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Submitted Article
Oliver 550 Purchaser Checklist
by Greg Sheppard (ShepFL)

From time to time I am asked of what to look for in an Oliver 550. To accommodate this I have drafted this subjective checklist for your use.

I am by now means an expert on this rig - HOWEVER, I will say I have learned a great deal from my manuals and the fellas out here much more qualified than I. Give a shout to BA Starr, Larry, Pete in KS, Paul Stanley, Canada Grant et.all. If you get it the very first purchase should be some manuals from Floyd County Historical Society in Charles City, IA. Nonetheless here is my long-winded response.

Oliver 550
IMHO Pound for pound the 550 is better than anything I've seen. It has great power for its size and can really hunker down and lug. Classified as a 3-bottom plow depending on soil conditions. I personally don't think it can be beat for a utility tractor in the 40 HP range. They are extremely thrifty on fuel, at least my DSL is. Most drive train parts are fairly easy to get. Sheet metal is probably the hardest thing to find. Some had power steering that makes a great unit even better. As a bonus it also has draft control. If not needed I suggest using the top hole of the tractor side top link attachment to prevent implement bouncing, etc.

Oliver cast their own engine blocks, along with other parts. Oliver sent the engine blocks to Waukesha engine for the internal engine work. The completed engines were then returned to Oliver for installation. Actually, both Oliver and Waukesha built the engines. But, I have always heard them referred to as the "Waukesha engine". I run 15-40 oil in my DSL, 10-40 or straight 30w should work in a gas rig.

The transmission is a dual range 3-speed for a total of 6 forward and 2 reverse gears.

The 550 and Super 55 had rim and axle adjustments, a consideration when buying a disk so you can cover your tracks. Overall width - REGULAR TREAD is 66 3/4". New rims are not a problem. They come in 10, 11, and 12-inch widths in the 28-inch diameter. For Power Adjust It takes the same 6-loop rim all of the Fords use. The rims can interchange with Massey, Ford, and Case - 8 holes on 8". Make sure to watch the center hole diameter!! New rims run about $200 each.

The rear tires can be 26 or 28 inches with 28 being the most common. Those come in 11.2x28, 12.4x28, and (13.6x28 - this is what I have mounted) Fronts are normally 6.00x16 or 6.50x16 - again what I have mounted.

If the rig is a '58 model the independent PTO is the lever is on the right side of the seat sort of under and behind the 3-point lever. On 1959 and newer like mine the PTO lever is forward of the RH step - great place to bang my knee, especially when not engaged and I hit the clutch. J

NOTE: When the PTO is disengaged it will free wheel - DO NOT BE CONCERNED. It SHOULD stop under load. If it continues to turn under load when you have it disengaged then you either have to adjust the clutch or do some clutch work. To engage the PTO press down on the knob and move the lever SLOWLY BUT STEADILY to the rear of the tractor until the clutch is felt to snap into engagement. To disengage push the lever forward until the clutch snaps out of engagement and is locked in position by the safety lock latch.

Clover White is: Martin Senour 90T-4331
Decals available through:
Dumont Decals
Sigourney, IA

Check it out to see how easy it starts, work it under some type of load. Also monitor charging system while working it.

The biggest complaint I have heard of is the steering. Check the steering column for looseness, could be bearing at the top of steering column. Total unit has about 60 bearings. Parts can be had.

Next would be front spindles. Check front spindles for cracks, welds etc. Some folks used these rigs with Front-end loaders and IMHO the spindles were to light. Spindles can be spendy to replace.

3PTH will hiccup (cycle) and for me it has not been a concern, as it does not do it under load.

Check hydraulics. If weak might be a weak relief valve, perhaps the pump internals are worn or if equipped with the external hydraulic control valve option it may be oil by-passing the check valve. Over the years of use this valve can get a grove cut in it, VERY LIGHTLY IT CAN BE SANDED OUT or so I've heard.

Not necessarily a weakness but the PTO clutches can be spendy to repair. See posts below on this same page.

PTO is dry clutch. If there are leaks Sounds as though there may be other problems! The least of which is a bad bearing and oil seal at the PTO output shaft. The PTO is driven through a set of dry clutches located just behind the transmission clutch these dry clutches may be getting oil onto the surfaces and slipping? Check to see if there is any oil leaking from the transmission clutch bell housing? You may also have something else wrong with the PTO hub - spring pin may have come out - Is the rear oil leak from the outside of the PTO hub or the inside where the spline comes out? ? If oil is leaking from the PTO spline itself sounds like a bad seal on that end. If it is leaking at the front end that I would suggest the rig has two bad seals.

Shift thru all gears to make sure it works. If not it could be one of two things - 1) Sometime the shifter slips off the shift forks or 2) rare occasion where one or two of the shift forks have been broken. If this is the case they will fall into the transmission. Rig would make a make a grinding noise when the engine runs. If this happens don't run the engine and pull slowly. In either case the hyd. unit will have to be removed to fix. Also, some folks find it cumbersome having the shifter on the left and may not be able to hit all 6 gears.

Also listen for whine in the rear end (only found one that I looked at that whined). This would concern me - you could be talking some big bucks. There are only two shafts and all gears turn when the tractor moves; shifting is by shift collars not the gears.

If it smokes under load consider suggest the following - intake and exhaust manifold gaskets need replaced, if gas could be that the points are set to wide, could also indicate need for new rings. If the rig is '58 model it is 44 yrs. Old. Mine smokes out of the valve cover vent tube when working it REAL HARD in heavy clay. I suspect I need new rings but for everyday driving it is fine.

Tires - make sure they are in good/fair shape. A new set of rears can set you back approx $200-400

Structural - check for welding repairs to frame, check front spindles closely etc.

Other misc. things
Rubber Torsion for Seat
Swinging Drawbar Assy. - Rare
Any manuals he may have avail
Diesel Injection Pump timing - don't know how to check but someone here should
External Hydraulic Controls a major plus - slobbering here J
Wheel weights a plus

Replacement Part Sources

Manuals - Floyd County Historical Society in Charles City. If Oliver made it, they should have it. They are photocopies of the originals and reasonably priced. Phone number (641)228-1099

Korves Brothers at korves@htc.net or 618-939-8772 including gauges

Rick at www.ricksagriparts.com

Vickers built Hyd pumps. Eaton bought Vickers. www.eaton.com Check under hydraulics for dealers or distributors as I am sure there's a good chance of them having rebuild parts

Maibach Tractor located in Creston Oh. seem to be very reasonable. Number is 1-800-939-4192, or (330)-939-4192

Brakes can be had from www.valu-bilt.com for $15/disk

O'Brien Implement - ask for Tom, http://obci.net/ 712 324-4871 or toll free 800 320-6224, also has reproduction front emblems for those interested. $20 ea

Wengers at www.wengers.com

Tires from Miller tires - www.millertires.com Ed Miller of M. E. Miller Tire at 419 335-7010 Ext. 4

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