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Employee Spotlight: Chris Engel

May 1st, 2017 · No Comments

                Chris Engel is a manual transmission builder in the shop here at ZBAG who brings a solid background of mechanical experience with him to the job. Along with his automotive expertise, his past includes some hunting experiences few others have had.

Chris builds NV4500 manual transmissions for Fords and Dodges, three quarter ton and up. ”I’ve been a mechanic since ’92,” he commented. “I got a vo-tech certification for auto repair and worked at Ford dealerships, doing all types of repair work—engines, transmissions, whatever came through. Then I was a mechanic at UPS for 16 years.”

Chris used to work on his own vehicles, but not anymore. “They’re under warranty,” he said.

He owns two Ford pickups, an F150 and an F350, and his wife drives a Subaru.

His interest in hunting has led Chris to some unusual adventures. He hunts deer, which are plentiful here in southern Minnesota, but hunting bears is his favorite thing. “I’ve only done it a few times in northern Minnesota. You have to apply for a permit and get drawn. It’s easier to get a permit in Minnesota than in Wisconsin.” Chris has hunted bear three times, and has gotten two bears. He likes the meat in roast, steaks or ground. “It’s a little sweeter than venison or beef,” he explained.

Chris’s most unusual hunting adventure was alligator hunting on an airboat in northeast Florida. He was able to harpoon an alligator and pull it in. The skin is in his freezer, but the meat had to be processed in Florida, Chris said. “You have to hire somebody, and they have to have a license.” Before the meat is eaten, it is cut into little chunks, breaded and deep fried, he said, and tastes similar to pork.

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Employee Spotlight: Derek Olson

April 25th, 2017 · No Comments

        Meet Derek Olson, a builder in the shop here at ZBAG for over a year.

“My brother works at ZBAG, and he told me what a great place it is,” Derek recalled. He’d been working construction jobs, beginning with eight or nine years of roofing, and then two years of commercial construction that was mostly concrete work, such as footings and poured walls and floors, but included other interior work.

Derek liked the various aspects of construction work, and enjoyed being able to do side jobs for people to help them out and make some money on the side. “I just recently remodeled a kitchen,” he noted. “I did the demo, and installed new cabinets and flooring—it was fun.”

But Derek was looking for more stability in his job situation. “With union work, there were always layoffs,” he said, “and you had to go where the work was.” When he began his employment here, Taylor trained him to tear down transfer cases, then to build them: the 246, 273, 271, and others. “Now they’ve got me doing manual transmissions, the Mazda built F150s and Rangers.”

Derek has always worked on his own vehicles. His first car was a Delta 88. “I changed the manual transmission in my dad’s garage,” he recalled. And now, Derek admits gets a lot of satisfaction each day when he comes to the shop, gets a work order, puts on his headphones, and works with his hands.

During his free time, if Derek loves spending time with his family, especially outdoors near water. He goes kayaking on the Zumbro River, from Zumbrota to Zumbro Falls, and enjoys trout fishing in area streams. “I like to go early and get the first ones to bite,” he comments. Camping, along with hunting pheasant, deer and turkeys round out his recreational activities.

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Jeep NSG370 Transmission

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

                The Jeep NSG370, a six-speed manual transmission, is a unit frequently rebuilt and sold by ZBAG. This transmission was introduced in 2004 during the era of Chrysler’s association with Daimler.

The NSG370 was first installed in the Dodge Crossfire, which shares the platform with the Mercedes Benz SLK320. This manual transmission was the first six-speed to be used in a Jeep, and was used in the Liberty and the Wrangler for several years, beginning in 2005 ending in 2010 in the Wrangler

The NSG370 is built with a cast aluminum case and substantial ribbing. The three transmission bell housing configurations mate the transmission to the 2.4 I4, 3.7L V6 or 4.0L I6 version.  This unit is equipped with a top shifter and contains a longitudinally loaded transmission with fully synchronized gears. The six speeds include a fifth gear that is direct drive and a sixth gear with overdrive. An integral throw out sleeve is located on the front bearing retainer for a conventional throw out bearing.

This manual transmission’s input torque capacity is 272 ft. lbs. according to the manufacturer, and output torque limits are 1100 to 1300 ft. lbs., making it a good fit for pairing with the NP231 and NP241 transfer cases, which the unit is commonly used with. The Jeep/Dodge six-bolt transfer case mounting design that is used is compatible with many other New Process/New Venture transfer cases. If you are looking to convert to a 6-speed manual transmission, kits are readily available from other manufactures for use with Chevy and GM Gen. III, and small block V6 and V8 engines and conversions can be easily done. Caution: Only the transmissions used with the 3.7 V/6 and the 4.0L I6 having the ten spline 1 1/8” diameter input have conversion kits available.

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Employee Spotlight: Darin Olson

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

                Meet Darin Olson, an energetic and enthusiastic member of the team in the Parts Department at ZBAG for nearly two years.

“We pull parts for orders that come from the sales staff and from builders,” Darin explained. He ships out products ranging from manual transmissions to rear differential kits. “We take ‘will-calls’ for people who are coming in to pick up parts. We do stock orders that consist of lots of parts that are sent out together.” These orders can include items like bearings, gaskets, gears, and kits for front and rear differentials and transfer cases. Darin takes phone calls from the office letting him know when someone is dropping off a unit to be repaired, picking up a unit, or dropping off a core.

Darin came to ZBAG from the construction industry, where he did roofing, framing, and windows. He has always worked on his own motorized equipment, such as snowmobiles, four-wheelers and dirt bikes. He hopes to get a truck someday, probably a Chevy, since they’re easy to work on. “I’ve always been a Dale Earnhardt fan,” he commented. “He was a Chevy guy.”

Away from work, Darin likes to be outdoors. He likes fishing area streams for trout, and enjoys hunting pheasants and deer.  “I just picked up bow hunting, and got rid of my guns,” he said.

Last year Darin and his family adopted a dog, Miley, from a family who was abandoning her. “She’s the most obedient dog I’ve ever seen,” he remarked. “She’ll be a good bird dog, I think, but I haven’t tried her out.”

While at work in the Parts Department, Darin will continue to do an excellent job of serving the customers’ needs, whether for a complete unit or parts for that particular rear differential or transfer case.

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Maintaining Your AWD or 4WD Vehicle

February 28th, 2017 · No Comments

Owners of four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles have vehicles that serve them well during challenging driving conditions. Along with the ownership comes the added responsibility to keep the drivetrain systems in good running order.

Galen Neuzil, one of the customer service representative here at ZBAG, has some advice he likes to share.

“For any AWD or other torque-on-demand system, if you’re having a drivability issue, one of the first things to do is check on the tires,” Galen says. “The best test for this is to mark all four tires in the six o’clock position (so you have a mark on the sidewall of each tire pointing at the ground), then have someone watch one wheel and count rotations while you roll the vehicle in a straight line, for ten rotations. Stop with one tire at the six o’clock position. Now, go and inspect the other three tires. The variance of the marks should not be more than one and a half inches from the original six o’clock position.”

If the variation is more, it may be due to tire wear, tire condition, or tire pressure. The cause needs to be remedied, and here’s why.

“In these style vehicles, the transfer cases are designed to keep all four tires turning equally,” Galen explains. “Usually, if the tires are worn more than one and a half inches, the transfer case will be trying to equalize the rotation. If it can’t perform that operation, the mechanics of the transfer case can be severely worn or damaged. The further the tires are off, the sooner the damage can occur.

“If you do the test and the tires are off, the first thing to do would be to check the tire pressure. The person with a slow leak who adds air every couple weeks might be doing damage to the transfer case.”

“If you don’t rotate your tires,” Galen continues, “the wear between the fronts and rears can be substantial, and that could be a cause for eventual problems.”

Another tip Galen offers is to make sure the transfer case fluid is checked regularly. “Be sure it’s full and the fluid is in good condition,” he adds. “If the fluid is dark and smells burnt, it’s an indication of stress or damage in the unit.”

Galen notes that most car service technicians go through the proper servicing procedures to keep your vehicle’s transfer case running properly, but it’s also important for you, the owner, to read the owner’s manual.

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All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive: how are they different?

February 22nd, 2017 · 1 Comment

Are you the owner of a car or SUV with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD)?  Vehicles with these two types of drive trains are becoming more readily available from most car manufacturers.

The terms 4WD and AWD are often used interchangeably, but they don’t refer to the same type of power train.

4WD refers to a system where your vehicle runs with two-wheel drive under normal road conditions. If you drive in a difficult situation, such as ice, snow and mud, you can engage the transfer case to activate 4WD. The power is now transmitted to the road by all four wheels, which helps negotiate extreme conditions.

If your vehicle is AWD, it is one of two types: full time AWD or automatic AWD.

Full time AWD vehicles have a differential inside the transfer case which normally gives the same amount of power to all four wheels. When slipping occurs, a coupling device or clutch unites the front and rear drive shafts to keep torque flowing to the axle with traction.

The automatic AWD may or may not have a differential in the transfer case. In normal driving conditions, it only sends power to two wheels, just as any other two-wheel drive car. As long as all four wheels turn at the same speed, the control system is inactive. When it senses a loss of traction in a powered wheel, it connects the inactive drive shaft to the powered drive shaft so all four tires get some traction.

Both 4WD and AWD are valuable features to help drivers safely get to their destinations. Please note that although both will give increased traction on a slippery surface, neither helps with braking and turning. These systems require care and maintenance, so check your owner’s manual to learn what is needed to keep your particular system in prime operating condition.

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Employee Spotlight: Damien Selvy

January 31st, 2017 · No Comments

Miata                Damian Selvy has been a member of ZBAG’s technical team for a year. He trained with Taylor to build transfer cases, starting with the GM 246, then 263’s and 261’s, which are also GM transfer cases. Damien enjoys his work here, although he came without much previous mechanical experience.

“I always liked wrenching with my dad as a kid,” he recalled. Although the family lived in town, Damien and his dad would work on tractors at his grandparents’ farm. Damien went to college for a year, and worked at various jobs before coming to ZBAG.

A few months ago, Damien achieved a longtime goal: he bought a Mazda Miata M edition.  “I’ve wanted one since I was fifteen,” he said. “The guys around here give me crap about it because it’s not big and American.” He grinned. “I know an incredible amount of Miata facts.”

For example, Damien explained, the reason the Miatas are such good sports cars is the way they’re balanced. Fifty percent of the weight is in front and fifty percent is in back, so they have very neutral handling. “That’s what makes it so good in the snow,” he said. “It has rear wheel drive, but I haven’t been stuck yet, because of the equal weight distribution.” His Miata M is a custom blue with a brown rag top and a special interior that features a Nardi shift knob and emergency brake handle, both made of wood.

Damien also spends time riding his motorcycle. It’s a crotch rocket, a Honda CBR600RR, and he likes to ride it on back roads. “It’s freeing,” he said. “It’s just you and yourself, which gives you time to think.”

In ZBAG’s shop Damien gets a lot of satisfaction building the high quality GM transfer cases that our customers have come to expect.

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Employee Spotlight: Dave Feidt, Sr.

January 17th, 2017 · No Comments

DaveFsr                Meet an integral part of Zumbrota Bearing and Gear’s shop team: Dave Feidt, Sr. specializes in building transfer cases. He joined the crew over a year ago, after his son, ZBAG employee Dave Feidt, Jr. told him it was a good place to work.

Dave brought a wide range of work experience with him. Many years ago, he earned his two-year diploma in marine and small engine repair. While he took the classes, he worked full time at a snowmobile shop. He then spent time at a marine business that specialized in boats and snowmobiles.  Later he worked at a plastic factory where he did assembly work, and a bus company where he did refurbishing as well as mechanical and body repairs. Other job stints included a pop can manufacturing company, a turkey producer, a milling company, and Dave also worked as a punch press operator for a furniture manufacturer.

When Dave was hired to work in ZBAG’s shop, Taylor Marsh got him started by training him to build 246 transfer cases. He has since moved on to building several other types of transfer cases.

Being a Minnesota guy, Dave enjoys spending time during the winter months riding his snowmobiles on local trails.  He adds that he also ends up spending time working on them.  During the warmer months, he uses a four-wheeler, a Polaris 2X4 350. “It’s a workhorse,” he said. “I pull a trailer and haul wood with it.”

Dave has discovered a creative pastime he enjoys. He welds lawn ornaments out of scrap metal. He’s put together creations such as flowers, birds and peacocks.  So far family members have become the owners of the ornaments, but Dave has been told he should go into the lawn ornament business.

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Employee Spotlight: Mike O’Reilly

January 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

mikeo            Mike O’Reilly is a builder in ZBAG’s shop who specializes in rebuilt transmissions. When he first started working here three years ago, he built transfer cases, and then went on to rebuilding six-speed transmissions, beginning with the NV5600 for the Dodge three-quarter ton trucks. “Now they’ve got me producing rebuilt transmissions for the Ford F150 and the Ranger,” Mike said. “I do the Dodge G56, too.”

Mike came to ZBAG with some mechanical experience in his background. He worked on basic car maintenance as a kid. “I had wrenching experience, you could say,” he noted with a grin. He worked as a millwright, fabricating grain equipment and also worked in the flooring industry before he began producing rebuilt transmissions and transfer cases here at ZBAG.

Mike spends his free time on outdoor activities all year long. “I like walleye and crappie fishing,” he commented, “mainly in the winter.” He uses a portable ice shack for shelter. Mike usually makes the six-hour trip to fish on Lake of the Woods on the Canadian border three or four times each winter. He also fishes in the Faribault area.

Hunting is another pastime Mike enjoys, whether it’s pheasant, deer, or water fowl. He likes to have a good stock of venison sausage and jerky on hand. During the summer, Mike and his family spend time camping. “As long as I’m outside, I’m happy,” he said.

And at work, Mike’s dedication is noteworthy. He’s often one of the first builders to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. He is particular about assembling each rebuilt transmission according to exact specifications, and his dedication is not unusual at ZBAG. The high standards and strong work ethic translate to the superior quality products that originate here.

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Kenny’s Pulling Parts, Waynesburg, KY

December 27th, 2016 · 1 Comment

kennys-pulling-parts            Kenny’s Pulling Parts and Machine in Waynesburg, KY, a frequent customer of ZBAG, is a business with a far-reaching reputation. They supply custom engine and drivetrain parts to tractor and truck pullers all over the United States, and ship to some in Canada.

Typical customers of Kenny’s are looking for things like clutch assemblies and rear end parts for open drivetrain components to be used in tractors and 3.0 or 3.6 diesel trucks. According to Dustin, the company spokesman, all the products they sell are built in their shop in Waynesburg by four employees. They build axles, spools, and complete rear ends for the competitive pullers, and will do custom design work as needed.

When the business started about 14 years ago, most of their customers were tractor pullers, Dustin said, but in the last five or six years, the diesel truck stuff has really taken off.  “We’re pretty much a manufacturer of high performance drivetrain components, and do a lot of clutch assemblies and flywheels. That’s what got us started,” he explained. “Most of the stuff we do is shipped out,” he added. “We do more business out of the state than in the state.”

They are currently getting parts together to take to a big indoor pulling event at Gordyville, located in Gifford, IL, in January.  The guys at Kenny’s are also working on a competition diesel truck. “We’re building it to use for advertising,” Dustin explained, “and we’re using our parts in it to see how they work and how we can improve them.” The body is a ’78 Super Cab Ford, and they’re building it to run in the 3.0 diesel class. “I used to have tractors that I pulled,” Dustin remarked, “but this is my first pulling truck.”

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