Here are the top ten things to look at when purchasing an antique tractor:
- Transmission. Drive forward and reverse in all gears, with no unusual noises or excessive grinding when you change gears. If you’re unfamiliar with the type of tractor you are considering, take a moment to look up a gear schematic (a map of where to find the gears) before visiting the seller.
- Tires. These can be expensive to replace, so take the tire condition into consideration. Look them over carefully, too – a dishonest seller can use black silicone to cover up a rip or tear in the tire.
- Block. Examine the block closely to check for welds. If there seems to be an issue with the block that isn’t explained by an obvious visual crack, it could be oil in the radiator or antifreeze in the crankcase
- Hydraulics. Check both the 3 point hitch and the hydraulics on the loader, if it has one.
- Oil Pressure. The tractor should have proper oil pressure – look up what to expect before you leave home.
- Compression test. Some purchasers go to the extreme of checking the compression – I believe this is unnecessary. If the tractor starts well and runs strong, you can be confident in the compression. No special test necessary.
- Smoke. While a certain amount of smoke is going to be present in an antique tractor (especially a diesel), be wary of anything excessive.
- Oil. Some people will write the date on the oil filter. We looked at one tractor not too long ago with an oil filter that was dated in 2009 – indicating that the tractor has had little to no maintenance in the past six years! Yet the seller told me he “took really good care” of his tractor. Red flag!
- Obvious mechanical issues. You can’t put everything on a checklist – just pay attention while you drive the tractor around. Major issues with the brakes, power steering, engine running, etc. will stand out if you pay attention.
- Extras. Always ask about any extras that the seller may have forgotten about – things like the operator and service manuals, implements, top link, tire chains, drawbar, or even an extra oil filter are often free for the asking.
These are the basics – the top ten things to check every time you buy an antique tractor. Don’t be afraid to purchase a tractor that isn’t perfect. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an antique tractor that doesn’t have a single issue! Rather, be an informed buyer and know what issues on the tractor will need your attention.
Come back next week for a more in-depth discussion of things to look for when buying an antique tractor, including common cover-ups for major mechanical issues and ways to protect yourself from getting ripped off.