Reviving the Old: Can Broken Tractors Be Repaired?
By Tom Seest
At ClassicTractorNews, we help classic tractor lovers keep up with the latest news for classic and vintage tractors.
Farmers across the nation are fighting for right-to-repair laws that allow them to fix their tractors themselves rather than waiting days or weeks for official repairs. This issue has generated coverage in Vice (Farmers Are Buying 40-Year-Old Tractors Because They’re Actually Repairable) and Jalopnik.
Hanna of Backcountry Greenwich takes his hobby of tractor repair seriously and can often find user manuals and diagrams online.
Table Of Contents
A tractor’s engine is its heart and soul; this is where all the hard work gets done, and all its parts reside. Its design meets all its fuel, air, and lubrication needs: drawing fuel from its tank through a carburetor before pumping it to combustion chambers through the radiator or pump, as well as drawing air for cooling from the radiator or pump to improve combustion and pump oil to reduce friction between moving engine components.
As more traditional tractors feature unsynchronized transmission designs that require their operators to engage the clutch when shifting gears, risk mitigation becomes an issue when driving on uneven or rough terrain. To address this problem, many newer tractors feature synchronized transmissions as well as power-shift options where drivers can use buttons on the gear stick to quickly shift gears.
An additional way to reduce risks associated with old broken tractors is through regular maintenance. Doing this allows you to detect any issues as they develop and take steps before they become serious problems.
Since their invention, tractors have been utilized in multiple ways beyond farming. Large university gardening departments often use tractor-mounted greenhouses, while public parks utilize them for mowing or landscaping tasks. Some even feature special turf tires, which cause less damage to the ground than agricultural tires.
Tractors became especially prevalent after World War II as shortages of farm equipment drove an explosion of interest in so-called EPA (Excess Passenger Area) tractors, modified automobiles converted to tractors by cutting out passenger space and installing two gearboxes side-by-side – these allowed young people without driver’s licenses to own a tractor they could use for work; some still exist today while others have since been scrapped or replaced with modern dual purpose vehicles.
A tractor’s physical hydraulic system controls external components like its lift bucket and various arm implements, as well as overall machine efficiency. If any part of this system becomes defective, its effects can ripple throughout.
Preventative maintenance is an integral component of owning a tractor. Ensuring your hydraulic system stays clean and lubricated can help it withstand harsh environmental elements like extreme temperatures while simultaneously providing smooth movement during a task.
Tractors require various types of hydraulic fluid depending on the needs of each component. Achieving this delicate balance is key in order to keep each piece of machinery running optimally and it’s crucial that this equilibrium be preserved.
The first step to troubleshooting any hydraulic system issue should be examining each component for heat. If the steering valve/column, three-point hitch housing, and rear scv valve housing become hot to touch, this could indicate that an internal high-pressure leak has developed, which drains oil away from your hydraulic system.
First, double-check that there are no objects attached to the three-point hitch and shut down your tractor. If the three-point arms go up easily and then drop with no resistance, there may be an issue with a selective 3 point speed control valve, which controls hydraulic oil to flow in or out of lift arms according to where a lever located under your seat controls how quickly your hitch drops.
Hi-lo shifter or PTO clutch issues are one of the more frequent hydraulic system problems and could be caused by anything from clogs in hydraulic filters and pumps, poor transmission pumps, or a stuck open filter relief valve to leaks from either PTO or brake cylinders. A replacement kit would likely be required in such instances.
Tractor transmission issues are very costly. To reduce costs and prevent larger issues from arising, keep some spare parts handy in your garage. These spares are easily replaceable to avoid larger problems surfacing; many are affordable and can be found locally at parts stores. It is wise to buy from companies with long histories, so if returns or warranty issues arise, they are there if needed.
Tractor transmission systems consist of various mechanical parts, such as a differential and drive axle, rubber or metal hoses through which fluid flows, rubber seals for fluid transfer, and rubber or metal seals that seal fluid lines. Failure in any of these parts could lead to hydrostatic transmission issues on your tractor. To quickly identify and resolve them, it’s best to read your tractor’s operator’s manual, as this will provide specific advice about your make and model tractor.
Andrew Hanna, a teenager from Tennessee with a passion for fixing old and broken tractors, has turned this passion into his full-time profession by searching junkyards throughout upstate New York and Pennsylvania for parts. Additionally, fixing lawnmowers helps fund his addiction to old farm equipment.
His latest project involved a John Deere 6620 that had an inoperable clutch pack. The teeth that control the third and fourth gears had worn away, leaving them spinning freely on the shafts. To fix it properly, the clutch pack had to be removed, stripped down, and rebuilt, taking three days and costing around PS3,000 in total.
Reconditioning flood-exposed equipment involves taking several steps. First, thoroughly washing off dirt and oil from its exterior can prevent it from getting inside the engine and transmission components, where it could do further damage. Check hydraulic hoses for wear before draining/refilling transmission with fresh lubricant/changing filter as part of this reconditioning plan.
Electrical systems on tractors can be intricate, even when in good working order. Be wary of cracked insulation, bare spots, loose terminals, or any indications of rust – anything out of place must be addressed quickly so as to minimize potential danger.
Modern tractors now largely control many functions previously managed through levers on the steering wheel and various electrical switches directly via computer, but older tractors relying on mechanical gears and clutches are likely to require frequent maintenance for both their electrical systems and transmission components.
Hanna has become adept at fixing small engines, earning enough from lawn mower repairs to finance his hobby of fixing old broken tractors. Additionally, he often spends his free time searching salvage yards in upstate New York and Pennsylvania in search of parts.
Ford N series tractors typically utilized a 6-volt point and coil ignition system with a standard distributor (except early 2Ns equipped with magnetos). This system consists of a spark coil that produces high voltage pulses when current passes through it, points that interrupt flow at just the right moment to trigger magnetic field collapse and subsequent secondary winding sparking, and finally, a distributor that sends this high-voltage pulse directly to its appropriate spark plugs.
Troublesome electrical issues with these tractors typically stem from open connections and unsealed switches exposed to constant weather exposure, leading to open connections or switch contacts becoming exposed to 12 volts and melting, thus rendering things that worked at 6 volts useless.
Therefore, when rewiring an old tractor, it’s crucial to do it correctly. Not only should all wires be correctly grounded, but you also need enough wire running from each light/light switch junction block back into each circuit in order for everything to operate as intended – something two circuits back to the junction block may entail but may help avoid future electrical failures.
Please share this post with your friends, family, or business associates who may like old classic or vintage tractors.