The way out here

Humpty Dumpty’s tractor

Posted 3/30/22

I love new things, new old tractors being the most recent for me to experience. As most old-timers will be quick to tell you, tractors are like children: they each come with their own set of …

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The way out here

Humpty Dumpty’s tractor


I love new things, new old tractors being the most recent for me to experience. As most old-timers will be quick to tell you, tractors are like children: they each come with their own set of problems.

As a proud father, however, I know a good investment when I see one, and even the drawbacks are worth the time spent to take care of any issues.

When we bought our tractor recently I was aware, for instance, that the brakes were not up to snuff. Upon initial inspection, my father-in-law thought we could just tighten up the brake-adjustment rods that connect the brake pedals to the drum mechanism.

Upon getting it home and after a little poking around, we quickly learned that this was not the case and that some new parts were in order. Turns out with the old Allis Chalmers model D series, you need to remove the entire axle housing to access the brake mechanism. The brakes themselves are a pair of brake shoes, which press outwards against the inside of a brake drum or hollow cylinder.

After these were removed and the brake parts ordered, it turned out that additional parts were needed.

By now my wallet was beginning to plead with me. Fortunately, gaskets are cheap for the most part and they were worth doing while we had things apart anyway, so into the shopping cart they went.

After adding up the cost of fixing this 60-year-old mechanical beast, I felt better than I had when shopping for the tool itself. This tractor has a few things to update, replace, and attend to so it would hum again, but ultimately the goal of attaining this workhorse has been met. Now, with the help and oversight of far more accomplished mechanics than myself, it’s on its way to becoming, as they say, a well-oiled machine.

The good Lord knows how much oil it has already bled out in the midst of its restorative deconstruction. I really, really love the lack of electronic components involved in the entirety of the mechanism.

Upon acquiring a shop manual for this model, I was both unsurprised and encouraged to find that a single diagram covered the entire electrical layout for the whole tractor. On the other hand, more detail was given to the brake assembly. For a guy who has never done much beyond changing tires and doing an oil change on a vehicle, simple is always better in my book.

And that shop manual I mentioned? Worth every penny. I hesitated to buy it at first, thinking it might not be worth the sticker price, but since it covered most of the entire D series of tractors, I figured I could always buy a different D tractor and make it more worthwhile.

This may sound like the furthest thing from a shocking revelation, but do you know what the best part of those shop manuals is? They tell you what the doohickeys are called! I know, right? Instead of trying to describe a part based on texture, shape, and potentially taste to Google, I now have these nifty diagrams that point to every single whatchamacallit and whatsit and tell me what it is and what it’s supposed to look like. Then ordering things like gaskets turns into a far less daunting task. Amazing how much easier it all is when you have something akin to instructions to help you tell what’s what.

The way out here, we sure can’t afford to be buying and servicing new tractors like the super-farms of Bill Gates, but if you lean on the wisdom and engineering of the generations before us, there are a lot of benefits to be reaped from before the dawn of computer chips. After all, it was simple technology that got us this far.

tractors, old tractors, repairs, mechanics


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