Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fixing tractors

Fixing tractors is my life.  I started the week by parking the 446 oil burner and firing up the 2nd of the two micro-Case tractors that I bought last fall.  That second one appeared superficially to be in worse condition but the engine is clearly in better shape.  It is a model 444 with a 14 or 16 HP single cylinder Kohler compared to the nominal 18 HP twin cylinder Onan in the 446 model but there is no comparison to the HP produced by the two tractors.  The little Kohler is pretty tired too but nowhere near as bad as the Onan.  We can actually mow grass with the Kohler and its not laying down an embarrassing oil fog while I mow.  I’ll leave the Onan hooked to the sprayer which it is more than capable of pulling but I don’t think I’ll ask it to do anything more strenuous than that.  My goal when I bought them was to restore one of them so it looks like the 446 with the Onan is the logical choice for that restoration.

Like I said a few weeks ago, my mistake was getting the 446 running and then thinking I could use it.  As I turns out, I think I actually can use the 444 so that may be the best possible outcome.  The 446 has a real 3-point hitch on it – the 444 just has a little piece of square tubing that fits into a C-section on the attachments.  I’m not sure what difference that makes but the 446 3-point looks like a real 3-point hitch.  The mechanism is pretty well identical.  The 446 also has slightly newer tin and its painted in newer Case colours.  If I’m doing a restoration I can choose whatever colours I want but all in all the 446 is the logical choice for a restoration so if I can use the 444 while I restore the 446 then that’s just a bonus.

There are enough of these little tractors still in existence that people have developed conversion kits specifically so you can install new engines in them.  I have to decide whether it is worthwhile buying a kit or whether I’ll just find a used engine and jam it into the tractor.  That’s a decision for another day.  At one point I considered some kind of a diesel conversion but right now that feels like too much work.

Once I got a lawnmower tractor working I started using the Fiat.  That let us get the yard at the little house cleaned up big time – we tore out the falling down fence at the back, cleaned up some dead trees, filled in some holes, hauled all the junk to the dump.  Fortunately I did all that before I noticed a big gap in the right hand rear rim.  I knew the rim was bad when I bought the tractor.  The tire was clearly leaking fluid and the calcium chloride had corroded hell out of the rim.  I didn’t think it was in imminent danger of rupturing the rim but that is in fact exactly what happened.  I think it happened before I pushed dirt at the little house.  If that is true then I got really lucky in that I was able to move the tractor back here and get it inside the garage before it collapsed in a messy heap in the road.  As soon as I noticed the broken rim I stopped using it but I think I had been using it for at least a day before I noticed the hole in the rim. 

20140810_153251When it comes to rims there’s good and there’s not good.  This is not good. 

I found a new rim online and the tire looks to be good enough to reuse so its not a great big deal.  The rim has a bolt in centre so all I need is the actual rim.  The centre needs paint but its otherwise in decent shape.  The rim on the left hand side looks really good but I’ll be dumping the fluid on that side as well.  There’s 200 pounds of cast iron weights on each side which should be more than enough for all I plan to do with the tractor.  If it isn’t I’ll find a few suitcase weights and hang them on the 3-point hitch.  Thirty years ago I changed the tires on my 70 John Deere with a lot less tools than I have at my disposal now so mounting the tire doesn’t seem like that big a deal.  The tire on the left hand side looks pretty rough – once I get the good one back on the right hand side I’ll see how I feel about changing another one.  At that time I may just go ahead and put a new tire on the left hand side while I’m draining the fluid anyway.  That way I’d start out with two dry tubes and I could paint the left hand rim to match the newly painted rim on the other side. 

I’ve also got some electrical clean up to do on the tractor.  Its got 30+ years of boogy farmer electrical “fixes”, most of which should just be ripped off and thrown in the dump.  At the same time as I do that I’ll rip out a lot of the original Fiat nonsense wiring.  Its a really simple tractor – a mechanical engine with mostly mechanical gauges so all it needs is a really spartan electrical system along the lines of what I did to the Onan generator on the bus.  That all can wait until fall and in the meantime the tractor is more than usable.  Well …….. right now its sitting on blocks so not that usable but once I get the tire and wheel thing sorted out it will be very usable.


Farmer electrical – yes, that’s cigarette paper wrapped around those fuses.  And there’s a lot worse that I just can’t easily take pictures of.  Effing European engineers.

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