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Submitted Article
A 1937 John Deere Unstuck
by Gary Hickman

Here is my story of how I got the pistons out of a 1937 JD B that the engine had been stuck for about 14 years:

About 12 years ago my Dad gave me one of the tractors I ran as I was growing up on our farm in central Nebraska. The engine on this tractor, a 1937 John Deere "B", had been stuck for 2 years before he gave it to me. This last spring (1999) I hauled the tractor to our 2 acre lot in St. Libory Nebraska where it joined my antique machinery collection, at that time a 1929 Caterpillar Twenty and a unknown age John Deere No. 8W mower.

One weekend last May I had problems with my 20-year-old JD 216 lawn tractor (does that qualify as an antique?). So I went to bed one night with problems with the lawn mower on my mind. I dreamt I put diesel fuel in the cylinders of the "B" and a week later effortlessly spun the flywheel!

I had put the "B" up on cottonwood blocks when I first got it home, and with all the rain it was trying to fall over. To prevent it from going on over, some time ago I had pulled it over to the Caterpillar Twenty with a come-along then tied the JD to the Cat with a chain. (I figured a 4 ton tractor would hold a 1-½ ton tractor!) Since then I have needed the chain but it was "tied up". The day after I had the dream of getting the engine unstuck I jacked up the "B" and put railroad ties crossways under the rear wheels, set it on those and got the chain off. Then I started fooling around with the engine, took the valve cover off and kept going. Got the head off. One valve is burned, two valves were stuck open. Over the years dust had blown into the cylinders through a rusty exhaust pipe, then water got in them, so there was rusty mud filling the bottoms of both cylinders about ¼ full. Dug the mud out of the cylinders, and sprayed the pistons with "Knock-er-loose". Great stuff! #1 was almost at bottom dead center and #2 almost at top dead center. Cut a piece of post to pound on the pistons and started pounding. Problem with that is you are trying to move both pistons by pounding on one. So I opened up the crankcase and pulled the cap off #2 connecting rod.

My father-in-law told me how he broke his tractor engine loose by putting pipes in the holes in the flywheel and then prying with a post. I used a variation of that idea. I put a chain through one hole in the flywheel and looped it around to the outside of the flywheel, then put a 5_ pry bar under the chain and pulled up, turning the engine opposite to normal direction. The flywheel moved ever so slightly. # 2 connecting rod was looser, meaning I had moved #1 piston. I pounded on #1 piston and kept moving the flywheel back and forth. Tried moving #2, but it wouldn’t budge, even with slack at the crankshaft. After I got #1 moving more I pulled the slack of the flywheel all the way backwards, then put my full weight (145#) on the downward run. #2 piston popped loose!! I couldn’t get the flywheel to turn all the way over, only about ¼ turn. There was rust behind #2 piston and in front of #1. So I pushed #2 piston out of the cylinder, put #1 at bottom dead center and honed the cylinder to break up the rust. Then I was able to turn it completely over, although not smoothly. Then I pulled #1 piston out. In all this, all the bolts and fittings came loose with no problems, no broken bolts or studs.

From the start of "fooling around with the engine" to getting the pistons out was about 3 ½ hours. I do not give any mystical meanings to dreams: the dream I had inspired me to work on it, but I didn’t think it would be this easy.

I got the valves loosened up, then put the head and valve cover back on to keep water out of the engine until I can work on it again. I think I will be able to hone the cylinders and put new rings in and get by. Its just a hobby tractor, so burning a little oil won’t matter.

I came into the house with rusty mud and ancient grease covering me and my clothes, physically tired but spiritually rested. It was a very good way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening. I was really worried that this tractor may not be usable, but now it looks very promising. I FEEL GOOD!!!

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