What Is the KISS Principle, and What Does It Mean for My Tractor?

| 6/5/2008 12:00:00 AM

When I asked a mechanic friend if I should replace the starter when my tractor wouldn’t start, he told me to apply the KISS principle before I spent $295 for no reason. What does KISS mean?

Douglas Hoelschler
Liberal, Kansas

KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. Motorheads use it to remind each other to check the easy stuff first, before tearing into what seems like something obvious. Here’s an example. A few years ago, I was mowing at the farm with a 1967 IH Cub Cadet and every time I mowed down a steep hill, the engine cut out and sputtered to a stop. I decided then and there that there was a problem with the carb, so I removed it and rebuilt it. Half an hour later I was back mowing. Ten minutes after that I had the same problem. I removed and rebuilt the carb twice and was pondering it a third time, when I noticed that the carburetor float I was toying with made noise as I flipped it around in my hand. Then I squeezed that lovely piece of soldered brass and noticed moisture (and smelled gas) develop along what turned out to be a crack. The reason the tractor quit was because the float was full of fuel and didn’t float. The float’s job is to raise and lower the fuel inlet’s needle valve, which in turn controls flow into the carburetor. My tractor’s engine choked out because it was getting too much gas. My first thought was to reach for the torch and some tin to solder up the crack … just kidding. If I had done that I wouldn’t be here today. Instead, I replaced the float with a new one and went on my merry way chanting KISS to myself for the rest of the day. In my haste to solve the tractor’s fueling problems, I overlooked an obvious cause … twice. So, before you replace your tractor’s starter check the battery, ignition switch, solenoid and all other relevant electrical connections first.

 Oscar H. Will III, editor, GRIT magazine

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