Rachel Gingell, Author at Antique Tractor Blog Skip to main content

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In honor of new beginnings, here are 5 new year’s resolutions that you’ll be happy to keep:

1.Drive your tractor once a week.

Even show tractors like to get out every once and awhile! The whole point of having gorgeous tractor collections is to enjoy them, so take the tractor for a spin. Not only is it good for your tractors (some especially need to be worked hard in order to stay in good condition), it’s good for your spirits to get outside in the fresh air. Need something to do? Add a blade and do some good deeds plowing snow in your neighborhood.

2. Get better deals on parts.

Let’s face it: owning tractors can be expensive. That’s why Steiner is here to help! Save money on parts by ordering aftermarket – we’d love to help you with your next project.

3.Take your tractor somewhere fun.

A show, a parade, a drive through the countryside – you decide! Your tractor doesn’t have to be parade-perfect to get out and have some fun. If you aren’t ready to take your tractor to a show, how about some community service? A local youth group might enjoy a hayride, or you could pull a float in a parade.

4. Join a club.

If you aren’t a member of a local tractor club, you could be missing out on some great friendships (like my friends Louis and Linda pictured above)! Get to know others in your community by joining a local association. You might even make an expert mechanic friend that can help you with that tricky problem you’ve been having. 

5. Share the joy with someone else.

Now more than ever, children and teens need adults in their lives who care about them and teach them useful skills. Plenty of young people are gifted at working with their hands but lack the tools and teachers they need to be successful. You can help by coming alongside a young tinkerer and showing them the ropes. There’s no way I would be the mechanic I am today if it wasn’t for my dad, grandpa, and family friends giving generously of their time to teach me. You can do the same for a young person you know!

How about you – what are your tractor-related New Year’s Resolutions? Share yours in the comments below.

Retirement Gift: JD 4020 Diesel

Retirement Gift: JD 4020 Diesel

When my friend Stacy Stimson retired from our local police force, his son knew just what to get to honor his father: a restored 4020 John Deere Diesel. The goal: to find and restore the original family tractor in complete secrecy. Here’s how he pulled it off.

Stacy and his son Brandon Stimson are both police officers in my small town. They’ve been friends of our family for a long time. Years ago, when Stacy’s father (a retired farmer) passed away, my dad helped them sell the family’s 4020 John Deere. At the time, no one in the family was interested in using it at the farm, so it made sense to sell the valuable tractor. A few years later, though, Stacy and Brandon began to wonder what had happened to the tractor their family had known for so long. Brandon just knew that finding this tractor again would be the perfect gift, so he called my dad for help.

Amazingly, my dad remembered exactly who had purchased the 4020 John Deere all those years ago. Brandon got in touch with the farmer and tried his best to persuade him to sell the tractor back to the Stimson family. Unfortunately for Brandon, though, the farmer had fallen in love with the faithful 4020 and wouldn’t part with it. Time for plan B.

Time was running short when Brandon found a 4020 Diesel with a syncro-shift transmission at an auction sale in Indiana. The tractor was in excellent mechanical condition, with a full overhaul completed just 300 hours ago. Cosmetically, though, the tractor was a different story. Brandon brought the tractor home with just one month to go before his dad’s retirement party.

In order to finish the project on time, Brandon enlisted the help of a friend who paints cars professionally. (I wish I had a friend like this!). The two of them tore the tractor down to the bare frame and meticulously restored every square inch. As the day of the retirement party drew near, Brandon and his friend worked even harder to get the tractor done in time. To make things even more difficult, Brandon couldn’t let his Dad know why he was spending so many evenings in the shop. His plan required complete secrecy – and it was worth it!

The day of the party, Brandon rushed to finish off the tractor. A few small details were missing – the headlights, for example, were on but weren’t wired yet. It looked fabulous, though, so Brandon set off on a one-man parade to the party, driving the 4020.

Brandon arrived just in time. The look on his father’s face when he realized the old 4020 was for him was priceless.

In the following days, Brandon took the tractor back to his home to finish off those final details – but before long, it was back at Stacy Stimson’s farm where it belonged. Stacy is already planning on putting lots of hours on the tractor in the field this next summer.

I’m so thankful to live in a community with Stacy and Brandon as our police officers. Way to go, Brandon, for honoring your dad with such a special gift!

How to Build a Champion Pulling Tractor

How to Build a Champion Pulling Tractor

Did you know that with enough time, parts, and creativity any tractor can become a champion pulling tractor? My competitive side might make me regret sharing this information, but here are my favorite upgrades to stock tractors.

Let’s take the 560 Farmall for example. On its own, the 560 is a good but not particularly beefy tractor. A few changes, though, can make it a real powerhouse.

First, lighten up the tractor. Replace the heavy-duty cast iron wheels with tin wheels. Get rid of the wide front end and replace it with a narrow front. Remove the 2 point hitch and use just the draw bar.

With all the weight you save by making these switches, you can have fun with the engine. I’d start with a 301 combine engine (non-sleeved). Put in some 806 pop-up pistons with domes. They’ll fit without the sleeves and be very powerful.

Carburation is a game-changer. If the club you’re pulling with doesn’t require a stock manifold, then switch to a combine manifold. If this is against your club’s rules, use the 806 manifold and carburetor on the 301 combine engine.

Putting in hotter plugs is a common mistake, however, the spark plug needs to be the plug that was originally engineered for the tractor (the combine engine used the same spark plugs as the tractor engine originally).

Be sure to run the biggest tire that the club allows. If allowed by your club’s rules, cut tires are a big advantage over standard tires.

A few more details: Put a straight pipe on. Keep the radiator from the 560. Add weight brackets on the back of this model.

This tractor would pull in the 5500-6500 farm pulling class. As pulling tractors go, this one would be very affordable to build and run. It would be a fun project, too! If you’re still looking for a winter project this year, try this one and send us pictures.

Thanks, Brandon Cooley, for the photo.

Ford 8N Hydraulic Troubleshooting

Ford 8N Hydraulic Troubleshooting

Are you having trouble with your Ford 8N hydraulics? Here are some suggestions to get you started fixing your tractor. While these tips are specifically for the Ford 8N, many other models of antique tractors will show similar symptoms when their hydraulics need attention.

If the hydraulics drift down, that usually means the relief valve is squeaking by. This is easy to check – just remove the side door and watch the oil move. If the oil is leaking out of the piston top, the seal or o-ring could be damaged. While the 8N piston originally came with steel rings, many have been upgraded with a Jubilee style o-ring.

If the hydraulics don’t go up at all, it’s likely that the ball socket is the problem (worn out or jumped out of place).

If the hydraulics either go all the way up or all the way down (with no control in the middle), the problem is likely with your pivot pins. They simply wear out and need to be replaced.

If it seems like your hydraulics just aren’t doing anything, be sure to check that the PTO lever is engaged and then try.

In any case, don’t forget about fresh oil! It makes a big difference. I recommend hydra-trans oil.

A short tutorial of hydraulic repair on a Ford 8N is available here.

Of course, once you diagnose the problem you still need to fix it! Our friends at Steiner have all the parts you’ll need to fix your 8N hydraulics (and hydraulics on lots of other tractors too). Just give them a ring to get started.

Tips for Wiring Your Tractor

Tips for Wiring Your Tractor

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I just finished up a massive re-wiring project on this New Holland tractor. Mice had burrowed their way under the hood and gnawed at the wires. What a mess! Along the way to fixing this tractor up, I learned a lot about wiring problems from my Dad (in addition to being a great mechanic, he’s also a licensed electrician. Winning combo!). Here are some of our best tips for tractor electrical work:

1. When you’re installing a new harness, no need to start from scratch: firmly tape the new wires to the old wires, and pull through the loom. Voila! No need to thread individual wires through tight spots.
2. Some harnesses come with additional wire that you might not use. That’s okay – but be sure to seal off unused wires properly. Cut the wire flush, then put same tape or a wire nut over the end.
3. In the same way that you wouldn’t change the oil in your car without also replacing the filter, you should change your battery cables when you replace the harness. Battery cables need to be clean and in good condition.

4. If the wires are stiff, try putting a little bit of dish soap on the wires to help them slide through easier.

There you have it! These are my best tips for tractor electrical work. How about you – do you know any (safe!) shortcuts or tricks to make these difficult jobs go a little easier? If so, share in the comments below.

Top Trailer Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Top Trailer Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Let’s face it: antique tractors are not road-worthy. As much as I wish the Moline UDLX (tractor/truck hybrid) had taken off, the sort of old tractors we love just aren’t portable on their own. If you own a tractor, you’re going to need a truck and trailer before too long.

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While my dad and I no longer repair tractors for others, we did so long enough to see all sorts of tractor and trailer problems. The good news is that these problems are avoidable! Here are the top tractor + trailer mistakes I’ve seen, and tips on how to solve these problems.

1. Overweight. Antique tractors are heavier than you’d expect! Add some fluid in the tires, a few suitcase weights, and an implement and you can quickly get in trouble. Each truck, hitch, and trailer has a maximum weight rating. Ignoring these weight ratings is illegal, horribly unsafe, and will damage your truck and trailer. You can avoid this problem by accurately estimating the weight of the tractor you intend to haul (TractorData.com lists the weight of most tractors, but don’t forget about fluid in the tires!) and leaving a margin of safety. If the load is too heavy for you, either break it into smaller loads (if possible) or hire/rent/borrow a bigger rig.

2. Trailer light problems. Wiring a trailer can be tricky! In many trailer models, wires are exposed to the elements, too – so things are prone to shorts and breaks. Check your trailer lights (brakes, blinker, and hazard flashers) before every trip. It’s wise to carry extra fuses. Bonus points for carrying extra brake lights, wire cutters, and electrical tape to solve any problem that might come up.

3. Failure to secure the load. Be sure that you use an adequate amount of straps or chains. Pay attention to how you position the weight of your load over the axle, too – even a foot or two can make a big difference! After your first 30 minutes of driving, it’s smart to get out and check the load to make sure that nothing has come loose along the way.

4. Frost laws. Seasonal road restrictions are nothing to mess around with. Getting caught with a heavy load on a restricted road could cost you big time. It’s not enough to rely on posted signs, either. Your best bet is to call the road commission or police department (on the non-emergency line!) to ask about the status of roads in your community before loading up.

These are the biggest trailer mistakes that come to my mind – how about you? What mistakes have you witnessed, and how can they be avoided? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

5 Things Your Shop Needs

5 Things Your Shop Needs

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In addition to regular shop tools, tractor mechanics need a few large pieces of equipment. I benefit from a huge, well-equipped shop (thanks, Dad!), but you don’t need to have all the bells and whistles to begin working on tractors. Here are what I consider to be the 5 can’t-live-without essentials to a well equipped shop.

  1. Cherry picker. This is especially important if you’re working alone – but even with friends to help, a cherry picker will make a big difference in your ability to safely move heavy tractor components around the shop.
  2. Floor jack. Good floor jacks are really important – we have 3! This isn’t something to economize on, either. Get the highest quality you can find, with a weight limit that far exceeds the sort of work you’re planning to do.
  3. Welder. Every shop should have one! While welders used to be huge and expensive, these days small, affordable buzz boxes are easy to come by.
  4. Torch. A basic torch makes so many shop jobs possible. My dad and I even have 2 tanks of oxygen (one in use, one full and ready for when we run out). If you’re just getting started and have to choose between a torch and a welder, get a torch and learn how to gas weld. While gas welding isn’t as strong as a real weld, you can do fairly well. 
  5. Manuals for your tractor. I’ve written about the importance of a good shop manual before, but it’s worth repeating: every mechanic needs to have a manual!

How about you – what would you add to this list?

Custom Built 1/16 Scale Pulling Tractors

Custom Built 1/16 Scale Pulling Tractors

Take a close look at these tractors – they’re the most detailed scale model tractors I’ve ever seen!

I met the creator, Dale Woodliff, at the Dyersville toy tractor show last weekend. These pristine, 1/16th pulling tractor models are individually handmade in Kendall, Wisconsin.

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Dale is a retired farmer and heavy equipment operator. He’s been making models for over 30 years. The first model he made was a copy of his own personal pulling tractor, the EXCITER. This model is now on display at the National Farm Toy Show Museum in Dyersville, Iowa. The full-sized tractor is in the Retired Tractor Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio.

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Dale’s workshop includes mini-lathes, mini-mills, a scroll saw, several vices, a band saw, and other normal shop tools. The tractors are built from aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.

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How long does it take to make one of these models? Dale told me that most models take 90-105 hours of labor, but some are even more complex.

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This tractor took him 200 hours to complete.

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This tractor took more than 600 hours to make! Wow!

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While Dale primarily makes models for his own enjoyment, he also accepts commissions. He’s made several tractors for customers. The showpiece, however, is his spectacular 250 model personal collection.

Thanks for sharing with us, Dale!

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Six Shop Safety Items You Really Need

Six Shop Safety Items You Really Need

safety-firstWorking in the shop can be dangerous, but there’s lots you can do to help keep yourself safe. Here are the top 6 most-used safety items from my barn:

  1. First Aid Kit. Band-aids are the most frequently used item (refill your stock regularly!), but you should also have gauze pads and bandages that could help with severe bleeding. If you buy a ready-made kit, be sure to unwrap it and familiarize yourself with its contents BEFORE emergency strikes.

  2. Fire Extinguisher. We use this way more frequently than I’d like to admit. This isn’t a purchase to skimp out on – get a large one with an ABC rating (the ABC rating means that it can put out all sorts of flammable materials). If your shop is large or your accidents frequent, get more than one. When you use an extinguisher, be sure to get it recharged!

  3. Welding Gloves. Thick, appropriately sized welding gloves will protect your hands and forearms when you are doing hot work. Because my hands are smaller than most welders’, it took some trouble to find gloves that are the right size. It’s worth it to get ones that fit you well because it makes a big difference in your dexterity. This advice applies if your hands are bigger than usual, too – tight gloves restrict your movement and won’t insulate as well as ones that are the right size.

  4. Welding Helmet. When I was a kid, my grandpa got a bad case of welder’s flash and had to wear bandages over his eyes for quite a while. Ever since then my dad has taught me to be extremely careful around welding. A good welding helmet is really non-negotiable. Pay the extra money to get a wide field of vision – you want to be able to see what you’re doing!

  5. Respirator. If you’re painting, you need one of these! While any respirator is better than no respirator, it’s worth the time and money to buy a high-quality respirator that matches the job you are doing.

  6. Safety Glasses. The same grandpa who hurt his eyes with welder’s flash also got steel slivers in his eyes. Yikes! The thought of this makes my toes curl. Wearing safety glasses when grinding, using a lathe, or doing similar jobs can help keep you safe from this sort of accident. Buy a few pairs so that you can always find them when needed.

There you have it: the 6 safety items I use most frequently. How about you – is there something you’d add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Fire Truck…or…Tractor! Farmall Super A

Fire Truck…or…Tractor! Farmall Super A

You’ve seen a fire truck – but have you ever seen a fire tractor?

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This Super A Farmall tractor is loaded down with a full set of firefighting equipment. It’s a really genius setup! Check out these pictures.

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The offset design of the Super A allows for a rubber hose one one side, coiled up and ready for service.

Notice the small (but loud!) siren mounted on the front of the tractor near the headlight. This front bumper is really sturdy, too!

The sheet metal details are really interesting. In addition to the full fenders and rear platform, there is a front bumper and even little fins just above the headlights to shield the engine. Notice the additional spotlight mounted above the steering wheel, too.

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The cabinet mounted on the other side holds a canvas hose and additional firefighting equipment.

The tractor is also set up to run a powerful pump – just hook it up to water and you’re in business! There’s even an attached firefighter’s ax.

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You can tell that this tractor was put together with care and thoughtfulness. This tractor was an aftermarket customization, not an IH original – so details on its manufacture and use are sketchy. I didn’t get to meet the owner at the show (so I don’t know for sure), but others have told me that this tractor was designed for use in a factory that belonged to the General Motors aircraft division. I can certainly imagine the unique advantages of a small, portable firefighting outfit like this on a cramped factory floor!

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