Antique Tractors: How to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-Top Condition

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Antique Tractors: How to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-Top Condition

Tractors are vehicles designed to deliver high torque at slow speeds. Depending on what a tractor is pulling, it can perform a variety of tasks, usually on a farm. The first tractors were called "traction engines", and that is what they were: steam engines on wheels. The first petrol-powered tractor was invented in 1892 in the United States, and the very first recorded tractor sale in Britain occurred in 1897.

Like vintage cars and motorcycles, antique tractors have an appeal of their own. However, antique tractors may also be an economically sound way to purchase an effective piece of equipment for your farm. Whatever the reason behind the ownership of an antique tractor, owners should know how to restore it to working condition. This involves knowing what the different parts of your tractor are, when it was manufactured, and also acquiring some basic shop skills. You should also know where to find and purchase replacement parts and accessories for your antique tractor.

How to Identify Your Tractor

If you do not already know the make and model of your tractor, this is the first step you should take on the road to getting your tractor back on its wheels. If you can, you should ask whoever owned the tractor before you for its make and model. If this is not possible, or if they do not know themselves, you must do some basic investigation.

If you know the make of the tractor, but not the particular model, then you can buy or borrow a book that covers tractors made by that particular manufacturer. If you do not know who made your tractor, then you should find books that cover different tractor manufacturers. There are many hundreds of models of antique tractors, so be prepared to spend some time comparing the pictures in the book to your tractor.

If all else fails, there are websites that specialise in antique tractors who can assist you in identifying your particular tractor. Once you have identified your tractor, you should try to find its user manual.

Finding Parts for Antique Tractors

It is not very difficult to find parts for old tractors. Even if a brand closed shop years ago, they are usually represented by a modern company. Many of these companies still have old stock of spare parts and accessories for tractors. Recently, Korea, Taiwan, and China have started manufacturing exact duplicate parts for popular old tractor models. These parts may in fact be superior to the original part. If your aim is to maintain your antique tractor and use it on your farm, these parts are a good choice. If however, your aim is to restore your antique tractor to its original state, you may want to look for original parts.

Skills You May Have to Learn

Working with, or restoring, an antique tractor requires some basic mechanical knowledge. However, antique tractors are very simple compared to modern tractors, and learning the systems is not a very difficult process. Some of the skills you should know, or should expect to learn, include the following:

  • Basic knowledge of internal combustion engines
  • Welding
  • Painting

In addition to learning a few skills, you may need to buy tools that are required to take the tractor apart, repair parts, and replace components.

Show Tractors vs. Working Tractors

Working tractors are used for work on a farm. Their requirements are different from those of show tractors. Working tractors have safety updates, may have upgraded electronics, and are usually not exactly the same as the original factory model. The cosmetics of a working tractor are not considered important since dents and scratches are common during the course of work.

Show tractors on the other hand, are as close to the original as possible. Their finish is often superior to the original factory finish. Show tractors are not used for work since the resulting damage to the finish can reduce its investment value.

The Different Parts of an Antique Tractor

Tractors, though they may look very different from other vehicles, share many of the same basic components. However, since tractors are heavy duty vehicles used in harsh conditions, many of the parts are more robust. There are also some tractor parts that are unique to tractors.

Engine Components

Tractors are powered by an internal combustion engine. These engines require regular maintenance and overhaul. Some of the engine parts required to maintain an antique tractor are:

  • Filters
  • Gaskets
  • Piston rings
  • Pistons
  • Valves
  • Valve guides
  • Carburettors

Wheels, Bearings, Tyres, and Brakes

Tractors have to be heavy to be effective. In fact, tractor tyres are usually filled with fluid to increase their weight. This can cause extra wear on the bearings, wheels, and other weight-bearing parts. Brakes are another important component in this section of a tractor.

Hydraulic Components

Tractors use hydraulics to control and perform functions with tractor implements. It is important to maintain hydraulic pipelines and fluid levels. Leaking pipelines result in the loss of hydraulic pressure, ultimately resulting in the inability to control or use a tractor implement.

Tractor Implements

Tractors perform different functions on a farm depending on the type of implement they are towing. These functions range from cutting crops to forming bales of grass. Some common tractor implements are listed below.

Name of Implement

Function

Sickle bar mower

Cuts grass-like crops without mulching

Finishing mower

Cutting lawn grass

Rotary flail mower

Cutting heavier grass or scrub

Vertical flail mower

Chops grass into mulch for silage

Can produce rows behind it (windrow) or blow directly into a chop wagon

Bottom plough

Classic plough with mouldboard and share

May have multiple bottoms

Disk plough

ploughs using multiple disks

Can also be used to chop up weeds

Spike harrow

Breaks clods, manure, and grasses into finer pieces to spread them evenly

Drag

Flat steel or lengths of heavy chain

Level without digging

Are commonly homemade

Baler

Picks up grass or straw and forms bales tied with string or wire

Bales may be large round, small round, or any size of rectangle

Combine

Cuts and picks up grass like, or seed crops

Separates seed or grain from stalks using a series of conveyors and blowers

Loader

Lifting loads for dumping in another area

Consists of steel arms with lift mechanism connected to a bucket

May be hydraulic or trip bucket loaders

Cultivator

Designed to "bother" weeds between rows of crops

Seeder

Mechanically planting seeds

May plant seeds randomly or in rows

Spreader

Spreading fertiliser or manure

Rear scraper bucket

Allows moving of material from one area to another

Consists of a bucket that fills as the tractor moves

Landscape rake

Clears rubble without changing the grade of a surface

Uses a blade made of individual tines

There are several other implements as well, including blades, spring tooth harrows, and post hole diggers, to name a few. The implement (or implements) you choose depend on the requirements of your farm. Some models of tractors allow interchangeable implements, while others do not.

Other Antique Tractor Parts

There are other parts of an antique tractor which are usually of more value to a show tractor. These can include original decals and other non-essential components such as grilles and original steering wheels. Other important parts include implements designed for use with a particular tractor, and user manuals.

Improving the Safety Features of Your Antique Tractor

Modern tractors are much safer than older tractors because of the incorporation of safety features such as roll-over protection structure (ROPS). Tractor overturns are one of the leading causes of death and injury on farms. ROPS does not prevent tractor roll-overs; rather, it protects the driver from getting crushed in the event the tractor does roll over. Older tractors did not have ROPS. However, this can be retrofitted by a professional.

Finding Everything You Need to Keep Your Antique Tractor in Tip-Top Condition on eBay

You can find parts and equipment for your antique tractor online at eBay. To begin searching, visit the eBay home page and enter a term into the search bar. The search bar is also available on other pages on the website. If the search results are too many, you can narrow them down by adding more specific keywords to the search term. For example, a search for "Ferguson tractor manual" lists fewer results that are more relevant as compared to a search for just "tractor manual".

You can further narrow your search by choosing from various filters, including the tractor manufacturer, the price range of the part, and its condition. Before committing to a purchase, take the time to review the seller's return and exchange policy. Since it is impossible to handle a part when purchasing online, occasions may arise where the part does not meet expectations and needs to be returned or exchanged.

Conclusion

Tractors have been used to mechanise tasks on farms for over a century. The first tractors, or "traction engines", were driven by steam engines on wheels. Later tractors used internal combustion engines. Antique tractors are usually purchased for two reasons: for use as an affordable work tractor, or for restoration to become a show tractor.

In general, antique work tractors are more common models, while antique show tractors are rarer finds. Both types of antique tractors need restoration and maintenance to get them working in peak condition. This requires the purchase of parts and accessories, and may involve the learning of some new skills on the part of the owner.

Even if a tractor manufacturer went out of business, the company was generally purchased by another, and the new owners still stock some parts. Owners of antique work tractors must retrofit safety features such as roll-over protection structures to improve the safety of the tractor. Parts and accessories for antique tractors are available online at eBay.

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