Do the brakes on your Ford function improperly? Watch this free instructional video demonstrating the installation of brake shoes on a Ford 600. In this newest series of tractor repair videos offered exclusively online at SteinerTractor.TV Rachel Gingell shows you helpful tips when installing new brakes. Watch as Rachel takes you through the installation from start to finish. You can also watch more #WrenchingwithRachel videos on our Tractor Repair Video page.
One of the most popular tractors of all time, the Ford N-series tractor is an American icon. More than fifty years after the last 8N rolled off the assembly line, these tractors are still incredibly popular. You’ll see them all over – at auction sales and dealerships, but also alongside the road with a “For Sale” sign, at garage sales, and even at your favorite restaurant on date night (true story – as often as we’ve had to go home to get a trailer, we should really learn not to leave home without them!).
As beloved as factory original N-series tractors are, I’ve seen plenty that are rather… unique. Like the one I bought from an old hippie that was painted bright yellow, with flowers all over the hood. I thought I’d have to repaint it, but before I got around to doing so it was spotted by another customer who just LOVED the paint job. Problem solved, no paint required!
For a more serious collector, though, being able to identify exactly which of the N-style tractors (9N, 2N, or 8N) you’re looking at is very important. While we’ve gone into specific details about the year-to-year improvements in N-series tractors before (click here), today I’m going to give you a quick “field guide” to determining the model of an N-series tractor.
First, a quick history lesson: the 9N was introduced in 1939. It was followed by the 2N in 1942, and early models were greatly impacted by wartime rationing. Once the war was over, a new and much improved 8N was introduced in 1948.
As my hippie tractor will demonstrate, paint color can’t always be counted on. But since it is the first and most obvious clue available, you should know that 9N and 2N tractors were painted all grey, while a red and grey paint job was for 8N tractors. Plenty of people are unaware of this, though, and will paint their 9N or 2N red and grey as well. So don’t trust the paint job too much.
9Ns and 2Ns are rather similar, but there are some big differences between them and the 8N. So it’s easiest to see if you have an 8N first, and save the smaller 9N v. 2N differences for later.
You are definitely looking at an 8N tractor if:
- The rear wheel is dished, with a large nut in the center surrounded closely by 8 more lug nuts. In contrast, both the 9N and 2N models have a flat rear wheel with a ring of 6 lug nuts further out.
- There’s a 4-speed transmission. 9N and 2N tractors had a 3-speed.
- The hydraulic 3-point arms have a halfway position between fully “up” and “down”. 9N and 2N tractors only had draft control. The 8N introduced position control, which is a small up/down handle under the seat on the right side–this was an improvement to the hydraulic system.
- Both brake pedals are on the same side – 9N and 2N tractors were split.
- The serial number starts with an “8N.” I know this seems obvious, but it is important to note that both 9N and 2N serial numbers start with a “9N,” leading to confusion.
Of course, the 8N had plenty of other improvements over the 9N and the 2N – but these features are the easiest to spot and the hardest to modify.
If the tractor definitely isn’t an 8N, then you’ll need to examine more closely the differences between a 9N and a 2N. This can be hard to do, because the transition between the 9N and the 2N wasn’t as clean-cut as the transition to the 8N later on. Wartime rationing and a desire to reduce waste lead to a slower switch, as features were modified once the previous model’s parts were used up.
That being said, here are some clues that can help in most cases:
- If the tractor has a cast aluminum hood and/or a starter switch on the right side of the dash, congratulations! You’re probably looking at one of the first 9Ns produced – rare and highly collectible.
- Tubular radius arms indicate a 2N produced after mid-1944. All N-series tractors built prior to 1944 (every 9N and some 2Ns) had I-beam radius arms. However, 2Ns with I-beam radius arms are rather rare, so chances are good that any tractor with I-beam arms is a 9N.
- If the dipstick is on the inspection cover, you are definitely looking at a later 2N.
- If the serial number is readable, don’t assume that a “9N” prefix indicates a 9N tractor – as noted before, 2N tractors used this prefix as well. You’ll need to look up the entire number in a serial number guide (or my app!) to know for sure.
The dividing line is a little soft between a 9N and a 2N tractor. If these tips don’t give you a conclusive answer and the serial number isn’t readable, this article might help you figure out exactly what your tractor is.
But sometimes, you might have to settle for a 19N (9+2+8) – that’s what my family jokingly calls an N-series tractor that, over the years, has gained features from each model rather than staying true to it’s specific characteristics. The beauty of N-series tractors is that they are very common and very similar – this yields a steady stream of aftermarket modifications and parts swapping from one model to the next. While these happy hybrids with mixed parts and unreadable serial numbers might make purists cringe, I think Henry Ford would be happy to see his legacy of ingenuity and tinkering live on.
Steiner Tractor Parts is excited to announce we are the title sponsor of the Bluegrass Antique Super Pull in Richmond Kentucky March 20-21, 2015. If you are looking for a pull check out the long list of BoB (Battle of the Bluegrass) shows. Locations are in Kentucky and surrounding states; Indiana, Tennessee, Michigan and West Virginia and run thru October. Check out the details at http://www.bluegrasspulling.com/heritage-series/
Spring is just around the corner, and with the thaw comes one of my favorite signs of spring: the start of pulling season. I grew up spending my Saturdays at local fairgrounds and tucked-away tracks across the state, basking in the joys of loud engines and greasy fair food. Before long my dad let me take a turn behind the wheel and I snagged a few trophies of my own (thanks to my dad’s excellent mechanics, of course). I was hooked! While we don’t pull as often as we used to, not a summer goes by for my family without taking our tractors out for a spin.
While there’s plenty of fun to be had in the long-term project of custom building a tractor specifically for pulling, you don’t need a special tractor to get started. Many tractor pulling associations offer stock classes for tractors that do not have any engine modifications. With just a few simple tricks, you can have competitive success with a well-restored antique tractor. Old iron has lots of power – here’s how to let it shine.
The first thing to take note of is your hitch. Check out the rules of your pulling association, and modify your stock drawbar accordingly. You want your hitch high off the ground and your drawbar as narrow as allowed. This puts the hitch as close as possible to your tractor’s center of gravity, keeping all four wheels on the ground.
You want as much contact with the ground as you can, so use the biggest tires allowed. If you are allowed 15.5×38, don’t show up with 13.6! Use the widest allowed rims, too. You want as much bar tread on the ground as possible. I’ve never won a pull with little tires. Select tires with deep treads which can really dig into the track. Firestone Field and Road (the old 151s) are my favorite, but any type of hard tire will be to your advantage.
While we’re talking about tires, be sure you pay attention to your air pressure. Contrary to popular belief, you’ll do best with the higher air pressure. Many people believe that lower-pressure tires allow the tractor to “dig in” to the earth because more tire is in contact with the track. While this may be true, any advantage from more tire on the track is outweighed by the drop in hitch height when under-inflated tires are put under pressure. Additionally, under-inflated tires lose their gripping power. When the treads are held rigid by proper inflation, they perform much better.
Read the rules to determine the highest air pressure allowed, but don’t automatically assume that the highest allowed pressure is right for your tires and your tractor. We usually find that 13-15 pounds of pressure is just right. Use a combination of original manufacturer recommendations and your own experimentation to find the right pressure for your tires.
If you are doing things right, your tractor’s front wheels will eventually lift off the ground as you pull. When this happens, you’ll be unable to use your steering wheel. So it is important to make sure that your tractor is ready to pull straight down the track, rather than wasting power veering off in the wrong direction. You can get a nice straight pull by:
– Using a tractor with a narrowed wheel base. Don’t spread the tires as far out on the axles as possible, rather, keep the wheel base narrow.
– Have the exact same air pressure in both rear tires.- Make sure that both rear tires weigh the same. Drive one tire on the scale and weigh it. Then turn around and weigh the other side. Tractors aren’t usually built to be symmetrical – perhaps one side has the ring and pinion, the live power clutch, etc. Add weight to the lighter side so that both sides are even. The lighter your tractor is overall, the more crucial this becomes.
Of course, you can use braking techniques to “steer” your tractor when you are pulling a wheelie, but doing so is a waste of energy (why brake when you are trying to pull?!?) and can be dangerous. It’s better to use these techniques to get your tractor balanced and even so that you don’t have to resort to braking to get down the track.
Be sure your tractor is perfectly tuned. Use a dyno to test your horsepower (a local dealer or vocational school may have one you can use). This will tell you if you should fix the timing and carburetor main jet to get maximum horsepower. You can usually gain 5-6 horsepower by fine tuning, and this can be the difference between first and second place. Similarly, always start the season with fresh spark plugs, fresh gas, and a clean fuel filter.
Finally, get some practice in! Have a friend follow you in a 4×4 pickup connected with a chain. When your friend applies the brakes, you’ll hear the governor kick in under a load. Get used to driving with this drag so that there are no surprises in front of a crowd. Practice driving slowly, too – most associations have a strict speed limit.
With these tips, you’re ready to get started in stock tractor pulling. Spring is just a few months away – get to work tuning things up now, and your old iron will be bringing home trophies in no time.
This is my Ford 8N. I got it from my Grandpa. It’s been neglected for a few years to say the least. I’ve had to rebuild the steering box and now I’m working on s stuck clutch. All the sheet metal is bad so I have to replace it all. My Dad and my son have been helping on the project It’s neat for me to share this with my son cause I remember riding this tractor when I was around his age. There’s been a lot I’ve fixed on it but there’s a lot more to go also. Hopefully soon I will be able to post pictures of it finished. I just think it’s pretty cool keeping the tractor in the family. As you can see in the pics my son is more than eager to help out. Thanks for reading.
I went to a barn sale for a farmer that was retiring. I asked his wife if they had any old tractors for sale. She said that they had an old one in the field. Her husband said he forgot about that one. We went out and looked at it. It was a 1953 Golden Jubilee. I bought the tractor right then and there. I went back the next day with my chain saw and cut it out and brought it home. I was able to get it running 3 weeks later. My wife thinks I am crazy but I always wanted one of these old tractors.
The 2015 Steiner Tractor Parts catalog is finalized! The proofs have been approved and the presses are running. Your catalog is scheduled to mail on November 13, 2014*. We have added hundreds of new parts for 2015 that are easily recognized in the catalog by “NEW!” located in front of each part’s description. Be sure to take a look at our new 2015 Steiner commemorative hat on page 1. Get a H15 with your order of $150 for only 99¢!
*Please note that a catalog bulk mailing can require 2-4 weeks for delivery.
My wife and I purchased a house in Northern California with 5 acres. I suggested we needed a tractor and of course she said we didn’t, well you can tell by the look on her face that she loves it !!!!! Not only can I not get her away from it but it is now her profile picture on Facebook and the main topic of most of her posts .
John G. Alexander Jr.
I’m retired for two years and I have always loved to refurbish old agricol equipment. Last year I refurbished a New Holland Manner spreader, model 512 and this year it was our Ford 9n 1941. It is thanks to your site and your support that I achieved the results you can see.