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Bagley farmer patents tool that saves hours on routine repair

Farmers Independent of Bagley, Minnesota

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Bobcat hub now comes off in a couple minutes

Struggling to repair an uncooperative piece of machinery can cause more than high bloodpressure. Itcan also stir up creative processes that lead to innovations.

Such was the case last December when Jerry Titera, rural Bagley, was wrestling to remove a hub from his Bobcat skid-steer loader. A seal had broken on one axle, and if he kept running the machine he would likely damage the axle and end up with a costly repair.

He couldn't afford the time to take it to a repair shop. He's a busy man, working full-time for the Clearwater County Highway Department and running a farm to boot. Besides, doing the fixing himself is part of his makeup. He also has 100 head of cattle that needed hay on that winter day, and the Bobcat with a bale spear was his best machine for moving that food supply

He ran to get the part for $9 and proceeded to get to work. That's when he decided there has to be a better way. He used jacks wedged between the Bobcat body and hub. The hub would twist ever so slightly and bind. It was a genuine wrestling match that took about two hours of fighting before he got the hub removed. The jacks also dented the metal of the Bobcat's body.

That's when his brain kicked into the creative gear.

He grabbed some heavy plate steel and employed his cutting torch to make a disk the same size as the hub. He then drilled holes to align with the lugs, and then he cut Two supporting braces that he welded onto the disk. In the center of the disk he drilled a hole large enough to hold a steel pin - a part he utilized and adapted from a scrap parts bin.

Then he tested his theory. He took a tire and rim off his Bobcat, set the disk in place with the steel pin pressed against the end of the axle. With all the lugs passing through the disk's holes, he threaded the lug-nuts into place and then tightened them with a pneumatic wrench. Presto! In a matter of a few minutes, the hub was off! He had invented a tool that could save hours and hours for those who work on Bobcats!

He called a friend, Kelly Christensen of Bagley, to see his new device. They discussed ways to improve the design. Others also joined in offering ideas. Quite soon, Titera modified the design so there are now eight braces to prevent the disk from warping as pressure is applied.

He took his concept to Bobcat of Bemidji, where mechanics make many repairs that require pulling the hubs off the axles. They were amazed and duly impressed. Titera was encouraged in the idea that he had come up with a valuable invention.

When I asked him how he developed his mechanical abilities, Titera said he never had any formal training. "It's something I learned on my own. When you buy used equipment, you either fix it yourself or pay to have someone else fix it."

He talked to a firm in St. Cloud that could help him market the device. Then he found a manufacturer in North Dakota that could mass produce the tool. The finished product is covered with powder coated, baked on paint, and the plated pin has a removable collar to make it adaptable to fit more than one model of the Bobcat.

Titera said to me, "Let me show you how fast and easy this works." He backed his Bobcat into his garage and jacked up the right rear axle. He turned on his air compressor, picked up a pneumatic wrench with a socket and removed the wheel. Then he set his hub puller and pin into place over the lugs and threaded on the lug-nuts.

I looked at my watch which read 5:50 p.m. Titera started spinning the lug-nuts. The hub popped loose from its wedged-on position on the axle. Titera gave the hub a little pull and it was off. I looked at my watch and it read 5:52 p.m. Two minutes! Perhaps another 15 or 30 seconds. The job that normally was a time-consuming struggle was over!

Titera told how he convinces Bobcat repair shops (usually dealers) to buy his tool. He simply has them try it. Once they do, they buy one right away. Some who tried it wondered why they never came up with the idea. One buyer in Texas was upset with Titera. "He was angry because he didn't come up with the idea himself," said Titera.

His invention, sold under the name "The Hub Puller" by Hub Master Inc., has a patent pending. He had to pay $10,000 to file the patent. Then he paid for the manufacture of hub pullers, one pallet load at a time; and he also pays a marketer. Titera has been selling the tool, but he has yet to catch up on his initial costs. The point at which he turns a profit, however, is not far away. The market in the U.S. is rather limited - if the only buyers are dealers. If construction firms and farmers start buying the tool, then his market will broaden.

Titera said the hub puller can be used with pneumatic wrenches, an electric-powered socket, or even hand sockets. Being useable with hand sockets means a mechanic can make the repair in the field if necessary.

Testimony from those who used his tool include: "Before, it took hours to get a hub off my machine. Now that I have The Hub Puller, it takes about a minute."

"I like the puller, it's easy to use."

"I have used it many times in the last two weeks and it has paid for itself several times over."

How does Titera feel about coming up with a marketable invention? "It's exciting and a unique experience," he said.

Does he think of new inventions now that he has broken "the barrier?" He replied, "If the need and demand arise to come up with something, I would go through the whole process again." He added, "I'd like to come up with something that every household would need, instead of a limited market." A video of The Hub Puller can be viewed via the internet at his website: www.hubmasterinc. com.



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Original Publication Date: July 4, 2012



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