Old tractors don’t belong in landfills, either.

Few mechanical devices inspire love like an old tractor, so a recent Click and Clack column about a 1945 Farmall-A in failing health warmed my heart.

The tractor’s owner had written to Car Talk, the King Features column written by Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers), for help diagnosing a problem: the tractor would start and run well for 20–30 minutes, but then would start to miss and then stall, usually while going up a hill.

The owner checked out the carburetor and fuel lines, put in new plugs, tried a couple of gasoline additives — nothing worked. He considered replacing the carburetor but didn’t want to go that far unless he could be sure that was the problem.


If you love your tractor, you won’t give up on it.

Tom and Ray, in their column’s usual back-and-forth discussion format, suggested that the problem lay in either the ignition or the carburetor.

Maybe it was a case of float sink, which replacing the carburetor would solve.

Or it might be a weak spark that acceleration and a sudden increase in fuel flow was extinguishing, causing the engine to stall. So new plugs, points, and condenser might be the answer, and maybe a new coil, too.

The brothers closed their column with, “Remember, the reason you never see questions about old farm tractors in our column is because we don’t know anything about them!”

Car Talk posted the article on its website, and their readers weighed in – at last count, twenty comments had been posted:

  • Make sure you have more than a little gas in the tank (advice based on the writer’s experience with his 1950 Ferguson).
  • Check for foreign objects in the fuel tank (from another writer’s memories of pranks played on a friend).
  • If it’s a battery engine, replace the coil, condenser, and points, but if it’s magneto, replace points and condenser and maybe rebuild the magneto.
  • If it’s a magneto, you’re better off converting it to distributor and coil.
  • Troubleshoot to narrow it down — a list of at least a dozen checks — and don’t ask Tom and Ray questions about anything besides cars and trucks.
  • Maybe it’s water in the fuel line.
  • Is the gas cap venting?
  • My old pickup truck used to do this — turned out that the fuel filter needed replacing.
  • Run a compression check on the engine, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, check that the governor is working.
  • Pull the sediment bulb out of the fuel line and empty it.
  • Even if the condenser is new, it might have been bad out of the box.
  • Did you run an ignition analyzer check?
  • Is there water in the carburetor bowl?
  • “Try backing up the hill. If it does not stall out, you have narrowed it down to fuel flow.”

When I finished reading, I knew only a little more about tractors, but I had learned a lot about the people who love them. My kind of people!

Use it up, wear it out … and by all means, keep it out of the landfill!


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