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02 February 2019

Sympathy For The Bevel: Angus Lindsay Pro Landscaper

Machines dominate our work, our lives and our spare time. Angus Lindsay explains why it’s important to treat them with care, and how best to keep them in good shape for the future

The phrase ‘mechanical sympathy’ was initially coined by Sir Jackie Stewart and was used to describe driving a car in such a way that the moving parts are subject to the minimum amount of wear. Simply put, look after the vehicle and its components and it will look after you. The same ethic also applies to the operation of machinery and powered equipment used on a day–to–day basis in the landscaping and amenity sector. However, with service intervals increasing and components manufactured to finer tolerances, should something go wrong you can end up paying a hefty price.

Warming an engine for a couple of minutes to allow the oil to circulate should be common practice, as should returning the engine to idle for 30 seconds before switching it off. Still, I often hear the rattle of bearings as engines start from cold on full revs with no comprehension of the damage being done. It’s not just machinery, vehicles suffer the same abuse.


Oils are becoming ever more complex with every manufacturer having bespoke products for their engines, transmissions and drive components. Get it wrong and things can become expensive. In the past, you would have a good idea of the oil’s use by its viscosity: thick oil for axles and gears, thin oil for hydraulics. But this is no longer the case. Oils have become as technically complex as the components they lubricate. I have mentioned in past articles how crucial the 50–hour service is in identifying potential issues; with tractor manufacturers using bedding–in oils for the first 50 hours of the engine’s life it is imperative that these schedules are adhered to.

Checking the dipstick, smelling or even feeling the oil is the classic image of someone back in the day checking the state of their oil. While cute, this couldn’t be further from the correct procedure.

The only way to be sure if your engine needs servicing is to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as detailed in the handbook or operator’s manual. There may well be a light to tell you when a service is due but you should always read the handbook and not just rely on the electronics to warn you. Sometimes this reliance on technology can lead to expensive failures from which the manufacturers will almost always walk away.

In the same vein, using equipment for what it’s designed for is always a bone of contention. For some people the tractor is never big enough. Tractors have become more powerful and physically larger, but the seven-unit gang mower or 1.8m rotavator they are pulling remains the same size and doesn’t need any more power than it did 30 years ago. So why do we use 120hp tractors whose ability to labour when the machine becomes overloaded is replaced with sheer brutality and the ultimately, the failure of the implement?


Take time to appreciate what the mechanicals beneath your seat or under your bonnet are doing for you, they are much like your own body: You don’t start in the morning by immediately going flat–out, lifting things that are too heavy or running miles without preparing your muscles and eating the right things, so don’t expect a machine to.