Hacking Your Tractor: A Necessary Evil? Artistic picture of a tractor on rocky field with grass in background and sun peaking through clouds.
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More and more manufacturers of all kinds are incorporating advanced, smart technology into their products. In one specific area, that of tractor production, this was seen as a way to originally make it easier to diagnose and repair problem units. However, the reality is that many farmers are discovering that this new smart technology is inhibiting repairs and in some cases, becoming an additional expensive proposition to the already expensive repair job. Thus some farmers are having to take extra steps with some having to resort to the Black Market to obtain the software they need to "hack" their own machines.

Too Much Technology?

Manufacturers such as John Deere, incorporate computers and software into their machines and tractors in order to make repairs easier by specifically locating problems to be repaired as well as providing early warning to prevent a costly repair. However, John Deere also requires tractor purchasers to sign licensing agreements that only authorize dealerships and specific repair facilities to perform repairs or upgrades on the tractors. All other repair facilities are effectively "locked out" and in many cases, the farmers are unable to even diagnose problem tractors.

The Solution? Hack The Tractor

By forcing farmers to utilize only authorized facilities, this has put many farmers at a disadvantage as often a lengthy wait is required for a technician to arrive just to plug in and tell the farmer what the problem is. In addition, this issue prevents farmers from modifying their tractors to use alternate fuel sources or to tailor them more specifically to their individual requirements. For some farmers, it even provokes the fear that manufacturers such as John Deere could use the software to force farmers to purchase new tractors as they stop providing the software for older models. All of this has led to many farmers in the U.S. to use Eastern European, often Ukrainian, "cracked" software to provide the results. Many are also pursuing legislative relief through their state legislatures.

While the question of hacking your own tractor is in a legal gray area, the impact on the farmers is far from being gray. There are numerous questions surrounding the use of this method of software and the subsequent "hacking" of something someone already owns but as more and more technology is incorporated into everyday life, these issues will arise more often.
John Deere