Chapter Twelve: (What I have learned.)
What have I learned? Oh my, what I have learned! The first thing that I learned is that if you do happen to contract "Tractor Fever", you better hope that you have a loving, understanding and most importantly, a forgiving spouse. I have learned that tractors can have two names, the one that you give it such as "Little Red" and the one that spouse gives it such as "that #*$@% red #@$*& tractor". The spouse's choice will, in many instances, be "a little more colorful" than yours and may even contain some adjectives and verbs that are not appropriate for family discussions. I have Learned that the first thing that you should do after acquiring a "new" old tractor is to but a complete set of manuals for it, (Operator's Manual, Shop Manual and Parts Manual). These things aren't rocket ships but having the manuals can be a "life saver". If a farmer, fifty or seventy-five years ago could repair them, you can too. Remember, he didn't have Duck Tape or WD-40. You do! Also, if and when you decide to sell the tractor, having a complete set of manuals will add to the asking price. If you must have originals, it may take you some time to find them and the cost will probably be a wee bit on the high side. You can get ITT manuals from Tractor Supply Company. I personally do not like them. They usually cover multiple models of tractors and you will find yourself going back and forth between various pages and/or chapters to find the information that you are looking for that is for your particular tractor and model. Jensales makes reprints of the original manuals for individual tractors. Sometimes, the printing quality leaves a little bit to be desired but the information for a particular tractor and only that particular is all there. An interesting side line here: If you purchase manuals from the YTMAG.COM website, you will get Jensales manuals cheaper than if you go to Jensales directly. Go figure! Another great source is EBAY. I got some of my best prices for needed manuals there. I learned that if you need a tool that you don't have, buy it. When you buy it, buy a good one made in the USA. Don't buy Chinese crap because Chinese crap is just that....CRAP! Don't be "penny wise and pound foolish". You'll probably use it again and if you don't, it should be in good condition for, "The Sale", you know......the auction that the better will have right after you "buy the farm". If you really cannot justify buying a specific tool, some automotive machine shops or auto parts stores such as NAPA or Auto Zone or Advance Auto Parts may rent you what you need or perhaps a member of your tractor club can help you out. (If you are in doubt about what a particular tool is used for, take a look at "Tools And Their Uses" on the Tractor Tales home page.) I have learned that, if at all possible, you should always try to do your own work and that if you must have someone else work on your tractor for you, talk to people who have had work done by the person in question that you are thinking of using. Don't let friendship be the sole deciding factor on who you are going to use. I once had a situation where I needed to have one of my tractors worked on and I didn't have the time or place to work on it. A friend of mine, at the time, had a small shop where he did mechanical work as a side business. He said that he could handle the job and offered his services so I gave him the tractor and told him to do a tune up on it while he had it. When he finished the job and presented me with the bill, I almost had to take out a second mortgage to pay him. I paid the bill and took the tractor home. After just about five hours of total running time, the tractor started spitting and sputtering, had no power and kept stalling out. In view of the amount of money I had just paid and in view of the fact that I had only run the tractor for about five hours, I called my "friend", told him what was happening and fully expected him to say, "bring it back and I'll check it out." He did not say that. What he said was, "Plugs don't last too long in those tractors. Go down to NAPA, get a new set of plugs, put them on my tab and install them." Five hours after a tune up and it needed a new set of plugs? At that point, I decided to do my own tune up. I bought and paid for all the new parts and set about doing so. When I did pull the four spark plugs, out of the four, I had three different spark plug numbers, none of which belonged in that particular tractor. In this case, my "friend" apparently cleaned off his shelves and put whatever he had laying around in my tractor. So, once again, DO YOUR OWN WORK or be sure you know who is going to do your work by talking to people who have had work done by the person you are thinking of using. Needless to say, the "experience" I had ended my further dealings with the person in question and it also ended our friendship. I have learned that, "you ain't gonna get rich restoring old iron." You can buy an old tractor for $600.00, $800.00 or $1,000.00. You can put some new tires on it plus other new and rebuilt parts and you can accumulate another $800.00 or $1,000.00 or $1,200.00 in bills for the parts and then put countless hours of your time and labor into it and I guarantee you that you can sell that tractor for $1,500.00, $1,800.00 or maybe even $2,000.00. "Not making any money on just one tractor, guess I'll have to buy more tractors to make money." It was once said that a boat is just a hole in the water that you throw money into. An old tractor is its' land counter part but that can have some advantages. For instance, if you can instill the love of restoring old tractors into your children and/or grandchildren, they will never have enough money to get into drugs. I have learned that the smaller the part, the farther it will travel in an unexpected direction to a site that is totally out of view when you drop it or knock it off of your workbench. Years ago, many, many, many years ago, when I graduated high school, I went to work for a fellow who had an automotive repair shop. That was back in the days when universal joints on driveshafts had grease fittings. Occasionally they failed (no doubt from over greasing) and had to be replaced. One day, I had removed the old universal joint from a driveshaft and was getting ready to install the new one. Somehow, I knocked the end cap off the new universal joint and when it hit the floor, all of the little needle bearings that were housed inside the cap, headed for parts unknown. There I was, down on my hands and knees, trying to find and gather up all of the needle bearings when my boss walked in. I said to him, "Chuck, how many needle bearings are there supposed to be in one of these caps?" His answer was, "One more than you're gonna find." I have learned that sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone. There is no sense trying to replace a nut or a bolt that looks a little rounded off but is still as tight as it should be and is holding like it should, if while trying to replace that bolt or nut, you put a hole in your radiator and find that the damage cannot be repaired and that it will cost you a complete new radiator. Right, Jim? I have learned that there are many levels of restoration. With each "new" tractor, you have to decide what to do. Do I do "a complete frame off restoration" and a complete new paint job? Do I do a partial restoration, fix what is needed mechanically and just touch up the paint? Do I leave "The Old Girl", (the tractor, not the wife), "in her work clothes" and just do the absolute minimum? In my opinion, you do what makes YOU happy. I am reminded of something a fellow in our tractor club once said. He said, "This is supposed to be fun. When it gets to the point where it is not fun anymore, it is time to give it up." In my opinion, that is some of the best advice that he ever gave. This is suppose to be fun. Have fun with the hobby and enjoy it. I have learned, and I keep telling "The Old Girl", (the wife, not the tractor), that if I am out in the barn working on a tractor, I am not getting in trouble sitting in a "gin mill" (pub, tavern) somewhere getting drunk and chasing wild women. Of course, "the better half" has an answer for me whenever I tell her this. She contends that first, at my age, I wouldn't be able to catch one and second, if by some fluke, I did manage to catch one, that I would not know what to do with her. At my age, it is not that I would not know what to do, it would be the "doin' that would be the problem. I'd rather have a nice, smooth running, Farmall! I have learned that sometimes it is "the chase", (the locating, the bargaining and definitely the trip out to get the newest old tractor), that gives me the most pleasure. We definitely have a beautiful country and there is a whole lot of it I would not have seen if it wasn't for chasing old tractors. I (we) have been to Mass., Conn., N.Y., PA., N.J., OH, MO., KS., Virginia and many other places chasing down and bringing home tractors, implements and parts. I have learned that it is extremely rewarding when, after months or even years of working on an old, discarded tractor, you hit the starter and it coughs, sputters and comes to life once again. That is one of those times when you know that "Life Is Good!"