Looking for trouble with your tools and equipment

Bad tractor power cable

It pays to look for problems when working on your tools and equipment. I was removing the cutting deck on my tractor and found that the insulation on main power cable to the starter had worn through. That could have caused a short and potentially a fire. 

Overview – Look for trouble.

For many of us, our lives are complicated enough. If we are trying to get a job done we don’t necessarily want to find additional problems. However, in many cases, identifying a problem early can save a lot of aggravation and cost later.

Example – Insulation worn through on the main power cable for a tractor.

I had to replace the clutch cable for the cutting deck. I completely removed the cutting deck as I had hit a couple of rocks (don’t ask) and wanted to check the blades. When replacing the clutch cable and deck, I noticed that the insulation was worn through on the main power going to the starter. Bare copper was showing.

Bad tractor power cable

At the very least this would eventually cause the cable to fail due to corrosion. The fact that I use the tractor for winter plowing of a salted driveway makes an eventual failure more certain.

A worst case scenario would be a short causing a fire while the tractor was in the shed or garage. I’m not sure if that cable is protected by a fuse or not or if it is only hot while cranking the engine. It doesn’t matter. Bare hot wires need to be fixed.


I was up against the clock. We were expecting a major snowstorm in two days. I wanted to mulch some of the remaining leaves.

Ideally, I could replace the cable. I wasn’t sure how much time would be involved. I simply didn’t have much time to spare.

A close look at the cable showed that very little of the copper was missing. If enough copper was missing, it would affect the current carrying capacity of the cable.

I decided to simply repair the insulation.

Liquid electrical tape.

I could have used regular electrical tape but the power cable runs on the underside of the tractor. I wasn’t sure that would hold up while plowing. I decided to go with liquid electrical tape. This is available in several colors so I grabbed a bottle of red. (No, not like the Billy Joel Song).

Fortunately the temperature was warm enough that I could use the liquid tape. I cleaned the cable with a little bit of solvent. I applied a couple of layers of the liquid electrical tape.

Follow up.

I attached a note to my cutting deck to recheck the cable in the spring.


This is a simple example of how paying attention to your equipment can help spot issues before the turn into problems.

It also raises the question of how the cable became worn. I double checked everything when I reinstalled the cutting deck. It looks as though either the mower or drive belt came in contact with the cable. In other words, I had something installed incorrectly.

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