Three restoration experts discuss what to consider before beginning a tractor restoration.
7. Can you obtain the correct manuals?
“We believe everyone should have a copy of their owner’s manual, which tells you where to put the fluids and how much, where to grease, tire pressure, how to use all aspects of the machine,” Kuhn says. “The service manual is necessary if you are going to be making any repairs to your machine, and we would not be without it.
Most tractor parts books are now available online. These manuals can be purchased used at shows or online auctions, and reproduction manuals online. “Sometimes you can find parts manuals online at the tractor company’s website,” adds Spiegelberg. “These books make your restoration much easier and provide good reference.”
8. Do you have the necessary tools?
“Old tractors are notoriously rusty and the nuts and bolts can be very stuck,” says Hamilton. “An acetylene torch, pullers, hydraulic press, large wrenches, cleaning equipment, body working tools and paint guns are some of the things that may be needed beyond a basic tool set.”
Bob Kuhn recommends using a power washer to wash the dirt and grease off your tractor. Louis Spiegelberg adds that it’s also important to use the proper jacks and jack stands. “Do not use concrete blocks; they can and will break,” he explains. “Use good jack stands rated high enough to handle the weight of the tractor. I also use 6- by 6-foot wood blocks under jack stands if I need extra height. You should also have a fire extinguisher or two available when working with flammable materials.”
9. What paint should you use?
Spiegelberg notes that there are many levels of paint quality on the market. He says that paints costing $30 to $40 per gallon at the farm supply store may lack UV protection and will crack and fade, while automotive paints from DuPont and PPG can range up to $400 a gallon. “The paints available from Deere, AGCO, Case-IH, New Holland, etc. are good paints,” he says. “They are a little slow drying, but that can be speeded up by adding hardener.”
“We use paint from the tractor dealers if available, but any paint will give a good finish if properly applied,” says Kuhn. “We finish all our paint jobs with a coat of clear. Expensive paints are a two-part urethane, and by using the cheaper enamel and finish with a top coat of clear, you can get that same beautiful finish at a much lower cost.”
10. Is your goal to restore or rehab?
Hamilton says you’ll need to make a decision about the quality you want to achieve in your restoration. “Do you want your tractor to just run well, look good from 25 feet away, or look perfect up close?” he asks.
Kuhn says high quality sheet metal work is important if you are restoring a fine quality show tractor. “Most (body shops) will not paint the entire tractor, only the tin,” he explains. “Then you have the issue of having beautiful tin and your casting could be rust pitted and will pale in comparison to the tin. A good restorer can make the casting look just as nice as the tin.”
“If you take your tractor to a body shop, make sure they don’t put a quarter-inch of Bondo® over all the sheet metal,” adds Spiegelberg. “Sometimes they put Bondo in places it shouldn’t be. That can create problems with the fit of hoods and grilles. Some of the seams and spot weld dimples are acceptable; that’s the way the tractor came from the factory. Test fit the parts before painting.”
11. Where can you find a mentor?
Kuhn recommends joining a local engine or tractor club to help guide you through your restoration. “They can be very resourceful and help with a lot of the problems you come across. If someone else has run into the problem you have, they can offer solutions.” Professional restorers may be willing to answer a question or two, but unless you hire them or buy parts from them, don’t abuse their time by expecting them to guide you through the entire restoration.