Sherlock Holmes And The Ailing Tractor: Part III

“Have you ever tried to do anything?” I ask hypothetically over a theoretical beer.

Well I have. And I’m convinced that God, Fate, the Furies, and possibly Ralph Nader have secret meetings where they alter the cosmos just to keep my schedule cluttered.

The Illuminati and I have decided that you will never get your tractor rebuilt. I've arranged with your employer to transfer you to Greenland and send your luggage to China. This is just the beginning. (Photo linked.)

Interruptions went from occasional to constant. War, famine, and pestilence were just a few of them. All of my time was occupied with absolutely everything; leaving silly things like fixing old tractors… and sleep… deferred. I suppose this is why antique tractors seem to exist mostly in the orbit of retired men with plenty of spare time. The tractor spent much of the last two years under a tarp…probably weeping.

The actual tear down wasn’t too bad. Working a half hour every couple days when the moon and stars aligned and nothing else was happening (i.e. never) I managed to break apart the tractor and strip the block. Through a series of unexpected events, I happened to travel past a far removed machinist who supposedly specialized in old tractors. Soon the block and crankshaft were machined and shiny. Cool!

Surprisingly you can buy every single bit of a 65 year old tractor. (Try that with a nine year old Kia!) I had a catalog but chose to work with a shop to help me order the “engine overhaul kit”. It was an ominously large pile of boxes with a dishearteningly long list of contents. I paid 10% over “Internet prices” to know that I got the right size components. Plus they had a nice dog and they let me pet it.

Then time stopped. Six months later I got back at it. I pondered the piston rings and wondered how to disassemble the air filter.  (It appears to be a depression era version of a Rubik’s Cube).

I also discovered I needed a widget tool to compress the valve springs.  And no you can’t buy one at the local Napa.

A month later I’d smuggled a valve spring compressor out of a Bolivian drug lord’s compound. You have no idea how handy that tool was! (Don’t ask!  I don’t have the tool any more and even if I did it wouldn’t be for sale.  I think farmers in the post war era were buried with their trusty valve compressor tools.)

With the magic tool, the valve train went together pretty nicely. Except I had no idea how to use a tappet wrench. Frankly “tappet” is a pussy name so I decided to forget it.  I’d deal with it later.

A left handed tappet wrench. What were they smoking when they invented this?

Then it took six weeks to get around to buying a cheap torque wrench. I wish I’d bought the cooler one with a dial. Mine works but it’s totally uncool.  All the big kids pick on me!

About that time I re-installed the clutch. Actually I tried to re-install it and failed. The clutch needs to be aligned when you tighten the bolts. Which only works if you’re a magician with six hands and three assistants. Hmmm… I was stuck.

A couple weeks later (after several beers worth of internet surfing) I discovered that $8 would buy a thing called a “clutch alignment tool”. Ye cats! It arrived a week later and the clutch took ten minutes to bolt on.

You NEED this. Just buy it and don't ask what it does.

Then I put the thing under a tarp and forgot for a good long time.

Later I tried to adjust the rear main seal and somehow dislodged the Sherman step-up auxiliary transmission. A solid block of metallic stuff turned into a mixed up pile of important looking cogs and gears. I shit myself. Then, drank a beer and stared at an oak tree for two hours.  Eventually I crammed everything back in the housing.  A miracle!

After another very long delay (during which time the entire project wound up buried under building debris from a bathroom renovation), I began again. Things went swimmingly and eventually the whole thing was more or less bolted together. I even crudely painted some of the chunkier parts. It looked like I might soon have it running. Yay!

Except something was terribly wrong. There was too much resistance turning the engine. It was stuck and I was fucked.

Lacking inspiration I turned to the approach both parties have been using to govern; denial.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

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12 Responses to Sherlock Holmes And The Ailing Tractor: Part III

  1. Jocassee Drew says:

    Taking notes!

    • Anonymous says:

      Take your new torque wench and try to rotate the crank. Unless the engine is already hooked up to the transmission. Then it’s anybody’s guess and a call to drink heavily while coming up with a plan B. Huh, plan b also includes beer. Coincidence?

  2. kx59 says:

    Special tools. There’s a love hate relationship. I hate buying them, but love how much easier it makes a repair than jury rigging something.
    One of my best tools is an inexpensive digital camera. Pictures before and during disassembly save a lot of head scratching later.

  3. Stingray says:

    I want to know how you got that little plastic dammit to work on the clutch! Every single time I’ve done anything in the same zip code as an automotive clutch, that little blue PoS is *just* soft enough to flex and let everything get two nanometers far enough out of alignment that it won’t go back together, and I always wind up using a transmission input shaft that’s got the same spline pattern. Color me impressed.

    • Three points:
      1. The tractor ‘aint plowing fields yet so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
      2. The tolerance on the WWII era clutch seemed to give plenty of room.
      3. See #1.

      • Stingray says:

        Salt duly grained, but the very first clutch I ran into the problem on was vintage 1950. I know there’s much ballyhoo’d about the little boxes made of ticky-tacky, but I don’t think they changed that much that quickly, and the plastic dammit wouldn’t even let the blasted thing re-assemble, let alone run.

      • I think taking an old input shaft and using it as the tool would be cooler but I couldn’t quite rationalize buying yet another tractor that doesn’t run.

  4. Larry says:

    I have tons of experience drinking beer and playing with wrenches (usually at the same time in the shade), I have many suspitions why it’s turning slowly, you machined the crank and stuff? Did you lube the cylinders after installing new rings? Honed and deburred the cylinders? Did you lube all the bearings? I mean all of them, on the camshaft too. You must lube the bearing so they don’t get scored when you first start it up as it takes a second or two for the oil to reach them. Is the transmission installed? Is it in neutral? How about the alternator and waterpump, do they turn freely?

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