. “It’s cheaper that way.
“We just bought one where all that was left was the engine.”
Surprisingly, Herman discovered that old tractors idle in the corner of farm fields for years aren’t for sale.
“If you see one that looks stuck in the corner of the wood, they won’t sell it even though it may have been there for 10 years,” he said.
Herman doesn’t, however, look to refurbish or repair once-popular Ford 8Ns.
“Even if you got it fixed and all done, it’s only worth about $1,000,” Herman said.