How to care for your Tractor
Heres sone ideas borrowed form ytmag on how to look after your loved one(the tractor of course).
Buying your first tractor: Choosing the right one
I presume if you are at our website you have at least a mild interest in old tractors. For the first-time buyer the old tractors are very tempting. They cost less than the tax on a new tractor (at least where we live). They have the weight to do the job. They are simple and understandable. They even have a history and can be restored to become a major source of pride and enjoyment. But how do you know what to buy and how do you make the right purchase?
There is a surprising number of machines available in every shape and size imaginable. Like most things in life, your needs have a lot to do with what you should look for. You know your needs but you will have to translate them into something tangible that will allow you to make a clear headed decision.
Depending on whether you need a tractor for your acreage or you are planning to begin restoring for pleasure you will decidedly select different machines. Certainly some of the most collectable tractors make poor work tractors and on the flip-side painstaking restoration of an extremely common machine may not be worth the many hours (not to mention the cost of that perfect original paint mix and handmade decals). Whichever emphasis you have should begin not by writing a check but rather with up-front research. Research books are available that contain this information providing nearly a century of specifications and pricing on tractors.
While collectability, horsepower, hitch system, etc make up the evaluation criteria for determining what type, size, brand, or model of tractor you want, a more basic set of factors must be used for determining the specific tractor you will purchase. As always, restoring versus working with tractors will have a completely different checklist.
Tractors Bought for Working
Those that need a machine for working their acreage are in a better position to get what they need quickly but it is amazing how many folks buy the wrong type of tractor and become disillusioned with old machines. The first thing to look at is not the tractor but rather the lay of your land and the implements you will need. If you have visions of cultivating corn after it is "knee high in July" but buy a Ford N-series or Case VAO, you will learn just how far corn stalks bend because these machines may be too low to the ground for your expectations (and your corn). On the other hand if you have side-hills to traverse, like we do in the Northwest, you may be slightly displeased with your nifty hi-crop Farmall or AC (did I mention terrified every time you have to use it because of the deadly possibly of a hillside rollover). On your implements, if you look at the implement first, you can calculate your horsepower requirements and make sure the tractor model you select has the weight and power to do the job. If you see the need for a 10 foot disk harrow, you will be unhappy with a Farmall Cub (or should I say immobile, these don't have the power to pull that large of disk). Thorough research is good insurance in avoiding the wrong purchase.
Once the model is selected, your preview of the available machines is almost entirely an exercise in mechanics, the cosmetics should probably be placed low on the list. Many good working tractors haven't seen paint in years (though I am not an advocate of this practice) and have some of the ugliest welds in the oddest places. Your machine must be mechanically sound from the onset and have few problems in the near future (at least till winter when you have time to work on it). Even if you are willing to work on it right away, you probably won't be interested in a complete restoration for sometime and need to minimize the number of upfront jobs. It has to start easily, run well when hot, charge the electrical system, pick up implements, brake well, steer well, and get good traction. This conjures up the image of going out for a preview armed with a toolbox containing a compression tester, expensive Fluke digital multimeter, hydrometer, and other specialty tools. Unfortunately most of us don't own them and wouldn't even know what to do with them. We have to rely on our eyes, ears, and common sense. Anyway the tools would end up costing more than the tractor.
Even though you are probably going to use your basic senses and common sense to evaluate the machine, you should be armed with the critical knowledge on the operation of the tractor you are previewing. Borrow or purchase the owners manual prior to going out for the preview so you are familiar with its operation and basic specs.
Here is a partial checklist for a simplistic preview of a working tractor:
ï‚· Does it start easily? - A tractor that starts easily may eliminate several items in one shot. Good Battery, compression, ignition wiring / magneto, tune up, fuel flow, carb are implied (not guaranteed) by this. If it doesn't start easily, it still may be a good machine but you won't escape some work on it. If the tractor is out and warmed up prior to your arrival, you lose an important checklist item, namely the cold start.
ï‚· Does it run well when hot - Getting it hot is a must if you want to find out how it will work after you plowed the first row. There are simple and complex problems that can cause the tractor to run poorly after it warms up. Plan on spending a half-hour running it. After running look for leaks, both oil and antifreeze. Lastly after warm up, shut it down and see if it will start.
ï‚· Do the brakes work well - Although the brakes are inexpensive to replace, they are inaccessible on many tractors and will require extensive teardown to get the new ones in. You can test the brakes by locking one wheel and cranking the steering to that side. The tractor should spin and the wheel should not rotate.
ï‚· Does it smoke - Blue smoke indicates many potentially difficult problems like rings, pistons, or valve guides. White or black smoke can frequently be corrected with carburetion or ignition changes but still represent work.
ï‚· Does it make clunking noises from inside the engine - A simple ticking from the top of the engine may be a simple valve adjustment but a deep thunk from the bottom or middle of the engine would indicate very serious and expensive repairs. The clunk should be more pronounced under load. This may be an indication of problems with the crankshaft, bearings, or piston rods.
ï‚· How does the oil look - After you have run it for awhile, stop the engine and check the oil for foaming or presence of water. This is a show stopper.
ï‚· Is there head seepage - look for signs that fluids are seeping out the head petrolket. If the tractor is encrusted with grease and dirt, it may cover obvious signs of seepage.
ï‚· Is the clutch good - the clutch is not that expensive to replace but splitting the tractor in half is beyond what most folks want to do.
ï‚· Check the Charging system - There should be a slight charge shown on the ammeter when the engine is running and a change in the charging level when the lights are turned on (this indicates that the regulator or resistor switch and cutout is operating). At running speed, no discharge should be shown.
ï‚· Work the hydraulics - Check the full range of the rams by extending them with a load. Let the load sit in the hold position for a period of time to be sure that there is no leakdown. Chattering noises from the pump while lifting indicate the pump is getting insufficient flow of hydraulic fluid. The pump will have experienced excessive wear when run this way for long periods of time and may be ready to fail.
ï‚· Look for structural cracks - It takes a bit of time but it is well spent. Go over the cast and steel components and look for hairline cracks. Again this is not expensive to correct but extremely time consuming and it would be unwise to work a tractor until such problems are corrected.
If your preview fails in some of these areas, you may still find that the seller is willing to come way down on price (since you found all the problems). At this point you must determine if you have the time to correct what you found... and pocket the savings. If your tractor needs are time-critical, pass this one up.
A word of caution. If the tractor is not running the day you preview, you cannot evaluate it. The seller may say, in all honesty, that everything checked out fine the day it was parked, but when a tractor sits, serious problems can develop. In such cases, you must start your bidding from nearly scrap level prices since you have no idea what you're getting into. If you buy many tractors, you will find that this scenario is common.
Tractors Bought for Restoring and Collecting
The restorer will often be basing the evaluation simply on what is left of the prospective tractor and how much to pay. Working with rarities almost always rules out looking for the basics of perfect mechanical and cosmetic condition. I have seen a tractor purchased that consisted of just the engine block, rear end, rims, and frame assembly. This happens when you are looking for extremely rare machines. It often will take several purchases of components to build up a single machine. Indeed many purchases of rare tractors and components take place without a preview simply to ensure it isn't sold by the time they can get there.
On occasion, there are some factors that go beyond the mere collectability of the machine and motivate people to do ground-up restorations on common machines. Many people we talk with, start out their conversation with "My Dad had a ... and I want to restore it to look just like his" or "I spent my whole childhood on the seat of a ... and I couldn't believe it when this one was sitting there with a For Sale sign". If you are restoring for this reason, incorporate the evaluation criteria for the working tractor. Since your intended project is likely not rare, you can have the best of all worlds, good mechanics, good cosmetics and good price.
In many cases, the cosmetics of the rare machine can be critical because though the components may be beyond repair, what's left will serve as prototypes for fabrication. Additionally cosmetic components may be the only thing that makes a specific machine rare. A common example of this is some orchard models. Frequently there no remnants of the orchard add-ons or anything but a model designation to distinguish the machine from it's common utility version brother. Finding orchard models may be relatively easy while finding the orchard components are the only thing that will make your project collectable. If the incomplete model is sold as a rarity (price wise), it may be wise to pass.
Determining collectability by specification books or age is not easy. The Fordson is a good example. When I first started gathering tractors, I was so excited to come upon a pair of Fordsons on steel. Fortunately prior to getting too serious, I received an Email from a fellow on the Antique Tractor forum that put things in their prospective. Basically, the machine is still so common, that the effort to pick them up would not justify their value. Had I researched production figures, I would have known this in advance. Nowadays, I chuckle at myself when passing by all those Fordsons serving as mailbox holders. The flip side of this story is that if I were to spend time with the experts, such as club members and restorers, there are many Fordsons out there that are rare but still available cheaply and to the uninitiated look nearly identical.
Know your needs, pocketbook, and what's on the market. Be as knowledgeable on the prospective machine as you can be through research and conversation and physically check it out to the best of your ability. Remember, your new tractor will become a part of the family for sometime to come.
Buying your first tractor: The People You Buy From
This article applies mostly to the first time buyer of the working tractor but if you have purchased many tractors, you may find yourself reminiscing about a few of your own experiences. If you are a first-time buyer, chances are that you are likely to take the word of the seller on things. This is where the problems start...
You have reviewed your implement needs and determined the size of machine that will fit the bill and even made a list of the most desirable models. You checked on the availability of a 3-point hitch for the machines on the list and advertised in your local classified paper with something like the following:
Wanted: Ford 8N, 500, 600, AC CA, or Farmall A. Good running condition, good tires & priced reasonably. AC or Farmall should include Plow and Disk or 3 point hitch. No excessive rust. Call Evelyn and Joe at 555-1212.
The calls start pouring in with everything from a fellow who restores Fords and has a beauty for to a person that says "I think it's a AC CA" (in reality it's a Simplicity lawn tractor). You are going to have to wade through this mine field of the wrong machines to find those that really are contenders. Take your time and go look at the ones that sound like they are close in price and condition but remember that no matter what was said on the phone, reality may throw you some curves. Your dealings may just uncover some of the following:
People who unknowingly misrepresent the type and condition of their tractor.
People who intentionally misrepresent the type and condition of their tractor.
You will find the first category is the norm. Most people who respond to your advertisement will be cleaning out the barn or garage and just want to get rid of Uncle Bob's old tractor. This can be a good source for machines (and frequently the lowest prices) but remember that most folks in this category have machines that may have sat for years or they had purchased the machine recently, couldn't get it running and want to cut their losses. Since these people have no knowledge of their tractor, they can be trusted (since you won't be relying on much that they say). Unfortunately this means you must be the expert and do your own evaluation (In another article we cover some of the technical evaluation criteria for previewing).
The second category is more difficult to deal with. I have only had a few situations like this and must say that most of my dealings with tractor people have been positive experiences. One of the bad ones was a knowledgeable tractor dealer that advertised a relatively desirable machine in an Ag paper. I drove 300 miles with my truck and trailer to find that it was the right brand but a completely different and worthless model. Another instance, I previewed a "restored" AC B tractor. After a 80 mile trip I was confronted with a frozen engine ("I took off the pan, all the parts are new, it just needs to be reassembled correctly"), 5 year old brush paint over rust, cheap decals half torn off, and a completely disconnected electrical system ("It just needs to be hooked back up"). The last instance of this was a AC D-17 that "runs but just needs a valve job". When I looked at the machine, there were 8 foot tall blackberries (some branches growing through the rot in one fender). It was apparent that this machine had sat for many years. Given his asking price I didn't bother to check if it was frozen or not. I just left. In each case, these people seemed to want "something for nothing". They are easy enough to spot if you are on your guard. I would love to say "stay away from this type of purchase" but in some cases, you can find a machine that may not be what you expected from a person you'd rather not deal with... but you can't pass it up. I bought the AC B mentioned above because I had a spare good engine and after discussing the price, I had to have it.
The best situation for buying a working tractor is either to purchase one that is currently being used (but the owner needs to upgrade) or from a reputable dealer. The first category is usually someone just like you who needs a tractor on a day to day basis. These dealings are usually enjoyable and can even spark a long term relationship that goes beyond the buyer/seller aspect. This type of individual will probably even let you try the machine out with an implement and tell you all those things they would fix if they were keeping the machine.
Buying from dealers can also be positive but even at a dealer you should be armed with your evaluation criteria rather than depending on "the warranty". Even if your state has implied warranties, hauling a tractor back for even free repairs will cost you both in transportation and in lost time. Also remember that the dealer is honestly (most of the time) trying to make a profit and it is improbable to find both the cheapest price and a perfect machine.
While some of the above experiences may sound a bit negative, to be honest the stories I have had to add to a session around the coffee table have never stopped being a source of enjoyment and occasionally a good laugh on myself!
Now.. there was the time we went to buy this horse....
Identifying Your Tractor
You may have purchased a farm with the tractor already on it, or maybe you inherited your "new" tractor from a relative. Maybe you bought it from a friend who didn't know what kind of tractor it was, or perhaps (and this is every tractor fanatics dream) you stumbled across it in an abandoned field covered with weeds but intact. In any case, you have no idea what the make and/or model is. For awhile perhaps it doesn't really matter. Especially if it runs! But pretty soon you'll probably need to tinker with it a bit and maybe buy a part or too. Having a manual is nice. But how does one go about determining what make and model the tractor is so you can purchase the items you need?
The first logical step would be to ask a friend or a neighbor who is knowledgeable about tractors. They could stop by, take a look and hopefully solve the mystery. But if none of your friends or neighbors have a clue, then the second logical step would be to take yourself to the local or regional library. You have a picture of your tractor clearly in your mind (or perhaps in your wallet) so go compare that picture to the pictures you find in tractor books or publications at the library.
If you already know the make of the tractor ("Farmall", or "Ford" or "Massey-Harris", etc) but you just don't know the model ("Farmall Model A", "Ford 8N", "Massey-Harris Pony", etc) then you may want to purchase a book covering your particular manufacturer.
Tractors and Winter
Unfortunately, tractors and winter don't mix well. It seems that I can start out with my tractors in great running condition but sometime during the long cold dark winter they quickly revert to the lawn-art category. The lack of running, cold weather, and admitted neglect all take their toll on a machine. If you are lucky enough to not need your tractors during the winter months you can perform a few simple maintenance items to winterize and come spring have them going by reversing the process. If you need your tractor in ready-to-run condition (like that first snowfall) then you have to be ready to perform the maintenance necessary to get it going. It will help to take some precautions to minimize this maintenance (if it takes a weekend to get it going, you will likely have more snow on the ground than you can clear).
For the simplest case where you can get by with putting the tractor to bed for the winter, you can follow the normal winterizing procedures. They are:
ï‚· Run all the petrol out or drain the tank
ï‚· Drain the Carburetor
ï‚· Remove the plugs and put a few drops of oil in each cylinder then replace the plugs
ï‚· Seal up the distributor or magneto to keep moisture out
ï‚· Place the entire machine on secure and stable blocks to preserve the tires
ï‚· Disconnect the battery cables and place the battery in a safe and temperature controlled storage location
ï‚· Check the coolant with a hydrometer to be sure it can handle any freezing and adjust or replace anti-freeze as indicated
With these simple procedures, you should be able to bring the tractor back to life in Spring with no damage or adverse affects. To restore it back to functioning condition, you remove the blocking, fill the tank, replace the battery (maybe with a 24 hour trickle charge), and remove anything you have done to seal or cover the machine and components. After allowing time for the carburetor float bowl to fill, it should come to life as easily as it did before you winterized it. This is by far the best scenario if you don't have need of your tractor for winter chores.
Draining the petrol from the tank and carburetor is extremely important since petrol tends to convert itself to a varnish while it sits. The jets in the carburetor and the various holes that petrol must pass through are quite small and quickly become clogged or reduced in size by the thick substance that petrol becomes when it sits. Even the relatively large openings of the tank outlet, sediment bowl and fuel line become reduced in size as the petrol converts and eventually will not allow enough petrol through. Once clogged, it takes no small effort to clean out every trace of the varnish. The float bowl of the carburetor will also have a thick scum in the bottom that you will have to scrub out. Since this is a difficult job to clean up after the fact, it is far simpler to drain off the fuel.
The battery will suffer from exposure to cold weather and is especially vulnerable if not fully charged. It can be difficult to find a location that is safe storage and still warm enough. Remember not to store the battery in the house or anywhere near open flames. If you suspect that the battery is not fully charged, you should charge it prior to storing. A fully charged battery is less likely to be damaged by the cold.
If you use your tractor regularly throughout the winter, you will likely experience very few of these problems since running it daily will keep it's battery charged, full of fresh fuel and generally always ready to go. There are still some problems with winter weather that may stop you dead in your tracks. The first is that the oil will be a bit stiffer when its cold and make the engine more difficult to turn over. This problem, when combined with the fact that, even fully charged, the battery does not generate the same cranking power at freezing as it does at 70 degrees, may keep you from starting the engine. The solution here is to run an oil with a viscosity designed for winter use. This may present a problem since it is not recommended to use a detergent oil in most older tractors and most winter oils are detergent oil. Talk with a oil retailer about this and see what they can find for you. Another alternative in this respect is the use of an engine heater to keep the oil warmed to an acceptable temperature.
The second problem that may occasionally plague even a regularly used machine is the moisture in the air during those times when the temperature is hovering above freezing and there is still a lot of snow on the ground. With heavy thaw occurring, you may find that your distributor cap (and everything else) is soaked inside. The solution is obvious, it has to be dried out to keep everything from shorting and not delivering spark. Be sure to dry it throughly and you will be on your way again.
For those that use their tractors only occasionally during the winter, the same tips may apply as do for regular use but with a couple of extras. You may have the fuel problems mentioned above if the tractor sits for more than a couple of weeks. You can reduce these problems a bit by shutting off the fuel before turning off the engine and letting the engine die from lack of fuel. After the tractor has completely cooled down, drain the remaining fuel from the carburetor with the float bowl drain petcock. This will ensure that there is not fuel gumming up the jets and holes. A second big help is to install an aviation or marine battery cutout switch. This will allow the battery to be disconnected with a flip of the switch and ensure that your battery doesn't slowly drain over the time it sits. This works amazingly well but a word of caution is advised. If you have a magneto ignition or diesel and forget to flip your cutout switch on prior to starting the tractor, your generator will burn itself out trying to charge a non-existent battery.
Even though tractors and winter don't mix, a few simple precautions will keep your tractor and maybe your driveway in great shape!
Exactly what is horsepower? Horsepower is defined as the amount of energy or work required to raise a weight of 33,000 pounds a height of one foot in one minute of time or to overcome or create a force which is equivalent to doing that amount of work. Therefore in simplified terms, a horsepower is 33,000 foot pounds of work done in one minute. However, horse power may be required at various power points of the engine and the calculation must be accordingly. For instance, the horse power generated by an engine, as indicated by the power in the cylinders, may not be the actual power which can be utilized for work as there is the friction of the engine to be considered. Then there is "brake" horsepower which is the actual horsepower delivered to the engine shaft and which can be used for work, and the "effective" horsepower, etc. The following definitions should add some clarity:
This represents the power developed in the engine cylinder as obtained from the pressure in the cylinders. This is pressure obtained from an indicator which shows cylinder pressures. Indicated horsepower does not represent the actual useful power delivered by the engine.
This is the actual horse power delivered by the engine to the shaft. It is equal to the "indicated horsepower" less the friction of the engine. It is useful horsepower and is also called the "shaft horsepower".
This is the final horse power delivered to equipment. An engine may be operating compressors, pumps and auxiliary equipment as part of its own power production needs, and the remaining power is therefore the effective power for drive. The difference between indicated horsepower and effective horsepower may be as much as 25%.
Storing Your Tractor
If your tractor is going to be stored for any length of time, a few precautionary measures are helpful in preserving various parts, also in avoiding future difficulty.
ï‚· Store tractor under cover. If impossible to place tractor under cover, be sure to cover air stack and exhaust pipe.
ï‚· Drain radiator and engine block.
ï‚· To avoid gum content collections, drain both fuel tanks and carburetor.
ï‚· Leave radiator and fuel caps slightly loose to protect petrolkets.
ï‚· Block tractor up to remove weight from tires and to keep tires from contact with moist floor.
ï‚· Remove battery and store.
ï‚· Remove spark plugs and pour a small quantity of light motor oil on piston tops. Crank engine over a few times and replace spark plugs.
ï‚· When tractor is removed from storage, it should be serviced throughout, including draining and refilling the oil sump with fresh oil.
Maintaining Rubber Tires
The broad use of rubber tires on farm tractors and machinery has resulted in a great saving in both time and operating costs since the time of steel wheels. There are, however, certain basic fundamentals in the care of tires that should be followed carefully if the owner is to derive maximum benefit from his or her investment. First and most important is to maintain proper pressure for the work at hand. Your best guide to proper inflation is the operator's manual or instruction book that covers your tractor. Read the manual and check air pressure regularly. Underinflated tires suffer from rim bruises, sidewall snagging, and carcass failure. Over-inflation increases tread wear (on tractors and ground-driven implements) and because of reduced traction, weakens the carcass and hastens weather checking. An air pressure gauge and a good tire pump are essential in maintaining proper inflation. Proper inflation is especially important where fluid weight is used since the air space is greatly reduced. A special air-water gauge should be used for testing tires carrying fluid weight.
Grease and oil are natural enemies of rubber. Protect tires from oil and grease as much as possible. Should tires become spattered with oil or grease, wipe them off with a rag dampened with petrol - but do this job outside the implement shed to reduce fire hazard. Never allow tires to stand in barnyard acids. If spray chemical gets on the tires, wash it off.
Inspect tires periodically for carcass breaks and cuts and have them repaired immediately. No cut is too small to require attention, for if it is not repaired, further damage will result.
Use tractor wheel weights (according to manufacturer's instructions) to secure maximum traction and minimum slippage.
Avoid high transporting speeds. Implement tires, unless otherwise specified, are not designed for speeds exceeding fifteen miles an hour. Take added precautions as tires age.
Don't overload. Reduce speed and load on rough ground if possible.
Protect the tires of idle implements from sunlight.
When a rubber-tired implement is to be idle for a considerable time, block up the axles to take the weight off the tires, but leave the tires inflated.
Helpful Hints to Lengthen the Life of Your Tractor
ï‚· Do not work the tractor on full load until the engine is thoroughly broken in.
ï‚· Dirty oil and greases are accountable for 85% of premature wear and consequent short tractor life.
ï‚· Dirty oil becomes a modified form of grinding compound.
ï‚· Clean the air cleaner daily - oftener of tractor is operating in exceptionally dusty conditions.
ï‚· Check the air cleaner to carburetor connections frequently.
ï‚· Renew the cartridge in the oil filter at specified intervals - more often if necessary - to keep the oil clean.
ï‚· Change engine oil and transmission oil as specified. Use good quality lubricants.
ï‚· Keep oil container or measures clean.
ï‚· Keep inside and outside of tractor clean.
ï‚· If engine temperatures run too high, clean out air passages through radiator core. Check entire cooling system. Check fan belt tension.
ï‚· Check storage battery weekly. Add distilled water if necessary.
ï‚· Check the air pressure in the tires frequently and keep caps on valve stems.
ï‚· Do not work the tractor or run the engine at full throttle until engine is thoroughly warmed up.
ï‚· Do not stop the engine immediately after working under full load. Let it idle a few minutes and then stop.
ï‚· Engage the clutch carefully to avoid jumping the tractor.
ï‚· Clean the fuel sediment bowl frequently and also the fuel line periodically.
ï‚· It is advisable to have a complete tune-up, including the carburetor, distributor and generator performed once each season or oftener if necessary.
Engine Basics: Spark Plug Cleaning
Spark plugs should be cleaned about every 250 hours of use. The type of plug should be changed to correspond to the kind of fuel used. A "hot" plug, one with a long distance for the heat to travel from point to petrolket in the shell, is used for heavy fuel. A "cold" plug, one with a short distance for heat to travel from point to petrolket in the shell, is used for petrol.
ï‚· Brush or blow dirt from around the spark plug base.
ï‚· Remove the plug with a correctly fitted wrench.
ï‚· Examine the porcelain insulator and points. If the insulator appears to be melted or blistered, cracked or broken, and the points seem unduly burned it is evident that the plug is operating too hot and it should be replaced with a colder plug. If the plug is fouled excessively with carbon it apparently is operating too cold and it should be replaced with a hotter plug. Plug and engine manufacturers recommend specific plugs for specific uses. Even the correct style of plug will accumulate some carbon and the electrodes will scale to a certain extent. Carbon accumulation tends to allow leakage of electricity with the possibility of a complete short. Corroded or scaled points tend to weaken the spark.
ï‚· Misfit plugs should be replaced with the proper plugs.
ï‚· Clean plugs in a sandblast cleaner, if possible. If one is not available, clean with a wire brush.
ï‚· Regap the plug points. Use round gauge, and bend outside electrode to the correct gap as recommended by the manufacturer. Gap varies widely among engines, from 20/000 to about 40/000 inch. Gap specs for many models of tractors are available here..
Sometimes simple fixes avoid spending money
Occasionally simple fixes will correct what may seem to be complex or expensive problems. Always check the simple things first and possibly avoid expending time and money. Obviously selling carburetors, generators, starters and rebuild kits is good for our business, but not if it does not fix your problem!
Simple Fix #1 - Runs poorly when warmed up
Before replacing the carburetor, check the fuel line, sediment bowl and tank outlet. With old tractors these often become clogged with rust sediment and cause the engine to run as if the float and float valve are damaged. The symptoms are usually, the tractor will run fine when started but begin to starve out and miss after awhile. It is also easy to associate this condition with warming up ("it runs fine till it warms up").
Simple Fix #2 - Dies when warmed up
When the tractor warms up it unceremoniously dies with no spark. The spark does not come back till the tractor cools down. This is commonly a bad condenser. Since testing condensers appears to be a lost art, it is simplest to replace them.
Simple Fix #3 - Good battery won't actuate starter
The starter just won't crank over your 6-volt tractor. Before replacing the starter, check for warmth at the connections of your battery cables. Your cables may be too high of gage (the wire is too small) and your connections may be less than perfect. Remember that 6-volt systems draw more amperage and the connections and wiring and connections should be near perfect for the starter to function as it was intended.
Simple Fix #4 - Won't start, getting petrol & spark
You have spark at the right time and petrol is getting on the plugs, but the tractor won't start. If the tractor has been sitting for some time, it is likely that your petrol has gone bad. Drain and replace the petrol with new.
Simple Fix #5 - Won't start, water in distributor cap
If you have trouble with your tractor during high-moisture times, such as during a thaw, check under the distributor cap for moisture. Dry it all out inside and you will be on your way again.
Simple Fix #6 - Overheating or not charging
Your tractor is overheating. Before you replace your water pump, thermostat, and radiator cap, be sure that you have the correct width and profile v-belt for your cooling fan and be certain it is tensioned properly. This can also cause the charging system to appear to be bad.
Simple Fix #7 - Boiling out radiator fluid
Your tractor boils out your radiator fluid whenever it warms up. Before replacing the thermostat, be sure your radiator cap is rated correctly for your system and that its spring and seal are still in good shape. The cap may be "letting off steam" under what was supposed to be normal pressure.
Simple Fix #8 - Burning Oil?
You have good compression on all cylinders indicating that your valves, pistons, and rings are in good shape but you have traces of oil smoke coming out the exhaust. This can be caused by your oil-bath air filter. Be sure that you are running the correct weight of oil. If the oil is too light, it will be drawn into the engine. Don't go overboard the other way, if the oil is too heavy, it won't clean the air.
Oil Bath Air Filters
Some of us grew up thinking that an air filter was a paper thing that allowed air to pass while trapping dirt particles of a certain size. What a surprise to open up your first old tractor's air filter case and find a can that appears to be filled with the scrap metal swept from around a machine shop metal lathe. To top that off, you have a cup with oil in it ("why would you want to lubricate your carburetor?"). On closer examination (and some reading in a AC D-14 service manual), I found out that this is a pretty ingenious method of cleaning the air in the tractor's intake tract.
How it works
When the engine starts, it sucks a certain amount of the oil out of the cup allowing it to coat the packed-in metal "shavings". This packing causes a massive increase in the amount of oil soaked surface area available to stop dirt particles. The cannister is designed to be the correct height to allow the proper weight oil to not be sucked into the engine but only pulled to the top of the can.
Uncleaned air is sucked in by the same vacuum that draws the oil up on the "shavings". The air is drawn downward towards the oil sump at the bottom of the cannister, usually through a center pipe. Any particles that are truly "large" will likely continue down into the oil left at the bottom of the cup and be trapped. The small dirt particles are trapped on the oil soaked "shavings" as the air moves upward through the outer cannister. If the correct weight oil is in the cup, the end result is that the air leaves the top of the cannister clean.
The first problem comes with using the wrong weight oil. Use of oil that is too light will cause the oil to be drawn beyond the filter and into the engine. Use of oil that is too heavy will not allow the oil to be drawn up far enough and much of the air cleaning surface area ends up being unused. Manufacturer owner manuals always show the oil weight that is designed for the system. Engineering of the system (we hope) will have picked just the right weight for the size of the cannister, cup, and vacuum pressure.
The second problem comes when the cup is not cleaned regularly. Manuals always recommend daily refilling of the cup and suggest even more frequent cleanings under dusty conditions. The oil may look clean in the cup but after a few hours of running but it has trapped a significant quantity of small particles many of which will be drawn back up into the cleaning surfaces. When the particles-to-oil ratio reaches a certain level, the dirt will begin to hang on (or "sludge up") on the cleaning surfaces. Eventually, instead of just clean air being sucked into the intake, you have chunks of dirt and sludge going with it. Obviously this can be quickly damaging to the engine. If your cannister is filled with sludge, clean it out before using it or it could do more harm than good.
The last problem is with radically altered machines. The oil bath is engineered for the stock engine. Radical changes to the engine mandate changes to the air cleaning system. Care should also be exercised if replacing your oil bath filter. The replacement should be similar in size and engineered capacity to the original.
Timing Your Magneto Ignition Tractor
If you have done major engine work or restored your tractor, chances are you removed the magneto and spark plug wires and eventually reached the point where you had to put it all back together and make it run. On our first cosmetic restoration, not having a manual, we carefully marked the wires, taped the magneto in the position it came off, and were careful not to turn the engine over while we had these components off. We thought we could get by with this since the engine ran perfectly and would not need any internal work. After the cleanup and painting was done, we began reassembly and finally came to the day that it was time to put the magneto back on and start it up. That didn't turn out to be the day we would start it! The tape didn't stick too well to the mag body and was long gone. We bolted it on as near as we could remember to how it came off. We hooked up the wires according to the diagram we had made. We cranked till we had massive blisters and the best we could get was an occasional pop. Remember, this was a perfect runner when we took it apart. After much examination and we discovered that our diagram was showing the wires number left to right with the rear being number 1. This would have been fine (though technically inaccurate) had the same person hooked up the wires that made the diagram. I had hooked them up with number 1 being the front plug (which is the case for all tractors I know of but not all engines). This was easy enough to correct but the magneto had still turned and was not aligned to its drive. We finally were forced to learn how it was supposed to be done if we wanted to do more than just push the shiny new tractor in and out of the shop when we wanted to work on something else.
Our approach could have worked but too often you won't have the luxury of trying to keep the components aligned correctly. Understanding the magneto setup is pretty simple anyway. There are two phases to the process. The first is to get the magneto roughly timed, the second is to dial it in. The "roughing" process is as follows:
Aligning the Cap
There is a gear on the magneto shaft that will drive a gear on a rotor (similar to a distributor ignition). These gears must mesh at the proper point. On the FMJ style magnetos, There are 2 teeth with bevels on the magneto side and a tooth with a timing mark on the cap side. The marked tooth meshes in between the bevel teeth. The intent of this process (in case all the marks are gone), is to get the points to open and close at the correct times to provide voltage out the plug wire. Knowing this it is possible to guess the meshing in the case of missing markings. Once the cap is aligned, it can be screwed back on.
Since the need to do this step means you must have the cap off, it is a good time to check the petrolket and make a new one if it is damaged. A new petrolket must be made from very thin paper material, heavy petrolket material such as used at oil-bathed seams can hold the cap out as much 1/16th inch or more too far. Also don't forget to clean the vent holes at the bottom of the cap.
Lining up the Engine
The engine should be at the top of the compression stroke of the number 1 piston. There were many ways that this was marked on engines, none of which were standard and in any case, the timing marks are often missing on old machines. There is a sure fire way to know. I use a small fitting with the same thread as the spark plug on one side and a nipple for a hose other side. These are commonly made for compression testers and the "head-still-on-engine" valve spring compressor kits. This is screwed in to the number 1 spark plug hole and you attach a hose to the other side. Crank the engine until air begins to rush out the hose (put a balloon on the end of the hose if you want to get some visual feedback, I've never tried this but it seems like an interesting approach). When the air starts coming out, it means you are headed into the compression stroke. Then slowly continue turning the engine until the number 1 piston reaches its highest point. I have determined this by using a very long thin plastic rod to feel how high the piston is.
Some caution is advised. I mentioned a long rod because a short one could be dropped into the cylinder forcing you to remove the head to retrieve it. Also be careful not to disturb the carbon on the top of the piston since it could get stuck in an exhaust valve when you finally start the engine.
Bolting on the Magneto
To get your magneto to mesh to the engine, you must turn the magneto (in the direction it was designed to operate in) until the rotor is positioned over the number 1 plug wire terminal. When positioned thusly, the dogs or slots on the mag should line up with the corresponding dogs or slots on the engine and slide right in. Loosely bolt on the magneto such that it can still be turned but is held in place. Connect the grounding wire. Be sure your grounding / kill switch is in the off position. You may not have a ground wire if your magneto is one that requires you get off the tractor and ground it manually to kill the engine. In this case, it is a good idea to make a wire to ground it temporarily or the engine may start or seriously backfire unexpectedly during the final timing.
The plug wires should be connected in the order specified in your manual (Note: if you are not using what your manual shows as number 1, hook the number 1 wire to the cap terminal that you timed to be number 1 since this is all that really matters). The firing order and direction of magneto rotation direction are the keys to hooking up the rest of the wires. Examples are the Allis WD, WC, WF, B, C, CA, and IB use 1-2-4-3, the Farmall Cub, Allis G and MH Pony use 1-3-4-2. If no manual is available for your tractor, you can determine this by watching the order in which the intake valves open (rocker arm will go down when the valve opens). Determining the firing order this way involves removal of the valve cover.
By this stage, you have a rough timing but don't try to start it this way. Make sure the magneto is grounded (turned off or a "crowbar" safety wire hooked up between the ground lug and a good ground on the tractor) or you might just break your arm or worse. In this state the tractor can backfire and run pretty ragged. If you are using a hand-crank, it can furiously spin backward and kill or seriously injure you.
To get that final timing, rotate the body of the magneto counterclockwise (Note: whether counterclockwise or clockwise will depend on the rotational direction your magneto is designed for, the rotation you want here is the opposite of the normal rotation, counterclockwise works for Allis and Farmall letter series machines from 1938 till magneto's disappeared). Slowly turn the engine through its strokes till you have the number 1 piston at the top of its compression stroke again. Now gently rotate the magneto clockwise until you hear the pronounced click of the impulse coupler. This indicates that the magneto is right at the point where it will fire the number one piston. Tighten up the bolts, remove your temporary safety ground wire (if you put one on) and try starting the engine. This is the point where, if you are hand-cranking the engine, you must follow the hand-cranking safety precautions in your manual since you are trying to start an untested engine. Since there are several factors beyond mag-timing that to go into backfires and you may have made a mistake making this the most dangerous time for hand-cranking.
After this process is complete, it is up to you to figure out if any further minor adjustments will help your tractor when running at speed. I have done minor adjustments at this point when the engine is running to improve running at rated RPM. In general, your timing should be very close at this point.
You may have timed your magneto correctly but the tractor still won't start. The many things that can go wrong are for the most part beyond the scope of this article but a few that are related follow.
We mentioned an audible click that should occur when the engine comes to the top of any compression stroke. This is the impulse coupler and is what allows a tractor to start at cranking speed. It fires an extra hot spark. If you do not hear that click, your magneto may have a broken impulse coupler. It is possible for a tractor to start with a dysfunctional Impulse Coupler, but to do so requires a perfect starter that can crank the engine at fairly high RPM. Your options for fixing this are to buy a new magneto, send your magneto to one of the businesses that restore them or buy the "How to Restore Tractor Magnetos" Motorbooks reference by Yerigan and do it yourself.
Confusion on Number 1?
Some caps have a 1 at the contact where, by convention, the number 1 spark plug wire should plug in. In some cases, this conflicts with what the operators manual may indicate is the number 1 plug contact. In this case, if one were to time the magneto according to the manual but hook up the wires according to the number on the cap, the machine might still not be timed. What's important is for you to keep track of which contact you are timing the rotor to inside the mag and hook up the number 1 wire to that contact on the cap.
Before you spend too many days cranking or wearing out the charge on your battery, check the spark. If the magneto is functioning, you should be able to get a spark. Most auto parts stores carry a spark tester that makes it pretty easy. It looks like a spark plug with a large alligator clip. Hook this "Spark Plug" to a plug wire and connect the clip to ground. When cranked, it will flash if you have sufficient spark. If you can't see a spark, you are wasting a lot of energy cranking.
If you aren't getting spark, disconnect your ground wire to the magneto and try again. Remove all the plug wires from the plugs to keep the engine from starting since you are testing for spark, not trying to start it. The kill switch could be shot and permanently grounding the magneto. Pulling the ground wire off is the same thing as disabling the kill switch or more directly "turning the key on". If the tractor does start, ground the magneto immediately with a jumper and kill the tractor. This is critical since, depending on the wiring of your electrical system, you may be running with it disabled (since the ignition switch is the component in question). This can damage the generator.
Where to find the specifics for your tractor
Most service manuals do not cover the process of magneto or ignition timing. Since the service manuals were designed for the dealer who had trained mechanics, they must have assumed that this process was as intuitive to the dealer mechanic as putting air in the tires. As a result, you nearly always find the Magneto timing in the Operators manual since this is what every tractor owner would receive with the tractor. Usually both manuals will have the firing order.
A word of caution on following the factory manuals. Your tractor may have a different magneto than the normal magneto supplied originally. An example of this is that the Allis Chalmers B manual shows a Fairbank Morse Model J while many ended up with WICO magnetos as replacements. Aligning the internal gears is different on the WICO, thus the manual can't help in this respect.
Piston Ring Removal and Replacement
Replacing rings is a fairly easy process to stretch the engines usability between major rebuilds and cut down on that blue smoke and high oil consumption. Frequently, replacing only the rings is not advisable because by the time you do the teardown and measurement of the components, the pistons are often beyond the manufacturers specification or something else you find will signify the need for a major rebuild. Still, there are those times when inspection and measurement will show that the pistons and cylinders are still serviceable as is. On these lucky occasions, you can get by with simply replacing petrolkets and the rings. The process is pretty straightforward but if done incorrectly may result in your engine needing a major rebuild or just unsatisfactory results.
When should you replace the rings?
If you have a trace of blue smoke and are using quite a bit of oil, you may be in the market for rings. Before you can come to this conclusion, you need to check your piston to sleeve tolerances and surfaces plus make sure your valve guides are not sloppy. The valve guides can also exhibit the same symptoms as do worn out pistons and sleeves (or cylinders).
Rings can be replaced when you have verified all the following:
ï‚· Bore of cylinder is not scored
ï‚· Rings are not stuck to cylinder wall
ï‚· Bore is within tolerance throughout piston travel (up and down and at right angles around the bore)
ï‚· Piston is not scored, cracked or its top surface eaten away
ï‚· Bottom flanges of sleeve are not cracked
ï‚· Sleeves are not leaking oil into cooling system
ï‚· Piston ring grooves are within tolerance and not damaged
There are several conditions that warrant more extensive work than ring replacement. Engines frequently get stuck because of ring problems and depending on how it sticks, a stuck engine can lead to other extremely expensive problems such as bent rods, damaged crankshafts, and block casting damage. It is wise to make sure that your engine is a good candidate for just replacing the rings.
Where do you start?
The disassembly should be covered in your service manual with all the specifics you will need but here are some general tips that should apply to most machines. The disassembly process is usually begun by draining the fluids (water/antifreeze and oil) and pulling the oil pan. On some machines you can perform the process without removing the head by pulling the pistons out from below by simply removing the rod bearing caps. Caution is advised here because this leaves out an important step that may come back to haunt you. If you don't remove the head, you will not be able to remove the ridge at the top of the cylinder. This process is done from the top with a tool called a ridge reamer. These are commonly available at auto parts stores, Sears, or nearly anywhere that quality tools are sold. The ridge reamer is a cutting tool that will equally cut around the very top edge of the cylinder to remove the ridge. The ridge is formed naturally as the area of piston and ring travel in the cylinder wears and the portion above it does not. If you don't remove this ridge, there is a possibility that your new larger and very sharp-edged rings will be broken by contacting the ridge. This means another teardown and sometimes sleeve replacement due to scoring. Removal from the top requires cutting off the ridge to avoid damaging the piston ring lands (the surfaces that support the rings) as you pull the piston out. In any case, removal of the head lets you test the valves for good sealing and allows you to measure the tolerances of the head and block surface. Remove the head, remove the ridge, and remove the rod bearing caps. You can then pull the pistons out the top and carefully remove the rings from piston.
Cleaning up the Pistons
After you have removed the pistons, examine them and the cylinders for scoring that would suggest more than just ring replacement. Then remove the rings by very carefully spreading them from the break (called a ring gap). A tool can be purchased called a ring spreader that can make this a bit simpler. An inexpensive ring spreader looks like a pair of pliers that open when squeezed. More expensive rings spreaders have the same design but also have a band to wrap completely around the circumference of the ring to ensure that you don't elongate or spread the ring gap too far. This is not that important on your old rings since you are throwing them away but on the new ones it is critical.
Once the rings are removed from the pistons, examine the grooves that the rings fit into and make sure they are not damaged. You will need to clean the grooves carefully to remove carbon and dirt that would hamper the correct seating of your new rings.
What size rings will do the job?
Sizing your new rings can be done by measuring the bore and determining what oversize will completely fill the gap when the piston is at the top of its stroke and the manufacturers required ring gap is taken into account. The ring gap is the clearance left at the split in the ring when the ring is as compressed as it will be in your cylinder (this is usually the top of the pistons stroke).
Chances are that using one oversize up from the existing rings will suffice since only replacing rings usually indicates very little wear on the piston and cylinder.
Honing the Cylinders
Cylinder hones can be purchased at any real auto parts store. The hone is a device with 3 grinding stones and will chuck up into your 1/4 inch drill to allow you to eliminate the smoothness of the cylinder bore. This smoothness, called a glaze, would keep your new rings from seating properly. The intent of honing is to get a nice cross-hatch surface on the cylinder. To get this you must move the hone up and down as the drill runs. Never allow the drill to run in one spot. Be sure there are no large particles on the bore or hone surfaces that will cause scoring. Cover the crankshaft rod journals while honing to keep them protected from falling debris.
Filing the Ring Gap
When you receive your new rings, you will place them in the cylinders and measure how much clearance is left at the ring gap at various points in the cylinder. Slipping feeler gauges into the gap lets you determine if the clearance is sufficient and matches your tractors suggested specifications. To increase the ring gap, spread the gap enough to insert a file and move the ring back and forth occasionally checking the gap in the cylinders till you reach the desired clearance.
Reinstall the rings on the piston using your ring spreader or very carefully spread them by hand and slip them into the ring grooves starting with the lowest ring (oil ring) and ending with the top ring (compression ring). Insert them into the bore by using a ring compressor. This is a sleeve that fits around the piston to compress the rings such that the piston can be slipped into the bore. Be sure your ring compressor is perfectly clean on the inside and put some oil on the surface where the rings will be sliding as you push the piston down into the cylinder. You will also want to put a bit of clean motor oil on the cylinder walls prior to slipping the piston into the cylinder. Then follow your service manual's instructions for reassembly of the engine and other components.
Other items to check when doing a ring job
Though these are not related to actually replacing the rings, doing this job presents an ideal opportunity to check them. First, while the rods and pistons are out, you may be able to slip a feeler gauge in between the Camshaft and its bushings to see if they have exceeded their useful life. The other opportunity that shouldn't be missed is the adjustment of your rod bearings. Since the rod caps must be pulled off, you should perform measurements to see if the journals need adjustment or replacement. On many machines adjustment will simply involve removal of one or more shims but if you don't do it while you are doing your rings, you may have to go through the whole process again in the near future.
Pitfalls of Tractor Engine Rebuilds
or The rebuild from... well you know what I mean
Rebuilding the engine of a project or working tractor is one of the more rewarding processes you can undertake. The first pop after you have put the machine together with your own hands is exciting and pleasing. The whole experience can be marred if one moves too fast and makes too many assumptions that they can just use "as is" some parts they should be closely scrutinizing and possibly attended to. In such cases, rework makes what could have been a fun project turn into an irritant or even a nightmare.
To give you an example of an minor but irritating problem, picture this; You are standing there revelling in the pride of your newly rebuilt engine, listening to the purr of those bearings, pistons, and rings all working in smooth harmony and you look down to a drip of oil coming from the rear seal or possibly a puddle of anti-freeze forming from a small but steady drip from the water pump. Arrgh. I call this an irritant because even though you will have to pull things apart, this type of problem does not impact the primary work of the rebuild and likely won't mean repurchasing bearings or rings etc.
The Engine from ...
You won't even get to the point of hearing the "nightmare" engine run. With a nightmare engine, you may have tolerances set "by the book" on the ring gap, the mains and rod bearings, but every time you torque the bolts, you have to use a 4 foot pipe wrench on the crank pulley to turn it over. How does a normal rebuild become a nightmare? You may know or have heard of the scenario. You waste three petrolket sets putting it together... tearing it down... putting it together... tearing it down etc, each time waiting for the UPS truck and new parts that you should've put in right off or replacements for new parts you destroyed on your first attempt. (Note: there's nothing I dislike more than cleaning petrolket surfaces that I cleaned the weekend before). What should have been a weekend project has taken months, much of the time spent trying to avoid the shop so you can forget this perplexing failure. Many times, you are not at fault for a rebuild working out this way. It can happen frequently with engines that seized up in a hurry. Fortunately most rebuilds are undertaken because the tractor was just getting tired and nothing catastrophic happened to force the rebuild. By catastrophic, I mean something happened that made the engine stick hard and stick fast... while it was spinning at 1500 RPM.
Since tractors don't always get the best maintenance but still have to work hard, these catastrophes do happen. If you are the one that has put it back together, you are called upon to do a much far more detailed diagnosis than the normal rebuild would require. In these situations, metal will distort, crack, break, twist, and bend.
If you try to just get by with problems like those described above ("Well ... its just a nice tight engine") the results will be disastrous. If you proceed with putting it together ("I'll just pull start it with the 4-by the first time to loosen her up a bit") You will likely destroy your new rebuild and probably end up junking the engine or tractor out. If you want to make sure that when you put it back together, it stays together and works right, you have to check tolerances and alignments that you could just take for granted on a normal rebuild.
The things you don't have to worry about
One nice thing to remember is that your serious rebuild is probably going to have a complete engine kit so this eliminates many items from close scrutiny. You will have new pistons, rings, pins, sleeves (or a bore job), valves, guides, bearings, and petrolkets. For these items, someone else was responsible to make sure that everything was the way it should be, either the manufacturer, or in the case of the bore, your machine shop. Your crankshaft will also be "taken care of" since it will have been turned or welded and turned (more on that later) and by default must be straight or they wouldn't have been able to turn it.
What you do have to worry about
There is certainly more to rebuilding than just stuffing in the new parts, especially when you have a machine that froze on the move. I will list a few that I have found through great pain and many petrolket sets. Note that some of these items may bear looking at on your "normal" rebuild also since;
Assembling an engine once is fun. Assembling that same engine twice a serious bother. Assembling three times is a downright pain in the ...
Piston rods may give the appearance of being very strong and rigid but not so. Just to realize how flexible they are, lock a solid shaft in a vice, slip the piston pin over the shaft with the rod attached and torque the rod bearing caps on to manufacturers specs (you will have to do this anyway to determine if the surfaces that hold the bearings are perfectly circular). You will see as you are torqueing that you could twist and damage the rod quite easily. If you are working on a machine that seized while running you will likely find at least one of the rods that is visibly bent or twisted. If you can see the bend, you cannot use the rod. Even if you can't see the bend, rods from such an engine should be checked for straightness. The manuals say "use a suitable jig for determining straightness" or some such gibberish. Since they don't have any tools listed as "suitable jig...", I have never found one and simply replace the rods or have them reconditioned (during the reconditioning process, they will tell you if you have a rod that is unusable).
Another critical thing to look for on the rod is the out-of-roundness of the surfaces that hold the bearings. To do this, use the inside micrometer to measure the circle at right angles. As described above, the bearing cap must be torqued on to do this. More than .001 is probably not acceptable and may cause your bearing to lock up tight even though the plastigage measurements check out during assembly.
A symptom of either of these problems will be that the crankshaft will not turn easily when you have all bearings and pistons assembled.
Push rods bend pretty easily if the valve timing was off or even a valve was adjusted to be open all the time (you may end up with a tractor that was someone's mechanical learning experience). Visibly bent push rods should be tossed and others should be checked. Checking them can be done with a very flat surface and feeler gauges. I have heard people say they can straighten push rods but I have always just replaced them from a tractor junk yard.
Camshafts can bend but it is unlikely since the push rods tend to sacrifice themselves much sooner. The real problem on the camshaft is the bushings that they ride on. If the surface went too long without oil or had a foreign object lodged in between, the scoring may be too severe for quiet operation. While it is possible to get the shaft turned you need to check first if oversize bearings are available since normally only standard size are sold for old tractors. If no oversize is available, you can still have a machine shop make new bushings and as an alternative a used or reconditioned camshaft may be purchased.
While a bent crankshaft is unlikely, it is possible. If you aren't getting a rebuilt but rather having it turned or welded and turned, the straightness will be determined for you. Nonetheless, when you get your freshly welded and turned crankshaft back, examine it very carefully for imperfections in the surface. These do happen and will cause you to re-replace your bearings before you ever start the engine.
A symptom of this problem is that the crankshaft will not turn easily when you have all bearings and pistons assembled and you will have horrible scoring on your new bearings.
There are a few things that can go wrong with the basic block. The first and most obvious is the lack of flatness of the head and block mating surface. These are checked with a straight edge and feeler gauges. Your manual will provide the tolerance that is allowed. If the engine is sleeved, this tolerance takes on an extra importance because the stand-up (or how far they stick out) of the sleeves must be taken into account. If there are radical differences between the cylinders, you have probably assembled the sleeves either with dirt under the flange and down where the o-rings fit or the lower mating surface is distorted for some reason. This can cause leaking at the head petrolket, seepage of oil into the coolant at base of the sleeve, and distortion of the sleeve that hampers free movement of the piston. This is easily recognized before you install the sleeves by slipping the sleeves in without the o-rings to be sure they fit with the required stand-up tolerance. Don't depend on a "bigger hammer" or the head bolts to fix this problem since neither will work. Fix it before assembling the sleeves.
Another problem with the block can be hairline cracks. Such cracks must be repaired before any new parts go in or the welding and surfacing will surely damage them. Though there are probably many weak points on several machines, a common example is the lower right corner on a Farmall Cub engine. This flange commonly cracks and will be a persistent oil leak once your engine is assembled (One that can't be corrected without complete disassembly).
Rocker arms can be distorted which can make adjustment difficult and sometimes even cause the push rod to slip by (make an enormous racket) when combined with a slightly bent push rod. Check these for straightness and smooth profile.
If the oil pump won't pump sufficiently, your new parts are at risk. Usually you can either resurface the pump facing to bring it into tolerance or take it to a machine shop and let them do it. It is a simple job while the engine is off but on most tractors requires removal of the engine to perform.
The seal of the water pump may be unwilling to hold the anti-freeze in after sitting in one position for many years (as happens with many of the machines we rebuild). It's not too expensive or difficult to take care of while the tractor is disassembled. Fortunately, the bearings in tractor water pumps are frequently still good and reusable so the fix is cheap.
While you are reassembling the engine, check to see if you have too much slop in the governor shaft. Replace this simple bushing so your governor will work correctly. Slop in this bearing will change the centrifugal force action of the governor causing it to compensate too slowly when fast compensation is required.
I find this to be one of the most irrating mistakes to make when rebuilding. The mating surfaces on each end of the crankshaft must be smooth and perfectly round or you end up with a nagging oil leak. You don't see the leak till you start the tractor and get it hot but fixing it requires complete disassembly.
Diagnosing Engine Difficulty - Petrol
The following suggestions are listed for your assistance. You can make simple adjustments on your tractor that will improve its operation and save you the time and expense of hiring someone to do it for you.
Always make one adjustment at a time, and if the adjustment made does not improve the condition, return to the original setting before proceeding to the next adjustment.
Engine Fails to Start or Runs Unevenly
ï‚· Fuel valve is shut off.
ï‚· Incorrect fuel in tank.
ï‚· Float valve sticking.
ï‚· Fuel tank empty.
ï‚· Clogged fuel filter or fuel lines.
ï‚· Dirty or clogged air cleaner.
ï‚· Leaking or loose manifold.
ï‚· Engine flooded.
ï‚· Broken wires from distributor to engine.
ï‚· Wires not in proper position.
ï‚· Switch not turned on or defective.
ï‚· Spark plugs wet, dirty or broken.
ï‚· Distributor weak, or out of time.
ï‚· Spark plugs points pitted, dirty or improperly spaced.
ï‚· Low water level in cooling system.
ï‚· Radiator clogged.
ï‚· Fan belt slipping.
ï‚· Collapsed radiator hose.
ï‚· Thermostat stuck.
ï‚· Tractor overloaded.
ï‚· Improperly timed ignition.
ï‚· Fuel mixture too lean.
ï‚· Weak spark.
ï‚· Diluted lubricating oil.
ï‚· Pulling heavy load at reduced engine RPM.
ï‚· Water pump impeller vanes broken.
Engine Valves - Some Helpful Information
The complete cycle of intake, compression, firing and exhaust takes place in less than 1/25 of a second at moderate speed.
Intake - On the intake stroke the piston moves doward, sucking in carburized fuel through the open intake valve. Exhaust valve is closed.
Compression - With both the intake and exhaust valves closed, the pistons upward stroke compresses or squeezes the fuel into the combustion chamber.
Firing - Ignited by the spark, the compressed fuel explodes and forces the piston downward on its power stroke. Intake and exhaust valves are closed. Exhaust valves and seats are exposed momentarily to temperature as high as 3800 degrees F.
Exhaust - The piston moves upward on its exhaust stroke and forces the burned fuel through the open exhaust valve. Intake valve is closed.
The chief reason for loss of power and performance (with petrol and oil wasted), is faulty valve action. Carbon, corrosion and wear and misalignment are inevitable products of normal engine operation.
Carbon - Carbon is a by-product of combustion and prevents heat dissipation. Clean metal is a good heat conductor but carbon insulates and retains the heat. This increases combustion chamber temperature and causes warping and burning.
Unburned carbon residue gums valve stems and causes sticking in the guide. Deposits of hard carbon with sharp points projecting become white hot and cause pre-ignition and pinging.
Carbon fouls spark plugs, which makes the engine miss and wastes fuel. Valve seats are held open and pitted when held open by carbon particles. Carbon formation cannot be entirely eliminated but is minimized by high quality fuel and valve tune-ups.
Corrosion and Wear - Warping, burning, pitting and out-of-round wear attack the exhaust valve. It is exposed to high temperatures or exhaust petroles.
Burning and pitting are caused by the valve failing to seat tightly, permitting exhaust blow-by. This condition is often caused by hard carbon particles on the valve seat. It may also be due to weak valve springs, insufficient tappet clearance, warpage and misalignment. Warpage occurs chiefly in the upper valve stem due to its exposure to intense heat. Out-of-round wear follows when the seat is pounded by a valve whose head is not in line with the stem and guide. Oil and air are sucked past worn intake valve stems and guides into the combustion chamber, causing excessive oil consumption, forming carbon and diluting carburized fuel.
Misalignment - is a product of wear, warpage, and distortion. Wear perhaps hastened by insufficient or improper lubrication will eventually create sloppy clearances and misalignment. Distortion is caused by unequal tightening of cylinder head bolts.
Warpage of the entire engine block is not uncommon, usually due to excessive heat caused by a clogged cooling system. More frequently the valve guide warps because of the variation in temperatures over its length. The lower part of the guide is near combustion heat while the upper is cooled by water jackets.
Any wear, warpage or distortion affecting the valve guides, destroys its function as an accurate bearing to keep the valve head concentric with its seat and prevents leakproof sealing.
Valve Spring - Valve springs must be of a uniform length. Place springs on a level surface, see that ends are flat, and use a straight edge to determine irregularity in height. Unequal or cocked valve springs should be replaced. Spring tension that is too weak will allow the valves to flutter. This aggravates wear on valve and seat with possible valve breakage. If the springs are less than 1/16" shorter when compared with a new one they should be replaced.
Stems and Guides - Check valve stems for wear. Replace valves and guides if worn excessively. Too much clearance in the intake guide admits air and oil into the combustion chamber, upsetting carburetion, increasing oil consumption and making heavy carbon deposits. Oil passing the intake valve guides can easily be detected because upon inspection, the underside of the intake valves will show a carbon formation. Sloppy exhaust guide clearance causes misalignment and bad seating, resulting in fast valve seat wear.
Sticking Valves - Are caused by carbon, misalignment and excessive wear and heavily leaded or heavy gum content in the petrol.
Tappet Clearance - Adjust tappet clearance according to specifications. Correct clearance contributes to quite engine operating and long valve seat wear. Insufficient clearance causes the valve to ride open, resulting in lost compression and burning. Too much clearance retards timing and shortens valve life above seat preventing maximum intake and exhaust. Check tappet guide clearance. Sloppy fit permits tappet to strike valve stem off-center, causing side thrust on valve stem with excessive wear and bad seating.
Timing - Adjust ignition timing with accuracy. Incorrect timing will cancel all benefit of precision reconditioning.
Ignition - With part of every valve job, inspect spark plug electrodes and insulation. Clean plug and adjust specifications. A good spark is necessary for complete combustion. Check ignition system upon which spark depends.
Tuning Up Your Tractor
Plugs and Compression Testing
by Curtis Von Fange
The engine seems to run rough. In the exhaust you can hear an occasion 'poofing' sound like somethings not firing on all cylinders. Under loaded conditions the tractor seems to lack power and it belches black smoke out of the exhaust. For some reason it just doesn't want to start up without cranking and cranking the starter. All these conditions can be signals that your unit is in need of a tune up.
Ok, so what is involved in a tune up? You say, swap plugs and file the points....now that's a tune up! If one wants a tune up that will last there are certain procedures and steps that will breath new life into your engine. It will also give you a very detailed summary for the overall condition of your tractor engine.
First thing to do in a tune up is to warm the tractor up to operating temperature. Then take a can of engine cleaner from the auto store and apply it to the engine area. A small paintbrush will stir up those extra greasy spots and help the solvent dissolve the tough areas of build up. Let the solvent set the required time and then hose the engine off. It's so much nicer to work on a clean engine. Start the engine back up and let it run for around ten minutes. This will warm things back up and evaporate any residual water.
While the engine is drying get a piece of paper and clip board out and make a list of any super greasy spots you saw on the engine that might require a petrolket replacement. Look for other causes such as a broken oil line or a leaky pressure sending unit. Walk around the tractor and note any grease build up around rear wheel seals, power unit pumps or hydraulics. Also make note of the condition of the fluid levels: engine oil, radiator, tranny, and/or rear end. Any other observations of the fluids themselves should also be written down, ie: milky engine oil, rusty antifreeze, excessively low levels. Continue with a new section covering the condition of the radiator and cap ( is there any antifreeze leaking from the core, does the cap or core have calcium deposits showing), the hoses (are they hard and brittle, soft and spongy, grease soaked and leaky), and the fan belt (shiny and glazed, cracked and split). Also take note of the general symptoms of any engine problems you encountered (missing on load, hard starting, overheating, just plain runs rotten). Also note the color of the exhaust; blue, black, white or gray. Wipe your finger in the exhaust pipe opening and take note of the residue on your finger; sootie, wet/black, dry black/ gray or brown. These notes will come in very handy.
By now the engine should be dry and you can start the tune up procedure. It may save some frustration if you marked each plug wire with a piece of masking tape and magic marker. Number 1 plug is usually closest to the radiator end of the engine. When removing the plug wires make sure not to jerk on the wire. The internal insulation won't take bending or twisting motion. Instead, grasp the boot at the plug itself and gently pull with a small back and forth twisting motion. If possible take a compressed air gun and blow around each plug base to remove accumulated debris. If no compressed air is available loosen the plugs one or two turns then crank the engine over a few times. The compression will blow away buildup that would otherwise fall into the combustion chamber on plug removal. Next remove the plugs and place them in order on the bench. By doing a visual check on the plugs one can get a quick and simple overview of the engine condition. Plugs that are operating correctly will be clean in appearance. They might have a fine light gray or tan coating on them. The electrode tip may be rounded from long use, and the gap will be above specs. These are all indications of a properly matched and operating plug. It also indicates that the upper portion of the engine; the rings and valves, are all in a good state of wear. Now let's say the plug has a lot of oily black carbon or goo on it. This is an indication of a no fire condition or excess oil in the combustion chamber. A no fire condition can be determined by taking a good spark plug and connecting it to the corresponding plug wire. Use a heavy glove and ground the plug electrode end to the block or other grounded surface. Then crank the engine over for a few turns and see if there is spark at the plug. A no spark condition will be reason to investigate the electical circuitry from the plug on back. If there is a spark on the replacement plug, then install the old plug in the same postion and repeat the process. If the plug does not fire then clean it thoroughly on a wire wheel, reinstall it and try again. If it sparks then further internal engine checks are needed. If it does not fire then the plug is shorted out. Further checks on the engine intergity would also be recommended to isolate the oil buildup problem. A blue exhaust indicates burning oil and is a good indicator of internal engine problems. Further engine tests to determine the oil penetration to the combusiton chamber will be covered under compression testing. Let's continue our discussion on plug appearances.
If the plug is black but dry and fluffy it means there is too much fuel being brought into the combustion chamber or that the installed plugs are not the correct heat range. Perhaps there is too high a fuel level in the carb, a stuck choke or plugged air filter. First check with an auto store to make sure the proper heat range plug is installed in the engine. Heat range is determined by the length of the ceramic insulator from the tip of the electrode to the sealing ring of the plug. This length forms a resistance to the electrical impulse from the distributor and will determine whether or not it fires hot or cold. The longer the insulator the hotter the spark. Too hot a spark will cause detonation in the firing chamber and result in piston and plug erosion. This condition is characterized by bright tan or white glazing on the porcelain insulator. If the heat range is correct and this condition exists that can also be an indication of too lean of a burning mixture. Check for a low float level, too small a carb jet, or a plugged fuel filter or restricted line. Too cold will cause extensive carbon build up and, eventually, misfiring. If the plugs are the correct heat range then check the air filter for excess debris and plugging. The enriched fuel mixture will show up as black exhaust under regular or loaded conditions of the engine. Refer to your inspection chart to verify your engines exhaust color. A stuck choke lever, a carb float set too high, or a stuck needle valve will also cause too much fuel to enter the engine and cause plug fouling. These conditions will be discussed under carburator problems and cures.
With respect to the above, other plug conditions are relatively rare but myriad in number. Scavenger deposits appear as crusty yellowish or whitish buildups on the electrode surface. These result from the chemical makeups of various fuels. Clean the plugs, check the gap and reinstall. Severe detonation, preignition, or over advance ignition timing can leave aluminum deposits from the pistons around the plug electrode. This indicates extensive internal engine damage. Preignition can also severely erode the plug end giving it a melted appearance. If the electrode appears to be dished then check the coil polarity and make sure the wires are attached according to your tractors specs. Squashed electrode ends result from a mismatched plug. The plug is probably too long and the piston has actually hit the end of it.
When installing used or new plugs it is important to check the plug gap. This is the distance between the two electrodes at the base of the plug. If putting in a used plug check the electrodes for cleaness and squareness. A small ignition file should be used to break any oxidation off the ends. Make sure and file the firing surfaces flat with no protruding edges. Take a wire feeler gauge (flat feelers will give an inaccurate reading on older plugs) and set the gap to specs. If no specs are available a rule of thumb would be .035". Make sure and bend the electrode from the side to attain this measurement.
All in all it is important to thoroughly examine the plugs on removal. These little items can give a wealth of information about the internal condition of an engine along with related componets like the carb, ignition system, and air filtering system.
We talked earlier about investigating a high carbon oily goo residue on the spark plug using a compression test. This will help determine the exact cause of the oil buidup. Generally, oil will come in through wore rings, wore valve guides, or worn valve seals (if so equipped). This determination divides the leakage into two catagories; the heads (valve guides), or the bottom part of the engine (the rings). Using a good compression tester one can isolate this location. The tester is, basically, a pressure gauge with a hose on it that screws into the spark plug hole. They are available at many, if not all, automotive parts stores. After warming up the engine, remove the plugs and screw the tester into the first spark plug hole. Disconnect the coil secondary wire at the distributor and ground it on the engine somewhere. Then open the choke and the throttle all the way to provide unrestricted air passage into the intake manifold. Crank the motor over five or six revolutions or until the gauge needle stops rising. Make note of the psi rating on your clipboard. Also note how the needle rises; goes up in jerks, all at once, little at a time. Go on and do the balance of the cylinders recording each reading as you go. Now it's time to examine the readings. If you have access to the pertinent engine manual you can find the psi compression specs in the tune up section. If you can't find the appropriate specs then you need to focus on the continuity between the different cylinders. Generally, a reading between cylinders of no more than 10 psi to 15 psi is permissable. Engine spec compressions may vary anywhere from 80 psi to 150 psi so look for the average on your unit. If three out of four cylinders are around 80 psi and the fourth is real high at 120 psi then one could assume that the firing chamber has an inordinate amount of carbon buildup. As you review your notes observe how the test went for each cylinder. If the needle action came up only a small amount on the first stroke and little more on succeeding strokes, ending up with a very low reading, burned, warped or sticky valves are indicated. A low buildup on the first stroke with a gradual buildup on succeeding strokes, to a moderate reading, can mean worn, stuck or scored rings. If two adjacent cylinders are low, a blown head petrolket or warped head to block surface could be responsible. Add a little heavy weight motor oil to the cylinders with low readings and recheck them. If the compression goes up a noticeable amount, worn rings are indicated. If the addition of the oil produces no significant change, valve trouble, a broken piston or a blown petrolket may be at fault. If the readings of all cylinders are within reasonably close proximities then one can assume that the upper end of the engine is in good condition.
Spark plug evaluation and compression testing are important parts of an engine evaluation because it will determine if the engine is in adequate condition to do a tune up on. It is a shame to invest in assorted tune up parts only to have the motor still miss and run lousy because a burned valve or broken ring was not diagnosed.
Tuning Up Your Tractor
Oil, Oil Filter and Air Breather
by Curtis Von Fange
In the preceding articles we discussed some of the various aspects of doing a comprehensive tune up. Hopefully some light was shed on why we do or don't do certain things pertaining to inspections and order of events when doing a tune up. Perhaps some useful reasons were given for why parts fail and what to do about preventing part failure in the future. All these tips will help us think and reason out a problem in order to make our tune up last and, hopefully, keep us from spending extra money.
If the reader has been present from the beginning of this series he will recall making an inventory list before the tune up procedures began. On this list was a collection of observations of the overall engine and tractor condition. Some of the items on that list include the fluid levels and their color. As we continue our tune up discussion we will continue to examine some of the notes that were made.
The oil color can help you determine whether or not it is time for a change. On a petrol engine, oil that is black as pitch is way beyond the change interval. Indications are that it is full of dissolved carbon and dirt. On the other hand, a diesel will usually have a black color to it as it is a reaction of the oil compounds and additives to the blow by of the piston which contains diesel fuel, sulphur, and emissions. A heavy brownish color of the oil along with tarnish on the dipstick usually indicates that the motor has been hot. The hot conditions have forced certain compounds of the oil to chemically react and produce the varnish looking appearance. A milky white color indicates excessive moisture in the engine. This can either result from a coolant leak into the oil or can be attributed to frequent on/off operation in colder or humid climates without letting the engine come up to a normal operating temperature for an extended period of time. Of course green droplets on the dipstick that smell sweet indicate antifreeze contamination in the crankcase. Oil that is an amber or lightish brown is the norm and should be changed along the recommended hourly or monthly guidelines supplied in your manual
A good tune up should include a fresh change of oil and filter. The oil is the blood of the motor. Microscopic oil films keeps moving metal parts from welding to each other. Keeping this lubricant clean and of a good quality will keep an engine running for many hours. There are many types of motor oils on the market today. Two basic catagories are the 'Texas' crudes and the 'Pennsylvania' crudes, each of which has their champions. Generally, the Texas crudes are pumped from deeper oil reservoirs and tend to have a higher parafinnic content than the Pennsylvania crudes. Since the oils have to meet a standard for parafin content it probably doesn't matter which geographic location it comes from. Oil viscosity is how fast the oil pours under given conditions. The lower the vis number the faster it flows. A 10 weight motor oil pours like milk at room temperature while a 40 weight pours like syrup. Lighter weights should be used under cold climate conditions where the motor will take a long time to come up to operating temperature; the lighter oil will lubricate better when cold. A heavier weight is best under hot climate or above normal engine running conditions as it won't run off of the motor parts as fast as a lighter oil. That is where multiviscosity oil, such as 10w-30, comes in. It has the characteristics of 10w oil when the engine first starts and the characteristics of 30w after operating temperature is reached. Some manufacturers recommend only a straight weight for their particular motor, so check your specs before you buy your oil.
Another motor oil rating is the American Petroleum Institute or API rating. This rating, SA, SB, SC, or CA, CB, CC pertains to the application of the oil. The 'S' related numbers are referring to automobile useage, the 'C' rating is dealing with trucks, industrial, and diesel engine applications. The 'A' subheading refers to a light load application up to the 'C' subheading which is a more severe operation of the motor. The same applies for the 'C' main headings. Overall differences in the numbers pertain to the additives present in the oil which retard corrosion, sulphur content (as in diesels), particle suspension chemicals, moisture absorbability, oil shear, and the like. Check with your manual to determine the appropriate application for your engine. Some oils have a high detergent heading on their containers. Keep in mind that these oils have a high internal engine cleaning ability and may not be the best thing to put into an older, unrebuilt engine. These detergents can loosen up built up carbon, goo, and debris in an older unit that may cause more serious problems such as the plugging up of the oil intake screen or circulation galleys and filters. Non detergent oils are available and should be considered on older motors that have heavy deposit build ups under the valve covers or oil filler cap.
Bring the tractor up to operating temperature, shut it off, and drain the oil into a pan. If the tractor has a high oil pan you can put a wide mouth funnel into an old milk jug and drain it directly into your disposal container. Make sure that the jug is big enough to take all the crankcase has to offer, though. When the oil is drained clean the plug threads with a clean rag and reinstall the plug, then move your container underneath the oil filter. Remove it, place it upside down in your container or funnel and let the oil drain out. Wipe off any accumulated dirt around the seal where filter mates to the engine. If the filter is easy to get to and can be reinstalled without tipping, fill it with clean motor oil before replacing it. Remove the engine breather cap or oil filler cap and inspect its underside. It should be generally clean of carbon, dirt, and goo. Heavy buildup or concentrations of the above may indicate further ventilation problems in the motor vapor circuit. Check the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and make sure it freely rattles and does not bind from excessive moisture/oil buildup. You also might check any vacuum hoses to the carburator base making sure they are not collapsed or have pin holes in them. Clean the oil cap and PCV valve with clean solvent, blow dry and reinstall. Fill the motor with the correct type and amount of oil. Do not overfill as the extra oil may cavitate in crankcase as the crankshaft counterweights come around. It will also promote seal and petrolket failure by submerging those items in a constant bath of oil. One last note is to take the oil and filter to a recycling center for proper disposal. Consider that the oil itself never wears out, it merely gets dirty and the additives wear out. By re-refining it the oil will be identical to the stuff that comes out of the ground and goes through the same refining process.
After the oil and oil filter are replaced take a moment to inspect the air cleaner or oil bath unit. This often overlooked step may, literally, breath new life into your engine. If the filters have excessive dirt and debris in them it will reduce the efficiency of your engine by enriching the fuel to the combustion chamber. This will result in poor performance, black exhaust, excessive carbon buildup, washing of the cylinder walls from too much fuel, and internal engine wear. If the unit has a paper filter, remove it and inspect it for squashing or torn paper in the element itself along with any evidence of oil. If sound, reverse blow it (from inside to out) with an air gun taking care not to get too close to the paper itself with the air stream. Clean out the filter cannister, check the cannister to carburator petrolket, and reinstall with the correct torque on the wingnut or retaining fastener. Oil in the filter element can indicate a faulty ventilation system or excessive blow by of the pistons from worn or broken rings. If the tractor has an oil bath cleaner assembly then remove the unit and disassemble on a work bench. Lift out the wire mesh and clean it in mineral spirits or equivalent solvent and let it air dry. Dispose of the oil in the lower body assembly, clean out the cannister bottom, and refill with fresh oil to the fill line. Check the tube that the air flows through to the engine (if so equiped) for dirt build up and debris. Also check the oil bath air cap assembly (if so equiped) for weed seeds and dirt. This unit is designed to make the incoming air create a vortex which moves much of the heavier material to the outside of the breather cap through centifugal force. The heavier debris then settles along the outside rim of the cap or dust collector instead of going into the oil bath itself. Before closing the cowl on the air breather service, check any intake air hoses between the engine and filter for cracking, drying out, oil contamination, or pin holes. In a dusty field even the smallest hole can let in damaging dirt.
Our engine should now have clean air and oil to extend it's life span and give it the ability to perform at its peak. Our topic next time will cover the cooling and fuel system along with miscellaneous tips on diagnosing engine maladies.
Tuning Up Your Tractor
Cooling and Fuel Systems, Hoses and Belts
by Curtis Von Fange
Our tractor is coming right along. The old oil and filter has been taken to the recycler and the air filter replacement has breathed new life into our motor. Let's take a closer look, now, at the cooling system since it has to work so hard in the summer heat.
Cooling systems can be real cantankerous in their old age. Radiator cores clog up with rust, lime or other mineral deposits and the fins clog up with weed seeds and debris. The metal headers slowly corrode away from years of use and the seams seem to always be moist with residual antifreeze. On hot days the radiator cap bellows out a stream of steam and reminds one of an old model T along side the road with an overheated engine. So how can we recognize potential problems and catch them before they happen?
The radiator, usually at the front of the tractor, is a good place to start. Check the front and rear for a build up of bugs, seeds, and weeds from the pasture. Water from a garden hose sprayed from the fan side of the radiator will remove a lot of the built up debris. Next check for moisture around the radiator core and headers. If there is leakage it will be moist and smell sweet. If ther is leakage it would be wise to have the radiator professionally flow tested and checked for lime buildup and core leakage. Next, remove the radiator cap and inspect its bottom. The cap is designed to raise the pressure in the cooling system so the coolant boils at a higher temperature. Each pound of pressure raises the boiling point by 3 degrees. A six pound pressure cap would raise the boiling point of the coolant by eighteen degrees, or from 212 degrees to 230 degrees. Make sure and check the manual for the proper pressure cap as one that is too high has a tendency to blow hoses and radiator cores. The bottom of the cap should be clean and must fit snugly onto the filler neck. Check the rubber bottom for swelling, nicks, or cracks. Also check the brass filler neck for uniformity on the sealing surfaces. A warp or hairline crack will cause pressure to leak out when in use.
Before continuing with our antifreeze inspection it is wise to check all the cooling system hoses. Hoses that are hard, brittle or cracked need to be replaced. On other hoses look for small patches of moisture on the hose surface and then gently knead that area and hunt for a hairline crack or pinhole. These areas tend to leak only when the tractor is at operating temperature and under pressure and can be difficult to notice. When leaking, though, they can shoot a hair-sized stream of hot antifreeze onto electrical parts and cause engine misfiring. Look for hoses that have swelled up because of oil contamination. They feel greasy and spongy when kneaded. Replace any hoses that are marginal. It's good to change the hose clamps also as dirt and grit can make them hard to properly torque. Also make sure and purchase the correct hose size. A hose that is too big or too small will only cause problems at a later date, especially if a sealing compound like silicone is used to try to water tighten a connection.
Antifreeze, nowadays, is a mixture of ethylene glycol and water. It used to be a mix of ethyl or methyl alcohol and water. With technological advances and different sealing compounds along with higher engine temperatures the alcohol mix became antiquated as it would evaporate or not provide adequate internal part protection in regular use. Pure ethylene glycol works as a catalyst when mixed with water. In its pure state it freezes around nine below zero but when mixed in proper proportions with water it will provide protection up to 50 or so below zero. In addition to freezing protection the solution provides a chemical soup of internal engine protectors. It contains a rust retardant, particle suspension compounds, a lubricant for the water pump seals and bushings, and corrosion resistors. When these chemical compounds wear out the antifreeze will change color and/or get cloudy. A rusty antifreeze color, for example, means that the rust inhibitor has lived its useful life. Examine the color of the antifreeze compound in the unit you are inspecting. It needs to be a clean and green. Take a temperature tester and see what the freezing point is. If the antifreeze has been in the unit for more than three years it is a good idea to replace it. Changing the stuff isn't that big a deal. Drain the radiator contents into a container. Make sure not to spill any because the dog will love the sweet taste but it is highly toxic if ingested. Also find the drain cock on the side of the engine and drain the extra few quarts out of the block. Re tighten the block drain and refill the radiator with fresh antifreeze and, preferably, distilled water (this will reduce mineral buildup over time since it is relatively mineral free).
If working on a budget, like most of us do-it-yourselfers do, you might consider filtering out your old antifreeze. I made a filter out of some gravel, coarse sand, filter paper and cotton. It took a while for the solution to filter but when it came out the other end it looked great. But don't stop with just the filtered antifreeze. Get some litmus paper to see what the acidic content is and then get some antifreeze suplement at the auto store. This stuff has the additives in a mix that can be added to the old filtered antifreeze that will give it some additional lifespan. Like I said, it is a budget measure.
Time to check the belts on the engine. Most tractors will only have one, at most two belts. They usually run the fan/water pump assembly and generator. Grasp each drive belt and roll it around so that the bottom and one side are clearly visible. Look for signs of cracking, oil soaking, hard glazed contact surface, splitting or fraying. Replace any belt showing these signs. Make sure when installing new belts or when retightening old ones to get the correct belt tension. A belt too tight will cause premature wear on the bearings; a belt too loose will squeal, flap, and cause other unit problems.
One last tidbit to check on this section is the fuel filter. This often neglected item can cause no end to an engine running funny. When plugged it will lean out the fuel mixture and cause backfiring, spitting, and misfiring. When the engine dies back pressure from expanding vapor from the fuel pump will push debris from the filter back into the tank and let fuel flow freely....for a little bit. The engine will start up and run like normal until debris, once again, finds its way back into the filter element. If suspect, replace. It is a very low cost item. Also check the fuel hoses, if rubber, for kinking, pinching from tight bends, or internal swelling due to using a hose that is non compatible with petrololine. Also check to see if a fuel line is running near an exhaust manifold or pipe. The extra heat will sometimes cause a vaporizing problem on hot days where the fuel will turn to a petrol in the line and cause the fuel circuit to 'vapor lock', or stop delivering fuel to the carb. If this happens a wrapping of aluminum foil around the fuel line and attached with bread twisties will reflect the radiated heat and help alleviate the problem.
Listening to Your Tractor
by Curtis Von Fange
Years ago there was a TV show about a talking car. Unless you are from another planet, physically or otherwise, I donâ€™t think our internal combustion buddies will talk and tell us their problems. But, on the other hand, there is a secret language that our mechanical companions readily do speak. It is an interesting form of communication that involves all the senses of the listener. In this series we are going to investigate and learn the basic rudimentary skills of understanding this lingo.
Many older tractors like to talk in the form of colors. They leave this assorted array of rainbow hues that cover most of the spectrum on concrete floors and driveways. Since they are never in a real hurry this usually occurs overnight and shows up the next morning as puddles somewhere under the unit. Since the older iron has had years to refine this specialized form of communication it gives us every advantage in understanding what it is trying to say. For example, the puddles are under the part that is leaking. Well, hey, you say...duh! But when you think about it, the newer tractors and vehicles that travel at fast speeds tend to have the wind whip the leaking fluid, causing it to travel the length of the unit making it rough to find its source. High pressure systems designed to do things in a hurry can spray fluids many feet away from the real problem and send you on a wild goose chase to places youâ€™ve never been before. They are in such a rush that they donâ€™t take the time to be user friendly and talk to us so we can hear them. We can conclude, therefore, that the term, gentlemanâ€™s tractor, has more of a hidden meaning to it. Letâ€™s take a look now at the types of puddle colors our tractor is leaving and what it is trying to tell us.
Hues of Brown
Probably the most common residue left by our tractor on the floor is the color brown. Brown can cover many types of hues, from blackish to tan. Generally it is an indication of some type of oil leakage. The oil can come from the engine, transmission, final drive, hydraulic system or steering system. Take note of where the puddle is in relation to the tractor. If it is a lighter hue, has the consistency of a light maple syrup, and lacks the burned smell of combustion, it is probably from a leaking hydraulic hose from a front end loader unit. Look up above the puddle and examine hose fittings for drippage. Many hydraulically crimped fittings will leak over time and will be characterized by a prevalent drip on the fitting or an oily film covered with dust around the hose connection. Since a high pressure leak can shoot the fluid some distance to another unit component and dribble to the ground check for leaks with the tractor running and that particular circuit under stalled load. One can usually tell by this method whether the leak is just a slow drip or a shooting spray that needs immediate attention. Other areas on the hydraulics are hoses that have the rubber covering rubbed off, the pump at the front of the motor, the spool valves on the control assembly, or the drainage plugs at the bottom of the reservoir. A darker shade of brown that usually collects under the oil pan should be obvious. The engine oil will feel somewhat thicker and have that characteristic smell of being in an engine. It tends to leak out of front and rear seals or out of leaky oil pan petrolkets. Oil tracers, or streaks on the engine block indicate the path that oil has traveled from parts further up, like on the valve cover or oil sending unit. After finding the location and determining the amount of leakage one can decide whether or not to make the appropriate repair. A blackish/brown color is characteristic of motor oil in an older engine that needs a rebuild. Excessive combustion blowby darkens the oil from contaminants and carbon residue. Examine the sample for the engine smell and identify the leakage point as sighted above. A dark brown oil can also be from the transmission or rear end. This sample will have the smearing qualities of molasses and smell like the 90 weight gear oil it probably is. If it is coming from the bellhousing then a front tranny seal is leaking. If it is found streaking the brake drums then it has rear wheel seals that are going bad. Housing petrolkets can also drip oil as well as drain plugs that donâ€™t have a sealing compound on the appropriate threads.
On occasion there might be a spot of whitish oil on the pavement. Locate the correct housing and check the dipstick to verify. Whitish oil indicates water contamination in the unit. If in the engine, evaluate the operating habits of the tractor. Does it run for short spurts without ever really heating up? Does it have an operating thermostat in it that regulates the correct operating temperature? Does it have an internal cooling leak which is characterized by consistent low coolant levels? Does the tractor sit outside in a high humidity environment without periodic operations which warm it up to full operating temperatures? Do all the entry ports to the housing have the correct weather protection devices in place? All of these conditions will cause excessive water to collect or condense in the housing and emulsify the oil causing it to become milky white. If in a housing other than the engine look for water entry in open ports, missing bolts, and the like. Change the unit with fresh oil and focus on a more regular operating schedule with complete warm up of the unit in order to evaporate off excessive moisture.
Green puddles are due to antifreeze leakage. See if the fluid can be traced to the overflow tube coming from the radiator cap. If it is, check the rubber petrolket integrity in the cap, the sealing surface on the radiator for nicks or grooves, and make sure that the pressure overflow spring is not broken. An overfilled radiator when cold will force extra antifreeze out when the motor warms up. Check to see if the radiator has a fill mark cast into the back of the radiator and fill accordingly. Look for bad hose connections in the cooling circuit especially where the hose ends meet the radiator. Sometimes overtightening the hose clamps will deform the inlet or outlet end causing a weak connecting spot. Misuse and build up of excessive sealing compounds cause high and low spots in the sealing surfaces which show up when the hose expands and contracts during operations. Remove the hose end, gently file off the build up of material and touch up with an emery cloth in order to restore the fresh brass surface. The raised lip encircling the radiator end is really what does the sealing so make sure that it is not crimped or dinged. Make sure the hoses are not hard and brittle but are pliable and go onto the radiator ports with a pressure that makes the hose mold to the lip. On proper hoses a sealing compound should not be necessary; make sure not to overtighten the hose clamp. Also check the radiator core for cracked tubing or leaky ends. Over time the tube ends that fasten in the top and bottom header will calcify and react with the brass causing weak spots that leak. If excessive, the core should be replaced as the internal integrity of the core itself is probably not worth salvaging. At the base of most water pumps is a hole which will leak antifreeze if the seal on the water pump is bad. This type of leak can be difficult to see because of its cramped location. Look for a steady but slow dripping or for antifreeze steaks down the front of the engine housing. Also check for the cooling drain plugs or cocks on the side of the engine to make sure it isnâ€™t slightly open or leaking around the threads. A good teflon tape or plumberâ€™s putty compound will stop the drippage. Another area that results in engine streaking is a bad head petrolket, cracked block, or a casting plug which has lost integrity. Following the antifreeze streaking will help to identify those problems.
Most power steering circuits use automatic transmission fluid as the circulating oil. Check the owners manual of your unit for verification. These red puddles can be traced to leaky pressure lines on that circuit or to bad o ring seals if the steering system has steel lines and internal housing components. Exposed steering hydraulic cylinders can also have worn packing and seals which will cause high pressure spouting or idle drippage. Some newer radiators have steering cooling chambers as an internal component. They generally have external fittings and high pressure hoses which may fray or leak over time.
Blue puddles are from washer solvent. Unless your tractor has a cab and window washer unit on it you wonâ€™t run into this one. But if you do, look for a brittle washer solvent line, a leaky washer pump or a cracked solvent container.
A yellowish fluid streak with fine powdery edges indicates a leaking battery case. The acid has run down a housing and done a little bit of corroding as it evaporated. If excessive it will drip onto a concrete floor and leave little pits as the acid reacts with the calcium in the cement. This can be caused by extreme battery overcharging. Check the acid level and then the charging circuit for proper activity. A cracked battery case results from a lack of proper tie down equipment or, perhaps, swelling from freezing. Either way the battery should be replaced.
Hopefully recognizing and diagnosing the assorted colors our tractor leaves on the ground will help develop a new working relationship with the unit. Maybe, in time, it might even start talking to us. Or does it already?
Identifying Tractor Smells
Listening To Your Tractor : Part 2
by Curtis Von Fange
We are continuing our series on learning to talk the language of our tractor. Since we canâ€™t actually talk to our tractors, though some of the older sect of farmers might disagree, we use our five physical senses to observe and construe what our iron age friends are trying to tell us. We have already talked about some of the colors the unit might leave as clues to its well-being. Now we are going to use our noses to diagnose particular smells.
While bushogging in the back field one year some rather large bushes forced some wiring to come in contact with the fan belt pulley. After a little time the wires rubbed through the wire insulation and shorted against each. An odor similar to leaving a milk carton on the stove roiled around the tractor seat. The smell of cooking plastic prompted me to shut off the tractor, quickly disconnect the ground cable from the battery and look for the problem.
Electrical odors can be the most dangerous of tractor smells. A hot wire grounding to the frame or another circuit can flash melt an entire wiring harness in a matter of seconds. If the shorted wires are near a fuel line the overheated wires can burn through a rubber petrol hose and ignite the tractor. Similarly they can ignite a fluff ball of milkweed pods stuffed under the radiator cowling or a ball of oil soaked grass wedged behind the steering box or under the battery plate. It is important to recognize the particular odor that this threat puts out. Since the smell is actually the plastic insulation melting and/or burning off of the copper strands of the wire the characteristic odor is almost the same as what a plastic bottle in a burn can would smell like. Another example would be the hairdryer that your daughter or wife overuses in the morning. That particular odor is a marker to shut off the tractor and look for problems. If possible always carry a battery wrench in your tractor tool box and quickly disconnect the negative battery cable end from the terminal post in order to minimize the damage potential.
After I got the tractor shut off I was able to locate the errant wire by looking for obvious wire rubbing and then checking the wire casing for rub-throughs. In many cases by the time the battery gets disconnected the wire has already done a job of melting the insulation. By tracing the melting to the furthest point away from the battery the bad spot can usually be identified. Look for rubbed wires against metal or places where the wire has crimped back on itself or even melted though another crossing wire. Also look for wires that pass underneath fixtures like the radiator or cowling. Sometimes a bushing will wear out and cause a fixture shift which will crimp or crack a wire.
One of the most prominent odors is an overheated engine steaming out antifreeze. Just about everyone is acquainted with the sweet, syrupy smell that boiling coolant gives off. Usually it accompanies a broken radiator hose or a rusty radiator cap that has lowered the coolant pressure enough to let antifreeze pour over the fan and onto the rest of the engine and, from there, onto the operator. It is really handy to recognize the antifreeze smell before the soaking occurs. The smell is characterized by a sweet almost sugary odor. When noticed the tractor should be shut off and the leakage spot determined. Look for pin holes in the radiator and/or corresponding hoses, the cap, overflow tube, or water pump bushings, seal, or petrolkets. Check the temperature gauge to see if the leakage is a result of overheating or a potential cause for overheating.
Fuel smells, like electrical, can be a serious hazard if not located and repaired. Other than a result of spillage during tank fillage or a case of severe engine flooding, there should be no odor from diesel or petrol fuel systems. A strong fuel odor is characteristic of a leaking fuel pump, a broken fuel line, or a leaking fuel tank. Other sources can be an overchoked carburetor filling the air intake line with raw petrol, a leaking fuel injection pump, or loose injector. Loose fuel in the wrong places can rapidly turn to vapor on a hot engine and be ignited by hot exhaust manifolds, sparking distributors or loose exhaust pipes which spit sparks. Take care not to operate the unit with stray fuel leaking out.
Another of the more common smells is that of burning oil. This odor is quite similar to burning cooking oil on an overheated iron skillet. It seems to show up the most from the bottom of leaky valve covers, with the dirty oil dripping down on the exhaust manifold. The oily aroma is potent and easily smelled, especially when the tractor is shut off....the smell just kind of lingers. Replace the petrolkets under the leaking part before the oil residue builds up and creates a hardened oil crust which is unsightly, collects dust and dirt, and is really difficult to clean off.
All of the above smells are indicative of relatively cheap repairs. Unfortunately, because they tend to be cheap, they never get fixed. On the other hand when the aroma of burning high temperature friction discs crosses onesâ€™ nostrils immediate attention should be done. The smell can be easily associated with that of overheated truck brakes on a narrow mountain road or that of ones son or daughter trying to get manual transmission car out of a snow bank for the first time. Unlike the smell of oil or possibly antifreeze, it is wise to discontinue activity as soon as the odor comes to the driverâ€™s seat. Internal brake discs and friction clutches are not only expensive but are hard to get to and the associated pressure plates and flywheel surfaces can often be damaged by the excessive heat buildup. Take care to find give adequate cool off time for the discs before trying to resume the activity.
Taking the time to acquaint oneself with the assorted odors that a tractor gives off can be very beneficial to extending the lifespan and service time of your unit. Tractor odors can be the first line of defense for catching problems before they occur because one doesnâ€™t have to actually isolate and see the problem. The particular smell can catch ones attention while watching a bushog or can be a definitive identifier while working at night or under inclement conditions. These odors are yet another way of learning how to communicate with our old iron....maybe those older farmers knew something after all....
Identifying Tractor Noises
Listening To Your Tractor : Part 3
by Curtis Von Fange
In this series we are continuing to learn the fine art of listening to our tractor in hopes of keeping it running longer. One particularly important facet is to hear and identify the particular noises that our mechanical beast makes. Even though our attention is usually focused on the task at hand, that is, the bushogging, disking, etc., it is odd how our ears will pick up the smallest unusual noise that it hears. It's like listening to an orchestration of music and hearing the flutist make a misguided squeak on the instrument. For some reason that wrong note sticks out over everything else that is right. It's the same way with the steady hum drum of the tractor. An unusual noise will stand out like a sour note and immediately draw our attention. It is important to recognize those sour notes and make the appropriate decisions on what the problem might be.
Many noises are temperature-related noises. For example, when the tractor is first started up one might notice a ticking sound coming from the side or top of the motor. After the engine warms up the ticking may disappear and not show up anymore until the next morning. This is usually attributed to either hydraulic lifters on the newer tractors or the tappet clearances on older ones. Hydraulic lifters are like small hydraulic pistons that take the rotary lift from the cam shaft and transfer the motion to linear lift through the push rod to the rocker arm. When the oil is cold and the lifters are old accumulated varnishes in the lifter causes the piston to remain collapsed. When the oil warms up sufficiently the piston bore expands enough to let it move up and down in the bore of the lifter. If there is extreme varnish in the bore then the lifter will tick even after warm up. Sometimes an oil additive will be adequate to help dissolve the varnish buildup and help the lifter quiet down. If the lifters are noisy all the time they should be replaced to prevent rocker arm damage. On the older style tractors the engines used solid lifters with an adjustment between the push rod and rocker arm called the tappet clearance. An excessive tappet clearance will cause a noisy tapping or ticking sound especially when the engine is cold. After warm up the metal parts expand and close up some of the looseness. Check the engine manual for proper clearances and the appropriate temperature for testing and adjusting the tappets.
Another cold related noise is the high pitched squealing sound either from the front of the tractor or underneath the seat. This sound is usually related to a pump trying to move cold oil. It can be the engine oil pump, the hydraulic pump in the front of the tractor, which runs the loader, or, perhaps, the hydraulic pump in the final drive casing which runs the three-point hitch. Best advice is to keep the engine rpm's relatively low until the oil warms up enough to circulate freely. One also might check the oil viscosity number to make sure the correct weight is being used for the corresponding outside temperature. After the tractor has warmed up sufficiently this noise will usually disappear. If the hydraulic pump still likes to squeal when the loader valves are actuated check to make sure the pump has the correct inlet and outlet hoses attached. For example, if the outlet hose is too large the pump may be pumping the hydraulic oil out of the pump faster than the inlet hose can deliver the oil from the reservoir. This condition, called cavitation, can cause excessive wear on the pump because it could be operating under no oil conditions. It is always wise to let the tractor idle for a little bit to let the fluids come up to normal operating temperatures before putting the unit in working conditions.
A more ominous noise is the deep throaty knock that comes from the engine after it initially starts in the morning. This noise can disappear quickly after the oil starts to circulate. When clearances get excessive on the crankshaft journals the oil runs out quickly after the unit is shut off. An overnight cool down shrinks the crank and accentuates the distances leaving a void between the journal and bearing. This void causes the knocking noise on early morning start-ups. It is an indicator that the bottom portion of the motor is in need of some crankshaft journal measuring and attention. If the noise persists after the oil pressure comes up or is heard while the engine is running then the motor should be switched off and the motor taken apart and repaired. If it is run for any length of time while knocking the odds get real high that the crankshaft will be permanently damaged. That spells big bucks for replacement.
Other temperature related noises include a high pitched whistling sound coming from the front of the tractor. Look for punctured or cracked radiator hoses. When pressure builds up in cooling system and the motor is overheating the coolant can shoot out the tiniest fissure in old rubber hoses. Also check for a weak radiator cap or pitted surfaces on the seating components of the cap. Occasionally there might be a deep howling noise from the front of the transmission or rear of the engine when the clutch is engaged. This usually means the pilot bushing or bearing between the flywheel and transmission main shaft has dried out and is in need of replacement. This condition can also cause a grinding of gears in the transmission when trying to shift the unit into gear from a standing still neutral position. Many times the howling will disappear after the unit has warmed up because the remaining grease in the bearing has warmed up enough to provide some lubrication. A repair should be in the near future though.
There is whistling sound that is independent of the temperature of the unit. Look for a partially plugged air filter or air inlet screen. Leaves, weeds, and debris will cause the air to have only a small opening to get through which causes the whistling. Remove and clean accordingly.
If a battery is not maintained adequately a layer of lead oxide will build up between the battery post and the terminal on the cable. It is recognized as a blackish crust that keeps the electricity from flowing to the starter. When the starter is engaged this type of oxidation will show up as a type of hum. It almost sounds like someone is holding down the middle C key on an accordion. Of course, the starter won't start but the hum is there. Similarly, this bad connection can also keep full voltage from getting to the starter and can imitate a low battery condition. A rapid fire clicking sounds as the starter solenoid repeatedly engages and disengages due to low voltage. Remove the battery terminals, clean with a wire brush post cleaner and try again.
One disturbing noise is a steady clicking from the transmission when the tractor is in a particular gear as it drives down the road. A missing gear tooth is the inevitable cause. Removal of the transmission cover will verify. It is best not to use that particular gear as any load can cause more teeth to dislodge, get into other gears/bearings and cause more extensive damage. If you don't really want to repair it this year, change the fluid and feel around in the housing for the missing teeth. If they are found install fresh or filtered fluid and simply don't operate the unit in the offending gear. Of course, there is no guarantee that your boy won't drive in that gear, but that is the risk I guess.
Listen for other noises like a grinding noise when the brakes are applied. Check the brakes for worn linings. Older tractors had riveted linings which, when worn down, grind into the drum leaving grooves. If caught soon enough they can be turned out with a lathe. Otherwise a new drum will be needed. Likewise, worn clutch linings will also grind into the flywheel when the clutch is engaged. This condition will quickly cause more serious damage to the flywheel and pressure plate and should be given immediate attention.
Of course there are the typical rattles and clunks that most tractors with their corresponding attachments tend to make. Look for loose three point hitch brackets, loose bolts, or just plain worn out parts. Some of these items can be procured at a farm store for replacement; others can be corrected by a simple bolt replacement. Keep in mind that the manufacturers did not intentionally send the units out in a rattling state. By locating and correcting the myriad of rattles the tractors life span will be effectively extended.
Listening To Your Tractor: Part 4
by Curtis Von Fange
One of the strangest ways to communicate with our tractor is to ask it how it feels. "Ask it how it feels," you say? Yup, ask it how it feels. Now, as with the other articles in this series one has to be able to hear what 'ole blue' is trying to say in response. The nice thing about our old iron friends is that they are usually quite consistent in their response, rather unlike some people I know who might change what they say due to the weather or other mitigating circumstances. But since this isn't a people communications class let's look at a couple of examples pertaining to our equipment.
I had a great time bushogging in the pasture the other week. It was sunny and cool and the grass wasn't so long that the seeds got in the radiator and overheated the tractor. After cutting a number of acres I sensed an occasional vibration in the tractor that just didn't feel right. My 1964 Super Dexta was speaking to me and I needed to listen. I shut off the bushog and pulled up to the barn. After inspecting the bushog drivetrain I discovered that the hub that the bushog blades were connected to had loosed on the drive box shaft. The resulting up and down movement had wallowed out the mating tines on the gearbox shaft and created a dangerous vibration which could be felt throughout the tractor. Had I had ignored the vibration the shaft would have eventually sheared in two, sending the remaining pieces like missiles up towards the tractor. It was fortunate that my sensation of something wrong was felt in the 'bad' vibrations.
Other bad vibes felt on the tractor seat can, many times, be related to the PTO shaft operations. Dried out or worn universal joints can contribute substantially to that strange 'feel'. Universals that lack lubrication will freeze up with rust and dust. As they try to roll over as the PTO shaft rotates the bearings heat up and may seize in place creating a flat spot on the race. As the engine continues to force rotation of the shaft these flat spots create what feels like a dÃ©tente in the normal spin of the bearing. This 'bump' can create a tremendous vibration in the power train that can carry through the entire tractor. If left un-repaired the universal will eventually seize and fly apart sending metal shrapnel along with the PTO shaft in various directions.
Other universal joint problems may occur if the nuts on the u-bolts on the joint itself come loose. This may cause the cross of the joint to come loose in the bore and start to rapidly wear from vibration. It too might break apart under the stresses and revolution speeds of the PTO shaft.
One other area to check is the squared PTO shaft itself. In order for the implement to rise up and down with the three point hitch design the shaft must telescope in and out of a double bored shaft. Adequate lubrication will keep this in and out operation smooth and keep it from binding. Also make sure that the shaft rotates true and has no bends or fatigue cracks in it.
Other areas to check for vibrations depend on whether the tractor is in motion or not. Idling vibes while stationary can probably be traced to altered motor parts. Look for a vibration dampener that has a chunk out of it or has loosened up on the crankshaft. A bent fan blade or loose water pump bushing will also carry throughout the tractor. Internal drive parts are harder to locate and should be left to a professional mechanic. These include miscalibrated crankshaft counterweights, a broken or loose ring gear on the flywheel, loose clutch parts, a loose flywheel, or a worn pilot bushing.
If the tractor only vibrates while in motion then look for wheel related problems. A bent or loose hub, loose wheel weights or lug nuts, fluid in one tire and not the other, and mud clods on the inside of the wheel rim are a good place to start. Internal problems could include worn transmission bearings or a loose rear axle bearing or hub nut.
All in all bad vibes are bad. This can be yet another place to take the time to stop and listen as your tractor speaks to you and hopefully prevent more expensive and time consuming repairs in the future.
New Hitches For Your Old Tractor
For this article, we are going to make the irrational and unlikely assumption that you purchased an older tractor that is in tip top shape and needs no immediate repairs other than an oil change and a good bath. To the newcomer planning to restore the machine, this means you have everything you need for the moment (something to sit in the shop and just look at for awhile while you read the books). To the newcomer that wants to get out and use the machine for field work, you may have already hit a major roadblock. That is the dreaded "proprietary hitch".
With the exception of the Fords, Fergusons, and a few machines of the late 50s, the older machines were outfitted with proprietary implement mounting systems that used proprietary implements that were carefully patented to insure that no one else would build something that might work with it. Proprietary in this case means that the hitch was designed by the company and would be incompatible with any other company's system. As with many proprietary systems, they frequently worked as well or better than their "standard" counterparts (though at that time there was no standard and few people would guess that the Ford-Ferguson system would end up being the official standard) and caught on with quite a following. Unfortunately now, in 1996, the proprietary implements that were sold with the original machine somehow didn't follow the same course in life. It would seem that most took a wrong turn into the scrap yard some 10 or 20 years ago. If your tractor is similar to the majority, someone welded unusual looking pieces of metal to the back to lift or drag whatever they happened to have for implements (or worse ripped off the hydraulics and pulled a trailer around with it for 20 years). If your machine is one of these, you may be thankful to have a drawbar left yet alone any implements or hitch system.
So.. What do you do to get the machine working again. If it suits the intended use of your machine and if you can possibly find them, the ideal situation is to locate original implements and hitch components. I say this because from a collector standpoint your tractor will likely be worth more than you paid for it when thusly equipped. This is not as easy as it sounds due to the effort required to locate the pieces. On the other hand we have had excellent luck through placing classified ads in local papers, Ag papers, and especially those "Classified-only" type. Another place to look is with the tractor scrap yards. A word of warning, they usually have far too many requests to take your number and get back to you when they locate what you are looking for. Even if they do take your number with good intentions they will likely lose track of it by the time they get the needed implement or component. The best bet here is perseverance, call back often don't give up. You will eventually find what you need.
For most of us, the above solution is not acceptable because most of the implements we need hadn't yet been invented at the time the tractor was built. This leaves only one practical option. Update the tractor to a modern and standard hitch, the 3-point. This opens up a world of possibilities since all implements built now are of either the pull or the 3-point variety. There are 3 categories that are applicable to the tractors of this vintage. These are called the Category II, Category I, and category 0 (or "ought" as most of the tractor folks call them). Hitch kits fall into the Category I size range for most of the older machines but through shimming or pin replacement many Cat II and Cat 0 implements can be used. The major drawback with attempting to use the Cat 0 implement is that the PTO speed on your older machine will likely be 540 RPM while the normal Cat 0 tractor turns at 1000 RPM and the shafts use decidedly different PTO splined shafts. The Cat II implement can be a problem in that they are frequently heavy enough to exceed the weight limits of your older machine creating not only premature equipment failures but extreme safety hazards. This pretty much leaves us with Cat I implements but on the bright side, these are likely the most common you will find. Most likely if you have a requirement, there is a Cat I implement built to meet it.
The Cat I 3-point hitch is based on 3 mounting points for the implement. The lift arms are the 2 steel or cast arms that extend rearward and provide the lift and are the pull-point for the implement. The Top link is the 3rd mounting point and extends from a top middle position at the rear of the tractor. Comparatively very little rearward force is applied from the top link. The standards require that the pin sizes on the implement and corresponding lift arm holes be 7/8" (.88-.89). The top link uses a 3/4" (.76-.77) pin and hole. The distance from the tail of the PTO shaft to the lift arm ends is approximately 14 inches. The minimum spread between the lower lift arms will be about 26-27 inches, the maximum spread is normally out to 33 inches or more. The normal Cat I PTO connection will be a 1 3/8 inch 6 spline shaft designed to turn at 540 RPM.
Now the hard part. How do you outfit a tractor made in the 40s or 50s with this type of hitch. There are two options:
ï‚· Make it - If you are handy with steel and a welder and have an engineering background, they can be made with using off-the-shelf Ford N-Series lift arms, standard implement jacks and a standard top link. The real trick is coming up with a design that pulls from the correct point and keeps the draft control functional. An example of a correct installation is with the Allis-Chalmers Snap Coupler proprietary system. If you build a 3-point for one of these, the basis should be the snap coupler bell as that was the carefully engineered pull point of the tractor. It is important to note that pulling from any point other than that designed by the manufacturer is foolhardy. On earlier machines, even the manufactured pull points would sometimes be dangerous. Unless you are certain you have the skills to design a 3-point safely, this option is not recommended.
ï‚· Buy new - For most popular tractors the entire assembly is available through 3rd party manufacturers as long as you have your original hydraulics and in some cases the drawbar intact. For those machines that have sacrificed their hydraulics over the years, either a reconditioned or used pump and rams are usually available. For most individuals, this is the only safe and sane option. For most machines, a 3rd party 3-point will run from to .
Once you have crossed that bridge and have a 3-point hitch, you are then limited only by your pocketbook, tractor horsepower and weight as to what implements you can obtain. While the pocketbook can be a significant factor, especially with new implements, the power and weight of your machine is usually not. Modern 3-point implements are made in sizes ranging from very small to extremely large so finding one that matches your specification should be possible. You need to seek guidance from the dealer when purchasing an implement because nothing is more frustrating and dangerous than attempting to drive an implement that is too large for your machine. A rotary mower is a good example. If the PTO horsepower rating of the mower is 45 and your machine has an original rating of 35, chances are you will not be able to use it effectively.