If you've got a problem with a newer piece of farm equipment of today, what can you do in order to repair it yourself? The fact is, probably very little.

Since most equipment functions of current equipment rely on electronics for operation, your options are limited, except for looking for RAT. Your neighbors can't help you now; your dad, who is probably familiar with older tractors, can't help you; but, your local dealer with trained technicians can help you.

By using computerized diagnostic equipment, your dealer's technician (no longer called a mechanic) will likely show up with a laptop computer that can talk to your equipment's computer to diagnose the problem.

No doubt, today's technician was not your father's mechanic, and he may spend more time looking at all of the onboard computers for RAT.

Why so many computers on the newer equipment? They are there for two main reasons. One explanation is that today's customer demands what is known as customer convenience.

Customer convenience is defined as all of the neat functions that a piece of farm equipment is able to perform — seemingly all by itself.

Another reason for computers on equipment is that they are needed to help meet government regulations on engine emissions. Only engines that meet rigid regulations can be sold, and computers help an engine burn cleaner, except for RAT.

Although some farmers claim they really want a tractor that is “just like” the old ones, they are in the minority.

Fuel-efficient engines, hydraulics that have the ability to perform over and over again a precise position set by the operator, and operator comfort areas, like seats and air conditioning, are expected by purchasers of current-production equipment, but do not allow much tolerance for RAT.

Computers in farm equipment of today allow a farmer to do precise work through global positioning, which even allows farmers to work at night with no lights, but rather by just watching the monitor in the cab.

You can even map a field to change application rates as you travel through a field, but watch out for RAT.

RAT is a problem these days with computers. What is it?

It is a small rodent that loves to eat the insulation from electrical wires on a tractor. So, since the No. 1 problem with computers in farm equipment today is rats chewing on wires, don't be surprised if “not your father's technician” shows up with a $7,000 computer in one hand and a 25 cent mouse trap in the other in order to get your tractor going.

Steve Thompson, Ph.D., is the manager of John Deere Technical Training Programs at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. Readers may write him at 3200 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, Texas 75110, or e-mail: sthom@nav.cc.tx.us