Buying a Tractor - Checklist
(1 July 2016)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 carburation or ignition changes but still represent work.
- 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.
- 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.
- Is there head seepage - look for signs that fluids are seeping out the head gasket. If the tractor is encrusted
with grease and dirt, it may cover obvious signs of seepage.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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