If you're shopping for a tractor, if you've
never owned a tractor before, and if you're reading the pages of Homestead.org, then I'm going to assume that you're in the market of a
pretty cheap tractor; a VERY used tractor.
This is not such a bad position to be in, because
unlike when you're looking to purchase a car, the mere fact that the
tractor you buy may be older than you are doesn't automatically mean that
you'll wind up with either a museum piece or a pile of junk.
Tractors are tools. They're built like
tools, and the older they are, the more so. In this age when you
have to buy a whole box of screws at your hardware store, just to get the
one you want, you can still buy just the tractor parts that you need
rather than a whole assembly or worse yet, the dreaded rebuild kit.
Not only that, but in my state, you don't even have to pay sales tax on
In fact, you'll find that as often as not, quite a few of
your tractor repair parts might even be considered
cheap. After all, they've been making head-bolts for your 9N
for the last 58 years. If you harbor a few vague notions about how
combustion engine works, you can probably fix your tractor yourself with simple
Try that with a new car.
the preeminent cheap-and-easy-to-repair older tractor is the Ford
9N-2N-8N series (see top of the page photo) but you can also still find parts
readily available for other older-model domestic makes such as Case,
International-Harvester, Massey-Ferguson, John Deere, Oliver and Allis-Chalmers, although you'll probably be dealing with differently-named
companies. (John Deere is the only one of those mentioned doing
business under the same name.)
So relax, you don't have to be a mechanical engineer to
buy a used tractor, you just need to know what you want to do with your
new-old machine and look for a few particular things.
When it comes to older tractors, the most important
thing to look for is a hydraulic system, otherwise known as a three-point
hitch. This consists of three arms extending from the back of the
tractor which are hydraulically operated to lift and hold in place
whatever attachments you want to use. In the center of this linkage
is a power-take-off or PTO, which is a rotating shaft that connects to and
drives such attachments as a mower or tiller.
The first three-point hitch was introduced on the Ford
9N in 1939, so you'll find plenty of old tractors so equipped to choose
from. While there are still tractors sold that don't have
hydraulics, notably the older Farmalls and John Deeres, these are mostly
used as glorified
lawn mowers. You get so much more functionality with the three-point
hitch system that you really shouldn't consider anything that doesn't have
The next thing to assess when buying an older tractor
is the age of the machine. This isn't as easy to determine as one
might suppose. First of all, most tractors look pretty much the same
from one year to another and have only seen distinct model changes every decade or
so, if that often. The best way to determine the exact age in years is to find the
serial number of the tractor you're interested in, and look it up on the
internet. You'll find no shortage of web sites listing dates of
manufacture by serial number for all the major makes, but a good place to
start is the Yesterday's Tractors Registry online.
Looking up the year of manufacture may not be
convenient or practical if you've just found a tractor that otherwise
looks very interesting at a dealer or auction, so you may want to cross
your fingers and hope that the current owner has the correct information.
Besides the date of manufacture gives you an indication
as to what technology the tractor in question has, but it doesn't tell you
much about the amount of use it's seen in it's lifetime. That's why
it's nice if the machine you're looking at has a working tachometer with
an hour-meter. An hour meter is also pretty handy to have when
calculating your service intervals, but the chances are the machine in
question won't have one, or if it does, that it won't be working.
So you'll need to make an educated guess.
A good way to do this is to examine the metal foot
pedals, which are likely to have originally had a tread, grid or some sort
of design that will now be showing wear. If these are inconclusive
then a more important criteria would be the overall condition of the
machine. Oil leaks and lots of play in the steering and pedal travel
are not good signs.
Of course you also need to remember that quite possibly
someone has gone to some trouble to make the tractor appear newer than it
is with a paint job. That in itself is no bad thing since it amounts
to protecting your soon-to-be investment, but if the tractor you're
looking at has shiny new paint, you should try to imagine
what it looked like before. Also, while professionals will tell you
that a re-paint can actually be harder and more durable than the original,
don't count on it. That shine may be chipping or peeling within a
year, so while a new paint job has its benefits, once it's been applied,
it's hard to tell how long it will last..