July 16, 2020

Trying, Struggling and Learning

• By John F. Chisholm •

The plan is reassembling the Model 30 this afternoon.

That tractor’s engine has been completely disassembled these last three weeks.  Obtaining parts has been a challenge.  They never used to be so difficult to come by.  Of course, in the 1980s, my 1948 Cockshutt was only thirty-something years old.  Now, like me, that tractor is an antique.  The sad reality, it’ll be 70 next year and I’m still expecting it to work for its upkeep.  (I’m imagining that I’ll retire it when I retire myself.  Right.  Like my wife will ever let that happen!)  In the meantime, I’m simply too attached to this machine to do without it.  With very few exceptions such as this one, it’s been the soul of reliability for the 34 years we’ve owned it.

Actually, being honest, even this maintenance break is likely my fault.  I converted the tractor to a 12-volt electric system seven or eight years ago.  The starter performed well with double the voltage it was designed to handle.  When eventually, inevitably, it failed, the starter gear froze while engaged with the flywheel, jamming the engine, stopping it as soon as it started.  Inertia then snapped two teeth on the camshaft timing gear, the pieces further jamming the works and complicating the repairs.

Understandably, it took time and effort locating both issues.   I actually located the problem with the timing gears first ― but only after lowering the oil pan and removing and reinstalling all the bearing caps, checking.

I pulled the head next, examining the camshaft, rockshaft, pushrods and valves.

The problem wasn’t in any of those places.

That left the timing gears.

I swallowed hard and went back to work.

Since the original assembly, I doubt that forward cover has ever been off the block.  Never mind.  It had to come off to reach the gears.  Pulling the crankshaft pulley was a necessary and extraordinarily difficult first step.  When it finally came off, it did so in pieces.  (The remains had to be set up on the lathe, welding and turning that pulley back into a single unit once again.)

Of course I changed the forward main seal while I was there.  But, more importantly, with the forward cover removed, there was at least part of the problem; that broken gear.

Locating a camshaft timing gear for a Buda 4B153 engine was a challenge.  Yes.  But with a friend’s help, the job was done.  Eventually.

Finding the problem with the starter came when I attempted turning over the engine thereafter.  Oh, the engine turned, but only as long as the starter button was depressed.  Now that was strange!  I removed and examined the starter.  That explained a lot.

The head gasket kit arrived yesterday.  At last!  Reassembly, as I say, is scheduled for this afternoon.  Then it’ll be down to waiting for that starter to be rebuilt.

It’s been quite a process.  Why go through all this?

This is hard to explain; please bear with me.  I understand that tractors are inanimate objects.  (Well, most of them are!)  Never mind.  I owe this one.  It’s helped me though 34 years of farming.  I made so many mistakes, trying, struggling and learning.  It forgave all of them, never holding even one against me.   Better yet, it remained on-line for further attempts the next day.  And the next, and the next and so on until ― Surprise! ― I’ve spent a lifetime farming.

Whoa!  All that time gone by.  And so quickly, too.

This tractor has been with me that whole while.

Now do you understand?

I’m so looking forward to having it back.