Tractor Part Tip of the Month: Restoring Antique Tractors

Restoring antique tractors or bringing new life to the old tractor you’ve worked with for many years can be a fun way to preserve your own small part of our nation’s agricultural past. While restoring your old farm tractor can be time consuming and requires patience and strong mechanical skills, when all is said and done, seeing the finished product can also be very rewarding. Here are a few smart steps to take when tackling a restoration project:

Step 1: Get it working. Making sure all parts are functional and getting the tractor running is key. Depending on the condition of the tractor, this could be a relatively quick and painless step. For older tractors, new gaskets, wiring and radiator hoses may need to be installed. This is also a good point in the process to refurbish or replace the radiator, water pump, light bulbs, carburetor, ignition points, battery and spark plugs.

Step 2: Disassemble. Once the tractor is working and all leaks and refurbishes are taken care of, the tractor can be stripped down to the main housings. Remove anything that cannot be completely painted in place so it can be painted separately.

Step 3: Sand blast. With the tractor in pieces, sand blasting is done to clean up the metal and uncover all the things that the paint, grease, rust or dirt has covered up. Most large parts are sand blasted with a “pressure-type” sand blaster. The purpose of sand blasting is to expose the pure, bare metal. This is the ideal condition for priming and painting.

Step 4: Repair. Now that the metal is bare, you can weld shut holes, grind or drill pins and bolts to get parts back to a usable condition. Dents, dings and rusty metal are inevitable but can be fixed by fabricating steel patches and welding them in. Common parts that tend to need replacement are the rims, grill mesh inserts and possibly hoods.

Step 5: Prime. For most pieces, an epoxy primer can be used to seal the bare metal and paint it as soon as the epoxy is tack free, which provides a strong bond between the metal, primer and paint. For sheet metal or other parts that require a smooth finish, use an etching primer followed by a high-build, sandable primer to take out any remaining minor imperfections. Apply sealer right before painting.

Step 6: Paint. You can use single stage automotive paint or implement paint. Make sure to apply paint with hardener added to it to give the paint a better shine and enhance its durability. This step may require some research into what the original colors of the tractor were and some investigating to find the colors.

Step 7: Assemble. Once the paint has dried, you can reassemble the tractor and apply any decals. After the tractor is assembled, you can touch up any bolt heads or other items with a small brush.

The end result is a beautifully restored tractor that looks as good as it did new. TISCO offers Vintage IronTM repair and restoration parts that are produced using the manufacturer’s original schematics to create an exact replica of the original parts installed the day it was built.

What tips do you have for restoring your tractor? Do you have before and after photos to share? I welcome your comments!

-Jared Johnson

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