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When the temperature drops, getting an old tractor to start is harder than ever. Cold snaps can also be when you need your tractor the most, and have the least patience for engine trouble. Here at home, we use a Farmall M to haul firewood, a John Deere 520 to blade the driveway, and a Ford 5000 to run our generator when we’re out of power. We depend on these old tractors, and sometimes they need a little TLC to get running when it’s below zero.

Here are three tips for getting your old iron running, even in the cold:

  1. Make sure your battery is fully charged. Cold batteries don’t work as efficiently as warm ones, so you need all the juice you can get! You can also warm the battery up to room temperature inside, then take it out to the tractor when you’re ready to get to work.
  2. Warm the engine – a block heater is ideal, but an electric dipstick and/or a magnet heat pad for the oil pan can do the trick, too. You’ll be most successful with this method if your tractor is in the barn (and sheltered from the wind) to begin with, and it can be helpful to drape an old blanket or canvas drop-cloth over your tractor as insulation.
  3. When all else fails, a small amount of ether can often start your engine. While ether is controversial and certainly not ideal, sometimes it’s absolutely essential. We find that cheaper starting fluid does less damage (because it contains less of the active ingredient, ether). Used sparingly, a can of starting fluid is a valuable part of my cold-weather toolbox. .


Give these tips a try next time you need to start an antique tractor in cold weather. And let’s all hope that spring will come soon! Photo - vasicek2crazy4u@aol_com - 784029