Friday, September 17, 2010

My Old Tractor

This is my beautiful tractor with front bucket and wood splitter on the back. The paint is kind of faded and worn twenty five years after the rebuild.

Last week my old tractor sprang a leak in the wood-splitter hydraulics. I am determined to sell it.
I bought it more than 25 years ago and it was old and beat up then. It has four-wheel drive, a 45 horse-power engine and a brand name few people recognize. It had been used for logging. Massive wrinkles and dents in the hood and fenders matched the shape of tree trunks dropped on the poor machine by reckless chainsaw operators.
The front tires were sliced and bald. The front-end loader, manufactured by International, is of high quality, but was so mismatched to this tractor; it wobbled side to side even while driving on a smooth surface.
Because the front-end loader was mounted so poorly, to attain your position on the operator’s seat, you had to climb up and over the three point hitch controls and framework in the back, or use a stepladder from the side.
The engine and transmission performed well enough so I could drive the tractor into a heavy duty straight truck in which to bring it home. Once there, I unloaded it by driving off onto a hill of dirt, made for that purpose.
If you wonder why I bought such a wreck, it was cheap (and should have been). I had more time and energy than money, and I loved a mechanical challenge. These days, I have no time, energy, or money. I can easily let a mechanical challenge slip past me, unanswered.
I removed the front-loader, torched it apart, built a new bucket for it, refurbished and welded it back together so it no longer wobbled and I could climb aboard simply, from the side. I repaired the power steering, the front drive shafts, and the brakes. New tires were added, and I rebuilt, cleaned and painted the rest of the tractor and fabricated the wood splitter. It was all hard dirty work; the machine is made of heavy stuff, iron and steel, and runs on diesel fuel, grease and dirt.
It was one of the early, mass-imported tractors built in the early 70’s in what was then, Yugoslavia. The same drive train was imported by half a dozen major agriculture manufacturers in the states. They used it as a basis for models of Oliver and Allis Chalmers tractors to name a few.
American corporations bought the chassis cheaply, by the many thousands. They shipped them to the US, and then finished them up, each adding their own individual company’s sheet metal, tires, and other bolt-on pieces. Most of the components from these other brands fit my tractor so I have always been able to get parts easily.
A favorite saying among mechanics back then was that the Yugoslavians used yardsticks instead of micrometers. My tractor still runs smoothly after all these years so someone measured pretty well with their yardstick.
As I worked on my tractor last week, I sprayed myself in the face with hydraulic oil (nasty stuff) got a ragged steel sliver in my finger and dropped a brand new hydraulic cylinder on my ankle and foot, causing a great deal of pain.
While I was thinking up fresh expletives to describe the cylinder and its forbearers, I swore I would sell the tractor as soon as I got it back together again.
Since my original rebuild, the tractor has required very little maintenance. I’ve performed grease and oil changes annually and installed a new battery every half dozen years. To save money when I rebuilt it, I reused old hoses, fittings and cylinders. It springs a hydraulic leak every decade.
The tractor is back together now and working fine. I got the sliver out of my finger and washed the hydraulic fluid out of my hair. My foot doesn’t hurt too much but is black and blue (coincidently the same colors I painted the tractor). I am still going to sell it. I guess I’ll just hold off another six or ten years..

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